Responding to Death Cult Capitalism’s “Plan B” – Pitching The Devil’s Bargain To Generation X

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1765

THE SPEED at which the ruling elite has moved to defend itself has been surprisingly slow. It should have been clear from the first onset of the Covid-19 crisis that it was capable to wreaking havoc upon the political-economy of global status quo. Its first defensive moves were, however, politically clumsy and morally grotesque. Expecting grandparents to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of their grandchildren, as the more outlandish members of the American Right advocated, struck most people as horrific. Clearly, a more nuanced solution was required.

Accordingly, the key demographic target of neoliberal capitalism’s defenders shifted from the elderly Baby Boomers (1946-1965) to the notoriously prickly Generation X (1966-1985). This is, after all, the demographic which has made intergenerational injustice its special study. To hear Gen-Xers tell the story, the Boomers managed to get through most of their lives without experiencing much more than a few relatively mild recessions. Admittedly, the American Boomers had the Vietnam War to contend with (and doesn’t it show!) but New Zealand’s Boomers cruised blissfully through the post-war sunshine with the barely a trouble in the world.

Generation X’s bad luck was clear to comedians and cartoonists from the get-go. One of the best of their early jokes depicted a Boomer wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the classic Seventies formula for happiness: Sex. Drugs. Rock-n-Roll. His Gen-X companion’s T-shirt was less upbeat. Its three words referenced the grim Eighties’ declension of the Boomer’s hedonistic trinity: Aids. Crack. Rap.

No sooner was all the fun taken out of promiscuity, recreational drug-taking and popular music, than the unlucky Gen-Xers were hit by the full force of the neoliberal revolution. All the benefits of the social-democratic state – enjoyed to the full by their fortunate parents – were whipped away from them. Indebted, de-unionised, unhoused: life wasn’t so much a bowl of cherries, as a plateful of fleshless cherry-stones.

Was the arrival of the Internet and the smartphone sufficient compensation for the Global Financial Crisis and the onrush of Climate Change? Maybe. Even so, for too many of the years they have been alive, the news has made pretty grim reading for Generations X, Y and Z. And now, as if all of the above trials and tribulations weren’t enough, the world’s under-55s find themselves in the midst of a global pandemic.

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Where’s the justice in that?

Although the academic Judas Sheep promoting their evidentially-challenged and scientifically tendentious “Plan B” (essentially a plea for pursuing ‘herd immunity’ from Covid-19) don’t make it explicit, they presumably see an element of divine justice in the virus’s preference for older people’s vulnerable immune systems. Their own generation and their children’s are much less likely to die from Covid-19 than Mum and Dad and/or Grandma and Grandpa. It’s almost as if God has finally relented and thrown these younger generations a chunk of good luck.

But, has he?

The dissident academics’ preference is for science, not theology, so expecting them to spot the profound moral challenge which the Almighty has just set down on the younger generations’ plate is probably too tall an order. It lies there, nonetheless, and all of these scientists’ crude consequentialist philosophising cannot remove it.

They do their best to ignore it, however, by reaching for the utilitarian philosopher’s substitute for God: “The greatest good for the greatest number.” It’s a formula that has always appealed to the kind of hard-line, ideologically-driven capitalists who presumably recruited these (to borrow Lenin’s trenchant epithet) “useful idiots”. Certainly, the individuals fronting “Plan B” all possess a facility for fine calculation to make a bean-counter proud.

Which should be accorded more value, these ethical accountants now demand: The right to life of the elderly and the chronically ill – a quarter of the population; or, the right to a prosperous economic future of the other three-quarters? The contention being, that a point will surely be reached in the course of the current crisis when protecting the rights of both fractions becomes impossible. It is then that the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and her ministers will be required to answer the very hardest of questions.

In the words of the Plan-B-Boys’ advance guardsman, Matthew Hooton, opining in the NZ Herald of Saturday, 4 April 2020:

“The first unbearable question is at what point, if ever, we decide that the immediate social and economic costs are too high to continue with a lockdown, if elimination or suppression fail. The second is who pays those costs, and when.”

Hard? Oh yes – and it only gets worse:

“Ardern and all of us have no choice but to take [the] risks [flowing from the harms attendant upon catastrophic economic collapse] into account while grappling with the ethics of the decisions ahead. It may be repulsive to express it explicitly, but a protracted suppression strategy would materially and perhaps permanently damage the lives of the two million New Zealanders under the age of 30 to briefly maintain the life expectancy of some thousands of people in their 80s.”

Or, rephrasing Hooton’s argument even more repulsively: At what point do we let Grandpa die, so that we, his grandchildren, can have a crack at the sort of life our grandparents and parents were able to live?

