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Brexit stems from a civil war in capitalism – we are all just collateral damage

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24.11.2020

Where there is chaos, the government will multiply it. Where people are pushed to the brink, it will shove them over. Boris Johnson ignored the pleas of businesses and politicians across the UK – especially in Northern Ireland – to extend the Brexit transition process. Never mind the pandemic, never mind unemployment, poverty and insecurity – nothing must prevent our experiment in unassisted flight. We will leap from the white cliffs on 1 January, come what may.

Perhaps, after so much macho bluster, the government will take the last of its last chances and strike a deal this week. If so, with scarcely any time for refinement, the agreement is likely to be rushed and bodged. In any event, pain will follow. Disruption at the border is likely to be felt across the nation.

So it is worth repeating the big question: why are we doing this to ourselves? I believe the answer is that Brexit is the outcome of a civil war within capitalism.

Broadly speaking, there are two dominant forms of capitalist enterprise. The first could be described as housetrained capitalism. It seeks an accommodation with the administrative state, and benefits from stability, predictability and the regulations that exclude dirtier and rougher competitors. It can coexist with a tame and feeble form of democracy.

The second could be described as warlord capitalism. This sees all restraints on accumulation – including taxes, regulations and the public ownership of essential services – as illegitimate. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of profit-making. Its justifying ideology was formulated by Friedrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty and by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. These books sweep away social complexity and other people’s interests. They fetishise something they call “liberty”, which turns out to mean total freedom for plutocrats, at society’s expense.

In unguarded moments, the........

© The Guardian


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