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Some approaches to the Market State: I

[I'm going to sticky this because it's the first post in what could be a long series... -lambert]

So if you are the big tree
We are the small axe
-- Bob Marley and the Wailers, Small Axe

As an inadequate substitute for a lead or an actual thesis statement--

I have had a "theory of everything" post on Phillip Bobbitt's "the market state"* fermenting for months (placeholder post with linky goodness), but what with one thing and another (site relaunch, Campaign Countdown) I have never been able to, as it were, condition, filter, and bottle it. And I don't think Bobbitt -- three Bs, two Ts -- defines his central concept all that clearly. That said, market state is such a suggestive term, so evocative of "goodness of fit" for present circumstances, that I can't help but think "That's the market state in action!" when curating material on such seemingly disparate subjects as charter schools, nudge theory, ObamaCare, the end of the rule of law (at least as we have understood it), and plasma donation.

The portion of Bobbitt's thesis that concerns us pragmatically today can be simply stated, although the terms are going to take a lot of unpacking, the concepts must be critiqued, and Bobbitt's work generally should not regarded as descriptive but as a work of elite prefiguration. That thesis:

The constitutional order of the United States is now in transition from nation-state to market state.

Now, I'm not sure this thesis is true, and I'm also not sure it's true in the way that Bobbitt -- who is, after all, a Episcopalian über-insider thought leader for the Empire with a smile like a crocodile's -- means it to be true, or would prefer it to be true. However, I am sure that if the change in the constitutional order that Bobbitt theorizes is coming true, it can have no legitimacy: The people who, even in Bobbitt's view, are sovereign, have not been consulted, or even informed.**

So here I begin the first of an open-ended series of long-form posts on the market state; and I don't know what the outcome is going to be. However, I think that if I am lucky and right, the market state, as a fully fleshed-out concept, will subsume "neo-liberalism," "privatization," and even "kleptocracy," as well as "contractors" and "mercenaries" (descriptive and accurate though those concepts are). Q.v. Elephant, the blind and the. We shall see!

Here's the example where I first thought "That's the market state!" From Waupaca Now, in Wisconsin:

For years, Jim Barry relied on Waupaca County’s volunteer drivers to take him to his medical appointments.

The 67-year-old Weyauwega man needs dialysis three times a week. He is struggling with cancer and can no longer drive himself to his health care providers.

"The county drivers were never late and I never missed an appointment," Barry said. "Since the new guys took over, I have missed seven appointments. Their service leaves a lot to be desired."

In the past, the local program for non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) was run by the Aging and Disability Resource Center, using local volunteer drivers recruited by the Waupaca County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The drivers provided elderly and disabled Medicaid recipients rides to their medical appointments.

On July 1, LogistiCare, a private, for-profit corporation based in Atlanta, Ga., became Wisconsin’s sole broker for NEMT.

Pat Enright is the aging and disability resource manager for Waupaca County DHHS. He has logged dozens of complaints from patients who have missed their medical appointments due to their rides arriving late or not showing up at all.

"These people don’t understand that I get really sick when they’re late picking me up," Barry said, noting that being late for an appointment can result in his being at the clinic for eight hours as he waits for the dialysis equipment to become available again. And missing his dialysis treatment means toxic wastes are not being removed from his body. A Logisticare driver also failed to pick Barry up for a scheduled ride to the clinic for a CAT scan.

"I feel like they’re trying to kill me," Barry said. "Yesterday, I made my funeral arrangements."

You feel like that because they are. And for profit, too.***

Barry said his problems with LogistiCare began the day the company took over the program.

"It took me an hour and a half just to get my first three appointments," Barry said.

To schedule a ride, callers have to obtain a confirmation number from LogistiCare.

Callers are questioned about whether they have a car, whether they are able to drive and whether they have relatives or friends willing to drive them to their medical appointment without reimbursement. They can be denied rides if they answer yes to any of the questions, according to a copy of logistics call script obained by the County Post.

If callers do not have their doctor’s phone number at hand when they call LogistiCare, they will be denied a ride and told to call back later with the number.

"They are trying to talk the callers out of getting a ride," Enright said.

That's because they profit by denying care.

After LogistiCare repeatedly failed to send a driver to Barry, he and Enright attempted to make a conference call to the WMR number.

"I called their number and the phone was not answered after 35 minutes," Enright said. "I called again and waited 20 minutes."

After finally getting through to LogistiCare, Enright was assured that Barry’s rides would arrive on time in the future.

