The Economy of Permanent Emergency, Part I
This may be the most vital article you read about Covid. Italian writer/philosopher, Fabio Vighi, provides a quasi-total account of why the ‘pandemic’ was launched. It’s not about health, but wealth.
Due to the unusual length of this article, and Substack’s limitations on the permitted wordcount of newsletters, it has been necessary to divide it into two parts. Part I is in text form below, and there is a link to Part II at the end.
Coming up on three decades ago, in the early years of writing my weekly column for the Irish Times, I fell into writing on a theme that might have been described as a critique of contemporary economics. I was not an ‘expert’: my sole formal qualification in economics was a pass in a Leaving Cert paper that, being doubtful if I had enough subjects to scrape through, I took at the last minute on the basis that, having plumped for Latin rather than Economics, I had sat with one ear cocked through numerous ‘free’ classes sleepily listening to half my class being rather reluctantly schooled in concepts like supply and demand, inflation and recession. I found it more interesting than Latin but did not like the teacher. A ‘C’ allowed me to pass my Leaving Cert and escape from the horror of education.
I was probably not the only person in the world in the early 1990s who was beginning to think there was something wrong about the way we had slipped into thinking about economics, but I was certainly the only one writing about it in the Ireland of the time. The conventional economics-related arguments occurred between those calling for more ‘rationalisation’ — by which they meant greater profits — and those who saw public spending as an instrument of ‘redistribution,’ a kind of necessary governmental ‘humanitarianism’ to counteract the laws of markets. I thought both positions missed the obvious: the primary purpose of economics was to construct a model of human transactions that served the human need to live and coexist in functional and comfortable material interrelationships.
This intention had seemed to become lost in a discussion in which there prevailed a notion that economics was about defending a ‘realistic’ view of work and production in which human beings had become a problem rather than the central beneficiaries. For a couple of years, but especially through 1993, I wrote persistently about this, regularly incurring the condescension of the economic establishment of the time. I wrote about the ‘downsizings’ and closures of industries, the starving out of essential and previously valued public services, the escalating obsession with increasing profit at all costs, the true meanings of wealth and poverty, the skewed conventional concepts of transaction costs, the persistent valourisation of global ‘values’ (what I called ‘the struggle against placelessness’), and the recurrent question: ‘Where’s the money going to come from?’
Much of the publicly-expressed thinking of that time seemed to presume a purpose for economics in which human beings were increasingly to be regarded as a drain on capital resources, an impediment to profitability, and therefore to future growth. In a narrow viewfinder, this seemed to make sense; but zooming out it emerged as contradicting the very purpose of having any theory of economics that was not the law of the jungle. I was moderately well-versed in the work Marx and the by then unfashionable Keynes, and rudimentarily so in the then ascendant neoliberal theories of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. More and more, it seemed to me that these discussions were not just morally awry, but recklessly skirting over hard and rational factors concerning the viability of the economic system itself.It had also begun to dawn on me that there was something odd in the way people calling themselves economists were leading us to think about the purpose of economy and, by extension, money. It was as if the subject, ‘Economics,’ had, by mutual consent of the discoursers, become indistinguishable from mere accountancy, reducing every argument to a puzzle about how to reduce the cost of human involvment in economic equations.
