Tue, Jun 11, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Neoliberalism ignorant toward investing in more than economy

By Deborah Orr  /  The Guardian, LONDON

So why, exactly, given the huge amount of investment needed to create such a market, should access to it then be “free?”

The neoliberal idea is that the cultivation itself should be conducted privately as well. They see “austerity” as a way of forcing that agenda. However, how can the privatization of societal welfare possibly happen when unemployment is already high, working people are turning to food banks to survive and the debt industry, far from being sorry that it brought the global economy to its knees, is snapping up bargains in the form of busted high-street businesses to establish shops with nothing to sell but high-interest debt? Why, you have to ask yourself, is this vast implausibility, this sheer unsustainability, not blindingly obvious to all?

Markets cannot be free. Markets have to be nurtured. They have to be invested in. Markets have to be grown. Google, Amazon and Apple have not taught anyone in this country to read. However, even though an illiterate market would not be so great for them, they avoid their taxes, because they can, because they are more powerful than governments.

And further, those who invest in these companies, and insist that taxes should be low to encourage private profit and shareholder value, then lend governments the money they need to create these populations of sophisticated producers and consumers, berating them for their profligacy as they do so. It is all utterly, completely, crazy.

Recently, British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Anna Soubry suggested that female doctors who worked part-time so that they could bring up families were putting the National Health Service under strain. The compartmentalized thinking is quite breathtaking. What on earth does she imagine? That it would be better for the economy if they all left school at 16?

On the contrary, the more people who are earning good money while working part-time — thus having the leisure to consume — the better. No doubt these female doctors are sustaining both the pharmaceutical industry and the arts and media, both sectors that Britain does well in.

As for their prioritizing of family life over career — that is just another of the myriad ways in which British Conservative party neoliberalism is entirely without logic. Its prophets and its disciples will happily — ecstatically — tell you that there is nothing more important than family, unless you are a family doctor spending some of your time caring for your own. You could not make these characters up. It is certainly true that women with children find it more easy to find part-time employment in the public sector. However, that is a prima facie example of how unresponsive the private sector is to human and societal need, not — as it is so often presented — evidence that the public sector is congenitally disabled.

Much of the healthy economic growth — as opposed to the smoke and mirrors of many aspects of financial services — that Britain enjoyed during the second half of the 20th century was due to women swelling the educated workforce. Soubry and her ilk, above all else, forget that people have multiple roles, as consumers, as producers, as citizens and as family members. All of those things have to be nurtured and invested in to make a market.

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