(en) Brief Definition of Neo-Liberalism

Lyn Gerry (linjin@tao.ca)
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 10:00:03 pst


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Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 08:59:38 -0700 (PDT) From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org> Subject: Brief Definition of Neo-Liberalism

@@ From The Human Rights Information Network --------------------------------------------------------------------- NNIRR, Winter, 1997

A Brief Definition for Organizers and Activists: What is Neo-Liberalism? By Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia

"Neo-liberalism" is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S., political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neo-liberalism.

A memorable definition of neo-liberalism came from Subcomandante Marcos at the Zapatista-sponsored "Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism" of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: "what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there ...." and, he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico. The main points of neo-liberalism are outlined below:

THE RULE OF THE MARKET. This entails liberating the"free" enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes; greater openness to international trade and investment (as in NAFTA); and strategies to reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights that had been won over many years of struggle.

NO MORE PRICE CONTROLS. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say "an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone." It's like Reagan's "supply-side" and "trickle-down" economics -- but somehow the wealth didn't trickle down very much.

CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES. These include education and health care, reducing the safety net for the poor, and even maintenance of roads,bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government's role. Of course, they don't oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

DEREGULATION. This means reducing government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.

PRIVATIZATION. This entails selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors, including banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF THE "PUBLIC GOOD." This concept has been replaced with "individual responsibility." Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as "lazy."

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America.

The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973.

Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, "Neo-liberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America."

In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs, attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers), and cutting social programs. The Republican "Contract" on America is pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself -- and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will "get government off my back." The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world's people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before.

(Elizabeth Martinez is a civil rights activist and author of many works, including "500 Years of Chicano History."Arnoldo Garcia, a cultural worker and activist, is the development director of the Urban Habitat Program.)

/* Written 8:59 AM Apr 12, 1997 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.americas */

Edited/Distributed by HURINet -

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