The classical liberal agenda

A new edition of the Quarterly Essays has appeared, another attack on neoliberalism, this time by Waleed Aly of Monash University. As usual with these things he has invented a straw dummy and not bothered to come to grips with the classical liberal agenda in which deregulation of over-regulated markets is a mere portion. I will post a critique asap but in the meantime will invite the resident lefties like Homer and THR to debate the pros and cons of classical liberalism, namely the usual suite of freedoms, limited government under the law, the rule of law including secure property rights and a robust (conservative) moral framework.

What do you guys think is the problem with this agenda? Which bits do you accept and which not? How do you improve on it with social democracy, social justice and the welfare state?

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96 Responses to The classical liberal agenda

  1. THR

    It’s true that some of the attacks on neoliberalism are a bit misplaced. Rudd’s was the exemplar in this regard. This doesn’t mean that every study of neoliberalism has been attacking mere strawmen. A great many of the axioms that function as sacred cows to economic liberals have been demolished in the past few years, in a number of scholarly and popular works. Prof Kwiggin has also contributed to this critique, and his chapters on zombie economics have some useful ideas in them.

    The attempt to link neoliberalism to the ‘classical liberal agenda’ is, whilst superficially sensible, ultimately deceptive, since almost every neoliberal endeavour has been accompanied not by ‘small government’ and ‘freedom’ but by violence and authoritarianism. Hawke’s ALP were an exception to this, but all of the others – from Thatcher, Reagan, Den Xiaoping’s China, the ‘liberalisations’ of Latin America – involved outright abuses of government powers, and violence at home and abroad. In fact, I can’t think of a single ‘neoliberal’ government that actually increased the freedom of anybody but the wealthy.

    Time and again, neoliberalism equates not to smaller government, but to big government colluding with the wealthy. See Workchoices, which was neoliberal legislation par excellence. Tax cuts for the rich, ‘austerity’ for everybody else.

    Many of the basic tenets of neoliberalism are not merely false, but dangerous. Intellectual property rights are an obvious scam, that largely benefit US corporations.

    The hysteria around subsidies, which reaches quite rococo levels around some parts, is one thing when asserted in reference to the developed world, where industry has had decades to establish itself (often with significant government assistance in the meantime). It’s another thing altogether in the developed world, where it’s borne of a facile and contemptuous misapplication of comparative advantage. Rather that have government develop industry, as it has done in every single rich country the world over, neoliberals expect the third world to stick to what it’s supposedly godo at, growing beans and the like.

    Neoliberalism is radically individualist, and falls prey to every kind of identity politics and other kind of postmodern stupidity. Neoliberal ideology diminishes human beings every bit as much as the Soviet system, if not more so, since the propaganda is all the more complete and all-encompassing. The assumptions underpinning neoliberal ideas don’t hold the least amount of water.

    Finally, the neoliberal worldview is particularly poor at explaining real events, such as the economic blip that occurred in 2008. Sure, economic liberals have a theory whereby the GFC was caused by Jimmy Carter, the CRA Act and little green men using government to ruin financial markets, but this is the weakest and most mendacious explanation around. Social democrats, neo-Keynesians and yes, even Marxians have produced better analyses of the GFC than the self-serving claptrap (‘it was teh welfare state wot did it!’) of the neoliberals.

  2. ken n

    ‘it was teh welfare state wot did it!’
    I missed that article. Can you give a reference?

  3. daddy dave

    Thanks for that in-depth response, THR. This line grabbed my attention:
    .
    The attempt to link neoliberalism to the ‘classical liberal agenda’ is, whilst superficially sensible, ultimately deceptive
    .
    Clearly you think there’s a big difference between “neoliberalism” and the “classical liberal agenda.” You then spent most of your time and energy attacking neoliberalism, which you see as mere camoflage for corporatism, and for undermining even worthwhile government endeavours. Does this mean that, in principle, you like the “classical liberal agenda?”
    That is, a true classical liberal agenda, not corrupted by corporatism or emperialism.

