Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.


The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal. But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.

At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes’s economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.

But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”. With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”


It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”. But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is … unearned income that accrues without any effort”. As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money. Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich. As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.

Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that “fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”. When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power. The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them”.


Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism: the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom.


For all that, there is something admirable about the neoliberal project, at least in its early stages. It was a distinctive, innovative philosophy promoted by a coherent network of thinkers and activists with a clear plan of action. It was patient and persistent. The Road to Serfdom became the path to power.

Neoliberalism’s triumph also reflects the failure of the left. When laissez-faire economics led to catastrophe in 1929, Keynes devised a comprehensive economic theory to replace it. When Keynesian demand management hit the buffers in the 70s, there was an alternative ready. But when neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was … nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years.

Every invocation of Lord Keynes is an admission of failure. To propose Keynesian solutions to the crises of the 21st century is to ignore three obvious problems. It is hard to mobilise people around old ideas; the flaws exposed in the 70s have not gone away; and, most importantly, they have nothing to say about our gravest predicament: the environmental crisis. Keynesianism works by stimulating consumer demand to promote economic growth. Consumer demand and economic growth are the motors of environmental destruction.

What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.

por George Monbiot

Fonte: The Guardian – 15/04/2016

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Neoliberalism: Oversold?

FINANCE & DEVELOPMENT, June 2016, Vol. 53, No. 2

Jonathan D. Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri

Inside the stock exchange in Santiago, Chile, one of the first countries to adopt a form of neoliberal policies.Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion

Milton Friedman in 1982 hailed Chile as an “economic miracle.” Nearly a decade earlier, Chile had turned to policies that have since been widely emulated across the globe. The neoliberal agenda—a label used more by critics than by the architects of the policies—rests on two main planks. The first is increased competition—achieved through deregulation and the opening up of domestic markets, including financial markets, to foreign competition. The second is a smaller role for the state, achieved through privatization and limits on the ability of governments to run fiscal deficits and accumulate debt.­

There has been a strong and widespread global trend toward neoliberalism since the 1980s, according to a composite index that measures the extent to which countries introduced competition in various spheres of economic activity to foster economic growth. As shown in the left panel of Chart 1, Chile’s push started a decade or so earlier than 1982, with subsequent policy changes bringing it ever closer to the United States. Other countries have also steadily implemented neoliberal policies (see Chart 1, right panel).­

Click to enlarge the chartThere is much to cheer in the neoliberal agenda. The expansion of global trade has rescued millions from abject poverty. Foreign direct investment has often been a way to transfer technology and know-how to developing economies. Privatization of state-owned enterprises has in many instances led to more efficient provision of services and lowered the fiscal burden on governments.­

However, there are aspects of the neoliberal agenda that have not delivered as expected. Our assessment of the agenda is confined to the effects of two policies: removing restrictions on the movement of capital across a country’s borders (so-called capital account liberalization); and fiscal consolidation, sometimes called “austerity,” which is shorthand for policies to reduce fiscal deficits and debt levels. An assessment of these specific policies (rather than the broad neoliberal agenda) reaches three disquieting conclusions:

•The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.­

•The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.­

•Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.­

Open and shut?

As Maurice Obstfeld (1998) has noted, “economic theory leaves no doubt about the potential advantages” of capital account liberalization, which is also sometimes called financial openness. It can allow the international capital market to channel world savings to their most productive uses across the globe. Developing economies with little capital can borrow to finance investment, thereby promoting their economic growth without requiring sharp increases in their own saving. But Obstfeld also pointed to the “genuine hazards” of openness to foreign financial flows and concluded that “this duality of benefits and risks is inescapable in the real world.”

