So which of these politicians is a neoliberal? None of them | Nick cohen | News Today

So which of these politicians is a neoliberal? None of them | Nick cohen

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NOTo we admit to being “neoliberal”. You cannot vote for the neoliberal party or join a neoliberal club. Like 21st century fascism and religious fundamentalism, neoliberalism is a movement without overt adherents.

If you label your opponents as “fascists” or “fundamentalists,” at least your audience knows that you are condemning them. So far a “neoliberal”? Most people won’t know what you’re talking about, but they’ll guess it doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. The exceptions will be the minority immersed in leftist thought. They alone are ready to shudder at the sound of the word.

Insults that only insiders understand are closer to a secret code than an open argument. Like the changes in the approved terms for disadvantage – don’t say “able-bodied”, say “non-disabled” – the effect, if not the intention, is to demean ordinary people and make them feel like they are. left or worse for not following the latest linguistic fashions. Since losing is the standard center-left experience, rejecting language that excludes the majority of the population strikes me as a belated necessity. Especially since a new collection of essays by modern historians suggests that supposed insiders may not understand what neoliberalism means either. The neoliberal era? Great Britain since the 1970s worth reading and not just because the generous publishers allow you to download it for free.

While most contributors agree that the coming to power of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher represented a break with the past, they dispute everything else. Were they really preceded by a social democratic golden age? (Movements to empower women, ethnic minorities, and gays and lesbians did not think so.) Are the changes we explain by examining political decisions the result of ideological shifts or the passage of a manufacturing economy to a service economy that affected every developed country, regardless of who was in power?

The doctrines of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are meant to be distinct from the traditional apologetics of rampant capitalism. The economic liberals of the 19th century wanted a minimal state. But the neoliberals of the 20th century wanted to empower the state to create and maintain markets and competition. As a story, it’s boring sentimental. The British state presided over the world’s first capitalist economy. He used his empire as a captive market and went to war with China to allow the free trade in drugs to flourish. You can call it a lot of things, but it wasn’t a minimal state. In the 1960s, during the supposed Thirty glorious of the social democratic era, the Bank of England and the Foreign Office enabled the creation of tax havens that allowed plutocrats, businesses and criminals to accumulate their money with disastrous and lasting consequences for the ‘humanity.

I could go on, but the cliquey language remains my main concern: not just for what it hides, but for what it unintentionally reveals. Like so much insider jargon, neoliberal is a pathetically weak term. To take an everyday example: Since the Thatcher government privatized the water industry in 1989, executives and shareholders have harnessed their monopoly power to make nearly £ 60 billion in profits. In 2020, companies spent 3.1 million hours dumping sewage into rivers. So great has been their failure to reinvest even a small part of the money they take, the south-east of England could soon face water shortages.

I accept that no government in the mid-20th century would have considered handing over water companies to careless profiteers. But to call today’s politicians and regulators, who sit idly by while monopolists cover the campaign with feces, “neoliberals” is to let them go lightly. The Russians would never use such a soft term to refer to the men Vladimir Putin has let go. They capture the banditry of crony capitalism by talking about thieves, looters and crooks.

I cannot speak for academia, but in politics I know that the cry “neoliberal” is a sure sign that I am in the presence of the far left. He must maintain that there is no difference between Tony Blair’s Labor government and any government Keir Starmer might lead, and the Conservatives. I believed in it once, but the brutality of the current Conservative government of David Cameron made me think again. The same goes for the arguments for apathy or desperation behind seemingly radical slogans.

Only moderate center-left parties have won elections in Western countries and their victories are quite rare. If you insist that they are as much a part of a neoliberal plot as the right is, then there is no point in fighting to remove the right from power.

Just as seriously, a belief in neoliberal hegemony rules out whether it makes sense to view today’s law as neoliberal. I can see the appeal of the idea. Boris Johnson and his wife are openly for sale. Whether they want new wallpaper or dinner delivered, their first instinct is to mop up wealthy donors, who may well harbor the hope that their favors will be returned.

None of his personal corruption, however, can hide the truth that Johnson is a nationalist, who appeals to deep chauvinistic sentiments rather than class interests. No economic liberal, neo or otherwise, would take the UK out of the richest single market in the world. The Tories got it wrong when they thought Brexit would bring about a deregulated society. But we should pay more attention to the world as it is than to the fantasies of the delusional ones and see that instead of a Singapore on the Thames, they have undermined exporters and raised taxes to their highest level since. the 1960s, a time when The Thatcher Revolution would have been completed.

Far from being a stimulus for entrepreneurial dynamism, the Conservative Party is the party of people who have stopped working, rather than the party of businesses and their workers. Johnson and ministers have swept aside the prejudices of his main retiree vote and put their economic interests first. I can’t imagine Friedman’s ghost applauding a government that raises taxes for employers and employees to protect the assets of wealthy retirees.

You won’t beat them with obscurantist labels voters don’t understand, and you just might not understand either. You will not beat them until you understand them and when you do you will realize that whatever they are, they are not neoliberals.

Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist

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