Friday, 17 February 2017

Neo liberalism has brought huge inequality, Trump and Brexit ..surely the time has come to roll back this damaging idealogy

The operation of the neo-liberal economic system for the past 40 years has brought the country (world) to a situation of growing inequalities. A small group get ever wealthier, whilst the huge mass of people remain relatively poorer.

This situation is a complete reversal of the way things operated under the post war economic settlement, when there was a gradual closure of the gap between the very rich and everyone else.

It is not coincidental that in the 1970s, when the inequality gap was narrowest people were at their happiest.

The continuation of the post war Keynsian inspired settlement was moving toward shorter working weeks, more leisure time and earlier retirements.

Then came the neo-liberal governments of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan et al which slammed this progress into reverse. Inequality grew,  people worked longer for less and are now retire later and later.

Only now are the real fissures of the neo-liberal way of operating beginning to become apparent.

The first tremor came with the banking crisis of 2008, however, this was dealt with by the elites, effectively ensuring that the mass of people paid for the bankers recklessness. The uber rich once again came out very well.

In Britain, the austerity narrative was sold better than soap. In a strange way the British seemed to want to believe it. The reality was that the deficit continued to grow, whilst the excuse of austerity was used to justify the privatisation of public services.

More recently the dissatisfaction of the masses has been evidenced in the Brexit vote and the election of Trump in the US. Many people are unhappy because they have become the victims of this unfair, unequal system.

The trouble is another fairy tale, courtesy of a supine media, has been sold. Brexit, no matter what the left in Britain might say was sold on the back of anti-migrant xenophobia. The electorate was lied to, resulting in many believing that their problems were due to immigration and the EU. There are valid reasons for leaving the EU but they were not the ones on the basis of which people voted in June.

A similar feeling of disenfranchisement by the elites occurred in the US, resulting in the election of Trump.

The weakening of the trade union movement has also contributed to this unequal society. Unions play a key role in ensuring a more even distribution of wealth. The legalistic restrictions continually pursued by Conservative governments and not rolled back by Labour ones have contributed to weakening the trade union movement.
The only way to start rolling back the present unequal system is to create a new economic system. Some suggestions to get us on the way would include taxing the rich and corporations more heavily. It is a scandal that while tax payers pay to educate the workforce, corporations then employ that workforce but often pay little tax by way of recompense.

The implementation of  a higher living wage and bringing in a universal basic income (not at the cost of the welfare state) would also help.

Trade unions need strengthening and basic labour standards need enforcing, so that those in work cannot be undermined by bringing in other labour from outside the country.

These suggestions are a very basic start, what is required is to build a whole new alternative model, drawing on some of the better elements of policy in the last 70 years. Failure to do so will see inequalities and discontent continue to grow, resulting in more Trump like scenarios, and when these are also seen to fail, a more violent and sporadic outburst  of frustration on the streets. It is in everybodies interests from the rich to the poorest that a new more equal justice system is developed.

*published Morning Star - we have to end this inequality - 22/2/2017
* published in the Universe - 26/3/2017


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