Decades of neoliberal political narratives have attempted to convince us that the only reason for public ownership is to subsidize private capital growth. Neoliberal economics are focused on the transfer of wealth from the public to private capital through commodification of public assets and services. The result has been a society tilted in favour of profit generation through public subsidies of infrastructure and services over human need.
Since the early 1980s, central banks and governments of top capitalist countries have been attempting to save their beloved system. Responding to the collapsing profit rate was their ultimate goal and drove economic and social policy for 40 years. To save our economy and solve the social, health, and environmental crises we now face we must reverse course.
The current economic crisis has led to unprecedented government spending. This spending is funded by borrowing or by 'printing money' (which has an effect similar to borrowing) to support furloughed and unemployed workers to the tune of roughly $80 billion and to subsidize corporate revenue. This has been necessary to prop up basic economic activity in an attempt to delay the impact of the economic consequences of the recession. Unfortunately, neoliberal policy makers are already trying to convince us that giving public services away to private interests is the only way to pay for this debt.
The cheerleaders of neoliberal policy are rising like zombies after the current collection of economic, health, climate, and political crises seemed to bury them for a while. It is not going to be enough for the left to defend the current economic wreck, we must advocate to build something better just to keep what we have. Socialists have the social and economic policy programs to deal directly with these challenges we face. It is time to dust them off and fight for them with abandon.
The fight against privatization is framed by liberals and the right-wing as a clear and unsubstantiated ideological position of the left. And, no matter how much research is presented exposing how privatization of state services and programs costs more and has no positive (but, in many cases negative) impacts on quality of services, the dominant narrative is privatization works. But, at this point, believing that privatization leads to increased efficiency and lower costs is akin to the denial of climate change and thinking vaccines cause Autism. Decades of real life examples, economic analysis, and trial and error policy show that there are so many ways that do not work when it comes to privatization. So, why do people still believe this nonsense?
In a clear victory for rhetoric over substance in the age of post-truth, the Ontario Liberal government has announced that it will run a pilot project to test the so called 'universal basic income” idea. However, from the policy documents that have been released, it is quite obvious the Liberals intend to implement a more regressive version of this deeply flawed policy program. The Liberal-supporting media is tying itself in knots in attempts to support the program. First, a plea decrying Ontario's 'meagre and rule-bound social assistance program' that the provincial government has purposefully manipulated in order to limit access to supports. Then, without a sense of irony, the media say that cash to buy private services is the only way to fix the problems previous Liberal and Conservative governments created through privatization and austerity.
In theory, debt generated by asset recycling is paid back through private sector partners finding efficiencies or increased government revenue driven economic growth. While this may work in the private sector, it does not work for governments. In practice, asset recycling is similar to other privatization schemes – such as public-private partnerships – that cost governments and citizens more money than traditional public debt-financed investment.
The idea being promoted by the Liberal government through its “Basic Income Guarantee” is that we should be moving towards a system where the government redistributes wealth by giving individuals money directly. As wealth redistribution goes, this is an inherently right-wing approach. It depends on the private sector to provide services that those on the Guarantee can afford, it does nothing to improve the employment prospects for those on the Guarantee, and in the end likely only increases inequality. Instead, the government should be investing this money in public services that are provided at no cost to everyone, an initiative that will create more jobs in the process.
Neoliberalism as an economic ideology is spreading throughout the world via international financial institutions and transnational corporate hegemony. The effects of this colonial phenomenon is especially acute in Latin America where many nations faced debt crises directly related to the international economic system. In order for many nations in Latin America to deal with this economic crisis, they were forced to cede democratic control of their economies to these international actors. Although democratic procedures exist in most countries in Latin America which are implementing the reforms, real democracy is maimed by international economic interference in policy-making. Procedural democracy legitimizes the damaging effects which ensue from the neoliberal reform process. This is evident when we examine the nature of international lending institutions, the power of international capital, the degradation of worker and peasant lives, and the lack of popular opposition.