• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

maandag 27 februari 2017

Richard Falk

Grave Dangers: Richard Falk and Lawrence Davidson on Trump's Middle East Policies

Friday, February 24, 2017 By Dan Falcone, Truthout | Interview 
 The separation barrier in the Shuafat camp in the West Bank, on June 11, 2016. Palestinians reacted with anger and bafflement on Feb. 15 after the Trump administration apparently backed away from insisting that having two states — one for Israelis, one for Palestinians — was the only viable solution to the decades-long Middle East conflict. (Photo: Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times) The separation barrier in the Shuafat camp in the West Bank, on June 11, 2016. Palestinians reacted with anger and bafflement on February 15 after the Trump administration apparently backed away from insisting that having two states -- one for Israelis, one for Palestinians -- was the only viable solution to the decades-long Middle East conflict. (Photo: Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times) 
Now that Donald Trump has signaled that the US no longer sees the creation of a Palestinian state as a crucial component of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, the future of US diplomacy in the Middle East is in turmoil. According to international law and international relations scholar Richard Falk, "Trump's casual public comments exhibited no substantive grasp of the situation, and thus when he indicated his abandonment of a two-state consensus, it is best interpreted as reflecting Israel's preferred outcome."
Meanwhile, in a February 15 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump also continued to disparage Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, raising questions, referring to it as a "danger."
In this interview, Richard Falk and historian Lawrence Davidson, whose research has focused on the history of US foreign relations with the Middle East, discuss the ramifications of the Trump presidency in regards to Middle East affairs, the Palestinian people and the American embassy in Israel, as well as the meaning of the coming of Trump foreign policies across the world in regards to Iran, Russia and potential NATO expansion.
Daniel Falcone: What does the election of Trump mean for the Palestinians? Do you see a spike in aggression and settlement expansion?
Richard Falk: Trump's election is generally bad news.... In international policy, one can imagine that if Trump were foolish enough to go ahead with his pledge to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it would be widely experienced throughout the Islamic world as a provocation. Among its unintended consequences might be a new surge of Palestinian resistance, a renewal of active Arab support for Palestinian self-determination, further de-legitimation of Israeli settlement expansion and its various efforts to transform Jerusalem into a Jewish city, a more militant [boycott, divestment and sanctions] BDS campaign around the world, and added pressure at the UN to censure its expansionist defiance of international law, and even to consider the imposition of sanctions.
Lawrence Davidson: Trump's election means that you have a US government that will no longer do one thing and say another. With the exception of Obama's belated lame-duck behavior, the US has always, in practice, supported Israel unquestionably. At the same time, you had a diplomatic position taken that Israeli expansion was counterproductive because it got in the way of a "peace process" that had, in truth, long been meaningless.
[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, in his rather undiplomatic way, demanded that Washington bring words and actions together into a coherent, 100 percent pro-Israeli policy. Obama, apparently still having faith in a "two-state solution," refused to do this.
Trump, on the other hand, has very little understanding of the historical nuances of the conflict. Also, he has no sympathy with underdogs. They, including the Palestinians, are just "losers." So he will bring words and action together as Netanyahu wishes. Under Trump, the US will give its blessing to Israeli imperialism and racism.
President Trump stated numerous times over the course of his campaign that the Iran nuclear deal framework of 2015 was "the worst deal in history." Conjecture without content became common in regards to the intense criticism of all things President Obama. What do you suppose is the potential impact on the deal with the present administration?
Falk: There are reports that Israeli intelligence officials have communicated to the Trump transition team that they hope that the Iran Nuclear Agreement will not be undermined because of its probable detrimental impact on Israeli security. If Trump were to go ahead with a renewed policy of hostility toward Iran, it would immediately raise tensions, and could quickly escalate in the direction of war, with grave dangers of producing another Syrian tragedy of massive displacement and prolonged strife that could cause turmoil and disruptions throughout the entire region, and give rise to a new cycle of extremism.
It could also ruin any prospects for a collaborative approach to the region that joined the United States with Russia and Turkey in peacekeeping efforts, initially to achieve a sustained cease-fire in Syria, followed by an agreed political process. I can only hope that Trump comes to realize the grave dangers of adopting a policy of confrontation toward Iran. Among these dangers is the likelihood that hardliners would again gain the upper hand in the governing process in Tehran, and the moderates who have sought to end national and regional tensions would be marginalized, or worse.
