Brazilian President Bolsonaro joins the growing ranks of leaders – including America's Trump, Hungary's Orbán, and Poland's Kaczyński – who won power by vowing to end systemic corruption. But he is likely to join them in enabling much more of it

By Janine Wedel*

The election left one of the world’s largest countries deeply divided, handing the presidency to a military-loving, minority-bullying, media-bashing firebrand promising to smash a corrupt establishment. I am not talking about the 2016 US presidential election that put Donald Trump in power, but rather the 2018 election in Brazil, won by the so-called Trump of the Tropics, Jair Bolsonaro, who was formally inaugurated on January 1.

Bolsonaro joins the growing ranks of supposedly transformative leaders – including Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and de facto Polish leader Jarosław Kaczyński – who won power by railing against the establishment and vowing to end systemic corruption. Will he also join Trump, Orbán, and to a lesser extent Kaczyński, in overseeing the spread of new kinds of corruption, while attempting to reshape governance to entrench his own power?

Despite repeatedly pledging to “drain the swamp,” Trump has enabled a level of corruption that is arguably unprecedented in American history, affecting large swaths of the federal bureaucracy. He has failed to fill open positions, slashed budgets, bypassed established bureaucratic procedures and protocols, and sidelined diplomats. He has largely spared the military, though here, too, he frequently denigrates his commanders’ expertise in favor of his gut feelings.

When the state apparatus is eviscerated, governance can become more informal, policy more personalized, executive power more dominant, and loyalty to the leader more important. Trump has installed family members as official and unofficial advisers, placed senior aides in agencies to monitor loyalty, and issued more executive orders in his first year than any president in a half-century.

Beyond blatant nepotism, cronyism, and abuses of office by Trump appointees, this has created new opportunities for “shadow lobbyists,” unregistered influencers who fail to disclose their ties to corporations or even foreign governments. For example, Trump’s informal adviser Newt Gingrich has lobbied for health-care companies and mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Trump’s former consigliere Michael Cohen was paid for “advice” by corporations like AT&T and Novartis. Both former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were found to have engaged in foreign lobbying tied to Russia and Turkey.

Then there are what I call the “shadow elites”: establishment players who fill intertwined, opaque, and not fully disclosed roles across the public and private spheres. For example, retired generals and admirals who sit on government defense advisory boards can help shape defense agendas while using their access and information to clinch military contracts for the consulting firms they own or the defense companies for which they work.

Similarly, Trump-appointed officials often have deep ties to the industry they are supposed to be policing – including education, finance, and especially the energy sector – or are expressly antagonistic toward their own agencies. And the president himself has fused the Trump brand with the office he holds, failing to divest fully from his business, even as he makes decisions (official and otherwise) that clearly affect its bottom line.

Of course, American democracy is still comparatively entrenched, and the Trump administration has faced significant pushback from the judiciary and media (both of which he has repeatedly attacked). That is not quite the case in Hungary under Orbán, the first of few world leaders to endorse Trump’s candidacy, or in Poland under Kaczyński. Whereas Trump has facilitated corruption by weakening government, Orbán and Kaczyński have focused on seizing control, changing the rules, and making government institutions their own.

In Hungary, Orbán loyalists have been put in charge of several independent government-monitoring bodies, and the judiciary has been stacked, enabling Orbán to rewrite the constitution as he sees fit. With few institutional constraints left, Orbán has fostered what Freedom House describes as “large-scale and unpunished” corruption.

When Orbán’s Fidesz party won a decisive victory in 2010, he proclaimed it a day of “revolution,” because the Hungarian people had “ousted the regime of oligarchs who misused their power.” Yet Orbán has presided over the emergence of a new generation of oligarchs, as he has coordinated with political insiders to deploy state power and resources for the benefit of personal friends and political allies.

Transparency International estimates that 70% of Hungary’s public procurement is now “infected” by corruption, possibly costing the country as much as 1% of GDP. Beyond Hungary’s own resources, Orbán has diverted to his cronies billions of euros from the European Union, which is now demanding at least partial repayment.

For Orbán, however, the goal has always been to ensure that Hungary’s power players are on his side. And the plan has been working. For example, Orbán-connected oligarchs have secured “complete control and domination of the regional newspaper market.”

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, led by Kaczyński, who has no official position in government, has similarly set about laying siege to government institutions. Like Fidesz, PiS presented itself as an antidote to corruption, which helped it achieve a decisive electoral victory in 2015. But, though the government has pursued some legitimate anti-corruption initiatives, such as a crackdown on tax fraud, it has also wielded corruption accusations as a weapon against political opponents, making much of its anti-corruption agenda look more like an authoritarian power grab.

Meanwhile, PiS has attempted to assert control over the civil service, the judiciary, and state-controlled media. PiS changed the civil service law to usher out career professionals, installing many loyalists in their place, and replaced many of the heads of state-owned companies.

Trusted Kaczyński loyalists now make major decisions in Poland, with little accountability. Against this background, a current banking scandal involving a top regulator who appears to have solicited a bribe from a leading banker suggests institutional involvement of PiS- and Kaczyński-linked players and underscores the institutional damage they have done.

Six thousand miles away, Brazil has just inaugurated Bolsonaro, who has echoed these leaders in promising that “government departments will not be led by anyone who’s been convicted of corruption.” Judging by Bolsonaro’s populist counterparts elsewhere, however, Brazilians should not hold their breath.


