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Campbell & Gould on neoliberalism

Written By: - Date published: 7:20 am, November 4th, 2014 - 49 comments
Categories: capitalism, economy, Economy, monetary policy - Tags: , , ,

Bryan Gould is an interesting chap. Rhodes Scholar, British Labour MP, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waikato, author of many books, occasional writer for The Herald, and author here at The Standard. Most recently, Bryan has been in the news because he is convenor of Labour’s current review process.

In this context it is interesting to read this extended discussion between the always excellent Gordon Campbell and Gould, as published in Campbell’s Werewolf. Here are some extracts on neoliberalism and the economy.

In his introduction Campbell writes:

The need to dislodge neo-liberalism as the only model of capitalist realism is pretty obvious. Its manifest failures are doing too much damage to too many people. A few weeks ago, Bloomberg Business News – not exactly a left wing rag – ran a story about the zombie ideas of the neo-liberal orthodoxy that simply refuse to die no matter how often they have been shown to fail. Bloomberg’s short list of disproven ideas – ‘that originated from or were widely dispersed by think tanks and their benefactors’ include :

• Austerity as a virtuous policy during recessions
• The efficient-market hypothesis
• Tax cuts pay for themselves (ie supply-side economics)
• Self-regulating markets
• Homo economicus (that individuals are profit-maximizing economic actors)

The interview / discussion follows:

Campbell : Voters here don’t seem to like neo-liberalism very much and nor do they believe in it, particularly. Yet hasn’t neoliberalism’s great success been in convincing people that this is the only credible way to run a modern economy?

Gould : I think that’s absolutely right. Its a real puzzle as to why the lessons we thought we’d learned repeatedly for the last century or more, have been forgotten, or ignored. Or even why the shocking outcomes of the Global Financial Crisis and the recession, have not shaken people’s faith in neo-liberalism, or in neo-classical economics. Its partly a function of the fact that public opinion tends to lag…but it is also something more significant. The advent of the global economy has taught people that it is big business that really has the power, and that it can dictate even to elected governments, particularly so in small countries like New Zealand. So there’s a tendency for people to listen to and to simply accept the messages being purveyed by elitists, and by big business.

OK, and here’s the 64 dollar question. Under Labour, what would a post GFC, post Third Way economic policy actually look like?

Well, the last two or three decades have been characterized by the belief that inflation is the main danger…And it was agreed that the best way to [control inflation] is to manipulate interest rates. But what is not recognised in New Zealand or other Western countries is that the main inflationary impact comes from the banks. As the Bank of England has recently recognized in a major paper earlier this year some 97% of all the money in circulation in the case of Britain – and its similar here – is originally created by banks, out of nothing. And they create it in order to lend it out on mortgage. Most people think that banks take in savings from depositors and then they lend that out again, to borrowers. No, not a bit of it. The amount that the banks lend has got nothing to do with the money that people deposit with them.

OK. But the political problem here is that if and when governments do exactly the same thing in order to meet social goals, that’s derided as ‘printing money’

Exactly….

And as the US has shown that you can do that – they called it ‘quantitative easing’ – when you’re bailing out the banks. But you’re regarded as being beyond the political pale if you do this for any social purpose, right?

Absolutely. You’ve got it.

So how then, does a centre-left party engage with the politics of this situation, beyond poking holes in it from a distance? In the current circumstances, what you’re saying simply isn’t a viable political programme – it sounds like Social Credit.

Yes, and that’s the central dilemma I believe, for the left. Oddly enough though, the relatively new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reverted to the – this is getting a bit esoteric , but its relevant…there was a famous in Japan, unknown in the West, economist called Osamu Shimomura. He was a Keynesian economist, and he realized, as Keynes had said, that there is no intrinsic reason for the scarcity of capital…and as Keynes also said, you can create money to invest in productive capacity even in advance of that productive capacity being available, provided it comes on stream within a reasonable period. So in other words, if you create money for productive investment – and it works – that’s not inflationary, but you’re growing the economy.

And that was the basis of the huge Japanese success of the 1960s, 70s and 80. Until they abandoned the policy for other reasons, and began to stagnate. The Chinese are doing the same. The Chinese simply write cheques on themselves when they want to buy something…. But we won’t invest, or borrow, or do anything that suggests growth, because we’re terrified of inflation.

