The main opponent in the recent youth-led uprisings is neoliberal capitalism, in opposition to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s widely quoted statement that that “There is no alternative!” Liberalism refers to the 18th and 19th centuries’ belief in free trade, competition, and freedom from government regulation–as advocated by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776). After the depression of the 1930s, liberalism was challenged by economist john Maynard Keynes who said that governments must invest in full employment in order for capitalism to expand. “Neo” refers to the revival of liberalism by Milton Freedman and the “Chicago Boys,” Chilean students who pursued postgraduate studies under Friedman at the University of Chicago. They implemented neoliberal policies after the US backed coup in 1973. It ousted democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende replacing him with dictator Augusto Pinochet. Privatization of education that ensued led to the student uprisings in Chile. Other Latin American countries followed as with Mexico’s approval of NAFTA grade agreement that resulted in wage reduction and increased cost of living.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher operated under neoliberal principles of deregulation in the 1980s, formulated in the “Washington Consensus” of 1989. It advocated deregulation, liberalization and privatization. President Ragan’s “trickle-down” economics was the neoliberal belief that unfettered ability to get rich will generate jobs for ordinary citizens. This policty is coupled with the consistent Republican effort to cut social programs that benefit the poor. The focus is on individual responsibility rather than community good. Deregulation of finance in the US led to the recession of 2007 that led to global recession and the resulting austerity programs that cut social programs. So neoliberalism is the root of the global uprisings.
Neoliberalism is imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development bank, etc. They make loans to failing economies and since the 1980s imposed Structural Development Programs to reduce government debt and pay back the loans on the backs of the people. The irony is there is no free market as multi-national corporations dominate, such as Walmart driving down the price of wages and Monsanto selling GMO seeds that don’t reproduce themselves, requiring poor farmers to buy seeds each planting. Nor do these corporations create good jobs at home as they outsource jobs to sweat shops in developing countries, leading to increase in poverty and decline of the middle class in countries like the US and UK. They use up nonrenewable resources like fossil fuels and forests in their intent to make profits, hiring pseudo-scientists to be climate change deniers. Fighting to control these scarce resources has lead to non-stop wars in the Middle East. Wars also earn profits for suppliers; Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton (he was CEO and Chairman until 2000) made over $39 billion on the Iraq War.[i]
[i] Angelo Young, “Cheney’s Halliburton Made $39.5 Billion on Iraq War,” International Business Times, March 13, 2013.