I don’t recall the name of the American politician who said whilst dying of terminal cancer to his surrounding children, “never separate the words that you speak from the life that you lead.”
It is within this context that I write about the death of Margaret Thatcher this week. She cast a heavy shadow over most of my adult life. Coming from the north of England I witnessed the effect of quick deindustrialization. I will not repeat what has already and eloquently been written. I found this heart felt posting on the internet:
The Old that Froze to Death
The Old that Couldn’t Afford Food
The Thousands Made Homeless
The Disenfranchised Black Youth
The Lost Generation of Young
The Hillsborough families
The men dead in a conflict designed to win her an election
The men traumatised from the Falklands War
My mam and dad
Every LGBT kid who committed suicide due to Section 28 in schools
The victims of gaybashing which were never investigated due to pressure from her government
The gay men stitched up and banged up for being gay
The women of Greenham Common who were beaten and had their kids forcibly taken into care for no reason
The men and women assaulted in the Battle of the Beanfield
The men and women consigned to the scrapheap
The services that used to belong to all of us and now are badly run in the hands of the profiteering rich
The country that used to stand for social justice and created the National Health Service
The mentally ill thrown out on the children abused in care homes and ignored.
My final words on this matter:
Next Wednesday I will not celebrate the death of a frail old lady my dignity and social values tell me that is will be wrong. i will pause respectfully and remember the victims and the communities that were devastated. I will do whatever possible to live a life that counters the effects of her divisive government.
She holds no power over me for the future is ours and she may have the past, but the history I shall tell to my children and grandchildren.
Freddie and the Dreamers were an English band who had a number of hit records (May 1963 through to November 1965). Their stage act was based around the comic antics of the 5-foot-3inch-tall lead singer Freddie Garrity, who would bounce around the stage with arms and legs flying.
The Dreamers had one of their biggest hits, If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody in 1963, which reached number 3 in the UK. At roughly the same time an alternative Freddie and the Dreamers (a later day covers band) were also dreaming up their own hit. A hit that would take almost 50 years in gestation the global financial and banking meltdown of 2017, which would throw millions out of work, cause irreversible damage to lives and domestic economies across the world.
The University of Freiburg is amongst Europe’s top research and teaching institutions and it is here that Friedrich August Hayek theories of neoliberal economics started to form. By 1984, Friedrich August Hayek was appointed as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his “services to the study of economics.” Shortly before Hayek died he also received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom from George .W. Bush. In his life time he would be lorded by his followers as one of the greatest economic and political thinkers of modern time.
Hayek’s essay, “Why I Am Not a Conservative” took a broad swipe at traditional ‘one nation’ conservatism, which had embraced a moderate political agenda and following the second world war sought consensus on key issues such has full employment, housing and health related policy. Hayek was critical of conservatism’s inability to adapt to changing human realities remarking, “conservatism is only as good as what it conserves”. A sobering analysis for any political theory or party, but one on this occasion that had been designed specifically to awaken a root and branch theological debate within the ranks of centre right political parties. Hayek challenged the economic and social consensus.
An ex leftist he vehemently opposed the concept of government engagement in economic planning as an affront to personal freedom and hindrance to the free market, which he advocated needed to be less regulated. In 1974 the Centre for Policy Studies a British Centre-right policy think tank was established. It was founded by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher to champion economic liberalism and dissemination of free market economics along monetarist theories. What can be called today neoliberal politics and Friedrich August Hayek was its its first director.
On her only visit to the Conservative Research Department Margaret Thatcher in 1975 party researchers had prepared several briefings for her. Once the hapless party hacks had finished their presentations Thatcher famously reached into her case, took out a book and banged it on the table. It was a copy of Hayek’s Constitution and Liberty, she is reported to have said sternly, “This is what we believe in.” In 1975, Sir Keith Joseph claimed, “It was only in April 1974 that I was converted to Conservatism. I had thought I was a Conservative, but I now see that I was not really one.”
