Thursday, December 14, 2006

The End of the Neoliberal Nirvana

On both sides of the pond, people are finally beginning to wise up. The economy should serve the people, not vice versa.

Here's Firedoglake blog's parachutec, pointing out that the American government is biased -no matter who is in power - towards helping the big guy.
I'm a small businessman, and the big business lobbies of big pharma, the US Chamber of Commerce and all the rest do not represent me. They work against my interests and pump a steady stream of lying economic happy talk out through the media. Net neutrality is good for me, but the telcos and cable companies want to sell me out to extract extra money from big corporate citizens who can pay for better access and accessibility online. American big business is against universal health care while those of us doing the hiring and growing in the grass roots business community are much more for it. Big business wants to stifle innovation to protect its markets from little business guys like me. To hell with them. You want to see what their big corporate welfare does for American jobs and prosperity? Look no further than the US auto industry.

We don't need less accountability on our big multinational corporations. We need more. Milton Freidman is dead. Companies have more stakeholders than just shareholders. Companies that do business in the US are not just global citizens, they are accountable to US citizens. In earlier times, you had to have property to have a say in government. That supposedly changed. But now, government is owned almost outright by multinationals writing laws against the interests of the people in the dark of night for bad actors in Congress - Democrats and Republicans - to pass as is, without debate, in exchange for campaign contributions and lucrative lobbying jobs for their families, friends and even themselves.
And here's The Guardian's John Harris on the end of the neoliberal nirvana:
Look closely, though, and you can discern something potentially era-defining: signs that the free-market credo might be in terminal trouble. The political wind wafting across the Atlantic suggests as much. The Republicans received their thumping in last month's elections not just because of Iraq, but also thanks to the inadequacies of an economy increasingly built on low pay and flimsy health and pension provision. Among required reading for switched-on Democrats is a book by Yale academic Jacob Hacker, entitled The Great Risk Shift, a grim portrait of Bush's Thatcher-esque promise of an "ownership society" being supplanted by insecurity and powerlessness. The president's more savvy opponents have also been focusing on the tendency of unregulated markets to foster malignant concentrations of power. Senator Barack Obama, for example, has set himself on an "absolutely vital" battle to force Wal-Mart to look at its low-wage, low-benefit ethos.

Some of this is stereotypically American - not least the fact the new mood has tipped over into calls for ramped-up protectionism. But even in Westminster, where market-worship still exerts an all too powerful spell, you can sense the first stirrings of a sea change. How telling that the leaders of the party that led us towards neoliberal nirvana now affect the jitters. Their ideas may be traceable to opportunism, and fatally compromised by topsy-turvy solutions, but in alighting on issues such as overlong hours, affordable housing and skyrocketing debt, the Cameroons seem to have divined the market-related anxieties edging into our lives. And the prospect of Blair's exit has at least begun a conversation within the Labour party about the limits of the economic liberalism that New Labour so gleefully embraced.

From the ubiquitous green issues, through ever-increasing queasiness about consumerism, to the basic matter of where we live, the most important debates to come will not be about how to extend the market, but how to rein it in. This is not necessarily a cause for unalloyed optimism: the parliamentary end of the argument will be contorted by the obligatory tributes to free enterprise, doubtless compromised by political cowardice, and hemmed in by lobbying from vested interests. But for those who have spent the past decade bemoaning the post-Thatcher settlement, these are propitious times: ones in which to push mainstream politicians rather than pull away from them.

Surveying the current political weather, one could be forgiven for quoting an attack on the "Arcadian simplicities" of free-marketry contained in a long-forgotten anti-Thatcher polemic entitled Where There Is Greed. "The market cannot, unaided, educate and train our workforce, plan and fulfill national research goals or restore or even compensate for our battered infrastructure," runs its introduction. "And the market, unregulated, tends inevitably towards socially undesirable ends such as pollution, inequality and monopoly." Gordon Brown wrote those words in 1989; his record since has hardly been ideal, but now might just be the time to hold him to them.
Gordon Brown is currently the guy in charge of Britain's pursestrings, and will probably be the next Labour Party leader.

(Hat tip: Kat, yet again. She's amazing.)

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