  4. ken n

    In 2006 QE published a piece by Clive Hamilton entitled “What’s Left?” Its thesis was that the social democratic economic agenda was obsolete. Free market liberalism had won the economic debate. So what can the Left do?
    To those familiar with Hamilton’s writings, the answer is obvious: encourage or force people to stop spending their money on things that Hamilton does not like and, generally, to take society back to the 1950s before plasma TV screen had been invented.
    He is an example of the wise adage: “To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”.
    Whatever the issue – mental illness, waste of resources, climate change – Hamilton’s prescription is that same. Roll back the calender. Progress was OK for a while but it went on too long.

    Now, is is not a bad idea to run a piece about the other side: “What’s right?” The free market and the liberal society are under challenge at the moment and it would be useful for someone to go back over the beliefs and see whether they are still good.
    But that is not what QE has done. They chose someone from the Left to ask “What’s Left?” and someone from the Left to ask “What’s Right?”
    Perhaps no-one on the Right would write for QE or, more likely, there is no-one on the right listed in its email address book.

  5. Perhaps no-one on the Right would write for QE or, more likely, there is no-one on the right listed in its email address book.

    Bingo.

  6. THR

    I missed that article. Can you give a reference?

    Ken, there are loads of articles pretending that the CRA was the principal cause of the GFC. Here’s one of about 17,000:

    http://cafehayek.com/2008/09/the-role-of-the.html

    It’s also not so straightforward to assign Clive Hamilton to the left, since many (if not most) lefties would reject his views.

    Does this mean that, in principle, you like the “classical liberal agenda?”

    There are some great liberal principles, but they’re often ruined in practice. I argued this point on the foreign policy thread. Mises’ position of liberalism and freedom for all is to be applauded. The problem is that only a few extremists in the liberal camp take it the least bit seriously, and use liberal pretensions of being humanitarian or universalist as ideological cover for the latest US bombing campaign. All the same, the principle itself is fine.

    The idea that markets will deliver on what people need is laughable. The question is then how to make up the shortfall. One answer is to use the state, which has had some success in this area, despite being a double-edged sword at best. But other extra-market solutions ought to be considered, depending on the circumstances.

  7. “Sure, economic liberals have a theory whereby the GFC was caused by Jimmy Carter, the CRA Act and little green men using government to ruin financial markets, but this is the weakest and most mendacious explanation around.”

    You’re just so fucking dishonest. Everyone knows that the CRA was significantly strengthened under Clinton and Bush. Note Reno’s comments about cracking down etc. Note Bernanke’s comments about HUD etc. Or that no serious economist blames the CRA alone…etc.

    There’s no point in engaging in considered debate with recusants such as yourself.

  8. JC

    It’s also not so straightforward to assign Clive Hamilton to the left, since many (if not most) lefties would reject his views.

    Oh please. How many lefties have come out and called the bald galoot what he is. Most applaud the fucking moron.

  9. THR

    Or that no serious economist blames the CRA alone…etc.

    I don’t disagree with that point, but there’s been plenty of unserious economists and right-wing partisan hacks who’ve pretended that do-gooders caused the GFC. It fits nicely into a broader right-liberal narrative that we ought not attempt to change anything for the better, for fear of unintended consequences.

  10. THR

    Oh please. How many lefties have come out and called the bald galoot what he is.

    Many of the major lefty blogs here have criticised him. Overland ran several pages of scathing critique.

  11. If that’s so you should make a qualifier that you were previously making an outrageous and insulting generalisation.

  12. JC

    …there’s been plenty of unserious economists and right-wing partisan hacks who’ve pretended that do-gooders caused the GFC.

    But it’s true. In fact both parties were deeply involved with a policy of raising home ownership in the US.

    The right thought increasing ownership would give lower income groups an economic stake accruing all sorts of benefits.

    The left were doing so for equality reasons.

    CRA wasn’t just law but a push by the political establishment for more home ownership.

