Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis:
Europe's Treasure Ireland
Julien Mercille & Enda Murphy (Palgrave Macmillan 2015, Hardback) 211 pages, cover price n/a
“Government spending cuts and tax hikes, privatisation, reforms to reduce labour protections and wages all translate into a reassertion of power on the part of elites over ordinary people. Austerity is thus a political, class project designed to roll back the welfare state and redistribute income upwards. Spending cuts are normally favoured over tax hikes because they tend to target programmes on which the poor and vulnerable rely to a great extent, such as welfare, old-age and child benefits, public health care, and poverty alleviation measures.”
- pp. 81-82
Let us be absolutely clear about certain plain and proven truths. If you are not a member of the 1% (and it is actually narrowing to 0.1%), your well-being and security have been under attack for 35 years. The Keynesian economic principles and conventions of a social safety net that led to the tremendous economic boom of the 1945-1980 period have been eroded if not shattered and as such growth has slowed, not gained as a result. Because of changes to government law, weakening of regulations, and privatisation of such vital public interests as health care and natural resources, our very planet and its peoples are facing an apocalypse. These are the truths but you know little of it unless you dig deeply into books such as Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity and Crisis because the vast majority of the so-called news you see and hear is controlled by the same wealthy elites that profit from neoliberal policies. Other than that, we're doing just fine.
This excellent and vital book by the University College of Dublin professors Mercille and Murphy may take Ireland as its focus, but the problems they investigate are global in nature. Ireland is a convenient subject as a test case given its small size and its involvement as an early victim of the financial upheavals beginning in 2008. However, as the authors make clear, national boundaries are less and less meaningful as transnational forces such as corporatism and their agents (the EU, IMF and World Bank among others) wrest control of public policy from elected governments. Trade agreements such as NAFTA in North America, or debt agreements such as the EU's Maastricht Treaty of 1993 create barriers to action that cannot be circumvented by national governments.
That is just one of the myths that Mercille and Murphy expose; in fact your government is not in control of your destiny. Instead, because of the power of lobbying capital and a lack of spending controls in election campaigns, a so-called 'leftist' administration such as that of Barack Obama's has shown little if any interest in tightening regulations on international finance and banking, has allowed domestic spying and whistleblower prosecution free reign to snuff out dissent, and despite insincere speeches about the environment, it is promoting further drilling for carbon resources in the unstable and sensitive Arctic Ocean. Why? That's what the elites want.
It is not up to me to make Mercille and Murphy's argument for them – that we are in a period of class warfare and we need to realize just that in a hurry. It is however my duty to report on that argument and urge you with the fright and fury of a fire alarm to educate yourselves on this situation immediately. Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity and Crisis is a densely written book, as any academic text will be. However, is not the present crisis worth some effort on your part? I would like to think the answer is an unequivocal, Yes.
Be seeing you.