Lambert at Naked Capitalism has a neoliberalism formulation: 1) Because Markets 2) Go die, that has always appealed to me for the conciseness. Let’s tease out some more of the political and social implications of such an explanation.
The dominant trend in the US is a stagnating and declining life span. There are many reasons for this but one of the most compelling is that under a neoliberal economic system, with its obsessive focus on markets, you get the life span you can afford. Covid-19, suicides, diet, opioid addiction, gun violence, auto accidents and deaths of despair, have brought about a mass die-off. Of course, we can’t forget our for-profit health care system. Not being able to afford care when you need it is associated with higher levels of death and permanent injury. More fundamentally, knowing that there are no systems in place to protect or care for you undermines any sense of hope.
The political salience is that both political parties and America’s interlocking political, security and media elites–its establishment–are down with this arrangement. In truth the US economy operates for the exclusive benefit of a small minority of oligarchy and both political parties are onboard. This has resulted in the sort of bifurcated–1st world, 3rd world country, where American lifespans are linked to income. After all, neoliberalism is social Darwinism, cranked up to eleven with its intense focus on competition, and the ultimate penalty is death.
The Democrats used to concern themselves with working-class Americans but those days are well behind us. Now their core constituents are the PMC’s (professional/managerial/class), and their method of liberalism is identity politics (Id/Pol) and DIE (diversity, inclusion, equality). Instead of a national economy focused on universal public benefits the Donkey Party has embraced one where social and national policies are dictated by private wealthy individuals, just like their comrades in the Elephant Party. Republican have long been the party that dry humps wealth and power, and they make no bones about it. They have also long favored a survival of the fittest ethos and point to market-based outcomes as a sign of ones worth. The wealthy, as my senator Mittens blurted out, are “job creators”and market players while the rest of us are “takers” who should get with the program or better yet–go die.
Because markets, go die. It should be in our Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and Bill of Rights. Maybe we could chant it during the 7th inning stretch?
That the Democrats are focused on diversity, inclusion and equality (DIE), rather than on policies offering real material benefits to average Americans through class-based policies, only adds to the irony. As a result the Democrats have largely abandoned the white working-class Americans who used to be the backbone of their New Deal coalition. Of course, abandoning “flyover America” as racist is hardly inclusive, and this elite snobbery contributes mightily to the political nihilism plaguing our country. Going further, one of the manifestations of Democratic abandoning workers is that the Republicans been able to portray themselves as populists.
There’s also an ideological dimension to because markets, go die. If markets are efficient by definition, then any state intervention must make things worse. So the market paradigm becomes a one-size-fits-all cudgel against regulation, progressive taxation, wage regulation, public investment, and the rest of the arsenal to produce a more just society. And if the math is impenetrable to common folk all the better. Milton Friedman claimed that market freedom is the essence of liberty. By contrast, the things most of us value like: job security, the ability to get good health care and education irrespective of private means, or freedom from hidden toxic substances, workplace hazards, and ruined environments, are not really freedoms.