Home > Uncategorized > Neoliberalism is being challenged

Neoliberalism is being challenged

February 24, 2016

Don’t know about you, but I think neoliberalism, which has been a prevailing ideology for the past 40 years, is being challenged this year like never before.

Let me start my argument with a discussion of the newest AltBanking essay, entitled Freedom in the Neoliberal Eden. In the essay, we make the case that the citizens of Flint, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri are living lives of extreme freedom and liberty, at least if you define those concepts as a neoliberalist would. They are extreme cases, to be sure, but also 100% natural consequences of their political and economic environment. From the essay:

When nothing trickles down, when boats don’t rise, here is the explanation that follows: it is not the system that it is at fault, but the character of those people who failed to prosper in it. In this supposedly radically free landscape, you will find yourself entwined in an unsatisfiable obligation. Yes, there is the ever-present Prosperity Gospel stuff we hear from the Christian right, but there is also an even wider-scale acceptance of financial responsibility, credit worthiness, and general economic success – whether earned or not – as equivalent to moral uprightness.

Feel free to read the entire essay, which is powerful.

It’s also not entirely pessimistic. It ends with the hopeful thought that the Ferguson Report was, after all, generated by our Justice Department. Perhaps it can or will be seen as an inflection point in the history of neoliberal politics in the U.S..

In fact, there are more hopeful signs if you look for them.

For example, yet another attempt at social impact bonds, which is a way to hand huge social problems over to “the private sector” to solve, has failed. I’ve written about this before as a bad idea, so I won’t go into all my reasons that Goldman Sachs won’t solve mass incarceration (key word: gaming).

More generally though, we shouldn’t expect a neoliberalized private sector economy to address problems that stem from inequality. If you find yourself trying to financialize things like incarcerated teens and early childhood education for poor kids, you’re likely not going to see the point of long-term investments like GED preparation classes for prisoners, which cost money now but have few easily measurable benefits.

Simply stated, there are some things that government should actually provide to everyone, like education and economic opportunity, where private companies will always want to pick and choose who will be more profitable. I think this is sinking in, slowly.

Here’s another spark of hope: politics. I know, it’s hard to find much inspiration in that chaos, but one obvious point to make is that voters are not entirely buying into the standard SuperPAC-funded corporatist politics. Granted, it’s taking an ugly turn on the GOP side, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And since I’m looking for good news, I’ll consider this as such.

Finally, the recent Congressional action that removed No Child Left Behind is a concession from policy makers that educational institutions do not benefit from being run like businesses, and naive metrics of success when it comes to truly difficult problems only serve to distract and trivialize.

In his new book The Only Game In Town, Mohamed El-Erian describes two possible near futures for the world economy: in the first, we go to hell in a hand basket characterized by economic stagnation, radicalized politics and social unrest, destructive inequality, and resource wars between nations.

In the second possible future, the elected governments of the world acknowledge the major roles they play in a peaceful future. They pick themselves up off their collective asses, take their responsibilities seriously – and in particular take the economic reins from central bankers – and start providing the services, infrastructure, progressive tax systems, and opportunities that their constituents need.

I’m hoping the second thing happens.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 24, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Dream On …


  2. Brandon
    February 24, 2016 at 9:21 am



  3. February 24, 2016 at 9:50 am

    I REALLY wish you were right about ESSA (the bill that replaced NCLB and RTTT)… but… the reason it was supported b Republicans is that it handed the oversight of public education back to States most of whom are governed by Republicans and legislatures that love ALEC legislation that wants to privatize public functions… like education… These states all want to hand “failing schools” over to emergency managers or handpicked CEOs who answer to shareholders and/or the State legislature and not the local governments. Worse, States like KS and WA refuse to fully fund their budgets which leads to increased inequality in their schools… ESSA is a bad bill that will be hard for any president to replace… and the testing will continue until all schools are “failing”…


    • February 24, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Thanks, I will look into this.


      • cassie
        February 25, 2016 at 5:53 pm

        Yes, seconding this. ESSA includes a lot of the same terrible stuff, and on the rest, throws the responsibility to the states. On the plus side, this means that state-level organizing may be able to improve things, but the big money pushing ed privatization is very big on the state-level as well.