  13. Michael Fisk

    In fact, I can’t think of a single ‘neoliberal’ government that actually increased the freedom of anybody but the wealthy.

    If you’re including Deng Xiaoping as a classical liberal, then China would be an obvious example. It is certainly far less violent now than it was under Mao, whose violence you haven’t protested. Vietnam after Le Duan is another spectacular example of post-totalitarian success. The Industrial Revolution in Europe is yet another.

  14. THR

    If you’re including Deng Xiaoping as a classical liberal, then China would be an obvious example.

    So Tiananmen was an example of liberalism, was it?

    The Industrial Revolution in Europe had very little to do with democracy, and required massive violence on the part of states to keep uprisings in check.

  15. JC

    Rafe:

    I think Classic liberalism is a cop out. It’s like being 1/2 pregnant. For instance classic liberals could easily end up defending drug policy and illegality.

    The problem with Classic liberalism is that it dirties the waters in terms of government intervention and I hold the view that there has not been a social spending policy in the past 50 years in the west that the state hasn’t messed up like midas in reverse.

  16. Rafe

    THR, as Daddy Dave said you have made the classic mistake of the exam candidate who writes and writes without re-reading the question to find out what is required.

    I did not ask you for another rant about the abuse of power by politicians, I asked for a discussion of the pros and cons of the agenda that I spelled out.

    Where has the liberal agenda failed? If you take China and India, possibly a billion people are better off as a result of modest market-oriented reforms.

    Tiananmen is not an example of the agenda, it is a reminder that all states have a mix of good, bad and indifferent policies in play. The point is to get more of the good and less of the others.

    What do you actually accept and what do you reject in the classical liberal agenda?

  17. ken n

    “unserious economists and right-wing partisan hacks” Yeah, well, we can ignore them because there’s no-one like that around here.
    “It’s also not so straightforward to assign Clive Hamilton to the left, since many (if not most) lefties would reject his views.”
    He is left of wherever the centre is now and QE chose him as someone on the left with a view about what it should do.

    Anyway, almost no-one matches the stereotype left or right figures. Especially on this site we believe a range of things, mostly based on maximizing freedom, but with different weights and priorities.

  18. ken n

    “there are loads of articles pretending that the CRA was the principal cause of the GFC.”
    Perhaps, but that was not what you said, even allowing for the faux ironic misspellings…
    (I suppose “faux ironic” is a useful expression?)

  19. Have to say Waleed Aly is good value.

  20. Rafe

    Not on economics and neoliberalism.
    Except as a source of widespread errors that need to be corrected to lift the level of public debate.

  21. JC

    Wally gets an Age column, or at least used before I stopped reading The Age. Right from that point you need to be suspicious of anything he says.

  22. jtfsoon

    ultimately there is little point to these ‘big picture’ ideological debates.

    each side will just end up saying the implementation of their desired vision was imperfect.

    better to focus on specific policy debates one at a time.

  23. Rafe

    To be fair, he defends the need for a robust liberal-conservative tradition as a foil to progressive-leftism. He understands the key conservative point about the complexity of society, the value of cultural continuity and the danger of utopian aims in social reform. He concedes the role of the market, within limits. He accepts that there is a conservative tradition of reform “while overly cautious at times”. And what is more “Conservatism as articulated by its most seminal interlocutors is inherently broad and pluralistic in a way that progressive, ideological politics often is not…”.

    Good stuff, but mixed up with too much nonsense.

  24. THR

    What do you actually accept and what do you reject in the classical liberal agenda?

    It’s partly a definitional problem. Why should we accept that classic liberalism is identifiable with neoliberalism, or that the former actually exists anywhere in practice?

  25. Rafe

    THR, bits and pieces of the classical liberal agenda can be found, and where they are found they do good. Please address the question, don’t confuse the isue by dragging in neoliberalism, tell us your perception of the classical liberal agenda, preferrably item by item.

