Saturday, February 19, 2011

Neoliberalism in theory and in practice

Daniel C. Maguire, Professor of Moral Theology at Wisconsin's Jesuit Marquette University, gives a good overview of what the "neoliberal" ideology of deregulation/union-busting/Washington Consensus is. His disapproving judgment of the neoliberal ideology is apparent in his discription. He gives four major characteristics and elaborates on each of them separately. From Battling 'Neoliberalism' in Wisconsin Consortium News 02/18/2011:

---Neoliberalism has been called a philosophy of "possessive individualism." Historian Richard Hofstadter called it "beneficent cupidity" or the notion that "greed is good," in more modern parlance. It embodies Social Darwinism — survival of the fittest — which sees society, as C.B. MacPherson said, as a mass of competing "dissociated individuals."
--Neoliberalism despises government because government is the enforcer of the sharing (e.g. taxes, regulations, monopoly curbing) needed for the common good. Neoliberals want to shrink government so small that it can be drowned in the bathtub, as right-wing political operative Grover Norquist cleverly put it.
--Neoliberalism is anti-union. Though neoliberals laud competition, they do not want competition coming from workers who are instead reduced to "human capital" that can be discarded as readily as a worn-out machine. You don’t do collective bargaining with machines, so why should you with workers?
--Neoliberalism is a kind of secular religion which demands that we embrace a pious faith in the "market," which must be granted unfettered freedom to work its will, the sort of power that traditional religions ascribe to God.
Neoliberalism results in the wealthiest getting much wealthier, both absolutely and relative to everyone else in the country. The Republican Party drive against public employee unions being acted out right now in Wisconsin, is a key part of the neoliberal ideology, which doesn't see union rights and collective bargaining as a beneficial things, i.e., not something that primarily makes the rich richer.

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