Davidson: Trump often acts in delusional ways. I think he is a man who has always made his own rules and gotten away with it. Enough money will do that for you. However, he has also gotten away with it because he has operated in limited contexts -- mostly in the realm of business. Well, "he isn't in Kansas anymore" (the allusion is to the Wizard of Oz). He is in a much rougher neighborhood, and consequences of acting in his usual egocentric, "I make the rules," way can be quite dangerous for all of us.
Specifically in reference to Iran, he will not be able to renegotiate the nuclear arms pact. His attempt to do so will alienate all the European powers involved and will cost a number of US companies some very lucrative contracts. It is a losing proposition for him and for the US. Much more so than for Iran, who will turn more and more to Russia and China as trading partners. The question is: Will Trump's ego allow him to reconsider any negative moves that he now might have in mind? Such reconsideration is really out of character for him. And, of course, the Israelis will be right there whispering in his ear, urging him to go jump off of this particular cliff.
For the Democratic elite and US government elected officials like Charles Schumer, how fragile is the nuclear deal, considering its skepticism is bipartisan? For instance, if lobbyists pressure politicians regardless of party, based on contributions, is it likely to be reversed?
Falk: It is difficult to assess how much of the skepticism about the Iran nuclear deal was rhetoric, and how much represents real policy goals. There is little doubt that if Netanyahu strongly signals a demand for scrapping the agreement, and confronting Iran and resuming a policy of threatening attack, Trump, with the support of most Democrats, will feel strong pressure to deliver on his earlier denunciation of the agreement, and be faced with many adverse consequences almost certain to follow. The whole diplomatic context is extremely fragile. It should be appreciated that if the arrangement on Iran's nuclear program collapses after being so patiently negotiated, and successfully implemented since 2014 despite the intense opposition of Netanyahu's Israel and its American loyalists in Congress, it would be widely perceived around the world as a huge setback in the search for regional stability and the struggle to prevent any further spread of nuclear weapons.
It should also be remembered that this agreement was a multilateral arrangement between Iran and the P5 +1. That is, the agreement was a joint effort of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, and not merely a bilateral arrangement between the US and Iran. If the US government irresponsibly undermines the agreement, it will badly damage relations with both its European allies and its main geopolitical rivals, as well as undermine confidence in diplomatic alternatives to war in the Middle East.
Davidson: Trump might well choose to renege on US obligations (so much for the sanctity of contracts!) and no doubt he would have the agreement of Zionist politicians like Schumer. But the consequences will be the increased isolation of the US -- particularly from Europe, whose businesses will just move into Iran while US companies will lose out.
There is a dangerous aspect to all of this, however. Trump's tendency is to rub shoulders with dictators. We have seen this with his attitude toward Russia and also toward the present dictatorship in Egypt. He might start to cozy up to the Gulf dictators as a way of trying to scare the Iranians. This could lead to a naval confrontation in the Persian Gulf.
President Trump also seems very anxious to forge a heightened relationship with Israel and tolerant of the extreme rhetoric of Benjamin Netanyahu and his reactionary statesmanship. If this eventually leads to undermining Iran, will that pose problems for Trump, who is trying to appear pro-Russian and pro-Putin? Would it lead to inevitable North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion?
Falk: Yes, Trump will have to take up juggling if he goes ahead and scraps the agreement with Iran and at the same time, seeks to avoid alienating Russia, and quite possibly France and Germany. These European countries are already nervous about what the Trump presidency means with respect to the future of the post-World War II international order that has essentially kept the peace on the continent since 1945. This order is far from perfect, of course, and under pressure from other sources, especially due to the rise of chauvinism and European Trumpism. Nevertheless, Europe has survived decades of Cold War tensions without experiencing yet another major war, this one quite possibly fought with nuclear weapons.
In light of Trump's irresponsible behavior, even Putin may decide that it was time to recalculate Russian interests. This could happen quite quickly if Trump goes ahead and wrecks one of the few potentially stabilizing developments in the Middle East during the last several years. Similarly, if Israel joins NATO, this might be more than Putin is willing to swallow.
Davidson: I think Trump's affinity for Netanyahu is part of the fact that he is most comfortable with fellow bullies. He is setting up a worldwide club of ruling bullies.
