Skip to main content

Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph

How a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues killed choice and destroyed people’s faith in politics

by George Monbiot

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are “scouts”, “experimenting with new styles of living”, who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these “independents” to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: “the idle rich”, who don’t have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing “fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs”. Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but “aimless display”, they are in fact acting as society’s vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is “an overwhelming case against a free health service for all” and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics.

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek’s doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world’s richest people and businesses, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy. Hayek’s triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair’s expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had regulated the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn’t possess a narrative either (except “hope”), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish. The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

Source and links:


Related:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Confirmed: Alex Jones' popularity rises after Infowars banning from social media

globinfo freexchange
We wouldn't expect to be confirmed so fast on this.
A few days ago in the article IT and social media supergiants have just made Alex Jones a hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience, we wrote that Alex Jones' wet dream has just become reality thanks to the combined move by Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify to ban Infowars. These private IT and social media companies couldn't give a better gift to him right now. At a time where Infowars was going through a saturated period according to the best scenario, the corporate giants actually saved it with that stupid(?) strategy.
Suddenly, a corporate branch of the liberal establishment gave real value to Alex Jones' awful performance, pretending to be the 'anti-establishment' hero - just like Donald Trump - and made him a real hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience that has been brainwashed by his absurd conspiracy theories.
Only a couple of days later, Kyle Kulinski of the…

Corporate media begin typical operations to make progressives comply with the establishment

The operations will multiply and become more aggressive towards 2020
globinfo freexchange
Corporate media of the ultra-conservative side made already a ridiculous attempt to present Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as totally unreliable. In the video, TYT hosts analyze very well the specific strategy followed by Conservative Review TV.
The strategy is quite simple: you create a fake video, you upload it on social media and after being watched by thousands you admit that it was created for satire purposes. Yet, the propaganda will be definitely effective because only a small portion will notice that this was satire. Most of the viewers (especially from the conservative audience that has been heavily brainwashed for decades to love corporate America and believe whatever comes from the Fox apparatus) will believe whatever transmitted from the ultra-conservative propaganda machine.
But the corporate media of the liberal side have a very big problem right now. It is almost impossible to start an open …

‘I knew and approved the assassination of Maduro’ claims TV show host

globinfo freexchange
Peruvian journalist Jaime Bayly claimed in his TV show Bayly, that he was aware and had personally approved the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"My reliable sources have called me and told me 'on Saturday we will assassinate Maduro' and I told them 'do it'," he said in his show and added: "When they asked me if I would condemn their move I replied that if they want I can buy them another drone."
Referring to Maduro, the journalist called him to be on alert. "My friends," he said, "are very capable, they have already scared you and there are more to come".
In a press conference, Maduro wondered how it is possible a host of a show in the US stating openly that he was aware of the attempted assassination.
Info from:
https://info-war.gr/gnoriza-kai-enekrina-ti-dolofonia-madoyro-ischyrizetai-paroysiastis-sto-maiami/

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, announced Wedn…

While you've been occupied with that Infowars-banning story, the establishment machine already started a covert censorship operation against leftist independent media

globinfo freexchange
Developments are coming like storm. Just when the prediction that Infowars banning will actually strengthen Alex Jones' popularity became true, it seems that our second 'prophecy' (and prediction by many progressives), also becomes true. According to this, Infowars banning will be used as a blueprint by the establishment machine to shutdown progressive independent media and voices, based on that 'fake news' narrative.
We wrote that a corporate branch of the liberal establishment gave real value to Alex Jones' awful performance, pretending to be the 'anti-establishment' hero - just like Donald Trump - and made him a real hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience that has been brainwashed by his absurd conspiracy theories.
Max Blumenthal speaks with Aaron Mate and gives details about Alex Jones' dark role in the whole story:
Alex Jones has always served establishment priorities. First, by taking the 9/11 truth movement, whi…

How normal human behavior became a false mental disorder epidemic

globinfo freexchange
In the early nineties, an epidemic of mental disorder was sweeping America and Britain. It had been uncovered by a new system for identifying disorders. Psychiatry had been attacked for relying on the personal and fallible judgement of psychiatrists.
But instead, a new objective method based on checklists had been invented. These listed only the objective symptoms, and deliberately did not enquire into why the individuals felt an anxiety. In the late 80s, nationwide surveys had revealed an incredible picture: more than 50% of Americans suffered from mental disorders.
But at the very same, the drug companies had announced that they had created a new type of drug, called an SSRI, which they claimed, targeted the circuits inside the brain that were causing these malfunctions. The SSRIs were marketed under names like "Prozac". What they did was alter the amounts of serotonin that flowed across the circuit connections within the brain, and they readjusted the …

