Tag Archives: Neoliberalism

Universities As Vehicles For Neoliberal Propaganda

 

Universities are being redefined as instrumental tools for ‘the economy’ and the lack of opposition to this process from the current crop of VC’s suggests they are either committed to that vision themselves or are simply the unquestioning and craven servants of their political masters. Either way, all other values have been subjugated to business values. Students are conceived as future workers – rather than democratic citizens or even individuals with their own interests, hopes and dreams – unless that is these hopes & dreams are ‘entrepreneurial’ and involve joining or starting a privately owned profit-making enterprise.

But this pro-business agenda is not impartial or merely instrumental, it is the deliberate and conscious adoption and promotion of a particular and highly contested, political and economic ideology. It is universities actively inculcating students with a particular set of values and thus spreading those values to more and more citizens. It is universities acting as vehicles of ideological propaganda. Continue reading

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Neoliberalism: Not Just A Financial Crisis But A Crisis Of Democracy

Part I: Democracy is not the same as absence of government.

The most clichéd description of democracy is “government of the people, for the people, by the people.”

This and all other concepts of democracy presume ‘government’. Democracy is not the same as absence of government. Any meaningful concept of Democracy implies that by participating in democratic processes of government citizens can significantly influence the conditions under which they and their fellow citizens live.

Neoliberal theory describes all government as necessarily inefficient and collective democratic decision making as inevitably oppressive. The stated aim of Neoliberalism is to maximise ‘freedom’ by reducing the role of government to the absolute minimum; to the functions of defending the nation from external threat and maintaining law and order – by which they primarily mean the protection of property rights.

An absence of government the Neoliberals argue, will make us all free. But this is clearly not a theory of democracy; if anything it is a theory of anarchy. Continue reading

There’s No Such Thing As Markets

Back in 1987 Margaret Thatcher very famously made the following comments in an interview with Woman’s Own magazine.

“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. Continue reading

The Flaw *****

Watched David Sington‘s, The Flaw, this weekend.

This feature length UK documentary is by far the best account that I’ve seen or read about the 2008 financial crash. I highly recommend it. 5 stars without doubt.

It gives a very accessible account of the distinction between the mechanisms of ‘goods markets’ and ‘asset markets ‘ and plausibly claims that these differences undermine the Efficient Market Hypothesis that underlies the Neoliberal free-market ideology that has dominated economic policy in the Anglo-American world since 1979.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis claims that in a free-market the forces of supply and demand mean that the current price of a product or service is always the right price. If the price rises too high people won’t pay it and so the price drops again and vice versa. This is why free-marketeers resist moral or value judgements in economic affairs because they claim that the logic of supply & demand and the effect of the totality of our individual choices on price establishes beyond doubt what we as a society value. The argument being that this is the ultimate in democratic freedom.

The film doesn’t challenge the Efficient Market Hypothesis in ‘goods markets’ (something which is of course highly contested) but posits the theory that in ‘asset markets’ the laws of supply and demand are reversed so that as prices rise more and more people buy which in turn forces the price up further and further, thus giving rise to the phenomenon of the ‘asset bubble’. But then when the bubble bursts everyone wishes to sell instantly and the price collapses in an extremely short time creating huge losses.

My only problem with this is that…….it seems to be stating the bleeding obvious. I did not meet anyone in the last 30 years who thought house prices could go on rising for ever. Ordinary people, even those who benefited in the short-term from house rises, were baffled as to how or why it was happening. We all knew that incomes were not keeping pace with the cost of housing and that one day it had to end. Except it seems Alan Greenspan who after decades promoting Neoliberal ideology and serving as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, finally recognised there might be a ‘flaw’ in his world view – but only after the crash of 2008. it seems Greenspan and the rest of the $1 million bonus financial wizards of Wall Street and London were the only fecking idiots who did think house prices could keep rising indefinitely!?

Or maybe it’s more plausible that they all knew the bubble had to burst one day but they didn’t give a monkey’s fart because they knew that by the time it did all come crashing down they would be so rich they could see the storm out and anyway ultimately governments and tax-payers would have to bail the system out.

Either way it’s not great. Either the obscenely rich men & women who determine all of our futures are cynical, greedy, amoral, psychopathic  bastards or fucking idiots. Or of course they could be cynical, greedy, amoral, psychopathic, idiots!

The other important info in the film is the clear evidence that wages for those workers in theUS and UK who don’t work in high-finance, i.e. almost everybody,  have been static in real terms (after accounting for inflation) since 1979. The false perception of increasing consumerist-based prosperity has rested entirely on a bed of debt, financed by the housing bubble. This has resulted in a wholesale 30 year upward redistribution of wealth from the working and middle classes to the super-rich amounting to $1.5 trillion a year!

As someone asks in the film, how on earth have the super-rich elite got away with it? And yet again we’re back to Joseph Goebbels and his big lie.

Some quotes from the film:

For the last 30 years a dollar put into credit card debt or mortgage debt made you more than a dollar put into a factory.

Louis Hyman, Economic Historian, Harvard

All Wall Street bankers are always greedy, as are all capitalists. That’s the whole basis of our system.

Louis Hyman, Economic Historian, Harvard

What we’ve seen in the last 30 years is a $1.5 trillion every year redistribution of wealth upwards from the 90% to the top 1%

Robert Wade, Professor Of Political Economics, LSE.

What we are doing is transferring money from people who would spend it to people who don’t need it and won’t or even can’t spend it, because they have so much already.

Josef Stiglitz

 We’ve masked lack of income growth by more debt.

Josef Stiglitz

 What we need is to make Capitalism work for us, not work us over.  We need to work out a way to make profits create jobs. If profits only create wealth for a tiny few Capitalism will not work because people will not stand for it……..Capitalism for the last 30 years has decreased the standard of living for everyone except those at the very top.

Louis Hyman, Economic Historian, Harvard