Liberalizem, ki ga je požrl trg

Wolfgang Münchau je v Financial Timesu lepo popisal razliko med povojnim in sedanjim liberalizmom. Prvi je bil usmerjen k aktivni zaščiti manjših igralcev pred velikimi, drugi pa je pod pretvezo izenačevanja pogojev dejansko dajal prednost močnejšim. Posledica je koncentracija znotraj panog s povečano tržno močjo nekaj velikih igralcev na eni strani, na drugi pa povečana neenakost dohodkov in premoženja oziroma povečana koncentracija dohodkov in premoženja v rokah nekaj zgornjih odstotkov. Liberalizem, ki bi naj dajal vsem enake možnosti za uspeh, se je izrodil v sistem, v katerem lahko uspejo  le nekateri. Liberalizem, ki naj bi bil podlaga za prost trg, so požrle same proste tržne sile.

Münchau sicer evocira na Margaret Thatcher, da je znala liberalizem približati ljudem, tako da jim  je v privatizaciji podelila nekaj delnic. No, to je bil seveda samo umazan trik, da je lahko sprivatizirala vse. Toda Thatcherjeva je znala deliti vsaj nekaj donosov od liberalizma, njeni konzervativni, pardon – liberalni, nasledniki, so na to pozabili. Zato je prišel ta množični upor na Zahodu proti establishmentu, ki je ustvaril ali vzdrževal ta sistem (sistem deregulacije, privatizacije, fleksibilnega trga dela, globalizacije, darwinizacije). Res je, sistem, ki ne zna deliti donosov in ki pusti za seboj večino prebivalstva, nima dolgoročne perspektive.

When I think about the crisis of our liberal system, I am reminded of an encounter almost 20 years ago in Berlin with Wolfgang Kartte, a former president of the German cartel office. I asked why he and his successors often took such a conservative view on competition cases and in particular why they were so dismissive of economic arguments.

Like the majority of economic policymakers in Germany, Kartte, who died in 2003, was a lawyer. He said he considered his job as helping the little guy to defend himself against the big guy. This was the job of a lawyer, not of an economist. Moreover, he said he was not interested in levelling the playing field, as the metaphor goes, but in tilting it in favour of the little guy.

The crisis of modern liberalism has similar elements. We have our own version of the little guy versus the big guy problem today — except that there is no one to tilt the field in the other direction. Smaller companies pay more taxes relative to their income than large multinational corporations. The economic policies that followed the financial crisis ended up widening income and wealth differences. Large immigration flows created insecurity, as did the arrival of new technologies. When you call voters deplorable — or patronise them, as happened in the UK after the Brexit vote — you add insult to injury.

What often leads the supporters and defenders of modern liberal democracy astray in their analysis is their addiction to macroeconomic aggregate variables such as gross domestic product and the officially recorded rate of unemployment. The decade before the Brexit referendum was a decade of reasonable GDP growth. There was nothing in the data that would suggest the UK would vote to leave the EU. But granular information paints a different picture. Data based on the official family resources survey and from the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank, showed household income after housing costs stagnated for the 60 per cent of households towards the bottom of the income distribution between 2002 and 2015.

The current wave of discontent in France also contrasts with relatively solid GDP growth since the financial crisis. But a study by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that income growth came to an abrupt halt for almost all households in the advanced economies.

The main constituency backing the Thatcher revolution in the 1980s was the C2s — the demographic classification for skilled working class people. Thatcher looked after the median household. Her successors first lost the middle classes, and then pretended to be shocked by events such as Brexit.

Any system that leaves behind 60 per cent of households will eventually fail. It is the ultimate irony: liberalism is failing because of market forces.

Vir: Wolfgang Münchau, Financial Times


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