Zakaj ljubitelji “ekonomske svobode” sovražijo demokracijo?

Odgovor je nadvse preprost. Če “ekonomsko svobodo”, kot jo definirajo desničarski, konzervativni think-tanki (kot so Heritage Foundation, Cato, Fraser Institute itd.) na plačilni listi bogatih lastnikov največjih ameriških korporacij, opredelimo kot učinkovito sodno varstvo lastninskih pravic, “majhna država” (nizki davki in nič regulacije), fleksibilen trg dela (nizki stroški odpuščanja), neobstoj minimalne plače, prosta mobilnost kapitala in nizka inflacija, jim demokracija kvari njihovo igro.

Kajti “ekonomska svoboda” je svoboda za premožne. Zakon ščiti njihovo lastnino, “majhna država” jim zagotavlja, da nihče ne moti izkoriščanja njihovih monopolov in da jim ni treba plačevati davkov, prosta mobilnost kapitala jim omogoča davčno optimizacijo med državami in prelivanje premoženja v davčne oaze, fleksibilni trg dela jim zagotavlja nizke stroške dela in s tem višje dobičke in nizka inflacija preprečuje, da bi njihove prihranke in posojila razvrednotila inflacija.

In “ekonomska svoboda” je svoboda samo za premožne. Revni oziroma rojeni v “napačnih družinah” nimajo veliko možnosti za uspeh. Bogati si lahko privoščijo elitno zdravstveno oskrbo in elitno izobrazbo. Revni ne morejo ne do enega in ne do drugega, ker so bogati s političnimi donacijami ustvarili institucionalni sistem, v katerem sta kvalitetno zdravstvo in šolstvo plačljiva in prohibitivno draga, in v katerem premožnim ni treba plačevati veliko davkov, s katerimi bi sicer država lahko financirala univerzalno dostopno ter kvalitetno zdravstvo in šolstvo.

Zdaj si lahko lažje predstavljate, zakaj sestavljalci različnih indeksov “ekonomske svobode”, ter njihovi finančni meceni, tako zelo sovražijo demokracijo, da obstoja večstrankarskih volitev niti ne uvrstijo med kriterije “ekonomske svobode”. Prava demokracija in reprezentiranost interesov večine prebivalstva bi namreč utegnila zmanjšati te njihove privilegije in omogočiti pravičnejši dostop do temeljnih storitev, ki omogočajo enakost možnosti. “Ekonomsko svobodne” so običajno samo avtoritarne države ali države s teflonsko plutokracijo. Samo te lahko zagotavljajo premožnim, da se bo večina ljudi držala (predpisanim jim) pravil igre in da ne bo ogrožala položaja in privilegijev premožne elite.

Demokracija pač ogroža ekonomsko svobodo premožnih. Iz ust njenega vrhovnega apostola:

Milton Friedman (1988): “I believe a relatively free economy is a necessary condition for freedom. But there is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy.

Spodaj je nekaj zgodovine nastajanja indeksov “ekonomske svobode” in čudovito pojasnilo Quinna Slobodiana, zakaj ne smemo biti presenečeni, da se zaradi uporabljene metrike “ekonomske svobode”, med najbolj “ekonomsko svobodnimi” državami najdejo običajno avtoritarne države. Ekonomska svoboda je doma tam, kjer vojska in policija skrbita za red, pardon, za zaščito bogate elite in njihove lastnine, kjer so davki in javni izdatki nizki ter kjer je transfer denarja v tujino temeljna človekova pravica.

Zato kadar slišite koga na glas se pritoževati, kako nizko je uvrščena Slovenija po nekem indeksu “ekonomske svobode” in kako visoko sta uvrščena Hongkong ali Čile, ki zdaj sicer gorita v protestih proti raju “ekonomske svobode”, vedite, da ga v bistvu moti demokracija. Sovraži demokracijo v Sloveniji.

Two of the “freest economies” in the world are on fire. According to indexes of “economic freedom” published annually separately by two conservative thinktanks – the Heritage Foundation and the Fraser Institute – Hong Kong has been number one in the rankings for more than 20 years. Chile is ranked first in Latin America by both indexes, which also place it above Germany and Sweden in the global league table.

The rage may be better explained by other rankings: Chile places in the top 25 for economic freedom – and also for income inequality. If Hong Kong were a country, it would be in the world’s top 10 most unequal. Observers often use the word neoliberalism to describe the policies behind this inequality. The term can seem vague, but the ideas behind the economic freedom index help to bring it into focus.

