Our Neoliberal Economic System is Making Us Mentally Ill

Yves here. This post provides a useful short history of neoliberalism, as well as how it undermines mental health by weakening social bonds and increasing insecurity.

By Lynn Parramore, senior research analyst at the Institute of New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

If you’re unlucky enough to reside in a town where data centers house computer servers storing everything from financial data for giant corporations to military secrets, you’re likely to find that a loud, whining noise becomes life’s agonizing background. The sound peaks and subsides, but it’s always there, never allowing you to fully relax. Eventually, the stress of this kind of ambient noise can wear you down, doubling your risk of mental illness, as well as increasing your risk of diseases like heart attack and stroke.

Living in an economy dominated by neoliberal principles can feel kind of like that: a background hum of constant psychological stress.

The sense of precariousness never really goes away. Instead collectively of sharing the risks of life, we’re increasingly saddled with the heavy burdens of existing in an overwhelmingly complex, modern world. We’re lonely individuals, fighting to stay afloat no matter what our situation. There are a few lucky winners, sure (and even many of them are psychically damaged), but most of us are forced to battle in an unrelenting struggle and competition for rewards. Hunger games, status games, power games, the list goes on and on.

In the big picture, the cumulative impact of shoddy safety nets, rapacious business practices, money-driven politics, and severe economic inequality is crushing our hope for the future, which we need to survive. Our trust in one another and in our institutions is dissolving. Our mental and physical health can’t stand up to this.

Harrowing conditions like major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are among the leading causes of disability in established market economies, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Even before the pandemic, more than a quarter of American adults were afflicted by a diagnosable mental disorder. Then, in 2020, global rates of depression and anxiety soared by more than 25%, a jaw-dropping one-year rise, linked to the pandemic, that has especially devastated women and young people. American doctors have declared the mental health crises among children a state of emergency. And all this mental distress fuels physical disease, like stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

The twentieth-century movement of neoliberalism, the dominant economic philosophy of the last half-century in the United States and much of the world, has foisted upon us a false view of the world with myriad negative outcomes for human wellbeing. The question is, how can we recover from its maladies? We had better figure it out soon because a half-century of the unrelenting strain of this toxic philosophy is breaking us down.

A Plan to Shift the Human Soul

The roots of the neoliberal perspective sprung from a world shattered by the collapse of empires and the chaos produced by the first World War. Austrian economists and business advocates in the 1920s and ‘30s, like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, working at the time in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, worried about how a rump nation like Austria could get along in the new global landscape. The specter of socialism and communism in Hungary, part of the old Habsburg Empire, which briefly went red in 1919, added to their anxiety. They were also afraid of rising nation-states calling the shots on economic matters by doing things like raising tariffs – especially nations governed by democracies that recognized the interests of regular people. The spread of universal male voting rights set off alarm bells that power was shifting.

How could capitalists survive without a vast network of colonies to rely on for resources? How could they protect themselves from continuing interference in business and seizures of private property? How might they resist increasing democratic demands for more broadly shared economic resources?

These were big questions, and neoliberal answers reflected their fears. From their viewpoint, the political world looked frightening and uncertain – a place where the masses were constantly agitating to disrupt the realm of private enterprise by forming labor unions, conducting protests, and making demands to reallocate resources.

What neoliberals wanted was a sacred space free from such turmoil – a transcendent world economy where capital and goods could flow without restraint. They imagined a place where capitalists were secure from democratic processes and protected by carefully constructed institutions and laws — and by force, if necessary. Neoliberals weren’t fully opposed to democracies as long as they could be constrained to provide a safe haven for capitalists, but if they didn’t, many thought that authoritarianism would do just fine, too.

These early stirrings of neoliberalism were thus a kind of theology, a utopian longing for an abstract, invisible world of numbers that humans could not spoil. In this promised land, talk of social justice and economic plans to enhance the public good was heresy. “Society” was a realm which, at best, should be kept strictly separate from the economy. At worst, it was the enemy of the global economy — the troublesome domain of nonmarket values and popular concerns that got in the way of capitalist transcendence.

After World War II, the neoliberals organized formally as the Mount Pelerin Society, in which key figures like Hayek pushed the vision of a “competitive order” where competition among producers, employers, and consumers would keep the global economy humming along smoothly and protect everybody from abuse (quite an idea, that). Protections like social insurance and regulatory frameworks were unnecessary.

Basically, the market was God, and people were here to serve it – not the other way around.

For neoliberals, the twentieth century wasn’t about the Cold War, which didn’t much interest them. It was about fighting against things like Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and what they considered dangerous totalitarian schemes of economic equality. As historian Quinn Slobodian put it in his book Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, they set their sights on the “development of a planet linked by money, information, and goods where the signature achievement of the century was not an international community, a global civil society, or the deepening of democracy, but an ever-integrating object called the world economy and the institutions designated to encase it.”

Neoliberals dedicated themselves to protecting unrestricted global trade, crushing labor unions, deregulating business, and usurping government’s role in providing for the common good with privatization and austerity. While it’s true that most Western governments, as well as powerful global institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, are deeply influenced by neoliberalism today, it really wasn’t until the 2007-8 Global Financial Crisis that most people had even heard of the movement.

That’s because, for a long time, neoliberalism invaded our lives like a stealth virus.

During the first half of the twentieth century, it was mostly rich right-wingers who cottoned to the neoliberal prescription for world order. Economist John Maynard Keynes, who called for government intervention in markets to protect people from the kind of flaws and abuses so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression, was much more influential.

But neoliberals kept their economic utopian dream alive by patiently building institutions, focusing on creating legal restraints for democracies, and seeding their ideas in supranational institutions and in academic outposts like the University of Chicago. They funded symposia, scholars, books, and reports, gaining well-known cheerleaders like economist Milton Friedman, and lesser-known but influential ones like James Buchanan, the only Southerner to win the Nobel Prize in economics.

The turn to neoliberalism really didn’t go mainstream until the 1970s, when conservatives blamed economic upheaval on too much government spending and labor power. By the 1980s, neoliberal champion Margaret Thatcher felt comfortable letting the agenda fully out of the bag: “Economics are the method: the object is to change the soul,” she announced.

It seems strange to mention the dismal science in connection with the human soul, but Thatcher had a point. Neoliberalism seeks to shift how human beings exist in the world, to change how we relate to each other and what we expect from life. Over time, we move from considering ourselves mutually responsible beings with a shared fate to isolated atoms liable solely for our own lives. Gradually, we shift from empowered citizens to people destined for servitude to arbitrary economic powers that lay well beyond our reach or understanding. Our humanity fades into an abstract realm of incomprehensible numbers and data, and we become little more than commodities, or even embodied externalities, in an invisible global economy ruled somehow by an invisible fist.

Unsurprisingly, this mode of existence produces maladies of mind, body, and spirit, elevating some of our most troublesome instincts as it denigrates many of the best.