It’s a long and fascinating discussion, an in-depth examination of the assumptions underlying our economy and the realistic alternatives that you won’t find anywhere else in the media. Make some time this week to go read it all. If I had my way it would be required reading for Labour’s leadership contenders – perhaps Gould can insist on it as part of his review!

49 comments on “Campbell & Gould on neoliberalism ”

  1. Marksman33 1

    Sounds like what CVs been on about, good on ya CV.

  2. adam 2

    Well worth the read. Leaves me uncomfortable, as it still tethered to a capitalist approach.

    Still just tinkering with a failing economic system – but you social democrats may as well fiddle whilst the world burns. It avoids having to do or act in any manner which might be hard.

    Oh, and you get some power for your corporate elects, rather than their corporate elects.

  3. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 3

    Only have time to read the headline. Can someone tell me what these titans concluded?

    • r0b 3.1

      Banks print money every day in the form of mortgages. Governments print money to bail out failed banks. But governments may NOT print money to develop productive assets that pay for themselves (except those governments that did and it works).

      • dv 3.1.1

        And then the banks take billions out of the economy by the way of interest.

        • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 3.1.1.1

          So (and I am trying to contain my surprise) they are against what they call neo-liberalism?

          • felix 3.1.1.1.1

            You could have read it by now, dickhead.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.2

            Not quite: they discuss tried and tested alternatives that produce better outcomes for everybody.

            I can see why you’d hate and fear that. Perhaps you’d better not read it.

            • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 3.1.1.1.2.1

              tried and tested alternatives

              God, I loved the 70s. Everything was peachy and in no way totally fucked.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Is that what they’re discussing? The 1970s? Which country are they talking about?

  4. Daveinireland 4

    We look forward to the Labour party adopting the UK Labour parties’ 1983 election manifesto.

  5. karol 5

    Hmmm… I was with Gould until he said that he saw Parker as the person most likely to follow the new direction Gould is advocating. Parker seems to me to be more of the dame soft-neoliberalism, don’t scare those who talk up the market as sorting things out for the better.

    Then Gould kind of implies that the Greens should butt out of social justice, as it’s Labour territory – well Gould hints at that, then backs off in favour of working something out post leadership election.

    In that Gould seems to be holding on to some FPtP notions. Here’s what he actually says:

    Gould: Ideally, what you say is right and its what we should be aiming at. One of the difficulties I think is that the Greens – who are the other obvious major party – have remedied one of their traditional weaknesses. So instead of just saving we want to save the planet but we have no analysis of how do that apart from not doing certain things – it is now well understood by them that if you want to save the planet, you have to intervene in the market. They’ve developed an economic policy hard edge that they used not to have. And inevitably, that has brought them into the space traditionally occupied by Labour…and that means [the Greens] are more and more seen as a left party, instead of potentially taking votes from the National Party. And, as I say, it brings them more and more into conflict with Labour. How do you resolve that? I don’t know. I think you could try to bring about a longer term identity of interest – and therefore of policy – that didn’t just come together after the election in order to form a coalition government. Perhaps there could involve campaigning on different aspects of a more or less common policy.

    Campbell: Which raises the obvious question about the wisdom of campaigning as a bloc – rather than competing head on with each other ?

    GouldWell, I wouldn’t want to get into that, at the moment. Because of the review.

    CampbellYes, but its interesting that you raised it in the way you did. Because it suggests you think the Greens should butt out of the social justice area.

    GouldYes. And the problem then of course, is there may well be elements in the Greens who see themselves as replacing Labour. So its not easy sell for them either, to say….to tell them to butt out.

    • felix 5.1

      “the Greens should butt out of social justice, as it’s Labour territory “

      If people in the Labour party really believe that – and I think many do – then the way to get the Greens to “butt out” is to make it true.

      • weka 5.1.1

        Yep. There’s a reason that the GP were able to take over this teritory so easily.

