Ottawa’s neoliberal catering service
Friedman’s sub-contractors work with religious zeal and profound deceit.
Not much of anything is going on in Ottawa these days other than a lot of bickering over blind trusts, tax shelters and a lot of hand wringing over the belligerence of Donald Trump. The prime minister arrives for question period on the eve of Halloween dressed as Clark Kent. Ripping his shirt open he reveals a tattered Superman costume he never out grew. He still hasn’t realized decorum and gravitas are expected of a head of state.
The finance minister has just been fined $200. by the ethics commissioner. A rather pathetic sum when you consider what we can pay in traffic fines. In former times, in a real democracy, where there were ethics a minister of the Crown might tender his resignation on a matter of principle. Now we are blessed with feckless political groupies clinging to their gold-plated pensions.
The foreign minister paces the floor of her chambers contemplating her NAFTA conundrum, oblivious of the fact that in her short tenure she has catered too much to Washington’s every whim and now they expect full compliance. They are well aware they are dealing with a weak compliant government and taking full advantage, as is their wont.
Harper was a proactive dismantler of our country. This government just let’s the country slip away by running a catering service, promiscuously signing one trade deal after another, collapsing our foreign policy and accommodating every whim of the neoliberal privatizers.
Do you want to make sense of all this? It is easy. This is a neoliberal government and we are a “neoliberal democracy“
Robert W. McChesney helps out when he defines a “neoliberal democracy”: trivial debate over minor issues by parties that basically pursue the same pro-business policies of formal differences and campaign debate. Democracy is permissable as long as the control of business is off-limits to deliberation or change; i.e. so long as it isn’t a democracy… The neoliberal system therefore has an important and necessary by-product a depoliticized citizenry marked by apathy and cynicism.
McChesney also nails its paramount treachery: Neoliberalism’s loudest message is that there is no alternative to the status quo, and that humanity has reached its highest point. In other words if we accept the present status quo, change is forestalled, and the present becomes a degenerative future.
Milton Friedman was the guru of neoliberalism. He was a economist who was very much caterer-in-chief. He told capitalists exactly wanted they wanted to hear; profit-making is the very essence of democracy, any government that pursues anti-market policies is being anti-democratic…. and to limit political debate to minor issues-just as we see in Canada today. He was also a devotee of the “trickle down economy” where left to the avaricious greed of unrestrained market forces wealth would just trickle down to the poor – sort of like a rainy morning on the Sahara desert. He also touted the notion a free market economy would be self-regulating – sort of like a movie mogul with an endless supply of nubile starlets.
As caterer-in-chief Friedman had to enlist sub-contractors and this was easily achieved as politicos everywhere were recruited. In the wink of an eye liberals and conservatives suddenly became closet neoliberals.
Voters did not notice the sleight of hand as they are too used to buying brand names on election day without checking the “Nutritional Facts” label. In doing so they might realize a particular candidate, a particular party might just be toxic to their financial and social well-being; to say nothing of their children’s future. Voters remain oblivious to the fact scheming politicians can empty their wallet in so many devious ways. “Shopping” for politicians requires due diligence. Callow vacuousness is too easily mistaken for charisma, too many promises means most will be unkept, and prodigal and prodigy must never be confused.
In 2006 Stephen Harper arrived and the Family Compact was re-constituted in the neoliberal mode. Neoliberalism is the great eradicator of governments and nation states and Friedman’s sub-contractors work with religious zeal and profound deceit.
You can also run a catering service by not delivering service when and where needed. It is called “benign neglect” and the present government has considerable mastery here. Benign neglect is the kindest of terms for the gentlest of souls but blunter terms also apply.
It is a sad day when a government backs away from the urgent need for electoral reform with the casualness of flicking a cigarette butt into the gutter. Then, of course, democracy is passé, so why bother.
It is a sad day when a government won’t bring in bankruptcy laws that would prevent shareholders from walking away with the pension funds of 16000, Sears employees.
It is a sad day when a government won’t bring in legislation shutting down off-shore tax havens, It condones tax evasion for the rich and strict tax compliance for the middle-class – to which it claims undying loyalty. Guess who gobbles the cake and who is getting the crumbs?
We should not make the mistake off-shore tax havens are something new. This has gone on for decades under the willfully blind eye of many governments. Yes, it is collusion despite the pitiful claims of media pundits who are accomplices to this endless skullduggery.
Then there was that fateful moment last June 7th when the PM in the oh-so-House of Commons proclaimed it was “sort of useless” to actively support the elimination of nuclear weapons. He made this astounding claim at a time when the threat of nuclear war is imminent and global tensions leading to war are on a razor’s edge.
As for him and his mock government, they lean more toward absolutely useless, and definitely neoliberal.
Over half a century ago Canadian philosopher George Grant wrote the Liberals are more than willing to preside over our demise. We are now seeing the culmination of Grant’s prophecy in all its pathos.
Note: All quotes are from Robert McChesney’s introduction to Noam Chomsky’s Profit over People.
The self-immolation of the Liberal party does not signal the end of Canada, just the cremation of some compassionate ideals that were a worthy Canadian initiative.
-Peter C. Newman, The Death of Liberal Canada