Parasitism and Pooling
[I'm leaving this sticky because I've been struggling for months with a massive theory of everything on the market state, and this discussion is useful to me. So feel free to stretch out with theories in comments! --lambert]
[I'm stickying this because the thread this comment came from was terrific, and because the writer is combining a lot of ideas in a very concise way -- and his grandma bought in! Hard to argue with that... Also, I like Theories of Everything, which this post is. --lambert]
[Note: This post is taken from a thread from this lively post on being charged as a "purist."]
Neoliberalism as a vehicle for social justice
"Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'post-modernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s." - David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Extrapolating, MBA/MPA programs, and humanities departments (which tend to feed people into these programs with such dismal job prospects otherwise) pushed the narratives of a "free market" being the most effective vehicle for social justice. Implicit in this idea, is, also to borrow from Harvey, the "financialization of everything" (including the acceptance of debt peonage via the financial-education complex). It would make sense that people under 50 - and I've previously been incorrect in limiting this phenomenon to people more immediate to my age cohort - operate according to the same paradigms (most prominently, that cultural affectations, or markers, define/govern one's political orientation).
In the 1980s, I hope I'm not doing a disservice to Harvey, colleges became repositories of and testing grounds for competing consumer identities. And the opportunity costs of devoting intellectual energy to these identities include(d) subjecting the emergence of monetarism (which had, I believe, had begun to supplant Keynesianism a decade before) to the scrutiny/disdain it deserves, challenging/advancing post-Keynesian alternative explanations to the government-as-household myth, and refuting NAIRU and other mythologies with the ample empirical data available.
Maybe foily, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the Obamney twins are talking about Social Security "reform"(TM) not applying to current recipients (at least before Grand Bargain lame-duck session time - maybe there's sacrifice for all ages!). Because those in their fifties and younger were trained in the sort of institution described by Harvey, they are likelier to accept the debt terrorism, inflation terrorism, and other deadly innocent frauds. Even though not everyone sub-fifties went to college, those who did were charged with shaping/nurturing/promoting (complementary) cultural affectations to be transferred to those who didn't go. To the extent that these affectations were received in the public at large, the positive correlation between college attendance and electoral participation, (kabuki) polarization, and the whiney Broder-esque compromise memes (e.g., why can't they get along like Tip and the Gipper - in a Grand Bargain[TM]?) may be seen as
(1) An indication that investment (or lack thereof) in electoral politics is a function of (complementary) cultural affectations (or the failure to adopt them), and
(2) The extent to which people adopt these affectations relies upon the proportion of people attending school*.
My error in limiting to sub-thirties, I suppose, is a product of personal experiences presiding over College Democrats, interactions with college friends, and the like. The College Dem meetings seemed to always devolve into bashing dumb redneck others (who, I suppose, became Obie's "bitter" "clingers"). It became apparent when talking to professors more extensively during my grad education and to older (sub-fifties) college-educated colleagues, that the same neoliberal orientation predominates among liberal 30-, 40-, and 50-somethings. And Harvey's account of the dual emergence of monetarism and "that cultural impulse called 'post-modernism'" does a great job of presenting this timeline.
Whether one is talking to a soi disant liberal, moderate, or conservative, one will find universal acceptance of "private-public partnerships" and the general trust associated with such arrangements in providing for the social good. Furthermore, and probably more comprehensively, this idea has been manifested in the market state concept which has been fleshed out on here previously. By my understanding, the market state operates by using the government's sovereignty to enrich the private sector - in particular, those sectors which really have no productive output (e.g., insurance) - as gatekeeper to provision of actual goods/services (e.g., healthcare). Another example, I suppose, would be Congress abdicating it's power to "coin money and regulate the value thereof" to the private Federal Reserve banking cartel. Finally, instead of direct public sector job creation (through both massive national-scale projects and federally-funded/locally-democratically-executed projects), we have an arrangement of throwing no-strings money at companies to "create jobs" and at "higher"-education to issue meaningless credentials for "jobs" that never seem to materialize.