Ah, yes, the Devil’s Bargain. Transacted in all manner of guises, but always with the same intent: the transformation of the human individual from an “end” into a “means”. Here’s how the nineteenth century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky presents the Devil’s Bargain in The Brothers Karamazov, when Ivan confronts his brother, Alyosha, with the classic utilitarian dilemma:

“Tell me straight out, I call on you—answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears — would you agree to be the architect on such conditions? . . . And can you admit the idea that the people for whom you are building would agree to accept their happiness on the unjustified blood of a tortured child, and having accepted it, to remain forever happy?”

What Dostoyevsky grasps here is what always slips through the fingers of the crude utilitarians. Happiness cannot be created out of unhappiness. Life cannot be purchased with Death. Another great Russian novelist, and dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, grasped it also. When the young pacifists of the Eighties put it to him that if the choice was between Communism and nuclear annihilation, then surely it was better to be Red than dead? His answer was always the same: “No. Better to be dead than to live as a scoundrel!”

And, if memory serves, there was another seeker after the truth who had something to say about the Devil’s Bargain. A carpenter and teacher from Nazareth, in First Century Galilee. His words may be old, but even after two thousand years they bear repeating:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”

 

26 COMMENTS

  1. I would have thought that this pandemic was a fore shadowing of the much more devastating climate crisis to follow. That the debate might have been about what kind of more sustainable society we may want to emerge from the lockdown. That has not been the case. With few exceptions those people granted the space to make public comment, granted the opportunity to shape the public debate have been part of or the running dogs of the wealthy èlite hell bent on returning to the economic and social state that is rampant unchecked capitalism.

    • Peter – “I would have thought that this pandemic was a fore shadowing of the much more devastating climate crisis to follow.” Absolutely. You’re not alone in seeing this as an event in the climate change scenario unfolding globally. And we should know enough by now to accept that this is not another isolated occurrence.

      A previous pandemic, I also see as a climate change event – though I’ve not been particularly aware of others doing so. Began when African villagers ate a monkey which had been killed, a normal tribal practice. However, because the monkey’s habitat, and thus its own physiology had changed, it had become toxic – folk ate it – were contaminated – contaminated others and so on.

      We (the royal) don’t know how future climate change events may pan out, but no amount of denial is going to stop it from happening. Conversations on a sustainable society are happening, but certainly not publicly enough. Recent bleatings about the CV shutdown harming business, fans out into a much bigger picture culminating in what you identify as rampant capitalism – which is exactly what has trashed planet earth, and this is the discussion we should be having.

      The earth is very good at looking after itself and is shrugging us off now – and I have no problem with that, as we’ve let it down so badly – but lots of people – like the African villagers – did not deserve to be victims of consumer greed – and utterly nutty insane greed.

      If that doesn’t change we’ll implode – start over again – and the rich buffered in bunkers will buy themselves nothing but a trifling sliver of time – we all gotta go – but looking after each other ?

    • if any group has to die i vote the boomers ,they can do good by dieing off happily knowing they have saved the economy and left all there wealth to gen x and we will clean up the mess they have made

  2. Two questions I would put to Mr Hooton whose profession is a paid lobbyist, and which has not been raised on Nine to Noon’s Political Panel: is Mr Hooton currently under contract to any business lobby? And what are the terms of that contract?

    Answering that question might explain why his views on the lock down have changed from enthusiastic support, to agitating to oppose it and lift it.

    • Frank Macskasy,

      100% Frank.

      He’s the epitome of vested interest. What certain people want becomes exactly what the latrine rodent Hooton wants.

  3. Lets tax the profits leaving NZ to save the next generation and prevent NZ from becoming a satellite family, banana republic.

    Notice that the right are already starting to talk about increasing taxes in NZ to ‘pay for Covid’.

    However while the biggest rescue packages seem to be for business shareholders and sunset businesses employing people who are not citizens/long term residents of NZ apparently nobody is talking about increasing the corporate tax take in NZ which is ridiculously low and being lowered for decades.

    Aka corporate income tax rate has gone from 48% to 33% and currently to 28% on 1 October 2010.

    I wonder why the MSM don’t moot increasing that tax when profits is our 2nd biggest exports in NZ!

