The world needs a new economic virus to take hold and replace the failed Neoliberalism virus which has demonstrated its inability to withstand the onslaught of the Coronavirus . Already we see examples of this failure within the EU, the US and UK. Governments and the transnational corporations, all hamstrung by the dead weight of Neoliberal orthodoxy that there is a market based solution for every societal problem, as opposed to a societal based solution; that is to say a solution grounded in the needs of society at large . The poor for example, were invisible until the Coronavirus appeared and the rich were able to separate themselves behind a wall, but the Coronavirus doesn’t recognise these man-made distinctions, rich and poor. It simply doesn’t care; meaning it doesn’t take them seriously and neither should we . This is the number one lesson the Coronavirus is teaching us , rich and poor are one person. So we have a choice now, just as the Neoliberalism virus mandated . Only the choice presented by the Coronavirus is this : act in your own best interests alone and risk becoming infected, or act in your best interests and those of the wider society to which we all belong and reduce the risk of infection . It is a stark choice.
The word has gone out : ‘ we’re all in this together ‘. Now let us go forward and discover what makes that true and what doesn’t . Does a hedge-fund promote itself like that and a think-tank espouse that as key to its thinking ?
Making money . It’s a strange phrase when you think about it . No individual is allowed to actually make money . If they did it would be counterfeit. But that’s not what we mean by the phrase is it ? What we really mean is the ability to amass money . In other words make a big pile of it. Images of those who have done this – millionaires and billionaires – in various ways are thrust in front of us continuously encouraging us to believe anyone can become rich . And while this may not be an ever present thought for most people, the Neoliberalism virus infects our minds with its insistent message of the need to acquire more and more of everything not just money.
Since its creation in 1948 the National Health Service has been on the one hand the most cherished and, on the other the most taken for granted institution in the UK . No doubt we have all joined in the chorus of complaint at sometime, but when the moment comes and we need it to be there for us we are thankful it exists. But over the last thirty years it’s been under attack from the Neoliberalism virus. It’s been in intensive care more than once when the virus has infected some of its cells, but somehow it’s survived, even if some of its cells have been damaged. So what is it about the Neoliberalism virus that makes it potentially lethal when it attacks one of the cells of our body aka our society. Well we have to go back to the 1980s when the Neoliberalism virus was an adolescent . It was seeking new cells to attack and it had in its sights those institutions, including the NHS which had been created thirty years earlier. I talked about Finance previously which by 1985 had infiltrated the body politic to convince it that ‘ assets’ which were owned in common by all of us should be offered up to the Neoliberalism virus to satisfy its need for new cells to attack . So how about creating some ‘ opportunities ‘ , make them sound appealing to the public – buy your council house at a discount , buy some shares in British Telecom or Royal Mail – all government backed get-rich-quick schemes and in all cases the Neoliberalism virus proved lethal .
Just like the Coronavirus the Neoliberalism virus needed hosts in order to spread its deadly message .Within the last forty years many of these hosts have appeared in order to spread the virus. Collectively they go under the same name – think-tanks. Some are more blatant about their objectives than others, but all can be considered as propagators of the Neoliberalism virus. They garland themselves with titles that make them sound not just respectable , but academic, in order to justify the use of the word ‘ think ‘ to describe them. Not for them the grubby world of advertising soap powder , they are ‘ Institutes’ and ‘ Centres ‘ seeing themselves as somehow akin to a university, sometimes even attaching themselves to universities. Here are just a few of these think-tanks : The Adam Smith Institute, The Cato Institute, The Centre for Economic Policy Research . There are thousands of them especially in the US and the UK, but almost every country in the world has some. Without exception every single one of them would see itself as a force for good, but good for who ? The question answers itself. Good only for those members of society who are on the make, because the answer to every question posed by a Neoliberal think-tank is ‘ more’ ; more takeovers by private businesses of those institutions and services upon which we all depend.
Before the Neoliberalism virus took hold ‘ Finance ‘ wasn’t a subject at all . It was finance as the dictionary defined it : the management of money by government or business, or the funding of a person or a business . Simple. But beginning in the 1980’s the Neoliberalism virus with the assistance of politicians in the UK and US started to spread rapidly and aided and abetted by the computer infected those institutions that had developed over centuries to serve a useful purpose. The stock exchange was first, followed by the banks and building societies with the result that new forms of the disease emerged. Of all these new forms , derivatives and other esoteric financial ‘ innovations ‘ the one that almost everyone has heard of but no-one knows what it is, is the hedge-fund.
A hedge fund is a group of rich people getting together to look for opportunities to rape and pillage financially. They ‘ invest ‘ in anything : land, real estate, currencies, stocks ; the aim being to maximise profits and minimise risks. No potential opportunity to do this is beyond the pale for the worst of the worst of these bandits. Perhaps the very worst one saw an opportunity in recent years to buy up a poor country’s foreign debt for a fraction of its nominal value and then sue the country for the full value. Yes, you read that correctly, and worst still the law enabled the hedge-fund to do it. It’s not hard to imagine how this led to the further impoverishment of the country concerned. Remember what I said about the Neoliberalism virus being lethal. So maybe the Coronavirus will make us ask ourselves ‘ Do we need hedge-funds at all given that they exist only to make very rich people even richer and add nothing of value for everyone else ? ‘
For the past 50 years our planet has been infected by a virus against which no herd immunity has developed despite it being allowed to rampage across the world. This virus has proven unstoppable in its reach and ability to destroy lives and kill with abandon. And yet its identity is almost unknown to the general public.
The name of this virus is Neoliberalism and , just like the Coronavirus , it escaped from a particular place at a particular time . The Neoliberalism virus originated in Washington DC in the form of a memorandum written by a lawyer named Lewis Powell in 1971 . Powell’s message to the American government was simple and clear – corporations matter more than people and must be allowed to flourish in spite of the damage they might cause to ordinary people’s lives. That message seeded the Neoliberalism virus which over the course of the next thirty years became a global pandemic which was still rampant at the beginning of 2020 when a new virus appeared that has stopped the Neoliberalism virus in its tracks. This is the Coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19, which in the most severe cases, causes death from a type of pneumonia . Lewis Powell died in 1998 from pneumonia.