Wednesday, November 04, 2015
We're All Neoliberals Now. Let's Change That.
One thing that struck home during our extended election campaign was how our mainstream political parties have become deeply invested in neoliberalism. While it has several descriptions, reflective of its insidious vagueness, neoliberalism is the merger of political and economic ideology most often called "free market fundamentalism." It is a sort of merger of political and commercial/corporate powers usually born out of the surrender of incidents of political sovereignty through multi-national financial and trade agreements.
It's a process akin to the tactics of a boa constrictor whose victims often fail to realize the severity of their predicament until its too late. That's an apt analogy for how we have, for decades, been conditioned to our role as prey.
Neoliberals have been very successful in conditioning a large segment of the electorate to see themselves as 'taxpayers' rather than 'citizens,' a feat that isolates them from public debate beyond how government impacts their wallets and readies them to accept 'transactional democracy,' where money dictates policy for the powerful often at the expense of everyone else.
Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, explores legislated inequality in his book, "The Price of Inequality." Modern inequality, he explains, is neither market nor merit-based to any significant degree. It is legislated and comes in a plethora of forms from tax treatment (exemptions, reductions, deferrals), to grants and subsidies, to the transfer of public resources at far less than market value. The 'taxpayer' public is particularly blind to these government giveaway programmes having been groomed to venerate the rich as the "job creators" whose success "trickles down" to the masses. In reality cooperative lawmakers ensure that the nation's wealth actually "trickles up" to those who least deserve it. It is a malignancy known as "rent-seeking."
Another triumph of neoliberalism has been in conditioning working class Canadians, white and blue collar, to support capital over labour and acquiesce to the decline of unionism. For all the legitimate criticisms of the union movement, it has been freely demonized by the neoliberals and their political minions as regressive and an economic scourge. We've lost sight of the role unions play as the cornerstone of a healthy, robust middle class, the ladder of social mobility, and a vehicle to maintain the balance between labour and capital without which inequality flourishes.
We have been conditioned, groomed, to be submissive to neoliberalism, powerless, incapable even of rallying to our own defence. Harnessed to the myths and scourges of neoliberal ideology, we are clearing the path for increasing inequality and the corrosion of social cohesion and it's a road that leads to illiberal democracy and a gradual rise of economic feudalism.
The legacy of Stephen Harper will be how well he moved us down this path during his decade in power. It's a legacy he shared with his collaborators, Layton, Mulcair and Ignatieff.
It's time we charted a new path while that option is still open to us.
I strongly urge you to watch this Days of Revolt interview.