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.
“...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.