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“Free” Markets and the Attack on Democracy

“Free” Markets and the Attack on Democracy

John Buell

Many US citizens take comfort in the conviction that progress toward democracy has been steady even if stalled or even periodically reversed. History is on our side. Early in the post Revolutionary period the right to vote was extended to all white men, even those who held no property. Women achieved the same privilege early in the twentieth century, and the Civil Rights movement of the sixties completed the work Reconstruction had left undone.


Regarding Thom Hartmann’s response to his caller, the efforts to which the caller referred started well before 1951. Here is strong evidence from well before then:

“In our dream we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise up among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply."

  • Rev. Frederick T. Gates, Business Advisor to John D. Rockefeller Sr., 1913

Thom had is facts correct about 1951 and on, but I hope he takes the time to review prior history, because it is very significant. Charlotte Iserbyt’s Dumbing Down of America, which has outlets in the grey press and historically on the web has all sorts of threads to pull to see how “education” has been weaponized. If I may beg all of you out there who read my words: Think For Yourself!


During this age of groupthink, doublespeak and the most efficient propaganda machine the world has ever seen, “think for yourself” indeed !

Nothing says gilded monopolies more than Bezos $36 billion divorce settlement. The robber barons of the first gilded age would be green with envy seeing their 21st century counterparts’ plunder on such a grand scale.


Superb article, excellent analysis, important to recognize the ideology and program that lead to extreme wealth concentration.

i disagree somewhat with Buell about “conspiracy.” i do not believe the “true believer” propagandists of neoliberal economic ideology sincerely believe in their “perfection of markets” drivel. They understand it is designed to free the super-wealthy to operate all levers of society and the political economy.

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Free market worshipers with their belief that the market is all omnipotent and omniscience refuse to see it is devoid of morals. To give power to an economy directed without morals is ludicrous and a disaster waiting. And now the most interesting issue for our times is how do we break the power of big business and their collusion with government.

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In the 1970s a movement that would become known as neoliberalism began mobilizing politically to lower taxes for the rich and corporations, to eviscerate democratic decision-making both in the workplace as well as at the ballot box, to slash spending on essential social services such as education and social security, to deregulate industries across the economy and to open up flows of capital across national borders. These “reforms” enabled corporations to evade virtually all forms of accountability either to the workers they employed or to the communities in which they operated. In the United States neoliberalism was aided by racialized attacks on social service provision in which African American and Latino recipients of welfare and other anti-poverty programs were portrayed as an “undeserving poor” whose lifestyle was being subsidized by (white) taxpayers (even though whites constituted the largest group of welfare beneficiaries). It brought with it a war on the public sector. The neoliberal mantra became, there is no alternative to the free market, now today, Americans confuse market freedom with real freedom.


We certainly need more deliberations revealing the results of capitalism, especially the neoliberalism version both parties now embrace.

Please, however, can we inform these deliberations with some decency of historical accuracy? Where did this horribly misguided nonsense come from, if not neoliberalism’s routine, ignorant, ahistorical nonsense factories? “the Civil Rights movement of the sixties completed the work Reconstruction had left undone.”

Who with a tenth of any historical consciousness could write such drivel with a straight face? Who with anything but a tin ear could miss all the revelations over the last six decades portraying the grotesque lack of completion of “the work Reconstruction had left undone” as well as the work “reconstruction” (ever heard of Jim Crow, Mr. Buell?) undid?

Just this past week, three Black churches were burned in AL. Hardly an hour passes when somewhere in the USA some US white policeman hasn’t assassinated another unarmed black man. Or some US white nationalist hasn’t threatened a Black US Congresswoman with assassination.

When will White America’s Political Science discover that we have nowhere come near the reconstruction Lincoln promised we must achieve, the reconstruction Tocqueville noted that without which we would democratically and entirely undo the nation lest we discern that our electoral system falls far short of what the Declaration of Independence as well as our Preamble to the US Constitution promised not only the non-white & non-male US, but the entire world, as Lincoln also said?

If the Democratic party wants to become democratic, it must graduate from pasty bar white versions of history, pasty bar white versions of political “science”, pasty bar white versions of foreign policy, especially in those areas of the world where bar pallor white versions of policy have made precisely what the current WH chief clerk calls “sh*thole” places; Latin America, from the Rio Grande to the Cape, the Greater Middle East, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, SE Asia, and all the other Asian nations where Uncle Sam has left his dog doo filled boot prints stamped into the consciousness of every child and adult there, every African nation where bar pallor white policies defending big oil, big ag, and big whatever lobbyists (ever heard of Bill Gates?) can peddle their toxic garbage as (tax deductible, mind you!) “aid” while creating & expanding unending wars & extracting invaluable resources without restraint; indeed, bar pallor white neoliberalism plagues the entire impoverished USA - now more than ever before.

But never mind. Wherever neoliberal Whitey goes, there is a platoon of white neoliberal political scientists to tell him what a wonderful hero he is to everyone everywhere & how his white predecessors saved everybody in the world from the devil. Just ask the Donald. Or Chuck Schumer. Or Gov. Hickenlooper. Or Mr, “Starbucks” Schultz. Or, Beto; or Buttigieg; or, Nancy Pelosi; or, Dianne Feinstein; or, HRC; or, Biden; et. al., there are plenty of them to go around.

Footnote to American Political Science: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/04/05/capitalism-or-socialism-which-will-it-be

Capitalism is an assault on all being, all living being, all spiritual being, all moral being, all distinctions between good and evil that go beyond simple commodity-fetishist-whatever-crap-can-be-sold-materialism. It is hardly only the economy that is stupid; it is the entire materialist puritanism we’ve inherited from long before the Axial Age.


Correction to the fourth paragraph, first sentence: Within the past two weeks, three Black churches were burned in LA.

I like to differentiate between freedom, which is freedom for all to express themselves and live as they want within natural and psychologically determined limits, and license by the rich to exploit whoever they want, human and non, in whatever way they want.

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