"They then missed four rides in a week and a half," Enright said.

Complaints with LogistiCare are being reported across the state, according to Carrie Porter with the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging in Madison. She said Barry’s problems making it to his dialysis appointments are not uncommon.

"It’s not an isolated case," Porter said. "Just missing one appointment is a huge health concern for a dialysis patient."

Porter added that missing dental appointments are especially a problem "because there are few dental clinics willing to take Medicaid patients. If they miss an appointment, they are at risk of losing their providers."

"LogistiCare does not provide the transportation, they just broker it," Enright said.

LogistiCare contracts with vendors to provide rides, then receives calls for rides and schedules the rides with vendors.

"They are not paid by the ride, they are paid a per capita rate based on the number of Medicaid clients who are eligible for rides,"
Enright said. "A cynical person might wonder if they’re making their profit on every one of those rides that they don’t provide. This is privatization at its finest."

No, it's not "privatization." Or it is, but it's also something larger: A change in the constitutional order. If we treat LogistiCare in Waupaca County as a paradigmatic case, we have:

1. Nation-state: The role of the state is was to provide services for its citizens. In this case, its role was to provide provided a space for volunteer drivers to coordinate delivery of non-emergency medical transportation, to meet the requirement that their appointments not be missed.

2. Market state: The role of the state is to determine which provider shall collect rents for delivering a service to consumers. In this case, its role was to select a broker to co-ordinate paid drivers for non-emergency medical transportation, to meet the requirement that rental extraction be maximized. (Here's more linkiness on Logisticare.)

Judging by performance, we can conclude that human life is not the uppermost concern for the provider collecting the rents in a market state regime.**** If the Waupaca NEMT example is truly paradigmatic, that would have interesting policy implications, especially for disciplines like MMT that take "public good" as an object of study.

* * *

[To be continued...]

NOTE * Concept? Phrase? Meme? Unclear.

NOTE ** One might, however, regard Obama as the custodian or manager of some of the key threads that make up the transition. There's a very good reason why ObamaCare "mandates" participation in a market. Eh?

NOTE *** LogistiCare provides a more heightened, transparent, and vicious example of the business model that health insurance companies also use: They profit by taking payment for services they later deny. And yes, it's still going on.

NOTE **** This is clearly true for ObamaCare, or its implementation would not have been phased as it was.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

I'm going to read it over and over again to memorize some of your wording.


Market state: The role of the state is to determine which provider shall collect rents for delivering a service to consumers. In this case, its role was to select a broker to co-ordinate paid drivers for non-emergency medical transportation, to meet the requirement that rental extraction be maximized

Incredible wordsmithing there.

I came up with the same theory of everything, too, btw. (I'm assuming geostrategy is part of your theory, too?)

Also of interest in a "muse for a moment and then let it go" sort of way:

The disclosure of covert campaign assistance by Middle Eastern governments to both U.S. political parties coincided with widely televised reports showing violent Israeli repression of Palestinian marches for suffrage in the occupied areas still under Israeli control.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

The competitive, critical function of the media in the market-state is similar to that of the political parties of the Left in the nation-state: the Left is always a critical organ in government, reproving, harassing, questioning the status quo; it sought a governing role even though whenever Left parties held office, they quickly moved to the center, co-opting (or being co-opted by) the Right. Now with the discrediting of the Left in the market-state, this competitive critical function has been taken up by the media.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Your links are interesting, Athena1. However, just to lay them out in a way I can follow them, you're link to the "Philip Bobbitt" tag page at Sovereignty Blog might have gone to the specific post there which features the passage from The Shield of Achilles about the media that you pasted. Here it is again:

[T]he competitive, critical function of the media in the market-state is similar to that of the political parties of the Left in the nation-state: the Left is always a critical organ in government, reproving, harassing, questioning the status quo; it sought a governing role even though whenever Left parties held office, they quickly moved to the center, co-opting (or being co-opted by) the Right. Now with the discrediting of the Left in the market-state, this competitive critical function has been taken up by the media.*

The Sovereignty Blog post skips over the next paragraph, found at the Google Book link you provided, which anticipates Lambert's response that that is "not the media I know!" The graf which follows on directly from The Shield of Achilles reads:

The media are completely untrained in this task--ethically or politically. Much the same can be said for the leadership of the great multi-national corporations (of whom the media empires form a subset). Nor can these institutions expect much guidance from the political class that has so enslaved itself to the market via its reliance on campaign contributions.

