by Umair Haque
March 01, 2018
from Eudaimonia Website
is Ending in Authoritarianism
Rising Around the Globe Again
You might be surprised, and a little disheartened, as I am, to look around the world in the early 21st century, and see it, well, giving up on freedom.
There is America, lapsing into comic-book authoritarianism. There, China has a newly forged lifelong leader. Over there, Britain is leaving the world's largest political union - in which neo-Nazis are again sitting in the Bundestag. There is Turkey, now a dictatorship, there is Eastern Europe, pulsing with nationalism and extremism.
So... why is the world
giving up on freedom?
Don't you think it's
interesting that neoliberals never much examine its costs? I do, so
But in Germany and Britain, too, by about 2000, incomes had flattened. Even in oft idealized Scandinavia, wages are largely being kept afloat by reducing work hours, so there are more jobs to go around.
The reason was straightforward:
But it's one thing for everyone's incomes to flatline - and quite another for the rich to grow super-rich, while the average stagnates.
The second great cost of neoliberalism was inequality. It wasn't just that incomes got stuck - it was that rich grew fantastically, absurdly, grotesquely richer. That meant that a predatory economy had emerged.
Growth was being siphoned off by the rich from the average - unless you believe that teacher, engineer, or doctor contributes nothing to a society's prosperity.
The rich were getting richer by doing things which made the average person poorer, not richer, too - things like,
...all glorified ponzi
schemes, which create less than no real lasting well being or
value for anyone at all.
North America is the prime example:
The elderly are beginning to have to work at Walmart until the day they drop dead - and that will be the norm for the young.
People, as a result, began to be laden down with debt - and engineering more and more cheap credit, whether through scores, bonds, cards, or loans, instead of growing incomes so people could save, became key to the survival of these troubled economies.
This was the third great
cost of neoliberalism - declining savings, a growing reliance on
credit, which makes economies, societies, and democracies more
fragile, vulnerable, and unhealthy.
Well - and this may strike you as foolish, but it is nonetheless true - they demand less social spending, so as to have more money in their pockets today.
And so across rich nations, savage austerity arose.
In Britain, its great
institutions, like the NHS and BBC began to shrink. The EU's levels
of social investments fell. And in America, people simply stopped
having affordable healthcare and education at all - they were
forced to make barbaric choices, like feeding their kids versus
basic medicine like insulin.
The great social contracts of the post-war, though many did not quite know it yet, were being ripped up by now - and their key innovations, like,
...began to be tossed upon the rubbish heap of history:
And, of course, a result,
social stability, safety, security, opportunity, and mobility all
began to wither, dwindle, and fall.
But the price endures - social contracts once ripped up thus often take generations to repair.
In this way, people had made a fools' bargain - but economists certainly did not tell them so, because in the terms of neoliberalism, social investment is something better done by private hands anyways.
What happens when people realized that they were beginning to grow poorer?
After all, that is what being unable to save is. Well, they begin to distrust one another. So soon enough, social bonds began to fray. In America, they imploded spectacularly - right down to the point where young people began massacring one another at school, numbing themselves with opioids.
Whole regions lay in ruins, their towns and cities reduced to wrecks, as industries crumbled.
People's sense of belonging imploded - not just in those destroyed places, but fanning out across the land, as a nation's sense of identity began to collapse.
Though it happened in America sooner, this implosion of social bonds soon enough hit elsewhere as well.
Brexit set region against region, neighbor against neighbor, demanding isolationism.
The underdeveloped part
of Germany set itself against the richer part, turning hard to the
right. And so on. This was the fourth great cost of neoliberalism -
shattered bonds and mounting distrust, whether in the form of anger,
suspicion, xenophobia, rage, or despair.
By now, the average person was in a truly desperate position:
His sense of dignity, fairness, belonging and safety had all been shattered like glass under a boot. To different degrees, to be sure, across classes and countries.
And yet neoliberalism seemed to converge here - this was its endpoint.
It didn't seem capable of making life any better, really, for the regular person - only making it worse, endlessly, in a vicious circle of taking everything that mattered to him, whether it was the chance to have a family, or do work that mattered, or enjoy a sense of ease, stability, and peace, in the place where he had spent those long summer days as a child.
You too might turn to the nearest Trump, Farage, Le Pen, AfD...
People are fragile, easily hurt things...
And when they are as damaged as neoliberalism has left them, it is no great surprise that they seek precisely and exactly all they have lost - prosperity, trust, safety, and strength - in the soothing, warm arms of strongmen.
Unless, of course, you think all this is a set of three mere coincidences :
Let me put that another way - the way that critics of neoliberalism often put it, but I think it misses the point.
There is no provision made for the "losers" under this global order. It elides the point that the "winners" are not often the best "players" - but the most cunning, ruthless, connected, or clever ones.
Still, there is a point there:
Here is the irony. The problem is deeper still.
You see, neoliberalism is a strangely mechanical thing. It cannot see emotional, social, human, environmental, or cultural costs - like some kind of killer robot, it cannot see human suffering.
So it simply pretends such costs do not exist.
Yet all those costs are exactly what people must pay:
But because it cannot even see human suffering, neoliberals still proclaim, dumbfounded:
The calculus of neoliberalism's "loser" - scratch that - let us call him neoliberalism's victim, instead, because he is usually a pretty good and decent person, is simple.
It is probably best of all to have safety, security, stability, income, wealth, trust, happiness, and freedom.
But if freedom costs you safety, security, stability, income, wealth, trust, and happiness - if it is only suffering, pure, sharp, and somehow never-ending, day after day, one day the loss of a job, the next the loss of a career, the next the loss of your self-respect - then what good is it anyways?
After all, freedom is a
means, not an end in itself. Better to have all the things that
freedom is there to help one live, than to have freedom, without any
of those things.
They do not understand why he is giving up on freedom.
The victim laughs, and
salutes the strongman...
But there is someone who can: the strongman, the fascist, singing him soothing lullabies of greatness and strength. He will be great again!
Ah, at last:
Some ideologies end with a scream, others with barely a whisper.
Neoliberalism is ending in,
Which one would you call
And still, because neoliberalism is like a robot who cannot see human beings, who cannot see those costs, it wonders, baffled: