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Salmond on the ravages of neoliberalism

Written By: - Date published: 7:46 am, July 16th, 2016 - 44 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, human rights - Tags: , ,

2013 New Zealander of the year Dame Anne Salmond was written another excellent piece in The Herald:

Balance needed after ravages of neo-liberalism

No one should be surprised if there is a crisis of mistrust in politicians in New Zealand, and across the Anglo-American world. For the past 30 years, they have been pursuing a philosophy that strikes at the heart of trust and integrity in public life.

The rise and spread of neo-liberalism since the 1980s has been a remarkable phenomenon. At its heart, it is based on a simple, utterly amoral idea ” that of the cost-benefit calculating individual. Life is understood as a competitive struggle among individuals. Each seeks to minimise their costs and maximise their benefits.

Once this idea is accepted, a compelling logic unfolds. Those who seek to maximise their benefits are entitled (even required) to minimise their costs ” in particular, those costs that benefit others, since the contest is competitive.

If life is understood as a struggle among cost-benefit maximising individuals, the idea of a fair and harmonious society retreats, even vanishes. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “There is no such thing as society.” If one studies human history, however, driven as it is by collective achievement, it is clear she was wrong.

The idea that there is no such thing as society, however, has many practical implications. If the aim of life is personal success, those who have failed are at fault and must bear the consequences, those who lose their jobs, for instance, or the homeless.

Once the pursuit of individual advantage takes over, many of our collective institutions are corroded. Truth turns to spin or lies. Justice becomes the preserve of the privileged. Ideas of democracy and “a fair go” seem outmoded. In the name of progress, we sacrifice the future of our own children and the planet. …

Strong words, and true. Read the whole piece in The Herald.

44 comments on “Salmond on the ravages of neoliberalism ”

  1. Paul 1

    The ravages of neo-liberalism in the Anglo-American world.
    I Daniel Blake.
    A very powerful film. Watch it and weep as you observe how these neoliberal ******** have destroyed our society.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLEPQ9FYU0U

  2. jcuknz 2

    When I came up with the concept during my early days of ACT membership that ” a responsible society needs a responsible populace to work ” it seemed to describe the situation then.
    Recently it stuck me that another way of deciding what help people get would be to assess how responsible a citizen they are ….do they look after their state house, do they smoke P, do they ignore contraception … just to suggest a few obvious points.

    While I agree that the country has been heading the wrong way as Anne Salmond points out one should appreciate that it is the adult victims are as much at fault as anybody and of course it is the children that suffer … by their existence and by the carelessness of their conception.

    I gave up ACT membership a decade ago.

    • “how responsible a citizen they are” – based on what YOU think

      “the adult victims are as much at fault as anybody” – says YOU

      Seems with statements like that that you still think like an ACToid and therefore completely miss the point of the article.

      • Fustercluck 2.1.1

        Every radical since Marx was a baby has been lamenting the failure of the lumpenproletariat to take their revolutionary responsibilities on board.

        While I would certainly tweak jcuknz’s statement to fit my personal understanding, and while I consider that the 0.01% bear primary causal responsibility for the state of affairs globally and in NZ, (rather than the poor) it is reasonable to assert that if the poor handled matters differently then matters would indeed be different.

        Since change is unlikely to come from the 0.01%, it will fall to the lumpen to improve their situation. Whether you are Trotsky or Ayn Rand in your perspective this is still true. And it is certain that a bunch of intellectuals will not bring about the change they claim to desire (and thus give up their own privileges).

        A “responsible” (to use jcuknz’s word) poor/working class will be far more effective in bringing about change than any other force and is in fact a necessary precondition for real change.

        Pregnancy rates and P use are poor indicators of class responsibility and I differ with jcuknz in this regard but I bet we could find common ground in the assertion that taking personal responsibility for bringing about change would be a good step for all those outside he 0.01% to take.

        Or to put it another way, don’t shit on the former ACT member who is coming in from the cold, instead find common ground and continue with the real work ahead!

        • marty mars 2.1.1.1

          Well what an eloquent dissertation there fus.

          How would you decide on how ‘responsible’ a person is and be therefore allowed entrance into society and be able to receive ‘help’ in the form of support from other citizens via the state? What would disqualify someone from being considered ‘reasonable’?

          js used some examples straight from the mindnumbingly dismal right wing ‘personal resonsibility’ handbook – those examples tar that person with the ACT brush imo and therefore there is no common ground apart from breath – combating rubbish is the REAL work.