        However the GP aren’t now going to give it up. Social justice was always a big part of their kaupapa (inherited from the Values Party), and now that they’ve given it equal billing it’s fixed in the party in ways that can’t simply be put aside. This is the dilemma for Labour. Is it going to start trying to out compete the Greens on ground that the Greens are obviously doing better on, and thus perpetuate the idea that Labour can’t work with other parties? Or is it going to get over itself and realise that 50% is no longer real, and figure out how to build a strong left wing govt from several parties?

        I’d guess it will hedge its bets and look to NZF as along as Peters is around, and thus we will have another term or two of Labour faffing about giving NZ the appearance that it doesn’t really know what it is doing. Thanks Labour.

        • karol 5.1.1.1

          Yes. Agreed, weka.

          But, also, I don’t see a problem. I don’t know how a party could be left-wing, without embracing social justice. And, alternatively, as Gould acknowledges, developing and maintaining an environmentally sustainable policy, also means jettisoning “neoliberalism”.

          Furthermore Labour and The Greens come to social justice from totally different angles:

          for Labour, the workplace is central in terms of power relations – it needs collective organisation on behalf of the working class (via unions and political entities), to counter the power of the capitalist class. The need for social security, state housing, etc, arise from that, because the capitalist class treat workers as expendable, and fodder to the capitalist system, to be used and spat out as it suits them.

          For the Greens, social justice is part of looking at society as a whole, and seeing the need for human societies and communities to work together, in harmony with the environment and each other, for the whole system to work well, and in the interests of all.

          However, it may be hard to communicate the difference to many in the wider electorate.

          Probably it would help if both parties worked out slightly different priorities that they would promote. And it could be seen as a very good thing that they are in agreement on underlying values.

          • weka 5.1.1.1.1

            Yes, I don’t see a problem either, or at least there shouldn’t be one. Which begs the question of why Labour continue to see it as such.

            With all due respect to Gould, he comes across as old fashioned and still not up with MMP as it’s playing out in NZ. In other words, the GP aren’t going to go away, so what’s next?

            “Probably it would help if both parties worked out slightly different priorities that they would promote. And it could be seen as a very good thing that they are in agreement on underlying values.”

            Yes, these are the things that should be happening (and I think the communicating to the public stuff would be resolved once the basic paradigm had shifted). Hard to see much progress on that so long as Labour sees the GP as stealing its votes.

            • Tracey 5.1.1.1.1.1

              he is fpp. and part of the old guard who having wrongly pigeon holed greens as only being about the planet colour themselves surprised that they stand for other things so have told themselves that the greens have softened or broadened… same mentality the msm has

              • Draco T Bastard

                +1

                And the same that National has with it’s demand that the Greens return to being a party just about the environment.

      • Tracey 5.1.2

        yup, but that would take work, and actually standing for something

  6. RedLogix 6

    Sounds exactly what Steven Keen has been saying for yonks:

    As the Bank of England has recently recognized in a major paper earlier this year some 97% of all the money in circulation in the case of Britain – and its similar here – is originally created by banks, out of nothing. And they create it in order to lend it out on mortgage. Most people think that banks take in savings from depositors and then they lend that out again, to borrowers. No, not a bit of it. The amount that the banks lend has got nothing to do with the money that people deposit with them.

    Maybe 18 months ago Keen gave some seminars in NZ – I attended the Wellington one. Interestingly the back row in the room was about a dozen heavyweight Treasury and RB people. It was hard to tell exactly what they were thinking – but certainly there was a high level of engagement and agreement with what Keen was saying.

    [video src="https://d2pq0u4uni88oo.cloudfront.net/projects/1383150/video-456089-h264_high.mp4" /]

  7. What Gould and other Keynesians don’t understand is that providing public money for investment still relies on private investors being motivated to invest.

    They will only do that if they can get a profit.

    That depends on the ability to compete in the productivity stakes by extracting more surplus value from workers.

    China has been able to do the Keynesian thing only because its state created money is directed into productive capacity and in a world wide expansionary policy to fuel its rapid growth.

    The big established monopolies of the Western powers however rely less on new technology than on cornering the market on existing technology with water-tight intellectual property rules.

    This means that newly printed money doesn’t go into production but into speculation in existing assets.

    This is why trillions of QE has ended up creating bubbles in housing, sharemarkets etc while actual productive growth is stagnating.

