Frugality Against Austerity

I’ve been most impressed by the resilience of the Greeks in resisting and defying the “austerity programme” being imposed upon them by the Troika. More power to them (and to us, too). They may now have to relearn how to live frugally (as we all must eventually), but they have preserved their dignity and their democracy and their proud historical legacy against humiliation and bureaucracy and new forms of financial colonisation and the dismemberment of their national assets.

As you may know, I consider the whole “austerity” policy and programme presently in vogue to be a complete fraud — a disguised plundering of the commonwealth in which public assets are being surreptitiously pillaged under the guise of “deregulation” and “privatisation” or even “public-private partnerships” (ie, P3). It shouldn’t take an Einstein to figure out that behind all this “austerity” charade the public is being fleeced and dispossessed of its common inheritance — perhaps the last exploitable frontier of Late Capitalism. It only needs to be pointed out that despite “austerity”,  inequality and “plutonomy” have become even more pronounced than ever into the 1% and the 99%, and that the shrinking middle class (which is usually the backbone of liberal democracy) is occurring as a consequence of the plundering of public assets and infrastructure. If a “middle class” exists at all, it is because of the existence of a commonwealth — public education, utilities, roadways, medicare (in Canada, anyway), etc. Those are things in which everyone has their share, but of which they are now being almost entirely dispossessed and disenfranchised, inclusive of their democracy.

“Austerity” has been the smokescreen behind which this pillaging and plundering by special interests has taken place. Are you still surprised by the market meltdown of 2007-8 and the problem of “too big to fail”, or that a mere 1% of the global population controls virtually all the global wealth? Then you haven’t understood that “austerity” has been a fraud from the beginning — the scheme of a particular elite’s “will to power”, as it were.

Austerity is debt slavery. A thorough analysis of the public debt or deficit in all jurisdictions where “neo-liberalism” has had its way, will undoubtedly show (as recently in France) that the bulk of the debt is “illegitimate” and onerous debt that did nothing and contributed nothing to the commonwealth or public welfare, and has very little if anything to do with people “living beyond their means”, but is the result of confiscation and expropriation of public assets by private interests or by the usual trick of the “externalisation of costs”. Austerity is little more than smoke and mirrors and perception management.

Frugality, or voluntary simplicity, is wisdom and self-restraint, and in some ways the essence of freedom. When your needs are few and simple, your wealth is great. It is certainly not debt slavery. When your needs are many, you always feel poor, needy, insecure and vulnerable. Austerity is not frugality. It belongs to another example of value confusion.

When you live frugally, with few possessions and needs, you will always be surrounded by abundance — by more than you can possibly use. That is not austerity. It is the exact opposite of austerity.



6 responses to “Frugality Against Austerity”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Discovered this article this morning after posting above. Interesting.

    One interesting comment of note in the piece is how austerity is popular with politicians but not with economists (!!)

    Now, why might that be?

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I’m on the road to the West Coast this morning. So I’ll catch up with you all later… somewhere down the road. I had a pretty exciting inspiration (at least for me) this morning to post something on language and “deficient” perspectivisation, but it will have to wait until I hit Vancouver.

    Just remember the words of Rosenstock-Huessy: it’s one thing to survive as an individual. It’s quite another thing to survive together. That’s the problem of forming a successful “we”.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    An excellent and timely article.

    Thank you for linking to the article on The Guardian. That and the other articles it linked to were quite informative and eye-opening.

    I cannot even remember the last time I felt any sort of admiration for a public official anywhere. But with what Costas Lapavitsas has started, his candor, intellect, and bravery, and what he has been trying to achieve for his people, I certainly admire him very much.

    From the article entitled: “The French are right: tear up public debt – most of it is illegitimate anyway”:

    “……the rise in the state’s debt in the past decades cannot be explained by an increase in public spending.”

    Because the move and justification to borrow money from the anonymous creditors (who use their anonymity to avoid paying taxes) must have come from inside each of these governments that are now trying to impose “austerity” on their peoples, then the creditors must have their own man on the inside of each government – and at the highest level. There’s certainly a synergy going on here: corrupt public officials near the very top of each government push for sinking the government into debt, while anonymous creditors are waiting like sharks for the calls to come.

    Then, from Costas Lapavitsas’ article posted here:

    We have the following excerpt:

    “Financial profit can be made out of any income, or any sum of money that comes into contact with the financial sphere. Households, for example, generate profits for finance as debtors (mostly by paying interest on mortgages) but also as creditors (mostly by paying fees and charges on pension funds and insurance).”

    Exactly. Over the years, I have been trying to convince my employers to offer me a retirement plan that does not rely on equity markets, and they always tell me they have no such a plan.

    For anyone who has a retirement plan at work, those “fees and charges on pension funds” cannot be avoided. Not to mention that, as we saw back in 2008, people can lose most of their equity-markets based retirement assets. Every working person’s employer made contributions to his/her retirement plan is inextricably and inexplicably tied to the equity markets!! That’s absolutely ridiculous.

    It’s extortion by the equity markets carried out everyday from 9:00am – 5:00pm business hours and in bright daylight, and law enforcement agencies cannot do a darn thing about it.

    If I ask my employer “Is this my money or not?” They’ll say, “Of course, it’s your money.”

    If I ask “Why, then, I don’t have a say in where it should go?” They will then point out a series of packaged retirement plans for me to choose from – all of which are tied to equity markets. Bizarre!

    Why can the money not go into a simple savings account that I am not allowed to withdraw from until I retire? At least they can put the option there, in case someone would prefer it.

    But nooooooooo, employer contributions have to end up in the equity markets. What a fraud!

    • Scott Preston says :

      The old saying for that is, of course: “they get you coming and going”.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        My apologies…..I meant to say I have much admiration for the Greek prime minister, Tsipras – not Costas Lapavitsas, who is not a public official. I misspoke there.

        They are squeezing Greece hard and forcing it to privatize. I think Greece should stand up to all the pressure. There’s a heated debate on a local radio station over what is going on in Greece, now, and everyone agrees that “privatization” is the single most important threat to sovereignty of Greece. If the Greek are not careful, they’ll lose their main revenue source, tourism, to private investors from outside. That’ll be a road to poverty that it will be very hard to come back from.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          My apologies yet again, because it’s not even Tsipras that has my admiration……’s the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis (there! I think I got it right this time :)), that deserves admiration for the fight he has put up to defend the interests of the people of his country.

          It’s too bad that he has resigned. But I do understand why he may have resigned. Apparently, he and the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipiras, didn’t see eye-to-eye in respect to resolving the so called Greek crisis.

          From what I’ve heard from people who have lived in Greece for sometime, the Greek public are smart and knew how to live a good life. But now, that good life is being taken away from them under the pretext that they have been lazy or not as productive as they should’ve been. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’m hearing that working Greeks used to begin to relax around noon each day.

          That’s a beautiful life, I’d say, with none of this non-sense we have going on in Silicon Valley.

          Greece should leave the EU; methinks. With a population of about 11 million and a GDP of about $300 billion, there’s no reason why the people of that country shouldn’t have a good, comfortable, and happy life.

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