          • Fustercluck 2.1.1.1.1

            Or you could have looked at the positives in his post and helped with the rest. I proposed no responsibility drafting gates for entrance into society. That is your gloss on my words. Until the poor take responsibility for their future, either in the form of bourgeois voting, or in the more effective form of proletariat revolution, the elite will continue to exploit them with impunity. The ACT version of personal responsibility is antithetical to this but jcuknz seems to be trying to emerge from this ideology and I am willing to give support to thiis.

            Putting words in people’s mouths as you have done Marty Mars is rubbish. Jcuknz at least spoke for themselves.

            • marty mars 2.1.1.1.1.1

              I asked a couple of questions which you chose not to answer. The rest of what I wrote is self explanatory.

              I can’t see where I put words in your mouth so horrifyingly – which ones were they again.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1.2

              Until the poor take responsibility for their future

              And there you go, transmitting the narrative as though it’s a given, that all the assumptions in its fully-laden pack are completely truthy.

              Slow clap.

              • Fustercluck

                I read mmars questions as rhetorical rather than serious…since I proposed no such thing I had no such proposal to make.

                If the oppressed refuse to rise up (I am pissed off that Mana didn’t do much better and I am grumpy that my vote for the Maori party in their first election was so horribly wasted…these incipient movements had much potential that was ignored by those too alienated by previous “choices” to participate in elections) then they wear some of the responsibility for their oppressor’s success. If the masses to do not man the barricades, or take to the hikoi, or whatever, then the pricks in corner offices will rule with impunity.

                If your plans for cultural evolution do not include executing every current or former right-winger then you must engage in dialogue, hopefully with a reasonable dialectic approach. Getting shitty with a former ACT member or insisting that the elite are solely responsible for their privileges does nothing to help.

                Insisting that the poor bear no “responsibility” (with all the various shades of meaning that that word can have) is to deny them the power to force change.

                One day the poor will seize power (by whatever means was necessary, hopefully without blood in the streets) and they will wonder (as the elites and their lapdogs flee) why they waited so long to throw the rascals out. In other words they will wonder why they did not take responsibility for their future for so long and why they let the thin veneer of power that the elites exploit hold them down.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  the oppressed refuse to rise up…they wear some of the responsibility for their oppressor’s success.

                  Exactly, that’s what I’m saying: the entire narrative is all about apportioning blame and punishment.

                  It’s obscene. Right wing political parties can’t exist without it.

                  • Fustercluck

                    Right wingers are all about blame being apportioned, mostly blaming the poor for being victims of the system they designed to rip them off. This is indeed obscene.

                    This does not absolve every person of the responsibility to rise up against this system of exploitation, at least in their own way.

                    The right wing blames the poor for being poor.

                    The revolutionary blames the poor for putting up with that bullshit.

                    Different shades of “responsibility” and there is room there for the evolution of the ideology of a former ACT member into an awareness of the need to help the poor to “responsibly” assert power in their own best interests.

                    • This is what jc said

                      “Recently it stuck me that another way of deciding what help people get would be to assess how responsible a citizen they are ….do they look after their state house, do they smoke P, do they ignore contraception …”

                      This really look like an empowerment statement for the poor to you?

                      It is ACT 101

                    • Fustercluck []

                      At least he(or she) resigned from ACT! Engage in productive dialogue rather than returning to the same label over and over. Jc is obviously moving at least some distance from ACT 101. Why not try to develop on that rather than just condemn them? Can’t you see that this is why some coming in from the right wing think that leftists are equally insufferable ideological pricks?

                    • The point is by his own words he is not moving. He is using present tense. He can believe what he wants but my experience is that that position is not comparable with my view. Is there any other confusion in your mind about this cos it is getting tedious for me having to type this for your benefit.

                    • RedLogix

                      @ fus

                      Thank you … my sentiments as well.

                      If your plans for cultural evolution do not include executing every current or former right-winger then you must engage in dialogue, hopefully with a reasonable dialectic approach.

                      Nails it. Politics is the art of discovering what hidden values you both share and then building the compromise you can both allow to deliver on them.

                    • Fustercluck []

                      Whew! Sanity!

                    • jcuknz

                      To answer MartyM’s comment following this I think despite my upbringing I have been a socialist since I read “The Responsible Society” and I saw ACT, founded largely by ex Labor MPs, as a better solution than The Alliance … Labor has never been one of my voting options.

