Let's begin with this ABC News story. It reports that OceanGate Expeditions, the Bahamas-based company behind the American-made Titan, the submersible that experienced a "catastrophic implosion" during a trip to the ghost of the Titanic, once claimed on its website close partnerships with NASA, Boeing, and the University of Washington.

Two of these institutions are run by the state; one, Boeing, can be considered what the economists of the Non-Alignment era described as a parastatal organization. It is curious that OceanGate, a company that proudly rejected regulations, denounced safety as "pure waste," and praised risk as the real motor of innovations, made its "collaboration [with] experts" at red-tape-burdened state institutions a selling point. But more about this telling curiosity in a moment. For now, let's read what the University of Washington had to say about this collaboration with OceanGate.

Kevin Williams, the executive director of the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory, told ABC News:

The University's and Laboratory's engineering partnership with OceanGate ended with the completion of the shallow water vessel CYCLOPS, which served as a test platform for OceanGate since 2015... Because APL-UW expertise involved only shallow water implementation, the Laboratory was not involved in the design, engineering or testing of the TITAN submersible used in the RMS TITANIC expedition.

The Cyclops can only reach a depth of 1,300 feet (400 meters); the Titan targeted a depth of 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). 

Boeing and NASA also made similar statements to ABC. They had little to nothing to do with the Titan and the dead it sent to the Titanic.

How to make sense of this mess? Titan's tourists, one of whom was a billionaire; the vessel's operator, a businessman; OceanGate's now deceased CEO, a pro-risk fanatic; the near absence of rigorous standards in the design of the craft; the obscene cost of the trip: $250,000; the false advertising; the liability waivers signed by the doomed men. What kind of meaning can be drawn from these and other fragments related to this week's biggest story? I want to point to an essay posted by the New Left Review only two days before contact was forever lost with Titan: "Strategies of Denial" by Grey Anderson. 

Before explaining the writer's reading of the current state of American capitalism, it's useful to see the period between the crash of 2008 and the 2020 presidential election as distinct from the one between 1979 and 2007 and the one between 2020 to today. This middle period is something of a twilight filled with the zombies of an economic orthodoxy that was discredited by the bank bailout of 2008, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Before this period, Wall Street, which ran the Federal Bank and the Treasury, demanded complete independence from the state and its red tape. During this middle period, it was saved by the state but continued to assert its independence. After this period, the state sets into motion policies that go in the opposite direction of Wall Street orthodoxy. 

With this in mind, let's return to Grey Anderson's New Left Review article. He makes this bold but convincing argument: Biden's Administration abandoned neoliberalism because its key policies, which ruled global economics since the late 1970s, made the US less effective in the race against its key competitor, China. China's economy is directed by the state. The US's economy was directed by a market ideology that weakened regulations, blocked state interventions in all other sectors of the economy but finance, and placed shareholder value far above costly research and development. This program has led to China's leadership in electric vehicles, solar power, and hi-tech.

Anderson quotes from a speech delivered by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during the 2020 presidential campaign:

The growing competition with China and shifts in the international political and economic order should provoke a similar instinct within the contemporary foreign-policy establishment. Today’s national security experts need to move beyond the prevailing neoliberal economic philosophy of the past forty years… The US national security community is rightly beginning to insist on the investments in infrastructure, technology, innovation, and education that will determine the United States’ long-term competitiveness vis-à-vis China.

And so we are returning to Keynesian economics. The survival of the state is more important than the profits of Wall Street. Biden wants Americans to go to school and learn how to make things again. Biden also wants to resurrect what economists of capitalism's golden age ("...from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to the early 1970s") called industrial policy, which takes the popular form of "Made in America." The thinking behind this renewal of state interventionism is very clear, according to Anderson. It associates economic development with military power. In these new times, social Keynesian policies (investments in science, education, and infrastructure) are making their return by way of the Pentagon. Because of China, the concerns of the US military have displaced those of market fundamentalism. "In Washington," writes Anderson, "the music is [now] military."

My meaning will be understood if the New Left Review's essay is connected with this headline in the Wall Street Journal: "U.S. Navy Heard What It Believed Was Titan Implosion Days Ago." Nothing could be more neoliberal than the Titan, the ravings of its dead CEO, its form of tourism, billionaire tourism.