If Trump takes an aggressive anti-Iranian stand, I suspect it will complicate his relations with Russia; how much so, depends on what else Trump does, particularly about participation in NATO. If he shows signs of backing out of Europe, the Russians might be willing to stay out of his confrontation with Iran. If he follows Obama's program in Europe, things might be different.
My guess is that Trump will begin withdrawing troops from Europe at a slow pace. He will demand a renovation of the Iran Accord and get nowhere with this. There might be more US sanctions on Iran. However, as I mentioned, the Iranians will not compromise with Trump, and barring a naval confrontation in the Persian Gulf, it will be US businesses that will suffer and Trump's frustration level that will go up.
It was reported that David Friedman, Trump's appointed ambassador to Israel, will work from Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, even before the embassy switches locations. Can you comment on the symbolism and pending dangers of such a hostile, crude and flagrant act?
Falk: Moving the embassy will be dangerously provocative to the Palestinians and to the region generally. It would confirm the worst impressions that America under Trump has become a rogue state posing catastrophic risks not only in the Middle East, but elsewhere as well.
I am quite confident that there are numerous discussions going in various "deep states" throughout the world about how to contain Trump's America geopolitically and economically, given the early indications that his policies will intensify conflict in many parts of the world. It is possible that these worries are overblown and misdirected -- that, in fact, Trump's call for "America First" (despite evoking unpleasant recollections that such a phrase was the invention of those in the 1930s harboring fascist sympathies) and a positive relationship with Russia, might lead [to] a more relaxed global setting. We should not rule out the possibility that Trump's diplomacy could deescalate Middle East strife and international tensions, give the US a lower global profile and enable a more balanced world order to emerge, doing most of its damage here at home, through moves to implement his vision of nativist nationalism.
My own sense is that if David Friedman chooses to live in Jerusalem, and quietly conduct diplomatic business from the now existing US consulate in the city, it will not be noticed very much. It will not be treated as a rupture with the past unless it is accompanied by other American encouragements of Israeli extremism undertaken with the clear backing of the White House.
In this regard, any move by Israel to end the conflict with the Palestinians by unilateral moves -- such as annexing the West Bank, delinking Gaza and declaring that there be no further diplomatic process -- will lead to strong regional and global reactions, as well as intensify efforts at the UN and in civil society to brand Israel as an outlaw state dangerous to regional and world peace and guilty of criminal behavior. Already there exists a growing international concern that Israel has become "an apartheid state" pursuing policies manifesting a "settler colonial" mentality. Such perceptions pose a challenge to postcolonial international society that will not be indefinitely ignored, especially if Palestinians achieve greater unity and tactical focus.
Davidson: Friedman owns property in Israel, including an apartment in Jerusalem. According to reports, that is where he will live and work.
There are also reports that the embassy move is on a relatively slow track. The Zionists aren't pushing for it strongly because there are other bilateral issues that have higher priority, in particular, a green light for the annexation of settlements. Such a green light would be the backdrop justification for Trump to carry through with the embassy move.
If the Americans do move the embassy to Jerusalem, and eventually the rest of the world follows suit, it will mark the end of Palestinian hopes for a two-state solution. 
Lastly, can you comment on the February 15 Netanyahu and Trump meeting at the White House? What was the significance of this meeting?
Falk: The significance of this meeting was mainly a matter of style and tone, an exhibition of the US enlarged deference to the wishes of Israel when it comes to the fate of the Palestinians. Trump's casual public comments exhibited no substantive grasp of the situation, and thus when he indicated his abandonment of a two-state consensus, it is best interpreted as reflecting Israel's preferred outcome. [He added] that as long as the parties agreed it didn't matter to him whether it was one state or two states so long as it ended the conflict.
Since Israel would rather re-experience Masada [last stand in the First Jewish Revolt against Rome] than renounce the core Zionist objective of establishing a Jewish state, the only one-state "solution" on the horizon of realistic possibilities is an Israeli "one state" that fulfills the messianic nationalist ideal embraced by deep Zionism, likely consisting of completing the expansionist process of recent years by incorporating all or most of the West Bank (already spoken of inside Israel by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria), casting Gaza adrift, consolidating control over Jerusalem, and transferring as many West Bank Palestinians as possible to Jordan.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

