For the last four decades, we have seen the world’s financial systems turned right around. By the late 1960s, the system that rebuilt the world after WW2, created and led by the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944, was seen as outdated, over drawn, cumbersome and just simply tired.
A group was formed called the World Economic Forum meeting every year at Davos, Switzerland, to discuss world economics. Since that time, they have grown incredibly influential. These are accountants and economists, naturally conservative individuals who can fixate easily on single ideas as being the root cause of a major problem. Their explanations of issues are always couched in economic terms that are difficult to follow for anyone not well versed in the subject. Politicians and journalists love this kind of nonsense, simply because they can interpret it anyway they like, simplify it for people to be able to follow it and, of course, put their own spin on it to make their own positions seem like they have the intellectual backing of such a powerful forum.
The “Chicago School” was a school of economists who popularized their line of thinking in the late ’70’s. At the time, Milton Friedman, considered the leading economist of the School, had managed to capture the attention of such luminaries as Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan. They pushed the ideas of a “free market” and “trickle down economics” at a political level that hadn’t been seen since the Great Depression. The questions are though, what did we mean by a “free market” and “trickle down economics”?
Essentially “free market” means deregulation and the sharks have been having a field day, as they have since the early 1980s as deregulation progressed. This has resulted in several recessions, the largest being the GFC in 2009, with more to come I expect. “Trickle down economics” suggest that lowering taxes, personal and Company taxes, will generate more disposable income for wealthier who would spend it to generate economic activity. Companies would use saved revenues and additional profits for expanding their interests, increasing wages and generating more secure employment, creating more profit. These things have not happened. Additional profits have gone into increased dividends to shareholders and the only wages that have increased are those of the upper management, who really have their noses in the trough. Workers wages have stagnated, which combined with Covid, will result in a massive downturn at some point in the near future, I expect and secure employment has vastly diminished. There has been no “trickle down” at all, rather the reverse, a suction up. Profits secured with wage theft and stagnation.
In his later years, Friedman complained that they had taken his suggestions too far, but too late. The damage was already being done. Friedman addressed a class of students in which he talks about the myths around the robber barons of the 19th Century. He pointed out there had been no Government regulation then to hamper the expansion of their interests. They didn’t want government involvement in their operations, so never asked for handouts, even if something went belly up on them. He also said that these people were very interested in the welfare of their employees. The Barons paid their employees a livable wage, making sure they could do their jobs. They were inclusive, anyone could work for them, regardless of color, creed, language, all were employed. Without immigration, the US economy would not have evolved as it did.
Friedman went on to compare these Barons with the evolution of the modern equivalent, who can do nothing without a Government handout of some description. He was, I suspect, asking how much money would be freed up in the US Budget if there was no corporate welfare? How much money would be able to be directed to health, education, public welfare? The US has the world’s richest economy, but the wealth is now spread so unevenly that the top 5% of the population control in excess of 80% of the country’s wealth. Let’s not imagine for a moment that any other Western nation is moving in a different direction.
Carl Sagan once commented: “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” (The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark .)
This is certainly true in the US and is becoming increasingly true in other parts of the world. On 28 February 1998, Andrew Wakefield, published a paper in Lancet, the British Medical Journal linking the MMR vaccine to autism. Since then, the anti-vaxxers have had a field day. Despite three Royal Commissions and two Presidential Commissions debunking the claims made in this paper, it remains a cornerstone of the anti-vaxxer mythology. Ongoing research continues to debunk Wakefield’s position, but the myth persists. Autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental conditions coming together to present a risk for developing autism. These include weak x-gene factors, compromised immunosystem in the first months of life, premature birth, drugs used by birth parent during pregnancy, perhaps alcoholic consumption as well. In short, something that can manifest itself in the first months of life, but we can’t test it until the cognitive abilities of the child manifest.
Today, of course, we have the tracking chip in the Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines, so government can keep a record of where we are at all times. This is despite the fact that our smartphones have far better tracking systems pre-installed so why would they bother using a vaccine when you are already being tracked. Even if you pause your Location History, it does not mean that your phone isn’t tracking you. Better yet, facial recognition software is becoming more sophisticated, widespread, cheaper and easier to install and use, without attending legal issues, so why bother with a vaccine? The trouble is that people are allowing themselves to be bamboozled by others who either wear tin foil hats or have a seriously dark agenda, to the point where many people refuse to acknowledge they have been taken in a massive scam.
This same phenomenon also applies to political/economic rhetoric. Just as scammers bamboozle us with fake assertions, politicians can do amazing back flips and support all sorts of unethical, even amoral, positions yet we still elect them. Why? We can see what they are doing, yet they are elected again and again. Why? What explains that? Sagan’s bamboozle theory provides a starting point for us, but where to from there?
What has happened in the US since October of 2020 , demonstrates Sagan’s hypothesis clearly. People have been fooled and are unwilling to admit they have been fooled. A master scammer had been abusing people for well over the course of his Administration, using hyperbole and outright lies to cover up his intellectual and emotional weakness. His lack of empathy, lack of humor has been outstanding, especially since Covid-19 hit. Did Trump ever tell a joke while in office? Did he make a witty or clever observation in that time? If he did, I missed it. He abused people, endlessly. He sacked people for dissent, for mild disagreement, the only one I know who withstood that type of onslaught, was Dr Anthony Fauci, the main medical voice throughout the Covid crisis in the US.
This is happening here in Australia too. Throughout the pandemic, we have had a Federal Government that has basked in the reflected accomplishments of the State Governments. My understanding is that the States essentially forced the Federal Government to close Australia’s borders. When a Covid outbreak occurred in Vistoria, Premier Andrews implement some harsh lockdown conditions. He was under constant sniper attack from Federal Government Ministers, but events proved him correct in his responses. Same with New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory. Only South Australia seemed to have dodged a bullet with relatively few cases of community transmission, and the majority of cases reported come from overseas travelers returning to Australia since October and problems with hotel quarantine.
What makes the Federal Government’s incompetence in dealing with the pandemic has been the fact that Australia has 909 deaths all together, but 688 of them were in the Aged Care System. (At the time of writing.) Aged Care is a Federal responsibility, not a State one. No matter how bad the States got hit, the Federal Government clearly dropped the ball on Aged Care. (Reference Federal Department of Health, Australia) The vast majority of those deaths were in Victoria when Federal Ministers were so critical of Premier Andrews.
Since the outbreak of the virus, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, not just in the US, but all over the world. For decades now, the Working Class has had to accept a declining standard of living, now so do the Middle Class. This has become an unprecedented assault on the middle class. Issues such as aged care, public health, public education and welfare safety nets have come under increasing threat by Neo-Liberal policy. Even the idea of the minimum wage, a standard that allows people to live, not high off the hog, but in relative comfort, safety and be aspirational, has become something of an anathema. All these issues are the concerns of the Middle Class and as the Middle Class weaken, so concern for these issues decline.
Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials are all blaming Baby Boomers for this and by and large, they are correct. It was the Boomers who started voting the Neo-Libs into power in the late 1970’s and ’80s and have allowed their heads to be turned away from issues of social democracy to a state of perpetual financial confusion. It was the Boomers who were bamboozled by slick political/financial gobbledygook. One consequence of the Boomer foolishness is that this is the first generation that will pass less wealth and greater debt to their descendants than the previous generations since the fall of the Roman Empire. The real issue is that growing up with the outright selfishness of the Boomers, who have not been good roll models, will their successors do any better?