  26. Peter Patton

    Clive Hamilton is not “left-wing” he is an out and proud reactionary. And doesn’t Australia have any people with sufficient education, life-experience, and gravitas to hold a 25,000 word essay? The choice of Aly is truly bizarre.

  27. JC

    of course he’s a left winger. The left is full of anti-development, anti-technology luddites.

  28. The choice of Aly is truly bizarre.
    .
    Why?

  29. THR

    Aly’s on Q and A tonight. Someone should send him a question if you dislike his essay so much.

  30. daddy dave

    Clive Hamilton is not “left-wing” he is an out and proud reactionary.
    .
    same thing. the left are radical reactionaries against the progress of the West. (except when it comes to believing scientific predictions that the West is doomed)

  31. Rafe

    THR, how are you progressing with your answer to my question to you?

    Adrien, the choice of Aly is unhelpful, whether or not it is bizarre, because he recycles arguments that were weak the first time and have not improved with repetition.

    Thanks to Jason for posting Andrew Norton’s crit. That has saved me from pressing on with a full post after making a start last night. Aly writes “Our political discourse is drenched in Left and Right because it is so deeply impoverished. These terms are the hallmark of a political conversation that is obsessed with teams and uninterested in ideas”. This is a good start and there is some interesting analysis on the way through but well before the end it is apparent that Aly is not sufficiently interested in ideas to discover or understand classical liberalism (or even economics) and so practically everything that he writes about “neoliberalism” is unhelpful and downright misleading.

    That is important because one of the central strands of his argument is the failure of so-called neoliberalism. Another key strand is his attack on the Howard Government’s policy of cultural engineering, designed to maintain and foster core Australian values against the ravages of multiculturalism. This is a more interesting line to pursue but his progressive-Left bias is too obvious and this is even more apparent when he gets to climate change where he has been amusingly blindsided by fast-moving recent events.

    Taking up Jason’s point about the limitations of big picture debates, I fully agree on the need to focus on policy. However one of the reasons for the success of the left among intellectuals is the way they had a big picture, a historical narrative and a lot of prescriptions to fix the problems of the world. That kind of thing excites a lot of people who get bored with the details of policy. My point is that classical liberalism can provide a big picture, a historical narrative, philosopical consistency and all those things along with policies that work. The best of both worlds!

    The policies are the cutting edge and it helps to locate them in a framework of principles that provide a rationale, a thread or a pattern that runs through the whole suite of policies in different areas.

  32. daddy dave

    My point is that classical liberalism can provide a big picture, a historical narrative, philosopical consistency and all those things along with policies that work. The best of both worlds!
    .
    I agree. People love big pictures. It helps them contextualise seemingly unrelated and random things. people don’t want to start from scratch with every new issue or event. Nobody does.

  33. THR

    THR, how are you progressing with your answer to my question to you?

    So you want me to go back through the liberal tradition, distill the core principles, and write my response to those? It’s a big ask on a Monday. I’ve shared my thoughts on liberal foreign policy. Maybe we could take it one liberal idea at a time.

  34. Pedro

    “My point is that classical liberalism can provide a big picture, a historical narrative, philosopical consistency and all those things along with policies that work.”

    Do you think so Rafe? Liberalism seems a small picture to me, and all the better for it. But I agree there is an historical narrative and philosphic consistency.

  35. Peter Patton

    My point about Aly is not meant as any great slight against him. But come on. Why is he a public figure? Because he was good-looking, Christian GPS educated, and married to an Anglo woman, and thus was a perfect poster-boy for ‘moderate Islam’ during the fraught years following Sep. 11. That is, he is a celebrity, with nothing to offer a debate at the intersection of history, law, commerce, philosophy, and sociology. He is a protege of Robert Manne, and I can’t imagine his contributions to this mythical “neoliberalism” will be any advance on his patron’s.

