Some Approaches to the Market State: Part I

So if you are the big tree
We are the small axe
— Bob Marley and the Wailers, Small Axe

“The market state,” which Phillip Bobbitt introduced in The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (2002) is a supremely evocative phrase more often cited than defined or critiqued. But “market state” is so suggestive, so evocative of “goodness of fit” for present circumstances, that I can’t help but think “That’s the market state in action!” when curating material on such seemingly disparate subjects as charter schools, nudge theory, ObamaCare, the end of the rule of law (at least as we have understood it), and blood donation. So I’m going to try to think through the implications of Bobbitt’s work, 11 years on, in a series of posts of which this is the first.

I should also issue a disclaimer: This critique should have been written by a political scientist who’s mastered the literature and can distinguish the likely from the plausible, rather than by a vituperative foul-mouthed blogger of the left who, moreover, has begun a series not yet having discovered how he is to end it. (And readers, if any of you have resources to share, please do so in comments!) Here’s the tentative plan for the series:

  1. Some Approaches to the Market State. Case study: Waupaca County Non-Emergency Medical Transport.
  2. The Market State and Changes in the Constitutional Order. Case study: ObamaCare.
  3. The Logic of the Market State. Case study: The Foreclosure Crisis.
  4. The Market State and Civil Society. Case study: The Food Chain.
  5. The Market State and Legitimacy. Case study: TBA.

I think that if I am lucky and right, the market state, as a fully fleshed-out concept, will subsume “neo-liberalism,” “privatization,” and perhaps even “kleptocracy,” as well as tropes like “mercenaries” and even “prostitutes” (descriptive and accurate though those concepts may be). See under Elephant, Blind people and the. We shall see!

The portion of Bobbitt’s work that concerns us today can be simply stated, although the terms are going to take a lot of unpacking, the concepts must be critiqued, and (critically) Bobbitt’s work generally should not regarded as descriptive but as a work of elite prefiguration. That thesis:

The constitutional order of the United States is now in transition from nation-state to market state.

Now, I’m not sure this thesis is true, and I’m also not sure it’s true in the way that Bobbitt — who is, after all, a cigar-smoking Episcopalian imperial über-insider thought leader with a smile like a crocodile’s — means it to be true, or would prefer it to be true. However, I am sure that if the change in the constitutional order that Bobbitt theorizes is coming true, it can have no legitimacy as we understand the term: The people who, even in Bobbitt’s view, are sovereign, have not been consulted, or even informed.*

* * *

Case study: Waupaca County Non-Emergency Medical Transport

Here’s the example where I first thought “That’s the market state!” (Our UK readers will recognize the market state features displayed here in the Cameron government’s ongoing demolition of the NHS.) I’m going to use this example as a paradigm that shows the nature of the market state, the transition from nation-state to market state, and some of the issues raised by the transition. (Again, if I speak of “transition” in any one instance, that doesn’t mean I regard the change as complete, as universal, as inevitable, as irreversible, or even as fully understood. I hope to come to a better understanding as I go deeper into the series.)

From Waupaca Now, in Wisconsin:

For years, Jim Barry relied on Waupaca County’s volunteer drivers to take him to his medical appointments.

The 67-year-old Weyauwega man needs dialysis three times a week. He is struggling with cancer and can no longer drive himself to his health care providers.

“The county drivers were never late and I never missed an appointment,” Barry said. “Since the new guys took over, I have missed seven appointments. Their service leaves a lot to be desired.”

In the past, the local program for non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) was run by the Aging and Disability Resource Center, using local volunteer drivers recruited by the Waupaca County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The drivers provided elderly and disabled Medicaid recipients rides to their medical appointments.
[nation state]

On July 1, LogistiCare, a private, for-profit corporation based in Atlanta, Ga., became Wisconsin’s sole broker for NEMT. [market state]

Pat Enright is the aging and disability resource manager for Waupaca County DHHS. He has logged dozens of complaints from patients who have missed their medical appointments due to their rides arriving late or not showing up at all.

“These people don’t understand that I get really sick when they’re late picking me up,” Barry said, noting that being late for an appointment can result in his being at the clinic for eight hours as he waits for the dialysis equipment to become available again. And missing his dialysis treatment means toxic wastes are not being removed from his body. A Logisticare driver also failed to pick Barry up for a scheduled ride to the clinic for a CAT scan.

“I feel like they’re trying to kill me,” Barry said. “Yesterday, I made my funeral arrangements.”

You feel like that because they are. And for profit, too.**

Barry said his problems with LogistiCare began the day the company took over the program.

“It took me an hour and a half just to get my first three appointments,” Barry said.

To schedule a ride, callers have to obtain a confirmation number from LogistiCare.

Callers are questioned about whether they have a car, whether they are able to drive and whether they have relatives or friends willing to drive them to their medical appointment without reimbursement. They can be denied rides if they answer yes to any of the questions, according to a copy of logistics call script obained by the County Post.

