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A Brief Primer on Neoliberalsim

The name Friederich* Hayek is not a household name, bandied about during dinner conversation, but it ought to be for we are seeing with the present election the very manifestation of his writings.George Monbiot has written a short essay in the Guardian that is instructive of the origins of Hayek’s philosophy that we know as neoliberalism. It has permeated our national and global discourse for four decades culminating in the horror show that we have just witnessed. Reaganomics was based on Hayek. Reagan was not smart enough to have created it on his own. “Trickle down” was the mantra of the day and it continues. Monbiot writes:

“It [neoliberalism] 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.”

We all remember Reagan’s union busting and tax cuts. Score the first points for neoliberalism. Now that is all we hear. Tax cuts… and you know where that got us. It is called “starve the beast”. At the city and county level we experience this as less and less monies from the federal government. Cuts in services. Cuts in payments. A cruel example of trickle down.

Monbiot continues:

“...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.”

Does this description sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party under Clinton and Obama adopted this neoliberalism albeit with kind words such as ‘welfare reform” or “freeing” the markets with the repeal of “restrictive” laws and regulations. Hillary Clinton was to have continued this silent juggernaut, supported by a bamboozled electorate but was beaten by the anti-politics of the man who out-jabbered her. The bamboozlement permeated the Dems, down to the local level, leaving party leaders dazed at the awful mess.The carcass of the party, now laying in the sun for all to see, is being picked over by opportunistic scavengers. Time to recreate.

*Monbiot anglicizes Hayek’s given name as Frederick. In fact he was born Friedrich August von Hayek.

About Dick Conoboy

Writer • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Nov 16, 2016

A nice follow-on to the piece quoted above by Monbiot is today’s article by Peter Lavenia in  Counterpunch.  He opines,

“The Democratic Party of my lifetime – the coalition of Wall St finance capital and identity-politics voters that arose during the 1980s and 90s – is dead. It has been killed, quite ironically, by the revenge of class politics – the kind once championed by the Democrats. Decades of economic misery and the hollowing-out of vast segments of the American economy, which the Democratic Party participated in gleefully, has led to the inchoate rage which found expression in the fun house mirror version of class struggle politics: Donald Trump.

“Barack Obama’s presidency will be seen as the high-water mark of this Democratic Party. The reign of finance capital, on the rise since the 1970’s and the shift within capitalism from productive industry to the financialization of everything, grew to a point where Obama used the machinery of state to not only rescue finance capital after its 2008 collapse but to extend its rule by crushing any attempts at a left-Keynesian solution to the crisis. Occupy Wall Street, a class-conscious response to austerity politics, was exterminated by Democratic mayors under dictates from Obama’s White House.”

Read the rest here.

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David Camp

Nov 20, 2016

It’s strange that the Democrats have abandoned working people except to the extent they fit into a target demographic. And that the Party seems to be largely controlled by Wall St. - that has profited mightily over the past 20 years financing US industry’s ongoing consolidation and offshoring. Selling out the workers, in other words.

IN WI, 87,000 ballots were voted  with no vote for President. Over six times the number that Clinton lost the State by - about 13,000 votes. You sell people out and abandon them - and this is what you get.

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Dick Conoboy

Nov 20, 2016

David,

Yes.  That was the topic of an editorial in the NYTimes this morning.  See:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html?ref=opinion

Mark Lilla writes: 

“One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

“The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

“But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)”

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David Camp

Nov 20, 2016

Dick - But is our Democrats learning? I’m seeing a lot of venting and personal attacks on the President-elect, but not much ownership of the reasons for their snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Dick Conoboy

Nov 20, 2016

Therein lies the problem.

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