Neoliberalism, Brexit (and Bernie)

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Too late for turning back
Too late for prayers and useless pity
Past all hope of cries for help
No point in fighting
For either way you choose, you cannot win…


I feel like the coherent economic alternative to neoliberalism that the Left needs to get a handle on is nascent, but growing. Some of the principles seem to include…

  • Free markets are tool to use precisely, not a hammer to use on everything.
  • In any free market, there will be winners and losers. Winners should be paying to sustain the system that gave them that win (typically in the form of a tax).
  • Healthcare, housing, food, education, and access to employment (and maybe a few more things) are human rights that are not guaranteed by markets, and so should be provided for by the people via this tax.

The “how” varies a bit, but things like universal basic income are ideas that get to this: there are some elements of a moral society that the free market is just utter shit at actually delivering on. Our responsibilities to our fellow humans outweigh our dependence on free markets. Where free markets do not function morally, the state should be stepping in.


Half the US uses “government” as a swear word. The Overton window needs to move a lot before those ideas catch on; in fact, much needs to be done before most people will even imagine the idea of “moral government.”


Yeah, these things can move fast, though, when the time is ripe. The idea that everyone should have healthcare, for instance, has been picking up steam since the Clinton years, and shows no signs of waning (Even Trump still wants “healthcare for everybody” - part of the reason he’s annoying Republican stalwarts, I’m sure). It was even floated as a potential part of the Democratic party’s platform recently. That’s in line with this economic ideology: healthcare is not something that should be dependent on employment status to get. The free market doesn’t work for healthcare, so we make it something we’re all basically willing to help each other get.


So…it didn’t make it to the platform? Oh, and neither did rejecting the TPP nor banning fracking?

Great platform you got there, Democrats.


Screwed on $15/hr, too.

As expected, the “six for Hillary, five for Bernie, five for the DNC” platform committee is actually eleven bloc-voting Hillary partisans doing their best to negate the Bernie campaign.


In my estimation Neoliberalism has failed because the idea that opening up markets allowing for more efficient markets and for a greater number of players to enter the market appears on paper to be beneficial. However in practice all it has meant was that the largest players could enter any market they liked and manipulate it to their benefit while leaving chaos in their wake.

I think we need to analyze the success of web standards and the market they created. In the 90s and first half of the 00s, web standards were broken. The major player ignored the standards creating their own and by extension creating lockin, meanwhile the standards process was slow, bloated and weren’t always inline with real-world usage. Much like current free trade agreements the winners kept winning and everyone else got headaches.

Then something (or many somethings) happened. The major player became a pariah because they didn’t follow standards and the HTML 5 standards process was hijacked by WHATWG, giving us a standard designed for real-world usage.

In the intervening years we’ve had an explosion in players entering the market. Web designers see a substantial boon in simplification and efficincy. The backend market has exploded with innovation. It is a success story with the majority of people benefiting, almost no (long-term) losers (Microsoft did wander the wilds for a while, but are now good upstanding citizens) and all that with little direct oversite or standard body intervention. I’d be very interested in what lessons we can learn from this and how we can apply those lessons to the greater economy.


The dems could swap moral government with means tested debt relief and working voters will feel it like Medicare.


A universal basic income saves on the cost of an expensive bureaucracy to allocate benefits but does little to solve the problem of (for many) scarce work available to top up that income. The recent Swiss referendum suggested a universal income of c. £17000 pa, though I have never seen such a substantial figure proposed elsewhere. Perhaps a universal income should be coupled with an allowance of work hours which you can use to top up your income by using yourself or selling to another. I realise this doesn’t completely remove the cost of bureaucracy but it goes further to equalise incomes and outcomes in response to constantly changing employment opportunities at all levels.

Government = ‘gubmint’: a reversed minced oath

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The real anti-neoliberal and progressive movement could have been a Bernie-style campaign to leave - in order to leave EU neoliberalism behind.

As the punishment and plunder of Greece have shown, there can be no compromises with neoliberalism within the EU. The euro has been a disaster for the poorer and more marginal EU countries precisely for that reason. This effectively means that whoever wants to really break with neoliberalism needs to leave the EU. I.e., if the British left had been strong enough to ensure a clear progressive and antinationalist and anti-racist Leave, the situation would have been much better, even though the elites would still weep about an impending financial disaster.

