In his latest newspaper column Chris Trotter tries to define neo-liberalism in The ideology that dares not speak its name
In the case of neoliberal ideology…we are presented with a very different picture. In essence: a codification of the economic, social and political pre-conditions required for massive social inequality to become a permanent feature of contemporary capitalist society; neoliberalism generally prefers to avoid self-identification.
He mocks Rob Hosking’s ‘ignorance’ about it:
Last week, for example, The National Business Review‘s Rob Hosking responded to Sue Bradford’s accusation that the Greens had sold out to neoliberalism like this: “As always, it isn’t clear what is meant by ‘neo-liberal’, apart from ‘bad things’.”
Hosking may well be more familiar with the comments sections at The Daily Blog, where Trotter is a regular author.
In the age of Google, Hosking’s professed ignorance as to the term’s meaning is curious. Even the humble Wikipedia could have offered him enough to be going on with:
“Neoliberalism (neo-liberalism) refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalisation policies such as privatisation, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. These market-based ideas and the policies they inspired constitute a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus which lasted from 1945 to 1980.”
Google also, as usual, allows you to find variations to this, but along similar lines. A Primer on Neoliberalism looks like a good overview.
Admirably clear. And while there’s certainly scope for scholarly debate around detail and emphasis, Wikipedia’s definition is more than sufficient to dispel the feigned ignorance of neoliberalism’s most zealous defenders.
Why, then, do neoliberals like Hosking continue to insist that they have no firm grasp of the term’s usage – other than as an expression of left-wing abuse?
But definitions don’t go anywhere near describing how the term neo-liberalism is used. More often than not it is used as a general spit at current politics. It is often little more than an abusive expression.
The answer is simple. To survive and prosper, neoliberalism and the policies it inspires cannot afford to be seen as just another ideology – like communism or fascism. Rather, it must be accepted as a law of nature – as unyielding to human influence as the weather.
What absolutely must not become widely understood is that neoliberalism is, indeed, an all-too-human artefact: formulated by twentieth century economists and given popular currency by individuals and institutes funded by extremely wealthy and politically motivated capitalists.
It can be as understood as anyone wants it to be understood. There are no rules and regulations that ban looking it up on Google (that would be anti-neo-liberal).
After 33 years of neoliberalism, young New Zealanders find themselves burdened down with debt and, increasingly, shut out of the housing market.
The young All Souls Fellowship holder, Max Harris, has written a whole book, The New Zealand Project, on what he sees as young New Zealanders’ alienation from politics.
Young people have been relatively uninterested in politics for a lot longer than 33 years,
But how could a generation raised under neoliberalism be anything else?
All their lives they have been told that to be human is to compete.
I can remember a lot of criticism of schools and sports removing competition too much, where everyone is a winner no mater how good they are at something. During the last 33 years it is common to see kids sports awards and kids school awards being rotated sol that no one misses out.
That the way they buy and sell things (commodities, other people, themselves) is much more important than the way they vote. That their position in the socio-economic hierarchy is entirely attributable to the wisdom or unwisdom of their personal choices.
This is typical Trotter tosh. “That the way they buy and sell things (commodities, other people, themselves) is much more important than the way they vote”? Good grief.
Bill English must do Trotter’s pigeon hole head in. As Minister of Finance English bumped up welfare payments, the first real raise in over 40 years (since before ‘neo-liberalism’).
Looking at the definition that Trotter favours: These include extensive economic liberalisation policies such as…
– there has been very modest privatisation over the last 8 years, and private management of Mt Eden prison has even been rescinded
- fiscal austerity,
– one of the biggest criticisms of English’s fiscal management is the amount the deficit has grown, which is far from austere.
– the Government has found it very difficult to deregulate, for instance the RMA has been very difficult for them to get through parliament
- free trade and
– they have tried with the TPP but Donald Trump has stymied it in a very non-neoliberal move.
- reductions in government spending
– government spending has kept rising, and is set to rise even more this year as a surplus becomes available in election year
- in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society
– the public/private balance is not changing much, we still have a very large government that remains prominent, for example with large injections of money into transport and housing.
The political world didn’t suddenly change completely and irreversibly 33 years ago. There were some significant changes for sure, but the alternative in New Zealand was letting the country go broke after the extreme interventions under Muldoon.
Ruth Richardson turned up the austerity screws in the early 1990s, but since then government has been a mix of many things, with it’s ‘neo-liberal’ component being very moderate.
While everyone in New Zealand hasn’t won Lotto yet, and there are huge hurdles to home ownership, in the main most New Zealanders are able to do ok, if they put effort in and things work out for them.
People like Trotter despise an extreme form of neo-liberalism so they can suggest an extreme alternative. The political, economic and social realities in New Zealand are far closer to the middle.