Professor schools David Baddiel after his ‘facetious’ tweet about right-wing economics

David Graeber and David Baddiel
Ed Sykes

On 10 December, comedian David Baddiel tweeted about neoliberalism (the extreme form of right-wing economics that’s ravaged the UK since Margaret Thatcher), saying:

Many Twitter users insisted it was an ideology Baddiel needed to know about (given the immense damage it’s done to the country and the world), though one thought he actually knew but was just being “facetious”.

But the truth is that many people don’t know what neoliberalism is. And it’s important that they do. So London School of Economics professor David Graeber jumped in with a short and simple summary:

Apparently, though, Baddiel didn’t like people stressing how important it was to know about the toxic ideology that brought us austerity and everything in between. In response, he basically called opponents of neoliberalism “Stalinists”:

Neoliberalism: an ‘elitist failure’

As CorpWatch explains, neoliberalism means: cutting public spending (i.e. ‘austerity’); privatising anything still public; freeing companies from regulations; and “eliminating the concept of ‘the public good’ or ‘community’”. It wants citizens to see themselves as competitors rather than allies. Remember Thatcher’s “there’s no such thing as society” comment? Well that sums it up.

Neoliberalism paves the way for the rich to cement their position at the top of the pile. It says the ‘free market’ will help to ensure everyone’s wellbeing. But in reality, it helps the rich while screwing everyone else over.

Journalists and academics have long been warning us about neoliberalism, telling us:

But despite all the damage it’s caused, it’s still not a word everyone knows.

A necessary conversation

Labour Party member and trade union activist Holly Rigby recently highlighted why people might be discussing ‘neoliberalism’ at the moment. It has everything to do with Brexit, and the current Labour leadership’s very clear opposition to neoliberalism. She argued that the EU today is very much “about neoliberal free trade for the rich and punishing austerity for the poor”, and would try to stop Labour’s most popular policies.

So we desperately need to talk about neoliberalism and cut through the confusion surrounding it. And fortunately, many people responding to Baddiel’s tweet brought some much-needed clarity:

As Naomi Klein has argued (along with other high-profile figures), neoliberalism “so clearly is fuelling the rise of fascism”, while “left-wing economic populism fights fascism”.

We need to defeat neoliberalism. And to do that, we need to be totally clear about what it is.

So while it probably wasn’t Baddiel’s intention, his tweet sparked an absolutely essential discussion.

Featured image via Thomas Altfather Good and screenshot

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