It’s as Bad as You Think: The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor is an Unbridgeable Chasm

Philip Thomas, MD
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On the 20th June, barely six weeks after the surprise Conservative victory in the general election, I pushed my wife in her wheelchair with 250,000 others as we marched from the Bank of England to the Houses of Parliament in protest against the new government’s austerity measures. Four days later a group of disabled people interrupted Prime Minister’s Questions, and occupied the central lobby of the Palace of Westminster before delivering a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons [ii]. They were protesting against government plans to end the Independent Living Fund on 30th June.

This has provided essential support to enable the disabled to live with dignity in the community. Two days later another group of protestors occupied Streatham Job Centre in South London, in protest against a scheme that frames unemployment as a psychological disorder [iii] [iv]. This pilot, which the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to roll out across the country, involves ‘psychological’ assessments, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other forms of ‘therapy’ to force unemployed people with common mental health problems back to work. A team of mental health professionals responsible for IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) have been relocated to the job centre to help staff ‘assess’ and ‘treat’ claimants.

Many of us in the U.K. are mad – mad with anger at the injustice and cynicism of a political system that is turning the gap between rich and poor into an unbridgeable chasm. Mad with anger because the most vulnerable in society are now paying the price for a political ideology – neoliberalism – with their lives. We are mad and angry because they are blamed for failings that are not of their making, but which originate in the system under which we live.

The campaigning group Black Triangle publish a list of deaths related to UK welfare reforms. Up to October 2014 69 such deaths were recorded; most were suicides[v]. Another group, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) published a list of 22 suicides or attempted suicides by disabled people related to the detested Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Introduced in 2011 the WCA moved hundreds of thousands of people (most with mental health problems) off incapacity benefit onto Job Seeker’s Allowance or training programmes.

The DWP undertook a secret internal investigation into deaths and suicides of people on benefits, but has so far refused to make this public [vi]. A freedom of information request to DWP by independent journalist and blogger Natalie Leal has revealed that nearly half of 49 of these deaths were people on Employment and Support Allowance. This means they had illness or disabilities [vii].

Suicides and other deaths are the tragic tip of an iceberg of misery and suffering experienced by people forced to rely on benefits either because there are no suitable jobs available, or because they are unfit for work. The government is exercising an increasingly punitive and authoritarian regime against people on benefits. Vulnerable people with disabilities, physical and mental health problems are left destitute by sanctions that suspend or end their benefits if they fail to comply with orders to attend ‘training courses’ or keep a job seeker’s diary.

The Manchester Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s report on benefit sanctions involved 376 respondents from all over the UK [viii]. Claimants were forced to cut down on food and heating, borrow money from family and friends, use food banks, or scrounge for food from skips. Others were forced to beg. Sanctioning severely affected the mental and physical well being of respondents. Some had attempted suicide or contemplated it after their benefits were withheld. The report paints a picture of lives already permeated by hopelessness plunged into destitution and despair by sanctions

The recently elected Conservative government’s response has been to reinvigorate its pursuit of austerity by a further £12bn benefit cuts [ix], a 2-year freeze on benefits, and a household benefit cap of £23,000 (down from £26,000)[x]. Benefit cuts antedate the austerity measures that followed the global banking crisis of 2008, and have been enthusiastically taken up by a succession of governments extending back to Margaret Thatcher. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (a non-political organisation) found that whilst the total amount spent on disability benefits has fallen, the proportion of claimants with mental health problems has increased from around 50% to 60% from 1999 to 2014, posing ‘… an increasingly central issue for future disability policy reform.’ (p. 175).[xi] It’s not only as bad as you think it is, but it’s going to get a damn sight worse.

The Coalition Government’s austerity programme had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable people in society. The Centre for Welfare Reform[xii] found that the impact of austerity, including benefit cuts and sanctions, cuts to housing benefit, and cuts to local government fell disproportionately heavily on disabled people. The government refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment on the effect of these changes on the lives of the disabled. A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission[xiii] found that tax and welfare reforms had had a more negative impact on families with at least one disabled person, particularly a disabled child, and especially in low-income families.

Here, I want to examine the ideology of neoliberalism which, I will argue, is largely responsible for the terrible plight of our most vulnerable citizens. Through it, inequality and injustice have become ineradicably woven into the fabric of society. I also want to describe how CBT and other forms of therapy are being recruited into job centres in an attempt to coerce even more people back to work, as part of this rampant political ideology.

What is Neoliberalism?