DAN FALCONE

Daniel Falcone is an independent journalist, interviewer, researcher, activist and teacher. He has a graduate degree in modern American history and first started interviewing public intellectuals Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky after September 11, 2001. He writes for several publications that cover current affairs, political science, history and education. He teaches and resides in New York City.

    Robert Parry on Trump

    How Trump Could Be a Truth-teller

     

    Exclusive: Viewed as uncaring about facts, President Trump could change his image by releasing important information about recent turning-point moments that President Obama chose to hide from the people, writes Robert Parry.


    One positive thing about a change in party control of the White House is that the new occupants sometimes release information that the old residents kept hidden because the facts were politically embarrassing or did not support some favored policy.
    Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)
    We saw this in the first days of the Obama administration when President Barack Obama declassified some documents relating to President George W. Bush’s internal policy debates about torture and other abuses from the “war on terror.”
    However, as yet, we have seen nothing similar from the Trump administration even though some truth-telling might work very well for President Donald Trump, especially given his reputation for getting facts wrong. A commitment to transparency – giving some truth to the American people on important topics – could change Trump’s image for the better.
    Plus, by releasing information that was unjustifiably kept hidden during Obama’s second term, Trump could underscore how Obama grew increasingly obsessive about secrecy the longer he remained in the White House, treating the American people as objects to be manipulated rather than citizens to be informed.
    For instance, Obama kept the clamps on CIA analyses relating to the Ukrainian crisis, even regarding the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing 298 people and leading to a dangerous escalation in the New Cold War with Russia.
    After the crash, the Obama administration quickly steered the Western media toward blaming President Vladimir Putin and got the European Union to join in economic sanctions against Russia.
    However, after exploiting the rush to judgment against Putin, the Obama administration went silent, withholding U.S. intelligence evidence even from the official crash investigators. The more the administration learned about the tragic event and who was responsible the less it wanted to say.
    At the time, I was told that the reason was that some senior CIA analysts were uncovering evidence that went in an inconvenient direction, suggesting a rogue Ukrainian operation connected to a hardline oligarch with the intent of shooting down a Russian jetliner, possibly even the one carrying Putin back from a state visit in South America, but instead brought down MH-17, which had similar markings.
    To spread confusion and create some deniability for the attack, the scheme supposedly called for launching the missile from as deep inside “rebel-controlled” territory as possible.

    A Closed File

    The source described getting this briefing from U.S. intelligence analysts, but I was unable to get the CIA or the Office of Director of National Intelligence to provide any guidance. Instead, they clammed up, claiming that they didn’t want to “prejudice” the official Dutch-led investigation (although I pointed out that the hasty U.S. finger-pointing at Russia had already done that).
    President Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)
    The refusal of the Obama administration to open its MH-17 files allowed the “Dutch-led” Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to be effectively taken over by Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence agency, which oversaw the care and feeding of Dutch and Australian investigators who decamped for long periods in Kiev.
    The SBU’s “evidence” became central to the JIT’s investigation although the SBU was deeply involved in the war against the ethnic-Russian Ukrainian rebels and was even denounced by United Nations investigators for blocking access to alleged SBU torture centers. Beyond that, part of the SBU’s mandate was to protect Ukrainian government secrets, so the SBU had obvious conflicts of interest.
    Nevertheless, the JIT relied on SBU-provided telephone “intercepts” of cryptic Russian-language conversations to base its conclusion that Russia provided the rebels a Buk missile system on the night of July 16, 2014, which was then taken on a strangely circuitous route far to the west before circling back to the east to a location far from the battlefront where it shot down MH-17 on July 17 and then was driven back to Russia that evening, again taking an unnecessarily long way home.
    Though there were numerous holes in the SBU’s evidence and serious questions about why the Buk would have taken its bizarrely long ride – when a much more direct and discreet route was available – the Western media again showed no skepticism, simply accepting Russian guilt as established fact and dismissing any alternative explanation as “fanciful.”