This indeed turns out to be the case. The link between financial openness and economic growth is complex. Some capital inflows, such as foreign direct investment—which may include a transfer of technology or human capital—do seem to boost long-term growth. But the impact of other flows—such as portfolio investment and banking and especially hot, or speculative, debt inflows—seem neither to boost growth nor allow the country to better share risks with its trading partners (Dell’Ariccia and others, 2008; Ostry, Prati, and Spilimbergo, 2009). This suggests that the growth and risk-sharing benefits of capital flows depend on which type of flow is being considered; it may also depend on the nature of supporting institutions and policies.­

Although growth benefits are uncertain, costs in terms of increased economic volatility and crisis frequency seem more evident. Since 1980, there have been about 150 episodes of surges in capital inflows in more than 50 emerging market economies; as shown in the left panel of Chart 2, about 20 percent of the time, these episodes end in a financial crisis, and many of these crises are associated with large output declines (Ghosh, Ostry, and Qureshi, 2016).­

Click to enlarge the chartThe pervasiveness of booms and busts gives credence to the claim by Harvard economist Dani Rodrik that these “are hardly a sideshow or a minor blemish in international capital flows; they are the main story.” While there are many drivers, increased capital account openness consistently figures as a risk factor in these cycles. In addition to raising the odds of a crash, financial openness has distributional effects, appreciably raising inequality (see Furceri and Loungani, 2015, for a discussion of the channels through which this operates). Moreover, the effects of openness on inequality are much higher when a crash ensues (Chart 2, right panel).­

The mounting evidence on the high cost-to-benefit ratio of capital account openness, particularly with respect to short-term flows, led the IMF’s former First Deputy Managing Director, Stanley Fischer, now the vice chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, to exclaim recently: “What useful purpose is served by short-term international capital flows?” Among policymakers today, there is increased acceptance of controls to limit short-term debt flows that are viewed as likely to lead to—or compound—a financial crisis. While not the only tool available—exchange rate and financial policies can also help—capital controls are a viable, and sometimes the only, option when the source of an unsustainable credit boom is direct borrowing from abroad (Ostry and others, 2012).­

Size of the state

Curbing the size of the state is another aspect of the neoliberal agenda. Privatization of some government functions is one way to achieve this. Another is to constrain government spending through limits on the size of fiscal deficits and on the ability of governments to accumulate debt. The economic history of recent decades offers many examples of such curbs, such as the limit of 60 percent of GDP set for countries to join the euro area (one of the so-called Maastricht criteria).­

Economic theory provides little guidance on the optimal public debt target. Some theories justify higher levels of debt (since taxation is distortionary) and others point to lower—or even negative—levels (since adverse shocks call for precautionary saving). In some of its fiscal policy advice, the IMF has been concerned mainly with the pace at which governments reduce deficits and debt levels following the buildup of debt in advanced economies induced by the global financial crisis: too slow would unnerve markets; too fast would derail recovery. But the IMF has also argued for paying down debt ratios in the medium term in a broad mix of advanced and emerging market countries, mainly as insurance against future shocks.­

But is there really a defensible case for countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, or the United States to pay down the public debt? Two arguments are usually made in support of paying down the debt in countries with ample fiscal space—that is, in countries where there is little real prospect of a fiscal crisis. The first is that, although large adverse shocks such as the Great Depression of the 1930s or the global financial crisis of the past decade occur rarely, when they do, it is helpful to have used the quiet times to pay down the debt. The second argument rests on the notion that high debt is bad for growth—and, therefore, to lay a firm foundation for growth, paying down the debt is essential.­

It is surely the case that many countries (such as those in southern Europe) have little choice but to engage in fiscal consolidation, because markets will not allow them to continue borrowing. But the need for consolidation in some countries does not mean all countries—at least in this case, caution about “one size fits all” seems completely warranted. Markets generally attach very low probabilities of a debt crisis to countries that have a strong record of being fiscally responsible (Mendoza and Ostry, 2007). Such a track record gives them latitude to decide not to raise taxes or cut productive spending when the debt level is high (Ostry and others, 2010; Ghosh and others, 2013). And for countries with a strong track record, the benefit of debt reduction, in terms of insurance against a future fiscal crisis, turns out to be remarkably small, even at very high levels of debt to GDP. For example, moving from a debt ratio of 120 percent of GDP to 100 percent of GDP over a few years buys the country very little in terms of reduced crisis risk (Baldacci and others, 2011).­

