Wednesday, 7 March 2018

For a Canadian Social Economy: Two Books Explode the Myths of Neoliberal/Economist Claims

The End of Neoliberalism/Market Fundamentalism
It’s never over till it’s over and on the ground change always lags movements of mind, or what William Blake called “mind-forged manacles”. But still, when the moral and intellectual principles of a worldview have been demolished then it’s over.

Two books, James Kwak’s “Economism:Bad Economics and  the Rise of Inequality” (2017) and Ha-Joon Chang’s “Bad Samaritans: the Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” (2009),  represent a kind of 1-2 knock-out punch to the neoliberal/economist orthodoxy that has now ruled economics for the last forty years, that is the belief, however contrary the facts, that unrestricted  markets are not only the best, but, in fact, the only, way to manage economies, i.e. TINA (There is No Alternative).

Chang destroys the moral claims of market fundamentalists by pointing out that all nations that have grown wealthy have used trade barriers to do so, when it suits them, while Kwak demolishes the truth claims of "economism" by exposing the failures of narrowly market-based approaches to produce the benefits claimed for them.

When your moral and intellectual principles are shown to be hypocritical and untrue it’s probably time to change your tune, but most governments, including Canada’s, however sunny their faces, continue to assume the faulty premises of neoliberalism/economism. TorontotheBetter’s support for social economics/social enterprise is not as a subsidiary add-on to mainstream economics and not as opposed to state responsibility to address non-discretionary necessities,like health, security and education. Rather we see our model as the core. It is the socially based economics embodied, in different ways, and to different degrees, by the diverse enterprises in our directory. What we may call, echoing medicine's Hippocratic ideal of doing "no harm" - defensive economism, i.e. reining in enterprise by health and safety regulation - is necessary but not sufficient. We can do more to address social ills and  the optimal way is to  prevent them upstream by in-building inclusion, empowerment inequality and sustainability.                 

In 2018 Canada continues to pursue trade deals whose inevitable consequence is continuing inequality, less sovereignty, and reduced democracy.  Contrary to the main messaging of these deals – there is no contradiction between economics and the environment , or social justice - our position is TIA (There Is an Alternative), and its realization is a comprehensive social  economy.

*Both books reviewed here may be purchased for a discount from TorontotheBetter by emailing or borrowed from your local public library.