Markets Everywhere

It isn’t market deregulation or downsizing the government that’s scary. These have both positive and negative sides that can be debated. What creates really bad consequences is

expanding the market relations into realms considered non-market realms such as family, marriage, and education.

Gary Gerstle, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order

Children become a lifestyle choice on par with any other. Romantic partners turn into a burden because there’s always a shiny new “experience” beckoning. Even life itself is evaluated on the basis of a cost-benefit ratios.

But the scariest of all, people start seeing themselves as machines. Any unproductive emotion is hunted and eradicated. Grief, sadness, pain – everything is medicated away in a rush to restore maximum efficiency.

An actual market is great. A market economy is fantastic, take it from somebody who actually experienced the alternative. It’s turning love, children, family, and self into a market that’s disturbing. And immoral.

The Sinful VPN

The Russian Orthodox Church has recognized the use of VPN as a sin.

In case you have a dirty mind, a VPN is a virtual private network that keeps your online activities and geolocation private.

I’m very glad that all of the more straightforward sins have been defeated in Russia, and the church can now turn to eradicating these less scandalous ones.

Why Neoliberalism Is So Enjoyable

What people often forget to mention is that neoliberalism is powerful because it’s extremely attractive. It can make people feel really good. This is why it doesn’t need to be imposed by any disciplinarian authority. People freely choose it because it’s fun.

For one, it gives you a sense of purpose. And it’s not only a large, overarching sense of purpose which is not that hard to find anyway but the daily sense of purpose that can motivate you to get up early in the morning, exercise, eat healthy and do your best work.

You know this annoyingly precious expression “living my best life”? It sounds tacky but it’s exactly how it feels to be in the neoliberal mindset. It’s hugely energizing.

Being an entrepreneur of self requires paying minute attention to that self. This is also deeply enjoyable. One feels massively important and endlessly capable.

The contrast between the energized, capable winners and the whiny, helpless victims of damaged identities is also pleasant. The widely accepted idea that one is irreparably damaged by something his ancestors might have experienced centuries ago makes the joy of overcoming real challenges today doubly attractive.

Symbolic Wins for Losers

Milton Friedman, by the way, agreed that neoliberalism couldn’t possibly be labeled a conservative undertaking if words have any stable meaning at all:

Because of the corruption of the term liberalism, the views that formerly went under that name are now often labeled conservative. But this is not a satisfactory alternative. The nineteenth century liberal was a radical, both in the etymological sense of going to the root of the matter, and in the political sense of favoring major changes in social institutions. So too must be his modern heir.

Capitalism and Freedom (1962)

Of course, it’s a long way from 1962, and neoliberalism is no longer an aspirational goal but a reality. In this reality, we are either good or not-so-good managers of our own lives. We get a consolation prize for this game where many people will be the irredeemable losers. That prize is a sense of grievance and a victim identity.

Victim identities proliferate. Grievances – even of a really crazy kind – are praised and paid lots of symbolic tribute. There are a few smart entrepreneurs of self who manage to milk these grievances for profit. But for the overwhelming majority of the grievously wounded victims of privilege, the gains never materialize. The symbolic becomes invested with exaggerated value because everybody except for the aggrieved losers knows that they will never get any actual rewards. And the funny thing is that the losers eagerly cooperate. They accept the symbolic rewards and often seem to beg to be given nothing beyond them.