Author: Frank Lee

Neoliberalism and its Discontents

Frank Lee Pure economics is not a theory of real-world economics, of actually-existing capitalism, but of an imaginary capitalism.” Samir Amin, The Liberal Virus (2004) According to orthodox economic trade theory, free movement of labour, capital and commodities, will result in flows into the most optimal investment and growth areas. In doing so this process will be seen to maximise social welfare in terms of growth of income and output. At the level of theory this may seem disarmingly plausible; in practise, however, the theory begs a number of key questions and is not necessarily always the case. Like much orthodox economic theory, the free-trade paradigm is a one-size fits all prescriptive model; always and everywhere it is thought to be the policy of choice. Free-up the markets and they will deliver the goods. This is, to say the least, a questionable view. The quasi-religious belief in the efficacy of free trade and factor input movement is the cornerstone of trade agreements such as free-trade areas like NAFTA and trading blocs like the EU and …

The EU: From Social-Democratic Dream to Neoliberal Nightmare

Frank Lee Reviews The Left Case Against the EU by Costas Lapavitsas Britain, in the shape of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, initially joined the EEC in 1973, after Charles de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969. De Gaulle had always been opposed to the Anglo-Saxon axis, regarding the UK as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for US geopolitical objectives, and consistently blocked the UK’s attempted entry into continental Europe. According to DG Britain ‘was not European enough’. With the General out of the way the path was clear for British entry. However, this was not an altogether popular move with much of the electorate and some quite solid opposition from elements in both main political parties. This being the case the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, opted for a referendum on continued membership in 1975 to settle the issue. The electorate voted ‘Yes’ by 67.2% to 32.8% to stay in Europe. As I recall I voted ‘Yes’ and even wrote a pamphlet in support entitled: “EU the unfinished project.” However, I was then blissfully unaware that the …

Paradigm shifts: The Great crash of 2008 revisited

Frank Lee Some years ago, I reviewed a book – State Building – by Francis Fukuyama. This was one of his lesser known works, he is more famous for being the theorist of the ‘end of history’ – a view fashionable during the days of neo-liberal triumphalism circa the 1980s. But the views espoused are much the same in both works. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and social-democracy effectively throwing in the towel in Western Europe, Mr Fukuyama postulated that liberal, deregulated, market capitalism was now the historical norm, and if countries had not arrived at this terminal point in their history then in the fullness of time they surely would. This teleology became the received wisdom in official circles, and I would argue still is, at least among the political, financial and media elites. Paradoxically, this consensus – let’s call it the Thatcher/Reagan settlement – represented almost a theoretical mirror image of the cruder types of Marxist historical materialism. The term ‘cruder’ is used sparingly, since it is questionable whether Marx …

Reforming the EU – Waiting for Godot

by Frank There is a human tendency to cling on to cherished beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There was a time, during the heady days of Jacques Delors and the Social Chapter, when the EU appeared to represent a social-democratic and neutral geopolitical bloc; a third force between the USSR as it then was and the US/NATO – this, however, is no longer the case. The EU has long since transmuted into part of an aggressive neo-liberal and neo-conservative imperial alliance under US command. The liberal, centre-left remainers such as Yanis Varoufakis seem to think that it is possible reverse this development and get the EU back to its original prototype, presumably by dint of political will. In view of historical developments this view seems increasingly difficult to sustain. In particular since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty of 2005 the EU Defence and Security Policy has been aligned with NATO. Indeed, EU membership has become a stalking horse for NATO membership and vice versa. NATO’s geopolitical drive to …

Holier Than Thou: The Guardian View on The Panama Papers

Frank Lee We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Leona Helmsley, American business woman and socialite 2007 The revelations contained in the Panama Papers are nothing new, except perhaps the scale of the problem. Even back in 2012 we had the tax scandal of the Barclay Bros, British media tycoons and proprietors of the Telegraph Media group, who lived the high life avoiding tax payments in the UK tax havens in the Channel Islands and also spending their time in Monaco, another tax haven. Then in 2014 there was the case of right-wing US billionaires the Koch Bros. A leak of confidential documents expands the list of big companies seeking secret tax deals in Luxembourg, exposing tax-saving manoeuvres by American entertainment icon The Walt Disney Co., politically controversial Koch Industries Inc. and 33 other companies. Disney and Koch Industries, a U.S.-based energy and chemical conglomerate, both created tangles of interlocking corporations in Luxembourg that may have helped them slash the taxes they pay in the U.S. and Europe, according to the documents …

“Anti-Semites like Russia” – The Guardian

Frank Lee Is there a day that goes by without some Russophobic tripe masquerading as journalism appears in the Guardian? The latest example being Paul Mason’s piece. The racist hijacking of Microsoft’s chatbot shows how the internet teems with hate. The piece was ostensibly about the alleged rise of ‘anti-semitism’ particularly in the media and on the left. Maybe he is right – anti-semitism has a long history – but of course the charge of anti-semitism is also used to silence any criticism of Israel which is deemed to be above criticism. But that is another issue. What particularly irritated me was the following pearl of wisdom: Interestingly, among the British anti-semites I’ve been monitoring, there is one country whose media is always believed, whose rulers are never accused of conspiracy with the Jews, and whose armies in the Middle East are portrayed as liberators, not mass murderers. This is Putin’s Russia…” But of course! Anti-semitism? The Russians are behind it; this is taken to be axiomatic. No proof, no evidence, just flat assertions. And …