Sunday, April 19, 2020

What Was It Again? Oh Yeah, This Changes Everything. Right.

If you read the funny papers you've probably come across several op-eds arguing that, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic or in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the depression that will follow or in the wake of Covid-19 and the depression and the climate breakdown that will follow we will abandon our wicked ways, the snake headed Hydra of neoliberalism, and embark on a new path, some new world order to guide humanity through the 21st century.

It's all a bit like going to a revival meeting in a prayer tent out in some farmer's field.

The arguments for abandoning the old ways, the neoliberal order, seem sound. Hell, they've been sound for 15, probably 20 years, maybe even more. And, yes, it's been a wild ride, with some major ups and some major catastrophes. And it's still here. It's still here. The great Canadian public intellectual, John Ralston Saul, wrote neoliberalism's obituary in his book, "The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World," in 2005.  Well, if neoliberalism was dead as JRS claimed 15 years ago, it didn't get the memo.

In 2012, Nobel laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz, wrote "The Price of Inequality, How Today's Divided Society Endangers our Future."  The former World Bank chief economist, Stiglitz has a lifetime of work focusing on inequality and its consequences. He demonstrates that inequality today is not a merit-based phenomenon. It is a legislated outcome. The people we elect have engineered the rise of the few at the direct cost of those at the bottom. It occurs in a myriad of ways, often subtle and unnoticed, and it inflicts a myriad of costs as hard as concrete. How often, in the name of remaining competitive, has a Canadian government imported economic policies from another country that were intended plainly to benefit the few at the cost of the many?

I mention "The Price of Inequality" because it's much easier to sense that something is wrong than it is to understand what's wrong and where it all went wrong. Even though Stiglitz' book is now eight years since publication it provides an essential foundation of what we must do to restore progressive democracy.

We have to become moderately well versed in what happened when Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney ushered in neoliberalism and the consequences inflicted on all of us. Before you can get rid of something as pervasive as neoliberalism you need an idea of what it is you want to replace it. There has to be a critical mass of demand for something else. If everybody wants something different and we can't get past that to form a powerful consensus, we will remain powerless to effect change. That was the fundamental flaw of the Occupy Movement. They had a list of grievances they wanted remedied but no agenda, no manifesto for change. There was no objective and so Occupy simply faded away.

We need to start thinking about what sort of society we want, what we want for our grandchildren. When you know where you want to go then, and only then, can you bring on change. I don't take exception with the arguments for a new world order in these op-eds but they won't get us where we need to go.


John B. said...

When we started listening to the libertarians and their lying economists, did we stop doing some things that we were doing in ways that were worth doing them because of what they told us? If that's the case, whether we go straight ahead or a little back first, we're not lost yet because at least now we should know enough to look both ways when we start.

Trailblazer said...

did we stop doing some things that we were doing in ways that were worth doing them because of what they told us?

We sure did; everything from moving manufacturing overseas to importing farm labor because we are too good for that work.
Add that farm land is more profitable when used for housing, the list is endless.
Perhaps Naomi Klein should rename her book This 'should' change everything but it won't?
So far the only back lash from the effects of covid19 are the right wing nut jobs in the US demanding an end to restrictions; go figure.


The Disaffected Lib said...

John, what I find so important in "The Price of Inequality" is Stiglitz' detailed account of how our political caste became compromised and succumbed to this new order, mainly out of cowardice. Gradually they came to work for the special interest instead of the public interest.

That happened in parallel in the corporate media where there was a transition from the "watchdog of politics" to the "lapdog of politics." The media switched sides, itself a betrayal.

The Disaffected Lib said...

I wish the Covid-19 'nutjobs' were a strictly American phenomenon, TB. From what I've seen there's a virulent strain of the same thinking among a segment of our own population. Like the American experience they're still a fringe but for how long?