This, remember, was long before the concept of ‘artificial intelligence’ was heard in public discourse. Although there were occasional desultory discussions about ‘the future of work’, or the coming ascendancy of technology, it seemed that the discussion was set upon tramlines of thought that skirted around the central problem: that the earth just happened to be peopled by people, and the sole point of economy was to make available a system that would enable them to provide for themselves in an effective and efficient fashion. More and more it became clear to me that the system, as it was, wanted drastically for some concept of long-term sustainability that, if factored into the formulae of economics, might serve to prevent what seemed to me a coming moment of terminal disaster. No one else seemed to notice this, the field dividing — more or less evenly — between those who saw that the ‘rationalisation’ of economic processes as a no-brainer, and those who pleaded for a kind of leniency for the affected human collateral — while still accepting that the elimination of labour was more or less inevitable. Each of the two dominating logics seemed plausible in its way, and together they seemed to point to — at best — an outcome in which humans were to be either ‘condemned’ to endless leisure or ‘tolerated’ within the processes of future economy as something analogous to the practice of folly-construction in times of depression or what was called ‘famine’ — the gratuitous involving of the superfluous by reason of mercy and compassion. This seemed to me to be at once inadequate and potentially lethal, leading to the comprehensive obsolescence of humanity coming to seem like a self-evident and inevitable consequence of ‘rational’ decisions arrived at within systems which had allegedly existed for no purpose other than the overall betterment of human beings. To the great merriment of the establishment economists, I would sometimes recall what seemed to me to have been the ‘perfect’ economy: my grandmother’s farm in which she produced her own livestock, vegetables, milk, bread, butter, eggs, jam and spring water, and ‘imported’ things she couldn’t produce by swapping trays of eggs for them at the back door of the travelling shop from Elphin on a Saturday night, winter and summer. I had also grown up in a house where the ethic of a connection between work and survival was implicitly understood as central to human existence, for reasons of self-sustenance, identity, dignity and meaning. Both contexts had imbued on me a sense of an intimate connection between work and human existence, all but incapable of disconnection without enormous cost.
Karl Marx, in Das Kapital, had cautioned against the day when the understandings concerning the relationship between work and capital might lead to the human race handing to a tiny minority of its number the control over the very means by which humanity might continue to prosper or even survive. There are many problematic elements within the Marxian canon, but this is not one of them. A central virtue of Marx’s philosophy centres on a warning that accumulative notions of capital give rise to cultures in which it will seem axiomatic that technology ought to be venerated, even at the cost of human flourishing. It was for this reason that Marx believed socialism would become a necessary recourse of humanity, in the cause of self-protection, but this theory, as we know, proved to have its own difficulties.
I did not at the time have any sense of what form the disaster might take. Nor did I stumble on any satisfactory encapsulation of the problem. I excavated and expanded some of these ideas for an article published here last year in tribute to the late philosopher, technologist and lifelong Marxist, Mike Cooley, in which I wrote:
That moment we are facing is, essentially, the final and irreversible looting by the Combine of the resources of the world’s workplace, in the sense that the purpose is to appropriate the benefits of the creative capacities of the human populace, to ensconce all remaining humanly-developed skills in technology so that they will in future belong to the Combine . . . , thus disinheriting and disenfranchising the world’s working population of any claim to a dividend of the fruits of the onset of what is called Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Some months later, in November last, I elaborated on these thoughts, glancing back to the last great wave of human obsolescence with the production line more than a century before:
Now we have reached a new and not dissimilar frontier in the working life of mankind, albeit with even more far-reaching consequences. The last revolution saw the end of individuated skills; this one sees the end of direct human involvement in the processes of production. It is, in other words, the end of work as we have known it, a moment which ought rightly to prompt the most earnest soul-searching concerning the sources of sustenance and meaning in human existence, and how these might be perpetuated by some new stratagem. In a genuine democracy, this moment would already have given rise to a discussion as to the nature of the termination dividend accruing to the many human beings to be rendered obsolescent by the change, and the cultural adjustments requiring to be made to ensure the continuing contentedness and harmony of the species. Instead, we have an attempted global takeover by the world’s richest interests and proposals for minimal UBI-with-strings-attached, hive cities and couch-potato culture for the young, ‘comfort care’ for the old, and a growing movement to extend rights to the robots who will carry on operating what we used to call society.