Janine R. Wedel, anthropologist and University Professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, is the author of Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2019, and published here with permission.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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145 Comments

Do I detect a whiff of far left wing propaganda here. Of course not, its much more than a whiff

[ Come on. Racist profiling or broad-brush religious insults are never the basis of a proper argument, and never allowed here. Last warning. Ed ]

Now you’ve got a balanced talkback host in Kerre Woodam you might finally expect over time to change the Cold War attitudes & left / right biases

Radio Live or whatever the incarnation shortly is to be, have rehired Sean Plunket, so never fear, the deniers, the conspiracy theorists, the general nutbars still have a place to call home. Plunket is almost as bad as Smith

Didn’t realise that failing to fill open positions, slashing budgets and bypassing bureaucratic procedures are examples of “corruption”. But ok, if Janine says so. She is clearly an impartial and nonpartisan commentator.

Wonder if it would be an unacceptable insult for me to call Janine “juvenile”? Probably, so I won’t. Good thing I’m not a snowflake, so I’m not at all offended by today’s sookey babba Ed referring to me as such :)

Disappointing that even the most benign, light-hearted jab at an author is removed by overly sensitive editors. Cancelling my monthly PressPatron donation today.

I'll support interest if you're not going to. Probably better that interest is without financial support from people who fail to see corruption when it's right in their face.

Bolsorano will have a challenge balancing the BRICS economic agenda with his conservative agenda in that he has promised to respect Brazil’s Judeo-Christian tradition and focus on education for the job market, and is a strong supporter of Israel - & is considering moving the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem.
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It must be perplexing for the standard liberal, educated, academic or journalist to understand why a leader like Bolsorano comes into power when the system of economic globalisation has benefitted the elite so well.

Are we forgetting Duerte in the Philippines?

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Putin in Russia. Erdogan in Turkey. Modi in India.

Why can't the intellectuals see that the West is committing suicide? There is popular revolt everywhere yet all they see is vulgar people.

People cannot see the hidden causes but they can see their countries going backwards. Globalisation needs different rules, ones that work for everyone, not ones that destroy the livelyhoods of the citizens.

"Globalisation needs different rules" - Some democracies needs different rule. Its pretty clear that the way some of the democracies mentioned are structured too much power is given to a single person (which in itself is undemocratic).

These people were elected democratically to fix serious issues in their countries. Electing a "strong man" is a sign of desperation, a cry for help from the masses if you will. It is democracy in action. Yes there is a problem, and these people tend to tyranny and are unlikeable to us, looking on in comfort, but their election is a result of the dire situation their country is in. They have very high voter support, so why do we think we know best? To us it a dangerous road to take, but it is for them to choose.

You describe the exact path Germany took to electing Hitler. Stuns me that people can't see this, stuns me even more that some think that is a good path to take.

It is because of people like you PocketAces.

That, I will take as a compliment

No, its not democracy in action, its authoritarianism.
Democracies should be like NZ & UK with figurehead heads of state.
The power should remain in parliament.

Globalization is a great idea for when the world is ready for it but it surely is not ready yet. The west's experiment with women in a world of macho societies may also prove to be a disaster for western civilisation. As our women have been given more power in society, so the western world declines. A recent study found that the more we give them, the LESS they know about important issues and that includes the strident female members of Antifa.

Did I just read what I thought I read? Un bloody believable. "The more we give to them????!!!!"
Still such a long way to go.

PocketAces, further down the page you write, " women who have control of their own destinies and fertility have fewer children, start having them later and many eschew breeding altogether" thus tacitly confirming that giving more freedom to women has indeed contributed to the West's decline.

As someone who sees that we must reduce our numbers on this planet I see that as a real positive and would like to see it spread to others in the world.

Wake up Mr Pocket. If our people don't breed the western politicians just replace us with immigrants that have a strong preference for their own group. A few decades later the political system is lost to that groups' identity politics. You're not seeing the big picture here.

Reducing our own numbers is just genetic suicide unless 'GDP growth' is restricted globally.

If you care about the planet NZ needs to be putting a lid on the sources of over population, pollution and plastic junk. Yet we do the exact opposite allowing the plastic junk, pollution and population growth to spread here too. And because Fonterra has milked NZ I can't even swim in any of the local rivers, and then they throw away their profits to Chinese scams.

If we as a nation are serious about fixing the planet we need to do our bit: yuge cuts to immigration numbers, land taxes to encourage efficient land use, sanctions on Chinese products, carbon taxes and fertilizer taxes. China takes millions of bottles of water (free) from an illegally drilled well in chch that may contaminate the city's potable water.

You're not doing a damn thing to help the planet if it's going to be come One World China.

Wake up Mrs Bilbo, I have never supported mass immigration, I advocate for the human race (which includes other than people of European descent) reducing its numbers and negative effect on the planet. I advocate for a planet that caters for other than just the human race. I advocate for education of all, regardless of where they live. I advocate for the rights of women so that they can decide how many children they have, when they have them or if they even have them at all.
I have warned about China since their intentions became obvious to me, around when the Crafar farms were sold, I spent a lot of time being called a xenophobe. Now, suddenly, people can see what their intention is, it is not about Mr and Mrs Average Chinese it is about the entire system, which is also looking for growth.
Growth and the rise of huge multi national corporations are the problem, go into any supermarket and try to find what you can that is not sold under some giant foreign corporation. Even iconic NZ brands such as Edmonds, Vogels etc anything under the Goodman Fielder label, now owned (or part owned not sure) by Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil processor.
You have assumed rather a lot about me

Here is somewhere to shop for some of life's necessities minus the plastic www.dirtyhippie.co.nz their products have seen me able to do away with shower gel, shampoo and conditioner bottles. Although the stuff looks expensive on the surface it lasts so long that it really isn't.
You can also get a lot of unwrapped or paper wrapped products from Bin Inn, including toothbrushes with wooden handles.