  36. Sam

    Waleed Aly is an empty vessel. The Islamic credentials he has traded on are no longer in demand in this post-Howard world and so he’s reverted to the hackneyed, tired and worn out spin of his mentor Robert Manne. He wouldn’t know the first thing about liberalism, neo- or classical, or libertarianism except what he’s been spoon fed. It is shameful that any journal would sacrifice so many trees as testament to a half-baked no-nothing faux-intellectual parroting the same sort of gibberish as Rudd did in The Monthly some months ago.

  37. Rococo Liberal

    Rafe,

    Isn’t ‘classical liberalism’ really just another name for ‘Conservatism?’

    Of course the word ‘conservative’ itself is not a happy word. I remember hearing those who tried to oust Gorbachev being described as ‘conservatives.’ Hard-line communists consevative in a political sense? Hardly.

    “liberal’ is a far more benevolent sounding word. Unfortunately, the Americans have so corrupted the word by describing statists as ‘liberals.’

    The use of words of with their own inherent meanings as political signifiers has thus produced far more heat than light, as people continually have to explain which brand of ‘liberalism’ they are pushing.

    This is where the old left/right divide is useful. Are you for more or less government? How far should regulation go? What part os of life are the concerns of the State. Do we judge outcomes on a Statewide or on an individual basis? These are the tru questions of our time.

    That is why I abjure you all to drop liberalism ad conservtism as labels and use ‘Statism’ and ‘Toryism’ instead.

  38. jtfsoon

    Using Toryism to denote anti-statism is meaningless. depends on what is being conserved. And the Tories used to be associated with support for absolute monarchical power/

  39. jtfsoon

    Whigism is a more accurate delineator of anti statism.

  40. I remember hearing those who tried to oust Gorbachev being described as ‘conservatives.’
    .
    Well they were attempting to conserve something. 🙂

  41. Peter Patton

    jftsoon

    Is that really true of Whigism? There is a good argument that Whigism just prefers a different type of ‘statism,’ based on a parliament of property owners, rather than an absolutist monarch.

  42. ken n

    We talk about this stuff here to make it worthwhile to agree on our own terminology. Arguments about the meaning of words are dopey.
    And it would be good to ignore the Left/Right terminology. Most of us agree that it’s more like a circle: extreme fascism is so close to communism that the difference does not matter for most purposes.
    There are probably at least two dimensions: Freedom to trade/government control. This probably covers tax rates as taxes are the government deciding how you must spend your money.
    The other dimension is about personal freedom – freedom to do and say what you want/government control over all that.
    We could map out a quadrant and identify all the positions.

    Or maybe it’s more fun to call each other rude names?

    BTW Does anyone know why Quadrant was called that?

  43. ken n

    “We talk about this stuff here so often to make it worthwhile to agree on our own terminology. “

  44. THR

    And it would be good to ignore the Left/Right terminology. Most of us agree that it’s more like a circle: extreme fascism is so close to communism that the difference does not matter for most purposes.

    But you’ve just recapitulated Left/Right terminology. What is ‘extreme’ fascism? Is there a mild version? And who could agree that Brezhnevian communism is equivalent to Hitler’s Germany, for instance?

  45. Mussolini’s Italy was milder than Nazi Germany.

  46. Peter Patton

    ken

    Once the discussion moves beyond ‘socialism, liberalism, conservatism, and theocratism’ I turn off.

  47. Peter Patton

    To be fair, both Italian fascism and German Nazism lasted little more than a decade. And even then, both primarily started as nationalist defenses against Communist imperialist incursions.

  48. Rafe

    THR I do not want you to go back through the liberal tradition which is contested by different kinds of liberals and would do nothing to meet Jason’s suggestion to focus on policies. I want you to respond to the set of policies that I have spelled out. They are most likely broader than the detailed policies that Jason had in mind but they can be easily translated. Then we can talk about the pros and cons of concrete initiatives instead of contesting definitions.