    The Value of Truth

    However, whatever the truth is – whether the Russians and their rebel allies were responsible for the tragedy or whether a rogue Ukrainian operation brought down MH-17 – there is no reason why President Trump shouldn’t instruct CIA Director Mike Pompeo to release as much of the U.S. intelligence analysis as possible.
    Mike Pompeo, now CIA director, speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. October 2011. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)
    First, the families of the dead deserve all the help that the U.S. government can provide to identify the killers and bring them to justice. Second, by releasing the MH-17 file, President Trump can demonstrate that he does care about truth in contrast to President Obama who mysteriously withheld this information for 2½ years and thus gave the culprits, whoever they are, time to escape and cover their tracks.
    Further, if the file blames the Russians, releasing it would show that Trump is not in Putin’s pocket, as many people in Official Washington claim. And, if the file implicates an element of the Ukrainian government – even a rogue faction – that might relieve geopolitical tensions with Russia and open possible paths for resolving the Ukrainian crisis.
    The Trump administration also could consider other topics for declassification, such as the circumstances surrounding the U.S-backed coup that ousted elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014. U.S. intelligence surely was following those events closely and could clarify the roles of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and Sen. John McCain, who all cheered on and encouraged violent protests that preceded the coup.
    Obama also hid the intelligence regarding the mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, on Aug. 21, 2013, which Secretary of State John Kerry and others blamed on the Syrian government although later evidence seemed to implicate jihadist rebels who wanted to trick the U.S. military into intervening directly in the war on their side.
    Given the importance of those turning-point moments – and the Obama administration’s attempts to exploit them for geopolitical ends – the American people deserve to know what the U.S. intelligence analysts ultimately concluded and whether President Obama’s team was telling the truth or had gotten lost in the Orwellian idea of “perception management.”
    President Trump might find that he can begin to turn around his reputation as a person who doesn’t care about the truth by becoming a truth-teller.

    Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).