    Australian banks are making $580,000 in New Zealand every hour, money a former Kiwi banker says should be staying in the country.
    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/money/2019/03/the-astounding-profit-australian-banks-make-in-new-zealand-every-hour.html

    There seems to be huge reluctance to tax overseas profits higher when everything local seems to be going up historically….

    aka GST 10% to 15%,

    Council rates a local property taxes on properties goes up 2-1000%
    https://www.interest.co.nz/bonds/60974/heavily-indebted-and-disgraced-kaipara-district-council-raises-fears-over-bailing-out
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10807032)

    Bright line capital gains tax introduced

    Petrol taxes

    While income taxes have not gone up, in real terms people have less and less money, because the cost of living has escalated so much in terms of increases like insurance gone up 30%+, food has risen massively in particular over the Covid, power, water charges while many incomes are going down…. so any increases in personal taxes will hit people extremely hard and the government is double dipping when there is GST added to every essential from food, insurance, petrol, insurance on top of the private profits of banks and insurance companies going to overseas shareholders….

    Mortgages are predicted to go up.

    Weird how the companies that seem to be profiting the most out of NZ never get any talk of increased taxes put on their profitable industry like banking and financial products!!!!

    I propose a tax on profits that are going out of the country before the government even thinks of charging the locals any more taxes on top of lower incomes!!!!!

    As for the neoliberal mantra of giving free citizenship for high worth individuals. We already did that silly, and they ran off with all the profits they made in NZ and can now claim a pension here and free medical care.

    Billionaire Peter Thiel makes fortune after ‘sweetheart’ deal with Government
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11794020

    They keep running off with the money!

    Mainzeal’s Yan says NZ laws don’t apply in China, won’t pay back $18m
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12271022

    Cadbury, Tegal
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201843153/business-commentator-rod-oram

    We have already had a strategy to encourage foreign capital in NZ but it doesn’t seem to be helping people here more lowering wages and standards of living.

    Our government has sold citizenship and permanent residency to help private business profits in NZ but to work needs to discourage the practice of everyone taking money out of NZ as soon as they can (aka once citizenship is given or threatening to leave Rio Tinto if they don’t get extra handouts) and start to tax the multimillion profits that overseas investors keep removing from NZ to actually make the equation of foreign investment in NZ work.

    If you can remove the investment in NZ in terms of profits or receiverships then it doesn’t exactly work out too well for the taxpayers propping the ponzi up!

    The right are braying for more of the same messy neoliberal ideas on taxation that got NZ into the predicament in the first place!

    Are the left too sleepy to work out Neoliberalism 3.0 is being mooted?

    Are the left still obsessed with some teachers rental property while the banks take out $500k in profit per hour from the hands of practically every person in NZ, and pay little tax on that!

    • And how exactly do you think massive QE and borrowing will be paid for saveNZ?
      TAXES is the only way because its the State that has borrowed all that new ‘funny money’ the US FED just gave our RBNZ
      Maybe IF more NZder’s did actually “save”NZ instead of pumping themselves full of bank debt to overinflate house prices etc to then flog back & forth to one another……you know the rest

      • IF people were paid a liveable wage, IF people’s wages matched inflation,IF there wasn’t such a massive gap between rich and poor, more people could save, invest, improve theirs lives.
        IF I were a rich man di de diddle diddle diddle diddle didle di de dum.

        • yeah…. and IF we didn’t have a debt based global financial system…..
          What did THIS government do to address your points? Things ARE WORSE!
          Hows that Housing Crisis going? you know…the crisis we had before this wee virus..
          Seems both main parties a ‘neo liberal’ lovers Bert

          • I disagree, we are nearer to a liveable wage than we were with National.Wages have had a massive boost closer to inflation than under National, that’s why Business inc screamed blue murder at Labour.
            Highlight to me what things ARE WORSE Ross, or are these just empty words to suit your narrative.

      • Ross Mathews, read it, I’m suggesting extra taxes to the multinationals who take the profits out of NZ like banks and overseas multinationals.

        And a rise in corporate taxes.

        The rest of NZ as you can see, have already paid the price, time for those who report eyewater ing profits out of NZ like banks, pay their taxes.

        But if they put up taxes in particular taxes that effect the middle class, then COL are probably done for in the election anyway….

        Covid a destructive virus to society that may become a the gift for the right!

        (Trump and Scomo are more popular apparently, Obama bailed out the banks and supports TPPA type trade to lower wages , the rest is history of the neoliberal democrat downfall).

        • I’m all for Google, FB, Twitter etc paying more taxes mate for sure…No argument from me there.
          No government will do it though…Not even this current one.

          • @Ross, They might have to, because I don’t think COL will be returned to power if they continue to bail out big business (and small business that don’t contribute anything to NZ and are not even NZ workers) while adding more taxes. There’s been A LOT of new taxes to Kiwis, more fees on housing aka the woke rental standards driving down supply and increasing rents, and now people are being told that they may not get a minimum wage increase, more taxes to the middle class, on top of everything else but don’t worry Air NZ and Harvey Norman shareholders are doing great!!!!