But even if the insurance benefit is small, it may still be worth incurring if the cost is sufficiently low. It turns out, however, that the cost could be large—much larger than the benefit. The reason is that, to get to a lower debt level, taxes that distort economic behavior need to be raised temporarily or productive spending needs to be cut—or both. The costs of the tax increases or expenditure cuts required to bring down the debt may be much larger than the reduced crisis risk engendered by the lower debt (Ostry, Ghosh, and Espinoza, 2015). This is not to deny that high debt is bad for growth and welfare. It is. But the key point is that the welfare cost from the higher debt (the so-called burden of the debt) is one that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered; it is a sunk cost. Faced with a choice between living with the higher debt—allowing the debt ratio to decline organically through growth—or deliberately running budgetary surpluses to reduce the debt, governments with ample fiscal space will do better by living with the debt.­

Austerity policies not only generate substantial welfare costs due to supply-side channels, they also hurt demand—and thus worsen employment and unemployment. The notion that fiscal consolidations can be expansionary (that is, raise output and employment), in part by raising private sector confidence and investment, has been championed by, among others, Harvard economist Alberto Alesina in the academic world and by former European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet in the policy arena. However, in practice, episodes of fiscal consolidation have been followed, on average, by drops rather than by expansions in output. On average, a consolidation of 1 percent of GDP increases the long-term unemployment rate by 0.6 percentage point and raises by 1.5 percent within five years the Gini measure of income inequality (Ball and others, 2013).­

In sum, the benefits of some policies that are an important part of the neoliberal agenda appear to have been somewhat overplayed. In the case of financial openness, some capital flows, such as foreign direct investment, do appear to confer the benefits claimed for them. But for others, particularly short-term capital flows, the benefits to growth are difficult to reap, whereas the risks, in terms of greater volatility and increased risk of crisis, loom large.­

In the case of fiscal consolidation, the short-run costs in terms of lower output and welfare and higher unemployment have been underplayed, and the desirability for countries with ample fiscal space of simply living with high debt and allowing debt ratios to decline organically through growth is underappreciated.

An adverse loop­

Moreover, since both openness and austerity are associated with increasing income inequality, this distributional effect sets up an adverse feedback loop. The increase in inequality engendered by financial openness and austerity might itself undercut growth, the very thing that the neoliberal agenda is intent on boosting. There is now strong evidence that inequality can significantly lower both the level and the durability of growth (Ostry, Berg, and Tsangarides, 2014).­

The evidence of the economic damage from inequality suggests that policymakers should be more open to redistribution than they are. Of course, apart from redistribution, policies could be designed to mitigate some of the impacts in advance—for instance, through increased spending on education and training, which expands equality of opportunity (so-called predistribution policies). And fiscal consolidation strategies—when they are needed—could be designed to minimize the adverse impact on low-income groups. But in some cases, the untoward distributional consequences will have to be remedied after they occur by using taxes and government spending to redistribute income. Fortunately, the fear that such policies will themselves necessarily hurt growth is unfounded (Ostry, 2014).­

Finding the balance

These findings suggest a need for a more nuanced view of what the neoliberal agenda is likely to be able to achieve. The IMF, which oversees the international monetary system, has been at the forefront of this reconsideration.­

For example, its former chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, said in 2010 that “what is needed in many advanced economies is a credible medium-term fiscal consolidation, not a fiscal noose today.” Three years later, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the institution believed that the U.S. Congress was right to raise the country’s debt ceiling “because the point is not to contract the economy by slashing spending brutally now as recovery is picking up.” And in 2015 the IMF advised that countries in the euro area “with fiscal space should use it to support investment.”

