Whatever is neo-liberalism?
Neo-liberalism, like capitalism, is not usually a consciously accepted ideology it is a descriptive term. In fact neo-liberalism is best understood as the particular form and stage of capitalism that we are suffering under at this present time. Thomas G Clarke of 'Another Angry Voice' (a fellow UK left-libertarian with an ever so slightly more popular blog than this one) says that neo-liberalism is characterised by policies such as privatisation, de-regulation, globalisation and tax cuts. Sounds quite libertarian no? Well it might sound that way but let me assure you it is about as libertarian as Josef Stalin. Let's have a bash at seeing why, eh?
Some times there is a language problem here, right wing libertarians talk of 'private property', left wing libertarians talk of 'personal possessions', although they are not quite the same thing there is significant cross over between the two, they have much more in common with each other than either do with the communist proposal that nothing can be owned or possessed by an individual at all. Private property to right-libertarians goes a little something like this: A thing is your legitimate private property if you mixed your labour with an un-owned natural resource or acquired it through some kind of voluntary transfer from someone else who was a legitimate owner. So privatisation seems like it might be something to do with the state returning stolen stuff. You couldn't be more wrong.
The state does not steal for itself directly, even though politicians and top civil servants are paid quite generously they're wealth is meagre compared to societies richest capitalists:
This list of smirking idiots starts with the Duke of Westminster with about £14 billion:
Or check out this extract from an article in the Guardian about land ownership:
"The UK is 60m acres in extent, and two-thirds of it is owned by 0.36% of the population, or 158,000 families. A staggering 24m families live on the 3m acres of the nation's "urban plot" – and not surprisingly buy into the idea that Britain is a severely overcrowded country in which land is extremely scarce."
David Cameron and his chums might be worth a few million or so each but they aren't exactly in the billionaires club. The state acts as the armed wing of the wealthiest 1% in society. In the USA this was proven in a study:
(I don't need a study to know full well that it's true here too!). Instead of making money for itself the state rigs trade to ensure that wealth flows upwards and does not remain with workers.
Let's take an example that has been big news recently; the privatisation of the NHS. The NHS was paid for by money that was taken from the people (all taxes are taxes on the people, Capitalists simply pass on the charge to workers and consumers, they never take a hit personally). The understanding was that in return we would be provided with a health care system that was quite good and was free to use, no one would be getting rich off the taxes we all paid in, we'd simply be provided with services.
Now as much as I don't agree to people having money forcefully removed from them the original deal was one of the nicer things that the state could have done with the money it took. Of course some people were always going to be getting rich, big pharmaceutical companies were vying for contracts to provide medicines, companies supplying medical equipment were making big money etc. but on the whole the actual provision of the health care service was just a taxpayer funded service. Now, the privatisation of this service doesn't mean that all the people who paid for it are going to get their money back, it means that now, all the stuff you and I paid for is getting sold on to people who have the intention to make a profit on it, to make a profit off the money that you have no choice but to pay or go to jail... hmmmm it's starting to sound a bit less than libertarian already!
De-regulationSurely, surely de-regulation is libertarian?! Not a chance my friend! If it did exactly what it said on the tin and applied to everyone equally we could talk about the libertarian case for de-regulation but de-regulation in this sense simply means making life much easier for banks and corporations. But banks and corporations are private sector right? Part of the free market? Let me quote Mr Kevin Carson on the extent to which banks and corporations are part of any free market:
"...the state creates and maintains the fictitious legal infrastructure of corporate “personhood”, limited liability laws, government contracts, loans, guarantees, purchases of goods, price controls, regulatory privilege, grants of monopolies, protectionist tariffs and trade policies, bankruptcy laws, military intervention to gain access to international markets and protect foreign investments, regulating or prohibiting organized labor activity, eminent domain, discriminatory taxation, ignoring corporate crimes and countless other forms of state-imposed favors and privileges".
The relationship between the government and business is not limited to some small band of cronies, it is the point. Corporations and the government are so entangled in one another that it would be hard to tell them apart, in fact there is no point in trying to tell them apart. De-regulating corporations is about the same thing as de-regulating the police or the military, not very libertarian at all!
GlobalisationAh yes, this is that whole 'no boders' thing libertarians are always going on about right? Wrong! Globalisation is about freeing up capital, not people. In a globalised world capital and goods are free to cross national borders but people are severely restricted. Globalisation is simply another word for neo-colonialism. It's not even that goods and capital are being freely traded around the world it's a wealth transfer from poor nations to rich nations, characterised by monopoly rents on intellectual property, land grabbing, military interventions and economic sanctions on countries that won't play ball etc.
What is known as 'austerity' in the UK is not some noble plan for the state to shrink back to a more responsible size it is one piece in a global jigsaw that very few have been able to comprehend. The same jigsaw contains third world debt, the introduction of water charges in Ireland, land grabs from natives in Papua New Guinea, oil wars in the middle east. This globalist aspect of neo-liberalism has accelerated considerably since the end of the cold war through so called "free trade" pacts and organisations like the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund as well as the UN and the EU. Private tyrannies, completely untouchable controlling everything we consume, from food to information in a smaller and smaller collection hands is the new name of the game and it is happening everywhere. To the point that new regulations now being introduced look set to make it possible for big corporations to sue governments for loss of earnings, if you think that sounds vaguely libertarian then you are forgetting who funds the government!
Tax cutsI'll believe that when I see it. Whilst it is always the people who pay for the state, never the capitalists, the burden of taxation can fall more heavily on some demographics than others depending on the system of taxation used. Tax cuts means cutting for some and winning it back from others, it's a game, no one is trying to make your life more free and easy here, everyone is wondering how they can squeeze and extra penny out of you and whether that is through profiteering or taxation doesn't really matter anyway.
This has been your left-libertarian guide to neo-liberalism. Remember, power is always hostile and don't believe the hype. Unfortunately equal numbers of leftists and rightists have bought into the ruling classes 'free market' propaganda. There is nothing remotely free about any of it.