What is Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is the dominant economic and political ideology that has been followed by both left wing and right-wing parties over the past 40 years. The political shift to neoliberalism began sometime in the late 1970’s and was confirmed as the paradigm of choice when Margaret Thatcher, Leader of the British Conservative Party, was elected Prime Minister in 1979. and, in 1981 with the election of Ronald Regan in the US. In Canada, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney joined the cheerleaders for neoliberal policies in 1984.

Neoliberalism emphasizes the value of free market competition and sustained economic growth as the means to achieve human progress. It sees free markets as the most-efficient allocation of resources, it emphasises minimal state intervention in economic and social affairs, and is committed to the freedom of trade and capital.

Most of the discussion about neoliberalism tends to focus on its promotion of the freest of free markets - the idea that in the 70s we put capitalism on steroids, deregulated it and privatised a lot of public goods. But there was another very important element whereby neoliberals believe that the state exists only to facilitate markets and backs off from all forms of social justice intervention. 

We have seen a dramatic undermining of the state and public institutions over the last 40 years, public confidence in government is at an all-time low, our health care system, public housing and key infrastructure is crumbling. We have seen the gap between rich and poor widen and middle incomes have not changed in real terms for 40 years. 

Neoliberalism looks to charities to deal with social issues, hence the rise of food banks and charity begging in recent years.

Neoliberalism sees just about all human activity as a form of economic calculation. In other words, just about everything we do as human beings, in fact everything about the natural world can be brought down to a dollars and cents calculation. And success is when the total amount of dollars and cents is growing.

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