And, backing up, that asterisk at the end of that first paragraph directs the reader to this comment:

*Which is not to say that political partisanship is dead. It thrives in the transitional environment from one constitutional order to another. But this partisanship is programmatic (it is a right-wing conspiracy, or left-wing, or some other) whereas press opposition is nonsubstantive, in the sense that it objects, period. It poses no alternatives.

In the meantime, and as an aside, there are a couple of champions of the New Deal who appear together on their own Internet talk show as part of the line-up at Virtually Speaking. They are Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman and their show is A to Z but both Lambert and I have cross their paths in blog threads elsewhere. The two are highly critical of "Third Way" Democrats whom they see as ideologues out to dismantle the New Deal. I would place Lambert well to A and Z's left but, without going into that, doubling back from a link to the BrothersJudd blog here's the Sovereignty Blog blog assuming the virtue of Third Wayism in their review of The Shield of Achilles:

[Philip Bobbitt, 2002:] ...The "market-state" is the latest constitutional order, one that is just emerging in a struggle for primacy with the dominant constitutional order of the 20th century, the nation-state. Whereas the nation-state based its legitimacy on a promise to better the material well-being of the nation, the market-state promises to maximize the opportunity of each individual citizen.

[BrothersJudd, 2005:] We'll find some fault with even this condensed version of his argument, but this much everyone should take away from the book.

Mr. Bobbitt says in his Prologue that he originally planned two volumes, but went with one, and it is in turn divided into three parts. The overarching theme is that a new constitutional order is emerging within and among the states of the world, one based on the market-state. Rearranging the order in which Mr. Bobbitt presents his material, he charts an evolution of constitutional orders that have characterized the international society of states: the princely state (beginning in the late 15th century and based on a territory ruled by a prince, rather than defined by the power of the prince as an individual), the kingly state (beginning with the Peace of Westphalia, "a domain of absolute authority that made the king the personification of the state"), the territorial state (of the 18th century, defined by geographical continuity and extent, by agreed borders), the state-nation (of the 19th century, which "sought popular allegiance on grounds that State would exalt the nation"), the nation-state (of the 20th century, which "promised to improve material welfare of its people), and now the market-state (which "promises to maximize the opportunity of its people, tending to privatize many state activities and making representative government more responsive to the market").

[Sovereignty Blog, 2005]: As you watch the media try to discredit Bush and Blair over the Iraq War and oppose the Third Way reforms that both have proposed to transition reluctant publics from nation-state to market-state, you see Mr. Bobbit’s scenario played out in living color. Paradoxically, it is the very failure of the nation-state (Welfare State) and the accompanying recognition that government has a limited capacity to solve our problems that must make it so hard for the following generation of leaders to convince people that their lives can be made better by a program of radical government reform.

Ideally you’d have the kind of Nixon goes to China situation that prevailed after the ’94 election, where a President of the putative Left worked with the party of the Right on reform. But even then, Bill Clinton lacked the courage of his convictions and left the heavy-lifting–Social Security, health care and edication personalization– to those who followed. Meanwhile, the Tories have mostly squandered their opportunity to work with Tony Blair and dismantle the British Welfare State. Only in Australia does the Left, under Kim Beazely, seem to be working well with a reformist leader of the other party and, not coincidentally, John Howard faces none of the legitimacy questions that plague his partners in Anglospheric leadership.

Submitted by lambert on

.... but I think he's onto something with the change in constitutional order, and there's no question in my mind that something very like what he describes is going on (and accounts for a lot of otherwise disparate phenomena, some of which I lay out in the post).

We might also consider that he originally wrote the book (I was going to say, "posted" the book) in 2002, so we've got a decade's history to evaluate it against.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on


"Philip Bobbitt lives in Austin, Texas, Washington, D.C., and London. His house in Austin is a registered landmark. Bobbitt is softly spoken and enjoys cigars. He may step out of class to get a can of soda or a coffee. Female law students often compare Bobbitt to 'a smarter, taller Harrison Ford [with a little Richard Gere thrown in]'."

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I think this a brilliant start to what promises to be a wonderful book. I think my neoliberalism kills posts here and here fit in with this very well. Dan Lynch has a been compiling a wonderful set of photos on Facebook, many related to austerity/neoliberalism impact. He frequently uses the meme neoliberalism kills. Here's one which will give you access to the collection.

I also like the Chapter heads:

II: The Market State and Changes in the Constitutional Order
III: The Logic of the Market State: A Critique
IV: The Market State and Civil Society
V: The Market State and Legitimacy