Rents, Rent-Seeking, and Parasitism
It's all about the rents/rent-seeking: This is the tag I adopted after finding Corrente sometime around the end of 2009/beginning of 2010 (I'm always here, just don't comment!). It's here (this, for example) where I first became familiar with the concept of (economic) rents and how rent extraction is a function of political rent-seeking. Though many actors have developed revenue streams that keep people away from money, healthcare, food, transportation, etc., I think that probably the most important actor is that of the financial industry - that we are embedded in a hierarchical system of rent-seekers, atop of which is the financial industry. Broadly speaking, as business model, they have a strategic advantage: To make money, this sector does not have to provide any goods/services. Even as crappy as the Big Oil and other Big [insert other rent-seekers] are, they still provide a crappy "product" - a strategic(?) disadvantage or costs that the financial sector does not bear. I think it likely that other sectors, like "higher" education have co-evolved to accommodate for this hierarchy - that the administrations (self-licking ice-cream cones) are charged with arranging a system that maximizes rent streams to the financial sector, and in turn, receive a cut. To this end, that "all roads lead to finance," is something I've tried to propagate with my friends/family/acquaintances, as this sector are the rentier supremo. I really think it's catchy: Even my grandma is saying it!
Political rent-seeking, then, is basically about finding a stream of voters and keeping them from their preferred policies. Strategic hate-management plays a critical role, specifically, undermining the goals associated with each of the (complementary) cultural affectations, providing an illusion of choice to reinforce allegiance to one's tribe, and all the while harming the economic location of your host/client. In much the same way, parasites are wont to locate themselves on things to which the host depends as a point of access (e.g., a food source). So, as the financial sector must undermine households' finances (access points being through lower-ranked sectors like health, education, etc.) in order for these households to become even more reliant upon debt, the legacy parties must undermine their respective bases' objectives in order to make them ever more reliant on the party. With regard to the latter, the cultural affectations of the legacy parties offer an example: As society becomes more "immoral" or "intolerant," members of each base seek further refuge in and intensify their allegiance to each of the legacy parties. Recognizing the potential danger of widely-shared class consciousness, the parties have adapted with anti-classist** rhetoric (Democrats and Republicans rail against different conceptions classism, treating class as just another identity***, not the same as class exploitation, and each legacy party has fashioned a different construction of class identity). Anti-classism, a sort of psychological rent, functions as a barrier between people and their class consciousness. And this is something that the legacy parties have finessed.
Parasitism, Pooling, and Modern Monetary Theory
The concept(s) parasitism and/or rent-seeking are useful in discussing the political-economic ramifications of MMT. Like standing/pooling water, standing/pooling money (either in the accumulating class or in the public sector "surplus") drives parasitism. So if a money-sovereign decides to destroy private sector surpluses, undoubtedly these surplus funds will come from the non-accumulating class, making this class further reliant upon the financial parasitic sector (most notably, retirement); before this, we do have enormous private sector surpluses - dollar for dollar, equivalent to the public sector debt - but which are mal-distributed, specifically pooled with the accumulating class which uses the leverage of their pooled money for parasitic extraction. A federal jobs guarantee removes some of this leverage. Even the inflation associated with more money is good for the non-accumulating class, as it mitigates the leverage of accumulated wealth (money just sitting loses value with growing wages).
* Getting people to attend college achieves two things: (1) increases rent-streams; and (2) creates a sort of critical mass that allows neoliberal ideology to spread beyond those who go/went.
** Neoliberalism allows for class exploitation pretty openly IMO - hence, the current obsession with "leadership" and becoming a leader and so forth - but doesn't tolerate classism. As the "free market" is advanced as a solution to racism/sexism/etc., classism is thrown in as another identity. You may be poor, but you won't be treated poorly! Try to become a leader, and take out non-dischargeable student loans for education to become this leader!
*** Amorphous and fragmenting, in contrast to the directness of Occupy's 99% locution