            • If National are returned the tax pain will even greater. No doubt the following years will be blamed on Labour.

      • “State that has borrowed all that new ‘funny money’ the US FED just gave our RBNZ”
        The RBNZ doesnt need funny money from the US FED, as a sovereign nation we issue our own money. If we were doing it the same way the US and some other nations are, the RBNZ would have created the money to give to the government instead of borrowing it. Even with borrowing our government debt will still be much lower than many OECD nations. Hardly reason to panic or screw everyone over.

        • We didn’t though Alan, They (RBNZ) did a ‘credit default swap’ of $25 BILLION USD’s just like they did post 2008 ( which was $9 billon USD) infact I’ve already requested and FOIA on this. Put your email down & I will send through once received.

        • Normally I would completely disagree with printing money because of the ugly effects inflation has on people’s savings and incomes.
          However, given the extraordinary times we live in, I expect printing 20 – 30 Billion would not have any real inflationary consequences aside from driving the cost of imports up and the income from exports down.
          Aside from that, if many other countries do it, the inflationary pressures will be mitigated further.

            • Importers are selling their kiwi dollars and swapping it for the U.S. Dollar safe haven in a global pandemic, while kiwi exporters need kiwi dollars to pay for retooling and reemploying a workforce. As long as the government is stable and our curve remains flat then the government will always be able to finance it self. Yknow what I mean? Basic shit.

            • Ah yes. Typo.
              However my point remains that in these extraordinary circumstances printing money is a valid option.

  4. Anyone taking more than $500,000 out of NZ should be paying a financial transaction tax of 5% on the money!

    This would increase the investment in NZ by discouraging all the profits taken in NZ to flow out.

    Would solve the issues of all the companies that appear to be billion dollar companies but somehow never pay a cent of tax here as they surprisingly make zero or reduced profits!

    Even if it was temporary for the next 5 years would help stop the flow of money out of NZ and help with Covid.

    It would be a way for NZ executives to ‘encourage’ their parent companies not to use NZ as a cash cow aka OZ banks and invest into NZ instead, likewise the private equity here would be encouraged to reinvest the money in NZ not always repatriate it overseas.

    That in itself would generate a better eco system of investment in NZ which seems to only flow one way in NZ, outward at the first available opportunity.

  5. The greatest good for the greatest number has been how elections have been decided dfore decades,, both here and overseas.

    It is/was the justification for universal franchise, socialised medicine, state support for home ownership (in decline sadly) and families and progressive tax (albeit now in the form of WFF tax credits) and universal pension/super.

    And political parties form around different perspectives on this – providing for those in need, or allowing a majority to get ahead of the rest – their society of winners and losers.

    In health there has alway been a discordant focus on cancer drugs and hip an knee ops for the middle class and otherwise geting it done on the cheap or outsourced to private providers. Thius the lack of pandemic ready capacity and limited support for those with underclass health conditions (or just unlucky middle class).

    There is no difference this time around in terms of that, the demographic side of it is the only new factor – trying to guilt them … over how much pain will they endure for the sake of the older and more at risk .. to prove their humanity. This after the oldies in New Zealand flipped the bird to them over a CGT. Where were you on that one?

    It sort of reminds of a scene in the film Millers Crossing where a person begs for his life

  6. Warner Bros is another $40 million sink hole of John Key’s ‘sale of our childers future’ following his give away to sooth his ego.

    We should always remember his crimes, when John Key gave $40 million to Warner Bros to make movies here, but Warner Bros didn’t stay here in the end did they?

    • John Key….white-collar criminal, a traitor to NZers and ponytail pulling misogynist. Worst PM ever!!!!

  7. What I find is the utter dishonesty of hooten in economic terms to ask “who is going to pay for it”. Dishonest and not a little ideological purity – which he and his ilk are prone to (ask a gypsy). Stupidity could also be part of it – but who going to say he’s a stupid cunt out loud to often, hooton knows the pc crowd are not going to.

    Why is “who is going to pay for it” the most stupid statement anyone with half a brain has heard? Well to make it means hooton missed the USA came up 2 trillion dollars to pay for failed ventures in their neck of the woods. Again is he so stupid he does not understands interest rates, or the magic word that appears in front of economy – political.

    Economies work by political will. Fantasy economies which make profit the dominate desired in an economy, are headed for the scrap heap.

    Only the dumb and down right stupid think that events of this short shut down is going to save their ideology in the face of it’s utter inability to cope. Oh it will drag on for a few more years because people like hooten lie really well, plus dumb fucks, listen to dumb fucks.

    But it’s done. Only problem is will people want to be free, or carry on as slaves.

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