Most people probably believe neoliberalism has little relevance to their lives. I disagree. It has become the dominant ideology affecting every one of us through its economic impact, and through this the choices that its opens up or, more usually, closes down for us. Over the last thirty years this ideology has forced us to think and act in ways that suit its interests rather than the democratic interests and concerns of ordinary citizens.

The Anglo-US academic David Harvey defines neoliberalism as ‘…the theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.’[xiv] (pp 1-2)

This means the power of the state is cut right back and its role limited to the creation of those institutional frameworks necessary to support free markets. This includes guaranteeing market functioning, and having the necessary legal structures to secure private property rights. If appropriate markets do not exist, the state may have a role in creating them through privatisation of public utilities. In addition, neoliberal economic policy requires the deregulation of financial markets to encourage competition. The state cuts back on or withdraws altogether from welfare and social provision.

This ideology has become so pervasive, so deeply embedded in our culture, that it is now widely seen as the ‘common-sense’ way of understanding our lives and the world in which we exist. It is taken to be so self-evident that it is extremely difficult to challenge. To question it is to attract ridicule, and those who dissent from it risk marginalisation. To question the meaning of ‘reform’ or ‘progress’ is, as Owen Jones points out[xv], to risk being portrayed as being in the pay of reactionary vested interests, such as the unions or other left-wing organisations. This is indeed ironic given the vested interests served by neoliberal ideology that are never questioned or called to account.

Harvey describes the origins and modus operandi of neoliberalism, and here I will summarise those elements that are useful in understanding why so many of us are angry. These elements concern individual freedom versus collective responsibility, social justice and democracy, and the role of technology.

  1. Individual freedom versus collective responsibility

The notion of individual freedom (hence ‘liberal’) lies at the heart of neoliberal ideology. The policies pursued by Margaret Thatcher in UK in the 1980s exemplify neoliberalism’s prioritisation of individual freedom over collective responsibility. To confront the economic problems of the 1970s (stagflation) Thatcher slashed spending on welfare, and privatised public utilities. She also privatised social housing by allowing council (local authority) tenants to purchase their council homes. Through the bitter and divisive Miners’ Strike of 1984, she engineered a confrontation between Britain’s most powerful union (the National Union of Mineworkers) and in victory effectively dismantled union power. She also reigned in the power of local government and professional groups and their associations. These changes were epitomised by her view that ‘There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.’[xvi] Harvey writes thus of neoliberalism: ‘All forms of social solidarity were to be dissolved in favour of individualism, private property, personal responsibility, and family values.’ (p 23). One consequence of this is the view that individual human beings stand or fall by their personal responsibility for their own decisions, actions, and choices.

If the origins of personal success or failure are to be understood solely as a property of an individual who is free to choose and act, then it follows that the consequences of his or her decisions and actions have nothing to do with the wider social and systemic contexts in which that individual is located. Those who are seen to be industrious, hard-working, or who invest financial resources in their betterment through education and qualifications, or who profit from successful investments, or who have won the national lottery, are held out as aspirational models for the rest of us. They are seen to be virtuous and deserve their success. This is how we should see ourselves. This is reflected in the popularity in Britain of the TV series Dragon’s Den, in which young entrepreneurs have an opportunity to present their business plans to a group of wealthy potential investors.

In contrast, personal failure is just that – a property of the individual. It has nothing to do with an increasingly unfair society in which the net direct effect of the Coalition government’s tax and benefit policies from 2010 to 2014 increased both absolute and relative poverty [xvii]. Instead poverty is believed to arise because the individual has the wrong attitude, a faulty set of beliefs, or a lack of ‘positive affect’. It has nothing to do with the socio-economic circumstances in which the person exists. Neither for that matter is it related to personal stories grounded in oppression, racism and abuse. This idea, that personal failings are the primary determinants of poverty, is central to neoliberal ideology. It is being used to justify the U.K. government’s recruitment of psychological therapies in its mission to force ever more people off benefits.

 

  1. Social justice and democracy

Harvey argues that there is a fundamental incompatibility between individual freedom and social justice in neoliberalism. He puts it this way: ‘Pursuit of social justice presupposes social solidarities and the willingness to submerge individual wants, needs, and desires in the cause of some more general struggle for, say, social equality or environmental justice.” (p 40) As an example he cites the New York fiscal crisis of 1975 as a key moment that established the principle that the integrity of financial institutions trumped the well-being of citizens. It meant that the role of government was to maintain an orderly society in which markets could flourish, even though this was not in the best interests of the citizens.

