Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank – I’m familiar with them all but it turns out that if you want real red in tooth and claw writing you should turn to the French. I’ve been reading Alain Bihr’s frankly Marxist Neoliberal Newspeak and it’s strong stuff. Essentially, any kind of exchange between people is exploitation. It’s quite frustrating to find out that all your life you’ve been both a helpless, pathetic pawn and a bloodsucking plutocrat. Marxists have the answer to everything: whatever way you turn you run into Marxism. In fact, its one-size-fits-all model is nearly as annoying as neoliberalism’s “There is no alternative.”
Some of Bihr’s theses are frankly ludicrous. For example, he claims that pension funds are a gigantic scam. According to Bihr, this rational and reasonable response to the demographic timebomb that is ticking away ever louder leads to greater inequality in society.
By an enormous fluke, I happen to be reading this book as the first wave of post-pension reform Poles retire to enjoy the fruits of the money they wisely invested in the pension funds that have been performing so handsomely lately. Plastered over the newspapers has been the news that the first pension paid out in this way amounted to just over 20 zloties a month (a pizza and a coke but the state is making up the difference). This twilight-years bonanza is being enjoyed by a woman who over the ten years in which the pension funds have been in operation managed to pay nearly 6,000 zloties into her fund. Gazeta Wyborcza – the same paper that admitted the pension funds have lost half of their value in the last few months – informs us with a straight face that if she had paid in 60,000 she would be in receipt of just over 200 zloties (one fifteenth of the alleged national average pay). Or in other words: if she were richer she would be richer.
You really don’t want to know what Bihr has to say about public debt…