    The Powerless Fighting With Words

    Throughout History, the Powerless Have Fought With Words for Liberation

    Sunday, February 26, 2017 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview 
    Either extermination root and branch, or absolute equality. There can be no compromise. This the last great battle of the West. - W.E.B. Du Bois."Either extermination root and branch, or absolute equality. There can be no compromise. This the last great battle of the West." - W.E.B. Du Bois. (Photo: CM Battey / Library of Congress)
    Audrea Lim is coeditor with Andrew Hsiao of The Verso Book of Dissent. In this interview, she provides some insight into how quotations of dissent were picked from more than three millennia. She also discusses her own favorite passages.
    Mark Karlin: As a coeditor with Andrew Hsiao of The Verso Book of Dissent, how did you choose quotations of dissent stretching back to 1800 BCE?
    Audrea Lim: It was a long, collective process. We sought suggestions from Verso comrades, collaborators and friends; we asked scholars of different eras and regions about dissenting voices that history has overlooked; and we combed through archives, histories and reference books for interesting, rousing quotes. From this massive trove, we chose a mix of historically significant, eloquent and unusual expressions of dissent. The book is far from comprehensive, but I'd like to think that it's a broad, varied mosaic of how the powerless have fought for liberation through history and all around the world.
    Why is it of importance that in 2017, we view the perspective of dissenters dating back so long ago?
    I think if we care about history (or watch movies set in ancient Egypt, China or Greece), it's important to remember that many voices and experiences have been erased from the standard narratives. Incredibly, many of these people were fighting similar enemies as we are today (patriarchy, dictators, corrupt politicians). I also think there's value in seeing dissent across such a long time-scale, because the rights and liberties we have today (however hollow they may seem) weren't just won in the 60s, as we may like to think. People struggled for millennia to get us to where we are today, and we should never take progress for granted.
    Do you have five or so favorite quotations and why?
    Because it's beautiful:
    "My grieved country,
    In a flash
    You changed me from a poet who wrote love poems
    To a poet who writes with a knife."
    (Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, 1967)
    Because we need vision, not just a desire to tear it all down: "You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future." (Leader of Burkinabe Revolution [Burkina Faso] Thomas Sankara, 1985)
    Because they're defiant: Puerto Rican nationalist (and former political prisoner) Lolita Lebron when she was arrested in 1954 ("I did not come here to kill. I came here to die."); and IWW founder Lucy Parsons, who the Chicago police described as "more dangerous than a thousand rioters" ("Of you hungry tramps who read these lines....").
    W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (1935), because, "are we back there again?" "Either extermination root and branch, or absolute equality. There can be no compromise. This the last great battle of the West."
    Because [we should] never forget those who are still behind bars: "I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth's inhabitants, none of us will survive -- nor will we deserve to." (AIM activist Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings, 2000) 
    Because it's clever:
    "Because communists' headaches
    are historical, that is
    they won't go away with painkillers
    only with the realization of Paradise on Earth."
    (Salvadoran poet and revolutionary Roque Dalton, 1969)
    Because Carlos Bulosan, who immigrated from the Philippines to the US, was fighting racialized deportations back in 1935:
    "These were the longest years of their lives;
    These were the years when the whistle at four o'clock
    Drove them to the yard, then they scurried
    Home heavy with fatigue and hunger and love."
    (From "Factory Town")
    Because it's one thing to recognize injustice, and another to be willing to give up something to change it: "Some have tears in their eyes and let me know how awful they feel about the way our poor live, our Blacks, or those in dozens of other countries. People can cry much easier than they can change." (James Baldwin, 1977)
    Because pain can push us to fight:
    "This instant and this triumph
    We were never meant to survive."
    (Audre Lorde, "A Litany for Survival," 1954)
    Just watch the speech on YouTube: "There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop."
    (Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley, 1964)

    TRUTHOUT PROGRESSIVE PICK


    The Verso Book of Dissent
    This globe-spanning anthology collects dissident voices from over the course of three millennia, in the form of speeches, poems, songs, plays and more.

    Click here now to get the book!


    Why are poetry and songs so important to the library of dissent?
    I think if manifestos and political programs are like a movement's skeleton or brain, then poetry and songs (and images, literature, narratives, art) are like its heart. At the end of the day, it's the basic human experiences they convey -- love, pain, empathy, sorrow, fear -- that compel us to act. Also, I don't think movements can win without promising a future that includes beauty, joy or fun. The Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa (executed for his activism against Shell) instructed his indigenous brothers and sisters to "dance the military guns to silence."
    Is there something to be said after reading a 340-page compilation of dissent that readers who seek justice are inspired that they are not alone and have never been alone?
    I think it's easy right now to feel like we are facing something unprecedented and unbeatable, but many of the people and movements in the book were fighting much harsher regimes, and still kept fighting for justice and liberation anyways. Some of them won incredible victories. I think it's important to remember that power is never really absolute until no one's willing to push back or speak out.
    Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

    MARK KARLIN

    Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout. He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for 10 years before joining Truthout in 2010. BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles (ranging from the failed "war on drugs" to reviews relating to political art) for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout's Progressive Picks of the Week. Before linking with Truthout, Karlin conducted interviews with cultural figures, political progressives and innovative advocates on a weekly basis for 10 years. He authored many columns about the lies propagated to launch the Iraq War.