                      I repeat my assersion that mindless idiots on the left immediately labelled it as far right and unfortunately the mud stuck and Sir Roger and I, for two I can think of , simply dropped off. My views have not changed from a disgust at stupid left wing name calling and a hope for common sense in a helping hand for those in need. With the practical common sense measures suggested needed for a few who queer the pitch of those desperately in need of help.

                      So in no way am I ‘coming in from the cold’ which is an arrogant belief in their rightful thinking. … I have been my particular brand of socialist from way back, probably longer than many who find fault with me. Around 1964 when that book crystalised my thinking.

                    • Thank you jc. I am pleased you have clarified – I think you and I were on the same page. We can accept difference and we aren’t frightened of it or pretend it’s not there and THAT is how honest debate can occur imo.

                • gnomic

                  “One day the poor will seize power (by whatever means was necessary, hopefully without blood in the streets) and they will wonder (as the elites and their lapdogs flee) why they waited so long to throw the rascals out. In other words they will wonder why they did not take responsibility for their future for so long and why they let the thin veneer of power that the elites exploit hold them down.”

                  What colour is the sky on your planet? Or can I have some of what you have been smoking …. perhaps on reflection forget that request.

                  The poor (whomsoever they may be) are never going to seize power in NZ which is presumably the context you are talking about. They wouldn’t know how, even if they could get off the couch, stop smoking P, eating junk food, playing video games, and engaging in endless procreation. Given a wildly unlikely scenario in which the rabble overthrew the state, no way they could actually run the nation aside from some sort of post-apocalypse anarchy.

                  Presumably I must have missed some very subtle satire in your comments?

                  Not that i support the ‘elites’, they are destroying mother Earth in a stupid and selfish fashion. But they are not going to be displaced by the poor, and even if they were the Marines would soon land to restore order.

    • North 2.2

      Giving up ACT membership a decade ago has obviously done fuck all to remove the stain on your soul occasioned by that membership.

      • RedLogix 2.2.1

        That’s not called for. jcuknz is making a perfectly fair point. There are indeed two sides to this coin ” a responsible society needs a responsible populace to work ”.

        All the evidence of the history of socialism shows that when the state subsumes the rights and responsibilities of the individual the outcome is always awful.

        Equally when collective responsibility is abandoned and individuals are urged to compete and worship neo-liberalism’s ‘greed is good’ credo – the outcome is also predictably awful. You are soaking in it.

        Let me quote Dame Salmond from the OP:

        . For this reason, neo-liberalism is sometimes described as one of humanity’s worst ideas, along with communism, whose hypercollectivism is the flip side of neo-liberalism’s hyperindividualism.

        I ask we set aside the usually unhelpful habit of binary thinking; and start to frame this as a mutual interdependence between society and the individual.

    • ankerawshark 2.3

      jcuknz…..glad you gave up your ACT membership. May I suggest you watch a tv programme (on demand) called “why am I” It is about the study of over 1000 children born in Dunedin in 1972. It may alter your ideas about adult responsibility

      There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there. About how what determines persistent criminals i.e. those people who are in prison for serious offences through out their lives is a gene + a history of child abuse and mal-treatment.
      Heart breakingly in the final episode they talk about what they have found about children who grow up in poverty. That even if these children do well (work, law abiding and all that) latter in life, it doesn’t counter balance the negative health outcomes they will have latter in live. Growing up in poverty weekens the body. And it isn’t corrected if these kids do well.

      Its an amazing study and an amazing programme. The responsibility that you mention lies with us and the politicians we elect. If we elect politicians who work to ensure children do not face poverty and are housed properly, if we elect politician who rather than having a get tough on crime stance work to find solutions to the gene/child abuse combination that is responsible for hardened criminal behaviour, we can improve outcomes for future populations. WE ARE THE ONES WHO HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT. NOT THE INDIVIDUAL

    • Nic the NZer 2.4

      The ACT mentality is well known but is based on the assumption that sufficient jobs and social goods like housing are created to meet demand without the govt intervention. Unless sufficient jobs are created some must be unemployed and when insufficient jobs are created then blaming the unemployed is victim blaming.

      Somewhat ironically its the govts success in creating sufficient such social goods (so that those without must be themselves to blame) which fosters the attitude on display in your comment.

      But this hardly justifies the ACT ideology and its failure to deliver on its promises.