There is also an uneasy relationship between neoliberalism and democracy. The most persuasive argument here has can be found in Noam Chomsky’s Profit over People [xviii]. Although politicians readily resort to favourite sound-bites on the value of freedom and democracy when for some reason these appear to be under attack, the will of the majority can and does conflict with individual freedom. In Capitalism and Freedom Milton Friedman[xix], the high priest of neoliberalism (and one of Margaret Thatcher’s heroes), argued that making a profit is the essence of democracy. If you agree with this then it follows that a government that implements anti-market policies is antidemocratic. This is why neoliberal governments are intent on restricting their activities to the protection private property and the enforcement of contracts. True political debate is stifled, and limited to matters of no real consequence. This creates an apathetic and cynical electorate, which is exactly what we have in U.K. at present. Democracy becomes as an optional extra, a luxury that can be afforded as long as markets are functioning and creating affluence. Harvey describes how this gives rise to a preference for governance by experts and elites, rather than through parliament and the ballot box. Ultimately neoliberalism has to resort to authoritarianism to impose the will of the elite few over the many: ‘Faced with social movements that seek collective interventions, therefore, the neoliberal state is itself forced to intervene, sometimes repressively, thus denying the very freedoms it is supposed to uphold.’ (Harvey: p69)

 

  1. Science and technology in neoliberalism:

Science and technology play an important role in neoliberalism. Information and communication technology are essential for the efficient running of markets. However they both represent the means of production of new knowledge, processes and products, which through the compulsion of the market become fetishised. We are constantly pressurised to buy the latest gadget containing the latest technology (did I really need to upgrade my iPhone 4 to a 5?). Technological products and scientific knowledge are subject to patents and intellectual property rights in order to maximise profit. At the same time the idea that there is a scientific or technological fix for all human and social problems has become enormously popular. We no longer expect governments to fix unfair societies. Instead we expect experts to rectify malfunctioning individuals. Even here there are destabilising influences. Technological advances take place so rapidly that they outstrip the ability of markets to keep up with them. Pharma constantly reinvents old drugs for new, made up, illnesses [xx]. The grotesque debasement of scientific medicine described so powerfully in Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove’s recent book [xxi] could only have arisen in societies that value markets and profit over scientific rigour, accountability, transparency and honesty.


Neoliberalism and Authoritarianism

In the U.K. the new government’s benefits reductions are taking an authoritarian turn. We have already seen that despite superficially embracing democracy, neoliberal governments rapidly become authoritarian when they sense resistance, especially if this interferes with markets, or involves spending more money on welfare. We have seen too that one consequence of authoritarianism is benefit sanctions, but this is now assuming a more disturbing form.

Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn[xxii] have examined in detail how psychology, clinical psychology and therapy have become incorporated into government action directed against disabled people on benefits. A range of psychological ‘assessments’ and ‘interventions’ threaten to control the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens with disabilities and health problems. This occurs through conditionality (i.e. sanctions)and workfare, i.e. being forced to work ‘voluntarily’ for private sector firms or social enterprises in order to be eligible to receive benefits. But worst of all is the use of political psychocompulsion and positive affect.

Friedli and Stearn use the term psychocompulsion, but as this is primarily a political act, the use of the qualifying adjective ‘political’ is justifiable. It takes the form of the imposition of psychological explanations for an individual’s unemployment. The assessments and interventions that are being piloted in Streatham Job Centre are predicated upon the assumption that unemployment originates in ‘faulty beliefs’ about the reasons the person is unemployed, and that these beliefs result in faulty attitudes and behaviours, especially so-called benefit dependency. This fits with the value attached to personal choice and agency in neoliberal ideology. Consequently unemployed people end up on benefits long-term, and resist seeking paid employment. This ‘theory’ gives rise to a variety of assessments aimed at identifying the faulty beliefs and practices in order to ‘rectify’ them through ‘therapy’ aimed at modifying these beliefs as well as the person’s attitude and personality. Psychologists and therapists are recruited into ‘…monitoring, modifying and punishing people who claim social security benefits or research into the impact of mandatory positive affect on an expanding range of unproductiveor failing citizens: those who are out of work, not working enough, not earning enough and/or failing to seek work with sufficient application’. [Friedli and Stearn, 42]

Political psychocompulsion and workfare draw heavily on the strengths-based literature of positive psychology, especially notions of confidence, optimism and self-efficacy. The ‘science’ of positive psychology has unconscionably baleful origins. It can be traced back to the 1960s work of the American psychologist Seligman on learned helplessness. He gave repeated electric shocks to caged dogs in one of two experimental conditions. In the first there was a lever in the cage which if pressed by the dog prevented the shock. The dogs very quickly learnt to press the lever and avoid the shock. In the second there was no lever and there was nothing the animals could do to avoid the shock. Very quickly these animals became stressed out, anxious and withdrawn. In other words they appeared chronically depressed.

