I left another comment on Dan O’Brien’s piece in today’s Irish Times titled ‘‘Neoliberalism’ is being used as a straw man to close down reasonable debate on policies’. Couldn’t help myself.
I could not let the occasion pass without remarking on the utter absurdity of the fact of the newspaper’s Economics Editor effectively denying the existence of neoliberalism in one article and, in another, published on the same day, the newspaper’s Political Correspondent Harry McGee writing about the tribulations of John McGuinness, the head of the ‘watchdog that closely monitors State spending’, a ‘robust committee’, now that it has emerged that McGuinness’s bluff common sense approach to waste and parsimony stops at the entrance to his luxury toilet.
Michel Foucault –who certainly looked like the kind of guy Dan O’Brien might describe as ‘cerebral’- gave lectures on neoliberalism way back. He said that ‘the problem of neoliberalism is how the overall exercise of political power can be modelled on the principles of a market economy’.
If Foucault is correct, McGuinness is the strutting embodiment of Irish neoliberalism, with his hard-nosed public persona urging the application of entrepreneurial principles and business sense in government, constantly drawing comparisons between the inefficiency of the public sector and the thrusting rationality of the private sector.
The ‘robust committee’ that is the PAC recently issued a report on the Health Service Executive, issuing ‘recommendations aimed at tackling inefficiencies’ in the context of ‘the commitments given by the State as part of the Troika bail-out’. However, the report said that ‘cuts of €57 million being made to front line services’ were ‘a policy matter’, and ‘outside the remit of the PAC’. Here we find an excellent example of neoliberalism in operation: public entities are subjected to intense scrutiny on efficiency of spending practices, hypocritical opulence is seized on with glee, but in keeping with the primacy of the financial system over the collective rights (and quality of life) of the population, the dictatorship of the financial bourgeoisie escapes unquestioned, both by the committee and Ireland’s media. Thus the tens of billions in public money paid out in bank bailouts -and the destructive effects on collective solidarities as a consequence- are made to appear as a self-evident necessity.
But no matter, Dan O’Brien says neoliberalism is a figment of a reactionary left’s brainless imagination. Because reason and evidence tell him so, apparently.