All this contradicts what the 18th, 19th and most of the 20th century fought for in their drive to free economies from landlords, monopolists and “coupon clippers” living off bonds, stocks and real estate (largely inherited). Their income was a technologically and economically unnecessary vestige of past conquests – privileges bequeathed to subsequent generations.
When parliamentary reform dislodged the landed aristocracy’s control of government, the hope was that extending the vote to the population at large would lead to policies that would manage land, natural resources and natural monopolies in the long-term public interest. Yet what Thorstein Veblen called the vested interests have rebuilt their political dominance, led by the financial sector which used its wealth to gain control of the election process to create a neo-rentier society imposing austerity.
A cultural counter-revolution has taken place. If few people have noticed, it is because the financial sector has rewritten history and re-defined the public’s idea of what economic progress and a fair society is all about. The financial alternative to classical economics calls itself “neoliberalism,” but it is the opposite of what the Enlightenment’s original liberal reformers called themselves. Land rent has not ended up in government hands, and more and more public services have been privatized to squeeze out monopoly rent. Banks have gained control of government and their central banks to create money only to bail out creditor losses, not to finance public spending.
The next few chapters review the classical analysis of value, price and rent theory to show how “free lunch” economic rent has been taken away from the public domain by the financial sector. Instead of creating the anticipated symbiosis with industry, as was hoped a century ago, finance has backed the rent-extracting sectors. And instead of central banks creating money to finance their budget deficits, governments are now forced to rely on bondholders, leaving it up to commercial banks and other creditors to provide the credit that economies need to grow.
The result is that today’s society is indeed moving toward the central planning that financial lobbyists have long denounced. But the planning has been shifted to financial centers (Wall Street, the City of London or Frankfurt). And its plan is to create a neo-rentier society. Instead of helping the host economy grow, banking, bond markets and even the stock market have become part of a predatory, extractive dynamic.
This destructive scenario would not have been possible if memory of the classical critique of rentiers had remained at the center of political discussion. Chapter 2 therefore reviews how three centuries of Enlightenment reform sought to free industrial capitalism from the rentier overhead bequeathed by feudalism. Only by understanding this legacy can we see how today’s financial counter-Enlightenment is leading us back to a neo-feudal economy.
Hudson, Michael. Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy CounterPunch