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Social Security is Not for Sale

The market is a tool effective after fundamental political questions are answered: What kind of society do we want? Are education, health care, housing, water and land available to everyone or privileges?

Yhe Market as a Tool

By Marc Batko

Alan Greenspan, the 78-year old head of the Federal Reserve, has "served" 5 presidents and is acclaimed as "hard-working". Recently he gained headlines warning that social security and medicare are in fiscal trouble. People must expect to work to age 70, he implied.

If social security raised the income cap, financial problems would disappear. Presently no social security tax falls on incomes over $86,000.

Are solutions repressed? Does the state have a social nature or is the state only a security- and power state?

Mainstream consciousness accepts the uncontrolled market economy as total, absolute and without alternative. According to Adam Smith's theory of the invisible hand, the unrestrained market brings optimal production and distribution. Everyone pursuing self-interest is said to bring the common good. In reality, basic rights become privileges when the market is not balanced and tamed by the populace. Water, land, education, health care and electricity become privatized and unaffordable for the large majority. In truth, the neoliberal myths bear bitter fruit. Self-interest is legitimated and the common good narrowed or distorted to system support.

The market is a tool that is effective after fundamental political questions are answered: What kind of society do we want? How can we protect people from comodification or idolatry? Should the economy serve people or should people serve the economy? Should society strive for egalitarianism or the survival of the short-sighted? The market that efficiently optimizes production can blindly destroy its own foundation (nature) and unconsciously privilege those with better starting conditions. The social market economy, the basis of the German social system, embeds the market in a larger system and vests persons and communities with rights of social protection.

The messianic vision has always been powerful in mobilizing people for a better life. The vision where the wolf and lamb eat grass together, where a child leads them, where everyone is safe under his or her fig tree and no nation knows war any more can help us make the "quantim leap" from the greed model to the justice model.

In Germany, social democracy is atrophying as the equality theme is replaced by equal opportunities. The unemployed are blamed for unemployment. While only one job exists for seven jobless, prime minister Gerhard Schroeder echoes the reactionary evasions of Helmut Kohl. "There is no right to laziness", Schroeder repeats.

Corporate tax evasion has caused state deficits. Corporations play off communities and states and receive subsidies and tax write-offs. In Germany, corporations receive subsidies while relocating to Poland and Malaysia to profit from lower wages. In the US, CEOs receive 418 times the salary of their lowest employees in 2003. In 1960, the relation was 40 to 1.

The truth that increased purchasing power creates full employment is hardly heard amid the neoliberal trickle-down mythology. Corporations stylize themselves as natural laws or as suffering servants. Sins of the market do not exist, only sins against the market. That corporations have responsibilities as well as rights seems blocked in mainstream and elite consciousness.

The social risks of old age, unemployment and sickness cannot be simply renamed personal responsibilities. If this happens, social polarization and helplessness result. While few profit from the increased productivity, millions must choose between food, housing and health care.

The draft of the European Union constitution contains a new right, entrepreneurial freedom, that trumps other rights (cf. "The God of the EU Constitution" by Ulrich Duchrow on www.portland.indymedia.org). How can the corporation be brought under the rule of law? How can the "personhood" of the corporation be removed? How can states and communities free themselves from being hostages to "deadbeat" corporations?

Here are some starting points for a social and future-friendly market economy.

1) Creating a social net is the precondition for sharing working hours. A future of sharing and solidarity requires sharing work time, lifelong learning and treasuring disposable time.

2) Domination by capital and neoliberal logic can distort education to apprenticeship and conformity.

3) Social polarization and division of society occur when government only enforces the interests of the rich.

4) Mending our own pockets, confronting hemorrhages (military obsolescence, corporate enrichment, corporate tax evasion) and discovering the stories in ourselves are revolutionary.

5) Cooperation and competition can coexist. Cooperation, not violence, is an anthropological constant (cf. Gottfried Orth, "Cooperation, not Violence" on www.mbtranslations.com).

6) Public goods must remain public. The community or the commons has a sovereignty over water, land, electricity, health care, housing and education. If they are privatized, basic human rights become privileges. Human life is then sacrificed on the altar of the total absolute market. Long-term necessities are sacrificed to short-term constraints.

7) The state has a social nature and isn't only a power and security state. We face the distortion and rewriting of history and obstruction of free flow of information. The empire wants to destroy memory along with imagination, vision and personal development.

8) Nature like children has rights in itself and is the foundation of future life. Neoliberalism reduces nature to a sink, an external or a free good.

Let there be peace and let it begin with us. By involving and not distracting one another, we become people of hope. In discovering the stories in ourselves, in focusing on the free person rather than the free market, we make absurd the "endless" stories of office buildings. Our growth in vision, imagination and wisdom could be unlimited; the growth in material things is limited and frustrating. Our story of interdependence and liberation must not be drowned out by Toyoto time or Labor Day sales.

homepage: homepage: http://www.mbtranslations.com
address: address: http://www.commondreams.org

Thank you for this... 02.Sep.2004 09:03


Thank you this information. As an older activist type I am deeply disturbed by some of the message being sent out by younger activist types. I very aware that they find us older people to be replaceable, ignorant and invisible.

I recently heard someone talking on the current NYC coverage say that my generation failed miserable at trying to bring peace and justice to the planet and that his generation had all the answers and they were new answers, and this was a new world in which his generation would be very successful at saving the planet because his generation had all the answers and my generation, and the generations before us have no answers at all.

There are two disturbing things about this message.

One, my generation of the 60's did make some mistakes, the worst mistake we made was to say that anyone over 30 had no answer at all. We were like the blind leading the blind into rebellion. We would not listen to the elders who lived through two world wars, a great depression, the repression of unions, communities and multi-generational families and the mass movement of people from the farm and self-sufficency to the city and dependency.

We believed that we could rebell and rebuild the world while being inebriated, stoned, and generally whacked out. We destroyed our personal relationships by alienating each other and the folks who could give us some type of historial perspective on how the world is being manipulated by corporate and facist interests.

We did not fail at every thing however. SOME OF US ...created cooperative food outlets, child care coops, neighborhoods, unions and other just non-heirarchical organizations that kept the oppression somewhat in check. We kept ALL of the forest from being destroyed. We protected water ways, rivers and oceans the best we could. It is true that only 10% of my generation was helpful and hardworking and worked unselfishly. The rest consumed.

The present late 20's to late 30's group who believe there is nothing to learn from last generations, and that your generation is the "savior" generation, and that you can go it alone....are in danger of acting blindly. You will be doing the same thing we have done for the last 150 years fail to bring any change at all.

What would be truly revolutionary is you could join with ALL ages and many cultures and lifestyles to change the world. Any change that emerged from these kind of alliances would be long-term, deeply systemic, just and community rather than corporate based.

The power is in the people (all the people, young and old).

I dare you!