architect of Politicised Selfishness dies…

Milton Friedman has died.

I read this on another blog, and thought ‘I know that name’. Then read the obituary, with eulogies from Thatcher, Bush Snr etc… and quotes like this – “In an essay titled “Is Capitalism Humane?” Friedman said that “a set of social institutions that stresses individual responsibility, that treats the individual … as responsible for and to himself, will lead to a higher and more desirable moral climate.””

Friedman was one of the architects of the neo-liberalism that swept through world economics in the late 70s and particularly the 80s. He was already an influence before that, but it took a while for that pernicious brand of free market idealism to find it’s figureheads – Reagan and Thatcher become the public face of the ‘fuck the poor’ campaign, and Friedman’s selfish, grabbing, stock-piling, fiscally fetishist approach to the world became the defacto new world system.

When I look at New Labour, and the disaster of a supposedly left-wing people-centred party ploughing on with a Thatcherite pro-big-business, pro-uber-capitalism strategy, trying to pretend that it’s compatible with a genuine concern for the poor, I wonder how we get out of this? The complexity and size of the systems put in place by those disciples of Friedman – the World Bank, the IMF and the legal protection afforded to trans-national corporations fucking over the world’s poor in the name of share-holder-return – seems insurmountable.

But then I look around me, I talk to people, I see compassion at work, I look at the Year Of Living Generously website (go there, read about it, sign up, change your world), and I think there’s got to be a way forward. Every time an attempt to change things gets hijacked – like the fiasco of the G8 last year – my resolve it toughened, though my cynicism is also redoubled.

So, Friedman, I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, so I shan’t say how utterly despicable I found your particular brand of inverted Robin Hood economics, or the crass selfish libertarian ideals that seem to have flowed so smoothly from it. I won’t say that at all.

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