On capital account liberalization, the IMF’s view has also changed—from one that considered capital controls as almost always counterproductive to greater acceptance of controls to deal with the volatility of capital flows. The IMF also recognizes that full capital flow liberalization is not always an appropriate end-goal, and that further liberalization is more beneficial and less risky if countries have reached certain thresholds of financial and institutional development.­

Chile’s pioneering experience with neoliberalism received high praise from Nobel laureate Friedman, but many economists have now come around to the more nuanced view expressed by Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz (himself a Nobel laureate) that Chile “is an example of a success of combining markets with appropriate regulation” (2002). Stiglitz noted that in the early years of its move to neoliberalism, Chile imposed “controls on the inflows of capital, so they wouldn’t be inundated,” as, for example, the first Asian-crisis country, Thailand, was a decade and a half later. Chile’s experience (the country now eschews capital controls), and that of other countries, suggests that no fixed agenda delivers good outcomes for all countries for all times. Policymakers, and institutions like the IMF that advise them, must be guided not by faith, but by evidence of what has worked.­

Jonathan D. Ostry is a Deputy Director, Prakash Loungani is a Division Chief, andDavide Furceri is an Economist, all in the IMF’s Research Department.


Baldacci, Emanuele, Iva Petrova, Nazim Belhocine, Gabriela Dobrescu, and Samah Mazraani, 2011, “Assessing Fiscal Stress,” IMF Working Paper 11/100 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Ball, Laurence, Davide Furceri, Daniel Leigh, and Prakash Loungani, 2013, “The Distributional Effects of Fiscal Austerity,” UN-DESA Working Paper 129 (New York: United Nations).­

Dell’Ariccia, Giovanni, Julian di Giovanni, André Faria, M. Ayhan Kose, Paolo Mauro, Jonathan D. Ostry, Martin Schindler, and Marco Terrones, 2008, Reaping the Benefits of Financial Globalization, IMF Occasional Paper 264 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Furceri, Davide, and Prakash Loungani, 2015, “Capital Account Liberalization and Inequality,” IMF Working Paper 15/243 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Ghosh, Atish R., Jun I. Kim, Enrique G. Mendoza, Jonathan D. Ostry, and Mahvash S. Qureshi, 2013, “Fiscal Fatigue, Fiscal Space and Debt Sustainability in Advanced Economies,” Economic Journal, Vol. 123, No. 566, pp. F4–F30.­

Ghosh, Atish R., Jonathan D. Ostry, and Mahvash S. Qureshi, 2016, “When Do Capital Inflow Surges End in Tears?” American Economic Review, Vol. 106, No. 5.­

Mendoza, Enrique G., and Jonathan D. Ostry, 2007, “International Evidence on Fiscal Solvency: Is Fiscal Policy ‘Responsible’?” Journal of Monetary Economics, Vol. 55, No. 6, pp. 1081–93.­

Obstfeld, Maurice, 1998, “The Global Capital Market: Benefactor or Menace?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 9–30.­

Ostry, Jonathan D., 2014, “We Do Not Have to Live with the Scourge of Inequality,” Financial Times, March 3.­

———, Andrew Berg, and Charalambos Tsangarides, 2014, “Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth,” IMF Staff Discussion Note 14/02 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Ostry, Jonathan D., Atish R. Ghosh, Marcos Chamon, and Mahvash S. Qureshi, 2012, “Tools for Managing Financial-Stability Risks from Capital Inflows,” Journal of International Economics, Vol. 88, No. 2, pp. 407–21.­

Ostry, Jonathan D., Atish R. Ghosh, Jun I. Kim, and Mahvash Qureshi, 2010, “Fiscal Space,” IMF Staff Position Note 10/11 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Ostry, Jonathan D., Atish R. Ghosh, and Raphael Espinoza, 2015, “When Should Public Debt Be Reduced?” IMF Staff Discussion Note 15/10 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Ostry, Jonathan D., Alessandro Prati, and Antonio Spilimbergo, 2009, Structural Reforms and Economic Performance in Advanced and Developing Countries, IMF Occasional Paper 268 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).­

Rodrik, Dani, 1998, “Who Needs Capital-Account Convertibility?” in Should the IMF Pursue Capital-Account Convertibility? Essays in International Finance 207 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University).­

Stiglitz, Joseph, 2002, “The Chilean Miracle: Combining Markets with Appropriate Reform,” Commanding Heights interview.­

Fonte: Internacional Monetary Fund (IMF)

Neoliberalism: Oversold?