If callers do not have their doctor’s phone number at hand when they call LogistiCare, they will be denied a ride and told to call back later with the number.

“They are trying to talk the callers out of getting a ride,” Enright said.

That’s because they profit by denying care.

After LogistiCare repeatedly failed to send a driver to Barry, he and Enright attempted to make a conference call to the WMR number.

“I called their number and the phone was not answered after 35 minutes,” Enright said. “I called again and waited 20 minutes.”

After finally getting through to LogistiCare, Enright was assured that Barry’s rides would arrive on time in the future.

“They then missed four rides in a week and a half,” Enright said.

Complaints with LogistiCare are being reported across the state, according to Carrie Porter with the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging in Madison. She said Barry’s problems making it to his dialysis appointments are not uncommon.

“It’s not an isolated case,” Porter said. “Just missing one appointment is a huge health concern for a dialysis patient.”

Porter added that missing dental appointments are especially a problem “because there are few dental clinics willing to take Medicaid patients. If they miss an appointment, they are at risk of losing their providers.”

“LogistiCare does not provide the transportation, they just broker it,” Enright said.

LogistiCare contracts with vendors to provide rides, then receives calls for rides and schedules the rides with vendors.

“They are not paid by the ride, they are paid a per capita rate based on the number of Medicaid clients who are eligible for rides,”
Enright said. “A cynical person might wonder if they’re making their profit on every one of those rides that they don’t provide. This is privatization at its finest.”

No, it’s not “privatization.” Or it is, but it’s also something larger: A change in the constitutional order. If we treat LogistiCare in Waupaca County as a paradigmatic case, we have:

1. Nation-state: The role of the state is to provide services for its citizens. In this case, its role was to provide a space for volunteer drivers to coordinate delivery of non-emergency medical transportation, to meet the requirement that their appointments not be missed.

2. Market state: The role of the state is to determine which provider shall collect rents for delivering a service to consumers. In this case, its role was to select a broker to co-ordinate paid drivers for non-emergency medical transportation (Here’s more linkiness on Logisticare).

Caveat: These are my definitions. They are close to, but not the same as, Bobbitt’s definitions (note plural), which we will look at in Part II, along with the term “Constitutional order.”

Judging by performance, we can conclude that human life is not the uppermost concern for the provider collecting the rents in a market state regime.*** If the Waupaca NEMT example is truly paradigmatic, that would have interesting policy implications, especially for disciplines like MMT that take “public good” as an object of study.

* * *

NOTE * One might, however, regard Obama as the custodian or manager of some of the key threads that make up the transition. There’s a very good reason why ObamaCare “mandates” participation in a market. Eh?

NOTE ** LogistiCare provides a more heightened, transparent, and vicious example of the business model that health insurance companies also use: They profit by taking payment for services they later deny. And yes, it’s still going on.

NOTE *** This is clearly true for ObamaCare, or its implementation would not have been phased as it was.

Appendix I: Some sources

Here are a few of the sources on Bobbitt I looked at when developing this series. The Archbishop of Canterbury is especially good. Readers, feel free to add more in comments!

2002: The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

2002: A world reshaped by war, John Keegan, The Telegraph (review)

2002: Bobbitt on Bobbit, Open Democracy (interview)

2004: Philip Bobbitt: The Thought Leader Interview, strategy and business (article)

2006: Everything we think about the wars on terror is wrong, The Spectator (interview)

2008: Onward to a Hollow State, John Robbe, Global Guerrillas (blog post)

2008: Uncommon Knowledge: Philip Bobbitt, Hoover Institute (video interview)

2009: All the presidents’ man, Guardian (article)

2011: Market States, Sell on News, Macrobusiness (blog post)

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. jake chase

    Brilliantly done. The market state is about applying political leverage and contract gotchas to extract rent while pretending to supply services and excuse the entire performance by public relations.

    1. mmckinl

      Who is the biggest rentier of all … banksters … carte blanche to create our currency and credit.

      We need public banks to capture this profit for the common good …

      We need to wield the prerogative of credit creation so that public interests come before private allocation …

      It is time for Public Banking …

  2. Simon


    I read the article with gloom however as the example is a really good one of the movement from community based support (volunteer drivers) to one in which there is extraction. Not just of ‘value’ (drivers showing up), but of the reduction of the opportunity for others to make a contribution which is both valued and valuable.

    If the example is one which becomes commonplace then I wonder if what we are witnessing is the erosion of social bonds through a kind of ‘corporatism’.

    It is not free enterprise, where the best rises to the top because of service and value, but ‘frozen’ enterprise.

    What dies I believe are the very things that make life enjoyable.

    1. McMike

      Enclosure of the commons.

      Step one: The government and volunteers build something of community and financial value. In this case: a reliable system of transport for homebound patients.

      Step two: a crony capitalist takes the public system over and privatizes the service, converting it to monopoly rent extraction from a captive market.

