Larry Kudlow continues the underlying theme of Trumpian nihilism and its trickle-down contagion of pixie dust and pseudoscience. Trump continues to see his numbers decline as his campaign put him on a superspreader rally schedule, attempting to repeat his 2016 victory of 155,000 votes in swing states while trailing 3 million nationally. 2020 is so very different; Trump’s threat to democracy has metastasized.
No less delusional are Trump’s herd immunity beliefs in the face of his now-public lies in early 2020 , reveal the true nature of COVID19 to Bob Woodward. Trump remains willing to sacrifice over a quarter million people in what appears to be the usual GOP social darwinism of subjugating the lower classes, Trump’s ‘suckers’ and losers’.
Larry Kudlow quotes Joseph Schumpeter on creative destruction as though Trump also believes creative destruction’s corollary, destroying rather than creating something unnecessary. Unfortunately Trump the malignant narcissist, only believes in himself, thinking that his rallies are performances that will outlast his presidency. Delusional whiny shtick for a cult-following has a short shelf-life for a populism whose market dates back to the Know-Nothings.
Sacrificial social darwinism was never compatible with pluralism much like market failure was premised on individual rather than institutional foibles. It’s no coincidence that high-contact services like restaurants have suffered during the COVID19 pandemic. Trumpian “wealth” is as feckless as the superficiality of “new money”, as it often fails to turn a profit from distressed properties, only accumulating greater debt. No different is an eco-fascism that attempts to force sacrifices from minority populations to protect the environment.
Similarly Schumpeter’s gale breeds a cytokine storm as international trade networks transported a pandemic in early 2020 that forever may be the Trump virus failure. Schumpeter’s gale as a system of inflammatory economic signals also signifies the literal climate crisis in its inevitability rather than its implied necessity for capitalism.
“But that’s the great part of American capitalism, gales of creative destruction,” Larry Kudlow continued, deploying a phrase popularized in the 1940s by economist Joseph Schumpeter. “I just love that new business start-up story.”
“As American capitalism becomes even crueler, the rhetoric of its apologists will only grow more explicit,” Jacobin’s Luke Savage tweeted in response to Kudlow’s remarks.
Kudlow’s rosy insistence that the economic turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic spurred a major new wave of entrepreneurship was also likely factually dubious.
The opening up of new markets and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one … [The process] must be seen in its role in the perennial gale of creative destruction; it cannot be understood on the hypothesis that there is a perennial lull.— Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 1942
The German sociologist Werner Sombart has been credited with the first use of these terms in his work Krieg und Kapitalismus (War and Capitalism, 1913). In the earlier work of Marx, however, the idea of creative destruction or annihilation (German: Vernichtung) implies not only that capitalism destroys and reconfigures previous economic orders, but also that it must ceaselessly devalue existing wealth (whether through war, dereliction, or regular and periodic economic crises) in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth.
In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942), Joseph Schumpeter developed the concept out of a careful reading of Marx's thought (to which the whole of Part I of the book is devoted), arguing (in Part II) that the creative-destructive forces unleashed by capitalism would eventually lead to its demise as a system (see below). Despite this, the term subsequently gained popularity within mainstream economics as a description of processes such as downsizing in order to increase the efficiency and dynamism of a company. The Marxian usage has, however, been retained and further developed in the work of social scientists such as David Harvey, Marshall Berman, Manuel Castells and Daniele Archibugi.
In the Theories of Surplus Value (“Volume IV” of Das Kapital, 1863), Marx refines this theory to distinguish between scenarios where the destruction of (commodity) values affects either use values or exchange values or both together. The destruction of exchange value combined with the preservation of use value presents clear opportunities for new capital investment and hence for the repetition of the production-devaluation cycle:
the destruction of capital through crises means the depreciation of values which prevents them from later renewing their reproduction process as capital on the same scale. This is the ruinous effect of the fall in the prices of commodities. It does not cause the destruction of any use-values. What one loses, the other gains. Values used as capital are prevented from acting again as capital in the hands of the same person. The old capitalists go bankrupt. … A large part of the nominal capital of the society, i.e., of the exchange-value of the existing capital, is once for all destroyed, although this very destruction, since it does not affect the use-value, may very much expedite the new reproduction. This is also the period during which moneyed interest enriches itself at the cost of industrial interest.
Karl Marx wrote in Das Kapital (Vol. 1, Part III, Chapter Ten, Section 5) “Après moi, le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society.”
— The Lancet (@TheLancet) October 14, 2020
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 18, 2020
Even as dismantling capitalism always seems daunting can Biden adopt elements of an eco-socialist planning regime; it turns out he can, even if it looks like a jobs and infrastructure plan.
Climate Crisis and the Green New Deal in @BostonReview on “the connections between climate and the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether eco-socialism is a viable option for mobilizing people in the struggle to create a green future.”
C. J. Polychroniou: How does the coronavirus pandemic, and the response to it, shed light on how we should think about climate change and the prospects for a global Green New Deal?
Noam Chomsky: At the time of writing, concern for the COVID-19 crisis is virtually all-consuming. That’s understandable. It is severe and is severely disrupting lives. But it will pass, though at horrendous cost, and there will be recovery. There will not be recovery from the melting of the arctic ice sheets and the other consequences of global warming.
“The criminal classes are relentless in their pursuit of power and profit, whatever the human consequences.”