Como o feminismo se tornou a empregada do capitalismo – e como resgatá-lo


Como feminista, sempre entendi que ao lutar para emancipar as mulheres eu estava construindo um mundo melhor — mais igualitário, justo e livre. Mas ultimamente comecei a desconfiar que os ideais desbravados pelas feministas têm servido para fins bem diferentes. Eu me preocupo, especificamente, que a nossa crítica ao sexismo esteja agora servindo de justificativa para novas formas de desigualdade e exploração.

Numa virada cruel do destino, temo que o movimento pela libertação feminina tenha se enredado perigosamente com os esforços neoliberais de construir uma sociedade de livre mercado. Isto explicaria como pode ser que as ideias feministas, antes parte de uma visão radical de mundo, cada vez mais têm sido expressas em termos individualistas. Se antes feministas criticavam uma sociedade pró-carreirismo, agora aconselham as mulheres a se envolver mais nas carreiras. Um movimento que antes priorizava a solidariedade social e agora celebra empreendedores femininos. Uma perspectiva que antes valorizava o “cuidado” e a interdependência e agora encoraja o crescimento individual e a meritocracia.

Atrás do deslocamento, reside uma mudança profunda da natureza do capitalismo. O capitalismo administrado pelo estado do período pós-guerra cedeu o lugar a uma nova forma: capitalismo “desorganizado”, globalizado, neoliberal. O feminismo de segunda geração que emergira como crítica do primeiro se tornou a empregada do segundo.

Olhando bem de perto o que aconteceu, podemos agora perceber que o movimento pela libertação das mulheres apontava simultaneamente para dois futuros possíveis. No primeiro cenário, a prefiguração de um mundo em que a emancipação de gênero caminhava lado a lado com a democracia participativa e a solidariedade social; no segundo, a promessa de nova forma de liberalismo, capaz de conceder às mulheres, assim como aos homens, as benesses da autonomia individual, maior capacidade de escolha e crescimento meritocrático. O feminismo de segunda geração foi, nesse sentido, ambivalente. Compatível com ambas as visões de sociedade, ele acabou suscetível a duas elaborações históricas distintas.

Como eu vejo, a ambivalência do feminismo foi resolvida nos anos recentes em favor do segundo cenário, o liberal-individualista — mas não porque éramos vítimas passivas das seduções neoliberais. Pelo contrário, nós mesmas contribuímos com três ideias importantes para que isso acontecesse.

Uma contribuição foi a nossa crítica do “salário familiar”: o ideal de um macho provedor da mulher, tão central no capitalismo organizado pelo estado. A crítica feminista desse ideal agora serve para legitimar o “capitalismo flexível”. Afinal, essa forma de capitalismo depende muito do trabalho assalariado da mulher, especialmente dos trabalhos mal remunerados nos setores dos serviços ou manufatureiros, realizados não somente por mulheres solteiras jovens, mas também por mulheres casadas e com filhos; não somente por mulheres racializadas, como também por mulheres virtualmente de todas as nacionalidades e etnicidades. Na medida em que as mulheres se espalharam pelos mercados de trabalho do mundo, o ideal do “salário familiar” vem sendo substituído por uma norma mais nova e moderna— aparentemente abençoada pelo feminismo — da família com dois assalariados.

Pouco importa que a realidade debaixo do novo ideal sejam níveis depressivos de salário, baixa segurança no emprego, declinante qualidade de vida, um aumento drástico do número de horas trabalhadas por família, a exacerbação da dupla-jornada — hoje geralmente tripla ou quádrupla — e um aumento na pobreza, cada vez mais concentrada nos lares encabeçados por mulheres. O neoliberalismo doura a pílula ao elaborar a narrativa do empoderamento feminino. Invocando a crítica feminista contra o “salário família” para justificar a exploração, o neoliberalismo amarra o sonho da emancipação das mulheres na correia do motor da acumulação de capital.

