Skip to main content

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

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?

by George Monbiot

PART 2

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal. But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.

At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes’s economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.

But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change ... there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”. With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.

Source:


Read also:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How neoliberalism manufactured consent to secure its unlimited power

From David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Part 3 - The corporate-backed institutions behind the rapid and artificial ideological transformation of the American society in favor of neoliberalism
In the US case I begin with a confidential memo sent by Lewis Powell to the US Chamber of Commerce in August 1971. Powell, about to be elevated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, argued that criticism of and opposition to the US free enterprise system had gone too far and that ‘the time had come –– indeed it is long overdue –– for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it’. Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. ‘Strength’, he wrote, ‘lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and n…

Mystery solved: here's why the Western mainstream media suddenly 'discovered' the war in Yemen

globinfo freexchange
Why it took so long for the Western mainstream media to 'discover' the war in Yemen and the war crimes committed by the Saudi coalition in full co-operation with the US?
One might think that the humanitarian disaster there - caused also by the blockade of goods for the relief of the civilians - has become so obvious, condemned multiple times by the UN, that the media finally forced to speak about it.
In previous article we attempted to explain the 'unexplained phenomenon' and the fact that CNN surprisingly returned to the issue to openly condemn the US support to the Saudi coalition atrocities against civilians in Yemen.
Yet, despite that the Saudi regimes have been, traditionally, the best allies of the Western neocolonialists, this time, the US had serious reasons to overthrow the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). And, surprisingly enough, at the center of this underground conflict lies an attempt by the US to privatize Aramco, Saudi Arab…

CIA had an agent at a newspaper in every world capital at least since 1977

Joel Whitney is a co-founder of the magazine Guernica, a magazine of global arts and politics, and has written for many publications, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. His book Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers describes how the CIA contributed funds to numerous respected magazines during the Cold War, including the Paris Review, to subtly promote anti-communist views. In their conversation, Whitney tells Robert Scheer about the ties the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom had with literary magazines. He talks about the CIA's attempt during the Cold War to have at least one agent in every major news organization in order to get stories killed if they were too critical or get them to run if they were favorable to the agency. And they discuss the overstatement of the immediate risks and dangers of communist regimes during the Cold War, which, initially, led many people to support the Vietnam War.
globinfo freexchange
James Jesus Angleton wa…

Recent US elections confirmed that progressives will have to fight two monsters at once: Donald Trump and corporate Democrats

failed evolution
Nancy Pelosi's speech after Democrats took the House in recent US elections was not just a huge disappointment. Many progressives became furious about her empty speech, which was full of the most obsolete political generalities and cliches.
But it was not just that Pelosi didn't want to committ that Democrats will fight for specific issues - in favor of the vast majority of Americans - that returned in the political debate by Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement.
She actually 'gave the finger' to the progressives straight and clear.
If you don't believe it, just check her own words: “... we will strive for bipartisanship. [...] we have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong ...
Translation: ‘We will do business as usual. The bipartisan dictatorship will remain strong and under the control of the plutocratic elite. Nothing will change, don't bother.
That's all you need to know.
Here is another evidence that the c…

In 1961, US experts knew that the Soviets had only four ICBMs

globinfo freexchange
In a discussion with Paul Jay of the Real News, Daniel Ellsberg revealed that the US discovered - through a top-secret operation -that the USSR had only four(!) ICBMs back in 1961. This meant that the Soviets were very far from becoming a serious threat for the West. However, the false picture of the 'Soviet threat' remained powerful in order to permit the US to justify its frenzy nuclear armament race.
Ellsberg explains:
The estimate of 40 to 60 [Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles] - which was pretty much in 1962 at the time of the missile crisis based on a lot of satellite photography - was much lower than was estimated earlier, from ‘58, ‘59, ‘60.
The Air Force had a higher estimate. Even the CIA official estimate in 1961 was well over 100. The State Department estimated like 160. The Air Force was much higher than that. And in August of 1961, the then commander of Strategic Air Command, Thomas Power, believed that there were then 1000 Soviet ICBMs…