Not everyone is ignoring the advancing existential crisis. The sociopaths dedicated to accelerating the disaster continue to pursue their efforts, relentlessly. As before, Trump and his courtiers take pride in leading the race to destruction. As the United States was becoming the epicenter of the pandemic, thanks in no small measure to their folly, the White House cabal released its budget proposals. As expected, the proposals call for even deeper cuts in healthcare support and environmental protection, instead favoring the bloated military and the building of Trump’s Great Wall. And to add an extra touch of sadism, “the budget promotes a fossil fuel ‘energy boom’ in the United States, including an increase in the production of natural gas and crude oil.”
Meanwhile, to drive another nail in the coffin that Trump and associates are preparing for the nation and the world, their corporate-run EPA weakened auto emission standards, thus enhancing environmental destruction and killing more people from pollution. As expected, fossil fuel companies are lining up in the forefront of the appeals of the corporate sector to the nanny state, pleading once again for the generous public to rescue them from the consequences of their misdeeds.
In brief, the criminal classes are relentless in their pursuit of power and profit, whatever the human consequences. And those consequences will be disastrous if their efforts are not countered, indeed overwhelmed, by those concerned for “the survival of humanity.” It is no time to mince words out of misplaced politeness. “The survival of humanity” is at risk on our present course, to quote a leaked internal memo from JPMorgan Chase, America’s largest bank, referring specifically to the bank’s genocidal policy of funding fossil fuel production.
One heartening feature of the present crisis is the rise in community organizations starting mutual aid efforts. These could become centers for confronting the challenges that are already eroding the foundations of the social order. The courage of doctors and nurses, laboring under miserable conditions imposed by decades of socioeconomic lunacy, is a tribute to the resources of the human spirit. There are ways forward. The opportunities cannot be allowed to lapse.
Robert Pollin: In addition to the fundamental considerations that Noam has emphasized, there are several other ways in which the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic intersect. One underlying cause of the COVID-19 outbreak—as well as other recent epidemics such as Ebola, West Nile, and HIV—has been the destruction of animal habitats through deforestation and human encroachment, as well as the disruption of the remaining habitat through the increasing frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, and floods. As the science journalist Sonia Shah wrote in February 2020, habitat destruction increases the likelihood that wild species “will come into repeated intimate contact with the human settlements expanding into their newly fragmented habitats. It’s this kind of repeated, intimate contact that allows the microbes that live in their bodies to cross over into ours, transforming benign animal microbes into deadly human pathogens.”
“Emissions fell sharply because of the pandemic and the recession. But that is only because incomes collapsed and unemployment spiked over this same period.”
It is also likely that people who are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution will face more severe health consequences than those breathing cleaner air. Aaron Bernstein of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment states that “air pollution is strongly associated with people’s risk of getting pneumonia and other respiratory infections and with getting sicker when they do get pneumonia. A study done on SARS, a virus closely related to COVID-19, found that people who breathed dirtier air were about twice as likely to die from the infection.”
A separate point that was raised over the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic was that the responses in the countries that immediately handled the crisis more effectively, such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, demonstrated that governments are capable of taking decisive and effective action in the face of crisis. The death tolls from COVID-19 in these countries were negligible, and normal life returned relatively soon after governments imposed initial lockdowns. Similarly decisive interventions could successfully deal with the climate crisis where the political will is strong and the public sectors are competent.
There are important elements of truth in such views, but we should also be careful to not push this point too far. Some commentators have argued that one silver lining outcome of the pandemic was that, because of the economic lockdown, fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions plunged alongside overall economic activity during the recession. While this is true, I do not see any positive lessons here with respect to advancing a viable emissions program that can get us to net zero emissions by 2050. Rather, the experience demonstrates why a degrowth approach to emissions reduction is unworkable. Emissions did indeed fall sharply because of the pandemic and the recession. But that is only because incomes collapsed and unemployment spiked over this same period. This only reinforces the conclusion that the only effective climate stabilization path is the Green New Deal, as it is the only one that does not require a drastic contraction (or “degrowth”) of jobs and incomes to drive down emissions.
A genuinely positive development of the pandemic and recession is that progressive activists around the world have fought to include Green New Deal investments in their countries’ economic stimulus programs. It is critical to keep pushing the development and success of these initiatives.
In support of that end, we must seriously consider how to best maximize both the short-term stimulus benefits and long-term impacts of Green New Deal programs. I know the importance of such considerations from personal experience working on the green investment components of the 2009 Obama American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, in which $90 billion of the $800 billion total was allocated to clean energy investments in the United States. The principles underlying these investment components were sound, but the people who worked on the program in its various stages, including myself, did not adequately calculate the time necessary to execute many of the projects. We knew that it was critical to identify “shovel-ready” projects—ones that could be quickly implemented on a large scale and provide an immediate economic boost. But relatively few green investment projects were truly shovel-ready at that time, as the green energy industry was still a newly emerging enterprise. Therefore, the backlog of significant new projects was thin. It is only moderately less thin today.
“Dismantling capitalism is impossible in the time frame that we have for taking urgent action.”
This means that people designing Green New Deal stimulus programs must identify the subgroup of green investment projects that can realistically roll into action at scale within a matter of months. One example that should be applicable in almost every country would be energy efficiency retrofits of all public and commercial buildings. This would entail improving insulation, sealing window frames and doors, switching over all lightbulbs to LEDs, and replacing aging heating and air conditioning systems with efficient ones (preferably heat pumps). These programs could quickly generate large numbers of jobs for secretaries, truck drivers, accountants, construction workers, and climate engineers. They could also save energy and reduce emissions quickly and relatively cheaply. Building off of such truly shovel-ready projects, the rest of the clean energy investment program could then accelerate and provide a strong foundation for economies moving out of recession and onto a sustainable recovery path.
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