If It Ain’t Fixed, Break It

The regular extortion of neoliberalism, via the Sopranos

The great neoliberal idea is “if it ain’t fixed, break it.” They starve public services of resources, and then complain that they’re performing poorly. They point out corruption, and propose just giving everything to the rich people doing the corrupting. It’s the perfect crime, really. They break a bunch of windows and say “look at what a dump this place is, sell it to me for cheap.”

The economic truth is that it is much more efficient to run the most important services—like health, education, and transport—publicly. It’s much cheaper and less wasteful, not to mention the right thing. Public healthcare systems are far more efficient than wasteful, complicated private systems, not to mention the far fewer people suffering and dying. Overall public transport costs and emissions are much lower than everyone buying a fucking car, not to mention not choking your cities with traffic and parking.

The economic truth is that countries that actually developed—including in the West—did so through state-led industrialization, protection of vital industries and natural resources, government subsidies for agriculture, and direct government action on the economy. Development doesn’t just develop itself, once you add water and competition. That just makes you prey to the carrion crows of global capitalism, looking for weak dumbasses that lie there not doing anything.

A Tragic Example

As a tragic example, look at my country, Sri Lanka. We followed the western model of privatized transport, building roads, highways, and importing cars and fuel. We ignored and even privatized the public transport that most people depended on. We didn’t even build sidewalks for the people that walked. We gave a ton of money to foreign car companies and oil companies and construction companies, all while starving our own public services.

Now the foreign loans have dried up and our society has come to a complete halt. There’s no fuel for cars at all. We’re depending on the public transport that we neglected for so many years now.

We were also told for years that public universities were too expensive, too low quality, that we just couldn’t afford them. Instead, we sent millions of dollars out of the country for the rich to educate their children while the poor studied hard and got nowhere. Now we’ve run out of dollars and no one can get educated at all.

We were also told to integrate into the global economy immediately, and given loans to do so. We were told that we couldn’t possibly make things that were cheaper elsewhere, that we should just buy finished goods and export natural resources and cheap labor like a good colony.

The neoliberal logic is that you shouldn’t protect industries or have the state lead industrialization at all. Just have faith in the capitalist gods and it’ll magically happen. Well, it fucking doesn’t. Now we have neither the loans nor dollars to import foreign goods, nor the wherewithal to produce them for ourselves or export. Sri Lanka followed the logic of neoliberalism and it was all a lie. It’s all fallen apart.

What We Should Be Doing