Three Maladies: Distrust, Disconnection, and Disempowerment

A key tenant of neoliberal philosophy is that to live is to compete. As Slobodian has described, the architects of neoliberalism focused on “pushing policies to deepen the power of competition to shape and direct human life.” For them, the best world is brought about by everyone constantly striving to get more or better than their neighbor.

In a society dominated by this kind of thinking, you find yourself inculcated with a competitive mindset the minute you enter school. The simplest expression of your vitality, like singing, running, or jumping, is quickly nudged into a competitive framework. You can’t just jump for joy; you have to be the number one jumper. The point is not the intrinsic reward of the activity but the thrill of beating someone else, or perhaps the negative relief of not being a loser. You are trained to categorize your fellows according to whether they win or lose, sensing that you should just give up on activities in where you don’t “excel.”

Gradually, you grow distrustful of both your own natural instincts and of the motivations of other people. After all, helping others succeed means they may win the prize instead of you in a zero-sum game. Thinking selfishly becomes second nature. As researchers on the impacts of neoliberalism have shown, we become restless perfectionists, endlessly trying to perfect ourselves.

As political economist Gordon Lafer has noted, (increasingly defunded) schools become the place where ordinary kids are groomed for servitude and prepared for a life in which they are likely to find themselves either stuck or sliding downward on the economic ladder.

You learn to accept a world of diminishing, not expanding, possibilities.

A sense of disconnection increases as life progresses. In a place like the U.S., you grow up with low expectations of anyone really caring about you, resigned to spending most of your energy trying to fund life’s necessities, like healthcare and education, all the while dealing with shape-shifting predators in the form of the insurance firm, the bank, the utility company, the hospital, the police, the fill-in-the-blank – those entities which neoliberals made sure were free from the pressures of regulation and legal remedies. If you have a problem, the night watchman state isn’t interested; ask anyone who’s tried to deal with bank charges or utility bills.

You begin to understand that you don’t have much agency in the world. Life feels precarious, and that is exactly what neoliberals intended because they believed that living in such a state was necessary to “discipline” people to accept their place in a world ruled by capitalists.

As a citizen, your influence feels negligible. Neoliberalism tends to dimmish the political agency of ordinary people, offering us a wide array of (often subpar) consumer goods as compensation. As concentrated wealth takes over the political system, we see that what most people want – universal health care, a tax system in which the wealthy pay their share, affordable education, decent jobs, reproductive rights – are increasingly ignored in the policies and laws that govern our lives. Neoliberals sought only to expand the freedom and agency of property owners, as James Buchanan explained in his 1993 book, “Property as a Guarantor of Liberty.” In his view, everybody else was little more than a parasite trying to bleed the capitalist dry.

In 2007, Alan Greenspan declared that “it hardly makes any difference who will be the next president. The world is governed by market forces.” What he didn’t mention is that market forces are governed by capitalists, even though neoliberals pretend that their vision of markets doesn’t lead to asymmetries of power that result in monopoly practices, the undermining of citizens’ legal rights, and the dumping of the risks of business activities onto society. By the time Greenspan was making his declaration, people had begun to get used to the idea that predatory financialized markets designed by and for capitalists had crept into every aspect of our lives, from education to medicine to policing. (Of course, few had done as much as Greenspan to make that happen, with his preposterous confidence in reputation as a substitute for serious regulation.)

Today, the sick neoliberal vision has taken hold to such an extent that if you find yourself in a hospital emergency room, a hedge fund manager may well decide your fate. Perpetually anxious in our atomized existence, we shoulder our debts and burdens alone, inured to sacrificing our wellbeing, our natural habitats, and even, as the pandemic has shown us, our very lives, to “the economy.”

At the end of this weary road, when you’re too old to work anymore, you’re likely to be faced with an uncertain and underfunded retirement, all the while scolded by neoliberals for not being more careful as you struggled for bare survival. And even if with the most carefully laid plans, you are likely to be rewarded by being sicker and dying younger than those who came before you.

Neoliberalism says: suck it up, because this is as good as it gets. Is it any wonder that we are starting to break down?

The Covid-19 pandemic has shined a glaring light on the ugliness of the failures and insufficiencies of the neoliberal approach – and yet governments are still pushing out policies that prioritize business security above the lives of the vast majority of people.

Stressed-out workers simply can’t cope anymore. At a time when most Americans are worried about the economy, low-wage workers are walking off the job. Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in January 2022 illustrates a trend of hanging up your hat so widespread that 2021 has been called the “Year of the Quit.”

Contrary to popular narratives, the quitting wasn’t mostly driven by better-off employees doing something more fulfilling. Instead, industries with low-wage workers saw the highest number leaving the job. While it may not seem rational for a worker worried about the economy to quit even an undesirable, inflexible, low-wage position, a worker beaten down by depression and anxiety might logically do just that, unable to tolerate the punishing demands while worrying about getting sick, caring for children or other family members, and being forced to take on extra duties as employers struggle to fill positions. It’s simply too much.

The transition from the welfare state to neoliberalism has meant that you are responsible for everything, even what is clearly out of your control. You have to reinvent the wheel every time you try to solve a problem, like how to pay for a house, how to get an education, how to have surgery, how to retire. There are unpleasant surprises at every turn.

Neoliberalism is not a happy philosophy, carrying a belief that human discontent is not only a natural but actually a desirable, state of affairs. It has had a huge impact on the culture of the U.S. and other countries where it holds sway and acts as a largely unrecognized drag on health and well-being. It’s no coincidence that the prevalence of mental health problems both nationally and globally is rising. Broken marriages, addictions, loneliness, and deadly despair are taking their toll.

So what’s the alternative? Let’s begin by stating the obvious. A sane society is not run for the economic benefit of a few wealthy capitalists. That is a sick society, and we are living proof of it.

Since the 1980s, we’ve been trained to think of this psychologically crippling state of affairs as normal, when it’s actually anything but.

Part of our recovery is remembering what truly makes us human. Researchers have found that a baby at six months already displays the instinct for empathy, illustrating that caring about what happens to our fellows is part of our DNA. On a collective level, anthropologists like David Graeber have shown that human societies have not always been organized along the lines of domination and inflexible hierarchies. We have choices, and we can make those that better align with our positive instincts. We can give parents the ability to nurture children, like bringing fathers into nurturing from the moment of birth, providing gender-blind parental leave, and making childcare affordable. By extension, our nurturing of the young enhances our ability to care for each other, our communities, and nature writ large.

Our common good is enhanced by political arrangements in which cooperative forms of participation and the needs of ordinary people are prioritized. This means pretty much doing the opposite of what neoliberals have championed. We acknowledge that governments can and must intervene in markets so that people are protected from abuse. We focus relentlessly on getting money out of politics and making voting something that everybody can do easily. We regulate business, enhance the power of working people, and ensure that the global economy is not just one big race to the bottom but a system in which the needs and rights of all inhabitants are considered.