He's bad news. A trump supporting climate denier. Pity the Amazon the indigenous peoples... and all of us who live on planet earth.

Incredibly sad and whatever happens is irreversible.

What little I've read on it, yes, it's Incredibly sad, given the solution to deforestation, particularly of rainforests, was mooted years ago. But the First World and its corporations simply never came through.

We cannot lay the blame at those with the precious resources - we (that is the First World with our profligate lifestyles) have only ourselves/our leaders to blame. How much oil, plastic and palm oil derivatives did you purchase this Christmas?

In their Paris pledges, countries providing climate finance to developing countries should make performance payments to reduce deforestation a key part of their pledge.

As I understand it - it (PES - payment for ecosystem services) was suggested in Montreal - it didn't happen - it was suggested in Paris - it didn't happen.

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/pay-up-to-save-the-rainforests...

https://www.cgdev.org/blog/paying-tropical-forest-countries-keep-trees-s...

But some of the governments of those poor and very poor economies started using the method themselves;

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/07/paying-people-to-pre...

And the results have been encouraging but are perhaps unsustainable without global support from the wealthier economies.

First we overdose on the products of their ecosystem destruction; then we pay them to take the waste arising from their ecosystem destruction; and then we criticise them for their ecosystem destruction.

One thing one glance at Bolsonaro told me is that he is the sort that would rather burn the Amazon forest to the ground than preserve for any money.

I recall my first plane landing in AKL NZ - on approach we flew over miles and miles of rolling hills with no trees.

What you're criticising him as potentially doing is what we've already done.

I think I answered something similar to this before, and I totally agree, am often among the first to point this out, but that was then, this is now, we know better, they know better, Bolsonaro knows better. We CANNOT continue to do this.

The biggest problems with these ghastly men taking power is their racism, misogyny and the biggest of all, their utter lack of concern for the environment, they will happily destroy what is left of the natural world, for what, I do not know. The world will live to regret the reign of these fools more than just about anything else I can think of.
I would include Xi among them as well.

Sounds like you think NZ governments have been friends of the environment in comparison? One of the highest rates of species decline in the world, if I'm not mistaken. Granted a lot of that has to do with our tremendous biodiversity, but still... we ain't no model of global ecosystem citizenship, that's for sure.

NZ biodiversity ?
Try North America
That’s true biodiversity
Where’s the deserts of NZ ?

Indeed, and I am among the first to point that out whenever the opportunity arises. Imagine, though, if we were trying to do what we did a century or two back, now. We have learned since then, all of us, including Brazilians, including Bolsonaro. There is now no excuse for any more deforestation.

There is now no excuse for any more deforestation.

Aside from the fact that people need to eat - it's a bit like our collective, continued pillage of the oceans.

Of course it bloody is, I do not argue in favour of any of it.

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The author seems conflicted - critical of The Establishment for its corruption and then likewise, critical of the citizens who, in response, elect someone not from The Establishment in their hopes to end the corruption.

They bring their own corruption with them.

And the alternate is? Take the US - crooked Hillary vs nepotistic Trump.

exactly

There are millions of alternatives to either or both of them.

Problem is where the US system is concerned many of those millions don't have the millions needed to run.

I agree PocketAces, just wait a few years and this guy will be accused of corruption. Fact is they are all corrupt before even getting the job. Anyone at the top level is corrupt, thats how you get there in the first place.

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Well spotted, was my immediate reaction as well.

But the author misses a crucial aspect to all this: the hitherto unspoken-about, and certainly disdained (Deplorable) inclination of a large swathe of the public to resist the cultural dilution if not destruction occasioned by immigration. Not so sure that this applies to Brazil, but is certainly a big (yuge?) factor in Eastern Europe as well as in the fly-over mid states of the US. Importing multitudes of wildly culturally different peoples is, as everywhere from Melbourne to Stockholm has discovered to their dismay, is not a recipe for social harmony or easy assimilation. In the wider recesses of the political spectrum, it is, in fact, viewed as low-level war. This may be overstating the case, but then there is the constant stream of acts of extreme aggression against undifferentiated civilians gathered in public places, to reinforce the notion.

So the Deplorables, perhaps in a less than coherent way, are simply wishing for what most of us in our isolated little set of islands, protected as to borders by expanses of turbulent ocean, already have in large measure: the quiet enjoyment of our possessions, families, communities and - dare we say it - nations. And those wishes are not going to be fulfilled without some measure of Disruption, because the various Deep States, in their various ways, are not about to let go of their fiefdoms....

Cultural dilution, globalization will happen regardless of what us old, stick in the muds think, the younger generation will have little taste for going back and they will have no hang ups about us mixing it all up.

I prefer to call it cultural evolution.. our culture isn't exactly the same as it was 20years ago, and in 20 years it will have changed a bit more again. There are alwasy new cultural influences arriving, whether by immigration, popular media, or simply adaption to technology.

I think much of the angst toward The Establishment/globalists comes from younger generations of born and bred (and parents of those generations) that perceive their opportunities for work diminish with the influx of (usually cheaper) migrant labour.

Yet another reason for raising the education levels and opportunities of those in poorer countries. You never know, among those kids battling to get even the most basic things in life could well be, in another circumstance, the discoverer of the cure for all cancers.
Everything sheets back to too many people on this planet, absolutely everything.
This is playing out just about exactly as everything else has when things get tight, we start bristling at each other and often end up at war with each other. We are no better than those of us who first climbed down from the trees, but we could be, if we so chose. Looks like we aren't going to.
I think you are wrong about what young people think too, by the way, they don't see other hard done by people as their enemy, they see the giant, relentless corporations as that.