  49. Michael Fisk

    THR you asked for one example of liberalisation leading to greater freedom. I gave you three examples. China, Vietnam and the entirety of Europe after the Industrial Revolution were much freer after they liberalised their economies than before. Mao was one of the greatest mass murderers in the 20th Century and he was replaced by Deng Xiaoping, who probably killed about 0.01% as many people as Mao, and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty in the process. Le Duan was responsible for one of the largest refugee outfluxes since the India-Pakistan partition and completely ruined Vietnam’s economy. He died and was replaced by a bunch of reformers, whose efforts have been almost second to none out of all the former Stalinist economies. Rinse and repeat.

    Those who wish to abolish private property need to understand that they already bear ideological responsibility for mass murder, famine, genocide and economic depression.

  50. Michael Fisk

    Speaking of which, Venezuela is yet another country that has attempted to severely curb property rights. And isn’t that working out spectacularly well for them?

  51. Rafe

    The West German deregulation after the war is a good example, and also the Australian experience after 1983, or at least after 1985 when the reforms started. Australia would have done better with less unemployment under Hawke and Keating if the labour market had been deregulated as well but you have to be grateful for any deregulation that you can get.

    The other problem with deregulation in Australia under both parties is that the gains have been mostly spent by the government and translated into more government programs or plain vote buying.

  52. THR

    I want you to respond to the set of policies that I have spelled out. They are most likely broader than the detailed policies that Jason had in mind but they can be easily translated. Then we can talk about the pros and cons of concrete initiatives instead of contesting definitions.

    Okay. If you don’t mind, let me have a think, and I’ll get back to you.

    THR you asked for one example of liberalisation leading to greater freedom

    All three examples are bogus. How can you compare Vietnam in the immediate aftermath of war to the Vietnam of twenty years later?

    Speaking of which, Venezuela is yet another country that has attempted to severely curb property rights. And isn’t that working out spectacularly well for them?

    Chavez has been spending oil revenue more than ‘curbing property rights’. And it’s working out okay. Not brilliantly, but okay. Incomes have risen, and a number of social programs have emerged to combat the worst excesses of poverty in the country. It’s certainly far better than the US-backed, private-property enthusiasts next door in Colombia.

  53. pedro

    “Whigism is a more accurate delineator of anti statism.”

    Indeed, who repealed the corn laws.

  54. Michael Fisk

    How can you compare Vietnam in the immediate aftermath of war to the Vietnam of twenty years later?

    You can’t. Vietnam has improved immeasurably since they liberalised their economy. If you had had your way, they would still be queuing for blocks, and days, to receive their paltry food rations, which they still were up till the mid-80s.

    Chavez has been spending oil revenue more than ‘curbing property rights’. And it’s working out okay. Not brilliantly, but okay. Incomes have risen, and a number of social programs have emerged to combat the worst excesses of poverty in the country. It’s certainly far better than the US-backed, private-property enthusiasts next door in Colombia.

    Um, Venezuela’s economy is in steep depression, and basic services such as electricity are collapsing in a heap. Now that oil prices have dived and the economy is tanking, Chavez has had to resort to muzzling the press to head off dissent. It’s a basket case.

  55. THR

    This isn’t true, Fisk. Since Chavez took over, Venezuela has had far more positives than negatives in terms of economic performance. In the past year or so, the country has suffered from severe drought, as well as the GFC. As a function of GDP, government spending is far less than many European states. The ‘muzzling the press’ claims invariably emerge from stooges among Chavez’s wealthy opponents. There are certainly criticisms to be made of Chavez’s attempts at ‘revolution’, but spending on social programs is not one of them.

  56. THR,

    Australia has had a decade plus drought that is now breaking. Over that decade, we didn’t fall apart.

    A year of drought doesn’t excuse this incompetent chump.

  57. Michael Fisk

    Chavez took over when oil prices were less than than $20. They increased seven-fold within 10 years, entirely explaining Venezuela’s GDP increase after 2003. Now that oil prices have halved, the economy is collapsing faster than any other in Latin America. That’s Venezuela’s economic “miracle” for you. It’s a bust.

