“Political Economy regards the proletarian … like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle. … (1) What is the meaning, in the development of mankind, of this reduction of the greater part of mankind to abstract labor? (2) What mistakes are made by the piecemeal reformers, who either want to raise wages and thereby improve the situation of the working class, or — like Proudhon — see equality of wages as the goal of social revolution?” - Karl Marx
It was a busy week so we will keep this post short.
We believe it is important for the West to redefine common values for their social organization. Over the last 3 decades, the gradual but very effective conservative backlash against social democracy has infected our every day vocabulary and the way we think about social problems. We are constantly reminded that ‘liberalization’ of this or that sector is necessary to create growth, and the words ‘public sector’ have a distinctive negative connotation.
However, for many important services, it appears that private companies are actually worse than public services to provide a minimum uniformed standard to the whole population of a country. Private schools and hospitals deliver outstanding results, but at a cost that probably only the top 10% can afford. If you were born and raised in Europe, you need some time to adapt to other countries, where tap water is not drinkable, food production standards are rather scary, and healthcare is just insanely expensive.
A lot of ‘rights’ that we currently believe are inalienable were actually inherited from long, protracted conflict between the working class and the owners of capital, with democracy actually playing only a marginal role. As described in details by Thomas Picketty in his book ‘Capital in the 21st century’, it is only after 30 years of utter chaos and the destruction of inherited fortunes that European countries decided to provide minimum services to its citizens as a mean to protect them -and the political system- against extremism.
60 years later, under the pressure from a renewed accumulation of capital reaching pre-World War I heights, Western countries are now dismantling their public services in the name of ‘efficiency’. Philosophers are only too right when they talk about our societies submitting themselves to the ideology of markets, but they sometime fail to mention that markets are actually human construction and thus should be subject to political will, an idea that was widely understood and believed 60 years ago but is now hunted down as a supreme heresy.
In many Western countries, educational, technological and financial accumulation allow societies to step back from the self-destroying race for efficiency, which furthers capital accumulation by a minority at the expense of the majority. These countries also need to understand that the rest of the world is also rapidly growing economically, exerting significant pressures on the planet. Emerging countries have adopted the West’s technologies and goods, but have sometime very different moral value, allowing them to develop hybrid models of free-for-all capitalism with authoritarian governments.
Democracy may not necessarily help them. Nor can free-for-all capitalism help Western countries. It may be that globalization helped the world leap frog to higher living standards, but the political convergence has not been a corollary of economic integration. It is thus time for the West to take a hard look at the situation and redefine its values and its objectives for its citizens in the 21st century.
Science, General Knowledge & Environment
Scientists discover that the world contains dramatically more trees than previously thought – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “However, in no way do the researchers consider this good news. The study also finds that there are 46 percent fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation.“
Il faut repenser la manière dont la société protège les travailleurs – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “La société post-industrielle rompt avec le modèle précédent et substitue la créativité à la répétitivité. La révolution numérique enfonce le clou, car elle tend à remplacer toute activité qui se répète par un logiciel. En contrepartie, la société post-industrielle a fait perdre la sécurité économique.“
History & Geopolitics
The Next Genocide – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “When mass killing is on the way, it won’t announce itself in the language we are familiar with. The Nazi scenario of 1941 will not reappear in precisely the same form, but several of its causal elements have already begun to assemble.“
Iran Deal May Redefine The Middle East – “The west’s deal with Iran is causing a monumental upheaval in Middle East relations, threatening some seventy years of reliable and steady alliances. At the same time, the unending Syrian refugee crisis is forcing Europe to consider new alliances.“
US Intel Chief: Iraq and Syria may not Survive as States – “The fact is that as irrational and fragile as the colonial borders are, they have been remarkably resilient. And, there are practical reasons for that resilience. Often, smaller units than the ones that made sense in the age of colonialism are not economically viable. That is, colonial boundaries often were not completely illogical with regard to regional markets.“
Analyzing Russia’s Involvement in Syria – [Video] – “Stratfor Military Analyst Sim Tack explains Russian motives for sending military assistance to the Syrian government.“
U.S. training helped mold top Islamic State military commander – Misleading headline. A Georgian special force rising star becomes radicalized after a Saudi backed mosque is built and start preaching in his village, sending about 150~200 young male fight in Syria.
Number of the day: Marine population halved since 1970 – “Populations of marine mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have declined by 49% since 1970, a report says. The study says some species people rely on for food are faring even worse, noting a 74% drop in the populations of tuna and mackerel. In addition to human activity such as overfishing, the report also says climate change is having an impact.“
Picture of the day: Fighting Olympic eviction
About Carlito Riego
"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi