Why is Anyone Listening to Neoliberals in the 21st Century?
Close your eyes and imagine an affluent society with subsonic trains crisscrossing the continent. One that produces unlimited clean energy. Provides basic healthcare for everyone. Values education for its own sake. Cultivates the arts and research to discover beauty and the unknown. An affluent society that responds with compassion to natural disaster. Conserves natural resources and protects the environment. And enjoys more leisure time. Cares about eliminating poverty and illiteracy. That ends racism and prejudice.
Does the affluent society seem like a dream? Is it an impossible goal? The neoliberals think it is. They imagine a world of austerity and a new Gilded Age.
The neoliberals are prisoners of the 18th century. They have not advanced since the neo-feudal teachings of Adam Smith (1723-1790). Smith is the godfather of economics and wrote the 'bible' on capitalism, An Inquire into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations . Smith was among the first to give much thought about economics.
In 18th-century Great Britain half the population lived in poverty. They survived, if they did, with disease, famine, illiteracy, lack of sanitation and in slums. It was normal then. Things had always been that way. They thought the poor, staving and ignorant mass of people would always be among them. They thought their society was according to the law of nature
Smith was a charitable man. He fretted about poverty, and gave a great deal of thought about wages. With a large pool of the unemployed, the new industrial class only had to pay subsistence wages.
Smith tried to tell the industrialists that people were like cattle. He said if one gave their cows more grass, then they would produce more milk. The industrialists said that if they gave their workers higher wages, then it would come out of profits, and the workers would just produce more children with mouths to feed, leading to greater starvation. The neoliberals still think this way.