We hear a lot these days about how liberal democracy is in decline. Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, even the United States are drifting into authoritarianism.
What if it's not some inevitable failure of liberal democracy? What if this outcome has been engineered from the beginning of the neoliberal era in the days of Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney? That's how George Monbiot sees it.
Since the 1950s, an infrastructure of persuasion has been built, whose purpose is to supplant civic power with the power of money. The model was developed by two fanatical disciples of Friedrich Hayek, the father of neoliberalism: Antony Fisher and Oliver Smedley. They knew it was essential to disguise their intentions. While founding the Institute of Economic Affairs, the first of the thinktanks whose purpose was to spread Hayek’s gospel, Smedley reminded Fisher it was “imperative that we should give no indication in our literature that we are working to educate the Public along certain lines … That is why the first draft [of our aims] is written in rather cagey terms.”
The institute, and the other lobby groups Fisher founded, honed the arguments that would be used to strip down the state, curtail public welfare and public protection, and restrict and undermine other forms of social cohesion, releasing the ultra-rich from the constraints of democracy. Unsurprisingly, some of the richest people on Earth poured cash into his project.
His groups translated Hayek’s ideas, seen by many as repulsive, into a new political common sense – producing the reframings and justifications on which Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan built their revolutions.Monbiot identifies a thinktank, Policy Exchange, that has the wheel steering Boris Johnson to centralize power where it can be most easily manipulated, inside the prime minister's office behind the black door of No. 10.