Positive affect has in recent years become a key element in government action to manage people with complex problems. One way of understanding these developments is that they represent attempts by the state to govern and manage disabled subjectivities, so that ‘… liberal subjects’ capabilities, inclinations and desires are in accord with values and expectations that are identified as already given by a civil society centred on the labour market.’ (Friedli & Stearn: 42)

In reality the implementation of these approaches is trite and shallow in the extreme, and would be risible were they not so humiliating and degrading for those forced to endure them. Izzy Koksal, an activist and blogger, has written about her experiences of courses based on positive affect[xxiii], which were ‘…simply one long motivational talk with very little actual real content…[we were told that] if we believed we could get a job then it would happen. It was simply our mindset that was the barrier…’ She goes on to describe how claimants were told repeatedly the reason they were unemployed was because of self-created barriers.

 

Conclusions

Positive affect and cognitive therapy focus on ‘deficits’ that are supposed to be a property of the individual; they thus deny the reality of experiences of distress whose origins are to be found in the deeply inequitable and oppressive conditions found society. This is utterly deceitful and beggars belief. We know that there are very close links between income inequality and a wide range of complex problems – reduced life expectancy, poor mental and physical health, suicide rates, and family dysfunction [xxiv] [xxv]. This raises important ethical and moral questions. There can be no moral justification for trying to force people to believe that things aren’t really as bad as they believe them to be, and that things really can be better for them, if only they change their ‘mind-set’. Even more so when the real agenda is to reduce spending on benefits as part of the ideology of neoliberalism. The reality is that people’s lives are tragic, blighted by misery, suffering and oppression. The Streatham pilot scheme, and the plans that follow on from this are an abuse of therapy that lets government off the hook in two ways. First it can claim that it is taking positive action to help get people off benefits and back to work (probably on zero-hours contracts). Second the action it takes blames the unemployed and disabled, not the conditions created by neoliberalism.

This is a direct consequence of the government’s will to impose this ideology on us all. The disabled, people with physical and mental health problems are in a war of attrition. They are slowly being ground down by austerity. People struggle to make ends meet; they try their best to live, not extravagantly but with self-respect and decency, but instead they are demeaned, blamed, pathologised, and driven into the arms of mental health professionals in job centres. It is important to remember that this agenda is driven by government, not psychiatrists or psychologists.

As a result lives are being lived in fear of the rattle of the letterbox and the fluttering buff envelope that crashes as a hammer blow on the floor. Voices shriek abuse at voice hearers: ‘Dole scum!’, ‘Life unworthy of life!’, ‘Parasite!’ repeating the stigmatising and abusive rhetoric that fills the popular press, and media poverty porn like Benefit Street [xxvi]. What prospects can there be for recovery (whatever that is) when the world despises and humiliates you? Yes indeed, they really are out to get you, and it is as bad as you think.

Acknowledgement

Whilst I alone am responsible for the views expressed in this blog, I am grateful to a number of colleagues whose lives and experiences have shaped my thinking in recent times. I am especially grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in discussions on the Recovery in the Bin Face Book group, and to my K9 colleague.

 

References:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/jun/20/anti-austerity-demonstrations-live accessed on 28th June 2015

[ii] http://dpac.uk.net/2015/06/the-letter-disabled-people-stormed-parliament-to-deliver/ accessed on 28th June 2015

[iii] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/26/mental-health-protest-clinic-jobcentre-streatham accessed on 28th June 2015

[iv] https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/06/protesters-march-on-job-center-over-forced-mental-health-therapy/ accessed 29th June 2015

[v] http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2014/10/21/uk-welfare-reform-deaths-updated-list-october-21st-2014/ accessed on 22nd June 2015

[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/14/dwp-inquiries-benefit-claimant-suicides accessed on 28th June 2015

[vii] http://natalieleal.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/dwp-secret-reviews-into-benefit-deaths.html accessed on 28th June 2015

[viii] Manchester CAB (2013)

Punishing Poverty?

A review of benefits sanctions and their impacts

on clients and claimants. Accessed at http://www.manchestercab.org/news_more.asp?news_id=19 23rd June 2015

[ix] http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7762 Accessed on 22nd June 2015.

[x] Peter Beresford (2015) For service users who rely on benefits, the Queen’s speech brought no relief. The Guardian 28th May 2015. Accessed at http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2015/may/28/service-users-rely-benefits-queens-speech-no-relief-social-care-nhs on 23 June.

