Neo-Liberalism and the role of Government.
When a government abdicates its responsibility in regulating the economy (as did the U.S. government), capitalist greed accompanied by all sorts of illegal amassing of wealth by the few, at the expense of the majority in society takes place. In other words, policies of neo-liberalism compel governments to abandon regulation of the economy, so that only profit- making becomes the law of the land. Society be damned. The citizen is only a consumer. The government is only a facilitator of business exploitation.
A government as a body that has the power to enforce environmental, labor and consumer laws was required by neo-liberal philosophy to abandon its most critical responsibility of social policy to “market forces”. While it is true that Democracy gives ordinary people a significant voice in government, at the end of the day, who makes the policies that the U.S. government pursues, is what matters. When that question is properly answered, then, we will find out who has power in America.
If a government relinquishes its central and essential duty of protecting the poor. If it fails to tackle unemployment, poverty, and income disparity in society, then, who is it working for? When the government makes it its religious duty to propagate privatization and market deregulation, then we see the sleeper hold neo-liberalism has on government. “Under Neo-liberalism everything either is for sale or is plundered for profit”. Giroux.
Explaining the danger of neo-liberalism on society, Henry A. Giroux writes,
“Neo-liberalism has become one of the most pervasive, if not, dangerous ideologies of the 21st century. Its pervasiveness is evident not only by its unparalleled influence on the global economy, but also by its power to redefine the very nature of politics itself. Free market fundamentalism rather than democratic idealism is now the driving force of economics and politics in most of the world”.
Unlike president Reagan who believed that the “government was a problem, not a solution”, President Obama says, “ that the real issue was not whether government ought to be big or small but whether what it did actually worked”. President Obama in his speech on overhauling financial regulation, seems to have understood the failure of neo-liberalism and the economic destruction it has brought on the U.S. in specific, and the world in general. Moreover, he has made the government’s ceding its responsibility as one of the main culprits for the United States’ financial meltdown. Obama said:
“Now, one of the most significant contributors to this recession was a financial crisis as dire as any we’ve known in generations — at least since the ’30s. And that crisis was born of a failure of responsibility — from Wall Street all the way to Washington — that brought down many of the world’s largest financial firms and nearly dragged our economy into a second Great depression. A free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That’s what happened too often in the years leading up to this crisis”. (Neo-Liberalism, Anarcho-Capitalism).
For the first time in the last thirty years, the bankruptcy of neo-liberalism is so obvious that neither sorcery nor religion could save it. According to Naomi Klein, Neo-Liberalism “has been a class war waged by the rich against the poor, and I think that they won. And I think the poor are fighting back. This should be an indictment of an ideology. Ideas have consequences. Wall Street crisis should be for neo-liberalism what fall of Berlin Wall was for Communism”.
Professor Mekonen Haddis.