Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The free market fundamentalists are the purveyors of our poverty

I like to describe neoliberals as 'free market' fanatics or 'free market' fundamentalists. I always put the 'free market' bit in italics because there really is no such thing as a free market, and never has been. The 'free market' concept is a crucial part of the flawed ideology of neoliberalism, which is an extreme right-wing ideology that favours the rich - the capitalist class, over the rest of us. An important part of the reason why neoliberalism has been so successful is that it has successfully disguised itself as 'economics', an economics which pretends to be a mechanism for prosperity, and has been sold to us as good for everyone.

We have been told by economists and politicians that the tenets of neoliberalism i.e. - globalisation; 'free' trade; privatisation; low taxes; downsizing; outsourcing; and deregulation are essential economically, and that without them, we cannot have a prosperous and successful society. But prosperous and successful for who? All the aforementioned things benefit the capitalist class, at the expense of the rest of society. That is how the they have gone from being the rich, to the super rich over the past 35 years or so, and these are the mechanisms by which the 1% have left the 99% way, way behind.

The simple fact is that the outcome of this neoliberal ideology, driven by the capitalist class, with the support of Western politicians, is a direct transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. As wages have fallen as a percentage of GDP, profits and income for the rich have risen - see here for the recent US figures. The super rich don't need social security, they don't need healthcare, they don't need state education like the rest of us, so their view is - 'why should I pay for any of that through my taxes'? In fact, 'why should I pay taxes at all'? Furthermore, thanks to globalisation, if they can pay someone in the Third World $1 an hour to make widgets, why should they pay you, as a worker, in Europe or the USA, $10 an hour to do the same job?

But we still live in a consumer capitalist economy, so as wages have fallen as a percentage of GDP, the 99% have accumulated more and more debt, with the help and encouragement of capitalist lenders, in order to try and maintain their lifestyles, and this is part of the debt crisis, and the economic crisis we are now in. Because if people in 'wealthier' Western countries can't afford to buy the products of capitalism, and are saddled with debt, the consumer-driven economy is bound to be depressed, which is exactly what is happening now. The 'free market' fanatics through the mechanisms of privatisation etc. are therefore purveyors of poverty, through lower wages, unemployment and austerity for us, the 99%.

In addition to the problems of current banking debt crisis, which was caused by deregulation of the banks and financial capitalism, there is the longer term problem for capitalism of the falling rate of profit. It has been noted by many observers that capitalism is uniquely versatile and able to re-invent itself when faced, as it always is, by periodic crises. If capitalism reaches a barrier it will find a way round it. So, the big driver for privatisation is the need for capitalist corporations to maintain their profitability, because having exhausted much of the possibilities of the private sector, through globalisation, they are now intent on devouring the public sector in the search for new profitability and never ending growth.

For the 99%, healthcare, education, pensions, housing and social security are essential. Healthcare and education are public goods - not commodities to be bought and traded like widgets. We need social security as a right, paid for through national insurance - not welfare as some kind of handout. We need social housing and pensions so that we can retire with some dignity in our old age. All these public services are best paid for through taxes, collectively, and delivered without the profit motive, for the benefit of all. If we want public services and pensions we need to pay taxes. Low taxes are only good for the 1%, and are bad for the rest of us. In addition to paying more taxes ourselves, we need to make the rich pay much more in taxes, as a prelude to permanent economic change.

Until very recently, we had all of these essential public services mentioned above here in the UK. Now the capitalist class are trying to take them away from us, they are trying to to roll back all the democratic gains our grandparents, and parents made in the 20th century. The banking crisis is being used as an excuse to pay for the failures of neoliberalism through austerity. It is essential that we resist privatisation and cuts in public services by supporting each other, and supporting the occupations, local anti-cuts organisations, student protests, and all the diverse community groups in their ongoing struggle against austerity, and the trade unions in their planned strike action on November 30th.

Last weekend, on 15 October, global demonstrations were held to show the growing discontent of the 99%, and as a result a video was produced - see below, and a manifesto, which is worth reading, and may be the start of a global demand for change.

The many thousands of people involved in the occupation movements and protests which are now happening in 900 cities across the world are rightly suspicious of politicians, political parties, and ideologies. They must be able to determine their wants and their own destiny. But ultimately what they need are the things we all need, the public services which I have outlined above, plus work, and freedom of expression, and freedom from fear. What is clear is that they can only achieve their aims by breaking the stranglehold that 'free market' neoliberalism has on our economy and democracies, and to regain control over their lives they must seize control of the economy and make the global economy their economy.

Only when we control our economy will we have the freedom and dignity we all desire and need.

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