O feminismo também deu uma segunda contribuição ao ethos neoliberal. Na era do capitalismo organizado pelo estado, nós corretamente criticamos uma visão política estreita, que era tão intencionalmente focada na desigualdade de classe que não podia ver tais injustiças “não-econômicas”, tais como a violência doméstica, o abuso/assédio sexual e a opressão reprodutiva. Rejeitando o “economismo” e politizando o “pessoal”, as feministas alargaram a agenda política, a fim de desafiar as hierarquias sociais embutidas nas construções culturais de gênero. O resultado deveria ter sido expandir a luta por justiça, para englobar tanto a cultura quanto a economia. Mas o resultado real foi um foco unilateral na “identidade de gênero”, às custas das lutas do “pão e manteiga”. Pior ainda, a virada feminista à política da identidade se encaixou à perfeição num neoliberalismo ascendente, que queria nada mais nada menos do que reprimir toda memória de desigualdade social. De fato, nós absolutizamos a crítica do sexismo cultural precisamente na hora em que as circunstâncias requeriam uma atenção redobrada na crítica da economia política.

Finalmente, o feminismo contribuiu com uma terceira ideia ao neoliberalismo: a crítica do paternalismo do estado de bem estar social. Inegavelmente progressista, durante o período do capitalismo organizado pelo estado, aquela crítica desde então vem convergindo com a guerra do neoliberalismo contra o “estado babá” e seu mais recente abraço cínico das ONG. Um exemplo que diz muito consiste no “microcrédito”: o programa de pequenos empréstimos bancários às mulheres no sul global. Considerado como uma alternativa “desde baixo” e empoderadora, em relação a programas estatais “desde cima” e excruciantemente burocráticos, o microcrédito é incensado como antídoto feminista para a pobreza e sujeição das mulheres. Esquece-se, contudo, da perturbadora coincidência: o microcrédito floresceu rapidamente assim que os estados abandonaram esforços macro para lutar contra a pobreza, esforços que empréstimos de pequena escala não tem como substituir. Nesse caso, igualmente, a ideia feminista foi incorporada pelo neoliberalismo. Uma perspectiva voltada originalmente para democratizar o poder do estado, de maneira a empoderar os cidadãos, é agora usada para legitimar a mercantilização e a amputação do estado.

Em todos esses casos, a ambivalência do feminismo tem sido resolvida em favor do individualismo (neo)liberal. Mas o outro cenário, da solidariedade, pode estar ainda vivo. A crise presente abre a chance de retomar o fio mais uma vez, religando o sonho de libertação das mulheres com a visão de uma sociedade solidária. Para isso, as feministas precisam romper a ligação perigosa com o neoliberalismo e reconquistar as nossas três “contribuições” para os nossos próprios objetivos.

Primeiro, precisamos romper a ligação espúria entre a nossa crítica do salário familiar e o capitalismo flexível, militando por uma forma de vida descentrada do trabalho assalariado e valorize atividades não-salariais, incluindo, mas não apenas, o cuidado. Segundo, nós poderíamos desviar a passagem de nossa crítica ao economismo à política da identidade: integrando a luta pela transformação de uma ordem hierárquica, embutida nos valores culturais machistas, com a luta por justiça econômica. Finalmente, poderíamos dissolver o cimento falso entre nossa crítica à burocracia e o fundamentalismo do mercado livre, reivindicando o manto da democracia participatória como um meio de fortalecimento dos poderes públicos necessários para, em prol da justiça, conter o capital.

por Nancy Fraser (tradução de Bruno Cava)

Fonte: The Guardian – 14/10/2015

Como o feminismo se tornou a empregada do capitalismo – e como resgatá-lo

O crime perfeito


A pauta do liberalismo brasileiro não será aplicada pelos liberais, mas por uma esquerda em autoeliminação.

