Kako se znebiti neoliberalizma, brez da bi ubili liberalizem?

Spodnji komentar Sebastiana Backupa iz World Economic Foruma o koncu vere v neoliberalizem mi je dokaj simpatičen. Govori o dveh tendencah, ki ju sprošča tehnološki razvoj. Prvi je difuzija novih tehnoloških rešitev, od katerih imajo vsi koristi. Drugi pa je koncentracija, kjer pač tehnološki leaderji ali enkaj najbolj drznih podjetij pobere večino tržnih deležev in korporativnih dobičkov, kar ima za posledico tudi povečano neenakost med ljudmi. Konentracija v gospodarstvih razvitih držav se je v zadnjih štirih desetletjih močno povečala, s tem pa tudi neenakost. Glavna krivda leži v državi kot regulatorju, katero je namesto reguliranje tržne moči velikih podjetij in preusmerjanje velikih dobičkov v politični vpliv skrbelo, da ne bi država preveč ščitila manj konkurenčnih podjetij. Schumpetrova hipoteza, da se z regulacijo konkurence ni treba ukvarjati, ker bo vstop novih podjetij pometel z velikimi tržnimi deleži, se je izkazala kot pravljica – velika podjetja z velikanskimi dobički pred desetimi leti imajo tudi danes gromozanske dobičke.

Neoliberalizem (kot vera v univerzalno moč trga) se je izkazal kot napačna in škodljiva doktrina. Backup govori o tem, da je zanašanje na same tržne sile ali na to, da bi enak dostop do izobraževanja, lahko fundamentalno spremenil sedanje stanje, iluzorno. Potrebna bo bolj aktivna vloga države – od regulacije in spodbujanja gospodarstva do socialnih politik (minimalna plača, univeralni temeljni dohodek). V prihodnjih letih bo namreč potekala velika borba med dvema progresivnima linijama. Med tisto, ki si želi razvojnih politik, ki bi vodile k manj koncentracije in več inkluzivnosti in tisto, ki bi za uničenje koncentracije žrtvovala tudi zaprtje trgov in družb. Torej borba med tistimi, ki bi radi mrtvemu neoliberalizmu zgolj odvzeli predpono “neo” in tistimi, ki bi radi odpravili kar “liberalizem”.

Simpatično napisano. Vendar pa bo potrebno tudi sam učbeniški liberalizem ter prakso globalnega liberalizma v zadnjih treh desetletjih (prosta trgovina in prost pretok finančnega kapitala) malce omejiti, hkrati pa dovoliti državam, da spet posežejo po industrijskih politikah za spodbujanje posameznih panog ter številnih korektivnih razvojnih (šolstvo, zdravstvo) in socialnih politikah.

Kakorkoli pogledate, sama odprava “neo” iz neoliberalizma ne bo dovolj, tudi sam učbeniški in prakticiran liberalizem bosta morala žrtvovati del svojega pomena. Mene ne bi čisto nič motilo, če bi liberalizem zamenjali s progresivizmom. Prav nobenega – ne teoretskega in ne praktičnega – dokaza ni, da bi bil povsem dereguliran (t.j. liberalni) sistem bolj družbeno učinkovit od hibridnega sistema z razumno regulacijo na nekaterih področjih in večjo deregulacijo na drugih. Vse danes razvite države in vse države, ki danes dosegajo najvišje stopnje razvoja, so to dosegle prav z veliko dozo regulacije. Postopne deregulacije in liberalizacije so se lotile šele, ko so se primerno razvile in dozorele za liberalizacijo in deregulacijo.

Such outcomes are the result not just of inevitable structural shifts, but also of decisions about how to handle those shifts. In the late 1970s, as neoliberalism took hold, policymakers became less concerned about big firms converting profits into political influence, and instead worried that governments were protecting uncompetitive companies.

With this in mind, policymakers began to dismantle the economic rules and regulations that had been implemented after the Great Depression, and encouraged vertical and horizontal mergers. These decisions played a major role in enabling a new wave of globalization, which increasingly diffused growth and wealth across countries, but also laid the groundwork for the concentration of income and wealth within countries.

Policymakers now need a new approach that resists excessive concentration, which may create efficiency gains, but also allows firms to hoard profits and invest less. Of course, Joseph Schumpeter famously argued that one need not worry too much about monopoly rents, because competition would quickly erase the advantage. But corporate performance in recent decades paints a different picture: 80% of the firms that made a return of 25% or more in 2003 were still doing so ten years later. (In the 1990s, that share stood at about 50%.)

To counter such concentration, policymakers should, first, implement smarter competition laws that focus not only on market share or pricing power, but also on the many forms of rent extraction, from copyright and patent rules that allow incumbents to cash in on old discoveries to the misuse of network centrality. The question is not “how big is too big,” but how to differentiate between “good” and “bad” bigness. The answer hinges on the balance businesses strike between value capture and creation.

Moreover, policymakers need to make it easier for startups to scale up. A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem remains the most effective antidote to rent extraction. Digital ledger technologies, for instance, have the potential to curb the power of large oligopolies more effectively than heavy-handed policy interventions. Yet economies must not rely on markets alone to bring about the “churn” that capitalism so badly needs. Indeed, even as policymakers pay lip service to entrepreneurship, the number of startups has declined in many advanced economies.

Finally, policymakers must move beyond the neoliberal conceit that those who work hard and play by the rules are those who will rise. After all, the flipside of that perspective, which rests on a fundamental belief in the equalizing effect of the market, is what Michael Sandel calls our “meritocratic hubris”: the misguided idea that success (and failure) is up to us alone.

This implies that investments in education and skills training, while necessary, will not be sufficient to reduce inequality. Policies that tackle structural biases head-on – from minimum wages to, potentially, universal basic income schemes – are also needed.

Vir: Sebastian Backup, Project Syndicate

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