Couldn't agree more, waymad.

Trump and others are the almost logical reaction to obvious problems. I think Trump will in the end have played a leading part in changing political conversation world over by highlighting what is actually important to so many people who have been derided for a long time by the elites in their ivory towers.
And dear I say, his election only came about as a reaction to the ever increasingly overzealous policies of the left. Take Germany for example, how do you create a resurgence in the far right? Swamp the country with immigrants with a very different culture. Cause and effect.
Here’s hoping sometime in the future we get the right solution for the right problems.

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Exactly. Why did the good people of Sunderland vote for Brexit? Where do they go on holiday? What is the unemployment rate of the place they holiday in? They saw totally shocking rates of unemployment, and saw their future if Britain stayed in the EU.

I couldn't believe it when Merkel invited the million migrants in. While my heart went out to the migrant families, it was an unbelievably stupid thing to do, with totally obvious results.

The ONLY answer to the migration of desperate people is for those born in more fortunate places to try to help them where they live to improve their lots there, because we need to get our population down, and people who are free, women who have control of their own destinies and fertility have fewer children, start having them later and many eschew breeding altogether. We need to work toward that, but we seem to be embracing brutality.

Couldn’t agree more. Countries are just creating more and bigger problems by attempting to fix the symptoms not the cause.
It’s hard to combat the elites who feel the need to prop up western countries declining fertility rates with immigration to keep the Ponzi going though. The proxy wars that are fought in these third world countries aren’t helping either.

..and back here in little ol NZ we seem to be keen to celebrate, promote and subsidize rampant breeding. Welcome to 2019.... where personal responsibility is not to be questioned.

"Legacy has six brothers and one sister on his mother's side and six (soon to be seven) children from his father".

https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/109694061/new-years-baby-creates-h...

I wonder if the kids are each named after a make or model of clapped out car on their front lawn?

I know of one kid named after a make of motor vehicle, however, she is an only child, and I expect given her age, likely to remain so.

I think Holden is a nice boy's name.

I guess it depends what he is Holden

Yes you see it in Yemen right now, pictures of staving children and yet we put up with that but mention birth control and everyone is up in arms ! Fact is when they say they have 6 to 8 kids and the war has been going on for years, they shouldn't have any kids. Who in their right mind has multiple kids in a war zone ?

A couple of useful links for some context - a lotta people are thinking along these lines....:

The left? My god if you think the US is left wing then what are we? I imagine the Democrats are probably right of National. The republicans would be very far right of ACT.

Yep, I'd have to agree with that.

The neoliberal globalist countermeasure to populism is to properly educate the people. Not much different to a "ministry of truth". I understand Satyajit Das now when he said "trust would be the ultimate casualty".

Who at interest.co.nz decided it was a good idea to post this political propaganda? To even things out, I assume you’ll also be giving a platform to some opinion pieces slinging muck at the left?

Well team, at least the only way is up given that you’ve started 2019 in the gutter.

Its not about left vs right anymore. Today's battle lines are drawn between neoliberalism and nationalism. Regarding balance, interest.co.nz always publishes stuff from the NZ initiative. What's your idea of balanced reporting? Mike Hosking I suppose

No, left vs right still exists. As does authoritarianism vs libertarianism. And it’s not really neoliberalism vs nationalism, it’s more globalism vs nationalism. My idea of balanced reporting? Certainly not the above article.

Left and right pertain only to an economic system, right being of the individual, left of the collective. There are many stops along the line between right and left in mixed type economies, which to me are the best way to go there,just got to get your recipe right. You add authoritarianism or libertarianism to any degree along that scale, it looks like a sheet of graph paper, not just a line. This is the reason that people struggle with whether Nazi Germany was left or right, when in fact, at least at the beginning neither here nor there economically, but it was off the scale authoritarian. As it went along, it probably became more like a plutocracy.
Funniest thing about when you realise how this all looks basically at any point on that graph, it starts to dawn on you that the person we think of as Jesus Christ would have probably most naturally sat somewhere in the libertarian left quarter of the scale, yet he is worshipped by many who find themselves in the authoritarian right of the scale.
A centrist is a person who believes the economy should be a mix of individualism and collectivism and believes for the most part that people's personal choices that don't hurt anyone else are nobody's business but theirs.

When it comes to left/right, I’m a very well-balanced individual - https://i.imgur.com/7FoxYhc.jpg

You mentioned Jesus - Do you think he would make a good Prime Minister? He was good at party tricks, but his well-intentioned economic mismanagement would turn us into Venezuela before long. He would be no fan of the free market capitalism that has brought so much of the world out of poverty. This is the guy that said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of the magic sky man.

I think the idea was that people stop looking at the world as "what's in it for me" "who can I exploit to get my way".
I guess he misjudged the human race by quite a lot.
He was a philosopher, by the way, not some sort of Penn and Teller act rolled into one and his dad was Joseph, probably but definitely not some spirit in the sky.
Free market capitalism is now at the point where the inequalities that are inherent in it are showing up, with mechanization there will be fewer and fewer opportunity for people to succeed as they did back when there was meaningful work that paid enough to live on. It is not all it is cracked up to be, not when the cracks begin to show, no single system is, they all go to far in whatever direction they point.
It growth that has to be reined in especially if we are to reduce our numbers and our negative impact on the earth. Capitalism AND socialism will have nowhere to go during this process because BOTH rely on growth. We are going to have to come up with something else. The sharing economy is a start and it is likely where we will go, again mainly because of technology, it still has room for the individual to innovate. It looks now that people (men especially) are not prepared to think, just want to storm their way through this so they can carry on as before, stuff the planet, stuff the oceans, survival of the fittest, a horrible prospect of a world.