O Brasil não é para amadores, já dizia Tom Jobim. De fato, enquanto vários outros países latino-americanos tiveram longos períodos de conflitos violentos no interior de suas elites, com rupturas muitas vezes traumáticas, o Brasil conseguiu apresentar continuidades impressionantes. Sua elite tem o dom do acordo e da autopreservação. Ela sabe como criar situações nas quais toda tentativa de entrar em confronto contra seus interesses sai perdendo.

Mas há de se reconhecer que existem momentos nos quais a inteligência animal de nossa elite supera toda expectativa, demonstrando laivos de genialidade mefistofélica. Um desses momentos é exatamente o presente. Se eu fosse afeito à teoria da conspiração, diria que estaríamos vendo atualmente o crime perfeito.

No fim da eleição de 2014, o Brasil demonstrou-se radicalmente clivado. Era óbvio que tal clivagem não passaria, pois o nível de descontentamento e expectativa era muito alto para todos voltarem aos negócios de sempre. Em uma situação como essa, a primeira coisa a fazer é fortalecer a mobilização de seu próprio grupo. Você governa primeiro para quem te elegeu, ou seja, levando em conta as expectativas de quem te elegeu, pois são essas pessoas que te defenderão em contextos de tensão.

Mas eis que algum grande estrategista palaciano sugeriu uma manobra radical. O governo deveria esvaziar o discurso da direita, ao realizar o que Lula fez várias vezes, a saber, aplicar ações propostas pelo próprio adversário, colhendo nomes na seara do adversário para construir seu ministério. Assim, Dilma daria um sinal para os opositores e para a elite rentista do País. Algo como: “Fiquem tranquilos, pois não haverá conflitos de interesses com o governo”. A ala de esquerda da população que votou no governo viria por gravidade. Afinal, não haveria nenhuma outra opção para eles, gente que pode gritar, espernear, mas no final vota no governo e ainda faz campanha mobilizada pelo medo de a direita voltar.

Infelizmente, desta vez, o truque não funcionou. Ele foi aplicado de maneira muito farsesca para funcionar. Cansados de confiar em um governo que não temeu abraçar a nata do liberalismo econômico nacional, a ala de esquerda da população virou as costas e se desmobilizou. A ala conservadora sentiu o campo aberto e colocou seu sistema de pressão na rua. Pela primeira vez na história tal pressão não teve contrapressão. O desejo de impeachment cresceu, alimentado pela tentativa desesperada do presidente da Câmara de escapar da Operação Lava Jato.

Mesmo com o governo nas cordas, ficou claro, contudo, que a oposição não tinha unidade, que certamente entraria em fagocitose se assumisse o poder. O estilo brutalizado de Cunha era incapaz de aglutinar. Até que o golpe de mestre apareceu. Aterrorizado pela possibilidade de perder o poder, o governo foi procurado pelo presidente do Senado para um acordo em prol da “governabilidade”, agora defendida abertamente pela Fiesp, pela Globo e pelo sr. Trabuco, o verdadeiro chefe do ministro da Economia.

Na pauta, um conjunto de propostas para explodir de alegria qualquer liberal defensor dos interesses da elite rentista. O que seria visto, em situação normal, como proposições inaceitáveis por colocar em questão a natureza pública de certos serviços e direitos trabalhistas aparece agora como uma agenda positiva e responsável para tirar o Brasil da crise política.

Assim, tudo o que a direita sonhou será aplicado pelo governo dito esquerdista. É ele que pagará todo o preço, alcançando, enfim, o grau zero de apoio popular. Mas como o espantalho Cunha continuará amedrontando, tudo o que vier do agora esteio da responsabilidade da República, Renan Calheiros, será visto como um mal menor.

Assim, o crime perfeito se completa. Toda a pauta mais radical do liberalismo brasileiro será aplicada sem que os liberais tenham de arcar com o peso de aplicar tal política. Ela será aplicada não pelos liberais de plantão, mas por uma esquerda em vias de autoeliminação. Há de se admirar a astúcia da elite brasileira na defesa de seus interesses. Realmente, um trabalho de profissionais.

por Vladimir Safatle

Fonte: Carta Capital – 19/08/1015

O crime perfeito