Trump proves he is completely clueless on what's the real reason behind the mass layoffs epidemic in big businesses and how to deal with it

globinfo freexchange
Donald Trump's response to recent General Motors' decision to close plants and slash jobs, proves that he is completely clueless on what's the real reason behind the mass layoffs epidemic in US big businesses and how to deal with it.
The media circulated what Trump thinks to do about it, including threats against GM to impose auto tariffs, or, his most beloved action: penalties on foreign cars.
Yet, perhaps the most hilarious part in the whole story, is that one of the key frontline tools of the global neoliberal capital immediately published an 'in your face' article to make Trump realize that he is completely powerless too, against the forces of the markets. Here are some interesting parts:
... market forces are tough to beat, even if you’re president. Trump captured the White House thanks in large part to the story he told -- that he could reverse America’s industrial decline. He promised to bring back manufacturing and fossil-fuel j…

Another US slow motion coup in Latin America: astonishing details on how the neoliberal-fascist complex destroyed Leftist leaders in Brazil and brought Jair Bolsonaro to power

globinfo freexchange
Greg Wilpert of the RealNews, spoke with Brian Mier, editor for the website Brasil Wire, about the recent developments after right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro won the presidential election in Brazil.
Mier revealed astonishing details on how the neoliberal-fascist complex in Brazil (fully backed by the US), undermined and destroyed the most popular leaders of the Workers' Party (PT), Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff and even Fernando Haddad, in order to bring Jair Bolsonaro to power.
The purpose of this slow motion coup was what has been always for the US empire, especially in Latin America: to secure and broaden the absolute domination of the US and the Western corporate monopolies and destroy any Leftist resistance against the neoliberal status quo.
As Mier explained:
On the eve of the Supreme Court decision - which ruled on whether Lula should be imprisoned or not, exceptionally, in a moment when his appeals were still going on, contrary to hundreds of other poli…

How neoliberalism manufactured consent to secure its unlimited power

From David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Part 4 - Neoliberalism's second big experiment after Chile: the financial coup by the banking mafia to take over New York
One line of response to the double crisis of capital accumulation and class power arose in the trenches of the urban struggles of the 1970s. The New York City fiscal crisis was an iconic case. Capitalist restructuring and deindustrialization had for several years been eroding the economic base of the city, and rapid suburbanization had left much of the central city impoverished. The result was explosive social unrest on the part of marginalized populations during the 1960s, defining what came to be known as ‘the urban crisis’ (similar problems emerged in many US cities).
The expansion of public employment and public provision –– facilitated in part by generous federal funding –– was seen as the solution. But, faced with fiscal difficulties, President Nixon simply declared the urban crisis over in the early 1…

Exploiting Khashoggi's assassination: the neoliberal predators hang over Saudi Arabia

globinfo freexchange
A month ago we gathered some information to explain the sudden 180 degrees hostile turn by the Western neoliberal status quo against the current Saudi regime.
We discovered that the US corporate dictatorship and the Wall Street mafia heavily invested on the rapid neoliberalization of the Saudi Arabian economy, with the privatization of the state-owned oil company Aramco at the heart of this plan. Suddenly, Mohammed bin Salman decided to step back from the deal.
It would be worth to note that Aramco was standing at the top of the global list of the largest oil and gas companies for 2017 with a revenue of 465.49 billion US dollars.
It seems that the neoliberal regime didn't abort its plans concerning Saudi Arabia and silently seeks to "replace" bin Salman with a more faithful puppet, exploiting, of course, the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
Digging a little bit more, we found plenty of evidence in the Western mainstream media, in recent years, showing …

How neoliberalism manufactured consent to secure its unlimited power

From David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Part 1 - Construction of political consent across a sufficiently large spectrum of the population
How was neoliberalization accomplished, and by whom? The answer in countries such as Chile and Argentina in the 1970s was as simple as it was swift, brutal, and sure: a military coup backed by the traditional upper classes (as well as by the US government), followed by the fierce repression of all solidarities created within the labour and urban social movements which had so threatened their power.
But the neoliberal revolution usually attributed to Thatcher and Reagan after 1979 had to be accomplished by democratic means. For a shift of this magnitude to occur required the prior construction of political consent across a sufficiently large spectrum of the population to win elections. What Gramsci calls ‘common sense’ (defined as ‘the sense held in common’) typically grounds consent.
Common sense is constructed out of long-standing pr…