COVID Dandelions

In order to pay for the stimulus checks, the “free” vaccines, the “free” COVID tests, etc, the US government had to print a lot of money. That freshly printed money made the money already in existence less valuable. When there’s more of something, it loses value. Dandelions aren’t nearly as valuable as diamonds.

Since a dollar is worth less, you need more dollars than before to buy the same thing. That’s called inflation.

I’ve made some calculations, and my single “free” vaccine shot has already cost me thousands. Knowing what we know now, wouldn’t we have preferred to pay $30 for the vaccines or the tests?

I don’t want to discuss the advisability of the vaccines right now but the issue of what these “free” things ultimately cost. We’ve lived with the Universal Basic Income (aka COVID stimulus checks) for a little over a year. And look at the results. We are all poorer and more precarious.

Expensive Activities

All kids’ activities in the area have become dramatically more expensive. The Aquarium in St Louis is now for rich people. We’ve been once, and are not planning to return because the cost is exorbitant. The local kid gym and trampoline park where we used to go without even wondering how much they cost became a rare treat.

I have a very good income, folks, and it’s still too expensive. If a tenured academic with a techie husband can barely afford it, there’s really something wrong.

The most annoying part is that these price hikes that punish parents are the result of the COVID policies that. . . also punished parents. Lockdowns wiped out kids’ activities, making the ones that remain very expensive. COVID stimuli created the inflation.

The First Neoliberal President

“Government cannot solve our problems, it can’t set our goals, it cannot define our vision. Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy. And government cannot mandate goodness.”

No, it wasn’t Reagan who said this. It was the first neoliberal American president Jimmy Carter, inspired by his friend and neoliberal muse Ralph Nader.

Of course, now everybody will tell me this is widely known but I had no idea. I’m only finding this out from Gary Gerstle’s book The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order.

See? It’s what I keep saying. Political parties aren’t that important. There’s no difference between Carter’s words and Reagan’s later quip about the scariest words in the English language being “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” And guess who started the massive deregulation of the airline, trucking and railroad industries? Also Carter. Then Reagan carried on in the same vein.

It goes in waves. Neoliberal Carter, neoliberal Reagan, neoliberal Bush, neoliberal Clinton, and so on.

I’m only on page 67 out of 406 but it’s an excellent book so far. Reads very easily, no academic jargon at all. I’m on pins and needles to find out how the story ends because I’m now really doubting my earlier disagreements with Gerstle.

Hard Choices

I received the CVs of my Ukrainian candidates and I don’t know what to do. They are all amazing. One’s from Bakhmut. Another from Gorlovka (my mother’s native region.) One is from Irpin. One is from Mariupol and is studying at my former university. Three have a PhD in literature. All are multilingual, with very interesting languages.

I won’t be able to choose.

Taking Down the Soviet Flag

It’s pretty unbelievable that we still need to win wars to be able to take down Soviet flags. Whoever was it that “won the Cold War” did a piss-poor job of it.

Different Flavors of Freedom

So what is the difference between left-wing and right-wing neoliberalism?

The right-wing kind believes that there needs to be something keeping individuals away from embracing complete cuckoo-bananas freedom. People tend to become addicted, miserable, lonely, mentally unwell and impecunious if they start exercising complete freedom. So they need something that will keep limitless human desires under control. Religion, tradition, morality, something.

Left-wing neoliberalism believes that freedom should not be limited by any of these things because they are unduly oppressive. If individuals freely choose to make themselves addicted, miserable, lonely, mentally unwell, impecunious, and even chopped up into little bits, then that’s fine. Left-wing neoliberalism uses silence to avoid noticing the miserable jetsam of complete freedom. As long as nobody mentions the sad, upsetting detritus of the experiment in freedom, it’s all fine. That’s why cancel culture unleashes its wrath on people who say something about the negative consequences of all that freedom.

Of course, there’s no complete freedom. And no unlimited choice. Both are an illusion but it’s an illusion that has defined how we think about the world for a very long time.

Is Neoliberalism Doomed?

Freeing the individual and his or her consciousness from the grip of large, stultifying institutions; privileging disruption over order; celebrating cosmopolitanism—and multiculturalism—and the unexpected sorts of mixing and hybridities that emerge under these regimes: All of these beliefs, each of which marinated for years in the political and culture milieux inspired by the New Left, furthered neoliberal aspirations and helped to make it into a hegemonic ideological force.

Gary Gerstle, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order

Gerstle believes that the neoliberal order is doomed because if it weren’t, the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump wouldn’t be successful. He says that such a massive and open dislike of the neoliberal rhetoric as witnessed by the support of Sanders and Trump speaks to the weakness of the neoliberal order. I don’t agree, however. I believe that neoliberalism long moved past the stage when it needed a general consensus. In the hierarchy I spoke of yesterday, it doesn’t matter what the masses on the lowest two rungs of the ladder think. It used to matter but that’s all gone. As long as the two highest slots in the hierarchy are with the program, that’s enough.

The Liberal Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is the opposite of conservatism. It’s a truly revolutionary movement in a very literal sense. It thrives on upheaval, change, and movement. The word “liberal” at the root of the term is no accident. The constraints of religion, tradition, custom and unchosen facts of reality are its biggest enemy.

That Reagan championed neoliberal ideas only means that neoliberalism (heavily advanced by the New Left before him and consolidated by Bill Clinton after him) had, by year 1980, become what “anti-racism” is today. It conquered the entirety of the public discourse, and everybody had to pay obeisance to it in some form. It’s strange that the deeply neoliberal Clinton and an even more neoliberal Obama made no dent in the idea that neoliberalism is a right-wing thing when it had very obviously conquered both sides.

If we look at them clearly and unemotionally, many Reagan’s policies are what today we’d call left-wing. That’s because starting from the 1970s, there is no right or left. There are simply slightly different flavors of neoliberalism.

Now, let’s not forget that neoliberalism wasn’t imposed on us against our will by evil Reagans and Clintons. No, it’s the other way round. Reagan had to go heavy into the neoliberal rhetoric because people loved it. They still do. Neoliberalism is a huge trip. Just as its name promises, it is very liberating.