“There was no Alternative?”

It remains perplexing to know that certain Liberal Capitalist Factions have been maintaining an unhealthy obsession with treating the Market as some quantitative, mechanistic and automated contraption. Removing Parliament from the Market means ensuring that this machine will generate more Kapital and less Schuld without some fallible mortals getting in the way of things. Yet in doing so, the result is always the same: the Market becomes its own Civil Society within the actual one that Parliament ostensibly governs. Similar to the Liberal Capitalist conception of political freedom, the Liberal Capitalist conception of economic freedom places excessive overemphasis on private action to the exclusion of private thought.

The absence of private thought is what makes some Unintended Consequences to become inevitable and other Market Failures to become unavoidable. With regard to the Freedom-Security Dialectic of Neoliberalism, should Parliament have the necessary economic firepower to protect Civil Society? If so, then which one: the actual Civil Society or the Market? Why behave like the Market represents one half of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities?

Like Civil Society, the Market is governed by the laws established and enforced by Parliament. Civil Society obeys the laws of Parliament as a Sovereign entity consisting of Private Citizens residing within their Liberal Capitalist Parliamentary Democratic Nation. The Market may wield the Incentives of Supply and Demand and determine the Values and Prices of this or that Commodity, but it must remain beholden to Parliament insofar as it is supposed to be part of Civil Society. Unfortunately, not all Liberal Capitalists are convinced that Markets should be beholden to the same laws that are binding on Civil Society. Globalization has shown that Markets is in fact separable from the Liberal Capitalist Nation in order to ensure the greatest Quantity of Kapital for the least Quantity of Schuld, hence the literal wholesale outsourcing of Kapital Accumulation outside the economic organizations of Civil Society and Parliament. What is said about outsourcing to developing countries also applies to “contractors” and “gig workers.”

This ideal is a Liberal Capitalist one that goes back to the century when Neoliberalism was at its most powerful, the 19th century. It was the Classical Liberal Herbert Spencer, whose philosophical ideas were rightfully criticized by Oswald Spengler in Prussianism and Socialism for encouraging the “survival of the fittest,” that came up with the Neoliberal slogan “There is no Alternative.”

“There is no alternative. Either society has laws, or it has not. If it has not, there can be no order, no certainty, no system in its phenomena. If it has, then they are like the other laws of the universe–sure, inflexible, ever active, and having no exception.”

-Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, ca. 1851

It is significant that the phrase went on to become associated with UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. After all, Milton Friedman did claim that Thatcher was definitely a Whig–a Liberal Democrat–from the Victorian Era. Thatcher was definitely onto something by insisting that there is no Civil Society within the Market of a Liberal Capitalist Parliamentary Democracy:  

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on Society and who is Society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

… [It] is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate … [t]hat was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system … when people come and say: ‘But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!’”

‘Interview for “Woman’s Own” (“No Such Thing as Society”).’ in Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Speeches, Interviews and Other Statements

Based on the Pre-Enlightenment Estates System, it is clear that those Liberal Capitalists are convinced that Parliament and Civil Society are the Second and Third Estates respectively. Yet, in their socioeconomic actions, they are presupposing that the Market represents the First Estate. Yes, the very same First Estate that used to have been reserved for the Roman Catholic Church at a much earlier period in Western history. The “Separation of Church and Parliament” has become supplanted by the “Separation of Market and Parliament,” which is outlandish if one recalls that the Market exists as a part of Civil Society.

Think about it: if Parliament is not supposed to care about the Private Citizens of Civil Society vis-à-vis Production for Utility, that leaves Parliament with two options in Production for Profit: The Church and the Market. After all, in a Liberal Capitalist Parliamentary Democracy where Civil Society is the Sovereign entity governing Parliament, the Church and the Market may fulfill the roles that any Parliament might have otherwise been doing. But because Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation have demonstrated that there are limits to how far the Catholic Church can participate in economic life, not to mention the Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience within religious life, this immediately leaves the Market. If there is no Civil Society within the Market, then ipso facto “there is no sex in the Soviet Union.”

The absence of Civil Society raises another issue for Liberal Capitalist Parliamentary Democracy and that is the question of “Democracy in the Market.” Even in this aspect, there is an interplay between political freedom and economic life, but it is a specifically Liberal Capitalist conception where private action overtakes private thought with disastrously Unintended Consequences.

Here, the concept of Democracy in the Market is quantitative, not qualitative. I am of course not referring to Wages, Prices, Incentives, Inflation and Interest Rates, or the Values of various LCFIs (Liberal Capitalist Financial Instruments) like Stocks and Bonds. Instead, the concept is understood more so in terms of whether people should be buying goods and services from this privatized commercial firm or working for that other privatized commercial firm. Every decision becomes a question revolving around Kapital with Schuld being the Incentive that sparks the discussion. Choosing which privatized commercial firms to run the Market quickly resembles choosing which political parties to run Parliament. Barring the obvious production processes and transactional sales, the Private Citizen’s personal economic life has no meaningful impact on the overall performance of the Market and Parliament, apart from how much Kapital they take and how much Schuld they make or vice versa at any given point. That is how they become redundant, as just another statistical number on a financial ledger within the Double-Entry Account Bookkeeping System.