[xi] Banks, J., Blundell , R. and Emmerson, C. (2015) Disability Benefit Receipt and Reform: Reconciling Trends in the United Kingdom. Journnal of Economic Perspectives, 29, 2, 173–190. Accessed at http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.29.2.173 on 22nd June 2015.

[xii]http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/403/counting-the-cuts.pdf accessed 23 June 2015

[xiii]http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/Cumulative%20Impact%20Assessment%20full%20report%2030-07-14.pdf accessed 23 June 2015

[xiv] Harvey, D (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford, Oxford University Press

[xv] Jones, O. (2014) The Establishment: And how they get away with it. Allen Lane, London.

[xvi] (Margaret Thatcher, Women’s Own, 31st October 1987)

[xvii] http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/comms/r96.pdf accessed on 28th June 2015

[xviii] Chomsky, N. (1999) Profit over People: Neoliberalism and the Global Order. New York, Seven Stories Press.

[xix] Friedman, M. (1962) Capitalism and Freedom Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

[xx] Moncreiff, J. (2006) Psychiatric drug promotion and the politics of neoliberalism British Journal of Psychiatry 188 (4) 301-302; DOI: 10.1192/bjp.188.4.301

[xxi] Whitaker, R. and Cosgrove, L. (2015) Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

[xxii] Friedli, L. & Stearn, R. (2015) Positive affect as coercive strategy: conditionality, activation and the role of psychology in UK government workfare programmes Medical Humanities 41:40–47. doi:10.1136/medhum-2014-010622 Accessed at http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full.pdf+html on 22nd June 2015.

[xxiii] https://izzykoksal.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/adventures-at-a4e/ accessed on 26th June 2015

[xxiv] Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. (2009) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. London, Penguin Books.

[xxv] https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/05/on-the-importance-of-moral-imagination/ accessed 29th June 2015

[xxvi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefits_Street accessed 29th June 2015

34 COMMENTS

  1. Phil I agree with most of what you write but wanted to say something from the Scottish perspective. From the grassroots as a psychiatric survivor activist and campaigner.

    Although we still are part of the UK yet in many ways we are not united with Westminster. Scotland is very much a socialist or community focused nation. We have 56 SNP MPs in there who, I hope, are helping to bring balance and an anti-austerity message. I joined the SNP for a year, in 2013, because I believed in independence and wanted to show my solidarity. Then I came out again at the beginning of 2014 because I’m non-conformist and nae use at toeing the party line.

    I live in Fife, Scotland, in a council house (rented social housing) and have never owned a house, didn’t need to buy it to feel like it was my home. I’ve been homeless and was housed. I’ve been jobless and got financial support. I’ve been disabled by the psychiatric system and was supported. Right enough it took more effort to break free and I had to do this on my own. But it was possible. I did it 3 times in Scotland, different geographic areas.

    And I have helped family members to do the same. Because it was possible to do so. I’ve been a community education worker since 1980. They now call it “community learning and development” in Scotland. Still the same stuff: youth work, adult education, community development. Equating to engaging with people of all ages in communities of interest, different settings, it was all about empowerment and lifelong learning. Activities and skills which served me well when escaping psychiatry and getting back on with my life in the “real world”.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, in the midst of the neoliberal machinations and power battles of the rich and famous. Because in our mental health movement there are also hierarchies and celebrity while the work is steadily advancing at the grassroots. As ever it will be a bottom up growth and shift even if the folk at the top think it was all because of them. Let them think it. The truth of the matter is something else altogether, to my mind.

    • Kind what I was thinking Chrys Muirhead. We are the ones with the power. The poor have all the glory … Poor Mans Glory. Some people are so poor all they have is money. The neoliberals are the ones in a real state of poverty. They have lost connection with LIFE, the one and only true gift and resource. But its about much more than neoliberalism, its world view as well, and its primarily a western worldview at issue here. Its a conceit to tacitly talk in terms that refer to a global problem on this enormous planet with cultures that are are so radically different, look at India. Totally different world view. What does new cosmology have to do with this or scientific understanding of consciousness ? A lot. See my article linked at the end of this comment. Its materialism and reductionism that even activists who should know better get caught up in and end repropagating the same problem; monolithic, linear approaches to a problem that makes the problem into sonething too big to fight … http://djbarney.org/heavens_above

  2. Brilliant article Philip,

    We do need to expose more the root causes of misery and the inequities in our society. The chasm between rich and poor is a major issue in most countries, and the psychiatric industry is being used as a tool of those in power to placate the common folk. The notion, promoted by the positive thinking movement, that anyone can just “think happy” if they want to, is an insult to anyone who suffers from personal trauma or social injustice. Therapists who work with a broad range of people from various socio-economic backgrounds usually understand this. In good therapy, whatever techniques one may use, one should strive to help people understand the roots of their pain, whether family, or socially related. (and thee is often a link between the two). We also need to stand up for the under privileged, and not collude with either neoliberal or neoconservative doctrines.

