Much of the critique of the G8 and G20 involves a resistance to a economic project called neoliberalism that the G8 and G20 adhere to.While neoliberalism is a relatively common word in the south, it is not so well known in Canada and the United States.
Yet, the neoliberal economic project has been the mode of operation of our economic system for the past 40 years, and has had profound effects on all of us.
For a clear background, there is no better place to start than with the following two articles (as well as the video above). I have pasted snippets below, but if you have time, do click and read in full (here and here):
A. What is Neoliberalism? by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia
The main points of neo-liberalism include:
• THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
• CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. Reducing the safety net for the poor, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
• DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.
• PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
• ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”
This wide ranging interview with Harvey discusses many of the key historical moments in the development and ascendancy of neoliberalism: the welfare state backlash; Chile as the first experiment in noeliberalism; the end of the post-war compromise between labour and capital; the New York City fiscal crisis of the 1970s; the key role of Margaret Thatcher; and the building of middle class consent for the project.
…[T]he theory takes the view that individual liberty and freedom are the high point of civilization and then goes on to argue that individual liberty and freedom can best be protected and achieved by an institutional structure, made up of strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade: a world in which individual initiative can flourish. The implication of that is that the state should not be involved in the economy too much, but it should use its power to preserve private property rights and the institutions of the market and promote those on the global stage if necessary.
[Neoliberals] took the view that state interventions and state domination were something to be feared. And they weren’t only talking about fascism and communism, but they were also talking about the strong welfare state constructions that were then emerging in Europe in the postwar period and also talking about any kind of government intervention into how the market was working. They saw their role as very political, not only against fascism and communism, but also against the power of the state, and particularly against the power of the social democratic state in Europe.