    Neoliberalism

    Capitalism

    Neoliberalism Was Supposed to Make Us Richer: Three Reasons Why It Didn’t

    How neoliberalism contributed to the productivity slowdown

    By Chris Dillow
    Chris Edwards says the privatizations started by Thatcher “transformed the British economy” and boosted productivity. This raises an under-appreciated paradox.
    The thing is that privatization isn’t the only thing to have happened since the 1980s which should have raised productivity, according to (what I’ll loosely call) neoliberal ideology. Trades unions have weakened, which should have reduced “restrictive practices”. Managers have become better paid, which should have attracted more skilful ones, and better incentivized them to increase productivity. And the workforce has more human capital: since the mid-80s, the proportion of workers with a degree has quadrupled from 8% to one-third.
    Lplong
    Neoliberal ideology, then, predicts that productivity growth should have accelerated. But it hasn’t. In fact, Bank of England data show that productivity growth, averaged over 20 years, has trended down since the 1970s.
    Why?
    It could be that neoliberal reforms did give a short-lived boost to productivity. I’m not sure. As Dietz Vollrath says, economies are usually slow to respond to a rise in potential output. If there had been a big rise in potential output, therefore, it should show up in the data on 20-year growth. It hasn’t.
    Another possibility is that the productivity-enhancing effects of neoliberalism have been outweighed by the forces of secular stagnation – the dearth of innovations and profitable investment projects.
    But there’s another possibility – that neoliberalism has in fact contributed to the productivity slowdown.
    I’m thinking of three different ways in which this is possible.
    One works through macroeconomic policy. In tight labour markets of the sort we had in the post-war years, employers had an incentive to raise productivity because they couldn’t so easily reply upon suppressing wages to raise profits. Also, confidence that aggregate demand would remain high encouraged firms to invest and so raise capital-labour ratios. In the post-social democracy years, these spurs to productivity have been weaker.
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    Another mechanism is that inequality can reduce productivity. For example, it generates (pdfdistrust which depresses growth by worsening the quality of policy; exacerbating “markets for lemons” problems; and by diverting resources towards low-productivity guard labour.
    A third mechanism is that neoliberal management itself can reduce productivity. There are several pathways here:
    – Good management can be bad for investment and innovation. William Nordhaus has shown that the profits from innovation are small. And Charles Lee and Salman Arif have shown that capital spending is often motivated by sentiment rather than by cold-minded appraisal with the result that it often leads to falling profits. We can interpret the slowdowns in innovation and investment as evidence that bosses have wised up to these facts. Also, an emphasis upon cost-effectiveness, routine and best practice can denyemployees the space and time to experiment and innovate. Either way, Joseph Schumpeter’s point seems valid: capitalist growth requires a buccaneering spirit which is killed off by rational bureaucracy.
    – As Jeffrey Nielsen has argued, “rank-based” organizations can demotivate more junior staff, who expect to be told what to do rather than use their initiative.
    – The high-powered incentives offered to bosses can backfire. They can incentivize rent-seeking, office politics and jockeying for the top job rather than getting on with one’s work. They can crowd out intrinsic motivations such as professional pride. And they can divert (pdf) managers towards doing tasks that are easily monitored rather than ones which are important to an organization but harder to measure: for example, cost-cutting can be monitored and incentivized but maintaining a healthy corporate culture is less easily measured and so can be neglected by crude incentive schemes.
    – Empowering management can increase opposition to change. As McAfee and Brynjolfsson have shown, reaping the benefits of technical change often requires organizational change. But well-paid bosses have little reason to want to rock the boat by undertaking such change. The upshot is that we are stuck in what van Ark calls (pdf) the “installation phase” of the digital economy ratherthan the deployment phase. As Joel Mokyr has said, the forces of conservatism eventually suppress technical creativity.
    All this is consistent with the Big Fact – that aggregate productivity growth has been lower in the neoliberal era than it was in the 1945-73 heyday of social democracy.
    I’ll concede that this is only suggestive and that there might be another possibility – that the strong growth in productivity in the post-war period was an aberration caused by firms catching up and taking advantage of pre-war innovations. This, though, still leaves us with the possibility that slow growth is a feature of normal capitalism.
    Originally published at Stumbling and Mumbling.