I find it perversely amusing that while doing good is so damn hard, doing evil is easy. Doing evil is especially easy in the service of wealth and power.
Take neoliberalism, a shape-shifting ideology so nefarious that its proponents dare not mention its name. Neoliberalism has succeeded as the ultimate evil precisely because it is the ideology that serves the wealthy. Indeed, the ideology of neoliberalism allowed the capitalist elite to overturn the New Deal, freeing them from a republic controlled by the unruly masses–we the people.
The way in which they accomplished their goal makes a fascinating story. It’s almost like there’s a neoliberal playbook, where neoliberals sabotage public policy then claim that government is the problem and the solution is markets. We can observe a familiar pattern of defunding, claiming crisis, then calling for privatization because the private sector is always more efficient than the government.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
To achieve their goals neoliberals will make any argument. This amorphousness of neoliberal ideology is on display with its claim that government fosters an out of control bureaucracy that impedes creativity. It turns out that neoliberals don’t have a problem with bureaucracy, per say, just who gets to control the bureaucracy. While in power, neoliberals may have subcontracted out parts of government, but that rarely makes a dent in bureaucracy. The coercive power of government inexorably grows. Only the neoliberal bureaucracy focuses on herding us into the market rather than solving problems in a democratic manner.
Hence, the stealth, shape-shifting ideology of neoliberalism. Neoliberals believe fervently that markets know best, but they also realize that most Americans don’t share this fervor and would resist having their political franchise restricted rather than broadened. Neoliberals understand that Americans would be enraged if their “freedom to chose” only entailed consumer choices rather than citizens rights.
This brings us the the authoritarian heart of neoliberalism. Neoliberal ideals would always be a hard sell, and the neoliberals realized that. After all, they can’t go around in public saying, “We must seize power and use all the tools of government to get the state to impose the ideal market on a recalcitrant populace.”
I’ve come to the realization that there’s no limit to the weapons in the neoliberal toolbox. As an example, take racism. Most of us would recognize the dark stain of slavery on our republic and be supportive of efforts to ameliorate its pernicious effects. Not neoliberals. Led by neoliberal gurus Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, they sabotaged school desegregation to enable the destruction of public education, all to bring about private charter schools.
“And I discovered that Milton Friedman, the Chicago school free market economist, had issued his first manifesto for such vouchers in 1955 in the full knowledge of how it could be used by the white segregationists of the South. And then I also stumbled onto a report by this James McGill Buchanan that we were discussing earlier, who essentially tried to pull the segregationist chestnuts out of the fire in early 1959, when a massive mobilization of moderate white parents had come together to try to save the schools from these school closures, and the bleeding of these tax monies out to private schools. And after the courts had ruled against school closures of schools that were planning to desegregate in Virginia.“
The corporate media plays a special role in this situation. Neoliberal ideology spread through the corporate media from the 1980s, and they have continued to play a prominent role in its persistence through a decade of political and economic turmoil since the 2008 crash. In fact the corporate media plays such a large role in obfuscating what’s really going on that the American public remains clueless to these evil machinations.
We need to be vigilant and educate fellow Americans to the danger.
We must also create community across party lines. In this neoliberal milieu, creating and nourishing community is a revolutionary act.