Compelling piece by Kevin Carson. I highly recommend this challenging article.
Margaret Thatcher and the Degradation of “Freedom” in Right-Wing Discourse
As evidence that Thatcher “brought economic freedom to Britain” (Reason, April 8, 2013), Ira Stoll mentions her privatization of state industries, reduction in the top income tax rate, and value-added tax increase that “shifted the tax burden to consumption rather than income.”
Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation, lauds Thatcher not only for her assault on Big Government (“DeMint on Lady Thatcher, Freedom’s Champion,” April 8, 2013), but for being America’s steadfast partner in the fight for the global spread of liberty.
So much for the hype. What’s the reality?
The neoliberal revolution has resulted in little if any overall reduction in the size of government. Neoliberalism is just another form of state capitalist intervention, with accumulation of “private” capital at taxpayer expense. Despite all the anti-”big gummint” rhetoric, Neoliberalism must in practice maintain massive levels of government spending to buy up the corporate economy’s excess product and utilize excess capacity. For the elites who carried out the revolution, Thatcher was just a useful idiot, a way of packaging their statist agenda in the wholesome imagery of nineteenth century liberalism.
What about Maggie’s heralded “privatization” of state industries? Neoliberal “privatization” of government activity may leave a larger share of functions under nominally private direction — but operating within a web of protections, advantages and subsidies largely defined by the state.
The same applies to the rest of the so-called “small government” agenda. Spending cuts on social services are more than offset by other forms of subsidies (including “Defense”) to the operating costs of corporate enterprise. Neoliberal trade agreements include a legal framework (e.g., so-called “intellectual property” rights) designed mainly to protect big business against the market. “Deregulation” is really just reregulation — a shift of state activity in a more pro-corporate direction.
Thatcher’s hatred of Big Government apparently didn’t extend to the use of eminent domain to make way for subsidized highways, as evidenced by the siege and subsequent bulldozing of Wanstonia to make way for her beloved M11, part of her “greatest road-building program since the Romans.” But then subsidies to the car culture and to Big Business’s long-distance shipping costs is seldom counted as part of Big Government.
What people like Stoll mean by “economic freedom” can be seen from the utterly idiotic claim that the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile was bad for personal freedom but “good for economic freedom.”
Those who dismiss Pinochet’s forcible suppression of workers’ right to associate and organize as irrelevant to “economic freedom,” oddly enough, are the same people who make the freedom of capitalists to buy, sell and own the means of production the defining characteristic of “free market capitalism.”
Pinochet’s “economic freedom” agenda explicitly included, as a major component, the violent liquidation of the labor movement. His soldiers visited factories and asked managers to point out labor activists for subsequent torture and “disappearance.” What kind of “economic freedom” is it when the state’s secret police terrorize an entire population in order to reduce the bargaining power of labor, so that the business climate will be conducive to capital investment?