Citizen Action Monitor

“Neo-liberalism”: a four-letter word meaning “fuck the poor, disadvantaged, oppressed”

In the US, neo-liberalism destroys welfare programs, attacks labor rights, cuts social programs.

No 1906 Posted by fw, March 8, 2017

They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that.”George Carlin, The American Dream

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“Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment…. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted. But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new…. The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority, it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.”Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, CorpWatch

Below is a repost of an undated article; it appears to have been written circa 1996. Chris Hedges cited it in his March 5, 2017 truthdig article, Donald Trump’s Greatest Allies Are the Liberal Elites. The term ‘neoliberalism’ (or neo-liberalism) is often used, seldom fully understood. Writers Martinez and Garcia’s article goes a long way to clear up the confusion, especially with their five defining attributes.

Your attention is drawn to a SEE ALSO linked article, at the bottom of this post, titled What Exactly Is Neoliberalism? It features an excerpt from the concluding paragraph in which the author, professor emerita Wendy Brown, points out the destructive influence of neoliberal reason on democracy’s principle of the rule of law by and for the people.

To read Martinez and Garcia’s article, click on the following linked title.

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What is Neoliberalism? A Brief Definition for Activists, by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, Corp Watch, [1996?]

“Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies, having the effect of enriching the rich and further impoverishing the poor

“Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S., political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing.

Rightwing politicians have no problem with economic liberalism, including neo-liberalism

Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neo-liberalism.

The older, liberal school of economics, were “liberal” in the sense of having no government controls

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called The Wealth Of Nations. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no controls.

Economic liberalism championed free markets, free enterprise, free competition – free for capitalists to make huge profits

This application of individualism encouraged “free” enterprise,” “free” competition — which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

With the Crash of ’29, Keynesianism displaced economic liberalism, arguing governments should advance the “common good”

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President Roosevelt’s New Deal — which did improve life for many people. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.

In early ‘70s, corporate elites revived economic liberalism when profits rates declined – rebranded it as “neo-liberalism”

But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new.

With the globalization of the capitalist economy, neo-liberalism spread around the world

Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.

A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos [nom de guerre used by Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente] at the Zapatista-sponsored Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism) of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: “what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there ….” and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico.”

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

Today, powerful financial institutions impose neo-liberalism policies worldwide

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America.

“Neo-liberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.”

The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, “Neo-liberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.”

In the US, neo-liberalism destroys welfare programs, attacks labor rights, cuts social programs

In the United States, neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and cuts to social programs.

The Republican Party’s 1994 Contract with America was pure neo-liberalism

The Republican “Contract with America” is pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself — and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will “get government off my back.” The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority, it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.

Elizabeth Martinez is a longtime civil rights activist and author of several books, including 500 Years of Chicano History in Photographs.

Arnoldo Garcia is a member of the Oakland-based Comite Emiliano Zapata, affiliated to the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.

Both writers attended the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and against Neo-liberalism, held July 27 – August 3,1996, in La Realidad, Chiapas.

SEE ALSO

What Exactly Is Neoliberalism? Wendy Brown interviewed by Timothy Shenk, Dissent, April 2, 2015 —

Shenk: You’re clear that democracy is an ideal that deserves defending, but you’re skeptical about actually existing democracy, which you describe as a system where “the common rage of the common citizen has been glorified and exploited.” And you worry that matters could get much worse, with democracy as we know it giving way to “a polity in which the people are pawns of every kind of modern power.” Do you see a tension between your tributes to democratic ideals and your grim assessment of its current state?

Brown: Democracy is always incomplete, always short of its promise, but the conditions for cultivating it can be better or worse. My point was that democracy is really reduced to a whisper in the Euro-Atlantic nations today. Even Alan Greenspan says that elections don’t much matter much because, “thanks to globalization . . . the world is governed by market forces,” not elected representatives. Voting has been declining for decades everywhere in the Western world; politicians are generally mistrusted if not reviled (except for Varoufakis, of course!); and everything to do with political life or government is widely considered either captured by capital, corrupt or burdensome—this hostility to the political itself is generated by neoliberal reason. Thus, today, the meaning of democracy is pretty much reduced to personal liberty. Such liberty is not nothing, but could not be further from the idea of rule by and for the people.

Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Zone Books).

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