    This is the inherent limit of capitalist production, it depends upon applying new technology to create surplus-value from labour.

    While the free market is the fatal flaw for Keynesianism, so far the state capitalism of China (much more extensive than Keynesian policy) has not yet run up against that inherent limit.

    It is directing its sovereign fund and its SOEs billions into a value added strategy based on new technology such as shifting from carbon to renewable energy.

    China will prove to be the final test case of capitalisms incapacity to plan for the good of the majority and avoid destroying nature and humanity.

    A lot hinges on what happens in China only because it can do what Western powers have failed to do while mired in the market.

    However, state capitalism cannot overcome the inherent limits to capitalism because rule by a state cabal of capitalists still driven by profits cannot rule in the interests of the people.

    The trillions pocketed by the new capitalist class in China are at the expense of the billions of workers and peasants.

    When the masses in China and around the world tied to its powerhouse find that system reaching its limits, the social explosion will be epoch changing.

    What the new society that replaces capitalism will do is take over the productive capacity of capitalism but direct it to social ends.

    Essential to this will be matching the money supply to the total value being produced by workers, under the management and control of workers.

    A good source on the limits of capitalism and the failure of Keynesianism is Michael Roberts Blog
    http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/

  8. Bill 8

    I’m surprised that such an extensive piece has not included the fact that in Scotland, the very same Labour Party they are referring to, is (by the latest poll) about to be obliterated due to the appeal of the left leaning (read ‘old Labour’?) SNP.

    Seems to me, the future direction of Labour is a no-brainer.

    Denounce neo-liberalism, apologise unreservedly for 1984 and what followed, and then get get the fuck on with it.

    • adam 8.1

      I’ve said for some time, labour is the dead weight around the lefts neck.

      Bill a cold day in hell, will it be, if you think the labour party will apologize.

      And why would the labour party start to do anything sensible now, when they have had the last thirty to realise, they took the backstabbing of working people to a whole new level.

      • Alex 8.1.1

        I am always intrigued by this needing to apologise for the reforms of the Fourth Labour Government. Admittingly, the sequence of the reforms was wrong, (Roger Douglas admits this himself), but something had to be done to fix the NZ economy. The inteventionist approach of 1935-1984 was failing, NZ was heading into bankruptcy. So I ask the question, what would those seeking Labour to apologise change? How would they undertake fixing the NZ economy in the 1980s?

        I often think there is a generational aspect to this debate that is missing. I grew up in during the reforms. Obviously judging from a number of the points listed through these threads a number of commentators remember the pre 1984 world.

        The reality is that more and more NZers are identify solely with the post 1984 world. Why would we now reopen rail lines that are uneconomic, build our tvs and appliances here (that would cost alot more than importing them), have the Government own hotels, insurance and forestries, like we did pre 1984? Instead of looking backwards, Labour needs to identify with the future and acknowledge that the reforms had to happen.

        • Nic the NZer 8.1.1.1

          In light of the fact that the country is not able to go bankrupt, how was the country heading for bankruptcy?

          • Alex 8.1.1.1.1

            Sorry, in order to condense I used the term bankruptcy.

            I meant the currency crisis, the lack of financial reserves, the need for Muldoon to have frozen wages, the failure of protectionist economic policies, high inflation, debt from the “Think Big” projects. Issues like these all had a significantly detrimental effect on the New Zealand economy, which meant that the economy needed to be radically overhauled.

            • Nic the NZer 8.1.1.1.1.1

              So the only reform which needed to happen was to end the fixed exchange rate?

            • Colonial Rawshark 8.1.1.1.1.2

              Nonsense.

              A debt restructuring and a gradual economic reform process would have sorted it out and allowed NZ to trade its way through the process.

              Of course, that would have meant that strategic NZ assets wouldn’t have been sold off to the corporate and oligarchic class.

              • Alex

                Nonsense is it? Always good to be look at thinks through 20/20 hindsight. So please elaborate what your “gradual economic reform process is”. So by your term “strategic assets” I am assuming that you would be happy with the sale of hotels, Government Print, Health Computing Service and other “non-strategic assets”.