Recovery demands that we create, as economist Peter Temin has stressed, a unified economy instead of the bifurcated one neoliberals and their libertarian offspring have brought us. We focus on restoring and expanding education and shifting resources from policies like mass incarceration. We focus on establishing and enhancing safety nets so that life is not just one arduous, Hobbesian slog, but a journey in which creativity and joyful pursuits are available to everyone. Instead of hyper-focusing on competition, we emphasize mutual succor, and we remember, as the denizens of Silicon Valley seek to drag us into an ever-more abstract metaverse, that we are embodied creatures who need real-life communion more than digital connectivity. We demand to be trained for jobs that are dignified, decently paid, and free from abuse.

The remedies to the maladies stoked by neoliberalism involve doing what it takes to enhance our sense of trust and shared fate. We move from privatization to the public interest, from solo flying to sharing risks, from financialization to a fair economy, from the common denominator to the common good.

Such a shift requires enormous resources of endurance, commitment, patience, and boldness. Neoliberals manifested these things. They played a long, tough game to get their ultimately antisocial, anti-life ideas accepted as mainstream. Our recovery and the widespread acceptance of a better, healthier narrative will not happen overnight. At first, demands for economic equality, political rights, and social justice will sound radical and futile, and those who promote them will be called dreamers and lunatics. That’s just what happened to the neoliberals when they first demanded a transcendent promised land for capitalists free from democratic constraints. They took the hits and kept going.

If we learn to play a long game, the future can be our world, not theirs. That awful, whining hum in the background of our lives might be changed to a tune we can actually dance to.

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  1. Alfia

    In other words what the article is saying that we, as a society, need to move ever so slightly from, broadly speaking, culture of individualism to culture of collectivism.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, it is saying that neoliberalism is a highly unnatural way to organize society, in terms of meeting human needs, and we are paying a big price.

    2. skippy

      FYI Neoliberalism is the monetization of the individual and then all reality becomes a balance sheet or contractual affair.

      BTW collectivism is an indoctrinated ideological trigger or swear word without nuance or another substance as a means to shut down and other considerations. You know it must be why the worlds best health care just lost about a million people aka citizens barbecue the smart people are in control.

      How about this … in Oz we let be until something happens and then everyone and their dog tries to help because there was no individual decisions made and most don’t want to see people just slip under the water.

      Ugh at individualism vs collectivism … life is a binary choice … barf

      1. KLG

        “Neoliberalism is the monetization of the individual and then all reality becomes a balance sheet or contractual affair.”

        Undoing the Demos by Wendy Brown is a very accessible analysis of this thesis.

      2. Lex

        Individualism to the left of me, tribalism to the right, here I am… stuck in the middle with them (choices). Yes, I’m stuck in the middle with them.

        Our lives are on a spectrum, Skippy; there are millions of choices to be made from one end to the other. Black and white, light and shadow are rare, but the market would have us think that the many shades of gray in between don’t exist.

        1. Sparagmos

          Correction: “Individualism to the [right] of me, tribalism to the right, here I am…” So, if you’re still in the middle…?

  2. Basil Pesto

    The Covid-19 pandemic has shined a glaring light on the ugliness of the failures and insufficiencies of the neoliberal approach – and yet governments are still pushing out policies that prioritize business security above the lives of the vast majority of people.

    And it’s particularly rich when you consider that the neoliberal establishment, for want of a better word, has been disingenuously crying ‘mental health’ as an ad hoc rationalisation for not solving the problem, or even for undertaking just basic public health measures.

    Left unsaid, of course – besides the mental health impact of a dangerous pathogen being allowed to spread out of control and the attendant illness and loss of life – is the question of the psychiatric impact of decades of neoliberal policies, including austerity and abandoning full employment. It’s unasked because, of course, these people don’t actually give a shit. Again, the transparent disingenuousness of it is so shameless. Yet many seem to fall for it without seeing the bigger picture, alas.

    1. Ashburn

      An article in Politico today about the collapse of healthcare in rural America is perfectly emblematic of our current neoliberal epoch. It details how death rates from Covid were higher in counties that experienced hospital closures. Trigger warning: It is a very depressing read.

      Not mentioned is the fact that the Democratic Party, still hanging on in their urban redoubts, has abandoned rural America as one look at the electoral map will show. Losing rural states means losing the Senate which means losing the Supreme Court which means no hope for changing this system via electoral means.


      1. Carla

        “[Neoliberals] imagined a place where capitalists were secure from democratic processes and protected by carefully constructed institutions and laws — and by force, if necessary.”

        ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) anyone? 4th and 14th amendment protections against regulating Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, anyone?

        Lynn Parramore hints at the real issue but never explicitly states it: when corporations are able to claim and enjoy Constitutional legal rights, individual human beings effectively have none. Corporations routinely hire entire white-shoe law firms to defend their (illegitimate, never-intended) Constitutional rights. How many individuals can do that? Very few, and those that can own or control corporations themselves. When corporations kill people (Purdue Pharma), they are not criminally prosecuted as individuals are — they are fined, which for companies that make $$$ 24-7 is no deterrent at all.

        We the People will never create anything close to a democracy without eliminating corporate Constitutional rights. Of course we also must establish that money is not, and never was, speech. But as long as corporate entities can wield the Constitution against each and every one of us, We the People have nothing. They can have STATUTORY rights, granted them for certain purposes, under certain conditions, by the people through their elected representatives. But corporations are not people. Please see the short text here:


        Then scan the list of cosponsors — now up to 90! — to see if your Congress critter is on it. If so, thank them. If not, go to http://www.movetoamend.org and find out how to get involved.

    2. redleg

      Mental health issues become a pharmaceutical sales opportunity instead of figuring out and resolving the causes of said mental hearth issues.

      1. LawnDart

        “Feeling sad because your teeth are rotting-out, your jobs suck, and you’re not sure if you’ll have a roof over your head come the 1st? These pills give happy-thoughts and help to chase the bad ones away!”

    3. Skippy

      Its made even more absurd by the endless neoliberal PR marketing pre and post GFC that America had the worlds best health[tm] care and not to mention the old saws about suicide rates in those northern European countries vs the land of freedoms and liberties.

  3. Naresh Jotwani

    The author has pointed out very clearly the serious harm that the modern growth- and wealth-focussed world view has caused, is causing and will continue to cause. Individuals who understand all this — few in number! — must learn to live simple, back to basics lives, largely decoupled from the financialized, predatory economy. Such individuals must build a network of trustworthy, simple people. Such communities will provide the nuclei of future sensible societies.

  4. David

    I’m always surprised that people like the author seem surprised at the effects of untrammelled Liberalism on society, as though these criticisms had not been made, from all parts of the political spectrum, for hundreds of years now. Classical liberalism is an ideology of radical individualism that places the interests of the individual above the group, and seeks to create a new society of totally rational individuals diligently pursuing their economic well-being. The original theorists (those behind the French Revolution for example) wanted to sweep away all the useless detritus of past civilisations, customs, traditions, social groupings, religions, even families in some cases, and replace them with sovereign individuals whose relations with each other would be based on rational self-interest, mediated by property laws and contracts, whose enforcement was seen as the only legitimate function of government. Opponents, from royalists to marxists, argued that if ever implemented such a state would be a nightmare, and it turns out they were right.