All rankings hold visions of utopia within them. The ideal world described by these indexes is one where property rights and security of contract are the highest values, inflation is the chief enemy of liberty, capital flight is a human right and democratic elections may work actively against the maintenance of economic freedom.

The idea for the economic freedom index was born in 1984, after a discussion of Orwell’s 1984 at a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society – an exclusive debating club of academics, policymakers, thinktankers and business leaders formed by Friedrich Hayek in 1947 to oppose the rise of communism in the east and social democracy in the west. The historian Paul Johnson argued that Orwell’s predictions had not come true; Michael Walker of the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute countered that perhaps they had. High taxes, obligatory social security numbers and public transparency about political contributions suggested we might be closer to Orwellian dystopia than we thought.

Walker saw this debate as the unfinished business of Milton Friedman’s 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, which had suggested that political liberty relied on market freedom but had not proved it scientifically. Friedman was at the meeting, and, with his wife and co-author, Rose, agreed to help host a series of workshops on the challenge of measuring economic freedom.

The Friedmans gathered a crowd of luminaries, including Nobel prize winner Douglass North and The Bell Curve co-author Charles Murray, to figure out whether something as nebulous as freedom could be quantified and ranked. They ended up with a series of indicators, measuring the stability of currency; the right of citizens to own bank accounts in foreign countries and foreign currencies; the level of government spending and government-owned enterprise; and, crucially, the rate of individual and corporate taxation.

When Walker’s Fraser Institute published its first index in 1996 with a foreword from Friedman, there were some surprises. According to its historical overview, the second freest economy in the world in 1975 was Honduras, a military dictatorship. For the next year, another dictatorship, Guatemala, was in the top five. These were no anomalies. They expressed a basic truth about the indexes. The definition of freedom they used meant that democracy was a moot point, monetary stability was paramount and any expansion of social services would lead to a fall in the rankings. Taxation was theft, pure and simple, and austerity was the only path to the top.

“The ‘right’ to food, clothing, medical services, housing or a minimal income level,” the authors wrote, was nothing less than “‘forced labor’ requirements [imposed] on others.” The director of the index translated the vision into policy advice a few years later, writing in a public memo to the Canadian prime minister that poverty could be eliminated through a simple solution: “End welfare. Reinstitute poorhouses and homes for unwed mothers.”

Not content with mere economics, the Fraser Institute joined up with the Cato Institute in 2015 to publish the first global index of “human freedom”. They included all of the earlier economic indicators and supplemented them with measurements of civil liberty, rights to association and free expression, alongside dozens of others – but left out multiparty elections and universal suffrage. The authors noted specifically that they excluded political freedom and democracy from the index – and Hong Kong topped the list again.

What was going on? One answer is that the project of measuring economic freedom had made some of its authors question their prior assumptions about the natural relationship between capitalism and democracy. By the 1990s, Friedman, who had previously seen the two as mutually reinforcing, was singing a different tune. As he said in an interview in 1988: “I believe a relatively free economy is a necessary condition for freedom. But there is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy.” An enfranchised people tended to use their votes to pressure politicians into more social spending, clogging the arteries of free exchange.

In the workshops devoted to creating the indexes, Friedman cited the example of Hong Kong as evidence for the truth of this proposition, saying: “There is almost no doubt that if you had political freedom in Hong Kong you would have much less economic and civil freedom than you do as a result of an authoritarian government.”

Hong Kong’s former chief executive, CY Leung, agreed. During the “umbrella revolution” protests of 2014 he was asked why suffrage could not be expanded. His matter-of-fact response was that this would increase the power of the poor and lead to “the kind of politics” that favour the expansion of the welfare state instead of business-friendly policies. For him, the tradeoff between economic and political freedom was not buried in an index. It was as clear as day.

Vir: Quinn Slobodian, The Guardian

One response

  1. Ekonomska svoboda je evfemizem za svobodo kapitala. V Čilu jim je tovrstna svoboda končno prekipela od spodaj, ker si ne morejo privoščiti niti kart za prevoz, da drugega ne omenjam.

    V Hong Kongu je tovrstna svoboda omejena od zgoraj. Skromna formalna demokracija in svoboda ljudi, ki včasih spremlja svobodo kapitala, vse to je za kitajske vladarje že preveliko razkošje.

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