Choices and Freedoms and the Realities of Neoliberalism.

Whose Choice is it really?  

From @Earwiggle

Freedom for individuals and civil liberty must allow individuals to have some element of choice and to make decisions. The right  to speak freely, to follow a religion, or not,  whether to  have children, whether to marry, or not. These are choices everyone should be entitled to, regardless of their gender, nationality or race, and throughout history many have fought to protect freedom.

Freedom and human rights and access to needs should encompass all. Where excessive power enforces an imbalance whereby freedom of choice is denied others. Considering  some contradictions of liberty, liberalism, and especially neoliberalism, we can see that, in civilisation, in order to maintain liberty and human rights for all, if everyone were  ‘free to do as they please” we would have chaos, and therefore, for society to function, for liberty for us all, we need to have access to our basic needs.

  1. Liberty 1 freedom from captivity, slavery, restrictions, etc. 2 freedom to act and think as one pleases. 3 (usually liberties) a natural right or privilege.
  2. Liberalism  is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair electionscivil rightsfreedom of the pressfreedom of religionfree trade, and private property.
  3. Neoliberalism  is a label for Economic liberalism, advocates of which support economic liberalizationfree trade and open marketsprivatization,deregulation, and decreasing the size of the public sector while increasing the role of the private sector in modern society.

Neoliberal politics where markets rules are fundamentally flawed. Unbridled capitalism tells a lie in that competitive forces will allow growth and development for the benefit of all. The competitive laws of the jungle have to place in a civilised society. The neoliberalists use the argument that there will be enhanced choice, and that this leads to enhanced choice, and therefore greater freedoms. But the precise apposite is the case.

Who really has a choice? What is controlling the choice? What decisions are made in making that choice?

  • If you recognise the sense of panic when faced with fifty odd types of coffee , you are not alone.
  • If you are a parent faced with choosing your child’s school, and worry about the wrong choice, you are not alone.
  • If you browse through a hundred TV stations, but fail to find anything of interest you are not alone.

The idea that increased choice will enrich our lives is a fallacy.

Supermarkets seem to offer a range of choice – but who controls that choice? When local butchers and greengrocers are forced to close down, the supermarket chains are in a position to benefit from their own brands.

If money is allowed to control choice, the majority are denied that choice. 

To state the obvious: What choice can a family on a joint income of £20,000 or less exercise to apply for a school that charges £12,000 a year? How many families know of the existence of the shadowy world of tutoring that powers children into the highly selective grammars (and private schools) dotted around our major towns and cities? School Wars

Noam Chomsky speaks on Libertarianism Socialism, and the confusion of terms.

What is being called libertarianism in the West is  tyranny, or plutonomy or neofeudailsm, where the majority  have no liberty, freedom or choice.

References and Further Reading: 

‘Positive thinking’ is a convenient tool for controlling the minds of the masses.

Quote

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book ‘Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World’ was inspired by her anger at being told that she needed to have ‘positive thinking’ to rid herself of her tumour. As an immunologist, she knew only too well the scientific realities about her cancer… and she was rightly disgusted by the punitive assumption that failure to be cured would implicitly be her own fault for failing to be sufficiently ‘positive’.

This led her to consider the ramifications of ‘positive thinking’ and ultimately the use of the “American Dream’ as a tool for controlling the minds of the masses.

Tumours are a source of happiness. Accepting the laws of physics – or not – is a matter of personal choice. And getting the things you want is primarily a question of imagining what it will be like when they are yours (and perhaps berating God for not having provided them yet). This sort of patent idiocy would be disturbing enough if it lurked only on the wilder fringes of life in America, but, as Barbara Ehrenreich explains in her affronted, surprisingly cheering attack on positive thinking, mainstream culture is also riddled with its destructive tenets. Everything from health care to the global financial system has been infested.
http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/01/positive-thinking-ehrenreich

‘Positive thinking’ conveniently shifts the burden of responsibility onto the individual, and it is a tool that has been employed skilfully by the Tory/LD coalition, with help from the media.  The most obvious case, is in the denial of there being 5 times as many unemployed as there are job vacancies… and that is without taking into consideration the uneven geographical distribution of jobs.  In some areas, the ratio is 25+ unemployed people for every vacancy.  Yet the government spins persistently about benefit scroungers, shoddy state education, the ‘wrong’ attitude… and variously punishes the ‘workshy’ for not ‘thinking positively’ enough to find a non-existent job.

Essentially, the focus is placed on the inherent characteristics, or capabilities, of the individual, and is deflected away from any external conditions.  In psychology, this comes under the heading of attribution theory.  It is suggested that the observer is more ‘comfortable’ believing that the subject slipped on a banana skin because they are inately clumsy, rather than to face the potential risk that they too might inadvertently slip on an unseen banana skin.  Hence ‘benefit scrounger’ is a powerful piece of spin which taps into a feature of the human psyche.  It is preferable to believe that others are unemployed because they are workshy, rather than face personal fears about the impact of the double-dip recession and economic meltdown.

Another highly pernicious example of the misuse of attribution theory, is in the redefinition of illness which underpins the Welfare Reform bill.  The Biopyschosocial model proposes:

… disease is the only objective, medically diagnosable pathology. Sickness is a temporary phenomenon. Illness is a behaviour – ‘all the things people say and do that express and communicate their feelings of being unwell’ (p39). The degree of illness behaviour is dependent not upon an underlying pathology but on ‘individual attitudes and beliefs’, as well as ‘the social context and culture in which it occurs’. Halligan and Wade are more explicit: ‘Personal choice plays an important part in the genesis or maintenance of illness’.

In other words, disease has concrete, physical aspects that can be demonstrated by medical tests.  Sickness is something like a cold which is self-limiting and from which you recover.  But ‘illness’ is a sort of psychological delusion mediated by the individual’s worldview and a ‘wanting to believe themselves to be ill’. Hence, the problem of being ‘ill’ is firmly located in the individual, and their beliefs and behaviour become the focus of moral judgment and action ie. scroungers, benefit cheats, malingerers, lacking in moral fibre, ‘learned helplessness’ and other such punitive terms.(1)

Thus, many of those with disability and long-term chronic illness are considered to be simply lacking ‘positive thinking’… and, therefore, the horrors of a Work Capability Assessment is justified by government. (2)  However, the reality is that this is a cynical means to reduce the benefits bill and put the UK on route to a two-tier US style of insurance-based welfare provision.

Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that the ‘American dream’ is the reason that ordinary Americans have not challenged the ‘upward redistribution of wealth by cutting taxes for the wealthiest, and in subtle ways, raising them for the poorest and for the middle class…  It’s a grab. It’s—I’m waiting for people to get really, really angry about it. I think one thing that has held back Americans is the idea that you’re going to get rich, too, you know? That magically, “Hey, I might be one of those multimillionaires next,” so that I don’t want to tax rich people.’  Barbara Ehrenreich: America’s Tragic Decline — Resistance Bursts Out All Over the World, While We Do Nothing to Fight Corporate Takeover August 8, 2011

To paraphrase Gramsci … in order to resist the mind control, we need to try and see the world as it really is – not as we want or fear it, to be.  Barbara Ehrenreich concurs by reiterating that we need ‘Realism’ not the magic of ‘Positive Thinking’.

RSA Animate – Smile or Die

Uploaded by theRSAorg on Mar 17, 2010
Acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich explores the darker side of positive thinking.

(1) https://think-left.org/2011/08/04/welfare-reform-and-mecfs/

(2) https://think-left.org/2011/11/22/welfare-reform-and-the-us-insurance-giant-unum/