How Neoliberalism Ate Itself and What Comes Next.
Richard Denniss should be read by everyone who wants a straight forward understanding of “the economy” and the politics that determine economic direction. I read his earlier book Econobabble two years ago, and when writing about it on this blog I started my post with: “I wish everyone could and would read this book. It cuts right through the economic spin at the heart of all of the political dogma we’re subjected to every day.”
I make the same recommendation for Dead Right.
He writes ” You can’t have democracy without politicians. You can’t do the things the public wants without a government bureaucracy. And you can’t fund those policies without tax revenue.”
Since the 1980s neoliberalism has become the dominant ideology directing western politics. Introduced during the hyper-conservative Reagan and Thatcher years, it even affected (infected?) the policies of the nominally left-wing Australian Labor government of the time.
Governments cut tax rates and divested themselves of public services and assets, claiming that the private sector could run services more efficiently and cost effectively. It’s a practice that has returned to bite the Australian public on multiple occasions, including the exponential rise of power prices, as profit rather than service was always the inevitable outcome of privatising essential services. But blame for the cause of the rise of prices is redirected:
…while the outsize profits are of no concern to neoliberals, the smallest hint of wage growth leads to demands that wages be kept low lest they drive prices up, unemployment down and render us “uncompetitive.” Apparently when worker’s incomes rise, it comes at the expense of consumers, but when the owner’s income rises, it comes from…thin air
A question we need to consider is what the aim of our political process should be and what benefit do we desire from our political processes.
Do we want what is best for the whole of society or just for one part of society?
Does “society” even exist?
Or not, as according to Margaret Thatcher.
If not, what would that suggest about any responsibility we may have towards those around us. Would politics therefore become an arena for the survival of the “fittest”, where profit or perish becomes the driving ideology, and “victimhood” is the product of the “victims” own behaviour?
…its genius is to convince us… If we want to end unemployment, we must punish the unemployed for their sloth. If we want to protect what we have, we must first puinish refugees for their greed.
Growth is a beautiful word, but neoliberalism has defined it in the ugliest of ways. Of course we want our children, our gardens and our country to grow and be strong, but we are told that to make our economy grow we must be ever-vigilante against those in need. Yet after thirty years of blaming the unemployed for their unemployment, and single mothers for their absent partners, the prosperity we were promised has yet to arrive for large sections of the population. indeed, many of the communities and regions that were asked to make the biggest sacrifices in the name of National Competition Policy have seen the smallest gains. While the national income has risen steadily for twenty seven years, the incomes of many in our nation have not…
One could be forgiven for thinking that those speaking the language of neoliberalism were never trying to enlarge our society – they were trying to control it.