Of course, the Tories and UKIPers who reaped this victory will still follow a viciously neoliberal agenda. In that sense, the racist Brexit is not an anti-neoliberal vote at all.


I think it is a great framing of the current situation.

Democrats no longer have an aspirational candidate to choose, and are now stuck with a totally uninspiring neoliberal (establishment, status quo) candidate. The DNC has exactly what they want with no surprises in store. The people may be upset when all the progressive pretence is dropped post-election, but the DNC has never been much troubled about what the people want.

Republicans have their aspirational candidate, one so free from the taint of government that he has no actual policies or plans for governing. The neoliberal RNC is unhappy, but will do their best to hold the reins in a Trumpocracy.


As usual, the cause of the problem is missed.

The UK state owes 10 trillion for pensions on top of its 1.5 trillion borrowing.

30% of state spending goes on its debts.

There are no assets available to pay that debt. The socialist welfare state spent all the money - like the US.

That comes with consequences and cuts are that consequence.

Next the left loves to rail, rightly about the crap effects of wealth inequality. However, ask them where the wealth is for the trillions the poor have paid the state for their pensions and they get angry because you are asking the question. That’s just trying to blame someone else for the effects of that socialist redistribution. More of it apparently is the solution, when they can’t even acknowledge the effect.

If you back test national insurance [pension contributions] in the UK against investing the FTSE, Mr Median would have had 800K in a fund at retirement. The state pension itself is only worth 108K, and Mr Median has a 400K share of the state debts.

The young are screwed, they are on the hook for the debt even though it was created before they were born. Born into debt bondage.

The key problem on Brexit was that the UK has a system of free access to state services. Lots of poor migrants turned up, and they are now get those services below cost. A crap business model.

Second is the Left’s denial of the result. The demand for another go. The demand for MPs to not do what the electorate says. The desire for a Dictator to save them.

Then you have the usual allegations. If you voted for exit, you’re racist, you’re a bigot, you’re stupid, you’re a liar, … Well that’s the problem. The public don’t like you and the public won’t vote for you because you’ve abused them.

Labour is screwed. They have lost completely in Scotland down to 1 MP and he’s just resigned from the shadow cabinet. They are split in England. Working class voters voted out. Metropolitan elite voted in. Labour has to make the choice.

UKIP will carry on, and with a socialist lite agenda will take those votes from Labour. They are not racist and have kicked racists out. Labour is still trying to find ways to get antisemites such as Livingston back into the fold and handle the PR.

The US where you have effectively a communist running Hillary to the wire, shows the establishment have screwed it - completely.


They must be focusing on the lite, because there is fuck all socialism coming from them. It’s more like Thatcherite heavy, at best. The question is will the ex-labour voters realise before it’s too late?

Personally I don’t particularly care if I get back into the EU now, I’m more focused on getting out of the UK. The United Kingdom is dying, caused by this referendum.


Actual history, here in the US, does not support this idea. The last time the country ran a budget surplus was under a Democrat, and Bush’s deficits have been brought under control by Obama. It seems like the right kind of sucks at actually balancing the books. This is not a matter of opinion. The statistics are public record.

Maybe it’s true in the UK, I don’t know much about your economy. But our socialist welfare state is pretty good at keeping the economy on an even keel. Certainly that’s true in the current election; nobody is more afraid of a Trump administration than Wall Street.


Who’s the communist chasing Clinton, exactly? You mean Bernie? Jesus, that was some random argle-bargle right through, but the idea that Sanders is a communist is risible.


(I’ve noticed many of his “radical” ideas were facts under the Eisenhower administration. Sanders is so conservative.)


Though, more than a few of them are just concerned that it might become involved in providing their medicare; and they really don’t want that.

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From Quiggin’s The three party system, linked to in his Reaping the Whirlwind:
"Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere…"
Whaa? I think he means “Since Ronald Reagan’s tenure, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere…”.
(Actually, he says the latter in Reaping the Whirlwind.)

However: "Hardly anyone now believes in the assurances of the policy elite that they know what is best."
Really? So why is the TPP still moving forward? And why hasn’t the IMF really backed down on insisting on austerity everywhere?

No, I don’t think tribalism is the cause of the Brexit victory. I think there’s a correlation, but not causation. The cause is a general, completely justified, mistrust disbelief of everything the elite says and recommends, and has been saying for decades.