    • “The chasm between rich and poor is a major issue in most countries, and the psychiatric industry is being used as a tool of those in power to placate the common folk.” The wealthy are also having the psychiatric industry defame and tranquilize the “regular people,” so they may blatantly steal from us as well.

      All the lawyers I spoke with agreed with me, that Wells Fargo did not have a legal right to foreclose on my home, since they did not have the paperwork required to foreclose on my home. All the lawyers I spoke with told me that the Kane county judges in IL were bought out by the banks, so I could not find a lawyer to help me do anything other than a closing on the sale of my home at the absolute bottom of the real estate market. My home sold for $105,000 less than I’d purchased it for 14 years earlier, and after I’d personally put approximately $245,000 in cash improvements into my family’s home. The buyers’ lawyer actually apologized to me at the closing, because he was so embarrassed at participating in this blatant thievery from a recently widowed woman with two young children.

      Thomas Jefferson quote:
      “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

      These banks and corporations our founding father warned us of now control all the governments, this is the problem. The psychiatric industry is on the wrong side, please wake up! It now appears we may have the evil “one world government” our founding fathers and the Holy Bible warn us about in charge.

      “The notion, promoted by the positive thinking movement, that anyone can just ‘think happy’ if they want to, is an insult to anyone who suffers from personal trauma or social injustice.” Very true, we need a government that protects the people, not the evil banks and corporations. We need a return of common decency on this planet, psychiatry has historically always been used for evil. Right now, the psychiatric industry, our government, and our mainstream religions are protecting the wealthy child molesters, of course by having the psychiatrists cover up sexual abuse of small children by defaming and tranquilizing mothers who are concerned about child abuse. The man, at whose home my child was abused, has published a book. Check out his affiliations:

      http://www.blurb.com/b/2934828-mag-men “A book of self portraits after a retreat and experience at The Bohemian Grove on 11.11.11.”

      And check out this book about the religious leaders who are continuing to cover up the abuse of my small child, and apparently many other children, and the multiple attempted murders of me via numerous coerced and forced massive druggings based upon lies from the alleged child molesters and their ELCA pastor written right into my medical records, due to their greed:

      https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

      A few excerpts from CJ Connor’s book:

      “I’m grieved by the emotional and spiritual violence caused by the ELCA and ECUSA, whose bishops have become so obsessed with sexuality that they’ve caused huge divisions within the church and have created a hostile environment for everyone … the religious authorities who devour the widow’s purse while hell bent on making sure the church suffers such agonizing theological carnage that it is no longer recognizable.” p.12

      “We know that the presiding bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, had been an advocate of ignoring clergy standards in cases where the candidate was a homosexual.” p.331 (My family is dealing with a similar and on going child abuse cover up by the ELCA.)

      “There was compelling evidence to [the jury], it seems, that the leaders of the various ELCA organizations were responsible for the harm done to the minor plaintiffs. It seems that they agreed with the plaintiffs that there was a conspiracy, much the same as what the Catholic Church has been accused of.” pp.332-333

      What ever happened to my country that said “all people are created equal?” I actually had a policewoman tell me, in regards to child abuse my family dealt with, “the regular people have to make sacrifices.” The regular people in this country are now required to allow the wealthy and well connected people to get away with raping our three year old children, according to the police in the USA today. Can you imagine?

      I hope we can return to a place where justice prevails, because we live in a sick world right now, controlled by evil. Gosh, and I was drugged up in 12.2001 because I knew an evil had taken control on 9.11.2001. But now others see it too, it’s all over the internet.

      I’m heartbroken over what’s going on in England, it’s appalling. I hope you are able to stop it.

