Of Austerity and Addiction

Richard Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus at University of Massachusetts, in Austerity: Another “Policy Mistake” Again states “punishing debtors, cutting payrolls and imposing austerity keep happening. The capitalist system drives its people and enterprises to return to those policies even though their huge social costs and ultimate dangers for capitalists are rediscovered repeatedly.”  Why do fans of capitalism, or is it fanatical capitalists, repeatedly undermine viability—theirs and society’s—for short-lived selfish gains in the immediate future?


The answer is fanatical capitalist are addicted to material self-interest satisfaction, preferably satisfied sooner than later. It is the substance of choice for realizing pleasure from having more means than one could possibly employ and avoiding the pain from the absence of meaning in it all.  When will it stop?  Like with all addictions, not until rock bottom is hit or one’s suicidal actions are successful.


Where does this come from?  Likely from the strongly held tacit belief that the measure of life, the worth of one’s life, is the amount of wealth one has accumulated.  If you have more then you are far more worthy and if you have less then you are less worthy.  Why else would one seek to have far more than he/she could possibly use in life? What is the point of having excessively far more than what is needed?


Capitalist addicts also believe that punishing those who they perceive to be without worth—those who have no-things—are unworthy of any government assistance to support their existence.  Austerity is the means to this, since it will cause the trough from which the unworthy feed to dry up.  It is only those who are worthy who should (and do) receive government assistance, especially if they don’t need it.  Although they don’t need it their sense of worth surely does!  Why else would there be support to provide subsidies to very profitable industries and to very wealthy persons!


The addicts feel they need to cause those who are unworthy to stop being on the dole, and to get a job, even if the job is a below subsistence level paying job—which it most likely would be.  Also below subsistence level jobs, though they don’t benefit the one with the job, they surely benefit the one offering the job—it means the worthy people can accumulate even more becoming even more worthy.


But the truth of life is one’s worth is not what one has, it is what one is.  What we are is human and as such we are all worthy, we all deserve respect.  Until far more wake up and realize this, we will be forever embattled.  The wonderful arguments made by Richard Wolff and so many other critical thinkers are good but unfortunately fall on deaf ears.  The change that is needed will likely never resonate, no matter how logical the argument. Addicts just are incapable of change absent of a significant emotional event that wakes them up.

3 thoughts on “Of Austerity and Addiction

  1. Austerity is sometimes explained as short term pain, for a better future, or for correcting an over spend.

    After the excesses of all during the boom years leading up to 2008, I think what we have got is a 5 year hangover. It is not just big business, it is government big and small and we as individuals are to blame

    The mistake being made is not austerity, it is failure at the same time to encourage sustainable growth, if you are a gardener you will understand the need to cut the weeds, but you will also understand the need to sow new seed.

  2. Pingback: The Cure | For Progress, Not Growth

  3. Pingback: Captured | For Progress, Not Growth

Leave a Reply to John Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s