The Failed Dogma of Neoliberalism

In the 1980s, British Prime Minister Thatcher and U.S. President Reagan depicted neoliberal or “free market” capitalism as the ideal system, a dogma that extends to the present despite its horrific failures and other ways, says Sam Ben-Meir.

Oct .13 marked the birthday of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – so perhaps it would be  fitting to take a moment to consider how Thatcherism still rules the global capitalist landscape.

During her political prime in the 1980s, Thatcher said she was out to change the soul, to change the conceptual universe in which people live, and her idea that “there is no alternative” (TINA) became so deeply embedded in our psyches and in our consciousness that it seems we could no longer imagine that there is an alternative to capitalism.

The neoliberalism of Thatcher was characterized by deregulation (especially in the financial sector), the suppression of labor, attacks on trade unions, and the privatization of state-owned corporations. Both Thatcher and Ronald Reagan oversaw the shift toward a more laissez-faire version of capitalism, which in effect reversed the post-1929 movement towards increased state-intervention and social-democratic capitalism.

It is long overdue that we lay this TINA concept to rest. Consider this: in the 1930s there was a clear sense that there was an alternative. After World War II, an alternative emerged in which the state was heavily involved; and taxation rates in the U.S. were very high. One of the persistent lies that we hear from Republicans is that high taxation rates destroy growth.

Donald Trump repeated this fallacy in the second presidential debate, but the record speaks differently. In 1945, that taxation rate on the top income brackets was 92 percent; it never fell below 70 percent until Ronald Reagan brought it down to 30 percent.

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