Professor schools David Baddiel after his ‘facetious’ tweet about right-wing economics
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:
I'll be honest with you. I have no fucking idea what neo-liberalism is.
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) December 10, 2018
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:
it's when you claim the markets will solve all problems so you create even more bureaucracy to "unleash market forces" on everyone but the rich
— David Graeber (@davidgraeber) December 10, 2018
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”:
I tell you one thing you can rely on Twitter for is meeting a genuinely shitter quality of Stalinist. https://t.co/lPwSMQTCfh
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) December 10, 2018
Everyone who knows what neoliberalism is and dislikes it is a Stalinist: a celebrity’s guide to online political discussion pic.twitter.com/4M0Xym6Jg5
— Cynical Bathtub (@cynical_bathtub) December 11, 2018
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:
- It’s a “failure“, with even its main endorser the International Monetary Fund admitting in 2016 that “Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality”. Countries with more economic equality, meanwhile, have been “doing better in almost all spheres of life” (Oxford professor Danny Dorling).
- It’s “bad economics“, with austerity doing “more harm than good”.
- It’s “at the root of all our problems” – especially in Britain, where it has fuelled the growth of low-skilled, low-paid jobs, less secure or part-time employment, and the “longest fall in living standards on record“.
- It has hit the living standards of the poorest people hardest, and only makes sense for the richest people in society.
- Decades of neoliberalism have left people under 30 poorer and with worse prospects than previous generations.
- Economic experts (including a Nobel Prize-winning economist) have called it “fantasy economics” and insisted that opposition to austerity is “mainstream”, reflecting “the best evidence from modern macroeconomic theory and evidence”.
- It seeks to “override democracy in the service of private property”.
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:
Organising politics & economics to systematically flow the benefits from the bottom to the top. And according to IMF it’s dead. https://t.co/ZjxA79xGXN
— Clarice Queue Jumper Lispector (@DivineTatty) December 10, 2018
"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling." https://t.co/1U58DTVQzD
— Annie Heath (@Annie3H) December 10, 2018
Free market should not be interfered with by the State.
State should only be involved in defence of the realm and upholding the rule of law and private property rights.
Public service ethos does not exist.
That’s about it. #neoliberalism
— Clive Peedell (@cpeedell) December 10, 2018
— JimboL #GTTO (@TheDudeDJ) December 10, 2018
2/2: Neo-liberal doctrine in its promotion of market solutions tends to ignore needs underserved by markets – public goods. This has the consequence of undermining our material standard of living, community cohesion & environmental sustainability, all at the same time.
— Frederick Guy (@FrederickGuy4) December 10, 2018
privatization of the world
— Mickey Milton (@milton_mick) December 10, 2018
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”.
Naomi Klein on Trump, and #Neoliberalism's role in the rise of fascism
Continued – https://t.co/eCTLrrHtSf pic.twitter.com/fHiC9HdgJf
— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) August 16, 2017
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
- Fight against the root causes of today’s problems – austerity, cuts, exploitation, and inequality.
- Join a union, activist group, and/or political party to make sure your voice is heard.
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