“The real debate today is about finding the right balance between the market and government. Both are needed. They can complement each other. This balance will differ from time to time and place to place.” – Joseph Stiglitz
If the 1970s marked the death of social democracy; the flawed ideals of Socialism and it’s proponents, then 2005-2010 marks the death of the neoliberalist experiment. Thatcher, Reagan, New Labour, Alan Greenspan and other prominent neoliberalist proponents were wrong. The Banking crises with it’s roots lodged deeply into the cancer of the sub prime market spread and infested the very concept of neoliberalism itself; exposing the financial system for what it is – a corrupt entity, focusing on monetary value only rather than a mix of monetary, environmental, and human value; a germ that feeds on deregulation and a sub standard FSA.
This neoliberalist concept has forced itself on other nations. They have to allow Coca Cola and Starbucks to destroy their land and exploit their resources and workers, because if they don’t, they fail – falling further and further into poverty. Just because America loves it, doesn’t mean we all should.
There is of course one big problem. There isn’t another coherent philosophically sound economic theory that could replace the system we currently have. When the Callaghan government fell in 1979, it’s social democratic form was replaced by a Thatcherite Conservative movement which sparked the beginning of the neoliberalism experiment; thirty years later causing the biggest financial crises in modern history. The left wing didn’t cause this mess, we merely sat by and let it happen. We were theatre goers. We watched on as the boys in suits on stage attacked each other and set fires, whilst exclaiming to the audience that everything is great, that this system of setting fires and destroying each other, is the height of human nature. We watched helplessly as tax was set on fire, investment in public goods was set on fire, poor nation’s resources were set on fire, the environment was set on fire, financial regulation was set on fire, human kindness was set on fire, and we stood back and merely said “we told you so” when the money itself was set on fire.
The problem the Left has, is we do not know how to put those fires out. We have nothing new. We have no great intellect. We have no one like Milton Friedman who has a clear economic way forward. We lack a coherent set of economic strategies to combat the global recession and create a new World based on fairness and equality.
Conservatives and Republicans alike appear to be under the naive impression that if you’re not a supporter of deregulated markets and financial institutions, then you’re a communist. Well i’m neither. Socialism cries that the State is the answer to everything. Neoliberalism cries that deregulated free markets are the answer to everything. Neither ideas are right. Neither proved themselves worthy. The right mixture of market values and State supervision along with a safety net and assurances, is the right way forward.
We need to fight the attacks made by the American Right Wing, that any thing other than reimplementing Neoliberalist ideas is Socialist. We need to look back to Keynes for answers. We look to people like the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who insists on striking the middle ground when he mentioned a new order known as “Social Capitalism” . We need left wing intellects and prominent politicians willing to think the unthinkable and publicise it. For twenty five years not only have the Conservatives and Republicans dedicated themselves to neoliberal concepts, even our centre-left Parties have embraced neoliberalism. Tony Blair and New Labour embraced deregulation in all it’s disastrous glory. Thatcher herself, a a dinner in Hampshire was asked what her greatest achievement had been, she replied “Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds“. The failure of New Labour and it’s ties to Thatcherism is evident today. They deregulated financial markets further, which in turn allowed 3.5million house holds to brave the winter months in fuel poverty; they sold industries further reducing Britain’s exports and social responsibilities whilst simultaneously killing the unions off further. The Tories are offering the same nonsense that got us into this mess in the first place. There is nothing new. They simply suggest that the super rich should be able to accumulate even greater wealth in the short term, whilst the rest of us get ever so slightly richer as the years pass by.
Economic growth along with the ability to accumulate great wealth at the expense of whoever they saw fit, has been considered a moral “right” and true “freedom” for thirty years, rather than a by product of social inequality and spectacularly wrong ethical standards. That, has to change. Let’s stop claiming London is such a powerhouse purely because the super rich in Mayfair have a number of yachts to their name; and let’s stop measuring the success of a city by how those less fortunate people in places like Peckham could benefit from huge investment in public education, policing, job creation, community support and healthcare. Let’s measure the success of a city by the way they pull together to help each other. Let’s stop considering houses to be “investments” and start seeing a house as a home primarily. Let’s stop considering the water supply in Indian slums as perfect places for Coca Cola to drain the water for profit to the detriment of local communities. Let’s stop claiming that poor nations are “lazy” when in fact most bi-lateral trade agreements favour the West in general and have very little benefit for poor nations. Let’s stop teaching our kids that it’s perfectly acceptable and necessary for the future of the concept of “freedom” to allow your child to get superbly over weight, whilst another starves to death. It isn’t right. It never was right. And the ethical system based on this flawed concept of “freedom” has been nothing but a disaster. Conservatives and Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to support it.
The State, which has been the centre of attack from Neoliberalist proponents across the globe, now has the task of saving us and those Neoliberalists from themselves through bail out schemes. The State has been resurrected and has a duty to regulate the financial markets, invest in public healthcare, housing and education, lead the way on climate change and make sure the hungry are fed.
Whilst this is a small window of opportunity for the Left to present it’s ideas on climate change initiatives, social welfare, bank regulation and new rules on global trade to include help for the poorest Nations, and ways out of this crises, there is nothing to be heard from them. As a leftie, liberal, green, hippy – this stands only to disappointment whilst we wait for Cameron and the New Thatcherites to start fighting the fire, by pouring petrol onto it.
So if Social Democracy failed; Communism failed; and now Neoliberalism has failed. What’s next?