Saturday, February 20, 2010

Is neoliberalism a religion?

I have thought so since at least the 1990s.  Of course, as someone who was definitely overexposed to religious thinking as a child, I tend to be a bit suspicious of pseudo-religious behavior.  And I see a LOT of such behavior in academic economics.  Nice to see Hudson agrees with me.
The War on Consumers and Labor Heats Up
Wall Street Moves in for the Kill
Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, February 16 outlining how to put the U.S. economy on rations. Not in those words, of course. Just the opposite: If the government hadn’t bailed out Wall Street’s bad loans, he claims, “unemployment could have exceeded the 25 per cent level of the Great Depression.” Without wealth at the top, there would be nothing to trickle down.
The reality, of course, is that bailing out casino capitalist speculators on the winning side of A.I.G.’s debt swaps and CDO derivatives didn’t save a single job. It certainly hasn’t lowered the economy’s debt overhead. But matters will soon improve, if Congress will dispel the present cloud of “uncertainty” as to whether any agency less friendly than the Federal Reserve might regulate the banks.
Paulson spelled out in step-by-step detail the strategy of “doing God’s work,” as his Goldman Sachs colleague Larry Blankfein sanctimoniously explained Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Now that pro-financial free-market doctrine is achieving the status of religion, I wonder whether this proposal violates the separation of church and state. Neoliberal economics may be a travesty of religion, but it is the closest thing to a Church that Americans have thesedays, replete with its Inquisition operating out of the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Columbia.
If the salvation is to give Wall Street a free hand, anathema is the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency intended to deter predatory behavior by mortgage lenders and credit-card issuers. The same day that Paulson’s op-ed appeared, the Financial Times published a report explaining that “Republicans say they are unconvinced that any regulator can even define systemic risk. … the whole concept is too vague for an immediate introduction of sweeping powers. …” Republican Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee was willing to join with the Democrats “to ensure ‘there is not some new roaming regulator out there … putting companies unbeknownst to them under its regime.” more

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