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The Supercity & neoliberalism

Written By: - Date published: 12:23 pm, May 17th, 2010 - 8 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, public services - Tags: ,

A passage from Matt McCarten’s article in the Sunday Herald summed up for me not only the approach of Rodney Hide in setting up his Super City but also the neo-liberal project that has been in vogue for the past quarter century. McCarten writes

His public pronouncement that he believed the new city’s public assets should be privatised is one thing but to then set up unaccountable and unelected boards to control three-quarters of our new city’s assets – and appoint individuals of like mind to run them – is outrageous. This is the man who blackmailed the Government by threatening to resign if it even considered having councillors elected by voters on the Maori rolls to ensure a Maori perspective. The hypocrisy of a politician, whose party has 3.5 per cent of the parliamentary vote, vetoing the consideration of Maori representation while appointing his mates to control our city infrastructure and assets is obviously lost on him.

Hides motivations are stated clearly, to privatise public assets. His actions are documented unelected and  unaccountable boards. His beliefs, and those of neo-liberalism generally, that private business can do things better than public bodies.

The remainder of the passage however hints at a deeper project of neo-liberalism, how democracy actually operates. Establishing seats for Maori on the Super City is to be avoided whereas handing control of assets over to his mates is something to be desired. Democracy under the neo-liberal model is, as far as possible, to be a financial transaction. It is not to be practiced by citizens acting in their roles as voters within in the political economy but rather by consumers acting within the market.

Society is simply an aggregation of individuals who make decisions based on self interest. Markets exist to fulfill the needs of individuals as consumers. People interact with markets as consumers and influence markets, and society, in their capacity as consumers. The only control people have over markets is as consumers. Public institutions and public spaces within the political economy must be, preferably, privatized or at least become subject to the forces and operations of the market.

A compelling alternative does of course exist. Society is more than individuals; Margaret Thatcher had little grasp on reality when she contended otherwise. It is a collective creation. People act in a number of ways and human subjectivity encompasses more than simple economic decisions. Markets do exist to fulfill society’s needs however there are two important caveats on that statement. First, they are not the only way in which to order society. Second, as they exist to meet society’s needs, they are ultimately subject to the control of society. This occurs not only through our patterns of consumption but also through the ballot box and human agency within the political economy.

Hopefully Auckland will bring to pass another of McCarten’s observations that the centre-left has the chance to sweep the Mayoralty and a majority on the new council. In doing so, it can consign Hides plans, and the wider neo-liberal ideals, to the dust bin for a period of time at least.

George.com

8 comments on “The Supercity & neoliberalism”

  1. tc 1

    Can’t see how wodneys privatisation agenda can be halted even with a left leaning mayor and board…..isn’t it designed so not even banks could screw up the sellout of akl assets anyway.

    They’ve always got urgency to fix up any oversights that get in the way of their mates cashing in.

  2. Rule of the people, by the rich, for the rich.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    it looks like Hide – and therefore ACT – are finished this coming election. What we are looking at here, then, is a last desperate poisoning of the wells by a doomed party and corrupt leader determined to destroy as much as possible of our democracy before we are finally able to be rid of them.

    • Bored 3.1

      That is exactly my take as well, grab while you can and then defend the gains. We wont be rid of the end result however.

      Just as an aside the French aristocracy went down the path of living at the expense of everybody else, we all know how that ended. Hide obviously thinks his class and mates can avoid this, such lack of circumspection and short termism pretty much makes it innevitable. Hopefully for their sake it will be as mild as re possession of stolen assets.

  4. Alexandra 4

    Doesnt Rodneys future depend on what the Nats want to do? I think the Nats will want to support hide to win Epsom again in order to maintain numbers. Im not sure of the mood in Epsom, but Im guessing what ever preserves Nationals reign will determine the vote there.

  5. Bill 5

    “Markets do exist to fulfill society’s needs however there are two important caveats on that statement. First, they are not the only way in which to order society. Second, as they exist to meet society’s needs, they are ultimately subject to the control of society. This occurs not only through our patterns of consumption but also through the ballot box and human agency within the political economy.”

    Markets exist as a mechanism that rewards selfishness. Any ‘needs’ of society are met in terms of pure coincidence to the central role of markets; the concentration of wealth and power into a few hands. As such, they are not ‘ultimately subject to the control of society’. Consider he financial collapse and the material rationale for undertaking and not undertaking particular actions and it’s clear that society is subject to the market…not the other way round.

    The political economy does not and will not be allowed to infringe on the market economy. Think of south Africa. The ending of apartheid saw the political economy opened up to and subject to the representative rights of the majority….but the financial mechanisms that the leaders of the political economy might have wished to use were not, and still are not, under their control. Which explains why there has been bugger all progress in S. Africa in terms of housing and access to amenities etc. The ANC wrested control of an impotent set of political institutions and in the process got robbed of the real centres of power…the banks and other financial institutions which remain ‘independent’, ie under direction of the unelected and unaccountable international financial institutions.

    And that’s not any different to the NZ context where the Reserve Bank is ‘independent’….

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Any ‘needs’ of society are met in terms of pure coincidence to the central role of markets; the concentration of wealth and power into a few hands. As such, they are not ‘ultimately subject to the control of society’. Consider he financial collapse and the material rationale for undertaking and not undertaking particular actions and it’s clear that society is subject to the market not the other way round.

      Ultimately, the markets are controlled by the rich. Shifting government services into the “market” is to further shift of control from the people to the rich. This dictatorial control system is called capitalism.

      the banks and other financial institutions which remain ‘independent’, ie under direction of the unelected and unaccountable international financial institutions.

      And that’s not any different to the NZ context where the Reserve Bank is ‘independent’ .

      We definitely need to get control of our economy back under democratic control and away from the control of the capitalists. If we don’t then we are just going to continue to get poorer while they get richer.

  6. George.com 6

    I think it was Keynes who said that markets are essentially programmed to respond to peoples propensity to consume (or something similar). Markets are sensitive to exchange value rather than use value. One paradigm places market control in the hands of consumers via their purchasing habits. Another paradigm however clear sees that markets are responsible to the dictates of society. Ultimately markets are controlled by what people will allow to occur. The Rodney Hide version renders democracy as a financial transaction. A more enlightened view sees democracy as resting in the hands of people, workers and citizens. The market is dictated to by us, rather than vice versa. To get to such a position however, we have to undo all of the damage that Hide et al have inflicted.

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