  3. jcuknz 3

    never mind fellows the truth often doesn’t go down well 🙂

    But I am aware that for those at the bottom of the heap it is often easier to act irresponsibly for the brief relief it brings. They are the ones which need a helping hand, ‘tough love’ ? so absent today. Seem to remember ‘helping hand’ came with ACT too, to me anyway.

    • It isn’t the truth – when you understand that then a debate may be worthwhile but until then…

    • North 3.2

      [RL: Deleted. Too far, pointless abuse.]

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.3

      Can you even see the assumptions these ideas are based on?

      How about you check every single statement of fact you think is true – in the best spirit of skepticism, go and see if you can falsify any of them.

      “Personal responsibility” is a vicious self-serving lie, for example. It is manifestly so, and yet the entire body of dogma you espouse rests upon it. Oops.

      • RedLogix 3.3.1

        “Personal responsibility” is a vicious self-serving lie, for example.

        If you are using the terms ‘personal responsibility’ as a bit of short-hand jargon to mean the kind of victim-blaming the right uses to shame and silence it’s critics then I’m on board with you.

        And in a wider context I’ve no problem with modern research which demonstrates how human behaviour is mostly a complex product of genetics, parenting, socialisation, culture and expectation … factors which are all beyond our control or responsibility.

        Yet none of this wishes away the fact that located somewhere in a top corner of our neo-cortex is a little bit of us that gets to make choices. Moral choices mainly. For too many humans its an evidently flabby and under-exercised bit of our brain, but that only makes a case for taking it out for a decent walk more often.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 3.3.1.1

          Oh it isn’t just the victim-blaming – it rewards the already lucky as it punishes the less fortunate.

          As for this assertion that choice exists in some meaningful way, your third paragraph argues against that. Is your fourth fully supported by Neuroscience?

          • RedLogix 3.3.1.1.1

            Neuroscience is still struggling to define, much less locate the locus of consciousness. Some have suggested that self-awareness is just a delusion and we are entirely nothing more than a wet mess of blind, unthinking reactions.

            If you want to argue that, then all notions of accountability vanish. Nothing anyone does, good bad or indifferent means anything.

            Because despite the scientists notable lack of success in explaining consciousness, the irony is that ultimately in order to explain the overwhelming evidence nd experience that humans (and probably all life to some degree) are self-aware … they may have to resort to invoking that age-old idea of the non-material soul after all.

    • Guerilla Surgeon 3.4

      Actually research has shown that poor people do in fact make very “responsible” decisions on the whole. Largely because they have to. The problem is, that lack of resources often makes “responsible” decisions almost impossible.

  4. jcuknz 4

    I do not remember getting much other than dogma from you Marty so debate is pointless … maybe with more sensible folk that come here?
    You ignore the first two paras since there is no question regarding their validity and snipe at a couple of points which you don’t like.
    Seems to me you are closer to the irresponsible right than I am…. originally I saw ACT as a viable socialistic approach …. but by the time the extreme left had convinced people they were far right and those people joined ACT .. well I left.
    A case of giving a dog a bad name … typical splitting of the labor party … when the dog was a good one founded by ex labor ministers who saw a different path.

    • If you reply under the comment a conversation can begin

      The dog was a dog and is a dog and that is why it was identified as a dog and treated as a dog – it was a dog!!! Now what creatures live on dogs sucking their lifeblood whilst pooing and leaving a mess?

      just fucking with you jc – every dog had its day 🙂

    • North 4.2

      What ??? The fault for ACT being a bunch of criminals and fantasists rests with the Left ??? Yes, apparently, according to JWankNZ. That’s when the beautiful relationship formally ended. Still a filthy gang member though with absolutely no social responsibility or conscience.

      [RL: I’m no more a fan of ACT than you are, but this is pointless abuse that is not needed. Last warning.]

  5. Jack Ramaka 5

    Neoliberalism has left the country in a mess which has to be rebuilt, neoliberalism has kicked the bottom 50-60% of the population in the guts, look what the free market ideology has done to the Auckland Housing Market.

    Unfortunately society is not equal and people down at the lower rungs of the ladder actually need some State assistance to survive otherwise they turn to other sources of income to survive such as criminal activity and drug dealing etc

  6. Bill 6

    Brian Gould has penned a very good piece on the effect of neo-liberalism on the current UK Labour Party. Sadly, it applies very much to the NZ Labour Party too.

    That (neo-liberalism) is the world in which most members of the PLP have grown up and fashioned their politics. By definition, they seem themselves as the vanguard, the thinkers and the professionals in the party. They are convinced that they know better, and their experience of the electoral and parliamentary battle convinces them that this is so.

