The author of the above article in the British publication The Guardian seems confused about the identity of the philosophy that created all the ills plaguing the Western world. Referring to “neoliberalism” which he never defines except by naming “conservative” protagonists and think tanks associated with free-market capitalism. Not one claim is proven by citing facts and figures applied with logic. But let’s take this “red meat” Liberal rant and approach it by simply substituting “progressive” for “neoliberal”. As usual, the author lands on the predictable culprits responsible for the demise of democracy and freedom: the Koch Brothers, while never finding a reason to mention their left counterpart, George Soros of the many community organizing Cerberus-like creatures, and fugitive from French justice. Please note that the author is after all trying to promote his new book eagerly awaited by the political left. Also note that the author is British, but does apply his opinion to the UK as well as the United States.
In 2012 I published an article in the Telegraph Herald (April 15, Dubuque, IA) (also in this blog as: Capitalism:There Is Only The Vilification) which made the precise point that the Left loves to blame the Right for the failures of most of their policies. That conclusion applies to Mr. Monbiot’s article. Among his numerous claims, he states that the “anonymity of neoliberalism” …played a “major role” in virtually all major crises that have to do with the economy, poverty, children, tax evasion, health and education, even the “epidemic of loneliness”, collapse of the ecosystem and, of course, Donald Trump; but not Bernie. He does not make an attempt to show cause and effect. Amazingly, he postulates that the neoliberal philosophy “arose out of a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus on power”. Unconscious transference of characteristics? Historians would probably agree that America was founded on the power of the individual to create for himself and his “moral circle” a life suited to their imagination, and not interfere in the lives of others who are attempting to reach a similar objective. The individual was “king” until the start of the Progressive era around 1900, led in fact by a Republican Progressive by the name of Teddy Roosevelt. If there was a shift, it was toward the Progressive-Liberal philosophy which seems to believe that humanity is flawed and only the wise policies of Progressivism can redress these flaws through legislation, i.e. coercion. This Progressivism exists in both major political parties with emphasis on “benefits” to certain classes of voters. Such was the case of the George W. Bush gift to seniors in the form of a prescription-drug plan that was never properly financed or funded. Other examples of failed Progressive policies are the well-known War on Poverty, Obamacare and over eighty “welfare” programs gifted primarily by Democrat Administrations.
He attacks the free-market Right’s favorite theoreticians, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek (Bureaucracy and Road to Serfdom respectively) for arguing against central government planning which would crush individualism. This is a correct interpretation of the Austrian School of Economics, but Monbiot does not even attempt to show that his reality is different. So we must accept his opinion as fact?! Lamenting that there are so many think tanks created on the Right and that the universities of Chicago and Virginia created academic positions for this philosophy, he fails to mention that there are hundreds of other universities, colleges and institutions (education, press, government, entertainment…) that harbor Left Progressive scholars and purveyors acting more like a juggernaut threatening fair and balanced educational pursuits. Conservative teachers and professors can attest to the difficulty of getting students to open their minds to something other than “capitalism is bad”. Most of the time, students will maintain the corrupted definition of capitalism heard in elementary and secondary classrooms and define it as “the system in which you can make as much money as you want”. I wish it were thus.
Admitting that Keynesian policies crashed in the 1970’s, he saw improbable collusion between neoliberalism and journalism that gave the new philosophy its stature especially under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who, according to the author, “fully realized..” their utopia. Wow, where did this utopia go? Casualties of course were labor unions and Democrats, because “freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments…” How quaint, if not quixotic. One gets a little traumatized from all the anti-capitalist blows from this gentleman, who pretends that the use of a crisis for introducing unpopular policies was invented by Republicans. The author does not remember the very recent proclamation by Obama’s WH Chief of Staff saying just that, and with gusto and pride. The same Rahm Emmanuel was responsible for Clinton’s passing NAFTA and the regrettable “three strikes” legislation that hurt Blacks the most. With a insincere conciliatory tone, Monbiot admits that “Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one”. Wait, I cannot stop, so many gems: “As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer…” is a patently ignorant statement. The poor have increased their wealth albeit marginally, certainly not as much as the rich (CBO: 28% Vs 281% from 1979 to 2007). So what do we do about that? Mr. Monbiot has no answer. Americans are richer than ever – $86.8 trillion dollars in assets, a record at the end of 2015. How was that accomplished? not with welfare checks. Does Monbiot suggest it should be half that? and why? and how does that solve poverty? Making the rich poorer does NOT make the poor richer, but a booming economy may do so, provided Progressives stop importing cheap labor (skilled and unskilled) to compete unfairly.
Oh yes, there is always the Koch brothers, guilty as sin because of their wealth. But no mention of their counterpart George Soros who is even wealthier and has financed hundreds of left-wing organizations that have wrought the flawed policies that this article mentions but does not dare analyze. Did he also say that rich people make money by just controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains? Yes he did, and claims that “earned income has been supplanted by unearned income”, which apparently is like “found money”. How do I get in on this racket?
But the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is the political crisis, according to Monbiot, as if the domain of the state were reduced by neoliberalism. On the contrary, the domain of the state has expanded dangerously in number of policies and number of employees in this already-bloated bureaucracy. “Fascist movements build their base … from the politically inactive…the losers…”. But who is today’s fascist? Bernie or Donald? Bernie talks about regulating businesses to death (which Mussolini did), while Donald promotes company formation and innovation by individuals. Governments cannot invent stuff, nor make a country great, but its people can, provided they are relatively free to act on their instincts without the burden of bureaucratic controls and costs. What’s in a word: Liberals under Clinton started to talk about “investment” instead of spending on various programs. That would be a conservative approach as well, except that the Left never analyzes what the taxpayers got for all the investment. No ROI in this case, just the satisfaction of having “invested”. Such is the War on Poverty: the US invested $22T (Heritage Foundation) and zero reduction in poverty since 1965. Bush must be to blame!
No Liberal rant is worth its parchment if the environmental crisis were not mentioned; a “crisis caused by consumer demand and economic growth”, precisely what the Progressive economist John Maynard Keynes ordered for the America. How did we get into this mess? progressive policies, not free-market dreams. Remember, Mr Monbiot: whatever you subsidize will see increased demand, including welfare recipients.
Hidden between the lines of Liberal authors is the question of equality, equity and diversity. Liberal institutions promote diversity in community and employment, but never in thought. We must learn to think only Progressive thoughts.Equality and Equity are the gold-standard for Liberals. Everybody must be the same….. so what happened to diversity? oops! Equality for Liberals and Progressives is bad, because without equality some people do better than others in all kinds of pursuits. In their world it is not fair that some people are born with talent, others are not. So we need to curtail the talented one by having him share with the less talented one. The smart Iowa farmer who raises a healthy tall crop of corn must share some of his success with the lesser farmer for the sake of equality which “…denotes that everyone is at the same level. Everything is shared with exact division”. Sounds like Communism. But equity refers “to the qualities of justness, fairness, impartiality and even-handedness.” So equality equals quantity, whereas equity equals quality. Do I understand that correctly? Who can quarrel with those definitions? Logic can. So I ask my students to share their good grades with the lesser students so that everyone will have a good passing grade, and no one needs to feel inferior to any other. Where is the incentive for anyone to better himself? Why should the welfare recipient go to work if his welfare check provides a comfortable lifestyle without the drudgery of working? Progressivism dehumanizes us into robotic status. Individualism and free-market exchange of valuables brings the best out of everyone because achievement is pride in oneself, great self worth above all. Robots are not known to be proud or exhibit a sense of self worth. They work as long as man-made batteries and mechanics function as ordained by central planning…Oops, governments do not invent robots, individuals do.