Why is it that doing good is so hard while evil is easy?
In my definition, doing good is cooperating with fellow citizens in a democratic manner to solve America’s numerous problems, while doing evil is playing on human hierarchical and xenophobic tendencies to pit each against each in order that a small group can benefit while the rest suffer.
Doing evil is really easy in the US, where we’ve been propagandized for decades to see ourselves as consumers rather than citizens. We are informed daily about the workings of a magical “free-market” which delivers benefits that could never be achieved through government action. With the hoo-rah come a stern warning–any failure to get rich and or famous is our own damn fault. We’re also encouraged to blame our neighbors, especially the ones who look different.
To see how this works in practice, let’s examine the privatization of Americas educational system since the 1980’s when neoliberalism became the means to accomplish this long standing goal.
In, Dismantling Public Education: Turning Ideology into Gold, Alex Molnar, CEPC Publications Director, Director of the Commercialism in Education Research Unit (CERU), and Research Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, writes:
“The election of Ronald Reagan marks a reasonably good starting point for understanding how neoliberal political and economic strategy was used to shape public opinion to accept a market-based system of public education. A system that, to appropriate Hirschman’s terms, replaced the citizen’s democratic right to a “voice” in shaping their public schools with a consumer’s choice to “exit” schools. Under the banner of “school choice,” public education would thus be removed from democratic control and reformulated as a commodity to be “chosen.” Engineering this transformation would be no easy task, because although public schools were always controversial, they were also very popular.”
The privatization of American schools was a far easier sell once well-paying manufacturing jobs went away and the American people were told that the secret to success was better education. Failing public schools were held up as the reason that Americans were unprepared for the brave new world.
“In the early 1980s it was not yet obvious how neoliberals would make use of the economic crisis in impoverished communities — and the argument that school failure was the leading cause of economic misery — to make their case for a radical transformation and privatization of public education. The publication of Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools in 1990 helped clarify things. The case made by authors John Chubb and Terry Moe rests on the idea that poor academic performance is a product of schools being under the direct control of democratic institutions, and that the remedy lay in a market-based approach that offered parents choice between competing school options.”
For the neoliberals, school privatization offered up another tantalizing possibility–destruction of teachers unions. Unionized teachers were brutally attacked, and held up as the key reason why our children “wasn’t learning,” to paraphrase George Bush’s memorable phrase. Teachers and the unions that had won them the relatively high wages, job security, and benefits that are a distant memory for many blue collar workers became a useful target for the ideologues and politicians pursuing neoliberal reforms.
“To sell their ideas, neoliberals promise that heroic teachers and “no-excuses” principals combined with competition, technology, and high-stakes student, teacher, and school evaluations, will “disrupt” sclerotic bureaucracies, rein in unions, and liberate oppressed impoverished urban communities from “failing” schools.”
However, education is hardly sufficient in a neoliberal world where the rich and powerful control the means of production and pit workers against each other in a savage race to the bottom.
“For three and a half decades, retrained workers in blue-collar communities across the U.S. have waited in vain for the jobs to appear. Meanwhile the public services upon which they rely have continued to deteriorate and their communities are collapsing around them for lack of public funds to support them. For an excellent discussion of white work class support for Donald Trump see Joan C. Williams “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S.”
As you can observe from these examples, neoliberalism is a force multiplier for evil.
Under the auspices of neoliberalism, US corporations are encouraged to offshore well paying jobs to third-world hell-holes where workers are paid a pittance and regulations are non-existent. Public schools are then blamed by neoliberals for failing to properly educate American children. Private charter schools as well as non-unionized teachers are offered up as the solution. When this still doesn’t produce well paying jobs, Americans are instructed that they need higher education in order to gain these promised new high-tech jobs. Now, after going back to college and grad school in record numbers, rather than gaining well paying jobs, Americans are saddled with enormous amounts of debt, keeping them desperate and docile.
Is this a great country, or what?
Key architect and forceful proponent of neoliberalism, Margaret Thatcher, famously said– “there is no society.” She also proclaimed that “there’s no alternative” to neoliberalism.
To both those statements I say: fuck-you, I won’t do what you tell me.
We need to get busy. Doing good is hard.
Update: Dean Baker addresses the evil of mainstream economists.
“In this economic climate, it’s not surprising that a racist, xenophobic, misogynist demagogue like Donald Trump could succeed in politics, as right-wing populists have throughout the wealthy world. While his platform may be incoherent, Trump at least promised the return of good-paying jobs. Insofar as Clinton and other Democrats offered an agenda for economic progress for American workers, hardly anyone heard it. And to those who did, it sounded like more of the same.”