THE NA­TION RE­VIEWED

Com­ments by Don Watson and Richard Den­niss, plus Pa­trick Wit­ton and Josephine Rowe

The Monthly (Australia) - - NEWS - COM­MENT BY DON WATSON

He who gnaweth a cow’s horn gnaweth in vain and short­eneth his life; for he grindeth away his teeth, yet his belly is empty. So said an In­dian prophet, we are told. As­tute as his ob­ser­va­tion was, to be fair to in­vet­er­ate gnaw­ers the ex­am­ple of a dog will tell you how hard it is to give the thing up once you’ve started in on it. It’s not for nu­tri­tion that dogs go on chew­ing a cow’s horn long after the last flecks of blood and vis­cera have gone, but for the nar­cotic ef­fect of the chew­ing. I have seen them: a dog with a cow’s horn falls into a kind of stu­por from which no amount of shout­ing, whistling or clod-throw­ing can re­lease it. I have seen the same thing – we all have – among the power elites.

For three decades now, the politi­cians and their ad­vis­ers, econ­o­mists in both pub­lic and pri­vate spheres, many of the me­dia wiseacres, and pretty well all our busi­ness lead­ers, in­clud­ing the most egre­gious rent-seek­ers, have had their jaws jammed round the idea that free mar­kets are in ev­ery way beau­ti­ful, and that gov­ern­ment, even of the most demo­cratic kind, is the mar­ket’s nat­u­ral en­emy and tends al­ways to the hor­rid – even to­wards “evil”. Call it what you will – eco­nomic ra­tio­nal­ism, ne­olib­er­al­ism, trickle-down eco­nomics, mon­e­tarism, Fried­man­ism, Hayek­ism – this is the cow’s horn of the po­lit­i­cal cul­ture.

How else has the doc­trine sur­vived the mad­ness per­formed in its name? Put aside the full-blown atroc­i­ties of the ide­ol­ogy in prac­tice that Naomi Klein de­scribes in The Shock Doc­trine. For­get the crim­i­nal tragedy of Rus­sia that gave the world Vladimir Putin. For­get the grotesque inequal­ity that gave it Don­ald Trump. For­get the 2008 fi­nan­cial de­ba­cle. Leave out al­to­gether, if you will, the ex­am­ple of the United States, where the doc­trine evolved in part­ner­ship with the long cam­paign by cor­po­ra­tions and “lib­er­tar­ian” ide­o­logues to re­verse the New Deal and stamp out ev­ery other man­i­fes­ta­tion of Key­ne­sian and lib­eral think­ing. For­get the cor­po­rati­sa­tion and de­base­ment of Amer­i­can democ­racy. As the Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Matt Taibbi said in a 2009 ar­ti­cle about

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