    The issue isn’t really individualism vs. collectivism: it’s more complex than that. Liberalism is an example of what the Canadian philosopher CB McPherson called “possessive individualism”: the idea that the sovereign individual has no history, no culture, no inheritance of any kind, no obligations and no demands to satisfy, and is thus justified in acting in what many of us would call a sociopathic manner. But every culture before Liberalism recognised that human beings actually live in a web of benefits, obligations, relationships and participative activities, which provide a context and meaning for their lives. Liberalism replaces all that with contracts and consumptions.

    The problem is, you can’t go back. Liberalism has won, and has done what it always intended to: destroy all bonds between individuals other than the purely economic. Absent massive social crises (which may indeed happen) the future will be like the present: destruction is always massively easier than reconstruction; And I’m afraid that the hand-waving towards the end of the article doesn’t help. The problem is not that we have “domination and inflexible hierarchies” but that Liberalism has, by design, destroyed any sense of hierarchy, which is something that the mental health of human beings absolutely requires. When formal hierarchies are destroyed, people will, if given the freedom, create new ones, based on things like trust, respect and experience. Unfortunately, as you’ll know if you’ve ever been in a society where the government doesn’t function, such societies aren’t characterised by cheerful Graeber-style anarchy, but by the rule of the strong (militias groups and organised crime) over the weak. Traditional hierarchies both give sense to life, and also, and more importantly, provide something for the young to measure themselves against, and to develop as individuals partly by accepting and partly by rebelling. Children look around for models and will take them where they find them. Instead of traditional influences, Liberalism has given us Youtube influencers. i’m not sure the exchange has been a good one.

      1. deplorado

        I concur. I feel I’ve read and absorbed a whole book’s worth in a couple sensible, down-to-earth yet elegantly clarifying paragraphs.

    1. korual

      Yes, one might say that Thatcherism was the defeat of Conservatism, in the classical sense. In those days the successful radicals in the Tory party would denigrate the one nation conservatives as “wet”.

      However, classical Liberalism has also fallen by the wayside and neoliberalism is becoming more hierarchical itself. Levels of censorship, propaganda, military violence and imprisonment hardly conform to our ideas of liberalism. Could we describe the mental health issues addressed in the article as a form of oppression?

      If we are able to find healthier structures in the future they will be ecological obligations rather than formal hierarchies.

    2. Michael

      Unfortunately, despite their good points, a persistent problem with hierarchies is that those with more power often abuse those with less power, or in other ways make things unpleasant because they want to assert their position. Men’s domination over women in ideal forms is supposed to consist of cherishing and protecting them, which sometimes happens. But there is a tremendous and long litany of how men use their physical strength to dominate for their own self-interest. To start with, men approve of wife-beating in virtually 100 percent of forager societies. In only a few do they think it is all right for the woman to hit back. Men reserve more of the better food for themselves all over the globe, often making women more susceptible to health problems. Social discrimination against women in favor of men is rampant. To shift to possibilities for children in many hierarchical societies, in their introduction to a three-volume series on the history of European childhoods, Kertzer and Barbagli note that in premodern European families, “A rigid separation of roles divided the husband and wife. The parent trained the children from a young age to be submissive and deferential. Children were kept at a distance and shown little trust, so that they learned to see themselves as different and inferior.” Linda Pollock in these volumes notes that until the late seventeen hundreds, child rearing manuals only listed duties of children to parents, none of parents to children; only slowly did duties of parents come to be listed more over time. I’m not writing this to say that neoliberalism is the best thing after all. I agree with its critics. I’m just writing this to point out that rebellions against established hierarchies have their point too, a fact supported over and over by the work of historians, anthropologists, and sociologists.

      1. Paula

        Good parents help and protect the young soul emerge. Look at the parenting Trump got. It’s a miracle he survived it, but his brother didn’t. My opinion the older brother took a more Nobel route, but I got a wickedly different sense of things than many others. Parenting, for all we know could be why it is generally those of European descent who are profiting the most. Their parenting style, handed down through the ages, kills the soul, or if not, severely damages it. I have wept for other nations all my life, but when I sit and listen to our commissioners talk with the sheriff’s department about the homeless and others they call “squatters” and their lack of empathy or intelligence in why homelessness and squatter hood are only going to grow, I cringe at what I fear life might be like for many more Americans. It is easier to destroy than to reconstruct, but we must be up to the hard and relentless work, if there’s to be any future. There are ways to take the power back, and one is regenerative agriculture. We can take back some of the money going to corporate chemical fossil fuel industry and give it back to the farmer/rancher and to the communities they live in by improving soils, which clean up waters and air and the human biome as well that is severely suffering right now due to the massive load of built up toxins in most human environments. It could possibly even improve mental health, when a person sees the world come back to life, and life forms that had disappeared, coming back and thriving again. See “100,000 Beating Hearts.” The methods used there would have to be flexible for varying ecological regions. Also, Allan Savory’s TED talk, 2013. Sure makes a hell of a lot more sense than trusting Black Rock with anything to do with mental health. I call what may never happen, The Agrarian Revolution. If there’s some ornery guys who can start something, like using their land to make more money for themselves and their communities, with a medium to small abattoir, a functioning and updated regional airport , local stores selling local product, and all the while contributing to both the financial and ecological health of their community, and the real kicker is, healthy soils sequester tons of carbon and studies have shown they also yield up to 40% more than conventional, chemically treated soils under drought conditions. We need to go there. I hope we do.

        1. Michael

          Paula’s comment applies well to European childhoods of the past, but European childhoods have gotten softer over the past couple of centuries and are continuing to do so. In recent decades, for example, as women have entered the workforce more, they have gained more negotiation power within the family, contrary to the old patriarchal mode. According to sociologists, as women have gained more negotiation power within the family, so have the children of the family. So there seems to be developing a warmer family atmosphere with more shared power. (So, good news about something for a change).

  5. VT Digger

    I’m a member of the Vaishya caste (remote tech workers) and have founded or been an early part of the funding stage of 6 startups over the past 15 years. That’s long enough to see where the Brahmins are deciding to put their money and where they think returns are.

    Right now, it’s an absolute gold rush into mental health services. Demand is estimated to be so high that the Brahmins are not even funding some web3-scaleable-cloud version of mental health, but actual brick and mortar centers. KKR, Blackstone, General Catalyst, all making it rain which means there’s a mental health flood coming.

    Concrete example, my current “startup” just got $150MM from KKR last quarter to start a greenfield network of physical clinics. That’s it. No no unicorn-level blockchain gaming technology or change-the-world TED talk needed.

    1. antidlc

      Job posting at BlackRock:


      Reporting to the Head of Global Benefits, the Global Benefits Strategy VP is responsible for leading BlackRock’s mental health programs aimed to advance the conversation on mental health and foster a firm-wide culture of support for mental health. The job may be based in BlackRock’s New York or Atlanta offices.