      Step three: fees rise, services decline, one person prospers, the community suffers.

      Step four: eventually, the systems devolves completely/collapses, public demands the government intervene, government buys back and rebuilds the service, at several multiples of the original cost.

      1. banger

        Nice–not sure about step 4 though. As applied to today, there is not trusted government to deal with the issue. Where I live today it is possible to know and talk to public officials to some extent and since the stakes are low money is not always determine policy.

        I think people will find solutions to problems within informal networks–not sure what that will look like but I think we are going to return to the idea of community.

        1. McMike

          I suppose the reality is more complex.

          In some cases, people turn to the government to fix what the private sector broke – widespread capital intensive sorts of things.

          In other cases, it is individuals and groups of individuals that rebuild alternatives to the corporate sector on a small local scale, and fill gaps where the institutions are failing.

        2. Husserl

          Actually, in the Netherlands steps 2 and 4 are often interchanged. The Dutch strategy with hospitals is, I think, first to let services degrade ( reducing govt. subsidies), then to wait for a public outcry, then to let the public get so desperate for decent healthcare that privatisation becomes an acceptable solution that would otherwise be rejected. One caveat though. In a special sense the system was put totally under government and insurer control on 1 Jan 2006. Much has been deregulated or privatised since then, and permission was recently given for the privatisation of any hospital. At least one is now, in Amsterdam. Many private clinics have also started up.

          1. McMike

            That’s right out of the privatization playbook.

            (1) Create the perception of a crisis in the government service. Through PR, ideological attacks, friendly press, pundits, and elected officials.

            (2) Create an actual crisis in the government service. By hamstringing it with complex rules and restrictions, defunding the agency, making the staff miserable, putting hacks in leadership, etc.

            (3) Create an attraction for the elected offficials: up front cash flow, PR cover, campaign contributions, junktes, revolving door jobs, and flat out bribes.

            The US Postal Service and education system are prime examples.

          2. Lexington

            The US Postal Service and education system are prime examples.

            Not to mention FEMA.

            Want to prove that Uncle Sam can’t do anything right? Appoint a Republican appatchnik to run a disaster relief agency, watch the old hands who actually know their jobs flee en masse, then let an entire city drown…

    2. jrs

      It is interesting that while it was run by local government it was a volunteer (not public employee) based program. Volunteering based programs often aren’t sustainable beyond a certain point (because people will only volunteer so much in a world where money rules everything – in some utopian gift economy sure maybe, but I’m talking in the world of oligopoly capitalism, where ologopolists (not small business) own the very things we need to live). Volunteering often becomes unsustainable beyond a certain point (it’s good up until that point – no more than a few hours a week out of most people), but maybe it worked well here. Of course the fact that is was a volunteer program made it all the easier for the vultures to sweep in, they didn’t even have to fight public employee unions.

      “If the example is one which becomes commonplace then I wonder if what we are witnessing is the erosion of social bonds through a kind of ‘corporatism’.”

      true, there are barely any social bonds left as is, but let’s destroy the few that remain.

      1. McMike

        Indeed. That’s what charter private schools will never work. Once they become extractive profit centers, it’s a whole lot harder to get moms to show and run the PTA.

        Hence Facebook, where the customers volunteer to give their value away for free.

    3. RanDomino

      “Extraction” is a very important word, a powerful concept for understanding the neoliberal model of capitalism (which is also the path capitalism will take by necessity, since it is capitalism taken to its logical conclusion).

  3. Ben Johannson

    I believe “market-state” in this particular anecdote is simply a government-enforced monopoly on behalf of a corporate crony. Had the government making this decision really wanted to try a market oriented approach, it would have allowed many companies in to provide this service and given patients the right to choose which would transport them. The more patients a service transported the larger a bonus it would be paid, incentivizing better service rather than less.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Exactly. Once again the government pretends to love free markets but really acts in the interests of monopoly predator corporations to extract rents by denying services (and in this case, and private “health insurance”, killing people).

      Paying for outcomes and providing choice are the only ways to keep such systems accountable, and in almost every sphere those principles are being crushed. Think about obamacare: paying for outcomes is one thing. But since we’ve already paid the “health insurance” company our premiums they get paid regardless, and in fact have an interest in worse outcomes so they don’t have to fork over cash to the providers. Its an insane system that guarantees profit to a useless party while denying it to the party actually doing the work. But that is the essence of the rentier economy.

      1. jake chase

        Yes, we have no bananas, but we keep paying for them anyhow. Government has adopted the model of those resort golf courses that sell ‘memberships’. You buy a house at an inflated price, pay dues every month, and get to play only at the times the resort can’t peddle to outsiders, either individually or in contrived groups. Generally, that means when the temperature is 90 and the humidity is 95. If you stop paying dues your house can’t be sold except at a price $50,000 under market.