The US empire was always conducting trade wars that even included deliberately created cartels

globinfo freexchange
Donald Trump is using his trade wars to support the part of the US capital that has heavily lost from free trade globalization, which is more powerful than ever in our days. This is also part of the Trump agenda to persuade Americans for his "patriotic devotion" based on his "America First" slogan.
The reality is that the US empire was always conducting trade wars that included not only tariffs on specific products, but even deliberately created cartels.
In the early 90s the Clinton administration uncritically adopted the neoliberal doctrine from Ronald Reagan and continued the big fraud against the majority of the Americans.
On the one hand, the Clinton administration was selling the big fairy tale of neoliberalism to the American public: free market capitalism would bring prosperity for all through that trickle-down fiasco. And it was translated, as always, in further cuts in public spending - more tax-cuts for the super-rich. On the other hand, …

Retired US army colonel implies that a war with Iran could start with a Vietnam-type false flag operation

globinfo freexchange
After Tucker Carlson brought additional embarrassment to the pseudo-Left warmongering liberals with his anti-war positions, he tried to make Trump appear, more or less, as a kind of peace defender. He was joined by Douglas Macgregor, a retired US Army Colonel.
Both Carlson and Macgregor attempted to blame Trump's warmongering officials and the war lobby for the fact that another devastating war, this time with Iran, becomes more and more possible. The truth is slightly different because Trump has enormous responsibilities for this development too. He was from the start very hostile against Iran, he did everything in his power to kill the Iran nuclear deal and put the most bloodthirsty, anti-Iran neocons in key positions.
Yet, it would be worth to focus on a peculiar statement by Macgregor at the end of this short interview. As he said:
           You and I know that there are lot of people who would welcome conflict with Iran, that's obvious. I think the presi…

WikiLeaks paper shows France & UK pioneers behind Libya breakup

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for over 30 thousand emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. More PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016, and a set of additional 995 emails was imported up to February 2, 2018.
globinfo freexchange
A letter from Clintons' top advisor Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton in early March, 2012, reveals that two of the Western neocolonial powers, France and UK, were trying to breakup Libya in order to secure a privileged place upon the Libyan corpse for their big companies. It appears that both Sarkozy and Cameron, as well as their intelligence services, were working closely…

The financial system of chaos: no one can tell the 'when', 'where' and ‘how’ of the next financial meltdown

globinfo freexchange
In previous article we wrote that, the last mutation of capitalism, which has started about four decades ago, appears to contain the tools of its final demolition. Financial capitalism, accompanied with the corresponding neoliberal ideology, created a deeply unequal and unstable system.
Another study by The Democracy Collaborative comes to confirm that we live in the most unstable times, where financial crises become more frequent and more devastating. According to the study:
It appears that, contrary to the great moderation theory, the occurrence of financial crises has been accelerating in the neoliberal era.
An important 2001 paper by a number of economists from Rutgers, Berkeley, and the World Bank found that "since 1973 crisis frequency has been double that of the Bretton Woods and classical gold standard periods and is rivaled only by the crisis-ridden 1920s and 1930s. History thus confirms that there is something different and disturbing about our age.&qu…

Surprise: the US empire behind the constitutional coup against Dilma Rousseff in Brazil

globinfo freexchange
After so many endless dirty interventions in Latin America for decades, it should not surprise us at all. Yet, it would be worth to see how the US empire launched another operation in the last two decades to wipe out every Leftist government in Latin America.
Mark Weisbrot spoke with Sharmini Peries of the Real News and gave further details on this subject. We focused on some interesting details concerning the US role in the constitutional coup against Dilma Rousseff in Brazil:
Thomas Shannon [Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2016 to 2018] met with the leader of the coup effort - the parliamentary coup in Brazil in 2016 - when the leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Brazil, Aloysio Nunes, came to the US just a day after the vote to impeach Dilma [Rousseff] took place in the House, and met with Shannon.
So, that was a signal to everyone in Brazil that the US was behind this coup.
There was another show of support when John Kerry w…