      The ideal candidate is a proven benefits/HR professional who has a demonstrated track record driving workplace engagement on mental health, with a combination of communications, training, program management and benefits expertise. The successful candidate will influence and lead a cross-functional team of internal and external partners to build and execute a global strategy around mental health – including a fresh look at our employee benefits, programs and resources to promote mental health by engaging, educating and empowering our employees.

  6. The Rev Kev

    Might it not be pointed out too what sort of leaders come to the fore when countries are organized along neoliberal lines? Take a look at the field of world leaders – Biden, Trump, Boris, Macron, Cameron, Scotty, etc. and that is only the actual leaders. Look too who is on the bench to back them up and you have people in the US like Kamala, Pelosi, Manchin, Graham, Cruz, etc. I would contend that before neoliberalism started to take over in the 80s, that people like this would rarely be allowed anywhere nears the gears of power and even George Bush referred to some of them as the ‘crazies.’ But now leaders like this are considered the norm and their competence – or lack thereof – shows up when they have to react to an emergency such as a world-wide pandemic. Being good neoliberals, they shaped their solutions as saving the ‘economy’ and everybody else was left to fend for themselves. And to do so, government agencies like the WHO and the CDC have been thoroughly corrupted and been rendered as incompetent as the leaders themselves and the main stream media has been turned into a mass transcription service. And this is the regime that we live under? No wonder people are going nuts. It is the only sane reaction.

    1. petal

      Rev Kev, if you haven’t already, try to get ahold of a copy of The Devil’s Chessboard. It’s a long read, but it might answer some of your questions.

      1. Lee

        For more historical background on the rise of neoliberal, anti-majoritarian pseudo democracy focusing primarily on the U.S. see also Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean.

    2. DanB

      My apologies to regular readers because this is third third time I’ve referred in Comments to the last article I wrote about public health, December 2014, titled, “Public Health’s Response to Decline: Loyalty to the 1%.” So, one more time:

      “I suggest [public health] leaders are trapped in a tightening contradiction between the field’s mission, protecting the health of the entire public, and acquiescence to social policies that serve the private interests of the 1%. This stance of Loyalty inexorably places the health of the public at risk… [S]tir in hitting the … limits to growth and the recently demonstrated lack of preparedness for Black Swan events, such as an Ebola outbreak, and you have a recipe for system breakdowns and, eventually, the collapse of the current health system.”

      PS: For my mental health I’m now writing about coming of age in Motown era Detroit.

    3. MDA

      Good point that the the low caliber of our political leadership is evidence of mass dysfunction. It’s difficult for people to make good decisions when they live in fear, bombarded by propaganda. Ironically, damaged and fearful people are driving the world towards the climate catastrophe that will ultimately kill us all, at least if war doesn’t get us first. I don’t blame people when our system lends itself so well to mass manipulation. I think about psychological damage and pain when I see angry people armoring themselves with giant vehicles and keeping fearful distance between themselves and other people or communities. Fear prevents people thinking about the root causes of problems like crime, and instead drives support of less thoughtful policies which make those problems worse (conveniently enriching politically well connected interests along the way). From both a common sense and pocketbook standpoint, it makes sense for people to band together and implement public solutions to problems. However the fact that it would cost far less to, for instance, provide public health freely to all with salaried government employed doctors and nurses, is exactly why that option could never be considered in a neoliberal system. Neoliberals take as gospel that private profit is the measure of public good (leading again to policies which conveniently enrich select constituencies).

    4. lance ringquist

      in america, it was jimmy carter. world wide thatcher and reagan backed off, as thatcher said to pinochet, we would not be viewed to well if you adapt your policies.

      it was nafta billy clinton who was their champion. he used pinochets tactics. he forced onto the world the W.T.O. that destroyed sovereignty, and democratic control. this wiped out most civil societies.

      the war criminal nafta billy bombed and warred his way through office, killing untold amounts of people.

      all bush the dim wit, and empty suit obama did was to bailout and double down on nata billy clintons disastrous policies.

      if you ever heard a speech by hitler translated into english, you would hear the calm voice of nafta billy clinton, or enmty suit hollowman obama, psychopaths.

      1. rob

        so, what did thatcher and reagan “back off of” ?

        You have a very faulty memory, if you think NAFTA was “bill clinton’s” idea. George HW bush already had that in the works for the new neoliberal in the white house to sign, along with the republican enablers of the democratic con… just a bunch of shills, and con men…both houses should burn.
        Just like when clinton left office and bushII took over all the damage in the doing… the protection of the 9-11 hijackers, the impending collapse of the economy, the war on freedom, etc.
        And since carter, there has been no one who wasn’t “the same”. Moving the neoliberal ball down the field, on the road to nowhere.

        And as bad as reagan was; his team… hw bush, and all the rest, were the ones who were doing what those before them wanted them to do., as they moved on .
        neo-conservatives are neo liberals too.
        All were the fronts for the establishment, as is evidenced by the rosters of front groups like the council on foreign relations, whose membership included all the “opposing” sides… even the once shunned koch interests… made good.. after they got back from the USSR. where they were building the oil industry for the soviets.,and later went on to create groups like the john birch society; and now they take the lead for the “bad cop”, at the ALEC and federalist society… and so many others… But really just one team of several.. on the first string.

        1. lance ringquist

          nether thatcher or reagan broke international law and tried to force a sovereign nation into being occupied and dismantled, see yugoslavia. that is still being brought up by russia and china today.

          nafta billy said he did it because they would not free trade.

          nafta was nafta billy clintons baby. no republican could get it through, nafta billy did, lied threw his teeth, its his baby!


          Own up to NAFTA, Democrats: Trump is right that the terrible trade pact was Bill Clinton’s baby
          If the Democrats want to reclaim a progressive identity, they must own up to the dreadful mistakes of the past
          By Paul Rosenberg
          Published October 2, 2016 12:00PM (EDT)

          actually carter was worse than reagan, and i do not like republicans, but i gotta be honest.

          the economy was on the verge of collapse in the year 2000 under nafta billy clintons disastrous polices.

          you can ignore history all you want. i am sure reagan and bushI would have loved to repeal the new deal, but they did not. it was nafta billy clinton that repealed the new deal, and from 1993 on wards, america has been sliding from being a first world nation, into a third world nation.

          reaganism took a back seat and nafta billy clinton took it, super charged it, and ran with it.

          brad delong was man enough to come put and say that nafta billy clintons polices either made things worse, or created whole new problems.

    5. Rod

      Rev, your first sentence is really insightful, and including the back bench becomes chilling.
      Each generation a step backward.

    1. Brunches with Cats

      > Makes me think I am a little less mentally disturbed
      Yes, NC is an island of sanity for many of us.

  7. Watt4Bob

    My boss came by yesterday to ask for some advice pertaining to the new house he is building.

    He has sold his old digs located in a very popular suburban area, and bought a piece of land in the relative boonies.

    He said the plans include a ‘Safe-Room’, and when I gave a slightly amused, quizzical look, he said “What?”.

