Campaigns of Slogans and Vague Statements With No Firm Policies

The Liberal government formed in 2013 has been on a mission to implement the harshest neoliberal policies in the shortest possible time.  Their strategy has come directly from the US Republican and UK Conservative party approaches used successfully to destroy their societies since the 80s.  A fundamental aspect of the approach to the electorate has had standard features, these are:

  • Create the appearance of emergency, catastrophe and disaster both real and impending
    • In Australia this has been the ‘economic emergency’ that doesn’t exist. Every external commentator congratulates Australia on its very strong economy and masterful handling of the financial crisis by the Labor government that led us through it without major incident.[1]
  • Establish that only your party has the ability and intelligence to negate this catastrophe to give everybody a better life.
    • The Liberal party routinely claims that sound economic management is ‘in its DNA’ without providing any evidence to support the idea.  In fact, there is far more evidence to suggest precisely the reverse with multiple international bodies and economists soundly stating so on numerous occasions.[2]
  • Use this as the reason to impose neoliberal policies on the country as quickly as possible
    • This is disaster capitalism at work as explored in Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’ at some length in a well-researched and coherent piece of work.[3]
  • When this makes people’s lives worse, explain that you need to impose even harsher neoliberal policies.
    • Be sure to have your corporate controlled media tell this story repeatedly to have the lie believed.  Murdoch has worked in close partnership with the Liberal party to achieve these ends for decades.
  • Throughout the process create a group or groups to blame for the problems of the nation and use every media appearance to reinforce this story.
    • Unions and foreigners are the standard targets and a war in another country helps justify the approach.
    • In Australia asylum seekers were made a target by the Howard government and their status has slid downhill ever since.  This has formed a major distraction form any discussion of significant policy in Australia for over a decade.
  • At no point let media publish the facts about neoliberal policies actually leading countries into deeper debt, greater inequality of wealth[4] and dramatically increase the percentage of the population slipping into poverty every year.[5]
  • Lie loudly and often in public, hypocrisy is best; people assume that the person loudly accusing would never perform the act themselves.
    • The Liberal party’s list of outright lies exposed in just the first 6 months of the government formed in 2013 sets a record for the level of bare faced lying to the electorate ever made.[6]  The silence of the Murdoch media on this topic tells you all you need to know about their bias.
  • Under no circumstances announce a policy that describes precisely what you will do, keep it to vague slogans that promise abstract results that cannot be tested.
    • The Liberal party released a pamphlet before the election containing many empty promises with no details and no costed policies.  Costed policies were released the day before the election, giving no time for opposition parties or the public to understand the assumptions and implications of the statements.

Whilst these tactics have become the mainstay of conservative politics in western countries over the last few decades, it is important to note the absolute lack of a response from the Labor party to any of these approaches.  In fact, they have adopted the same approach of ignoring the question of policy to focus on saying whatever they think will gain them electoral victory – and then changing that story almost weekly without warning.  Even the best intentioned program cannot be made to work without sufficient time to discuss and build a complete, working solution from what amounts to a diagram scrawled on the back of a napkin.  The absolute lack of transparency has only led to increasing distrust of all political parties as they seem to operate independently from the desires and benefit of the Australian people.

Yes, but what will you do differently…and how is that different from the other mob?

Election campaigns for the last decade have become a competition to say that one old party will not do what the other is doing.  At no point has either stepped forward with a plan that works for the benefit of all Australians and explained it in enough detail for it to be understood.  This lack of focus on policy and increased focus on expensive media campaigns that promote slogans has worked to undermine the democratic process more fundamentally than Murdoch’s media stranglehold.  We do not need to slip to the profoundly corrupt levels in the USA today where the candidate that raised the most money as a 94% chance of winning the seat in congress.[1]  The fact that billionaire Clive Palmer can form a party and win seats in a federal election while barely mentioning what he would do differently to other parties is testament to the power that campaign funding has on the results.

Negative campaigns focusing on how bad the other group is, without actually stating a policy, are undermining the electoral process disastrously.  This trend must be reversed.