                • Colonial Rawshark

                  Yep, utter nonsense. None of those assets you listed needed to be sold. None of those assets raised any appreciable amount of USD. The NZD that those sales raised could easily have been issued directly by the government. The economic hitman scheme was to take NZ assets away from NZers and put them into the hands of the 1%, and especially the 0.1%. That was done. It is still being done.

                  You are not apologising, but acting as a Rogernomics apologist.

                • Nic the NZer

                  Alex, you are the only person here who believes ‘there is no alternative’. Anybody with some sense realizes however that by completing economic forms slowly and incrementally its possible to work out what works along the way, and in a reasonably democratic way.

                  The benefit of hindsight is that you get to learn from your mistakes and hopefully do things better. Never the less we have today a Labour party which believes that government surpluses are good for the economy and that raising the retirement age is a sensible working class policy. Its clear that the neo-liberals don’t even contemplate that there is something to change about their massive economic failure, even with hindsight.

            • RedLogixFormes 8.1.1.1.1.3

              There were two big challenges facing the NZ economy in the Muldoon period; the first was the increasing impact of the Eurozone shutting NZ out of the UK agricultural market and for this reason we got SMP’s and other subsidies to farmers to artificially prop up their production and incomes.

              This was essential for National to prop up their support in the rural electorates.

              The second challenge was OPEC oil price shock in 1973 which badly impacted our overseas currency position and was one of the key drivers in the Think Big projects – the need to reduce our energy dependence.

              As Nic points out – the fiscal backlash from these could probably have been best dealt with just by floating our currency – and the RB indulging in a spot of quantitative easing. Indeed Social Credit proposed pretty much just that – but Muldoon again sneered at them with his now notorious ‘funny money’ meme.

              I’m just old enough to know that the Rogernomic neo-liberal path we took was NOT the only option we could have taken.

              • Draco T Bastard

                +1

              • Murray Rawshark

                I turned 28 in 1984. I can remember that Labour lied to the electorate before the election, and Rogernomics was not at all expected. When Douglas made his speech about the exploding kitchen almost immediately after winning, and the whole program was introduced at full speed, it became obvious that they had lied. They had it all ready and waiting.

                2014 Labour has learned exactly the wrong lesson. Before the recent election, they advertised all the unpleasant things they wanted to do, and kept the good things secret. Do they think neoliberalism is wrong because of how they introduced it?

            • greywarshark 8.1.1.1.1.4

              Alex
              You are conning us, and dense all right. You con-dense the facts and draw conclusions from them. You spout the dogma that you got when you went up the mountain to commune with the higher being. He gave you an early tablet with the guiding neo-liberal rules on it and you believe! Think again sunshine.

        • Colonial Rawshark 8.1.1.2

          I am always intrigued by this needing to apologise for the reforms of the Fourth Labour Government.

          The apology isn’t to you and the rogernomes, by the way.

        • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.3

          Why would we now reopen rail lines that are uneconomic

          The rail lines aren’t uneconomic – the roads are.

          build our tvs and appliances here (that would cost alot more than importing them),

          No they wouldn’t be. In fact, importing them must cost more as it uses up more resources. The problem we have is that we have a financial system that makes it appear cheaper to import them. Basically, our economic system is delusional.

          have the Government own hotels, insurance and forestries, like we did pre 1984?

          Except for the hotels that would be because it’s actually better for the government to own and run those things. Here’s my take on insurance as an example. There’s more and more research coming out now that shows that government is actually better and more efficient at most things than the private sector.

          Reforms did need to happen in the 1980s just not the ones that we got. In fact, we needed the exact opposite from what we got. Essentially, we needed less capitalism and we got more with the result that we got more poverty, more inequality and less capability. The entire country got screwed just so that a few people could be richer.

    • shorts 8.2

      I don’t expect an apology – thats bad politics and pr…. denouncing neo-liberalism (and cutting the neo-lib hacks in the party) whilst pushing new policies with a new vision for our nation and its people – thats the sort of thing we’ve been waiting a long time for. Cunliffe started down that track

    • swordfish 8.3

      If this slump in Scottish Labour support continues then the chances of the Party winning next year’s UK General Election are in jeopardy. Labour’s UK-wide poll lead over the Tories is now averaging only about one percentage point (down from about a 3-4 point average over recent years) .