    What they do not seem to know, however, is the extent to which their views have been conditioned by the neo-liberal revolution, unannounced, that has taken place around them for the past 40 years. It has, after all, created the world they know. They are unaware, not only of this, but of the fact that for many Labour voters, the harsh realities of the “free” market have not produced an appreciation of its supposed virtues but a sense that no one understands or cares about the losses they have suffered as a result of its ministrations.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      Only someone born before about 1970 can understand the extent of the change that was ushered in by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and that had been prefigured in the writings of Hayek and Nozick and Milton Friedman.

      How true is this. While I think we are all a bit naturally nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ we fondly paint picture of in our memories, I’ve never advocated a great leap backwards to them. There were plenty of ‘bad old times’ as well.

      But in the 70’s we were on a path, one with much potential and promise … and it was path abruptly aborted in 1980. Stolen from us by the neo-libs. As Anne Salmond says, hyper-individualism is every bit as bad an idea as the hyper-collectivism it arose in response to.

      Time to firmly bury BOTH of these very bad ideas and start work on something a lot more nuanced, complex and organic.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1

        the hyper-collectivism it arose in response to

        I beg to differ: making slaves of people has been going on for millennia. Collective responses are inevitable because they’re pretty much the only ones that work.

      • Bill 6.1.2

        That hyper-collectivism she mentions was imposed. Personally, I’ve never had any time for that, just as I’ve never had any time for individualism. Been trying to bring a shovel to bear on both the ideas for quite a few years Red 😉

        If you want something nuanced, complex and organic, may I recommend you give democracy a birl?

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.2.1

          Highly decentralised democracy, preferably, and both in the private sector and the public sector.

          • Bill 6.1.2.1.1

            There would be neither a public sector nor a private sector as we now know them. I mean that in terms that neither could possibly/logically exist in the context of a democracy.

  7. jcuknz 7

    ankerawshark 2.3
    16 July 2016 at 11:43 am
    You have a simplistic view about responsibility which is individual and collective.
    The individual covers things like not pooing on what society provides for you which I specified a few matters while the collective maybe is voting for the right people to organize society.

    I do not need to watch a TV program to appreciate how an irresponsible society ends up due to a lack of responsibility of its members.

    The sad thing about today is that while the government is moving to greater responsibility a few members of our society are spoiling it and I fear the right wingers in National will gain the upper hand and kill off what progress has been made. Will not affect me unduly as I do not have too many years left but I feel for future generations.

  8. Justathought 8

    The phenomenon labelled “neoliberalism” is a trend in economic policy, it is not an ideology”, “no-one is a ‘neoliberal’ (except in a very specific uses of the term in the US and Germany): there are, however, people who undertake or support neoliberal” reforms”.

    “What is called “neoliberalism” is best understood as economic liberalism in the context of welfare states (or otherwise significantly interventionist states). Indeed, liberalising reforms have often been undertaken by centre-left governments in developed welfare states precisely to make the welfare state more sustainable.”

    “With the expansion of Western welfare states in the 1960s (increasing obligations on the state) and the collapse in productivity growth in the early 1970s (decreasing underlying rates of economic growth), the stage was set for a wave of liberalizing economic reforms in Western countries.”

    “Such reforms rest on treating public policy as something other than intentions + resources => outcomes. Those whose politics (indeed, often their sense of identity) rests on the conspicuous compassion of their intentions tend to resist such changes. Typically by attacking the alleged intentions of such policies. Often without bothering to do any serious research into what advocates of liberalizing reforms actually say or believe. Telling such people that “neoliberalism” in the Western democracies was about preserving the sustainability of welfare states is likely to get a very hostile reaction, since it deprives them of their sense of superior intentions (and the characterizing of those with different policy prescriptions as having patently “evil”, and thus inferior, intentions)”.

    “Yet it is clearly the case that keeping the welfare state sustainable was fundamental to the “policy coalitions” that supported liberalizing reforms. It is no accident that deregulation in the US got underway during the Carter Administration, that the Hawke and Lange governments in the Australia and New Zealand were liberalizing governments and that the first bout of liberalizing reforms in Australia was under the Whitlam Government”.

    “Which is my basic difficulty with the term ‘neoliberal’: it takes the historical context out of events.”

    http://lorenzo-thinkingoutaloud.blogspot.co.nz/2010/06/neoliberalism-and-laissez-faire.html#0

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