    I asked about his “Safe-Room”, he told me it was in the basement, and had a spancrete roof, and all the amenities, TV, internet, food, water, etc…

    I think this is evidence that the well-off are feeling the aura of a coming conflict, one that they have some responsibility for assuring is inevitable, but for which they feel no responsibility.

    I’ve had higher-ups in our organization tell me to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, saying “It’s all happening just like she says.”

    They really have totally bought the notion that it is they who are oppressed, by government regulation, the threat of organized labor and the collective mis-behavior of the under-class, among other imagined indignities.

    They have no understanding that in their collective backing the efforts of the FIRE sector to drown government in the bathtub they are, in a sense, piling kindling around their own houses.

    In impoverishing the masses with their intentional, legislated austerity, they are pumping up the very tensions that they now feel are threatening their personal safety.

    It’s clear to me at least, that what passes for the “Upper Class” is having their mental health impacted by the tensions and stress that they themselves have induced in the wider society.

    Their feelings of foreboding are ‘blow-back‘ if you will.

    My boss doesn’t understand he is part of the problem.

    My boss doesn’t understand he won’t be ‘safe’, locked in his basement “Safe-Room”.

    1. jefemt

      “My boss doesn’t understand he won’t be ‘safe’, locked in his basement “Safe-Room”. ”

      Bingo. Vicious escalating cycle of down the drain thinking.

      Ask him about gunz and ammo…. we really only need one good gun that works flawlessly and a bullet for each user (?) Then we get to the ultimate Choices-and-Consequences moment.

      I mean, PHUC cooperating with other humans and species!

    2. Sailor Bud

      My boss doesn’t understand he won’t be ‘safe,’ locked in his basement “Safe-Room.”

      I’m pretty sure your boss understands it is unlikely he will ever have to use it, and I’d bet he is building it more for show and status than for any truly anxious future. Maybe it’s just me. If I were building a safe house for safety, I’d hardly be bragging to my employees about it, all blithely. I probably would want it as hidden as possible from everyone, even with secret entrances, with only the contractor and his/her team knowing about it.

      This public isn’t going to rise up against that gigantic military and police machine, not ever. Your boss is wasting his money. US citizens are more convinced of the invincibility of such police power than anybody on Earth, and huge numbers don’t need to be told because they support all that power.

      It is also one of the reasons we have such gigantic military and police. They train millions and millions every year to take orders in a brutal pyramidal system that strips individualism and combs all cooperative notions into ‘esprit de corps.’ They train the soldier and policeman to know that they don’t want to be on the bottom of that pyramid, but always moving up and kicking down, and never, ever questioning orders from above.

      If the left were truly serious, there would be constant talk about resurrecting the aims of the IWW, among so many other things. The US and Anglosphere/Eurosphere will need to be saved from without, I fear. It is worse than I ever knew, because I feel pretty certain now that the supporters of neoliberalism are a surprisingly larger percentage than I ever estimated.

      1. Watt4Bob

        Hard to argue with any of what you say, especially this;

        If the left were truly serious, there would be constant talk about resurrecting the aims of the IWW, among so many other things.

        Solidarity is so necessary, and what we have is so much fragmentation.

      2. Sailor Bud

        Bah…wish i could edit past the edit timer. I just reread your post and realized he was asking you advice about the safehouse, not just telling you about it, so forgive my characterization of him as bragging. Shows my accusatory finger in action! Somehow lost that detail as I read along the first time.

        As for the Ayn Rand stuff, they had best understand that their hatred of government is a bunch of hooey, when they just become the government themselves, which is what ownership of everything is. This world is more entrenched in backdoor legalism than ever, by those same privatizing characters’ favorite politicians and lawyers. They just lie about it, like they do about everything else.

        They are certainly like tyrannical governments in their own businesses. In short, how can any of them ever call anyone else a “statist”? They love the state, when it’s used against everyone else. They are the damned thing, in every vision but sheer anarchocapitalism, which might as well be called might makes right. I “volunteer” to own all the land from here to the sea. Yeah, sure, okay buddy.

    3. rhodium

      Higher-ups reading Atlas Shrugged hmmm. This amuses me because while my life experiences have shown me that there is a stratification of overall competence, it doesn’t align itself to the hierarchy. Often it’s mixed up and down. A lot of egos push the hardest to climb the ladder while being truly mediocre fake it till you make it types.

      I could rant for so long about this, but ultimately the modern economy in terms of productivity growth is primarily built off the back of technology and the knowledge of how to use it. How many people who think they’re Atlas actually have any concept of this? Besides, spiritual poverty is just creating a meaningless world anyway. What if Atlas Shrugged and nobody gave a shit because nobody felt that life was worth living?

      1. CuriosityConcern

        Is it your experience also that those who are competent try to share that competence within the confines of how they can?

  8. polar donkey

    This was spring break for my kids. Took the family to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. While there, went to Hodgenville, Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. Small Lincoln museum in town. The little museum in an old building needing some repair was having a food drive. If Lincoln was born in 21st century Hodgenville, his family would still have to leave. Driving through rural Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi this week, 40 years of neo-liberalism looks a lot like neo-feudalism.

  9. Eureka Springs

    Neoliberalism is an antitheses of democracy. I really cringe each and every time someone like the author of this post gets away with using “democracy” this way. Half or more of the eligible electorate in the US never votes for this insanity. There’s your super plurality if not outright majority that could never be ignored in a democracy. The hundred year electoral quit never acknowledged.

  10. Rod

    Thanks for this
    Big for breakfast–but nutrient packed

    Basically, the market was God, and people were here to serve it – not the other way around.
    and the other way around is:

    The people were God, and the Market was here to serve it.
    It felt good to just type that
    wouldn’t it/everything feel so much better to be living it?

    And if that were the case, how might this be working now:
    but Thatcher had a point. Neoliberalism seeks to shift how human beings exist in the world, to change how we relate to each other and what we expect from life.
    I doubt that the breadbasket of Europe would be on fire, or we would be shitting in our own environmental bed.

    I find these Authors observations scrape on me particularly:

    Neoliberalism says: suck it up, because this is as good as it gets. Is it any wonder that we are starting to break down?
    Neoliberalism is not a happy philosophy, carrying a belief that human discontent is not only a natural but actually a desirable, state of affairs.
    Because these attitudes and manifestations are killing human imagination–the same Imagination, for one example, so necessary to address the Climate Crises–Nemesis of rich and poor and most everything living alike.
    No wonder a Thing like Radical Conservation is so alien, and will remain so.

    Lastly, this statement:
    Let’s begin by stating the obvious. A sane society is not run for the economic benefit of a few wealthy capitalists. That is a sick society, and we are living proof of it.
    sounds much like the first step of any 12 step program, or what inspires you to put down the shovel that digs your hole.

  11. orlbucfan

    I always enjoy reading thoughtful, well-written work regardless of my personal beliefs. Thank you for this one, Yves. Hope all is well with you.