Back in 1993, I had no idea what form the denouement might be likely to take, but I knew it was coming. As the global economy — and escalatingly after the meltdown of 2008 — became more like a roulette table than the clearing house of the world’s life and work, I admit that I had no sense of how it might end. By 2008, the issue was the escalating debt of virtually every economy in the world, as the capital system created more and more Toytown money ex nihilo out of credit and pushed it ahead as though with a snow plough. In recent times, the unsustainablity of this debt had seemed to be heading us for a new and possibly terminal catastrophe, and yet almost no one seemed to think so. I remember one morning having a conversation over breakfast in the house of a friend with that friend’s accountant, with whom I got into a minor argument about whether central banks could just keep on printing money. He said, ‘Yes, no problem!.’ I said: ‘Are you having a laugh?’ I left early, having warned my friend to find himself a new accountant.
About three months ago, my attention was drawn to a series of remarkable articles by an Italian-born academic, philosopher and writer called Fabio Vighi — Professor of Critical Theory and Italian at Cardiff University — who had written about the connections between the ‘pandemic’ and the world monetary system. Having for many months been trying to reconcile the various strands of knowledge into a coherent explanation of the ‘pandemic’ that was neither health-related nor utterly, arbitrarily evil, I read several of these essays with a growing sense of being buried alive under a tremendous dropping of pennies.
I had been talking and writing in general terms about lockdown as some kind of attempt to deprive the world’s working population of any kind of equity in the coming shift to AI, a development that would in effect impoverish the vast majority of humanity into some likely calamitous future. But Vighi’s analysis went further, linking those recent thoughts to the thoughts I was having 30 years before.
Vighi touched on the mounting debt problem that was overwhelming the world’s economies, but did not dwell on it in the manner of most other critical commentators. He went deeper, to the root causes, which he saw as residing in a structural flaw within the capitalist system — signalled and named as far back as the mid-nineteenth century by Karl Marx. The structural flaw is something like this: that, due to the explosion of technological capacity becoming available to employers, there has long been in train a collapse of the role of labour in modern economies, which have accordingly shifted their weight on to financial trading — in effect gambling — as a means of keeping the capitalist system alive. In principle this is a terminal condition, because the need within such a financialised economy to constantly increase the size of the money system would in the long run invite disaster, with some of the artificially generated money for fuelling the financial system — quantitative easing, ‘helicopter money’ — leaking into what is left of the ‘real’ economy, sparking hyperinflation, the collapse of currencies globally and, in short order, the total implosion of the system.
This, says Professor Vighi, is the reason for the ‘pandemic.’ It was launched not because of any threat to human health, but in an attempt to protect the existing system, in which the financial ascendancy is totally invested. For a long time, the economic and monetary systems, originally designed to facilitate and further human enterprise and trade, have seemed to the ‘elites’ to be solely their playthings. A secondary motivation was to exploit this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect a wealth-grab by the world’s financial controllers.
In an August 2021 article, A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Systemic Collapse and Pandemic Simulation, Professor Vighi sets out the clues he spotted even in advance of the early 2020 signs of something stirring in Wuhan. More than clues, they offered clear-cut signs that the world economy was ‘on the verge of another colossal meltdown’. ‘In 2019,’ he outlined, ‘world economy was plagued by the same sickness that had caused the 2008 credit crunch. It was suffocating under an unsustainable mountain of debt. Many public companies could not generate enough profit to cover interest payments on their own debts and were staying afloat only by taking on new loans. “Zombie companies” (with year-on-year low profitability, falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflow, and highly leveraged balance sheet) were rising everywhere. The repo market meltdown of September 2019 must be placed within this fragile economic context.’
Observing the Covid narrative rollout in early 2020, he worked backwards in an attempt to fit into the emerging picture some of the events he had noted in late 2019, which increasingly seemed to be remarkably germane. In the record of the second half of 2019, he found a trail of intriguing and peculiar developments which had attracted little attention in the mainstream media but seemed to bespeak some kind of simmering sense of crisis among the top financial and political players:
In June 2019, in its Annual Economic Report, the Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the ‘Central Bank of all central banks’, warned of ‘overheating’ in the leveraged loan market. As Vighi would put it, ‘the belly of the financial industry [was] once again full of junk.’
