The end of neoliberalism in British politics 6-3-17

Source: "The middle has fallen out of British politics"         

For 40 years, British politics has been dominated by the “neoliberal” consensus - the belief that the gains made under the classical liberalism of the 19th Century could be maintained in the 20th Century. The tenets of neoliberalism are privatization; the reduction of government regulation; the lowering of taxes, especially for the wealthy and by encouraging globalization. Where neoliberalism failed was in reducing widespread income inequality and in addressing a sense of British social disintegration.

Before neoliberalism and after WW2, there was “Butskellism”, named after moderate conservative leader RA Butler and moderate labour leader Hugh Gaitskell. After WW2, the moderates in both parties embraced a welfare state that could encourage equality of opportunity through free education and provide security in the form of old-age pensions and nationalized health care. Butskellism encouraged state ownership of companies, especially utilities and government intervention in the economy (Keynesian demand management). William Beveridge was a Liberal economist whose 1942 report formed the framework for the post WW2 welfare state in Britain. Beveridge identified Five “Giant Evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease.  

In the 1970’s, with rising unemployment and inflation, combined with half of Britain’s national income going into public spending, economic growth slowed. In the winter of 1979, the discontent reached a peak with multiple strikes and labor unrest shutting down entire sectors of the economy. Electricity had to be rationed. Margaret Thatcher and neoliberalism were seen as the cure for these ills. Government regulations were loosened, industries were privatized, global trade deals and the EU were embraced and the economy improved. Under Labour PM’s Blair and Brown, neoliberalism continued to be the dominant political ideology and their “New Labour” programs left Thatcher’s legacies intact while doing a better job of redistributing income.

Now in the post-Brexit UK, neither the Conservative nor the Labour Party embraces Thatcher-style neoliberalism. Real wages in the UK are down 10% since the 2008 financial crisis and it may be 2020 before they recover to 2008 levels. Workers on “zero hours contracts” (no benefits) numbered 100,000 in 2004 - there are over a million UK workers on zero-hour contracts today. As a result, even Conservatives like PM Teresa May are calling for government control over utilities and making statements that questioned belief in free markets is a mistake.

Ukraine - theatre of war 5/27/17

Article: "Theatre of war"      

 >Overview of the Ukraine crisis. Since the conflict began on April 12, 2014 when separatist Igor Girkin invaded Sloviansk in the eastern Ukraine, 10,000 people have been killed and 1.7 million people have been displaced. Ukraine says it is fighting against terrorists; Russia says brave Ukrainian separatists are fighting against a corrupt, fascist Ukrainian government. The conflict remains an undeclared war. Russia and the Ukraine are still trading partners.

> The long-term goal of separatist Girkin is a pan-Slavic state (“Novorossiya”) which would include Russia, Belarus and the eastern Ukraine.

Turkey's purge of the judiciary 5/20/17

Article: "Empty benches in Istanbul"  

Turkey’s President purges the judicial system. Recep Erdogan, the President of Turkey, survived a coup attempt from the Gulenists in July of 2016. Erdogan has removed one-fourth of Turkeys judiciary and prosecutors (over 4,000 people) for suspected Gulenist ties. Thanks to the new Turkish Constitution, narrowly ratified in April of ‘17, the executive branch selects the judges, instead of the prior system in which they were selected by a committee of fellow judges. The Constitution makes judicial selection a partisan process.

Aleksei Navalny brings Russia’s opposition back to life 4/1/17

Article: ""The young and restless"   

 Five years ago, large protests took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg over what was seen as a corrupt and fixed Parliamentary election. These protests were confined to the largest urban centers and were spontaneous (no central leadership). Putin’s response was to marginalize the protesters and distract the nation with nationalistic adventures in the Ukraine and Syria. It worked - Putin enjoys an 80% approval rating today.  Now (March 26) there are new anti-corruption protests targeting Putin’s #2, Medvedev. These protests are different in that they are happening all over the country, in urban and rural areas and are centrally-led by prospective presidential candidate Aleksei Navalny.

> From the article: A group of anthropologists from the Russian Presidential Academy who have studied attitudes among young people say they lack the fear of authority instilled during the Soviet era, and are more attached than their elders to universal values such as honesty and dignity. The Soviet coping mechanisms of cynicism and doublethink are notably absent among the young. They see Russia’s current elite as financially and morally corrupt, and find Mr Navalny’s simple slogan, “Don’t lie and don’t steal”, compelling. Television, the medium which Mr Putin’s government uses to manipulate mass opinion, has little effect on the young, who mainly get their news from the internet. The power of the regime’s use of television relies on the majority of Russians choosing to be passive spectators of the political narratives which the government creates for them. According to the Levada Centre, most Russians believe that “nothing depends on us.” The younger generation appears to be different. “I need to exercise my civil rights if I don’t want to live my life complaining about the country in which I was born,” says a 20-year-old student in Moscow. “It is wrong to say that ‘nothing depends on us.’ Of course it does.”