    Here is an article on Chavez’s “fictional” media controls (he muzzles television stations that refuse to carry his speeches, as is their right). Anyone who defends this dunce should be ashamed of themselves.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5b28989a-0905-11df-ba88-00144feabdc0.html

  58. THR

    Here are some charts for you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Venezuela_Economic_Indicators.png

    One of the reasons why Australia might cope better with drought is that Australia is a developed country, Venezuela a third-world one. Yes, Chavez has been overly dependent on oil revenue. But the pair of you read like partisan schmucks, repeating standard rightist garbage on Chavez whilst remaining studiously ignorant of free market hellholes in Colombia and Central America. You can’t be taken seriously.

  59. Michael Sutcliffe

    This isn’t true, Fisk. Since Chavez took over, Venezuela has had far more positives than negatives in terms of economic performance.

    Wow, I’m not sure you could even read something that outrageous in Green Left Weekly!

    There has been one particular positive, though. As Chavez seeks to sidle up to the über rich, because he knows he needs some business and some wealth flowing (and they could make life a bit uncomfortable for him), and buys favour from the very poor with this wealth to keep a solid populist base to shore up his power, the capable middle classes, who were up-and-coming prior to his coming to power, have decided enough is enough and are making a large exodus to the United States. Thereby providing an influx of talent and entrepreneurship to a country that appreciates them.

  60. Michael Sutcliffe

    Hey, THR, what about Chavez’s control of the media. This type of censorship is acceptable or not?

  61. No THR. Australia dealt with a decade long drought. Chavez is struggling to keep the place from cracking up after one year. The only partisan schmuck here is you.

  62. JC

    THR:

    Since he took office Huggy Chavez has taken in $1 trillion extra cash from the oil price rise.. The economy is in basic ruins. The place is bust.

    In a just world Huggy would be pumping gas and not taking the money as he doesn’t know how to count.

  63. THR

    Here, have a look at some counter-arguments:

    http://www.truthout.org/article/has-poverty-venezuela-fallen-or-risen-under-president-hugo-chavez

    Unlike you guys, my argument has never been absolutist about Chavez. He’s certainly better than you make out, and no rightist can be taken seriously on Venezuela in any case, for the reasons I outlined above.

  64. I can’t be taken seriously because of petrodollar data that ends in 2005/6/7?

    You’re pulling my leg, right?

  65. Michael Fisk

    Here are some back-of-the-envelope figures to give a bit of perspective to the Venezuelan “miracle”.

    According to Truthout, Venezuela’s household poverty rate was thus reduced…from 42.8 percent in the first half of 1999 (when President Chavez took office) to 37.9 percent in the second half of 2005.

    That’s not bad, until you realise just how much they received in extra oil revenue over the same period.

    The crude oil price in early 1999, when Chavez took power, was actually around $10 (see here: http://www.wtrg.com/oil_graphs/PAPRPOP90.gif). By the “second half of 2005”, it was somewhere between $50 and $60. Venezuela was gifted a massive increase in its terms of trade during it’s miracle years.

    Net oil exports in 1999 (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Venezuela/Oil.html) were over 2.5 million barrels/day. Let’s say the average crude oil price in 1999 was around $15 per barrel. This means they received at least $14 billion of oil revenue in 1999. In 2005, net oil exports were around 2.2 million b/d, and prices averaged around $50. Which means Chavez was getting about $40 billion of oil export revenue in 2005.

    So, that’s an extra $26 billion per year / 26 million people in 2005, or $1,000 per person per year. This equalled about 30% of the average income in 2005 (http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/1206). So a country that enjoyed an economic rent windfall that could have increased incomes by 30%, achieved a very modest reduction in poverty over the same period. And now that oil prices have come back down again the economy is collapsing. It’s a bust.