In August 2019, the BIS issued a working paper calling for ‘unconventional monetary policy measures’ to ‘insulate the real economy from further deterioration in financial conditions’. This would involve central banks taking on the role of lending to companies during what was signposted as a ‘coming crisis.’
In that same month, BlackRock Inc.,the world’s most powerful investment fund (managing around $7 trillion in stock and bond funds), issued a white paper titled Dealing with the next downturn, ‘instructing’ the US Federal Reserve to inject liquidity into the financial system to prevent ‘a dramatic downturn.’ The white paper recommended that central banks find ways to put money directly into the hands of public and private spenders — while avoiding hyperinflation.
Later that month, G7 central bankers met in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to discuss BlackRock’s paper along with urgent measures to prevent the looming meltdown.
In September 2019, repo rates shot suddenly from two per cent to 10.5 per cent. ‘Repos’ are short-term collateralised loans, the main source of funding for traders in high-risk markets, especially derivatives. A lack of liquidity in the repo market can have a devastating domino effect on all major financial sectors.
In September 2019 also, the Federal Reserve began pumping hundreds of billions of dollars per week into Wall Street, executing BlackRock’s ‘going direct’ plan.
Later that month, US President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13887, establishing a National Influenza Vaccine Task Force with the aim of developing a five-year national plan ‘to promote the use of more agile and scalable vaccine manufacturing technologies and to accelerate development of vaccines that protect against many or all influenza viruses.’ This was proposed as a means of counteracting ‘an influenza pandemic,’ which, ‘unlike seasonal influenza […] has the potential to spread rapidly around the globe, infect higher numbers of people, and cause high rates of illness and death in populations that lack prior immunity.’
In October 2019, a global zoonotic pandemic was simulated during Event 201 in New York, a strategic exercise coordinated by the Johns Hopkins Biosecurity Center and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In January 2020, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting took place in Davos, Switzerland, where both the economy and vaccinations were discussed.
A week later, China put Wuhan and other cities of the Hubei province in lockdown.
On March 11th, 2020, the WHO’s director general declared Covid-19 a pandemic.
In March 2020 the Federal Reserve hired BlackRock to manage the bailout package in response to the ‘COVID-19 crisis.’
He began to construct what he felt was a more appropriate ‘reverse causality’ — the possibility that, rather than the pandemic having created an economic crisis, it happened the other way around: a threatened implosion of the financial system in late 2019 had ‘inspired’ the faking of a pandemic. The pumping in of what he calls ‘monetary doping,’ using ‘fictitious money’ under cover of Covid, helped the disintegrating markets to recover somewhat. But, in what he describe as ‘a sadistic stroke of genius’, the orchestrators of the plandemic, ‘in order to sort out Wall Street, switched off the engine of Main Street.’ As a result, the financial elite has grown richer and more powerful while the economy on the ground has been decimated. From the viewpoint of the perpetrators, he says, this is a form of ‘creative destruction’: the destruction of a system of production that was no longer working, but enabling capitalism to recreate itself at a higher technological level.
This, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the true context for the ‘pandemic’. The lockdowns were necessary to allow central banks to flood their economies with freshly-printed money, while insulating what remained of the ‘real economy’ from the effects of the helicopter money, which was essential to keeping the financial economy afloat but keeping hyperinflation at bay. The BIS stepped in, with a view to ‘insulating’ the real economy from the turbulence arising from the ‘helicopter money’ — a form of quantitative easing that extends beyond banks to businesses and other vulnerable entities.