  12. Mark Gisleson

    Writing resumes from 1988 – 2003 it was impossible to miss what was happening. Not just the stories from the laid off, I also worked with top managers seeking new employment to escape the miseries inflicted on them by new owners.

    Neoliberalism is much more than just badly thought out government. It is a sickness of the soul and it is always found in the company of greed and narcissism.

  13. Dave in Austin

    My 650 word history on the conflict between “closed”, self-contained economies and the “open”, free-trade ones, and the contradictions that gave us here.

    18th and 19th Century states were largely closed except for “beneficial” imports and exports. We are told Britain was the free trade champion. This is incorrect. Britain wanted free trade for the nation’s exports but limited other nations’ exports to the British Empire. They where the China of their day.

    Other nations responded to the British model by creating Third World overseas empires of their own; the resurgent French and late-bloomers, Germany, Italy and Japan. Each was intended to be a closed system with protected industrial exports from the center and imports of raw material from the periphery, with the profits flowing to the center.

    The profits to the center were invested in new industrial production often using an inflow of peripheral labor (Irish in Britain, peasants in the iron-and-steel Don basin of Russia, Slavs in Pittsburgh, Pomeranian in the Ruhr, Poles in Silesia, Koreans in Manchuria). They had to be fed so the new steam-powered rail and ship networks brought in wheat from Kansas and the Ukraine, plus beef from the American west via Chicago and from Argentina via Liverpool. The new, ethnically different proles were not happy. Industrial strife spread but was contained… for a while. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy were junior-league versions of the big boys.

    Special case Austria Hungary was hanging on… but just barely, with the capital, Vienna, going from a German town of 900,000 in 1870 to an industrial city of 2.3 million in 1916 with 60% of the population being Slavs, Croats and Jews. A fellow from Linz living in a low-end Vienna workers’ hostel named Adolph Hitler noticed and disapproved.

    WWI upended the system and gave us many, new, relatively closed models, all a form of what I will call National Socialism (I know; bad term. But accurate). Smoot-Hawley America, Imperial Empire Preference Britain, Communism in one Country USSR and Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere Japan. All provided a safety net for the center’s proles and extracted from the poor and occasionally massacred periphery. This left out the now much smaller, defeated industrial centers; Germany stripped of most agriculture and Vienna, the rapidly industrialized 19th century city of 2.2 million people, the center of the 50 million person Austro-Hungarian empire, now reduced to the 6 million-person rump state of Austria. They had no periphery to exploit. Imagine the politics of a 5 million person Washington DC as the capitol of a rump state of 20 million people.

    Vienna 1900-1938 was the plutonium core of the intellectual bomb that destroyed the world and Berlin was the Oak Ridge where the bomb was assembled between 1933-1945. In Vienna not only Hayak and von Mises were saying “What next? What might work?”, but also, to quote from Wikipedia: “In 1913 Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin all lived within a few kilometers of each other in central Vienna, some of them becoming regulars at the same coffeehouses.”

    And the contradictions they- and we- still live with were, first, how do we provide for the welfare of the center’s restless proles and middle class when the workers from the newly educated periphery can do their jobs at 1/3 the price- either back home or by moving to the slums of the center? Second, how do we (the rich plutocrats) keep them from exploding while we are engineering a reduction in their living standard? Third, how do we deal with the rapidly increasing population of the periphery which looks at the internet and says “I want that”? Fourth, how do we deal with the reality that there are only enough resources to allow ¼ of the world’s population to live on a First World standard? And finally, how do we proclaim “Democracy!” while manufacturing consent for this system?

    Von Mises, Hayak, Keynes and Adolph were just the most prominent scribblers trying to square the various circles.


  14. Pookah Harvey

    Apparently Putin doesn’t think much of neoliberalism either. (sorry about the lengthy quote comment)

    From Putin’s speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. June 2019

    In essence, an attempt is being made to build two worlds, the gap between which is constantly widening. In this situation, certain people have access to the most advanced systems of education and healthcare and modern technology, while others have few prospects or even chances to break out of poverty, with some people balancing on the verge of survival.

    From Putin’s Speech At The World Economic Forum, January 2021

    In the past 30 years, in a number of developed countries, the real incomes of over half of the citizens have been stagnating, not growing. Meanwhile, the cost of education and healthcare services has gone up. Do you know by how much? Three times.
    In other words, millions of people even in wealthy countries have stopped hoping for an increase of their incomes. In the meantime, they are faced with the problem of how to keep themselves and their parents healthy and how to provide their children with a decent education.

    Putin makes it very clear that he wishes to disassociate Russia from the neoliberal West and establish a multi-polar world where he would like to have 4 priorities:

    First, everyone must have comfortable living conditions, including housing and affordable transport, energy and public utility infrastructure. Plus environmental welfare, something that must not be overlooked.

    Second, everyone must be sure that they will have a job that can ensure sustainable growth of income and, hence, decent standards of living. Everyone must have access to an effective system of lifelong education, which is absolutely indispensable now and which will allow people to develop, make a career and receive a decent pension and social benefits upon retirement.

    Third, people must be confident that they will receive high-quality and effective medical care whenever necessary, and that the national healthcare system will guarantee access to modern medical services.

    Fourth, regardless of the family income, children must be able to receive a decent education and realize their potential. Every child has potential.

    This is the only way to guarantee the cost-effective development of the modern economy, in which people are perceived as the end, rather than the means. Only those countries capable of attaining progress in at least these four areas will facilitate their own sustainable and all-inclusive development.

    Whatever you think of him, whether he is believable or not, he gives a good speech.

  15. David in Santa Cruz

    For many years I kept this quotation on the bulletin board above my desk at work in a county prosecutor’s office. No one ever commented on it.

    It is a pitiless, one-sided, mechanical view of the world, which elevates the rights of property over everything else, meaning that those who possess the most property end up with great power over others. Dressed up as freedom, it is a formula for oppression and bondage. It does nothing to address inequality, hardship or social exclusion. A transparently self-serving vision, it seeks to justify the greedy and selfish behaviour of those with wealth and power.

    George Monbiot,
    Why Libertarians Must Deny Climate Change
    The Guardian, January 6, 2012

  16. Susan the other

    Because the USSR collapsed we assumed we had won the Cold War. And we went full speed ahead sharing our economic expertise with the world. Everyone had to sign up to a neoliberal agenda. and/or join NATO. Or be destabilized and overturned. It’s probably closer to reality to say we didn’t win anything. That we only survived during the Cold War as long as we did because the planet had a counterbalance that constrained us. When we were left on our own, we had to prove we were as smart as we thought we were. The little problem is that we weren’t smart at all. So as we pushed neoliberal capitalism on everybody and their dog, in a desperate attempt to achieve an impossible critical mass, we destroyed it very quickly by its own contradictions. We didn’t realize we were until it was too late, until LTC collapsed and lost everybody’s money; until our own economy was not working at all due to our fanatic austerity and insistence on “king dollar”. What a laugh. It all came crashing down, lucky for us, in 2001. We can see it looking back. But can we ever repair what we have done? We will be a socialist country. Maybe with capitalist characteristics, but not many. But will anybody ever care about “What we can do for our country” when our country doesn’t give a damn about us, only about our money? That love of money will die hard.

