What is a Neo-Liberal? It is a person who believes in the deregulation of businesses (“free markets”), the privatization of public assets, and cuts to any social spending like healthcare or unemployment.
Why is it that America’s Republican party, whom we label “Conservative” adheres so closely to the very definition of Neo-Liberal? These are the “trickle-down” policies of Reagan, George W. Bush and Margaret Thatcher – which have essentially been excellent for the richest of the rich, but terrible for the vast majority of average citizens.
Stiglitz, Krugman and Chomsky are three economists who are among the most vocal critics of Neo-Liberal policies. Stiglitz is the Nobel prize winning chief economist of the world bank. Krugman is another Nobel winner (also in economics) professor who writes a column for the New York Times. Chomsky is a world-renown dissident intellectual and liberal activist professor.
These three likely all have their roots in the thinking of John Maynard Keynes, who was the economist responsible for Roosevelt’s New Deal and was tasked with solving the Great Depression.
As I interpret it, these thinkers stand for the opposite of Neo-Liberalism – encouraging market regulation from a strong federal government, decentralization of economic power monopolies and support for social safety net spending.
Fundamentally they see the government as a tool that can be used effectively for the greater good.
This is at stark odds with the Neo-Liberal “Conservative” agenda which views the government as a hindrance to business, a threat to freedom (especially that of the wealthiest property owners), and an unwieldy tool that should be blunted since it cannot be fully controlled (to exclusively serve their interests only).
There are two warring ideologies on the battlefield of our political landscape.
There are those who believe in private control and those who believe in public power.
Both roads taken to extremes have been historically proven to be tyrannical, destructive and unsustainable.
In today’s era of trans-national corporations I believe the “private-control” group is attempting to dominate the “public-control” people by making unaccountable companies more powerful than the elected government. They are trying to conquer the world.
It should come as no surprise that “private-control” is immensely unpopular with most people who lack power and are subject to domination, but is very popular indeed with the elite who possess the ability to force their will upon the unwilling masses.
The prevailing ideology of free markets is that “unrestricted trade will take care of itself, producing the best of all possible outcomes” that the invisible hand of the market (in other words, profit) should be the highest virtue and the ultimate authority. Similarly, it is imagined modern capitalism is “the best of all possible systems” to increase the quality of life for the greatest number of people. I have severe doubts about that.
As Keynes put it, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
The Neo-Liberal line of thinking has produced spectacular progress for decades in the form of material gains and technological innovation. Yet idolizing profit, to the exclusion of other values like respect for the environment, the rights of laborers or the well-being of the masses, has begun to take America down the descent of an unsustainable path.
By intentionally keeping unemployment relatively high, the elite weaken unions. They lock America into a low-growth, low-wage, but high-profit (for the top 1%) environment, according to Chomsky.
This wipes out consumer demand, which ultimately stagnates the entire economy because the consumption of a healthy middle class far outweighs the spending of the elite, who horde most of their profits anyway. Their fortunes, which could be invested toward job creation, are instead sitting idly as savings on stock and bond markets, collecting interest through the exploitation of working people’s wages.
Changing course is possible. So why aren’t we doing that?
I think it’s because we lack a better idea to replace Neo-Liberal Capitalism by making it obsolete. Not that such sustainable ideas aren’t out there – but they haven’t yet been widely publicized (though of course, the corporate-owned media would never broadcast such content).
The point of this post, which is the same point as my book, is that we need to change toward sustainability! Real progress will not happen until the fundamental flaws in our political and economic infrastructure are corrected.