The �Invisible Hand� is picking your pocket
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor
May 1, 2008, 00:24
The Invisible Hand is a
notion brought to us by Adam Smith in his Wealth
of Nations. It poses that, �in a free market, an individual pursuing his
own self-interest tends to also promote the good of his community,�
If you believe that, you�ll love how Smith subsequently
reasoned that each individual, �maximizing revenue for himself maximizes the
total revenue of society as a whole.� This gave the rich and greedy the right
to plunder with impunity with the blessing of god, now as well as in Smith�s
late 18th Century.
But what about those
Cayman Island accounts for stashing cash without paying taxes? you ask. What
about those tax-free kickbacks from government contractors to government
officials? What about the government passing legislation to favor favored
corporations (Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Defense, Big Insurance, Big Polluters,
Big NAFTA and CAFTA, Big Investment Banks, Big Subprime lending institutions)
in the global economy?
After all, theirs is
�The Invisible Hand,� maximizing their wealth while, actually, picking your
pocket deeply. In return, they may make nice with a hand in building a museum,
a hospital, funding some educational TV, supporting some liberal cause (with
less money for each than for a reactionary cause). Or they look for a cure for
AIDS (making believe it wasn�t weaponized by the CIA), eliminating malaria
while banning DDT, faking at making the environment cleaner while fouling it
with their products. Whatever they give is to offset the dinosauric lunch
they�ve made of our treasury and the international banquet of world resources.
Ah well, so it goes.
Or does it? The fact is that unrestrained, i.e. �free� trade is not free. It
costs us a fortune, like the Social Security Bush wanted to purloin for Wall
Street in the form of private accounts and their �administration fees�
(privatization). Or as Linda Bilmes of Harvard and Nobel 2001 economist Joseph
Stiglitz of Columbia U estimate: the Iraq
war will really cost much more than $3 trillion to �bring Democracy� to the
Middle East while it is purloining Middle Eastern oil by force of arms -- and,
making money on that, too.
There are few scams,
few noble causes which �The Invisible Hand� has not grabbed to cover for
picking your pocket, in fact to reach down and squeeze your private assets as
hard as possible while claiming it was good for you.
If that seems obscene,
It is more than
obscene. It is illegal, reprehensible, selfish, inhuman, and the purveyor of
elitist existence. For what enthusiasts call �free trade� is the imprisonment
of the working world in their grip, as employees, as consumers, as human
thinking, feeling beings.
Government, as any
institution or individual, can�t be �free� in the abstract, without any
regulation on the blind assumption that it will do good, simply while eating
your legs off. That notion of free is really the jungle book version of
Darwin�s Survival of the Fittest.
In fact, in the
almost eight years of Bush blight, we have seen the removal of regulation in
pollution of air, water, and land, and seen its results. We have seen the
relaxation of taxing-the-rich and trade controls, and seen the various emerging
corporate scandals, most notably the now bankrupt Enron, which took thousands
of employee pensions and a few real lives down with its sinking ship.
As Stiglitz himself
says in his book, Making Globalization Work,
�Whenever there are �externalities� -- where the actions of an individual
have impacts on others for which they do not pay or for which they are not
compensated -- markets will not work well. Some of the important instances have
been long understood -- environmental externalities. Markets, by themselves,
will produce too much pollution. Markets, by themselves, will also produce too
little basic research. (Remember, the government was responsible for financing
most of the important scientific breakthroughs, including the Internet and the
first telegraph line, and most of the advances in bio-tech.)
�But recent research has shown that these externalities are pervasive,
whenever there is imperfect information or imperfect risk markets -- that is
�Government plays an important role in banking and securities regulation,
and a host of other areas: some regulation is required to make markets work.
Government is needed, almost all would agree, at a minimum to enforce contracts
and property rights. . . ."
The restoration of balanced control of government and private enterprise is
at the heart of our economic dilemmas these days. Our government is totally
�out of control� in respect to eliminating control. Hence the endless flow of treasury
dollars into preemptive war, the non-seeking of alternative energies with any
real commitment to funding; the sacking of the environment by non-friendly
corporate abusers; even the total abuse and fraud, the hacking of the electoral
system itself. There is no sector of our life that the perverse �Invisible
Hand� hasn�t laid its corrupt fingers on, including the total neglect of the
And so we now have private corporations taking control of state and
national toll roads. What was the people�s property is rapidly being sold off
to multi-national corporations that will lump the nations of the South and
North Americas together like so much silly putty. Their interests are only
their own corporations, as is that of the North American Union, whether it�s
mining, trade, trucking, ports, or taxation. In short, the �Invisible Hand� has
put our world on the table of the market like a slain carcass to auction off
each piece to the highest, hungriest bidder.
It�s fighting back time
So, thank you, Mr. Bush, Cheney, Ms. Rice, et al, for turning the economic
clock back to the stone-age. Perhaps this May Day, as the Freedom Socialist
Party suggests, offers us the chance to take to the streets in protest, with
workers around the world: the Iraqi popular resistance movement with heroic
strikes by the Oil Workers Union to prevent the US from privatizing Iraq�s oil;
by Palestinians in Gaza who broke through the walls of their prison and fought
back at the brutal Israeli occupation. IDF Refusenicks
are on the rise.
In Latin America, nationals are joining the fight against multi-nation
�free trade� agreements. Support for revolutionary action is filling the air. A
mostly female workforce of more than 41,000 teachers has recently shut down
schools to demand smaller class sizes and doubling meager salaries. Would that
their fellow teachers in America make similar demands for smaller classes and a
more truthful, educative curriculum than passing standardized �Every Child Left
Even in overworked China, thousands protest or strike each day for improved
working and living conditions. Pressure for a state-run trade union federation
to take necessary steps is looming. All of us have to slap �The Invisible Hand�
hard before it swipes all bargaining chips from the table. In the US, labor
leaders should give their angry workers a chance for CEOs to hear their
complaints. Stop cozying up to management. Rank-and-file organizing is shaking
up and energizing the United Auto Workers and the Service Employees
International Union. In Seattle, leaders have created a multi-union activist
caucus. Amalgamated Transit Union members also now have a rank-and-file caucus
in their local.
As �The Invisible Hand� of a visibly out-of-control Capitalism shows itself
taking away benefits, job stability, health care, retirement plans from
employees, the workers, their unions, their representatives have to slap that
hand and fight for justice. We need to fight against the desperation of poor
people from Egypt to Mexico to Haiti to the good old USA. We are many, they are
few. It is the people�s muscle that gives �The Invisible Hand� its strength and
power. And we can take it away as well. Let that message be heard loud and
clear in every dark corner of this country and the world.
Jerry Mazza is a free-lance writer living in New
York. Reach him at email@example.com.
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