  17. Anthony G Stegman

    This article is excellent and a must read!! Thank you so much for posting this.

  18. digi_owl

    All in all neoliberalism happened when hippies put down the bong, put on the suit, and became yuppies. From that point the market, in particular the financial market, became the cure-all (carbon credits, anyone?).

    Adam Curtis found this curious British ad for VISA credit cards for one of his series. Either the Mayfair set or Pandoras Box. It basically showed a young lady in a bikini out shopping, using only a Visa card tucked in the bra.

    As he claimed it there, what happened in UK was that by using the MONIAC hydraulic model of the economy British economists thought they had a way to boost their economy out of the post war doldrums. This in part by liberalizing credit. But their plan necessitated devaluing the pound, something the Tory government at the time was deeply against. So Labour got handed the live grenade, it blew up in their face, and then came the Thatcher years.

    All in all, the precursor to neoliberalism, stagflation, seem eerily easy to explain when one think of it as shoppers replacing a rise in wages with a rise in consumer credit (that gets spent on import goods because the currency was held high out of old fashion pride). but economists are effectively indoctrinated to ignore private debt, as it is just the money multiplier doing its thing.

  19. Scott1

    Fate & Destiny will be the determining factors affecting how your life lived is viewed from the throne or the dry dirt or tent on the sidewalk when you are no longer wanted.
    I once said that work was the spiritual struggle for the material necessities. “No shame in honest work.” is what my mother said. What kills me and hurts me is that my private life is taken from me. The best of the recreational drugs happens to hang around in my blood long enough to be found in my piss making a fortune for the piss testing companies and ending any career dependent on pure piss. Mom wanted me to be willing to do whatever work was in front of me. I moved for work repeatedly. The family home was hers and all hers.
    How was I to understand till later what it really meant to come from the “Broken Home”? What kills us is too much of one thing. Give children a game or watch them make one up and there will be competition. “This game is fun, but not for me.”
    If you just do the wage slave’s jobs and get wages enough to pay the rent you are left with part of your soul you had best use for your hobby.

  20. Sound of the Suburbs

    We were asking for it.
    Before the new liberal order there was an old liberal order.

    We stepped onto an old path that still leads to the same place.
    1920s/2000s – neoclassical economics, high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase
    1929/2008 – Wall Street crash
    1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, trade wars, austerity, rising nationalism and extremism
    1940s – World war.
    We forgot we had been down that path before.

    Everything is progressing nicely and we are approaching the final destination.
    This is what it’s supposed to be like.
    Right wing populist leaders are what we should be expecting at this stage and it keeps on getting worse.

    Things do tend to fall apart at the seams when using neoclassical economics.
    Neoclassical economics is a pseudo economics; it’s more about hiding the discoveries of the classical economists than telling you how an economy actually works.

    I remember now, it was Keynesian capitalism that won the battle of ideas against Russian Communism.
    These liberal phases never end well.
    War and fascism are where this path leads.

    How did we get here?
    Before the new liberal order there was an old liberal order.
    Western liberalism failed miserably in the 1930s and new ideas took hold, but those in favour of Western liberalism looked to bring it back in a different form.
    I have been looking at the history of neoliberalism and this reveals the Mont Pelerin Society went round in a circle and got back to where they started.
    They were initially well aware of past failings and sought to address these problems, but as time went on, they moved further and further to the right and got back to pretty much the old form of Western liberalism, with its old problems.

    In the early days of the Mont Pelerin Society, they were acutely aware of the problems of Western liberalism and none more so than the Germans.
    They looked for a form of liberalism that would also provide a stable society, and came up with Ordoliberalism, which they implemented in Germany. It was a huge success.
    The rest of the Mont Pelerin Society gradually forgot the problems of the old Western liberalism, and unintentionally got back to pretty much where they started.

    That’s handy Harry!
    Since the new liberalism (neoliberalism) is pretty much the same as the old liberalism, we can underpin it with the same economics.
    Neoclassical economics.
    That’s the problem.
    The differences between the new liberalism (neoliberalism) and the old liberalism are just cosmetic.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      I believe in free markets.
      Where did it all go wrong?

      Relying on price signals from the markets.
      “Everything is getting better and better look at the stock market” the 1920’s believer in free markets
      Oh dear.

      In the 1930s, they were wondering what had gone wrong with their free market beliefs and worked out what had happened.
      What had inflated the stock market to such ridiculous levels in 1929?
      1) Share buybacks
      2) The use of bank credit for margin lending.

      The US stock market is doing really well with share buybacks and margin lending driving prices ever higher.
      A former US congressman has been looking at the data.
      He is a bit worried, hardly surprising really.

      We didn’t realise we were making the same mistakes they made last time.
      We relied on price signals from the markets that had no real meaning as we had forgotten how free markets actually work.

      “Everything is getting better and better look at the stock market” Donald Trump
      We never learn.

  21. Aaron212

    As someone who came from an extremely abusive and neglectful childhood, I’ve always had a deep skepticism of the way “our world” (not the real world) is run (there is a through-line from slavery, animal and human and habitat exploitation, imperialism, and now our impending destruction (nuclear and/or climate) of life on the planet). Everything in this false reality is completely out of balance as it caters to the worst fear-based traits of humanity.

    It wasn’t until I got deeper into mediation/mindfulness, that I realized much of my thoughts weren’t really my own, but rather the society in which I was conditioned in. One thing that still bothers me is that as much as I don’t engage in Team Blue or Team Red shenanigans, there resides deep inside of me that battered spouse hoping against hope that maybe this time the Democrats are going to right by humans and the planet.


    Also, with regards to being rich and mentally ill, my-ex’s partner Rob’s parents are 1%-ers (they own a vineyard and private jet among many many other things). The poor guy is on massive amounts of psychiatric drugs to treat his “chemical imbalance” and bipolar disorder (he uses cannabis medicinally in order to have any sort of personality). My ex told me once that when Rob was visiting his parents in their LA compound, his loving mother after too many cocktails asked him “What’s it like to be crazy? I would really like to know.” :/

  22. Dick Swenson

    The basic issue is “balance.” We (humans?) seem to be incapable of discussing anything except in binary terms. Individualism vs colletivism (words not used in Ms Parramore’s article), cooperation vs competition, Democrat vs Republican, etc, etc, etc.

    And terms such a liberal (neo or otherwise) vs conservative are never carefully defined in political, economic or social terms. We seem to incapable of speaking and writing carefully.

    There is a section of her article where the inluence of this binary thinking is most clearly expressed – we no longer have fun as children. Instead we raise our children through education and sports to a life of competition – winners and losers. Trump is the perfect exemplar of the consequences of this thinking.

    Oh well, old guys like me won’t have to see the consequences. Those younger and with progeny will suffer.

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