Friday 26 August 2016
Like rust the insidious hand of neoliberalism spreads itself through every dimension of society.
Neoliberalism is an often used term but what does it mean? Most people I think use it to describe what they see as the new right. The extremes of liberalism of conservatism. But are they correct.
In a piece titled ‘Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems‘ (The Guardian, April 16, 2016) George Monbiot attempts to define an elusive ideology.
Such are its many facets that describing it as a singular ideology by bringing all its concepts together is difficult. At one point he says:
“Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?”
In this very expansive, even worrying work Monbiot suggests that we are ignorant of Neoliberalism mainly because its components work separately and because they do we treat every facet in isolation and therefore fail to recognise its harm as a political philosophy.
“So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power”.
He goes on to explain Neoliberalism’s effect on growing inequality.
“Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve”.
“Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty”.
So insidious is Neoliberalism that I cannot guarantee that after reading this engrossing essay you will know exactly what Neoliberalism is but I can guarantee that you will have a greater understanding.
I cannot be sure if Stephen Tardrew, a commentator and thinker on this blog has read Mobiot’s piece but this comment he posted in response to my writing on Wednesday very aptly sums it up:
“When a political movement forgets the people leaving them to their own devices while extracting every bit of wealth for themselves the outcome is predictable. Your kindness and tolerance shines through however we are dealing with the dogmatic and intolerant fully immersed in a magical, mythical realm of judgement, blame and retribution. The obvious facts are they simply get worse as Labor leans more and more right embracing Thatcher and Reagan’s dystopian neoliberal lies. We cannot event stand against absurd wars destroying the fabric of the world simply for greed and political hubris sanctimoniously labelled democracy. Democracy my arse.
Unfortunately the rot is deep and to look to conservatives for meaningful change and stability is a total waste of time. No-liberalism is inherently unstable leading to endless cycles of boom and bust. Who may I ask is challenging this entrenched farce? Economics is not a science it is what the ruling elites can shape into a system of inequality with themselves way at the top. Labor seems to have learned well.’’
Turnbull is Faust and beyond redemption because we, and in fact he, no longer know who the hell he is. One thing is certain he will surely sell his soul for power. Moral people make a stand. He is lost.
Many very informed academics have been trying to get Labor and the Greens interested in Modern Monetary Theory which offers a viable alternative whose chief advocates in Australia are Professor Bill Mitchell, Steve Hail and AIMN with the many post by John B Kelly.
The Labor right is unshakably neoliberal and have not offered a viable alternative to supply side trickle down economics. Shifting the deck chairs is no solution. The debt myth and balanced budget are a recipe for recession, shrinkage and boom/bust not growth.
The empirical evidence is in however this investment in an economic theory that only increases inequality cannot bring about real change. The point is forty years of failure must be telling us something.
We can have a job guarantee and literal zero unemployment which would provide the capital for aged pension, disabilities, homelessness etc. There would be huge savings for a job guarantee feeding jobs into the private sector as low income spending stimulates the economy and consumption. Whitlam would turn in his grave at the lack of innovation and viable revisionary social policy.
Labor has been stuck for decades in a system of lies and until it breaks out all we will get is nominal improvements in some social sectors until the conservatives get back in and wipe them out. That is not structural change that is habituated thoughtless conformity.
Labor party members can either rise to the challenge or pretend Labor’s minimal policy adjustments is any sort of real structural change. Time is running out for the low income, poor and marginalised while the architecture of the system remains locked into supply side stupidity”.
My thought for the day.
“The word ‘frugality‘ is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying and a consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things”.