Saturday, April 29, 2006
This is simply untrue, although most of those who say it undoubtedly believe it. The new American and British market capitalist model, which dictated deregulation of industry and privatization of state enterprises in the 1970s, and globalization of international markets in the 1990s, exists as a result of free political decisions and ideological choices that were anything but inevitable. History may one day describe them as having been perverse and socially destructive.
Two of the most important influences on the new capitalism were academic in origin, and the third, improbably, was an instance of romanticized egoism.
The first influence was monetarist economic theory. This in principle excluded social considerations from economic policy decision. Government economic policy was to be made chiefly in response to a single objectively determinable factor, the money supply. The effect of this new theory was to "dehumanize" economic policy, previously held to be closely related to political considerations, as was the case with the Keynesian tradition that monetarism challenged.
The second influence was primarily political, a reaction to 20th-century totalitarianism. Working in London in the 1930s, the Austrian political theorist and economist Friedrich von Hayek began as a critic of Keynes, but eventually widened his argument so as to assert as a matter of principle that state intervention in society, even in democratic political systems, amounted to a "Road to Serfdom" (the title of a book he published in 1944).
State intervention in economy and society threatened human liberty. The free market produced economic efficiency and human freedom. Hayek had a great influence on Margaret Thatcher.
The third influence was an eccentric one, important in the United States. It was the creation by a Russian-American novelist, Ayn Rand, of a "philosophy" of heroic egoism and pursuit of individual self-interest (against the mob and the weak) by superior persons. Her ideas responded to the longings of impressionable college students (including Alan Greenspan) and her views became something of a mid-century American cult, if not a sect. " For the full text, see here: http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0429-26.htm