The Politics of Poison, Power, and Pollution – Neoliberalism – serves the Right-Wing Oligarchs who created it
The Neoliberal Ideological Agenda threatens not only working class people but our environment and our social programs. The Oligarchs funded the climate change deniers, are responsible for union-busting policies, recommendations for privatization, deregulation, fiscal austerity measures by government, low taxes for corporations, a gutting of social programs, and crumbling infrastructure.
The transition towards the acceptance of neoliberal economics in the early 1980s is seen by some academics as the root cause of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Many feel that we are heading towards another financial crisis. Neoliberalism started with Reaganism and Thatcherism. In Canada, it was in hyper-drive with Harperism. Right wing think tanks like the Fraser Institute in Canada were set up and funded by the Oligarchs – the oil companies, the Koch Brothers, and other large corporations. Gradually, their right-wing policies were released to the media, the Universities, and to Politicians until they took hold in Society and became accepted policy: vis-à-vis a lot of reassuring lies.
Warren Blumenfeld: “Neoliberalism rests on the foundation of “meritocracy”: the notion that individuals are basically born onto a relatively level playing field, and that success or failure depends on the individual’s personal merit, motivation, intelligence, ambition, and abilities. Those who are, however, born or enter into difficult circumstances can choose to “pull themselves up by their boot straps,” and they can rise to the heights that their abilities and merit can take them. People, therefore, possess “personal responsibility” for their life’s course.”
“The neoliberal battle cry of “liberty” and “freedom” through “personal responsibility” sounds wonderful on the surface, but what are the costs of this alleged “liberty” and “freedom”?”
How “free” are we as individuals when the upper 1-10% of our population controls approximately 80-90 percent of the accumulated wealth, and the right-wing agenda of conservative governments increases the enormous income divide by keeping corporate taxes lower than they should be?
How “free” are we when politicians like Stephen Harper gutted our Environmental Protections, our Fisheries Act, and our Navigable Waters Act because the oil industry wanted it done?
How “free” are we when these corporations, many of them foreign-owned, are granted enormous tax breaks and subsidies and taxpayers paid for the reduced revenues flowing to government with huge cuts to our public services like infrastructure, health care, and education?
Do we not have a responsibility and obligation to protect and to support people from falling off the ledge of circumstance to their harm or death because they simply cannot “pull themselves up by their boot straps”?
Do we not have a responsibility to protect our environment from the rapacious greed of corporations which extract our resources while not paying their fair share of taxes?
Reducing corporate taxes while starving the government of revenues is a neoliberal strategy called “Starve the Beast”. While government can and should trim the fat in social programs and public services as there is no question that they can become more efficient, government cannot function properly with an extremely small public service, and low corporate taxes at the same time.
Neoliberalism is an economic ideology of the Conservative Party of Canada but it has been partly adopted by some Liberal Parties – the past Liberal (aka Conservative) BC government was a case in point. The problems we saw with Health Care was under-funding of the Health System of previous PC governments in Alberta, for example. In Alberta, neoliberalism started with Ralph Klein’s brutal cuts to social services – health care and education specifically, but he also let infrastructure crumble.
According to Tariq Ali, Neoliberalism is a “culture of narcissism” and it’s directly responsible for the increasing rise of income inequality in developed nations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the U.S. and in the U.K. Canada came on the scene later but we also saw rising income inequality under Stephen Harper. Working people and our social programs are ruthlessly sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit.
Despite the fact that Neoliberalism (trickle-down economics) has been debunked by large organizations who used to believe in it, Stephen Harper (President IDU & past PM), Andrew Scheer (CPC), Jason Kenney (Alberta), and Doug Ford (Ontario) still subscribe to the debunked economic policies of the right wing oligarchs who created it.
Let’s take a quick side trip into modern economics before getting into the history of Neoliberalism and why Conservatives cling to it: One of the world’s most influential economists is on a mission to save capitalism from itself
“She is an ardent believer that governments should do more than play a passive role in fixing market failures, and be allowed to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit to steer the direction of innovation and economic growth.”
EXCERPTS: “How do you spur demand in an economy? By raising taxes, not cutting them, says this year’s winner of the Nobel prize for economics.
Reducing taxes to boost investment is a myth spread by businesses, says Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize along with Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Kremer of Harvard University for their approach to alleviating global poverty. “You are giving incentives to the rich who are already sitting on tons of cash.””
The top 1% has run out of investing ideas, so they’ve parked $4.7 trillion in the bank
“…Give tax breaks or higher wages to the poor, and the economy will grow. Give tax breaks or higher incomes to the rich, and you reduce economic growth.