The role of ‘vaccination’ is primarily about the initial step of ‘vaccine passports’ on the road to full biometric ID systems to operate the digital currency that will replace the now all but redundant array of existing currencies and reduce whole populations to a form of neo-feudal mendicancy. Out of these initiatives others are planned to flow: some form of the Klaus Schwab-sponsored ‘Great Reset’; the transhumanist agenda, morphing into posthmanism; and, more immediately and prosaically, Universal Basic Income and digital wallets; conditional use of money, subject to social credit system controls and, in effect, a centralised ‘tap’ that can be shut off the instant someone crosses an unapproved line. By the elites’ plan, says Vighi, we are headed for a neo-feudal, top-down society, with tight monetary control translating into even tighter social and political control. Ultimately, totalitarianism becomes the ‘rational’ solution, drawing the whole package together, and will be especially ‘essential’ for the moment when the people realise what in fact has been happening.
Professor Vighi, I know, has many related ideas about other aspects of what is happening, but rarely strays beyond the frame of his essential argument. He does so in part to keep the lines of his thesis clean, in part to avoid feeding the frenzies of the Gates-funded ‘fact-checkers.’ As to his primary argument, he presents it in his writings as something self-evident, which to a high degree — once you know what you’re looking for — it is. He describes it in purely factual terms. What he says he says definitively: This is this; it’s not something else.
He repeatedly credits the inspiration of the American financial commentator, John Titus, who on his YouTube channel Best Evidence has tracked and underlined some of these events and linked them to the instability of the debt-based global monetary system. Titus, he relates, identified from autumn 2019 a radical change in the Federal Exchange’s monetary policy, both in the massive injecting of cash into the economic system and, in doing so, ‘going direct’ to some 3,000 American banks, which in turn started to pass this money on to their customers in the form of loans.
Fabio Vighi: ‘BlackRock were giving marching orders to the Fed. This is very important. People underestimate how powerful BlackRock and Vanguard and State Street — the three big investment funds — are. So the Fed executed the plan exactly like BlackRock told them to, in September 2019, when the Repo crisis broke out in Wall Street. And that meant going direct, that meant this new kind of monetary policy, where you don’t just create reserves, but you give them directly — to the banks in this case. And the Treasury, and the state, to an extent. But mostly to the banks. And as they said in that document, the risk was hyperinflation, which is something they don’t want. They don’t want people to go hungry, basically, because that becomes unmanageable. That will cause social upheaval, civil wars, and God knows what else.’
Lockdown was the preferred instrument to reduce the risk of hyperinflation. The economy needed not merely to be insulated, but to be disabled. As long as the core of the business sector remained intact — even if in an induced coma — the threat of an implosion in the real economy remained. In this context, paradoxically, lower levels of inflation were useful, reducing demand even while the economy was on life support. The chief instrument of the takedown, then, was the judicious use of inflation to burn the business sector out of existence, while avoiding the conflagration of hyperinflation that would have set the entire global economy on fire.
FV: ‘There was too much money in the system for something like this not to happen. And I think that they realised that it would be much more convenient for them to control the accident rather than let it happen as a kind of black swan event, because that would have been much more difficult to manage. But if they could control it, they could influence the whole situation and make it work for them, which I think is what is happening now, because now they are playing with a weapon that they have at their disposal, which is inflation. Not hyperinflation, but inflation, which impoverishes a society; we know that because our money has less and less value intrinsically with inflation. They are now forced to say that inflation is not transitory — it’s here to stay. And what I think they want to avoid with these lockdowns is inflationary spikes — (in which) all of a sudden we get potential runaway inflation, or maybe even hyperinflation. But they are using inflation at the same time.’
But Professor Vighi’s argument is not primarily concerned with these essentially symptomatic elements of the problem. He broadens out from the Titus analysis into his own conception of the deeper structural issue, of which the superficial instability of the global economy is a collateral symptom. His economics are essentially left-field. He started out studying philosophy and humanities in Italy, and then got into psychoanalysis, studying Freud and Lacan. He became interested in political economy, especially from a Marxist perspective, zeroing in on Marx’s Critique of Value, an area of close study in some European countries, especially Germany, but not so much in the Anglo-Saxon world. This discipline focusses on the shrinking of real economic life due to mechanisation, an issue that Marx anticipated, though not its pace or timings. Vighi is, in economic terms, a fundamentalist: his thinking traces things back to the beginning of economy. In this respect he expands radically on the Titus analysis, which focuses on the role of debt in destabilising money systems.