        You only beat this game by taking on a mortgage, dissipating the proceeds, quitting golf, refusing to pay the dues, dieing in the house, and leaving it to the ex-wife you detest. Let her fight the bank over it.

      2. rotter

        we cant have a discussion about whats happe ning in the real world if the marketeer club members wont take off their ears and stop insisting on using imaginary facts.

    2. diptherio

      That still would have been a worse system for the users than the former volunteer-based system. That system was dependable and cheap (can’t beat those labor costs). Under a market system, as you describe it, a patient would contract with one company and, if they missed an appointment, try another…and another and another, until they found a good one…assuming that one of the companies would do as good a job as the volunteers.

      And, in the market system, the service-provider’s incentives to provide quality service are strictly financial, which means that incentivizing better service costs money. The volunteer system provided top-notch service without any monetary incentives at all, which seems to me to be pretty efficient.

      A “true market system” would not have served these clients any better than the current monopoly-capitalist system does (and let us remember that competitive markets generally tend toward monopoly/oligopoly in the absence of strong countervailing power, since successful competitors tend to eliminate their competition).

      Sometimes volunteerism and public administration are actually more efficient than markets and monetary incentives…go figure, huh?

      1. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

        Advocates for the Market State simply cannot conceive of any other motive for human interaction beyond profit. Or like Ayn Rand, they consider the existence of altruism, but deem it pathology. So the volunteers are just morons driving useless unproductive eaters around.

        1. banger

          As the findings of neuro-science and social science eventually find their ways into the culture Ayn Randian ideas will gradually dissipate. Plus Rand is about as anti-Christian as anyone can get–eventually even the dullards will grasp that.

          1. McMike

            The upside to the downside is this:

            Eventually, everyone will know someone who got screwed by the corporate state and left hanging in the wind.

            Eventualy, everyone will know someone that was touched by human kindness and generosity in a moment of need.

            Eventually, everyone will know someone who is demonstrating the power of unselfish small scale local communitarianism.

    3. Expat

      Interesting to compare the “market state” with the “antitrust state” gutted by market state apparatchiks.

  4. The Dork of Cork.

    I think the market state can only survive so long as it can strip other jurisdictions of capital.
    The Uks experience is a case in point.

    The symbiotic relationship between “sovereign” UK & its modern surplus India (the EU) is the most classic case.

    The Uk post 1970 /80 simply could not produce the goods.

    I believe the plan was to simply subtract sov power from these former European nations and drive them into surplus until their capital base implodes.

    Certainly post 1980 the internal economies became overpowered by massive external capital flows for no good reason.

    You now have countries such as Spain committing economic Harakiri for no logical reason whatsoever.

    In a era where deglobalization is the only option for survival (for most people)
    Internal labour intensive operations where the capital is sunk already should be saved.
    Activities which require huge amounts of ongoing external (oil) capital such as car based transport should be discarded

    Instead we are getting the opposite approach.
    Embrace of further entropy in the interests of who exactly ?

    Look no further then inter euro balance of trade data.

    It tells you exactly who benefits.
    Almost all euro countries are being pushed into physical surplus with respect to the UK & to a lesser extent France.

    The lack of settlement means countries slowly disappear under a mountain of compounding debt which the Uk uses to further consume this declining capital base.

    1. scraping_by

      True thing. This Market State depends on the infrastructure and institutions of a fully functioning society. Yet, it seems to have the consequences and goals you find in a Failed State.

      You couldn’t get this kind of business going in a collection of warring clans, but any society that would set up this kind of service would also run on a basis of broader good. It’s purpose is the broader good, after all. The two need each other to get people to participate.

      Parasites can and do kill the host. It would be interesting to explore if this transition is just the sales pitch for petty fraud, or for petty fraud on a grand scale, or really means to tear down a society based on the good of its members.

  5. AbyNormal

    Friends, when performing your DD note ANYTHING coming out of Atlanta, Ga MarketState!…prepare to hunt other means or protect yourself at all cost. Think Im kidding?
    Sm.Ex: DocX, ICE, Arthur M Bank (incld. his visiting lover jeff immelt) and 3 of the first 10 banks fdic closed 2008 were out of GA. the devil came down to GA an never left.
    r u n

  6. The Dork of Cork.

    A deep Conspiracist reading Bobbits books would come to the conclusion the very point of the pointless wars of the 21rst century was to undermine the power of the nation state within the minds of the little people.

    Ever since Vietnam or maybe Korea the same pattern emerges.

    A deep Venetian conspiracy is emerging from the shadows.

  7. The Dork of Cork.

    The IEA now declares almost all of the future oil flowing out from Iraq will flow east.

    The Iraq war appeared not in the national interest of the US or UK because it was not.

    The guys who run our lives are global arbitrage merchants – they make their money from arbitrage and nothing else.

    1. McMike

      Indeed. No long term grandiose plan. No concern about direction of flow. They simply set themselves up to make money coming and going.

