Back by popular demand: “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems.”


After reading yesterday’s ON THE AVENUES …

ON THE AVENUES: I can only handle one resistance at a time, please.

 … a regular offered this comment.

With respect, you can’t just throw out the term neo-liberal without explanation. It denotes more than simply accommodationist centrists. And you take as a given that it is a failed enterprise. That you read The Economist does not mean that NAC is comprehensible to your readers. You need to prep a primer.

It’s a fair point, and as a reminder to myself to assemble a more comprehensive primer, following is a repeat of a post from April 18, 2016. It links to a commentary by George Monbiot, one that I believe is a good place to begin. If memory serves, Monbiot’s essay was one of the most read at The Guardian in 2016.

Think of it as a concise explanation of how both “major” American political parties are playing the very same hand, operating from the very same fundamental economic assumptions. 

Yes, in a few quantifiable ways, Democrats and Republicans differ on social issues, which have been elevated into culture wars, which in turn keep the 99% at each other’s throats while the fundamental assumptions remain unchanged.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems, by George Monbiot (The Guardian)

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.