He thought he was the son of a magic entity in the sky - in other words, he was a madman.

Through capitalism, the individual's pursuit of their own economic self-interest simultaneously benefits the economic self-interests of others. Capitalism has delivered the goods for humanity and will continue to do so indefinitely. Laughable that you think capitalism relies on growth. Growth is a byproduct of capitalism, but it certainly doesn’t need it to operate. Capitalism relies on the free market and little else.

Your “something else” sounds like an experiment waiting to fail.

Nah Jesus wasn't mad, just a clever idealist Jewish hippie with a cult following. Sorta like a Jewish Russell Brand I imagine. Poor bugger got strung up by the Romans, which could have happened to anyone back then.

You are thinking without depopulation and automation. These two things will change the entire landscape and economy.
Yes, I agree that people should be able to do their own thing, but the accumulation of capital (which is pretty much what capitalism means) does require constant growth. Socialism also requires growth.
We are going to have to think differently as it already becomes more and more difficult to make your own way by simple hard work.
I think views such as yours are very past focused and not even considering how things will look in the future for those trying to live on part time, sporadic incomes as technology and automation take over.
The only reason we have low unemployment at the moment is because of ludicrous levels of population growth, no more, no less, but that cannot continue forever.
Yes, new thinking is required.

Yes, you’re right, the problem of scarcity of resources is about to end any minute now and we should do away with capitalism. All other such utopian attempts have failed miserably, but this time we’ll think more like Jesus Christ and will be sure to succeed.

You have not been paying attention.

You have been paying attention to incorrect information - Marxist blogs most likely.

My favourite quote from Marx, "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need" is accompanied by this explanation in Wiki;

Marx delineated the specific conditions under which such a creed would be applicable—a society where technology and social organization had substantially eliminated the need for physical labor in the production of things, where "labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want".[16] Marx explained his belief that, in such a society, each person would be motivated to work for the good of society despite the absence of a social mechanism compelling them to work, because work would have become a pleasurable and creative activity. Marx intended the initial part of his slogan, "from each according to his ability" to suggest not merely that each person should work as hard as they can, but that each person should best develop their particular talents.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_each_according_to_his_ability,_to_eac...

And who knows - with technological advancement and AI, perhaps humanity will get there someday?

That is the direction the world is moving, and it is quite amazing that he was able to see into that particular future. I guess some philosophers are just quite good at extrapolating things out. He never, I don't think, ever advocated for this to come before its time, but I think we are getting close to it and yes, technology and mechanization are going to be what facilitates, if for no other reason, than it has to. The old according to ability etc is kind of old fashioned but in some ways does apply in social security we have today.
You have to temper all philosophies with a filter of the time the philosophers came from. Adam Smith formulated his ideas, which probably manifested themselves in neo-liberalism, in a time when women had no say and black people were slaves. Christ's (or whatever his name was) ideas, also, were tempered by his time.
There is only one philosopher whose ideas seem to transcend time for me and that is Buddha (reincarnation excepted but people seem to need the comfort of thinking that somehow they will continue beyond life).

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Kate.

If/when scarcity of resources is no more, capitalism will need to change. This day may never come. For now, taking resources from those who earned them and giving them to those that did not doesn’t work. Ask Venezuela.

We don't have resource scarcity.
We don't have over-population.

We do have inefficient distribution of resources under capitalism. There is enough food, water and fuel to sustain population growth orders of magnitude larger.

And if you ask most Venezuelans, they'll probably describe a life that was better under Chavez and communism, than the mess foreign pressure towards capitalism has left their country in.

With you most of the way bar the resources and population, we are already consuming as if we had another 1/2 planet to do it with, we most definitely have to face our own overpopulation of this planet and at the end of the day growth relies on increasing numbers of us.

Resources are scarce. This is a fact. Everything with a monetary value is so because it is scarce. You think we have unlimited gold, labour, land and food? Please.

Capitalism is the most efficient and fair means of allocating resources ever devised. Most inefficiencies are due to excessive government interference.

@Stuart - "And if you ask most Venezuelans, they'll probably describe a life that was better under Chavez and communism, than the mess foreign pressure towards capitalism has left their country in."

Huh? If anyone says things were good under Chavez it would have been earlier on when there was plenty of wealth to redistribute. Socialism like his is always great until you run out of money to take and it sure did run out assisted greatly by his policies and ideas.

The only people talking Marx around here are the likes of you

Capitalism requires growth? As a philosophy / motivation for an economy it requires competition with successes and failures. Those with capital to invest have to see potential growth of their investment otherwise capitalism fails. That does not necessitate endless growth until disaster - with deliberate reduction in population then wealth per capita increases. OK fewer builders, butchers & bakers but those that survive have capital which divided by reduced number of investors leaves on average everyone better off. Just imagine NZ without the last million immigrants - fewer roads, less pollution, cheap houses, minimal poverty, Auckland without high rise but plenty of rather aged buildings (like Oamaru on a larger scale). Businesses would be happy enough - Fonterra would be smaller but more progitable - the only losers would be academics, civil servants and consultants.

The requirement for infinite growth is defined by the A+B theorem of C.H. Douglas crica 1930. It is an inherent feature of capitalism.

I don't understand the "capitalism needs growth" mantra either. By definition - "an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."

No where there is growth mentioned? What I think has confused people is that we are in a debt ponzi which requires continued exponential growth in debt to be sustained and when that trips up or fails and we go into a recession and people blame capitalism as that's whats percieved as our current overarching system and somehow the culprit. It's like blaming a cars engine for a flat tire.