The combination of Labor adopting an approach of actively concealing policy and intentions, engaging in negative campaigns and adopting neoliberal principles have made it increasingly hard to distinguish between the two old parties.  This is a fundamental driver to the current situation where people are voting more and more diversely, looking for a candidate who actually represents their interests. The growth in the 90s of the Democrat party, and then the Greens following the demise of the former has made real the division between the left and right wing of the Labor party of the 80s.  The increasing tendency of the party to act along very similar paths to the Liberals has established that the right wing control has undermined the integrity of the party.  The recent changes to the way Labor votes for its leader, to include a popular vote amongst members illustrated to point even more clearly.  The members wanted a left wing Labor candidate, the right wing caucus instead placed their own representative in the leadership role.[2]

The reason the two parties are seen to be almost the same is that neither actually stands consistently on policy promises to the electorate; largely because the electorate is not active or engaged enough to demand this change.

Solutions for the future won’t come from the past….

Let's Build Windmills

“When the direction of the wind changes,
some people build walls,
some people build windmills.”
                    – Chinese Proverb

Fixing Australia’s Tax Revenue Problem

Ozmoney

10 ways we can find more money without cuts to services:

1. Tax the undertaxed mining industry by restoring the original super profits tax on mining companies – raising $4,500,000,000 per year [1]

2. Abolish fossil fuel subsidies. In 2013-14, over $11bn of subsidies were given to the fossil fuel industry, including for fuel tax credits, aviation fuel & mining exploration. Not only does it favor some industries over others, but it is a wealth transfer to polluting companies. This would save $11,000,000,000 [2]

3. Defund private schools. In 2013-14 the Gov spent $4.5bn on public schools and $9bn on private schools. If you want to opt out of public education, you should pay for it yourself. Also private schools are less efficient – increasing their costs per student by 3.4% p.a. compared to students from public schools at 2.4% p.a. with no improvement to academic results. Many studies have shown NAPLAN scores have not improved under private or Catholic schools. In addition, private schools routinely exclude any children with a disability to keep their profits and grade averages up.  Cutting it back completely  would save $9,000,000,000 per year.  Cutting it back to a base funding per student would save $6,000,000,000 per year. [3]

4. More progressive income taxes. The real causes of the structural deficit are cuts to income tax, pushing tax thresholds too high and the disappearance of a more progressive taxation system. If 2005-6 taxation rates were still used, there would be an additional $30bn of revenue this year – let’s restore them. Addition to revenue: $30,000,000,000 [4]

5. Abolish negative gearing. Losses from so-called “negatively geared” property is income tax deductible and costs the budget $4 billion a year (estimated). This is blatant welfare for the rich and should be ended. It does not improve housing affordability, as was its initial aim, but increases wealth inequalities. With a ten year estimate of $42.5 billion This would save on average just over $4,000,000,000 per year once fully implemented. [5]

6. Remove private health insurance rebate and reinvest money in public system. Save $5.5 billion a year and have $3 billion spare after expected changes when people stop buying private health insurance. [6]

7. a “millionaire’s tax” that would require top income earners to pay 50% of all earnings over $1 million in tax. This would raise $1,000,000,000 a year [7]

8. A public insurance ”levy” on the big four banks of 0.05% of deposits that would raise $350 million per year [8]

9. A $150-per-tonne levy on carbon – yes a carbon price set at the level Sweden established two decades ago – raising $22 billion per year based on emissions taxed in 2013/14 (yes, this would be on top of the mining tax above to discourage coal miners) This should decrease over time as industry moves towards low carbon solutions [9]

10. Tax the 550,000 discretionary trusts that rich people use to hide money the same way as corporations (except those set up by farmers) – raising at least $800 million per year [10]

That represents about $82.65 billion a year in new revenue.

That’s enough to pay for the entire transition to 100% renewable energy in under a decade.  You could also repay the sovereign debt bill over four years and still have change to fund the education and health systems properly.

That extra $82,650,000,000 EVERY year can then go into national infrastructure projects we need to implement:

1. 100% Renewable Energy

2. High Speed rail infrastructure connecting cities, especially Melbourne to Brisbane to open up the country.

3. Public transport in cities

4. Education system overhaul to follow the Scandanavian examples, especially Finland

5. Healthcare system given funding to reduce all wait times to under 6 months and continue to expand 24hr community clinics to take load off emergency rooms.

