The Free Market is Wrecking Society: we can now assess the effects after nearly 30 years.
Free Market economics was introduced into Britain and America by Margaret Thatcher and in the USA by Ronald Reagan
Nigel Lawson, Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983 to 1989, listed the Thatcherite ideals as "free markets, financial discipline, firm control over public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, 'Victorian values' (of the Samuel Smiles self-help variety), privatisation and a dash of populism". Thatcherism is thus often compared to classical liberalism. Milton Friedman said that "Margaret Thatcher is not in terms of belief a Tory. She is a nineteenth-century Liberal". (Friedman was a major academic behind Free market “neo-liberal” economics)
The Tyranny of Choice. Renata Salecl
A key plank of neo-classical Free Market dogma is the fixation on individual Choice.
“In a society geared towards the individual, and dominated by consumerism and celebrity, we are constantly encouraged to choose a better life for ourselves. The weight of each choice and the super-abundance of options can cause crippling anxiety and we defer to others to make the right choices for us. When we do get what we want, fulfilment is swiftly replaced by dissatisfaction and desire for a better option.”
1983 to the current day is nearly 30 years, long enough to assess the impact on Society of this revolutionary Cult.
Cut to 2022 “Britain Flounders in a sea of dirty money” (Nick Cohen, Guardian)
It has long been known that in Britain; England in particular, the financial markets even more specifically, are pits of financial corruption.
Here are a few ways in which they help the very rich
- Tax evasion, finding ways by which the rich can avoid paying tax on earnings made from extortion, fraud and location of huge wealth in myriad Tax Havens
- Enabling super-rich Russians and others to hide their wealth in extortionate properties
To add flavour, here are a few quotes from an article by Nick Cohen, a Guardian journalist:
“We can look in a mixture of revulsion and astonishment at how the naturally conservative milieu of City Financiers, libel lawyers, estate agents, the art market, private schools has become as dependent on the proceeds of crime as opiod addicts on OxyContin”.
He goes on
“You can live a rich, comfortable, undisturbed life in the UK as a native fraudster or migrant oligarch”
Meanwhile what a Conservative Member of Parliament described as “corrupting cottage industry” of law firms and barristers ensures that anybody who raises questions about fraudently acquired wealth faces libel actions with costs that run to millions”.
The creeping cancer that starts deep in the financial markets and right wing governments has sapped the life out of British (and in a different way) American society. Here are a few examples:
- Societies have become more and more unequal, the rich who own property and assets have become vastly richer. The rest of society have lost out to the extent that poverty is endemic, and standards of living, education, health have plummeted whilst exposure to crime has rocketed
- The fixation on individual Choice is a foundation of rampant consumerism, whole economies becoming dependent on consumption. A tragic corollary of excessive consumption and Choice is that the growing masses of poorer people have few choices.
- The very heart of British industry has been ripped out. With a very few exceptions, usually companies with Anglo/Dutch/Scandinavian ownership, British companies have been sold , asset stripped and “offshored” to foreign owners
- Investment in industry and commerce has been almost stopped, replaced by the manipulation of money to make more money
- Politics has been corrupted; big money is pushing right wing politicians to play to the game of the very rich
- Government and the public sector have been eviscerated as a result of programmes of “Austerity” forced through by right wing governments since 2010
- Britain has flounced out of the European Union, the only international body based on moderate economics and democratic principles. The results of this catastrophic decision will over time be seen in loss of influence in the world and slow but sure economic decline.
Last but by no means least, Neo-Liberal Free Market economics, with its obsessions about individual liberty, consumption growth and weak governmental influence on economic affairs is a perfect recipe for Climate Change and Global Warming. Currently, despite fine words, free market countries are not coming up to the mark in reducing the ingredients of Global Warming and environmental destruction.
And: A few small recent events in Britain:
Rivers and watercourses are being poisoned by sewage pumped out by privatised companies answerable to financial owners
The collapse of energy supply industry, which had been based on consumer “Choice”, a free market dogma. The resultant proliferation of small suppliers has caused most of the industry to collapse, leaving big companies in control
Why? Three Basic reasons
- Because right wing dogmatists, most of whom have benefited from hot money and tax evasion will not give up their power easily
- Because the academics behind neo-liberal theory; the foundation of Free Market dogma, either failed to understand the fundamentals of human nature and what happens to people who gain too much wealth and power; or were so carried away by the recognition and influence they gained from the very powerful that they stopped thinking rationally
- Because the causes behind whole mess caused by the Free Market are beyond the capacity of the mass of the population to understand, as are the complexities of bringing rational change in the system
SO: What can be done?
First: Violent revolution is not the answer
The danger is that revolutionary change will be fomented by dangerous megalomaniacs like Donald Trump, which will plunge societies into more and more chaos and violence
Maybe, change can be introduced gradually and progressively by balanced clear thinking politicians and their supporters, starting with specific actions that could gain the support of the majority
Starters could be:
- Government action: to bring about progressive changes which would pressurise the very rich to contribute growing portions of their wealth to programmes that will benefit a fairer society
- Massive publicity about the huge system of tax evasion, which will have to be international.
The European Union must be a strong piece in this complex jigsaw.
- Introduction of taxes on world-wide earnings of big companies.
- Closure of International Tax havens – again this will need concerted action. Britain is a disgraceful shelter for many regimes that harbour tax evasion
- The education system must be reformed to undermine privileged private education institutions by first removing their charitable status
- Introduce the principle of “Community Interest” to large suppliers of transport and power. Rail and electricity companies must be taken out of the hands of financial owners and a new design of Community Interest Companies introduced, which are not responsible to profit-seeking financial shareholders. Such a form of company has been tried with good results when rail companies failed. The profits/surpluses on trading can be re-invested directly back into the operations, cutting out financial “investors”. Governments can act as distant “Backstops, only intervening if the whole system fails.
And most important, re-introduce the Interests of the State into corporate life, but not operational or political control, more like the German principle of the “Supervisory Board”
“In a two-tier board there is an executive board (all executive directors) and a separate supervisory board (all non-executive directors). The chairman of the supervisory board is the equivalent of the chairman of a single-tier board, while the chairman of the management board is reckoned as the company's CEO or managing director. These positions are almost always held by separate people”. (Wikipedia)
These changes would be a good start and if pursued over a long period would begin to pull sick societies back from the brink, and improve the lives of most people.
If you are interested – read on!
Here are more insights from this website. Click on the named article:
- Free Market economics
- Society and the market; Meaning and Obsessive Consumption
- Death by strangulation of quoted companies
- Conventional economics is Mad!
- The Current political mess and its underlying causes
- How dominance by wealthy elites ruins Economies and Societies