“The benefits do not trickle down,” the researchers conclude.”
Labour market deregulations not working: International Monetary Fund. The last 30 years have not been kind to economic growth and wealth creation
“The economic “successes” of the neo-liberal era, from roughly 1980 to 2007, pale in comparison to the three decades that followed the Second World War with respect to almost every economic variable imaginable.”
“IMF forecasts have been consistently too optimistic for countries that pursued large austerity programs.”
German conservatives are destroying Europe with austerity, says economist Thomas Piketty, one of the world’s most influential economists!!!!
Buchanan and billionaire Charles Koch were the intellectual linchpins of a stealth revolution still in progress.
“While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.
“The United States is now at one of those historic forks in the road whose outcome will prove as fateful as those of the 1860s, the 1930s, and the 1960s,” writes MacLean. “To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation’s governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form.”
Nancy MacLean, author of an intellectual biography of James McGill Buchanan, explains how this little-known libertarian’s work is influencing modern-day politics.
Why the World is Giving Up on Freedom. Or, Why Neoliberalism is Ending in Authoritarianism Rising Around the Globe Again
Neoliberalism societal costs:
1: Income Stagnation
2: Income inequality
3: Social deconstruction
4: Rising distrust & anger
5: Authoritarianism & extremism
“Some ideologies end with a scream, others with barely a whisper. Neoliberalism is ending in authoritarianism and fascism, despair and loss, anxiety and rage. Which one would you call that?”
“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….
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.
Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.” [emphasis mine]
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?
EXCERPT: “Perhaps more importantly, the ‘thought collective’ approach has helped me grapple with one of the most nettlesome aspects of Neoliberalism: How can one write an intellectual history of a bunch of anti-intellectual intellectuals?
…the MPS [Mont Pèlerin Society] became a society of ‘rationalists’ who ended up promoting ignorance as a virtue for the larger population.”
“The political project of Neoliberalism is not laissez-faire; rather, it is to use state power to get the populace to prostrate themselves before the only dependable source of Truth and Wisdom in human civilization – viz., something they call “The Market”. The more discombobulated the average citizen can be rendered, the quicker they will get with the program
“A greater comprehension of the full-spectrum politics of the neoliberal thought collective has many profound implications; the most obvious is that the Left possesses nothing even remotely approaching its sophistication, which explains why it gets so repeatedly outfoxed.”
Excerpt: “Exchanges between Hayek and John Maynard Keynes and Piero Sraffa show Hayek as confused and even somewhat desperate. It was around this time that Hayek discontinued making any substantial contributions to economics. Not coincidentally this overlapped with the time when most economies, mired as in Great Depression, demonstrated that Hayek’s theories were at best impractical, at worst a complete perversion of facts.”
“…by the 1930s Hayek’s theories had started to come apart at the seams. Exchanges between Hayek and John Maynard Keynes and Piero Sraffa show Hayek as confused and even somewhat desperate. It was around this time that Hayek discontinued making any substantial contributions to economics. Not coincidentally this overlapped with the time when most economies, mired as in Great Depression, demonstrated that Hayek’s theories were at best impractical, at worst a complete perversion of facts.”
Excerpt “We also saw that Hayek’s doctrine of classical liberalism and anti-statism proved too radical for American political and business establishment and that it required diluting by Milton Friedman.
We turn now to Europe, which would come to adopt its own form of neoliberalism. Once again, while the end result was a somewhat different creature from that conceived of by Hayek, it was nevertheless his strained, absolutist thinking that lies at the heart of the system that developed.
A podcast: Hayek was wrong, “naive” and he had serious “logical inconsistencies”
“When Hayek saw his intellectual position, a position in which he had invested most of his emotional energy, falling to pieces due to contemporary economic events, political happenings and theoretical debates, he opted to seal himself into his own mind and reject reality.”
The Pierre Elliot Trudeau Liberals represented “…one of the last gasps of postwar Keynesian interventionism.”
” The cannon shot that truly heralded the advent of neoliberalism in Canada was the interest rate shock that occurred here in the early 1980s, overseen by the Bank of Canada’s then-Governor Gerald Bouey. This was an echo of the similar shift in monetary policy that had occurred south of the border a couple of years earlier: the famous “Volcker shock,” engineered by US Fed chairman Paul Volcker beginning in 1978. This action, by an unelected economic authority, laid the foundation for the advent of neoliberal macroeconomic priority (abandoning full employment, prioritizing the interests of financial wealth, and ushering in a new ideology of toughlove capitalism). The interest rate shocks were cemented politically in short order with the election victories of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (and, shortly after, Brian Mulroney in Canada—although it wasn’t until Stephen Harper’s election in 2006 that Canada experienced unforgiving, no-holds-barred neoliberal government of the sort pioneered by Thatcher and Reagan).” Emphasis added.