6. Establish a sovereign fund like Norway to support Australia long into the future.

7. Invest in Australian industry programs to build sustainable businesses in renewable energy, electric vehicle manufacture and 3D printing.

One last change that won’t change revenue, but will change expenditure on pensions:

End the obscene superannuation tax concessions for the rich. For every $1bn we spend on concessions, we save only $200m on the old age pension, as 30% of concessions go to the top 5% of income earners.  This needs to be changed so that just 5% of the concessions go to the top 5% of income earners and the rest is distributed to raise the floor.  This would distribute the total of $10,500,000,000 per year better to the people who need it instead of hoarding for the rich who don’t.

[1] http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/BudgetReview201011/TaxationRSPTax

[2] http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/australian-fossil-fuel-subsidies-put-at-47bn-as-ret-wrestle-continues-58572

[3] http://theconversation.com/australia-should-follow-chiles-lead-and-stop-funding-private-schools-33310
http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/schoolfunding#table3

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/16/to-get-the-australian-budget-on-track-its-time-to-wind-those-tax-cuts-back

[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-07/greens-say-3bn-could-be-saved-by-abolishing-negative-gearing/6527594

[6] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/abolishing-health-insurance-rebate-would-save-3b-analysis-20140109-30kkc.html

[7] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-greens-model-millionaire-taxes-for-tony-abbott-and-his-rich-friends-20140423-zqy9f.html

[8] http://www.afr.com/business/banking-and-finance/financial-services/time-for-big-banks-to-pay-for-deposits-guarantee-20150329-1maotm

[9] http://www.carbontax.org/where-carbon-is-taxed/#Australia

[10] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-greens-model-millionaire-taxes-for-tony-abbott-and-his-rich-friends-20140423-zqy9f.html

Australia’s Electric Vehicle Future

Australian Electric Vehicle Indiustry

Like the Firestick on Facebook

Australia could have an incredible future in designing, building and leading the world for electric vehicles…..

See more here: Electric Future

The Future Education System in Action

The Education System

Academic and practical skills education from start to finish

So we’re building a picture of a primary school system that lets kids experiment and play with ideas, but delivers core skills in literacy and numeracy – with an attitude of ‘whatever it takes for my students to learn, I will teach’.  Small class sizes, ongoing assessment with no exams and minimal formal homework.  This would encourage curiosity and experimentation to develop the active citizens we need. The time spent in sections of the mandatory education system should vary for different students according to ability and inclination.  If a student shows practical talent greater than academic, then they should be encouraged to pursue that talent with less focus on academic learning. Facilities for this need to be just as well-resourced with all the tools, equipment and teachers required to learn practical skills.  This migration may be complete for some students and partial for others.  Creative arts often combine academic and practical skills.  There should be no problem with a student pursuing a variety of these studies according to ability and enthusiasm.

I belong to an amazing, huge and diverse World

In the course of the years spent with an academic focus, curiosity and experimentation should become more rational scientific processes, critical thought and a value of the pursuit of evidential truth over temporary failures.  At the same time, an ongoing study of multicultural philosophy and appreciation of aesthetics is needed for everyone; a study that introduces abstract ideas along with forms of art and expression.  As a part of this, every student should be exposed to other languages from as early as possible.  Encouragement to learn at least one other should be strong and a part of this, greater formal education in English grammar is an absolute requirement.  Whilst Asian languages should be strongly supported, the greater the diversity offered; the better.[1]  Being exposed to other languages while young provides an incredible shared understanding and acceptance for multiple cultures for all children.[2]  As the Czech proverb says,

As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being”

If groups of kids find a common interest, then collaborative learning and development should be encouraged.  As a foundational point to all of these outlooks is support and development of empathy in all citizens.  The fundamental understanding that you share your life with other people, animals and plants within an amazing global ecosystem that encompasses all of us should be a fundamental goal of any education system.[3]  This allows us to guard against the greedy few being able to receive the support they need to reach adulthood with such immature and anti-social attitudes intact.