      Then they don’t care which way the oil flows. They make money in any direction. They make money if it stops flowing. They make money when it starts flowing again.

      1. ambrit

        A pattern as old as civilization. G. B. Shaws “Arms and the Man” comes to mind.

  8. banger

    “Market state” is not the right term. Certainly it is happening–does the government exist to serve the people or the contractors it hires?

    Anyway, I call it “neo-feudalism” the movement from the idea that government should serve the collective to the government should serve the aristocracy and remove power from the collective. The new kind of feudalism we are walking (not running) into seems inexorable, given current trends and we need to understand why that is so. The PR/mind-control regime has achieved its goal: to utterly confused and demoralize the public through a systematic campaign of misdirection, stage magic, and real magic to create a narrative that does not even remotely resemble anything we might call true–that narrative is false in every way possible even when it is, in fact, “true.”

    People don’t understand the obvious which is that government exists to increase not decrease collective problems. The libertarians point out, rightly, that government thrives by increasing social disease not lessening it. What would happen to the MIC if there were no wars? I submit to you that wars are fought not to “protect” the country but to keep the MIC going. Health-care is provided not to make us healthier but to make us less-healthy–there is no incentive to cure us–and the public stupified by constant lies and dizzying entertainment doesn’t get it.

    The first thing we need to do is to break the spell and be virtual magicians or nothing can change.

    1. sufferinsuccotash, stupor mundi

      “I call it “neo-feudalism” the movement from the idea that government should serve the collective to the government should serve the aristocracy and remove power from the collective.”
      As a card-carrying historian I’ve resisted using the terms “neo-feudalism” or “feudalism” because they connote the medieval concept of mutual obligation. Yes, the serfs were tied to the land and compelled by non-economic forces to labor for the lords of the manor. At the same time the lords were obligated to provide the serfs with protection and at least the use of some land to put food on their families.
      I see absolutely no evidence whatever of any such notion of social reciprocity in the current state of affairs. The present-day situation bears a closer resemblance to the Congo Free State under the benign rule of King Leopold of the Belgians. Leopold’s strategy was to farm out vast areas of the Congo to concessionaires who would then do the dirty work of extracting rubber and ivory. Obviously we haven’t quite gotten to the point where God-fearing Americans are getting their hands cut off for failing to show up for work at the local Walmart. But the signs are emerging that the future status of nine-tenths of the population will be one of legal unfreedom with no guarantees of security or minimal well-being in return.
      So in a way Hannah Arendt with all of her quirks and faults was dead right about one thing: what happens in the colonies doesn’t stay in the colonies. What’s happening has nothing to do with the Middle Ages. It’s about modern colonialism, which is next-door to barbarism.

      1. banger

        I don’t think we’re going to go the route of the Congo. I still stick with neo-feudalism because it will have to be (by definition) a system of mutual obligation rather than pure slavery.

        In fact, I believe people would prefer a new form of feudalism to the confusion of today’s world and will eventually trade social mobility (which is not very large anyway) for security and belongingness. The aristocracy will find a way to deliver this some of it will be brutal, some of it will involve, as you say, mutual responsibilities and some of it will be spiritually based communities but whatever it is it will be “neo-” and will be fragmented with an elite on the top and a “understairs” population at the bottom with varying degrees of happiness. In a way, I see it as an improvement–I think there will be a lot of virtual free cities in the midst of all that. Not every oligarch will be Vlad the Impaler.

      2. LifelongLib

        I expect it to end with the U.S. looking legally and economically like a slightly mellower version of the old South America, but maybe worse in terms of community since by and large Americans don’t have the ties to each other that people do in traditional cultures.

    2. ChrisPacific

      I agree with your assessment of the problem, which is that the US government is no longer serving the needs of its citizens as a primary consideration but those of moneyed corporate interests. Citizens are an essential part of the equation in the sense that their participation as consumers and employees is essential to business, but they aren’t stakeholders any more. They are a resource, to be managed in a way that allows for maximum value extraction.

      However I disagree with your claim that this is an essential feature of government, for the simple reason that examples exist of governments elsewhere in the world (and even earlier in US history) that don’t operate like this and do serve the interests of citizens. I’ll agree that the influence of moneyed interests is ever present, but it doesn’t always achieve the level of ascendancy or pathology that it has in the US. (See the comments by Jeffrey Sachs quoted in recent posts).

  9. Dan Kervick

    Beware the next implementation of the market state: the Third Way’s beloved “infrastructure bank”. Instead of public investment in new infrastructure that would be owned and operated by the people for public benefit, the infrastructure bank would provide public subsidies for the private construction of privately owned infrastructure, and the public would then have to pay rents and fees to use it.

    1. McMike

      One nice thing about this; there seems to be a trend to drop a lot of the pretense. We are nearing our Pravda moment, when the PR and justifications just become kabuki we do out of vetigial habit.