Excerpts: “Neoliberalism … is the dominant ideology of the political class in Washington D.C., shared by both legacy parties. In fact, it’s not clear there is another ideology….
In this brief post, I hope to clear the ground by proposing two simple rules to which neo-liberalism can be reduced. They are:
Rule #1: Because markets.
Rule #2: Go die!
Context #1: The rules of neoliberalism do not apply to those who write the rules.
Context #2: The rules of neoliberalism do not apply in the world of the 0.01%”
“An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities.
“There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.”
“…We’re in a world where the dominant economic theory justifies the deprivation of the masses. And the worse a theory is at modeling the real world, the more pain it has to inflict to make the world conform back to the theory.”
“Just-world theories are models of reality,” he said. “A rough and ready test is how well the model fits with experienced reality. When used to derive policy, an economic model not only describes the world but also aspires to change it. In policy, if the model is bad, then reality has to be forcibly aligned with it by means of coercion.”
“Despite the neoliberal obsession with wage suppression, history suggests that such a policy is self-destructive. Periods of high wages are associated with rapid technological change.
“…the famous Powell Memo helped to spark a well-financed movement of well-finance right-wing political activism which morphed into right-wing political extremism both in economics and politics. Symbolic of the narrowness of this new mindset among economists, Milton Friedman’s close associate, George Stigler, said in 1976 that “one evidence of professional integrity of the economist is the fact that it is not possible to enlist good economists to defend minimum wage laws.” In short, neoliberalism was surging ahead and the economy of high wages was now beyond the pale. The social safety net was taken down and reconstructed as the flag of neoliberalism. The one difference between the rhetoric of the slaveholders and that of the modern neoliberals was that entrepreneurial superiority replaced racial superiority as their battle cry.”
“One final irony: evangelical Christians were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. Today, some of them are providing the firepower for the epidemic of neoliberalism.”
BULLETPROOF NEOLIBERALISM. TO UNDERSTAND HOW A BODY OF THOUGHT BECAME AN ERA OF CAPITALISM REQUIRES MORE THAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY
“Mirowski identifies three basic aspects of neoliberalism that the Left has failed to understand: the movement’s intellectual history, the way it has transformed everyday life, and what constitutes opposition to it.”
01/14/13. If you think we’re done with neoliberalism, think again. The global application of a fraudulent economic theory brought the west to its knees. Yet for those in power, it offers riches
The rise in the fortunes of the super-rich is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments’ refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.
The policies that made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. This is not what the theory predicted. Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and their disciples – in a thousand business schools, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and just about every modern government – have argued that the less governments tax the rich, defend workers and redistribute wealth, the more prosperous everyone will be. Any attempt to reduce inequality would damage the efficiency of the market, impeding the rising tide that lifts all boats.
The apostles have conducted a 30-year global experiment, and the results are now in. Total failure.
Excerpt: “Any business executives who pursued a goal other than making money were, he said, “unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.” They were guilty of “analytical looseness and lack of rigor.” They had even turned themselves into “unelected government officials” who were illegally taxing employers and customers.
How did the Nobel-prize winner arrive at these conclusions? It’s curious that a paper which accuses others of “analytical looseness and lack of rigor” assumes its conclusion before it begins. “In a free-enterprise, private-property system,” the article states flatly at the outset as an obvious truth requiring no justification or proof, “a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business,” namely the shareholders.”
Excerpt: ” The precept of the employee as a respected contributor to success evaporated. This new philosophy rejected the fundamental principle that the human employee was a crucial contributor and value creator. They were no longer to be recognized, motivated, and rewarded. Their role in productivity and innovation was terminated. The financial community succeeded in demanding that people expenditures were a cost to be minimized and contained .
That basic philosophical change turned out to have catastrophic consequences. Armies of technologies would be sent to increase productivity, not by adding value, but by replacing humans. Business began outsourcing tasks overseas. Some of the moves made sense. Others simply helped create and bolster foreign competition. But shareholder primacy cared not at all about people outside the C-Suite or the long-term viability of the company. If there were no short-term fixes, the CEO would be fired. If that didn’t work, shareholders would just dump the stock and move to a brighter opportunity.
The nation has slowly become a victim as well. Low pay has led to a disastrous quality of education for most American kids who now rank in the lowest quintile among developed nations. A slow breakdown in families has followed.”