Vighi’s central point is that our economies have ceased to be ‘real’ economies because they are not built around human labour. His objection to the financialisation of markets and economies is not an aesthetic or even a moral one: He says that a fully financialised economy cannot work without enormous elements of compulsion. The idea that has prevailed within economic thought for decades that you don’t have to make people work if you can make money work is an illusion of the capitalist elites, he believes, because of a kind of law-of-diminishing-returns effect that afflicts re-investment in technology. By employing more technology and eliminating labour, the system limits its own capacity to create new surplus value, and consequently also profits. Financial systems only appear to generate dramatically more profit than labour processes: in reality, what is generated is not real wealth, but ‘fictitious money’ — a ‘trick of circulation’ in Marx’s phrase.
The recent drift of economy into financialisation, he insists, is no longer sustainable.
FV: ‘Not in capitalism. It’s not sustainable because, in capitalism, the real economic value comes from work, comes from investments in work. So capital has to invest into wage labour in order to produce surplus value, which is then converted into profits when the commodities that are produced are sold on the market. This is the one thing that I would go back to again and again in Marx. I think this is where he was right. I don’t care about the politics — I have no time for that kind of thing — but I think that the Critique of Value in Marx is still the fundamental theory that needs to be kept in mind. Because in capitalism you create profits only when capital is invested into value-producing labour. And labour produces value only when it’s capital that invests in it. So in the financial sector, we don’t have real value. We have fictitious value, which is value that comes from the future — money-creating-money. But that sort of “Magic tree” value is not real value.’
He does not believe that the ‘real economy can be saved, at least not in the present conditions. He believes capitalism will eventually self-destruct, but may have some lives in it still. It is, he says, a ‘self-revolutionising’ medium. But to continue serving its own needs for survival, it will become more and more authoritarian.
JW: ‘How much of a problem is the debt-based money generation associated with modern fiat currencies? Were there options within this model?’
FV: ‘It’s difficult to say. This is all uncharted territory, in many ways, when you think about monetary issues, because there might be different ways of organising the distribution of fiat money, even of introducing a kind of currency that is not related to debt, or a kind of interest-free currency even. But I think we need to start with what we have, and what we have is capitalism, and capitalism works precisely like it is working now. All right: It’s clearly not working any longer — that’s the fundamental point. Up until a few years ago, the basis of the economy was the real economy, and the financial sector was a kind of appendage, very much linked to how the real economy was doing. You know: the stocks were growing if there was a real growth in the real economy. Now it’s literally the other way around, so the basis of our economies is speculation. It’s this kind of hot-air balloon. It is not real, it’s pure speculation, often totally toxic, with no real basis at all in our world. It’s pure speculating for the sake of speculating, mostly based on debt-leveraging, so it’s all debt that is put into action, and sold, and then you get derivatives, and all kinds of speculations — it’s a crazy world. But that’s the basis. And the real economy is now the appendage.’
JW: ‘And the debt just gets bigger and we push it ahead of us like snow. . .’
FV: ‘That tells you that the economy is not able to produce wealth any longer, because it needs to make more debts in order to try and produce some wealth. But this debt is running into the future. We cannot stop. We keep borrowing from the future, more and more. That’s not sustainable. Or, it’s only sustainable through these paradoxical measures that we’re adopting now, with lockdowns and restrictions, this kind of opening and closing of society. They can’t (fully) open society now. They can’t.So they need to open it for a little bit, see how it goes, and then close it again. Because otherwise inflation would just skyrocket — what they call the overheating of the economy. They wouldn’t be able to sustain it. They’ve created so much fake money up there, so much helicopter money, they’ve thrown so much money into the financial sector that the moment that money leaks into the real economy, which it does . . . (He shrugs).’
