On The Tyranny Of The Markets


The theory of Neoliberal capitalism would make everybody subject to the market whether they like the outcomes or not.

If your livelihood is being taken from you, if your environment is being poisoned, if you are being worked to death under threat of unemployment and poverty, if you are the victim of arbitrary injustice, if even the vestiges of personal autonomy are being taken from you, it is no comfort to know that it is a private company rather than a government doing it to you! Indeed, it may increase your suffering to know that in fact these things are being done to you not for the good of your country, but only so that someone else can make a profit!

The only people who would have ‘agency’ or ‘volition’ in a perfect neoliberal capitalist free market world, would be those with the capital and talents necessary to start and run successful businesses, but in fact even for these fortunate few their success or failure would not apparently be determined by their own talent or hard work, but simply by uncontrollable ‘market forces’.

And what of the idea of democracy? The rule of the people, by the people, for the people? In a perfect neoliberal world there will be no ‘rule’ by government at all. Government will only provide physical security and a legal system within which businesses can operate, everything else will be determined by ‘market forces’. So if market forces lead to results that a majority find unacceptable there will be nothing politically they can do about it. Under a free market the opportunity for political agency is removed from individuals, communities and social organisations – unless a profit can be made.

But, the free-marketeers will cry, a ‘free market’ is the most democratic way of distributing resources. They will say that because of Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’, market forces can’t help but fulfil the aggregate wishes of the all the buyers and sellers in a market. Even if we accepted this argument on it’s own terms, (which I don’t), what the free-marketeers are actually suggesting is that we replace democracy with the free-market, that we set aside rational debate and public discourse and put our fate in the hands of a ‘force of nature’ driven by mathematical logic, and more that this abdication of conscious political-will, in favour of passive subjection to a force beyond human control, will be liberating!

And this bullshit is apparently the new ‘common sense’ accepted by the entire political class, most of the media and huge sections of the British public. It beggars believe.

The truth is that the theoretical claims made about the benefits of neoliberal free- market capitalism are at best dangerously utopian and idealist and at worst self-serving and tyrannical – the very criticism aimed at Communism 30 years ago.

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