Fortune magazine ponders whether neoliberalism in its home country - the United States - can survive the November elections.
Neoliberalism ...is an economic principle. It refers to the belief that markets should be frictionless and unfettered by things like regulation or organized labor. Neoliberalism has its roots in the Chicago School of economics pioneered by Milton Friedman in the 1970s. The concept found its footing in the 1970s and 80s, with champions like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. It then evolved into a basic economic outlook for major political parties in much of the Western world. Neoliberalism’s stature reached new heights in the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement and British Prime Minister Tony Blair created the “New Labour” movement, moving the Labour Party away from its trade union roots.
Mason argues for what he calls a postcapitalist society. Such a system would include universal basic income; a socialized finance system; increased collaborative work; and increased regulation to prevent the growth of low-wage, low-growth jobs. Imagine if we could all enjoy the benefits that sharing economy companies like Uber offer its participants but companies also paid enough taxes to pay for programs that support those workers.
In an interview from London, Mason was quick to dismiss Trump, calling him “a showman and a charlatan and a racist.” He claims that the rise of Trump is proof that neoliberalism is broken. With people left as adrift as they are, he says, “it’s no surprise that an empty can rises like flotsam.”
Republicans, of course, would never go for Mason’s suggestions; just this month, John Kasich called for the “Uberization” of the federal government. Uber, with its limited rights and benefits for drivers, is in many ways the poster child for the neoliberal dream.
Mason’s book offers a stark portrait of a potential future in which inequality grows to unimaginable heights, leading to social unrest. “I can see within a century the end of the market system as we know it,” Mason says.
That may sound a bit extreme. But in a world where more and more people feel like the economy has flat out left them behind, it would be foolish to disregard what should come next.
We're running into walls, one after another, and these walls are boxing us in, eliminating or narrowing options and choice. Our obsolete modes of organization, the foundations of neoliberalism and globalism, have no settings to deal with overpopulation, over-consumption or climate change. That much is apparent from the manner in which they're based on perpetual, exponential growth. On a finite biosphere, our Spaceship Earth, the limits of growth are sharply defined and yet, instead of organizing ourselves accordingly, we keep resorting to sleight of hand, parlour tricks, that lead to deforestation, desertification, the collapse of major fisheries, the draining of our groundwater resources - on and on and on.
What I fear most is that the failure of our leadership to acknowledge and respond to these issues will lead to mass unrest and a population that's easy prey for the first charismatic despot to come along and feed off their discontent. The fact is that happens more often than not and it only makes a difficult situation enormously worse.