The one nation conservatives over the course of the next decade would be marginalised in government. a process that would only be reversed when the nation conservative Michael Heseltine challenged and facilitated the end of the Thatcher years, but by then it was too late. A very Conservative Coup had taken place. A coup that would ultimately have far wider ramifications outside of the centre right political world.
Through the Centre for Policy Studies Hayek helped to prepare the policies of the incoming Thatcher Government, initially moderate in policy and finding its way around the Government machinery. Thatcher building in confidence after the Falklands war started to increasingly use the power of the government executive to introduce Hayek inspired policies.
Hayek’s influence was also working away across the pond in the USA. During 1950 and 1962 Hayek was at the University of Chicago and was engaged with fellow right wing economists like Robert Fogel and Milton Friedman.
Robert Fogel is infamous for arguing that slave owners approached slave production as a business enterprise and as such there were some limits on the amount of exploitation and oppression they inflicted on the slaves. According to Fogel, slaves in the American South lived better than did many industrial workers in the North. Fogel based this analysis largely on plantation records and claimed that slaves worked less, were better fed and whipped only occasionally.
Milton Friedman served as a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board during 1981. During 1988, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. He also advised both Thatcher and the fascist leader of Chile General Augusto Pinochet, whose dictatorship resulted in thousands of people being killed, up to 80,000 interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime including women and children.
The Hayek, Fogel and Friedman partnership was central to the neoliberal polices adopted and pursued in the USA and UK since 1979. Their blind obsession with unregulated ‘markets’ was summed up by Hayek when he said, “free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box. The first is indispensable for individual freedom while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot”
For Hayek the trading of commodities was far more superior to freedom and democracy, which he saw as a hinderance to the free market. Whilst Friedman supported and advised the fascist dictator Pinochet of Chile And Fogel wrote about the economic success of slavery.
This toxic trios blind, militant and obsessive intellectual concepts, which had no basis in the reality of most people’s lives had but in place the foundations of the economic chaos we now find ourselves in. An economy of deregulated stock markets and banking services industry free to expand at will. Decades of unrelenting greed inspired economics had replaced any notion of economic stability through mass creative production with complex market derivatives trading. The inevitable end being a worthless economy resembling an empty vessel riding a storm that provides little protection to those caught in its eye, unless of course you were a major investor or stock owner of multinational corporations facing financial meltdown.
If you were lucky to be one of these guys then the doors of government funds were flung open to feed on and protect existing wealth, privilege and ultimately power. In retrospect a kind of obscure socialism for the rich. These distorted and miltant free market economics have exposed white and blue collar workers to the chill of global competition, whilst steadily increasing the wealth of the top 1% worlds richest people.
In the UK the 27th October 1986, was dubbed the “Big Bang.” The phrase Big Bang was used in reference to the sudden deregulation of financial markets and coined to describe measures, including abolition of fixed commission charges and the distinction between stockjobbers and stockbrokers on the London Stock Exchange. Big Bang became one of the cornerstones of the Thatcher government’s financial reform programme and was designed to stimulate new financial innovation and financial products. Money became easy to access, including home loans, credit, refinancing packages, etc. and did we gobble this money up and spend it. The trouble being we had stopped making stuff to sell and most of the assets we owned “collectively” through government were hived off through privatisation programme. Things we already owned were effectively sold to us!
The U.S. Senate’s Levin–Coburn Report (April 13, 2011) asserted that the crisis was the result of “high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street.” Up until the financial crash of 2007 no government (left or right) had the ability, or willingness to challenge the economic framework devised by Hayek, Friedman and Fogel. The Labour Party faced with decades of rejection from the electorate in the UK embraced the Hayek, Friedman and Foge economic framework, with Tony Blair becoming an international advocate of neoliberal economics.
This of course was all dandy until the money run out. Today is a new dawn, we have an opportunity to truly change things beyond rhetoric. Will we do it? It’s in the balance, but we can’t afford to allow a further remix of Freddie and the Dreamers, ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ to find its way into our lives via The X Factor.