Friday, January 31, 2014

Ignacio Portes — How the Left Underestimates Chile’s Right-Wing Keynesians

Chile’s caste of technocrats is smarter than what the left generally gives it credit for. The country’s post-dictatorship neoliberals, most of them inside the Socialist-Christian Democrat coalition, not only inherited the disciplined workforce of the Pinochet years, they also have read Keynes, and use his recipes all the time to escape the typical problems that the more fanatic and less pragmatic market fundamentalists create on their own economies, although they do it in quite a conservative way....
The social divide is similar to what it was in the Pinochet years (crumbs notwithstanding), but demands for reform have been successfully contained for more than 2 decades since the end of the dictatorship, and have only recently started surfacing.

And when they surface, what both the Pinochet/libertarian right and the more neoliberal within the Christian Democrat/Socialist Party coalition tell the wannabe reformers is: if we do what you want and start redistributing wealth, helping the unions and so on, all the growth that Chile has benefited from by being so friendly to international capital—all it’s given us, like boosting construction, mining and other dynamic sectors—will go away. And they are right in a sense, because the world is rigged for international capital, which can boycott any government they don’t like by simply moving elsewhere.
In this context, where national workforces are being played against each other to see which of them can serve the market more effectively, it’s hard to see how a movement of students, a couple of trade unionists and well-meaning citizens and some half-assed center-left politicians inside one country could defeat such an octopus of a system. A homeostatic octopus at that, which has the power to regulate its movements in such a way as to control and eliminate any localized effort to reduce its power. Raise your taxes, raise your salaries? How bad, we are going elsewhere then, good luck paying for all that new infrastructure and investment you needed. Behave like a good boy, do what capital says? Good boy, here, have some of my dollars, have a bit of jobs and welfare, at least for as long as the resource-extracting economy lasts or someone starts behaving better than you....
Still, all these extractive, export-based models in Latin America tend to run in the long term into the same problem: whenever the international prices for the commodities they export fall, their highly dependent economies weaken or collapse. When that happens, the masses who more or less kept quiet despite their subordinate position, placated by continued growth, find out they suddenly don’t even have an expanding pie anymore, and even worse, that their rulers are coming for a bigger share of it even if it’s now shrinking, in order to “make the economy more competitive” and re-boot it into profitability and growth, a process which makes class struggle inevitably resurface, exposing the farcical nature of the neoliberals’ harmonious depiction of society, at no small social cost.

So there might be no choice but this: to start thinking of ways of transcending national barriers to stop the race to the bottom, and instead join efforts to confront it. Neoliberalism, neo-imperialism, and neocolonialism still rule through the power of "free markets, free trade, and free flow of capital," along with the power that capital bestows on its owners.
Naked Capitalism
Yves Smith 

No comments: