Monday, August 1, 2016

Was the Rise of Neoliberalism the Root Cause of Extreme Inequality?, by George Monbiot

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. 


George Monbiot is one of the few good journalists still left at the Guardian.

http://evonomics.com/rise-of-neoliberalism-inequality/

Excerpts:

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

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.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.



22 comments:

Matt Franko said...

Neoliberal conspiracy!

Matt Franko said...

"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations."

I thought they were supposed to be monopolists?

Matt Franko said...

"Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. "

The nicest way I can put it: This is a sentence written by a very incompetent person...

Matt Franko said...

This is the only thing worth reading here: " a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution"

True.

Kaivey said...

So you didn't read my post Darwin did you, Matt? Darwin said the opposite of what you believe. People always worked in close knit groups and that's why we have been so successful as a species. Those people who worked in groups that didn't work together very well with died out, this is what Darwin said.

The Right is now finished, their economics theories don't work, their upstanding of human nature is infantile, their science is non science, or rather, nonsense. There is nothing left of their theories, it's all just propaganda to serve the One Percent, held together by umpteen $millons pumped into right wing think tanks and the news media as an investment to make more money back. Global warming denial is a right-wing conspiracy against the public, backed by non science, or rather, nonsense.

Matt Franko said...

Then explain to me how two amoebas cooperated and all of a sudden one of them popped out an eyeball?

Matt Franko said...

Darwin: "survival of the fittest is natural selection ...."

The .1% could simply be speciating....

Matt Franko said...

"People always worked in close knit groups "

Ok, doesn't .1% of a population define a "close knit group"? And you lefty's "neoliberal conspiracy!" is just them "working together ?

The "producers" and "job creators" might just be branching off into a new more superior species than the 99.9% ....

Matt Franko said...

"In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers."

Neanderthals: losers

Homo Habilus: losers

Java Man: losers

Homo Erectus: losers

Zinjanthropus: losers

Cro Magnons: losers

Etc....

Six said...

Neoliberalism is not a conspiracy; it's ubiquitous. It's right out in the open for everyone to see. Portions of it survive or die based on the sales skills of lobbiests and politicians.

Tom Hickey said...

Neoliberalism is the basis of corporatism. Neoliberalism is a political theory that equates political liberalism with economic liberalism, that is, capitalism implies democracy and vice versa.

Neoliberalism is based on free markets, free trade, and free capital flow. It's political stance is economic liberalization, deregulation, and privatization of public resources and assets.

The underlying presumption of neoliberalism is neoclassical economics, which assumes perfect competition without asymmetries so that arbitrage results in general equilibrium in a system in which allocation and distribution are determined by prices in markets.

This is a denial of economic rent, which is the basis of corporatism.

Neoliberalism is based on a sham to dupe the rubes into accepting a playing field tilted toward the top and playing in a casino in which the dice are loaded and the cards are marked.

Neoliberalism is not a conspiracy. It is an institutional design that shaped the current economic system that is politically imposed by elites that have the power to shape the system to serve their interests.

Where the conspiracy comes in is justifying the arrangement either as fair or as the only alternative. Huge amounts of $ get spent on this as will in influencing the political process in other ways.

Matt Franko said...

Maybe it's just applied Darwinism the way this guy describes it...

Why do you guys who think Darwinism is true, when it is taught for decades then people start to apply it... You guys get all indignant or something?

You teach people Evolutionism then they simply apply what they are taught and then you guys act like you are all surprised or something?

Andrew Anderson said...

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.

Not to mention that the rich are the most so-called worthy of government-subsidized private credit?

Why the blindness to the elephant in the room?

Tom Hickey said...

Why do you guys who think Darwinism is true, when it is taught for decades then people start to apply it.

Darwinism is based on natural selection and sexual selection. The DNA of those who are more successful in reproduction has a better chance of being perpetuated. However, natural selection is uncertain owing to emergence. Environmental conditions favor certain trains and disfavor others, so the offspring that have favorable traits, like sandy color in the desert survives and reproduces, while traits that manifest as colors that contrast with the desert rather than been with it get picked off by preditors.

Natural selection has nothing to do with competing for resources and mates as sexual selection does. It's about suitability of inherited traits to conditions. In natural selection organisms do not consciously adapt to the environment. They pass along traits that result in adaptation through the working of "the invisible hand" of Nature acting randomly through natural selection. Now we understand how that works genetically and at the level of molecular biology in terms of RNA transmits information from DNA to form proteins.

Human are combining DHA from all over the world now, producing offspring that will be more or less suited to surviving and reproducing in the future. Since the future is unknown, there is no way to manage this consciously and intentionally.

Anyway, Darwinism is a 19th century idea that is now absorbed into evolutionary theory. Darwin predated Mendel and had understanding of modern genetics and molecular biology.

Ignacio said...

If "the 1%" were branching out they would be increasing their population vs. other humans (then they would no longer be "the 1%", duh). They are not branching out more than the aristocracy was branching out at the XVIII, or the slave master pharaohs 4k years ago. Ignorant rants apart...

Bob said...

Have the .1% compete in gladiatorial contests against members of the lower classes. That would be an example of "applied Darwinism".

Tom Hickey said...

What tends to happen at the top is inbreeding. Ok as long as conditions persist. Not so good historically when conditions shift and adaptation kicks in.

Bob said...

Witness what happened to the Habsburgs.

Kaivey said...

Lizard people.

Tom Hickey said...

I have had the opportunity to know a few of present and former European royalty and aristocrats and they are generally very high level people. Hardly lizard people.

Time has past them by. They preserve the traditions, but they are an an anachronism. Bittersweet.

Interestingly, the former king of Bulgariai came out of retirement when the country switched systems and entered politics, forming a party. His party won the election and he became the first prime minister of the country.

Matt Franko said...

A lot of the 1% think the world is overpopulated... They advocate population control etc... Maybe soon they will advocate sterilization for the 99%...

Kaivey said...

I think the world is overpopulated too. It's something that concerns me. At some stage there won't be any countryside left in the UK. I live in the beautiful greenbelt just outside of London. I might put some videos out about this.