A Challenge to Bernie Supporters and All Democrats
Economic policy is broken and Hillary can’t fix it without new thinking and a new agenda. There is a critical job to do, and we must do it; as history and our freedom hangs in the balance!
Why don’t people trust her? First, let’s admit the distrust is real. People often know more than they can articulate so don’t discount this distrust. I believe a substantial portion can be found in neoliberalism, an economic policy agenda that is, according to George Monbiot, nameless, but like water to a fish, we swim in the neoliberal philosophy daily. We can’t articulate our distrust if we can’t name it. George asks do you know what neoliberalism is?
Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has — or had — a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly? . . .The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism. . . . in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism — the Mont Pelerin Society.
From this beginning the wealthy funded a series of think tanks, academic positions, media organizations and political activists to develop neoliberal thought and to push it’s adoption; in fact it adopted a tactic of using crisis to push it’s agenda. Think of the way that the Bush administration used to unity of 9/11 to push through the Republicans neoliberal program and the way the Koch brothers who, according to Monbiot, funded the beginnings of the Tea Party in response to the financial crisis of 2009. At the same time, ananimity is also a goal. As Monbiot explicated the Koch strategy:
“in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”
Neoliberalism may have had some good points in the beginning, but it has become more and more extreme and in turn has become more and more disfunctional. Again from Monboit:
Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. . . . the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.
Hillary and the New Democrats, like the Blarites in England’s Labor Party, are also part of the neoliberal team, abet without the extremism of the Kochs and the republicans. But what we need is an Economic Moonshot New thinking beyond right and left of the 19th and 20th Centuries; designed for our 21st Century future. Advocating for old leftist positions will not generate the support needed. Protest and resistance alone will not do. We need new thinking. If we don’t, then the next resession will likely see us try to cope with an authoritarian alternative. Paul Mason has said that the Blarites would rather lose the election than see their party lose their neoliberal orientation. Some Bernie supporter seem to prefer the Trump authoritarians rather than give up their ideas. Neither of these positions will give us the new thinking that is needed. Is it all ideological or do they lack a vision? I hope it’s the latter and that conversations can bring the change we need. But what should be done now?
Speaking to the Brits, Paul Mason has advocated for the following:
The offer Labour needs to make is dictated by the strategy. To the multi-ethnic, globally focused urban demos, it is everything that expresses their values: racial, sexual and gender equality; reluctance to wage war; remaining within the Single market; devolving power; freedom of expression; internationalism; and policies that make living in the dense city more bearable.
To the beleaguered working class of the small towns it can only be: massive economic stimulus.
With a strong political identity of your own, and belief, and solidarity you can do in a working class community what generations of trade unionists had to do: stand up to the scabs and racists, isolate them, shame them, explain left politics and anti-racism in the language of the community that surrounds you.
And this is not something only the left can do.
Indeed, it is a beginning, but we must strive for more. From George Monboit:
Every invocation of Lord Keynes is an admission of failure. To propose Keynesian solutions to the crises of the 21st century is to ignore three obvious problems. It is hard to mobilise people around old ideas; the flaws exposed in the 70s have not gone away; and, most importantly, they have nothing to say about our gravest predicament: the environmental crisis. Keynesianism works by stimulating consumer demand to promote economic growth. Consumer demand and economic growth are the motors of environmental destruction.
What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.