18 October 2010

Free markets according to Monbiot

George Monbiot has an annoying habit of highlighting interesting facts, then completely misinterpreting them.  The latest example is his piece on the bonfire of the quangos.  In commenting on the failure to abolish, amongst others, the Commonwealth Development Corporation, Export Credit Guarantee Department and Sea Fish Industry Authority, he, quite reasonably in my opinion, says:
Can you see the pattern yet? Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed
It is, of course, an example of what states, of all shades, will almost always do - provide privileges for their cronies and sponsors.  Unfortunately, Monbiot doesn't quite see it that way:
The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein shows how disaster capitalism was conceived by the extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago. These people believed that the public sphere should be eliminated, that business should be free to do as it wants, and almost all tax and social spending should be stopped. They believed that total personal freedom in a completely free market produces a perfect economy and perfect relationships
Put the two comments together and you can see that they are contradictory cack.  If this government were really an example of people working to eliminate the public sphere, they wouldn't have left the pile of qangos that Monbiot highlighted, they would have got rid of those too; otherwise, it isn't an example of eliminating the power of the state, but redirecting it to serve a different set of rent-seekers.  Similarly, siphoning off large wedges of taxpayers' cash to favoured groups isn't an obvious example of a desire to eliminate almost all tax.

The most ridiculous element is the use of the term "free market" in the context of a situation which is anything but.  A free market would be characterised by wealth transfers occurring purely by consent of all parties, yet in Monbiot world, the state taking substantial tax revenues from the general public and then dishing them out to a handful of corporates is somehow interpreted as being an example of the free market in full flow.

It's pure doublethink and it's embarrassing.

1 comment:

Mark Wadsworth said...

Good point, rent-seeking is rent-seeking whoever does it.

As it happens, the UK government spends considerably more money on 'private sector procurement' than it does on its 7 million direct employees.

Which is rather worrying - it's not like the Tories are likely to reverse this.