This raises the ominous possibility that the recent ‘opening up’ of the economies of both Ireland and the UK bespeaks some kind of controlled, limited experiment to observe how economies are likely to react to the sudden combination of pent-up demand with relatively lavish amounts of ready cash and issues of diminishing goods due to vax mandates and supply-chain issues. Once again, we are to be the canaries in the coalmine.
FV: ‘The counter-argument is: that money stays in the financial sector, it doesn’t come down, which is a lie. We know that it is a lie especially now, after the Fed’s new monetary policy where they give the money directly to the banks. The banks, of course, lend money into the economy, and that immediately creates inflation. The inflation we see now is not purely the product of supply chains — it’s also that, but it’s mostly the product of this massive money that’s been thrown into the system, and it’s now coming down like an avalanche into our world.’
JW: ‘By your analysis, the shift away from human labour is the fundamental issue. It ought to be possible to fix that, but the system itself refuses to pursue certain options. Politics and financial power are entering into an arrangement to fix things on behalf of the system and the people don’t count?’
FV: ‘Absolutely not. It’s all about those guys who want to keep their privileges. They don’t want to let go of what they have, fundamentally. They want to reproduce the system as it is, whatever it costs, whatever it takes to do it. And I think what it takes to do it now is to slowly but gradually impoverish people more and more, and control them by authoritarian means. There’s no other way that they can keep the financial sector going as it is without impoverishing people. And they do that through inflation. Inflation kind of comes inevitably, and it’s something that by definition devalues money, and therefore impoverishes people, particularly the middle classes, which are now becoming the working classes. It used to be that the working classes were working up to become middle classes, and now it looks like the middle classes have no other option but to become impoverished, and to me that’s inevitable. It’s not something that you can change without neo-Keynesian policies of state spending, and those haven’t worked. And neo-liberal policies of austerity — that clearly doesn’t work either.
‘What we’ve seen clearly over the years is the shrinking of the economies. That is something that you can describe clearly; the shrinking of economies all over the world. Even the Chinese economy is shrinking. And that is a trajectory that, to me, is simply unstoppable. And it’s because of this holy alliance between capital and technology, which again you cannot avoid, because capitalism is about competition between different actors. So everybody wants the latest technology to be more competitive on the market. But the use of technology overall — taking the total mass of profits — it has a negative impact on the total mass of value produced by the global economy. The point is that in the total mass of profits, obviously some businesses win over others, but overall there a shrinking of the mass of profits, and that I think is inevitable because of this phenomenon we call automation. Because it’s based on work, and human work is becoming more and more redundant, because of automation, machines, et cetera.
‘Keynes talked a lot about technological automation. He knew it. He knew that this was happening sooner or later. And that’s what we’re seeing today. If you go to the supermarket — there used to be 50 people working there, and now there’s three people, four people. You can do everything with machines. And those people were creating value. Right? They were throwing value into the system, they were throwing wealth. And now, with machines working, you create less and less value, because machines don’t get salaries and they don’t go to the supermarket to buy stuff. And Marx himself kind of intuited that, but he couldn’t predict how fast it would move. The third industrial revolution (the digital wave of technology that began in the 1980s)and now the fourth industrial revolution — it will be game over in a sense for this traditional type of capitalism in the liberal context. And I think capitalism will have to reproduce itself by authoritarian means.’
JW: ‘Some off-mainstream commentators have been saying from the beginning that the small and medium-sized enterprises were being deliberately attacked — that it wasn’t merely collateral damage. At first it seemed incredible, but gradually it came to seem indisputable: They were actually targeting businesses with a view to driving them out of the marketplace.’
