There is something comic about a politican standing up before God and man and free will and mouthing the phrase “no alternative”. Except in the case of Moses and the ten commandments (and even then the first draft was broken on the way down from the peak of Mount Sinai), no politician in history has ever mouthed anything, ever represented anything, except an alternative. No politician has ever produced the inevitable. And so it is with the wrecking crew of Austerians in Europe.
The no alternative line goes back to the end of history line in the nineties. In those days, with the wall down (which made Iggy Pop want to sing Louie Louie), oil prices low,and shock therapy turning a totalitarian communist state into a funloving mafia state, specializing in exporting prostitutes and oil, neoliberalism was celebrating its springtime. Its pamphleteer and poet, Tom Friedman, came up with one of an image struck out of the poetry of the business inspirational racket (which is the only poetry acceptable under neo-liberalism): the golden straightjacket. Friedman was quite enthused about the triumph of democracy everywhere, as long as democracy didn’t go overboard and put power in the hands of the people. To prevent this, God gave us central bankers and Milton Friedman. Neo-liberalism, back then, advertised itself as so realistic that we all had to eat it every day and every night and never ever dream we had a choice. It dreamed of a world in which there was infinitely increasing returns on investment (oh, what joy to live in the Information age!) and the business cycle was road kill. But road kill reanimated and pissed all over the New Economy in 2001. Still, for six years the pretense held that a credit system that endebted a population that engrossed none of the increase in productivity that they actually created could replace what used to be called, quaintly, a “raise”. Until the house turned out to be bankrupt, and the elites had to scurry about in 2008-2010, doing what they do: using the power of the government to prop up the power of capital. Or, in populist terms, the state chose to simply give the upper .01 percent throughout the developed world hundreds of billions of dollars. They did not chose to give the 99 percent money – no, the 99 percent were assured that they were making distant money, since their pension funds and other investments (which represented a pathetic substitute for the retirement that social democracy used to hold out) would eke their way across the bleak landscape, as long as we could foreclose on the losers, lower those labor costs even more, and hike up the price of social goods.
Somehow, though, the no alternative world is looking shabbier every day. We owe so much money! In fact, tons of fake money are owed all the way around. But in this time of little faith, people are beginning to ask who they owe the money to, and why. That is, why did the elite which led us into the no alternative cul de sac make the choices it did; and why the choices, when they all went to shit, had no effect on… the elite.
So Europe is still being forced to obey the policies designed by the leaders of the Free Democrats, the tres minority rightwing party in Germany, and the editorialists and columnists in FAZ, Der Welt, Le Monde, the Financial Times, the Economist, the New York Times, etc.,worry that the people are not reading correctly the bills from good old Mr.Moneybags. Aren’t they supposed to tug their forelocks or something?
But as the Golden straightjacket turns leaden, maybe it is time for the elites to look at other periods when the classical liberals said there was no alternative. 1848. 1870. 1917.
There are alternatives. Not only that, there are alternatives to our elites, God bless em. A point that, I hope, doesn’t have to be reinforced through the historically repetitive means of peppering their butts with buckshot.