Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Monbiot Tackles Neoliberalism's Death Grip on the West



Neoliberalism has been the default operating system of western governments, Canada included, since it was ushered in during the Thatcher/Reagan/Mulroney era.

Justin Trudeau is a neoliberal as were his predecessors over the last three decades.  Canada remains in the clutches of neoliberalism and no one, no leader, no party is putting forward an alternative vision.

We see the muddy footprints of neoliberalism in the latest news about how most of the new jobs in Canada are low wage, real precariat stuff and how huge our monthly trade deficits have become. We make increasingly less of the stuff we want to buy and foreign demand for the stuff we do make isn't great enough to even the books. No wonder Slick is so desperate to build bitumen pipelines to the coast. Silly bugger.

In today's Guardian, George Monbiot argues that neoliberalism is what has put America's democracy in such dire peril.

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.


[Hayek] begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.


...Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

...As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.



4 comments:

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Neoliberal policies Mound, domestic and gLobal have been implemented, especially in the last decade without uttering the word neoliberalism. The government, corporations and MSM secrecy surrounding the true nature of these policies, has been neoliberalist's greatest power.

Changing a democratic government to a market government covertly is somewhat like creating a long government enabled neoliberal coup.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Pam, neoliberalism is the silent killer. It destroys social cohesion, pitting citizen against citizen. It lays waste to the middle class and any notions of meaningful social mobility. It is the engine of political, social and economic inequality.

Ben Burd said...

Of course the height of silliness is tha front runner in the French election - some Catholic guy whose name I forgot but wants to do all the usual NL stuf - lower corporate taxes, fire a million civil servants increase the work week and much more.

The real stupidity is that because of the incompetence of the socialists and the fear of the Nationalists he will probably win.

What a disgusting choice for the voters - where is the 'none of the above' button in this one?

Anonymous said...

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, , was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

Searched the WWW no confirmation of the story.
or so the story goes ;Is tantamount to false news the buzzword of 2016.

TB