      One can envision a day when the governor just hands a giant cardboard check over to his cronies – in the memo field it says “why not?” – then they both light cubanos and open some champange.

  10. Glasshammer

    I imagine that if the “market state” ever came into existence, it would have to quickly invent its own self-serving field of economics. Modern economics is still anchored (barely anchored) to the nation state and public-private partnership.

    1. scraping_by

      Much of the economics I read is geared on individuals, with the larger effects the additive result of individual actions.

      The Bozo Right economics is often making individual choice a semi-religious, or blatantly religious, doctrine. The Bible says you’re supposed to be alone against multibillion dollar multinationals. Not the religion I grew up with.

      The smartest individual actions are toward joining with other individuals. History seems to repeat itself.

      1. Glasshammer

        “Much of the economics I read is geared on individuals, with the larger effects the additive result of individual actions.”

        Macro has always struck me as the process of turning the many into one and pretending the many still exist. (It all makes perfect sense if you consider it satire.)

  11. anon y'mouse

    and, this is exactly the way that the Worker’s Compensation system operates in this state.

    I’ve posted (harped on) about it before. my experience with this company (which is state-backed, as an alternative to high priced private insurance to our employers to ‘keep costs down’) shows what healthcare will look like for all in the future.

    imagine having one chance to get a good doctor. when that doctor gives up fighting with the insurance company about tests that would identify your underlying condition, they send you to one of theirs—a guy who makes a tidy sum off of “managing” patients for years, sending them around to a ring of specialists to milk the insurance company for a low, but not insignificant amount. the managing doctor nor the specialists really want to find the cause of the injury, because they all suspect that it is rather serious and the insurance company does not want to pay.

    throughout, the doctor is more informative and helpful to the insurance company than the patient, because he knows who is paying the bills in this situation AND he knows that the Ins. Co. will send him plenty more where that came from. on his end, he will do ‘busy work’ to make it look like he’s trying to find the source of the problem, all while marking everything he finds down as either “pre-existing” or heavily insinuating that it is psychologically based.

    this helps out the ins. co. and they both truck merrily away after forcing the patient to endure an endless round of different kinds of physical therapies (which exacerbate the undiagnosed condition), prescribe lots of pills whose side effects only make matters worse, and refuse to order any tests which might identify the true cause. they end by giving the patient a check which is not even half of his former annual wage, even though he can’t work because of this work-related injury, and basically say “good luck signing up for SSDI—since we didn’t FIND anything to cause this problem & insist that you must be making it up. here’s $15k to last you til retirement.”

    there isn’t any way to opt-out of it, either. especially if you need the income from the wage compensation checks.

    1. Panel A

      Second that – look at Workers Comp. Our experience mirrors anony’mouse’s exactly almost down to the dollar amount. Thoroughly corrupted system devised to deny all RSI claims basically. For anyone interested the state is OR and the insurer is SAIF…

  12. JEHR

    This article puts me in mind of the different ways that the “market state” is being implemented in my country. We have the bad fortune to have an economist for our leader. That in itself bodes ill. The leader of our country is putting into effect his own version of the “market state.” He goes around the world making daft Trade Agreements with anyone who will respond including Columbia, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Europe and Jordan. These countries are needed as trading partners to offset the huge trade we are dependent upon from the US.

    While OGL (Our Great Leader) seeks markets world-wide, he is doing something very interesting at home. He is putting more and more of the onus on the provinces for taking care of environmental matters, healthcare and building/maintaining prisons, for example. At the same time he is threatening to reduce the equalization payments between the provinces by using population as the main criteria for obtaining needed money. This will devastate the poorer provinces (such as mine where people are leaving because of lack of jobs and where infrastructure remains in the same need of maintenance).

    These two actions alone tell us what kind of market state we will be in the end. There will be increased pressures to reduce wages and salaries to compete with those of our “trading partners.” The temporary worker program has already started this reduction by allowing foreign IT workers (for example) to take jobs that Canadian IT workers could do. Hiring foreign workers to take Canadian jobs is the lead-in to to reducing the cost of wages for employers.
    Employment benefits for seasonal workers is being reduced and workers are being asked to travel up to an hour to obtain jobs that pay a lesser amount.

    So we have a two-pronged way that OGL is going to make us ready for our new market with its low wages and choked off equalization payments which will make low wages, or any wages, seem wonderful.

    And I haven’t even mentioned the Federal government attacks on public unions!

    1. LifelongLib

      If it’s any consolation JEHR (probably not), anything that’s wrong in Canada is far worse in the U.S.

