Hayek’s entire ideology and career had begun to come apart in the 1930s. His theories were shown to be inconsistent in the academic journals of the time and the practical implications of those theories had shown themselves to be both discredited and dangerous. A man in such a position only has two choices: he can either completely re-evaluate his ideas which, if they were held with unshakeable conviction and constituted a core component of his emotional make-up, as seems to have been the case with Hayek, would have likely resulted in a mental collapse; or, alternatively, he can engage in a massive repression, shut out reality and construct around himself a fantasy world.
This made neoliberalism a far more potent political ideology than the purely negative anti-government sentiment implicit in Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom were it left standing alone. Here was an ideology that politicians could buy into because it secured them a place in the schema. They were to become the handmaidens of corporate interests and were absolved from any need to institute proper government reforms – after all reforms were evil. Thus the neoliberal doctrine gave the politicians a very easy job and, most importantly, one from which they could largely absolve themselves from blame should the situation go awry. After all, they were not in charge – the free market was.Part III: Europe and the Centre-Left Fall under Hayek’s Spell
But rhetoric aside the Austrians largely lost the debate on the unions in Europe, while the ordoliberals won the day. Unlike in the case of monopolies, however, there was substantial opposition from Hayek and his allies. Whereas large corporations were to be accepted as normal by all those of neoliberal persuasion in both America and Europe, the tension over unions within the movement would continue; reaching fever pitch in the administrations of Reagan and Thatcher. These politicians and their allies, in a very real and direct sense, can be seen as purist Hayekians in the context of labour policy where they were not in terms of macroeconomic policy for which they favoured the doctrines of Friedman and the monetarists.Marks Ames, in Alternet: Stop the Austerity Craze! Massive Budget Slashing Can Lead to Economic Disaster, Violence and Repression
Bruning applied the von Hayek medicine to Germany, and the resulting backlash was so intense he suspended parliamentary democracy and ruled by emergency decree, setting a fine example for the next guy who took power. After just two years of “austerity” measures, Germany’s economy had completely collapsed: unemployment doubled from 15 percent in 1930 to 30 percent in 1932, protests spread, and Bruning was finally forced out. Just two years of austerity, and Germany was willing to be ruled by anyone or anything except for the kinds of democratic politicians that administered “austerity” pain.Susan George, A Short History Of Neoliberalism, 1999.
I cannot convince anyone by philosophical argument that the neoliberal regime of rights is unjust. But the objection to this regime of rights is quite simple: to accept it is to accept that we have no alternative except to liver under a regime of endless capital accumulation and economic growth no matter what the social, ecological, or political consequences.
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