  3. Thank you for this very timely and much needed post. Neo-liberalism, unregulated money, laissez-faire economic policies, casino capitalism, etc., it is the very reason why I would not have anybody confuse myself with a right-wing libertarian. (Libertarian, surely, definitely not of the right, nor of the Libertarian Party.) I think it goes along with Will Hall’s recent post about not becoming a one issue movement, we can’t afford to do that precisely because all these issues are inextricably bound together. What do we get out of neo-liberalism? Bought politicians at the service of multi-national corporations. The old anti-trust laws are history because of the power of these multi-nationals, of money. In a nutshell, corruption. Instead we’ve got the 1 % lording it over the 99 %. Mom and Pops are out of the picture and bankrupt. Just think, who benefits from this free for all between businesses more than anyone else? It isn’t workers, and it isn’t ordinary people, it’s bosses. You put ‘profits over people’ and, of course, it is people who are going to lose out. Get the ‘money out of politics’, and you cease to have such a corrupt situation all way around. We need a millionaire congress in the USA like we need holes in our collective heads. Wake up, people! A sold out country is not your country. Is the upcoming election going to be between Jeb and Hilary? I could care less. I’m personally not voting for either of them. They are the candidates of the multi-nationals, and corruption, the very thing we need to do something about. We’ve really got a one party system, the party of money. You settle for the lesser of two evils, and I will go for the good guys. The lesser of two evils, more and more, begins to resemble its opponent, and the people, more and more, get the shaft. How about we take our current dystopia, and give it the shaft instead.

  4. Hi Phil,

    I always liked to tell you that when I read your articles again I believe that Britain still brings great philosophers into the world.

    I do not just read your writings, I make love with them. I become filled with excitement when I see some one with pure reasoning gets to what that is possible only by transcendence of soul.

    Good luck and best wishes

  5. Brill article. I shall repost in a few places.

    I was on that march, coordinating a Queer Bloc as it happens.

    I have been asked to help organise a local People’s Assembly that is fighting Austerity politics – the natural outcome of neo-liberalism. I may do so, but it does seem rather a big job to take on….

    I take issues with one point in the article. Governments that like Neo Liberal ideas generally role back the state for everyone, which is where we agree, except when it comes to proping up big business, which I do not think you mentioned. The big example here is bailing out the banks but not fining any bankers, but subsidies of fissil fuel industries are also an example.

  6. I watched a documentary about Britan and it basically concured with what you’re saying here. It shows a lot of brits basically getting by with freelance work only.

    The main thing that kinda itches me over what you say, that this is due to the adoption of an ideology rather than some other reflection. Why are all these countries in debt ?

    It seems like there’s going to be problems with any ideology if everyone is in debt and if countries turn to communism to pay off their debt there will be problems with that too.

  7. The reason Greece is bankrupt is that it tried to spent itself into bankruptcy.
    Where do European (democratic socialist countries) get the idea that they can spend themselves into prosperity?

    This is very much like psychiatry… If things aren’t working; if there’s fallout, if the drugs cause more harm than good, up the dose.

    In democratic socialists countries – it’s up the spending…
    Spend like theirs no tomorrow, in spite of the fact that future generations will be forced to pay off the debt… It’s insane.

    Safety net?
    Fine.

    Nanny state, where adults are all treated like children, and taken care of from cradle to grave?
    No thanks!

    Duane

    • And I think it’s hilarious that people who want to spend, spend, spend and spend some more (as in government spending) consider themselves to have the moral high ground.

      Really?
      How generous is it to demand the government seize more money…. with unsustainable spending? Especially, other people’s money?

      How ‘compassionate’ is it to saddle future generations with debt that is becoming insurmountable?… Putting them into a position of being indentured servants, slaves of sorts.

      And how brilliant is it to keep coming up with the same simple plan – more taxing, more spending for the ‘poor’? What about something new, for once?! Not the same old drug!
      We spend a trillion dollars per year in the U.S. on these programs, and the poverty rate is the same as it was 50 years ago…. Up the dose? Really?

      The debt clock… Our grandkids, and their grandkids will have to pay this debt off:

      http://www.usdebtclock.org/

      Duane

      • You don’t need to be putting the poor in quotation marks. We are real human beings who deserve to live with dignity instead of being ground into dirt by the iron heel of capitalism, and these right-wing talking points just add insult to injury. Even the pope would disagree with you.

        • The quotation marks were not used in a disparaging way – quite the opposite… Income level has nothing to do with dignity; I have been through financial times that were horrible – with mouths to feed, and no how groceries, rent, utilities were going to get paid – more than once, more than a short period of time.

          I’ve said more than once on this site that I support a safety net for people who are disabled.

          The point I’m trying to make is that a large, centralized, bureaucratic system is not the way to go for long-term… It creates dependency; it creates poverty – by dis-empowering.

          Communism resulted in 100 million deaths, and we keep deluding ourselves that some kind of hybrid form can get the job done. It can’t.