I understand my political system and how to use it

Understanding our political system needs to start in primary school and develop and evolve throughout the education system.  Starting with how elections work, to running them, to studying the levels of government in detail and finally interacting directly with government bodies. Every student should understand what an active democracy is and how connected they are to the future of their country through their influence on political processes.  This understanding should grow deeper as a student progresses and can form a part of the collaborative projects they must undertake towards the end of mandatory schooling.

My group can do far more, far better than I can alone

Towards the end of the mandatory schooling period, collaborative work must be a valued skill to be developed.  This should bring the two sections of learning style back together again.  As a natural extension to curiosity and discovery, this aims to show the value of a variety of team members with different strengths in achieving results.  Complex tasks that require both practical skills and academic curiosity and abstraction act to bring together groups of people.  Building a vehicle, or solving a real life problem are good examples; competing between teams on both tasks is even better. Combining the strengths of a group of people should result in a far greater outcome than any of these individuals could manage by themselves.

Idea Exchange

Sometimes less education is more

At the end of the mandatory period, students should have the option to leave the education system, or continue for longer to achieve different results.  This might take the form of an apprenticeship, higher education course or combinations of the above.  From this level of education there should be a theme looking towards business goals and planning such that anybody completing the courses would also have a basic knowledge of how the government will support them to get started and what they might achieve by taking the high risk path of developing completely new products and services.

As a final point to extended resourcing for the education system as a whole, there should be some attention paid to providing more expensive and complex facilities for groups of schools.  These would be directed towards the particular outcomes of the schools, their locations and the communities that surround them.  It might include research farms, laboratories, electron microscopes, geographical imaging systems, satellite communications, telescope and advanced manufacturing like 3D printers.  Introduce all these facilities to young kids and have them return as they get older to experience and explore them in more and more detail.

That education system will be the catalyst to build the society to run the systems that drive the sustainable economy of Australia’s future as a part of Asia and a global citizen.

 

[1] http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleId=60

[2] http://travelsort.com/blog/10-reasons-why-your-child-should-learn-a-foreign-language

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

Education Funding and the Gonski Report

The Gonski report established the need for revision of how government money is distributed to schools across the country to properly assist schools handling children with special requirements.  Many private schools and the coalition parties did not accept this conclusion as it would mean a dramatic reduction in government funding for them, since they do not suffer disadvantages and routinely avoid accepting special needs children.[1] The Gonski recommendations on funding should be adopted in full at the earliest possible moment.  They represent an important levelling in funding to the Australian education system as a whole.  Government schools should receive the lion’s share of public money. If people want to setup a private school system for any reason, they can pay for it themselves.  It is not up to the government to provide support for religious organizations and a tiered education system for the rich.

However, all schools must be held to account for teaching and examining fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics to ensure that all Australian citizens share a high standard of communication and calculation skills to handle daily life.  In the process of teaching and enhancing these skills, many other subject areas can be covered that all require increasing complexity of communication and calculation.  The focus, however, should be on examining and standardizing only those core skills on a national level; all other outcomes should be subject to a far broader spread of teaching and learning environments.

gonski funding

[1]

http://wheelercentre.com/dailies/post/968ab248d6a1/

http://www.aeufederal.org.au/Publications/2010/StudentsWDisabilities2010.pdf

Changing the Way We Think About Education

education-system-in-out-cartoon

In a changing world of global economies, internet access, shifting workforces and expanding technology, how do we best prepare our children for the future?  The only thing that’s clear is the current system is failing all of us. Please follow this link and watch this explanation for some clarity on the depth of the issue.

Click here —-> Changing Education Paradigms

There is a view that the education system should be organised on the basis of a free market.  This is a neoliberal belief, that free markets without government interference would be the most efficient and socially optimal allocation of resources globally.  This has not proven to be true and the actual result experienced in the US and UK, who have applied this logic to their education system, has been a persistent decline in standards for the majority of the population.  Australia has been following the US example for the last two decades and has also experienced a slide, though not as steep.  The truth is that a market system does not act to provide equitable education, it works to create hierarchies and deep inequalities.[1]  It is these inequalities that the Gonski reforms seek to address.

 


The Aims of the Australian Education System

Education System

The Way it Stands

The Gonski report did underline the importance of other elements of education that cannot be readily level tested across the population.