FV: ‘I think this is one way of reducing whatever is left of the real economy to some kind of debris that they can control more easily. But they’re playing a very clever game, because they still give people some money to survive. And then, once they lose their business, they will be reduced to some form of unemployment maybe “underemployment”, you know, there are different kinds of unemployment. And at that point they will accept the bit of charity that they get from governments — the UBI thing, or whatever. And they will come with some conditions: “You can only spend what we tell you to spend”; “You cannot buy cigarettes, you have to buy something essential.” Things like that. And that will be easier to do the moment you get rid of physical money, the moment you introduce digital currencies, which they are doing as well. There are a number of things that all point in the same direction, basically.’
JW: ‘How do you see it playing out? Timings, rollout, how will it register?’
FV: ‘It’s quite unpredictable. I thought that by now they would have stopped with this pandemic crap, you know. I thought that they would have realised that it’s not viable any longer for them. But clearly they want to milk it as much as they can, right? They want to bring out all these variants and so on. But they’re also testing the waters, as it were, to see if it still works, and if people get scared and they take five, six vaccines, and they can carry on as long as they want with it. And, in the meantime — and this is the key point — they are impoverishing people. In the meantime, they are taking things away from people, more and more. Like, Italy’s a rich country in terms of wealth. It’s got a huge public debt, but people are rich, especially in the north of Italy. And they are getting impoverished, little by little, gradually, month by month. Inflation is devaluing their money. And more and more people are being thrown into poverty. It’s the metaphor of the (boiling) frog, right? You raise the temperature little by little, and people don’t even realise, then they die.’
JW: ‘Have you any sense of a timeframe?’
VF: ‘I think that this will come down pretty soon. When people get . . . Today I went to buy something for my kids — a takeaway — and the price had almost doubled from the last time I went, and soon people won’t be able to afford it. Of course they can always indebt themselves, and more debt, more debt, in order to sustain a certain lifestyle. But soon they realise it will be counter-productive and they shouldn’t do it and they will start doing different things.’
JW: ‘It will be a shocking thing for people who have bought into the official narrative to wake up one morning and find that all their savings have either disappeared or reduced to next to nothing. Do you think that aside from the inflationary aspect we could have things like bail-ins or could the currency be wiped out and set at zero?’
FV: ‘Yes I think that is definitely on the cards. They are actually saying this themselves. What’s the name of the British guy (Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak) — he’s released a video where he is talking about Central Bank digital currencies. They’re working on it and they want to do it, and in China they already have digital currency in place. And that will give them huge control, and once they get rid of physical cash, they will have total control over people. So they definitely want to do it, but whether they will be able to do it I am not so sure, because people will realise, will smell a rat. One way they can do it is by taxing the use of physical cash, for example. It’s easy to do actually: You start to say that if you use physical cash you will have to pay five per cent extra, or whatever, and then people will use digital all the time. I think even today, only 20 per cent of all economic value is physical cash, and the rest is digital cash so it’s not a huge effort for them to get rid of it. With blockchain technology they could easily introduce digital currency. But then again – maybe things like barter will come back - or local currencies or physical currencies recreated in a different way.’
Yes. Already, some people are beginning to organise and plan for a kind of parallel economy. At no point did our ‘democratic’ systems offer us the possibility of a discussion about ways of avoiding this — perhaps reconstructing the working world for the benefit of the people, for those who labour, redefining the concept of stakeholder to include the citizen as shareholder in the means of production, with a right to a dividend of the produce of the system that has supplanted human labour, et cetera. We have been conditioned into thinking of the system as impersonal and eternal (if flawed and prone to occasional collapse), whereas in a democracy it ought to be in some sense structurally and, as though to an AGM of shareholders, answerable to ‘the people’. It is interesting that, right now, this is the last thing on anyone’s mind, as we struggle to recover even our most fundamental rights from governments we had assumed were comprised of our representatives, but in the past two years have left us in no doubt as to the error of such an assumption.
· In the second half of this article, Fabio Vighi talks about the onset of the AI epoch and the outright automation of the workplace, Universal Basic Income, the state of permanent emergency and attendant totalitarianism, and the left’s betrayal of the world’s working population.
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