Delivering on this:
Thinkpiece about how Brexit and Trump are the ultimate outcome from neo-liberal erosion of social policy and shared responsibility.
— nzben (@nzben) June 24, 2016
Brexit terrifies me. It reminds me that our basic human operating model is tribalism, and our default economic model is feudalism. What we thought was a new civilised way of sharing growth turned out to just be a brief respite brought on by those who experienced the horrors of tribalism first-hand. Now those memories have just barely passed out of living memory, we’re back to jeering at each other, egged on by lords in high towers.
The Economist sums it up thusly (read that article, because there’s a nugget of hope that we’ll come back to later*):
Inequality […] fluctuated for 130 years to 1950, before falling sharply in 1950-1980, in what the report calls an egalitarian revolution. Since 1980 it has risen again (as Thomas Piketty, a French economist, has shown), back to the level of 1820.
Seems like someone decided that the egalitarian revolution wasn’t good enough. We needed more, and we needed it faster, so we took the brakes off and removed the safety features.
Some of you are screaming at your wonderful smartphone screens right now, arguing that we wouldn’t have 400dpi smartphones if we still had the regulations of the 70s. Rubbish. By some measures innovation has fallen off a cliff since the 80s, and while that paper asserts an “economic limit of innovation”, Occam’s Razor might have a different opinion:
Sitting on trillions of dollars of cash resulting from high profits these days, corporations buy back hundreds of billions of dollars of their own shares to boost stock prices, a systematic practice documented closely by the economist William Lazonick. They often do so rather than invest in new ideas or research.
So to my central point: multiple generations have now pushed us to privatise more, grow faster, to climb the ladder even if that means standing on the hands below you. Socialism is bad. They assert that government spending is irreparably inefficient, and only The Market can give us the innovation we need. We’ve ended up with massive and growing income inequality, and now xenophobia strong enough to tear apart the bonds we made in response to our exposure to the worst of human nature.
Neoliberalism is to blame. Not in some abstract left-vs-right low level policy debate, but in concrete terms:
Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector.
By now you’ve all seen Torsten Bell’s graphs: the ones showing that low income households voted to leave the EU. Our economic model du jour says that those families don’t deserve more; that they are the sadly necessary cost of growth and wealth. We’ve hinted to them that immigration is to blame because there’s someone willing to do a job cheaper than they would. It’s bullshit.
We’ve chosen laws and models that specifically move money from those in need to those that don’t need it.
We have enough wealth in the world to support everyone, to house everyone, to help everyone. More than enough. But we’ve chosen not to, because Neoliberalism says it’s incorrect to do so. Now it’s literally tearing the world apart.
*The nugget of hope? Potentially Britain could fix their internal inequality problem more easily by being a separate economic entity. The chances of that happening with Boris Johnson in power are below zero.