During a recent Zoom session with a group of folks from Creating Socialism, it was mentioned that we needed a Library for Books, Video and films as well as reviews of them to give people a taste of what they are all about. This is my first contribution – a bit late for its publication date – but most of my favourite books have a certain age to them this one – 6 yrs.
I am standing in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport equivalent of W H Smiths, perusing English Language books for something to take away on a new work assignment in Madagascar. I was looking for my usual favourites in History and/or Geopolitics when I came across Austerity, The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy. I very nearly picked it up, but the last word, ‘Economy’, stayed my hand. I am allergic to Economists, they bring me out in a rash.
I have always considered the whole question of economics with scepticism and a certain amount of loathing, for it seemed to me to be a pseudo-science, and the freshly imprinted events of the 2008 Wall Street Fraud seemed to confirm it. (Not to mention the half dozen or so Market Crashes in my lifetime that have relieved many working people of their Homes, Savings and Pensions while seeing the people that actually caused them elevated as Gods.)
I carried on browsing, but the English section was small, and there seemed to be mainly books I already had. I returned to Kerry-anne Mendoza’s work on Austerity, had a quick flick and took it to the cash desk. Better something than nothing at all.
A week or so later, when settled in at Chez Moi, under the Big Baobab, Ankazoabo, I got stuck in and quickly became hooked on Kerry-annes’s clear no nonsense style of writing. I was half expecting the usual jargon-filled economists style of writing that turns reading into an unlearning process – sucking your brain as dry as a desert landscape
Not so with Austerity though, quite the opposite, I found myself having to stop every so often to allow my mind to catch up with this unfamiliar world of finance, and digest what I had just read. This is not a bad thing either. I can read as fast as the best of them, when I am on my home turf, and can comprehend as fast as I read…but Economics? Really?
By way of a taster lets just look at the Contents Page:-
PART ONE: THE DEMOLITION
1 The road to Austerity
2 The rise of the zombie economy
3 The destruction of the NHS
4 Privatizing education
5 The assault on social security
6 Austerity in Britain: some conclusions
PART TWO: AUSTERITY AND DEMOCRACY
7 Creating the culture that invites Austerity.
8 The rise of corporate fascism.
9 Attacking employment rights.
10 Outsourcing the justice system.
11 Civil liberties, human rights, and democracy
12 The endgame of Austerity
Even only if you are only slightly interested in UK politics, these headings take you through every major step of the capture of the UK by the forces of Neoliberalism (Neither Neo nor Liberal – See Heading for Chapter 8). Its a comprehensive list and books have been written about every single item I am sure, but why buy 12 books when one will do?
It was not until we set up The Dangerous Globe in 2016 that I discovered The Canary on Twitter and even then, didn’t immediately connect Kerry-anne Mendoza with the book and the Yellow Bird. We became Canary fanciers immediately.
Ms. Mendoza has a deep understanding of the ailments that beset Democracy in the 21st century so I will not presume to put my words before hers. Here are a few small highlights from hundreds of notes that I put in the margins of the book as I read it, so that she can speak for herself.
Pp 17 “This means that, in 2011 alone, for every $1 the creditor nations gave the so-called ‘developing world’ in foreign aid, the debtor nations gave almost $5 back in debt repayments. The whole premise of international development is called into question when the nations involved are giving with one hand while taking five times as much with the other.”
Pp 56 “Second, allowing public funding of private labour is reverse socialism. It is completely unconscionable to many, that while the government is taking a chainsaw to the welfare state on the stated grounds of Austerity, it chooses to use taxpayers’ money to fund forced labour for private corporations.
Aside from the principle of this being abhorrent in and of itself, there are a series of undesirable outcomes. It means corporations get to choose between salaried and free staff, creating competition with the ‘real’ jobs market and acting as a further means of suppressing wages in the real economy. It also means that tax-avoiding companies such as Topshop owner Arcadia get free staff paid for by taxes that they themselves refuse to pay.”
Pp174 “Thirty years ago, Haiti could feed itself. A rapidly growing and developing population meant that, by the late 1980s, it had begun to look elsewhere to meet its full requirements. In the early 1990s, the IMF and the US government pressurized Haiti to reduce its tariffs on imports, and the tiny country capitulated.
The US government then subsidized US farmers to the tune of $13 billion from 1995 on, in order that they could undercut domestic producers overseas. Haiti’s domestic rice market (and with it, much of its agriculturally based economy) was decimated.
US food producers won twice. First, Haiti became the second biggest importer of US rice on the planet. Second, the poverty and starvation caused by the collapse of Haiti’s rice market proved to be a boon for US food aid. Each year, the US taxpayer gives $1.5 billion to US corporations to produce food for food aid, much of which would not be required without these market-wrecking policies.”
Just a small taste of a book that is jam packed with insights like the above, with almost every page an eye opener. It has undoubtedly given me at least, a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the economics and dubious politics of this planet and helped me in writing my own work.
Each chapter has a comprehensive supply of footnotes to verify and support the authors work, and each of the notes, the majority in fact, are hyperlinked direct to the source.
In other words, its Solid.
5 Stars from The Dangerous Globe – A must read.
A P Broomfield 13/06/2021
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