  13. rob

    I think the concept of the market state is all around.Especially here in north carolina,as of late since pat McCrony, came in with a republican majority for the first time in 100 years.
    They are privatising road building/letting companies build roads and get to toll the users forever more.munipalities sewer systems are being sold off to private providers.medicaid, is being “managed” by private middlemen.Duke energy is allowed to :
    A) buy progress energy.
    B)raise rates to pay for new nuclear plants that haven’t even been built yet,in other states.
    While at the same time entire regulatory commisions are being replaced in one fell swoop.(one especially that began an investigation of campaign finance crimes by the new gov. for getting checks from a “internet casino/video poker machine maker/law firm,that the gov. is an employee of),which stands to make many millions more to keep open these shops which are currently illegal,and definately predatory.
    And now the sharron harris nuke plant is shut down because of a crack in the reactor chamber,this reactor is in the same county as the capital,but both progress and duke energy were both caught numerous times being negligent on maintenance…in the past.And now the regulatory appurratus is being neutered even further..
    the legislature is claiming poverty, yet money for fracking(which isn’t actually happening yet,they are only “paving the way”)is somehow available for poor little companies in the energy industry, will get as incentives and infrastructure improvements…
    This new thatcher/reagan deregulation/privatization generation is just like the old ones.
    Fascists.Or as mussolini called it;”corporatism”.
    The term market state is fitting. But that is just describing the state envisioned by those who engineer it;the corporatists.These are the people who like in the twentieth century were seen as fascists throughout europe,england,and the United states.To me they are the same group as the british federalists.Who saw a decoupling of british empire from the state to the intrests of the state,meaning the major economic players.
    Smedly butler said”the flag follows the dollar,the marines folow the flag”
    In britian, the empire was comprised of regions that were actually under possesion of the great corporations. the joint stock corporations who effectively ruled:india,south africa,ireland,american colonies,australia,canada,virgin islands,etc..over the centuries, this amorphic empire, was a state of corporate intrests.
    Today, national sovereignty is first breached by trade policies.These corporations who get to decide how they will do business,and then let the propaganda machines convince the local populations how their will is actually the peoples best choice.As it is the only choice.
    These choices are given to us by our political/media,CORPORATE celebrities/power players.They decide,we bicker….

    I submit this list of a “bi-partisan” think tank as merely a means of emphasizing the “networks” of power that do exist.And have existed, for a long time. And these legal decisions and cultural implementation, have been put forth by them.These are specific people.Just like they are related to specific companies, and therefore specific trusts and foundations.And this is just one group. There are others.less powerful.But What I am saying is that the masses have no voice, those who are oppressing the masses, have gotten their act together, and we are seeing the results.The institution of the market state,usuping the world.I’m just saying we better get our stories together ,too.occupy the commons.

  14. The Rage

    The “market state” is the abolishment of the bourgeois “nation state” into ownership by capital ownership. This is a natural transition and degeneration of nature that begun in earnest with Christianity.

    The world is getting cut up into market spheres and you can clearly see those spheres. Once the “Nation State” is gone, ownership will be of a private interest detained by the capital owners themselves and whatever goverance they decide to operate in.

    This, the “myth” of the “NWO” isn’t some mythical “international socialist slave state”, but completely the opposite, thus socialism will react by preserving the tribe and the nation state from international capitalism and its global slave states of markets.

    This also confirms the “internet” is a controlled and run by these “globalists”. While filled with some valuable and informative information, it is really just a PR tool to keep the flock in line. You see it through the number of never ending “Satanic/Illumanti” sights. As long as they can keep enough whites in line, they can prosper. If they lose that base, then it could get ugly.

    1. F. Beard

      Nowhere in the Bible will you find support for a government-backed usury for stolen purchasing power cartel.

      That’s a “Progressive” invention?

  15. Jim Shannon

    Rise Up or Die
    “A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.”
    We The People – clearly need to TAX ALL WEALTH above $10,000,000 @ 100%.
    The Ultra Wealthy make all the rules, with one goal in mind, to retain the True Source of ALL POWER – money.
    Chris Hedges is right. WTFU

    1. banger

      This might be a good idea but there is no possible chance of that happening and Hedges knows it. We know we do not live in a rational society–but one that is going crazy right before our eyes. It is not the oligarchs that are the only ones to blame–they are, after all reflecting our collective values aren’t they?

  16. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for the link to Mr Bobbitt’s book, Lambert, and for undertaking a challenging and thought-provoking set of essays. I look forward to reading both the book and your further work.

    Before I read the reviews and a brief excerpt from the book at your link, I had assumed the concept of the “Market State” was basically “Transnational Corporations (including TBTFs) on steroids” in some sort of political reversible “PPPs in spades” arrangement, but where the nation-states remained the dominant players in terms of the rule of law (albeit temporarily corrupted by the kleptocracy in a so far successful effort by the latter group to restore and preserve the status quo that pre-existed before the 2007-09 financial collapse). Now, it appears to me that view does not consider the scope of what is being contemplated.

    One of many questions I have is whether the Eurozone represents a “FAIL” to them as a template, or if the proponents of the Market State will continue to pursue the outcome they desire regardless through such vehicles as the TPP, and disruptive and destructive efforts through markets and the global monetary system, in order to build support for their world view.

