The failure of former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss to implement her economic agenda is said to be a 'cautionary tale' for politicians in New Zealand. But we shouldn't be conned into believing that, because we might avoid the policy excesses of someone like Truss, we are somehow better off.
THE FAILURE OF former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss to implement her short sharp jolt to an ailing British economy and which ultimately led to her downfall has been seen by some in New Zealand as a lesson for us all, particularly National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
Shortly before Truss resigned, Green finance spokesperson Julie Ann Genter took the opportunity to point score and tweeted that Luxon had been 'very positive' about Truss. In another dig at Luxon and the National Party she went on to say: 'Surely people can see how disastrous right wing political ideology is turning out elsewhere?'
Of course, the obvious reply is that we don't have to look elsewhere to see what a failure neoliberalism has been; there's plenty of evidence for that in this country. Of course Genter and her Green Party remain loyal allies of a Labour Government that continues to peddle the neoliberal orthodoxy. This probably explains Genter's reluctance to extend her criticisms to the Labour Government.
Unlike Genter, commentator Bernard Hickey doesn't have any skin in the game but he still has a warning for Luxon:
'Christopher Luxon should note how the global financial orthodoxy has moved away from trickle-down economics and is increasingly sceptical about Governments that shirk their international climate change commitments....Luxon still seems attached to the tax-cutting and climate-lite policies that are increasingly discredited by global capital pools. He denies the similarities with Truss’ disastrous pivot back to Thatcherite policies, but her demise in less time than it takes for a lettuce to dry up should be seen as a cautionary tale for the fundamentalists in the National caucus that Luxon appears drawn to.'
But Hickey isn't suggesting that neoliberalism is dead but rather the appetite for the extreme 'trickle-down' variation that Truss favoured. The present Labour Government hasn't in any way abandoned the neoliberal orthodoxy that has dominated for the past three decades. This, after all, is a Labour Government led by a Prime Minister who ruled out something as routine as a capital gains tax when the wealthy started to complain about it. This, after all, is a Labour Government led by a Prime Minister that has overseen the biggest transfer of wealth to the already wealthy in the country's entire history. Is this any less extreme than Luxon's enthusiasm for further tax cuts for the rich?
Neoliberalism has failed but, protected by both Labour and National governments, it continues to stalk the land. Zombie neoliberalism we might call it. And, dangerously, we are denied - at least through Parliament - any way of stopping it. What the last three decades of neoliberal rule has taught people is that there is no possibility of significant participation in the processes of the government. Participation has been reduced to voting every three years and, even then, the system is so corrupt and so tilted in favour of the ruling class, that there is exactly zero chance that the status quo will ever be overturned.
We can't allow ourselves to be conned into believing that, because we might avoid the policy excesses of a economic fundamentalist like Liz Truss, we are somehow better off. We can't be conned into accepting the 'realistic' and 'moderate' polices of centrism because they are exactly the policies that have led to the accumulation of vast wealth at one end of the pole with, at the same time, the growth in poverty at the opposite pole. That is the extremism of centrism and we're living with it right now. It's worth noting that Oxfam's recently published international inequality index ranks New Zealand at 136th out of 161 countries when it comes to fair wealth distribution.