      Some senior SNP people – as well as pro-Independence figures from other Parties – want to mount a mass tactical-voting campaign for next May’s Election, a “yes-alliance” rallying disgruntled Labour, Green and Socialist voters in those key Labour areas that voted Yes in the Referendum (Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire). It’s been estimated that up to 20 Labour Westminster seats could be at risk.

      One suggestion is that a Yes-alliance could ask all pro-independence voters to back only those candidates who oppose the spending cuts being backed by all of Westminster’s major parties.

      • Bill 8.3.1

        The latest poll (and yes, it is just one poll, and taken after Labour’s leader resigned) would see Labour return 4 (four) mps to Westminster. the SNP would return 50+ (fifty plus), up from their current 6 (six).

        Regardless of that snapshot of sentiment, the ‘lefter than Labour’ SNP won an absolute majority in an MMP environmentbefore any referendum was on the table and on a low voter turnout of around 50%.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    So in other words, if you create money for productive investment – and it works – that’s not inflationary, but you’re growing the economy.
    …And that was the basis of the huge Japanese success of the 1960s, 70s and 80.

    So that would be Real Monetary Reform.

    Because the one thing employers know that they don’t want, is for their labour costs to go up. So, if there’s a pool of unemployed, and policies directed at driving down wages – then they feel happy. And a lot of government policy at present is geared exactly that way.

    Yep, which is why I’ve started saying that the unemployed should be treated as being in the job that the government has chosen for them and that they should get the minimum wage for a 40 hour week.

    So there’s a huge mechanism for raising top salaries, while [the global consensus] is that you must drive wages down, to keep your wage costs low.

    Keeping the majority of peoples wages down allows for more of the income to be diverted to those at the top – directors and shareholders.

    What you should be doing is putting forward policies that you think will work, and that will address the major issues, and be more successful than the current lot.

    Point out that the policies that Labour/Greens/The left have actually physically work and that the policies of National are pipe dreams that only benefit the 1% at everyone else’s expense.

  10. Aerobubble 10

    Key, in QT, said that minimum wages were as a proportion of average wages are very high compared to other nations. Now I accept labour has no ability to hold key to account as they all love him. But seriously. Keeping wages low, exporting raw materials, losing the added value game, and so naturally our average wage will be close to the min wage.

  11. Alex 11

    No, I believe that there were many other alternatives available. At no time do I say that I’m a supporter of Roger Douglas. What I say is that the economy needed radical overhaul. That reform had to happen. Incremental reforms could have led to a radical overhaul when completed. We had to get rid of the protectionist policies, open the economy to imported goods, remove tariffs so people could afford cheaper consumer goods, float the exchange rate, sell non-strategic assets to pay debt. Do I think Labour went to far and to fast, completely.

    And I agree Nic, good to see Labour learning from the mistakes of that period.

    • Nic the NZer 11.1

      Labour doesn’t appear to have learned anything, we were offered a choice between a party that promised harmful reforms, and a party which would not explain what (probably harmful) economic reforms it promised. Both are committed to harmful economic policies such as balanced budgets and inflation fighting.

      Did I mention that raising the retirement age is a terrible economic policy which no voter should think is a solution to anything? The NZ economy will do better if the retirement age stays right where it is than if its raised, and as an added benefit we don’t have to worry about pensioners struggling in poverty.

      The only thing you have shown needed to be done was to float the exchange rate, other reforms completely un-needed and imposed on top of Roger Douglas leaking to exacerbate the currency crisis (in the typical neo-liberal disaster capitalism fashion).

    • Draco T Bastard 11.2

      We had to get rid of the protectionist policies, open the economy to imported goods, remove tariffs so people could afford cheaper consumer goods, float the exchange rate, sell non-strategic assets to pay debt.

      We had to do none of those except floating the exchange rate.

      And I agree Nic, good to see Labour learning from the mistakes of that period.

      That’s just it – they’re not learning from the past. They’re still following the same delusional economic policies that the 4th Labour government introduced.

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  • Speech to the Climate Change and Business Conference
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