    It will be tragic for us all if the ideals of “America” embodied in the Bill of Rights are lost.

    Just some thoughts based on my limited understanding at this time. Thanks, Lambert.

  17. Susan the other

    The Market State takes as much regulation, pro-corporate regulation, as any socialist government ever did – it’s an overwhelming Special Interest Market, that’s all. And they -“the market” – complain about regulations? It’s theft by regulation. Clear back in 1929 the corporations were taking the position that the only way to get out of the depression was to “consume” our way out, i.e. give them the profit they wanted if they were to participate. Back then it was consumerism or socialism. Now it’s pure theft. Because all those “profits” are ponzied on the backs of volunteers of some sort or other.

  18. allcoppedout

    Lambert has something very right in developing up from a real world case – later problems in broadening out usually apply to this method, but let’s wait for what he develops. The Congo and ‘Red Rubber’ may be a good model and obviously still applies to land grabs in the area and elsewhere through such stuff as bent micro-finance.

    What happens when we raise cases is denial by saying these are just abberations of a system that really works very well and only deviant malcontents like us don’t know this. The essence for me is they have broken any ability we may have had to complain effectively.

  19. Min

    One nice thing about the market state:

    People won’t complain about the gov’t anymore. ;)

    1. LifelongLib

      Actually they will. Since what the wealthy fear most is genuine democracy (or “mob rule” as they call it) they and their puppets will keep on demonizing government, no matter how much the government favors them. Anything to prevent average citizens from realizing the importance of government, or what a government that represented average citizens could do.

  20. Jim

    I applaud your effort in this area Lambert (which I take as the begining attempts at an alternative political vision)and will follow along closely as well as throw in some rough critiques of Bobbitt conceptualizations and historical analysis.

    Bobbitt defines the nation-state as the “dominant constitutional order of the 20th century; promising to promote the welfare of its people.”

    Bobbitt defines the market state as the “emerging constitutional order that promises to maximize the opportunity of its people, tending to privatize many state activities and making representative government more responsible to the market.”

    But one cannot understand contemporary market and state structures without coming to grips with the historical evolution of these same structures within particular countries. In large part Bobbitt does not even attempt such a reconstruction—particularly in the U.S. The Bobbitt perspective desperately needs more concrete historical analysis along the lines of Robert Wiebe’s classic “The Search For Order: 1877-1920 or from a different ideological slant–two Richard Bensel studies “Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America: 1858-1877 and The Political Economy of American Industrialization, 1877-1900”

    And exactly how does Bobbitt understand the nature of the more modern state? Bobbitt’s genealogical typology rightly stresses the main differences between premodern and modern statehood He offers definitions of the state-nation, in his eyes a 19th century phenomenon and the nation-state, a 20th century phenomenon. But does he conceive of either the 19th or 20th century states as a central actors in their own own right (as autonomous forces)– and not a mere pawn of class politics—as most people at NC are comfortable assuming(in my opinion erroneously).

    Bobbitt does argue on page 339 of his analysis that “the emergence of the market-state had not occurred in an instant but rather over a couple of decades. Within the most prominent market-states, the groundwork was laid by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who did so much to discredit the welfare rationale for the nation-state”

    But it could just as persuasively be argued that Bobbitt nowhere in his analysis explains the impact of the “free market” on state formation and political power nor does he attempt to explain why the market was just as central to the origins of political modernization as the state (thereby ignoring much of American history and politics from 1860 to 1980).

    1. skippy

      Natural law, or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis), is a system of law that is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal.[1] Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature—both social and personal—and deduce binding rules of moral behavior from it. Natural law is classically contrasted with the positive law of a given political community, society, or state, and thus serves as a standard by which to criticize said positive law.[2] In legal theory, on the other hand, the interpretation of positive law requires some reference to natural law. On this understanding of natural law, natural law can be invoked to criticize judicial decisions about what the law says but not to criticize the best interpretation of the law itself. Some scholars use natural law synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin ius naturale),[3] while others distinguish between natural law and natural right.[1]

      Although natural law is often conflated with common law, the two are distinct in that natural law is a view that certain rights or values are inherent in or universally cognizable by virtue of human reason or human nature, while common law is the legal tradition whereby certain rights or values are legally cognizable by virtue of judicial recognition or articulation.[4] Natural law theories have, however, exercised a profound influence on the development of English common law,[5][full citation needed] and have featured greatly in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Suárez, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, Jean Jacques Burlamaqui, and Emmerich de Vattel. Because of the intersection between natural law and natural rights, it has been cited as a component in the United States Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, as well as in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Declarationism states that the founding of the United States is based on Natural law. – wiki

      skippy… the priori quality of axiom’s comes into view.

      PS. what if they were all jabbering idiots… eh.

  21. Mike

    Really Existing Capitalism or REC

    Really Existing Capitalist Democracy or RECD

    Chomsky uses this frequently, as do others.

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