Capitalism today relies on consumerism, which requires growth to continue. If it stays small and does not morph into corporatism then maybe, just maybe, some form of it can work with degrowth, but then, it's not going to be capitalism anymore is it. It's name is also implies that accumulation is its purpose and accumulation requires growth. There is not much getting around it, to be frank.

Due to the advantageous nature of the division of labour we will always have consumerism under any system so it’s not inherent to capitalism. Only the level of consumerism will change. Also, why is there the assumption that growth is required here again? Growth is only needed as we have a ponzi debt system. Without that we could and would have natural periods of growth and degrowth as you put it.

Capitalism isn’t about growth at its core, it’s more about who produces goods and where the profit from that goes. Growth can be a byproduct but not the core function.

You are right that consumption and growth are not confined to capitalism, I have said that already. Growth has definitely become the be all and end, and that may be down to mechanization and lower profit from each individual whatever that someone produces and sells, economy of scale, anyone? I mean, how many times does one really need to upgrade their phone? Why, do they need to upgrade their phone? They need to do it to keep Apple or whoever on the up trajectory.
Consumerism does indeed change, if you are anywhere near my age, you might have noticed that you are not consuming at the same rate as you used to, right down to not needing as many calories to get you through the day. We become expendable in advertising or targetting and everything is concentrated on those from whom it is easy to extract money from. There is where this fear of an ageing population comes in.
At the moment it is all about growth, you see it everywhere, in politics, in real estate, in site like this, people just chuck that word around and expect everyone to applaud because growth.
It will be something other than capitalism as we know it that will get us through this, but that does not mean it will be communism, I get a bit fed up with people not being able to think outside of that tbh.
I still however, believe there are some things that need to be run by the collective and others can be left to the market. My way of thinking what is what is basically, what is an unavoidable need in this current age, that is for the collective, the rest for the market. Those things can change.

I think the conversation has devolved into two things, me challenging certain assumptions I.e. “capitalism requires growth” and “Capitalism today relies on consumerism, which requires growth to continue.” And you railing against the flaws in our current system - “Growth has definitely become the be all and end” and “Why, do they need to upgrade their phone?”

I agree with you with so much with what your saying except where you appropriate blame. I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that you assume capitalism is at fault for the incessant desire for growth whereas I blame our monetary system and gov/central bank intervention as we have to perpetually grow or suffer a recession. That to me is where the real impetus for where growth comes from and corresponding waste.

Thanks pocket aces for clarifying those terms, and BLSH for that graphic political compass. Perhaps neoliberalism belongs on a separate axis. Neoliberalism is what pisses a lot of people off, myself included. To some degree it's why Bernie Sanders supporters turned around and voted for Donald Trump. Neoliberalism is clearly defined in terms of privitisation, austerity, deregulation and free trade. The "free trade" term is often used as euphemism for corporate protectionism, and you can find Noam Chomsky getting angry about it on youtube.

Matthew 22:21 Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Romans 13:1 "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God."

You can find whatever you want in the Bible and the works of Karl Marx and probably other writings that are worshipped.

The bible was written centuries after the guy died for crying out loud, there is no case for anything in it being verbatim, not even the name of Jesus Christ, I cannot imagine for a minute that he was named that. I cannot even say for sure he was one person, it was a movement at the time, he was the representation of the idea that lives on today, so it was pretty powerful.
I treat him only as another philosopher, with ideas, good ones.

When you say bible you mean the New Testament. Because something is written centuries latter doesn't mean it is wrong - usually in an illiterate society the message is passed on fairly accurately - or are you dismissing all Maori history that is pre-literate?

I've been atheist for over 50 years - my objections being the Bible contains some contradictions so cannot be perfect as you would expect with the word of God; it contains miracles where the reader is expected to believe the unbelieveable but mainly it has several glitches in its morality - e.g. women are clearly 2nd rate. But give credit where it is due - the Bible is a proven collection of great stories. If you want to talk about racism you can write a twenty volume academic treatise or read the 'Good Samaritan'.

Samaritans and Hebrews were the same "race" Lapun.

As are Prod and Catholics in NI and most of Yugoslavia as they killed one another and Shia and Sunni etc. You do not understand the story of the good samaritan if you don't see it as your worst enemy. For myself it might be a supporter of ISIS but if I was beaten up and lying in the gutten with all my money stolen then whoever picked me up, fed me and paid for a night's sleep would be my 'brother'. It is just a great story and the perfect answer to 'who is my brother'.

Love the bible, you can pickup a newspaper the day after the events and they still cannot get the story right.

It would be fine if a non-atheist would take over my support of the Bible. Of course every piece of information has a certain error rate (basic information theory); every sentence we speak has a chance of containing unintentional errors. However communication is still possible otherwise we wouldn't be discussing it online.
The Bible has its problems but its message is fairly clear - it just seems educated humans are obtuse to the point of total stupidity: Calvinist predestination, original sin, Tele-evangelists telling me that my poverty and illhealth is because I don't have sufficient faith!
Keep some respect for a book that has influenced our civilisation more than any other single writing. Ditto the Koran and various Hindu and Bhuddist texts.

How about we also take a moment to remember that none of the stories in the Bible or Koran are original or without historical context either? Many of the stories have roots in much older stories from previous civilisations. The bit that is amazing for me is how creative human beings are at telling stories and creating narratives to explain the world, our values etc. The bible is a syncretism of millennia of human beliefs, ideas and stories. None of them unique to Christianity, many are not even unique to Judaism. All of them have been heavily edited, censored and contradictory, full of both hate and love, greed, fantasy, delusion, kindness, wisdom and cruelty just like humanity itself.

