Neoliberalism is an odd term when you think about it. It is hardly new and it is not particularly liberal. It has been a great economic success story-for the 1%. The detritus of neoliberalism litters the landscape from smashed unions to shredded safety nets, and deregulation of everything from airlines to banking to telecommunications. And how does one measure the human costs of shattered dreams and broken lives? The consequence? A backlash. Many working people are angry. Keep squeezing them and they will be prey for charlatans and demagogues who exploit their vulnerability and fear with scapegoating and false promises. As The Nation magazine observes, “Alongside growing economic inequality, we have suffered growing political inequality, with a Princeton study declaring that the influence of ordinary citizens on policy is ‘negligible.’ The United States,” The Nation says, is becoming “an oligarchy.”
The contemporary capitalist economic system has an extraordinary component to it. That is the connection between the government, and the financial sector, the big banks. What banks? The Big 5 are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Their assets are in the trillions of dollars. The economic and political implications of capital resources of that magnitude are enormous. Regulations have been relaxed creating the way for another financial meltdown. But if the banks do get into trouble the state is there to bail them out as it did in the crash of 2007-2008. Some are calling for the breakup of the big banks. That will be a tough task as the state/finance nexus is so tight but it is an issue that must be addressed. There is also an alternative model, publicly-owned banks as in the case of North Dakota.
Money, you know, is the root of all evil. The pursuit of it no matter the consequences has led to us, as the New York Times describes it, “speeding toward environmental catastrophe.” Unregulated predatory capitalism and its obsession with generating profits no matter the cost to Nature is endangering civilization as we know it. Globally people, young people in particular, are demanding action. Teenagers like Greta Thunberg, Xiye Bastida, Haven Coleman, Isra Hirsi, and Alexandria Villasenor and groups like the Sunrise movement, Extinction Rebellion, and 350.org are leading the way and working for a future that is safe and secure from climate disruption. All over the world in late September and going forward there will be strikes, walkouts and other actions. We must move from a money-oriented society to one in harmony with and respect for the Earth.
David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of many books, including The Limits to Capital, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Spaces of Global Capitalism, A Companion to Marx’s Capital, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism and The Ways of the World. He is among the top twenty most cited authors in the humanities and is the world’s most cited academic geographer.
David Korten was an insider in the development establishment for several decades. He worked for the Ford Foundation and USAID and taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business. Having severed his ties to the past, today he is a leading voice for economic and social justice. He is a co-founder and board chair of YES! magazine. He is the author of When Corporations Rule the World, The Great Turning, Agenda for a New Economy and Change the Story, Change the Future.
Noam Chomsky, by any measure, has led a most extraordinary life. In one index he is ranked as the eighth most cited person in history, right up there with Aristotle, Shakespeare, Marx, Plato and Freud. The legendary MIT professor is a major contributor to 21st century linguistics. In addition to his pioneering work in that field he has been a leading voice for peace and social justice for many decades. Chris Hedges says he is “America’s greatest intellectual” who “makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.” He is Institute Professor (emeritus) in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics and Haury Chair in the Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. At 91, he still gives lectures all over the world. He is the author of scores of books, including Propaganda & the Public Mind, How the World Works, Power Systems and Global Discontents with David Barsamian.