        Mercedes Schneider is a very good blogger and author to read on this: https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/category/essa/


      • February 27, 2016 at 7:44 am

        Here are a few posts with links that will get you started… http://waynegersen.com/?s=%22ESSA%22


  4. mathematrucker
    February 24, 2016 at 10:13 am

    After supporting Bernie at our caucus Saturday and seeing what appeared to be 95+ percent of the turnout over age 40, I’m hoping that hand basket has some really strong insulation.


  5. February 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    I would not read too much into the Justice Department report on Ferguson. Did you notice that the district attorney who deliberately threw the Michael Brown case wasn’t mentioned? Not once. BTW, no less jurist than Scalia pointed out the case was thrown.


  6. Scotty on Denman
    February 25, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Up here in Canada we definitely feel the neo-right shrinking: last spring Alberta’s 43 year-old Conservative dynasty was thrashed by, of all parties, and of all provinces, the socialist New Democratic Party—talk about mind-blowing! Except, of course, the NDP is now blamed for the drop in oil prices (note the NDP had NEVER BEFORE been government in uber-right Albetar, much less ever having anything to do with world oil prices). And we finally shook off our neo-right federal government last October. I live in British Columbia so naturally I’m looking forward to turfing the last neo-right government in Canada—and easily the most distructive one—the BC Liberals—which brings me to nomenclature: this party used to be what most people would recognize as liberal until it was usurped by the remnants of the defunct, far-right Social Credit party that once formed long-serving governments in BC and Albetar from the 30s to the 70s (and was the arch enemy of socialism, despite the name); the BC Liberals kept the name but turned the party sharply right, much to the confusion of other Canadians outside BC, many of whom are governed by real Liberal parties. The profusion of confusion comes from loosely defined political movements variously called “neo-liberal” or “neo-conservative”—I tired of having to explain these fine points all the time, especially to Americans who are loath to pronounce the word “socialist” (at least up ’til Bernie) and often substitute, at the neo-liberal/conservatives behest, the “L-word”. So I’ve adopted the term “neo-right”. Just as “liberal” and “conservative” were qualified by the prefix “neo-“, my term also distinguishes old from new: the old right-wing, what most would call conservatives, and we up here call “Tory” or even “Red Tory” (please don’t confuse this with the American Revolutionary term for royal loyalists), was always strong on national patriotism whereas neo-rightists are not; they’re into stateless corporatism that generally dislikes sovereign democracies that tax and regulate profiteers. Neo-rightists definitely have a libertarian bent, but it’s this anti-sovereigntist quality that really defines them.

    And that brings me to this question: can Americans and Canadians ever agree about the anti-sovereigntist, neo-rightist definition? How it looks from here: Canadian sovereignty is to be diminished by the neo-right to the greatest extent it can manage—just like its agenda for every other sovereign nation, especially democratic ones where voters might elect governments loyal to their respective citizens and not to mammon. But the USA maintains the acknowledged economic and strategic hegemony; does this make its own sovereignty any more or less undesirable to stateless corporatists? Or is the neo-right content to allow American sovereignty—just so long’s it’s the only one? Sort of the neo-right’s lair where it can wallow in rituals of national patriotism it really despises in other nations.

    As an aside, I’ve been noticing a lot of absurdity coming from these neo-rightists (no, the Republicans haven’t monopolized absurdity yet, they’re just high-viz, that’s all). Neo-right rationalizations of these secretive trade-deals are quite often absurd, and getting more so all the time. What’s up with the blatant absurdity going on with the neo-rightists?

    I’d like to think it’s indicative or prognostic of moribundity, but I must admit neo-rightists still look like they have a strong will to survive. I mean, they seem too greedy to throw in the towel or retreat graciously. Now that we’ve flushed almost all of our neo-right governments here in Canada (just one more to go in May 2017), we note that right-wing (I’d say “neo-right”) think-tanks are still as active as ever, perhaps even more than they were when their proxies were undermining our national, democratic sovereignty.


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