Monday, September 06, 2004


JustLeft talks about the Market Society and its fallout. It's good reading, illustrating many of the problems that arise from a monomaniacal focus on markets. Along the way, he comments

The left has not had a persuasive critique of market extremism that has been well trotted out, mainly because it involved levels of nuance that are beyond the media's ability to understand or articulate.

To the contrary, I think the left critique of market extremism in the early 90's was both extremely persuasive, widely reported, and very simple; all people had to do was look at the simultaneous growth of foodbanks and unemployment, the falling wages, and the taint of corruption surrounding various privatisations to see the obvious flaws. The problem was that both major political parties ignored this critique, and the stacked electoral system prevented minor parties from voicing it effectively, despite their gaining significant support.

The modern critique is just as simple. The market is simply a tool. It's an extremely useful tool, but it's not the only one at our disposal, and it's not the best solution to every problem. Most importantly, it serves us - we do not serve it. The problem with the 80's and 90's was that policymakers forgot this; they became obsessed with their shiny new market tool, applied it to areas where it really don't work, and increasingly substituted its goals for their own. It was a classic case of someone who only has a hammer thinking that every problem is a nail.

As an aside, JustLeft also comments on the importance of the next election:

National still thinks it can govern with its old extremist ideas. A third consecutive election defeat at the hands of a mildly left-wing government might help hammer home the fact that they're wrong.

Third? The people of New Zealand have already rejected market extremism in five successive elections (every election since 1987). It's only due to the undemocratic nature of FPP and the vagaries of Winston that they managed to hold sway for so long. If National doesn't understand by now that people don't think that the market is the answer to every problem, then they're completely deaf to public opinion.