Friday, April 15, 2016

George Monbiot — Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?
The question hits the nail on the head.

The conventional left  propose fixes at the periphery instead of replacing the core with a model of political economy that prioritizes people and the environment ahead of capital (read "wealth") accumulation, unlimited growth, and property "rights" irrespective of distribution and rent extraction.

Neoliberalism = social Darwinism.
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.
Monbiot concludes:
A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.
 But offers no clue about a new vision and how to actualize it. Maybe he does in his new book.
George Monbiot’s How Did We Get into This Mess? is published this month by Verso. To order a copy for £12.99 (RRP £16.99) ) go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.
Anyway, it's a challenge waiting to be picked up.

The Guardian
Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
George Monbiot


Dan Lynch said...

The so-called left was discredited by 70's stagflation and to this day we still have Bill Mitchell and David Fields claiming that unions were to blame for 70's inflation. Milt Friedman must be smiling.

But kudos to Monbiot for talking about the N-word -- neoliberalism.

Warren Ross said...

Dan, you're going to have to prove Bill Mitchell's role in this to me. Do you have a link or backup information?

nivekvb said...

Yes I was surprised too, Bill Mitchell appears to be a bit of a leftie when I read his stuff nowadays.

The so called 'Meritocracy' is really a cover for fascism. It's propaganda.

In the fascist meritocracy 'People get what they deserve', and so the poor get a right hiding, and deserve to be mistreated because they have failed. It's their fault.

Years ago the ruling class exploited the poor, but then democray started to scare them, and they thought that the Russian Communist revolution might occur here too. So they started conceding to people's demands for more democracy and for better working conditions. But we only got a little bit of democracy as they controlled everything behind the scenes.

So the Middle Class grew because they were allowed to have unions, and to have better wages. And then we got state education and so people became much better educated. Now the ruling class were able to use the propaganda of the 'meritocracy' with much more affect.

As we all got a reasonable education then it could only be our fault if we didn't succeed in life - so it was said. And millions of people amongst the Working and Middleclass believed it. They forgot about the NHS which might be the only reason they were alive today, or the state education system which gave them a massive leg up, and so they voted Tory.

Then the Soviet Union collapsed and globalization came about. And so ruling class did not need to worry about democracy so much anymore. So they hammered the unions and jobs were sent abroad.

Youngsters nowadays go for jobs and when they don't get them they think that it was their fault, even though thousands of people might have applied for it. They think they were not good enough and that's why they didn't get the job. They think they did a bad interview, or didn't have the best exam grades, or were just not good enough people anyway. Most don't blame the society they live in even though the tables are tilted and the game is rigged.

The massive propaganda machine of the mega rich worked, and millions of people today buy newspapers like, The Sun, or the Express, or The Mail, which tell them that Old Labour doesn't listen to poor people, and is full of lefties who are very bad people, like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were.

This was put together in my tiny mobile phone, there might be some mistakes.

Simsalablunder said...

"Bill Mitchell ……… claiming that unions were to blame for 70's inflation."

That's a misrepresentation of what Bill says. He says that a number of things added up and brought the 70's inflation, where unions where one part of it as they are the outcome of the capitalistic system and react upon what it delivers.

So unions did what they're supposed to do in a capitalistic system, but that doesn't hinder that the outcome of that can reinforce inflation.

Could unions done things differently? I don't know given what they knew at the time and how beset they were by both the owner elites and governments, but there is at least something to learn from that time period by looking at it in detail and as broadly as possibly.

Bob said...

Could unions done things differently?

They could have tried to be more 'enlightened', attempting to see the bigger picture. In other words, they could have acted as they act today - as an arm of management.

The current system is adversarial, like a boxing match. There is no possibility of two boxers showing up for a match and refusing to fight. That's not how boxing or capitalism works. Removing its adversarial nature requires changing the rules and the incentives that drive it.

Much ado about inflation...
Have you seen a cat or a dog chase its own tail? It's rather amusing, but I prefer to have full employment with inflation than a race to the bottom. I may prefer price controls.

The chattering classes on the Left are obsessed with their ideology. People blaming themselves for systemic problems are doing so for pragmatic reasons. If you don't improve yourself to land that job or succeed in the marketplace, then you (and your family) will end up at the bottom of the heap.

There are those who wish the peasants would blame themselves out of ideological belief. That would be the hallmark of a perfect tyranny. But that is a fantasy, shared only by the ivory tower Left and their archenemy.

The greatest gift 'the Left' could give to society is to go away.

Tom Hickey said...

As I recall, and I am old enough to do so, the unions were run by crime bosses. It was an unsavory time, and the public finally got tired of it. It's not like Reagan just came in and cracked heads. The unions had lost a lot of public support — even among union members who were appalled by the antics.

Bob said...

They're still in league with organized crime to this day. Unions lost their power, in terms of being willing and able to protect workers, a long time ago. They lost their purpose. Other factors, such as globalization, accelerated their decline.

Calgacus said...

As I recall, and I am old enough to do so, the unions were run by crime bosses. It was an unsavory time, and the public finally got tired of it.

Be serious. A few unions & their leaders were connected to organized crime. The great majority weren't, and were a major factor in the shared prosperity of the postwar era. On a tangent - Thomas Frank's new book, Listen Liberal is excellent on how the Dems turned from union, working class roots in the 70s. The more recent role of the Federal government is instructive. Ron Carey & the TDU try to clean up the Teamsters & they win strikes. The Feds respond by indicting reformers on ham-sandwich charges & connive to put a Hoffa back in, where he remains.

Tom Hickey said...

It may not have been a correct perception, but that was the perception then. It was not overcome and the rest is history after Reagan. I don't think that unions have overcome it to this day.

Neoliberalism as the dominant political theory, a theory based on a market state being optimal and a welfare state being worse than suboptimal, has been the dominant political theory since, one of the few evidences of bipartisanism.

Bob said...

They still are:

The findings of the Charbonneau Commsission were interesting to say the least, but it was known beforehand that the large construction unions were corrupt.

Acting as an arm of management while (mis)managing union funds is what "organized labour" has been reduced to. If labour is to regain power, all of this detritus must be swept away.