“Academic goals are far more readily measured and reported by external testing than general capabilities. However, an excessive focus on what is testable, measurable and publicly reportable carries the risk of an imbalance in the school curriculum. Independence, confidence, initiative and teamwork are learned as much through elements of the curriculum that are not readily measured by an external test as through those areas in which outcomes can be readily tested and reported.”, Gonski Report, s5.1.2 [1]

This asks fundamentally different questions:

  • What is the aim of the education system?
  • What are we actually trying to teach all our children?
  • What results are we expecting from this system?

It seems the current answers to those questions are most truthfully put as:

  • To provide purely vocational training aimed at entering the workforce to be able to buy a house & car and raise a family
  • That the only valid goals in life are to have a stable job that pays for a house & car and to raise a family
  • Conformity, consumerism, positive acceptance of the status quo, apathy

So are those answers so wrong?  Not entirely, but they’re not entirely right either and are severely lacking in the education needed for Australia to embrace the new world we find ourselves in.  The “Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians” of 2008 brought together all the education ministers in Australia under one banner to set the goals for Australian education.[2] In order to explain and define these goals, there was a formal recognition of the changing needs of the Australian nation.

“– Global integration and international mobility have increased rapidly in the past decade. As a consequence, new and exciting opportunities for Australians are emerging. This heightens the need to nurture an appreciation of and respect for social, cultural and religious diversity, and a sense of global citizenship.

– India, China and other Asian nations are growing and their influence on the world is increasing. Australians need to become ‘Asia literate’, engaging and building strong relationships with Asia.

– Globalisation and technological change are placing greater demands on education and skill development in Australia and the nature of jobs available to young Australians is changing faster than ever. Skilled jobs now dominate jobs growth and people with university or vocational education and training qualifications fare much better in the employment market than early school leavers. To maximise their opportunities for healthy, productive and rewarding futures, Australia’s young people must be encouraged not only to complete secondary education, but also to proceed into further training or education.

– Complex environmental, social and economic pressures such as climate change that extend beyond national borders pose unprecedented challenges, requiring countries to work together in new ways. To meet these challenges, Australians must be able to engage with scientific concepts and principles, and approach problem-solving in new and creative ways.

– Rapid and continuing advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) are changing the ways people share, use, develop and process information and technology. In this digital age, young people need to be highly skilled in the use of ICT. While schools already employ these technologies in learning, there is a need to increase their effectiveness significantly over the next decade.”, Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, 2008

After setting this stage, the goals were stated more simply:

“Goal 1:

Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence

Goal 2:

All young Australians become:

– successful learners

– confident and creative individuals

– active and informed citizens”, Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, 2008

Whilst that does sound like a positive start to a goal setting document, the clarification that the only purpose of education is to have a job and that all students should be encouraged to spend more time in the educational system to have a better job seems self-serving at best.  Sure education ministers think more is better, but is it?  Is this vocational education aimed at working for someone else in increasingly large, consolidated organizations really the focus we need?  The statistic on further education resulting in higher salaries seems logical, but how does the evidence support the idea?

It turns out that for some professions, the average person ends up with 10-20% higher pay with tertiary education over their life.[3]  For others there is either no benefit or, in fact, the person would have been better off leaving the system after secondary school and gaining direct work experience.[4]  In fact, the value of higher education seemed to peak in 2001 and dropped by 2006 back towards the level it was at in 1981. The final unsettling point from these and other studies is that pursuing a Masters degree fulltime is a waste of money, but can work if completed part time as part of a specific career advancement plan within very few industries.   So the claim that spending more time in an education system will benefit all citizens has no evidential basis, in fact, for many people the reverse is true.

The industries that do not pay a return on education are associated with the fields of arts, humanities and education.  This shows that we have let economic rationalism and neoliberalism destroy our culture in the pursuit of material wealth.  We need to rebalance our society and education system away from supporting only those few career paths that offer pure economic gain for the individual.  We need to place more value on education and the role many different people play in our society.  This does not mean we pay everybody equally in the end, higher skilled jobs should attract more rewards and higher risk jobs should also come with the potential for higher rewards.  High skill does not mean a long time spent in a formal education system.  It would mean that some people leave the academic school system to pursue different paths towards creative arts, apprenticeships and other practical work.  It would also mean changing the nature of higher education to focus more on building critical and creative thinking capabilities, entrepreneurial and collaborative outlooks and a core skillset for a particular industry.  Further training required for an industry should be provided by and paid for by that industry – not the government.  The aim of higher education would be to foster a critical thinking, connected, collaborative generation who can reap the benefits of cross-fertilization from many studies to produce the kind of innovation that Australia needs.

