Neoliberalism: There is no alternative
By Scott Sumner
Margaret Thatcher coined the phrase; “The is no alternative” back in the 1980s. Of course this is not literally true, as the unfortunate residents of Venezuela are now discovering. But the alternative is so unpleasant that Thatcher’s claim contains more truth than many people suspect, especially in the long run. In other words, I have pretty good idea as to the direction the next government of Venezuela will take. And the next government of North Korea.
See if you can find the problem with this quote from the Financial Times:
This time, however, Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) looks likely to be beaten not just by the centre-right Popular party but also by the far-left Unidos Podemos movement. According to recent surveys, the once mighty PSOE will come a distant third in this month’s general election, with just 20 per cent of the vote. Not only will it not lead the next government. Barring an unlikely late surge, it will not even lead the Spanish left.
The decline of the PSOE is, of course, part of a broader story. In Germany, the Social Democrats are polling around historic lows, as are the French Socialists under their unpopular president. Pasok has turned into a splinter group in the Greek parliament. In the UK, meanwhile, the venerable Labour party has undergone something of a reverse takeover, and is currently led by a politician who spent his entire career on the party’s leftist fringe. . . .
Spain offers a textbook example of the travails that have befallen the centre-left. Call it a crisis of representation. Call it a capitulation to neoliberalism. Call it horribly unfair. The fact is that in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, voters have come to associate the centre-left with many of the (unpopular) policies traditionally championed by the right: austerity, deregulation, liberalisation, free trade. . . .
Socialist leaders thought they were simply bowing to reality. But along the way they left millions of core supporters without a voice.
That was the vacuum into which Podemos was launched in January 2014, and that was filled by Syriza in Greece and by Jeremy Corbyn in the UK Labour party last year. The choice today for Europe’s centre-left is stark, says Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations: “Either you are wiped out by Podemos or you become Podemos.”
Perhaps you noticed that one of those “far-left” parties has actually taken power–Syriza. And what sort of policies did Syriza adopt? It now favors (or at least pays lip service to) pretty much the same “austerity, deregulation, liberalisation, free trade” that the author says are associated with the right.
At this point I’m not sure if it matters who is elected in Europe. Even Pol Pot would be forced to bow down to the realities of global capitalism. Speaking of which, Cambodia is currently ruled by former members of the Khmer Rouge, and is of course adopting neoliberal reforms.
The European far left and nationalist right can rage against the machine all they want, as can Trump and Sanders supporters. But the machine isn’t going away.
I say this with mixed feelings, as there are many aspects of the machine (the war on privacy, etc.) that I don’t like.