In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The Road to Serfdom

Posted by seumasach on October 11, 2008



Cailean Bochanan


11th October, 2008


The confusion that reigns concerning the nature of the British government’s intervention last Wednesday has reached staggering proportions. The study of Alisdair Darling’s statement leaves no doubt that there is a vast gulf between the proposal’s themselves and the way in which they have been presented. Last Sunday David Cameron had invoked the Swedish intervention in 1992 and set the ball rolling for the partial nationalisation thesis. This was very obliging coming from the so-called opposition and set in train an awesome “perception management” operation from the masters of these black arts ever since Walsingham’s Elizabethan police state had the bright idea of using the players, the stage itself, as a vehicle for official ideology. “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” and if people can be made to think that giving away £500 bullion plus to private interests is part nationalisation then all the better. This propaganda onslaught saw many seemingly unlikely figures chiming in at suitable moments to confirm the story-line, and doing so all the more effectively under the guise of attacking it.


Yet to sell a lie of such magnitude,”the big lie” requires more than just the activation of key assets at key moments. It requires deep preparation. It requires a predisposition to see things in a distorted way. It requires that people see the world through ideology.


The ideology in question is neo-liberalism or free-market ideology. This is seemingly generally understood as a policy programme which involves ‘the economy’ to be left to “market forces” without state intervention. It is true that it is a anti-statist ideology and ,as such, a variant of the state of nature ideologies which have dominated European thought since the collapse of the city state, most particularly the Athenian city state. To understand state of nature ideology it is most instructive to go to the ancients and see its opposite:


“The polis, or political association, is the crown: it completes and fulfills the nature of man: it is thus natural to him, and he is himself “naturally a polis-animal; it is also prior to him, in the that it is the presupposition of his true and full life.”(Aristotle. Politics)


This statement is astounding to us for its expression of a sense of belonging which is quite alien to modern man, notwithstanding the emergence of the modern nation state. Perhaps after almost three thousand years we may start to recover this sense of belonging in the world and at that moment we will have left behind the state of nature ideology and all its off-shoots such as neo-liberalism and the whole ideological paraphernalia of the anglo-enlightenment. 


At that same moment we will have settled accounts with oligarchy and imperialism which have dominated the whole of this period since the death of the great Athenian Demosthenes.


So we recognise that oligarchical nature of “free-market ideology’, its prejudice against the very notion of a body politic, its hatred of government and the nation state. However, the state of nature viewpoint is essentially utopian: there can be no human life without the body politic, the polis or the nation state or whatever new forms may evolve. As a utopia it provides no coherent basis for political policy. But it serves very nicely as a narrative, a story line.


When modern free market ideology came to the fore with the rise of the British empire and the “enlightenment” of Locke, Hume and Smith we can see that this was the case. The role of the new Great British state was hardly hands-off. From slave trading to opium, from gun running to financial fraud the state was the facilitator. The new Great British entity subordinated the state as far as possible to the new oligarchy, an alliance between treasonous British oligarchs and Dutch finance. This was described constitutionally as “the separation of powers’, as the exact opposite of what it actually was. In the same way the plunder of India was the exact opposite of free market economics. The core of Smith’s worldview was an international division of labour presided over by the British Empire, constructing  on a  world scale what the Romans had done around the Mediterranean. His genius was to describe it as free trade. How free this trade was became clear when the American colonists showed that they hadn’t understood their designated role in this system.


The free trade ideology was a brilliant device, a narrative which made the handiwork of the British imperialists, look like “stuff that was just happening” rather than a programme of imperial plunder.


Moving to our own times we saw a new variant of free market ideology in neo-liberalism. This variant corresponded to the end of the epoch of national wars and the discarding of the social-democratic type models which corresponded to it and which ran counter to the basic principle of individual aggrandissement, to oligarchy. The essence of this process was the dismantling of the state by the state, since there was no other way to do it. It therefore involved an augmentation of the state’s role, and state expenditure, in order to make possible the transfer of state or public assets or private interests. The state was to go to extraordinary lengths in destroying itself in a final episode of the utopian, state of nature project, expressed in its crudest form by Madame Thatcher in her famous claim that “there is no such thing as society”. This programme of pure destruction involved privatising industries, selling off public housing, so-called public private partnerships, fraudulent financial wheeling and dealing. Its culmination came last week with the conversion of the national budget into a kitty for the bankers.


That was not perhaps so extraordinary, being as it was perfectly consistent with what has been happening for the last thirty years. What is extraordinary is to see people who for too long have been following the narrative, the theatrical representation, rather than reality itself, applaud an initiative which has brought us to the very edge of the abyss, consolidated the power of our enemies and brought us a huge step forward on the road to serfdom.

3 Responses to “The Road to Serfdom”

  1. smeddum said

    It does seem that Tony Benn knows instinctively that the bailout has nothing to do with the partial nationalization of the banks.

  2. grayrider said


    The words “No Taxation without Representation” began as a slogan in the period 1763-1776 just before the first American Revolution. The slogan summarized the primary grievance of the American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies who believed the lack of representation in the British Parliament was an illegal denial of their rights as English citizens. The colonists believed that the laws excessively taxing them for services they did not receive were illegal.

    It has become apparent to most Americans that both houses of our Congress, just like the British Parliament of the 1760’s and 1770’s, no longer represents the interests of the American people. Our congress routinely passes legislation that benefits a wide variety of special interest groups at the expense of the average American citizen and taxpayer. Through the use of special interest bribes (I mean campaign contributions), it can now be said that America has the best congress that money can buy.

    American taxpayers are seeing their taxes go up at every level of government, oftentimes for services and programs that they do not benefit from, nor approve of. Our local and school taxes are rising at a rate far exceeding any increases in our incomes. The U.S. congress and the Federal Reserve are printing fiat money (backed by nothing) as fast as the printing presses can print it and the American taxpayers are starting to get angry about the increasing burden of taxation placed upon them and they have every right to be angry.

    The American taxpayers who live up to their responsibilities and who work hard (often holding two jobs) to pay their bills with less take-home money are:

    1. paying for ongoing failed social engineering experiments in housing and education,
    2. paying for the funding of anti-American, socialist organizations like LaRaza and ACORN,
    3. paying for a variety of services provided to 15 million +/- illegal aliens,
    4. paying for the bailout of large international banks,
    5. paying for the bailout of Wall Street firms,
    6. paying for the bailout of real estate investors and
    7. paying for the bailout of people who are unable or unwilling to be responsible adults and who fail to pay their own bills, including their mortgages.

    Many American citizens, particularly those who pay taxes, are frustrated by a government that no longer represents them, but rather represents the interests of an oligarchy of about one thousand political and financial elites who exert unconstitutional and illegal control over our government and economy for their personal gain.

    The members of this oligarchy are not loyal Americans who have the best interests of the county in mind, but rather they are people who benefit financially or politically by keeping our country in a constant state of war, by dumbing down our education system, by devaluating our currency, by separating us into categories by race and ethnic origin, by drugging 6 million of children with mind altering drugs, by flooding our country with illegal aliens, and by chipping away at our nation’s sovereignty, freedoms and liberties.

    I believe that Americans are fast approaching a point of frustration and anger with their own government similar to what the American colonists reached in 1776. They want to take their country and government back from the corrupt political and financial elites who control it. Let’s hope that the second American Revolution that we see on the horizon, is accomplished via the ballot box.

    John Wallace
    New York Campaign for Liberty
    Chatham, New York

  3. […] Inthesenewtimes […]

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