So if we really think everyone in the country is going to desire and enjoy and career as a dentist, doctor or IT specialist, then the current system is working.  If we accept that there is a huge diversity in what work people find fulfillment in and all of this work is contributing to our society as a whole, then we need to seriously revise this goal.

Unemployment graduation

Today global competition and ‘free trade’ agreements have destroyed entire Australian industries and shifted well over a hundred thousand jobs overseas. Losses continue unabated in the tens of thousands every year, in a process that appears to be entirely supported by the government.[5]  In that environment, we do not need compliant workers and consumers, we need a generation of entrepreneurs, visionaries, scientists, engineers and collaborative workers who can pull together to change the face of the country.  We need a generation of Australians who can work to build the huge amount of new infrastructure we need, who can develop new industries and reorganize the existing ones to work for the nation’s future.  We need a generation of Australians who can join in large, collaborative organizations to make sure we use every last capability in the country for the benefit of all.  The current education system in operation is utterly incapable of providing any of these results.  It would instead leave Australia a gutted country of mine workers and middle management run by foreign corporations for the benefit of foreign investors.

So is this just a utopian dream? Is it too late? Are we up to the task?

In order to bring this vision closer to real life experiences, we can examine the Finnish primary school system in escaping the parrot learning style of national examinations.  The Finnish system gained a lot of international attention for the very high level of literacy, numeracy and science education in the average student.  There are many reasons for this, but the fundamental one was a complete reevaluation of the system that focussed on providing a diverse set of goals with freedom given to teachers to reach them in any way they choose.[6]  This re-evaluation, combined with:

  • the very high social status (and pay) that teachers hold in Finland (equivalent to doctors and other professionals),
  • small classroom sizes,
  • all education being free and including health care and lunch for students

work together to provide an environment in which learning is able to happen easily and effectively.  This meets a real need for an effective education system; socio-economic disadvantage, health and disability should have little to no impact on the student who wants to learn.[7]

This is another instance to consider the idea of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.[8] Even though the pyramid of needs is not strictly hierarchical (people can become self-actualized from backgrounds of poverty) it does form a good baseline for organizing an education system within society as the chance of people achieving more and reaching further must increase given fulfilment of the basic needs.  Combined with an education focus on collaborative entrepreneurialism, this becomes an environment conducive to produce the generation of innovative, creative and business minded Australians we will need to mould our future.

Collaboration

[1] http://www.appa.asn.au/content/gonski-report/Review-of-Funding-for-Schooling-Final-Report-Dec-2011.pdf

[2] http://www.mceecdya.edu.au/verve/_resources/national_declaration_on_the_educational_goals_for_young_australians.pdf

[3] http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/FFF12BBAB5051BFFCA25778C001F6903/$File/1351055032_aug%202010.pdf

[4] http://www.innovation.gov.au/highereducation/Policy/BaseFundingReview/Documents/PrivatebenefitsofHEreport.pdf

[5]http://www.fsunion.org.au/News-Views/MEDIA-RELEASE-80000-service-sector.aspx

[6] http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3749880

[7] http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Julkaisut/2013/liitteet/Finnish_education_in_a_nuttshell.pdf

[8] http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Neoliberalism: Marketing vs Reality

Is Neoliberalism a philosophy of economics, politics or religion?

