Cogs in the Liberal Economic Machine

Corey RobinCorey Robin wrote an excellent article over at Jacobin, Socialism: Converting Hysterical Misery into Ordinary Unhappiness. Although short, it is a manifesto against neo-liberalism. The idea of our brilliant “liberal” leaders like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is that by making people more involved with their economic decisions, they will make smarter economic decisions.

Let’s look at Obamacare, shall we. Instead of just having a single payer system where everyone has a base level of care, let’s give them a huge number of “choices” that they can sift through to find the perfect plan for themselves! I put “choices” is scare quotes because in the end the plans are all much the same and the only real differences are in what you will be able to afford. I remember going through this years ago when I worked in the corporate world. There for would be three or four healthcare options and my wife and I would go over them at the table and try to figure out what the best plan was.

Okay, that might be alright. We ended up getting a slightly better plan for us. And the people going through the exchanges will get slightly better plans. But it isn’t like we get this marginal improvement at no cost. It requires us to waste plenty of our time that we could be, you know, living our lives. We could be doing things that we want to do. As Robin puts it:

We have books to read, children to raise, friends to meet, loved ones to care for, amusements to enjoy, drinks to drink, walks to take, webs to surf, couches to lie on, games to play, movies to see, protests to make, movements to build, marches to march, and more.

Instead, we are making economic choices, just like in the rational expectations models that the Chicago School economists so love. Maybe the idea is that since the models have been such an unmitigated failure, they can force the people to behave like the models. I don’t know. But the big problem is it isn’t just healthcare choices we’re talking about:

That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race.

And note, we’re only talking about the poor here. The rich hire people to do all this bullshit so that they can live their own lives—to enjoy being rich. And this is why the neo-liberals, the New Democrats, are such a bad thing in a general sense. They are reducing us to cogs in the economic machine, just as much as the Soviets did to their people. Except here we call it “freedom.” But it is simply the freedom to select from a set of corporate offerings. It is most definitely not the freedom to live our lives as we wish on our own terms.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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