          • I dunno, capitalism is doing a pretty good job of it, too…wars, famines, extinctions. We are living through the 6th great extinction; all so we can ‘grow’ the economy and make a profit.

          • Hmm, I don’t see anyone advocating “communism” (by which I assume you mean authoritarian state capitalism like Stalin’s USSR). It is a straw man argument used to prevent any critique of private capitalism.

            Nor do I think anyone is saying, “Yay, we need endless bureaucracy!” But in my experience, the word “bureaucracy,” also tends to be used as a code word by conservatives for a government that does something for everyday people instead of merely serving the rich and corporations.

            People are trapped in poverty because that’s how the capitalist system works, not because they get too much help from the government.

            And income level does indeed have something to do with dignity in a society in which human necessities are distributed on the basis of money. It is an assault to human dignity to be treated daily as less than human because one is unable to participate fully or at all in capitalist markets.

            To paraphrase B:
            Rich, Middle Class, and Poor sit at a table. Rich cuts a pie into 10 pieces and takes 9 for himself. He gives 1 piece to Middle Class and says, “Be careful, Poor is after your slice.” That is capitalism.

    • If you lived in the UK you can choose to have private healthcare and you always could. However if that went wrong you would end up in an NHS hospital because they were alwasy better.

      I do not think this is being treated like children, it is sharing out resources in a fair and equitable manner. It is also something that the people campaigned for. So that is people acting as adults campaigning to be treated like adults.

  8. It takes a certain amount of careful study to see what’s been done by entities such as the IMF/World Bank the European Central Bank…

    Where one gets their ‘information’ is important. Most of what passes for ‘the news’ these days is pure propaganda.

    The comfortable have trouble seeing anything wrong with the big picture.

    • I don’t know a single person who feels “comfortable” with where things are right now. Not one.

      My family and close friends, people at work, others who I talk with during the day… we are all concerned – with what’s happening here in the U.S., and around the world. We’re plenty concerned, about a lot of issues.

      Could it be possible that the ones you dismiss as ‘right wingers’ (such as myself) want to see the same improvements in the lives of those we love – close to home and around the world, but just have different views on how we get there?

      Just askin’.

      Duane

      • Yes, I read your comments and you are very concerned about the Greek debt, and about how much social democracies spend to take care of their citizens, and about the US debt clock. I would say no, we do not have the same priorities at all. But your comments do fit with the article, because yours are top neoliberal concerns.

        Meanwhile, one in thirty US children is homeless and that number is rising rapidly.

        • And I’ve read yours as well, with the holier than thou slant, as if you are alone with concern for homeless children.

          Your attitude is in keeping with the far left, broken programs that create more long- term suffering… None of that matters when you’ve convinced yourself that you care more than those who disagree with your politics.

          No more on this. I don’t need this crap.

        • I’m sorry you feel that way, Duane. I never once questioned your moral character; just disagreed that we “want to see the same improvements” in the world, based on what you had written. I think I can see why you interpreted my comment the way you did, and I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. It was not my intention to suggest that because of your economic views you must necessarily be callous to the plight of homeless children. I do maintain, however, that “the market” should not decide whether or not children – or any other humans – have access to human necessities.

          • I’m sorry too. As a dad, as someone who struggled for many years, as did our family, I do truly care for children. And as someone who worked with disabled adults for many years, I am not suggesting the safety net be tagged out from them.

            My comments were strong, because I have deep concerns also for what I see happening economically, for individuals and families.

            We may have to respectfully agree to disagree. With that said, I could have been more respectful.

            Duanr

  9. Neoliberalism, as an American, will always harken back to the Lochner Era and accusation of laissez faire constitutionalism described by the dissent of Justice Holmes. I am not sure that this same association would carry weight across the pond though. If so, Holmes dissent is still applicable, but it is made more dangerous by a demand for social justice, and western political psychology. Here’s my simplistic and idealistic view: Democracy and Freedom, contrary to popular opinion, are not actually the same thing. They are intended to exist in balance much like the substantive and procedural aspects of American law. The problem with extreme right wing or left wing agendas is that one sacrifices freedom in the name of democracy while the other sacrifices democracy in the name of freedom. Although neither exist successfully alone. Currently, the liberal demand for social justice is actually feeding the right wing’s demand for individual rights (but only those that they deem important) and conveniently, it’s also profitable when your chief lobbyists and contributors are Pharmaceutical companies. The reality is that neither side of the population is getting what they want. They are just to caught up in the momentum to notice. The public also tends to suffer from a mixture of willful ignorance and sanism.