“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”
Well, surely the same argument applies to the concept of ‘markets’. If the concept of ‘society’ is not legitimate because ‘society’ is just made up of millions of individuals making their individual choices, then surely ‘markets’ don’t exist either?
Indeed, Neoliberal economic theology rests on the proposition that our combined individual choices will inevitably bring about the common good. Which seems to contradict Thatcher’s assertion that our individual choices and decisions remain individual and don’t have collective outcomes.
All too often commercial corporations and Neoliberal governments justify policy decisions that impact negatively on citizens on the basis that they are simply ‘responding to the market’, that it is market forces that drive their actions. The idea here is that ‘markets’ are an uncontrollable force of nature and that corporations and governments can only react to market forces, they cannot control or influence markets.
Yet according to Thatcher’s logic ‘markets’ as such simply don’t exist. ‘Markets’, just like society, are simply individual men and women making individual choices.
So it appears that what Thatcher is saying is that the bankers, stockbrokers, hedge-fund managers, commodity traders and corporate managers of the world have a moral responsibility for their actions, just like the rest of us do, and that to hide behind the social construct of the ‘market’ is simply a way of them avoiding their moral responsibilities.
I never, ever, thought I’d write these words, but it appears that I agree with Maggie, there are no such things as ‘markets’ just individual men and women making individual choices for which they, as individuals, are morally responsible.
Of course she wouldn’t say this because she would want her cake and to eat it…. and mine…..and yours…..and theirs.
Thatcher and the Neoliberal theologists would claim that there is no such thing as ‘society but there are social mechanisms called ‘markets’. This is yet another example of the incoherence of Conservative political philosophy as it relates to Neoliberal, free-market theology (see On The Incompatibility Of Free Markets And Conservative Philosophy)