Neoliberalism had its start as a guiding philosophy from the field of economics.  There is no doubt about the coining of the term by Alexander Rüstow in 1938 had a different meaning to that it has carried since the 1908s.  It was originally an attempt to find a ‘third way’ between classical laissez-faire liberalism and the heavy state controlled economics of the time.  Milton Friedman happily identified himself as a neoliberal in the early 1960s.  However, by the early 1970s the word had lost its meaning in favour of a pure laissez-faire approach more resembling classical liberalism.  It returned in the 1980s with a new twist, it became a term that covered both the economic policy and government that supported it.  This was primarily in response to the harsh regimes the US government helped install in multiple South American countries during the 1970s.  These regimes were to be the showcases of neoliberal principles in action.  The fact they involved repressive dictatorships that ‘disappeared’ anybody who dissented shows how popular the ideas really were.

Reagan and Thatcher promoted and implemented this extreme economic idea during the 1980s and it has formed the basis of US and UK policy ever since.

So the evidence shows it began life as an economic philosophy attempting to find a balance point that has become known as a social market economy.  By the time we reached the end of the 1980s it had come to describe a radical laissez-faire approach that believed a market would regulate itself through the ‘invisible hand’ that Adam Smith had first proposed in his 1776 treatise “The Wealth of Nations”.  This philosophy is sold to the world as the only way to form a society that provides for all citizens with a constant flow of increasing wealth and benefits.

So if this is a scientific, economic philosophy, there should be a large amount of evidence to support the theories proposed and extended.  This is where the trouble begins for this idea.  The evidence actually shows repeatedly that removing government regulation of any industry inevitably results in concentration of ownership and eventually monopoly.  Since the 1980s the wealth of the planet has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer global corporations and hedge funds.

The reality is that neoliberal governments act to channel wealth from the many to the few.  They do this very effectively through their standard policies.  If it was sold to the world as producing only this effect at the expense of the majority, it could be considered an accurate description of a philosophy.  However, no democracy would ever knowingly vote for this system – who would agree to hand their wealth and possessions to a small few with no benefit given in return?  So the need to lie about its motivations becomes clear.

The evidence shows that the ideals of neoliberal governments and the slogans they repeatedly use are nothing more than empty statements of faith.  Privatising government operations normally results in increased pricing for lower service and the concentration of resulting profit in the hands of a precious few.

In fact, all the central tenets of neoliberalism can be easily shown to be empty justifications for selfish greed – as classical liberalism always was.  It is an expression of the perfect world for a sociopath to operate within.  A world without regulation or legal consequences for behaving with naked self interest.

So what is the definition of a religion?

The Oxford English dictionary provides these three:

1. The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods

2. A particular system of faith and worship

3. A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion

So can Neoliberalism meet these requirements?

1. The fundamental belief in laissez-faire systems is in the ‘invisible hand’ of the market that Adam Smith described.  Even in his own later essays, he revealed that his idea of the ‘invisible hand’ was the hand of God.  That a supernatural force would intervene to guide the market to a healthy balance.  Since that supernatural force has never been observed and markets simply move towards monopoly instead, this belief is simply religious in nature.

2. Neoliberalism holds a number of doctrines to be self-evident axioms that are beyond question.  None of them stand up to the slightest rational criticism and all fail before evidence.  This makes them matters of faith.

3. Supporters of neoliberalism include media owners, multinational corporate executives, politicians and any billionaire.  This system works exclusively to line their pockets, so they see its inherent value and pretend it is a solid economic theory with the backing of scientific evidence.  The fact that they do not seek out this evidence or even know whether it exists or not in the course of their wholesale promotion of the philosophy shows they are devoted believers of a faith with no foundation in reality.

So neoliberalism has been marketed as a religious belief to avoid the problem that the evidence shows it only serves to move wealth from the many to the few.

With generations now raised with slogans about ‘being yourself’ and valuing individuals far above communities, the scene was set for a new belief system to spread to the masses.  A religion of selfish greed that supports the constant media campaigns to be an individual hero instead of a member of a group or community.

Curiously, the information age has produced a different reaction.  The availability of instant communication around the world has served to create more new global communities than global multinationals.  A generation of children has now grown up with instant access to the knowledge of the world – a huge group of instant cynics.  It has become harder and harder to perpetrate the lies that this religion relies on as the truth becomes clearly evident through internet communications.  Which also shows clearly why neoliberal governments like the US are terrified of this anarchic free flow of information.  It is the enemy of any Orwellian police state and has become the primary tool for global citizens to unite together to undo the damage that neoliberals have done to communities and nations.