Souunds like the author is mostly upset that an elected person is taking control - and diminishing the power of the unelected bureacratic elite.
Me - I have no problem with it. If I means the people get their way then good.
Bolsonaro might prove great or terrible. The jury is out. But putting the old beltway elites in their place is always good.

He basically plans to flatten the Amazon rain forest, he is already terrible

Speaking of the jury - he's appointed Brazil's most revered Judge to head the anti-corruption agenda there;

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/01/bolsonaro-sergio-moro-braz...

New Zealand needs a Bolsonaro. I mean a Pinochet would be better, but I'll settle.

I will take that as the joke you intended it to be

Not a joke. I'd vote for someone like that in a heartbeat.

You might fare better back in the caves or maybe in the trees, if these idiot leaders leave any standing.

A well-reasoned and fact-based retort, PocketAces. Now time to call him a sexist, racist, homophobic bigot. And then argument won. Hooraa!

I don't have to, you did, and he is

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me

Why don't you just go the whole hog and start looking for a reincarnated Adolf Hitler, because that is the way the world is heading.

Apologies, I meant Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro told Playboy magazine in June 2011 he “would be incapable of loving a homosexual son,” saying, “I would prefer my son to die in an accident” than bring a man home.
Bolsonaro once told a congresswoman that she did “not worthy” of being raped by him and has said women do not deserve the same pay as men.
Bolsonaro has promised to open up tracks of indigenous lands (in other words steal land from its rightful inhabitants) and the Amazon rainforest to development, which environmental groups say would be disastrous. “His reckless plans to industrialize the Amazon in concert with Brazilian and international agribusiness and mining sectors will bring untold destruction to the planet’s largest rainforest and the communities who call it home, and spell disaster for the global climate,” Amazon Watch program director Christian Poirier told CNN.

The president-elect has backed away from his initial promise to follow Trump’s lead and exit the Paris climate accord, but he has told international nonprofits such as the World Wildlife Fund that he will not tolerate their agendas in Brazil. I guess that means Sir David Attenborough would be considered an enemy of the people, as well
http://fortune.com/2018/10/29/brazil-president-jair-bolsonaro-elections/

So two of your complaints about him are that he said mean things. The other I would argue, has merit.

Brazil is a third world country with a horrendous crime problem whose economy has been run in to the ground by corrupt socialists. They absolutely need free market reforms and the legal right to defend themselves with deadly force, which is what Bolsonaros regime will facilitate.

And now that guy who said "mean things" is the leader, do you think he is not going to take that attitude into his leadership? You have to be kidding if you think that corruption cannot be found anywhere and everywhere. You need look no further than Donald Trump and his track record through his business life. The free market is not the be all and end all, especially when it seems to suck all the wealth upwards and the only thing that trickles down is warm and yellow. But I guess it might be their turn to find this out.

Bolsonaro is only where he is because propagandists successfully leveraged his stabbing to synthesise support. Prior to that, his polling was not on track for victory. PSL support went from under 20% support to over 40% -- a rate of change not usually seen outside of natural disasters.

Similarly, John Key here in NZ was gifted an earthquake which helped change the direction of his party's polling. The same effect occurs at local council level (Bob Parker staying in office), and is a reasonably well documented aspect of political science (at least I thought).

Ascribing support levels to actual policy and politics is so last century.

Have you lived in south or central america?

I have and I can tell you that socialism is not the source of corruption in those countries. Quite the opposite. The history of the region is mired by right-wing radicals responsible for a number of bloody golpe de estados.

I've lived in Chile sometime ago and visited recently, my estimation is that right wing radicals (Pinochet in Chile's case) are the past and left wing socialism is more or less the present especially in countries that are struggling, hence the push back to the right with Bolsonaro in Brazil.

Socialism being present in those countries, does not indicate that socialism is the cause of their struggle.

Just look at Nicaragua's history. A CIA-led coup was successful there. The democratically elected Sandistas (replacing the Somoza dictatorship) tried to implement universal health care and education, gender equality rules, only to be murdered by the Contras.

https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-led-economic-war-not-socialism-tearing-...

Maybe we’re looking at the same thing from different timeframes? Here’s an article outlining the change from fascism/dictatorships to left wing (the pink tide) and back to right wing currently - https://www.thenation.com/article/the-ebb-and-flow-of-latin-americas-pin...

Pinochet was a hero. He prevented soviet-backed Allende from ruining the country with socialist reforms, and suppressed a communist insurgency before it could develop into a civil war. He voluntarily relinquished power when the situation was stable and the country remained a free market democracy.

A few thousand 'civilian' deaths is much less human misery than communism anywhere has caused. The fact he's a reviled figure just goes to show you the undue influence of fellow-travellers in our media and education systems.

And yet if that was a socialist or communist leader that "disappeared" all those people you would be apopleptic. Unbelievable. You deride the fact that Allende may have been backed by Russia, oh, that seems to have a familiar tone to it to this day, yet you are quite happy that the US backed Pinochet's coup d'etat, meddling as they have done so many times in South America.
He murdered or at least ordered the murder of so many people. Murder is murder. When did it become a capital crime to be a leftist, anyway?
Whatever happened there, it was an elected government that was overthrown and it was people who supported the govt voted in who were tortured and murdered.
And I notice you did not even mention the fact that he amassed a huge fortune while in power and was charged with corruption.. Oh but that's ok, you see, he was a right winger and it is fine for a right winger to be an a 'hole and corrupt, because, otherwise, communism.
But of course, your answer to that will be something like, "fake news", or "lefty bs" but I'm sorry, you cannot rewrite history.

You deride the fact that Allende may have been backed by Russia

There is no ifs or buts about it, it's a matter of historic record.

yet you are quite happy that the US backed Pinochet's coup d'etat, meddling as they have done so many times in South America.