The crux of Liberal Capitalist Factionalism on Neoliberalism’s conception economic freedom is viewed as either separable or inseparable from its own conception of political freedom. The ones who view both freedoms as inseparable are those whose fanaticism has led to the Market becoming separated from Civil Society. Barring the usual considerations within the Economics discipline like the Quantities of Kapital and Schuld or the Incentives of Supply and Demand, there is always that longstanding fear of a “metaphysical State,” that State of Total Mobilization threatening to overcome their State of Natural Rights.

The State of Total Mobilization has its own conceptions of economic freedom and political freedom, neither of which are reconcilable with those embodied by the State of Natural Rights. It also presupposes the presence of different qualitative values and ethics in the philosophical sense. The ascendence of the State of Total Mobilization leads to the abolishment of the Market in favor of an entirely different conception, except there was no proper alternative (even when there were faint glimmers here and there about what that alternative might be).

It is obvious that the Tournament is fast becoming the alternative under the Work-Standard. The Tournament runs on a distinct conception of currency where the Self buys and sells, produces and consumes, bestows and receive units of that same currency to get whatever they need or want from the Totality and the State. These are of course superficial characteristics insofar as they do not properly address the real essence of what distinguishes the Tournament from the Market. Prior to the Work-Standard and the Tournament, what were the metaphysical alternatives among the Liberal Capitalist Factions?

Everything usually boils down to whether economic life should be governed by the Market or the Parliament. Does the Market reliably govern economic life through Profit and Utility Maximization vis-à-vis Kapital Accumulation? Is Parliament supposed to be participating in economic life to ensure accountability and transparency will prevail in the Market? If Parliament is not meant to govern the Market, how does Civil Society govern the Market if the former is separated from the latter? When one speaks about the abolishment of the Market, does one inevitably speak of the eradication of Civil Society and the Parliament that allegedly governs both?     

A Liberal Capitalist does not need to be a Social-Democrat or a Tripartitist (a Social Corporatist) to think that Civil Society should be governing the Market instead of Parliament. Parliament may have its own economic activities in the Market, but Parliament is also a participant like Civil Society and the Private Citizen. The problem with Neoliberalism on the topic of economic freedom in the Freedom-Security Dialectic is that the discussion gets reduced to that of “Freedom to Kapital Accumulation” and “Freedom from Kapital Accumulation.” One finds this aspect in Privatization and Nationalization respectively.

Consider, for example, the economic history of British Rail, a “nationalized commercial firm” formed from four privatized commercial firms generating Kapital from rendering rail transportation services. Kapital Accumulation was lost when the “Big Four” were consolidated to form British Rail. There was an obvious switch to Production for Utility where Utility Maximization was determined by Civil Society’s accessibility of rail transportation. Even while operating under Production for Utility, British Rail still ran on Kapital and Schuld. Since British Rail was unable to generate Kapital, it had to rely on whatever Kapital it could earn from Parliament and Civil Society, otherwise it began accumulating Schuld.

Rate of Kapital Accumulation from UK Rail Passengers (per millions). Note the massive spike and subsequent plunge between 1990 and 2010. Neatly coincides with Financialization facilitating Privatization and impacts of the Great Recession.
Rate of Kapital Accumulation from provision of Subsidies by Parliament in 2018 Prices. Despite Privatization, Subsidies still rose anyway before falling in the Great Recession and later recovering before the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The first source of Kapital came from the allocations of Subsidies. The second source of Kapital came from selling transportation services to passengers, from train tickets to meals and lodging. There is only so much Schuld that Parliament will tolerate from allocating Subsidies. There is also only so much Schuld that Civil Society will tolerate from purchasing any transportation services.

There is no Kapital to be generated from the physical act of running and operating every aspect of the transportation. The operation and maintenance on their own were already sources of Schuld, hence British Rail’s inevitable Privatization about half a century after its Nationalization. All Kapital at that point needed to be earned from the transactional sales of rendering the transportation service. Even the Privatization itself was a transactional sale, except it involved the ownership of LCFIs required for assuming control of the nationalized commercial firm.

Here, we find the Liberal Capitalist conception of economic freedom in lockstep with the Liberal Capitalist conception of political freedom. There is the “Freedom to/Freedom from Profit Maximization (Privatize/Nationalize)” and then there is the “Freedom to/Freedom from Utility Maximization” (Nationalize/Privatize).” In this context, economic freedom becomes less about Civil Society and more about whether the Market or Parliament is allowed to assume economic governance over rail transportation. Such logic functions the same way with the political freedom to choose between Labour and the Tories in a Parliamentary Election. A Private Citizen does not change the very essences of Parliament and Civil Society by simply casting a ballot; instead, one merely chooses who or what should be governing from a well-defined list of choices. The choices that one makes will affect who or what controls Parliament and the Market. Anything beyond that is too unfathomable, too unthinkable for this sort of ideological discourse.

Categories: Politics

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