Saturday, November 05, 2016

I can't wait for this election to be over.

People are arguing about whether certain people are neoliberals and whether neoliberalism is really all that bad. If you believe in democracy, of course, neoliberalism is really all that bad, I saw this thing Matt Stoller wrote on Facebook that I thought summed it up pretty nicely:
I put this on another thread, but I think it's worth discussing here because there's a lot of confusion. Our current governing apparatus is neoliberal. What does that actually mean? What is neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is a kind of statecraft. It means organizing state policies by making them appear as if they are the consequences of depoliticized financial markets. It involves moving power from public institutions to private institutions, and allowing governance to happen through concentrated financial power. Actual open markets for goods and services tend to disappear in neoliberal societies. Financial markets flourish, real markets morph into mass distribution middlemen like Walmart or Amazon.

This definition is my paraphrase of Greta Krippner's "Capitalizing on Crisis", a pretty good book about what happened from the 1960s to the 1980s in terms of financial politics. Her thesis is that the liberal democratic system was dismantled because it was too explicit about who was making choices. People would get mad at politicians when they didn't have, say, mortgage credit, or when the price of milk went up too high. The answer came to be neoliberalism, or creating a veil of financial markets to make all those decisions seem apolitical. Milk too expensive? Ah, those darn markets. Sure you can get mortgage credit, but market is going to charge you 19%. Can't afford that? Oh those darn financial markets.

Neoliberalism is not faith in free markets. Neoliberalism is not free market capitalism. Neoliberalism is a specific form of statecraft that uses financial markets as a veil to disguise governing policies.

This is what I think everyone needs to try to look out for and undo. Not just people who call themselves adherents of a particular party, or who voted for a particular candidate you find odious, but people who practice "statecraft" designed to obscure the fact that the things they are doing are political decisions and it needs to be stopped.