Yes, I absolutely consider the United States a more benign force in the world at that time than the USSR, the same way I currently consider it a more benign force than the (illegal) government of communist china. Guilty as charged.

Whatever happened there, it was an elected government that was overthrown

The constitution of Chile had been repeatedly breached by Allende and his communists - the democratically elected chamber of deputees *asked the military and police to intervene*. They were dismantling the democracy that brought them to power to establish a socialist dictatorship, clear as day.

and it was people who supported the govt voted in who were tortured and murdered.

A few thousand died. It was unfortunate. It fails in comparison to the human suffering that inevitably accompanies a communist resolution. It was a drop in the bucket compared to what a communist government would have done to the civilian population.

Yes Pinochet was certainly a bit corrupt. He is still a hero that prevented communism, prevented a civil war, and kept Chile a democratic free market country - the richest in South America today. For that, he deserves credit.

Going by your standards then the govt of the USA is illegal, the very foundation of it since the genocide of the native population, makes it so.

I only just now started to read this garbage article. Whew, and they wonder why we are so scathing of journalism and organizations like Project Syndicate.

So anything that doesn't match your vision of the world is automatically wrong - why am I not surprised. How about actually providing a rebuttal to the article rather than an ad hominem attack - or is there no rebuttal ? Is this article pointing out some inconvenient truths.....

It's just rabidly anti-Trump BadRobot. Like this:

Trump has enabled a level of corruption that is arguably unprecedented in American history

No evidence presented. I suspect merely criticizing, which she calls "attacking", the military, diplomats and journalist is being corrupt somehow.

The whole tone of the article is just Trump and now Bolsonaro derangement syndrome coming from a very pro globalist source.

The trouble is these people and many others just don't give these fine leaders a fair crack at getting things done undermining them at every opportunity. The right have always respected those that have won the vote while they are in power while the left behave like lunatics. That's changed now and the divisions will only now get worse because of the left and "diversity is our strength" globalists, This is an important lesson the old school conservatives like Lindsay Graham are having to learn quickly.

What's your definition of a 'fair crack'?

I think the south american nations still reeling economically and socially from foreign intervention at the behest of the United States, might have something to say about giving right wing governments a 'fair crack'.

They've had decades of free-market reform and most of the populus are yet to prosper. Brazil for example has long-since remove export tariffs in their logging industry. Do they just need to wait another two or three decades?

Corruption has increased in the USA under Trump. There are facts in the middle of any ideological debate.

Actual and perceived corruption has risen. You can use Google if you don't believe me.

Also it's a bit of a worry that Trumpismos exist on this side of the Pacific Ocean as well. Why live in NZ if Trump and Bolsonaro are so great?

Trump has a lot of supporters here. You would have to be very sheltered or somewhat challenged not to be aware of that.

Zachary - My interest in Trump is limited to one single question for you

If you were a construction contractor would you enter into a high-value contract to build a building for Trump

Not if you were keen to get paid

I see Zach is still pondering his response

That's strange, I socialise a lot and have never met one in NZ. They have a disproportionately large online presence though..

And you present no evidence to the contrary - only your opinion - which is no better than what the writer of this article is supposedly doing according to you. Your comment sounds likely you are pleading for them to be allowed to get thing done. Who says what they want to get done is right, beneficial for their voters. It sounds very much like you want a dictatorship. The democratic process means that people can and should oppose what the government is doing or proposes to do. Reality is that the world will have to work with compromise - and that is something Trump is having to learn (don't make promises you know you can't keep).

Perhaps it's the old school conservatives who are realizing that the world has changed and they are scared of that change.

The democratic process doesn't mean you just oppose things for political point scoring. Like supporting infinity war in the ME to try and stump the Trump. Also I don't have to present any "evidence to the contrary" in this instance, that's just daft.

"The democratic process doesn't mean you just oppose things for political point scoring"

...unfortunately both the left and right are guilty of that - it's what seems to pass for the democratic process these days.

Has announced by TWITTER that he plans to privatise 12 airports and 4 sea ports.
Off to a good start imo.

Yes indeed, get those public assets into the hands of the few

If things go bad he can always renationalize them.

Regardless of the labels thrown about - Dirty Populists etc - and the disgust at uncouth blunt simplistic political leaders - there always seems to be economic success for those countries & leaders which support and defend Israel and conversely there always seems to be economic decline and chaos in those countries who oppose Israel.
.
Another point - do people/nations somehow get the leader they deserve (‘deserve’ in the broader sense of the social ethos, the economic aspirations, the historic value set & passivity etc, etc)? The Wealth of Nations etc.

One could include the Dutch, Geert Wilders in these types of new leaders?
As he has outlined the dangers of Islamic immigration into Europe.

Nothing new here. Corruption is out of control in DC- by all politicians, was this lady not around for the Obama Clinton corruption?

What corruption exactly.. Details please.

Fast and furious? First sitting Cabinet Member to be held in contempt of Congress?
"In 2012 the House voted 255-67 — with 17 Democrats joining the GOP — to hold Mr. Holder in contempt of Congress.

The Obama administration said it would not prosecute Mr. Holder because of a long-standing policy that it not pursue contempt cases against individuals when the White House has made a claim of executive privilege." How convenient.
www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/25/contempt-congress-case-will-pro...

IRS abuse of power? ""There is no excuse for this conduct. Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS. We hope that today's settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated."
https://www.npr.org/2017/10/27/560308997/irs-apologizes-for-aggressive-s...

And those humble public servants the Clintons who have managed to accumulate $250 odd million. Nice.