    Meanwhile, Chavez is now calling for internet controls. I always laugh when “radicals” turn into reactionary curmudgeons on free speech once they assume power.

    http://www.techeye.net/internet/chavez-calls-for-more-internet-controls

  66. JC

    RTHR

    Do you understand that Huggy Chavez has taken in $1 trillion more than it has would have taken in when the oil price was 20.

    Of course there would be some improvements. However the vast bulk of the money has been lost.

    This is an economy that had to devalue 50% despite the oil price while it’s neighbor, Brazil has been perusing market policies is d0iung gangbusters.

  67. THR

    No, you can’t be taken seriously because you and other ‘liberals’ have your panties in a bunch about the effects of Chavez spending petrodollars on social programs, and petty spats between the government and the media, and at the same time are utterly oblivious to the death squads in the free market utopia next door.

  68. THR

    Brazil has been perusing market policies is d0iung gangbusters.

    Brazil has a centre-left government that has been pursuing reform at a slower pace than Chavez. All the same, Lula is not free marketeer.

  69. dover_beach

    The death squads are on the way now that the petrodollars are kapuut.

  70. “utterly oblivious to the death squads in the free market utopia”

    I might be oblivious to it, but “death squads” and “free markets” are incompatible. You simply can’t have free speech, expression, innovation or simply arts as a profession under such a barbaric rule.

    Actually I’d be interested as to which country you called a “free market utopia”.

  71. THR

    The death squads are on the way now that the petrodollars are kapuut.

    Are you forecasting that Chavez will bring in ‘experts’ from Chicago or the School of the Americas? These guys have pretty much a 1:1 correlation with death squads in the region.

    Back to the topic – Aly performed pretty well on Q and A tonight. His take on neoliberalism was simplistic, but cogent, and sure to get up the nose of all the pseudo-conservative tea-baggers out there.Deveny was excruciating. Dutton was embarrassing, particularly in his pathetic attempt to justify his opposition to the apology.

  72. THR

    I might be oblivious to it, but “death squads” and “free markets” are incompatible.

    Yes, on paper. Not in practice.

  73. JC

    ThR:

    Brazil is pursuing reform in the traditional sense as we know it. Brazil is also welcoming foreign capital into the country and doesn’t try to steal assets like Huggy Chavez.

    Lulus reforms are real and long lasting in the economic area and he has been good for the country and it’s one reason why they are doing so well.

    To suggest Brazil isn’t following traditional sorts of economic reform and implying that Venezuela is sorta perusing the same sorts of reform but at a faster pace is frankly not true.

    They can’t be any different.

    And so what if Lulu is center left. The guy has been an excellent president overall while Huggy Chavez has been an abomination. They fat lug is a joke.

  74. Michael Fisk

    Right. So if Stephen Conroy were shutting down independent TV and radio stations, it would be a “petty squabble”.

    I have a post caught up in moderation at the moment, due to the number of links. You can read it more closely later. The short of it is, Venezuela’s net oil receipts (after subtracting domestic consumption) were around $14 billion in 1999 and about $40 billion in 2005. This $26 billion difference was about $1,000 per person, or roughly 30% of average income in 2005. All back of the envelope figures, but you get the point. For that massive bonanza, Venezuelans got a 5% reduction in the poverty rate.

    Now the country is collapsing into a heap, due entirely to the disastrous socialist policies that were partially mitigated by a seven fold increase in oil prices.

  75. Michael Fisk

    In other news, despite Hugo Chavez’s active efforts to increase the murder rate in his neighbouring countries (by supporting the FARC murderers, for example), the Venezuelan homocide rate has easily outstripped the Colombian homocide rate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    This is a disaster.

  76. THR

    For that massive bonanza, Venezuelans got a 5% reduction in the poverty rate.

    I’ve said about three times already that Chavez is flawed in his policies and overly reliant on petrodollars. Quit repeating the trash you pick up on rightwing blogs and start thinking for a second. The main problem with Chavez is his failure to translate the petrodollars into something lasting. However, his reduction of his country’s poverty is far better than any comparable country, and a lot better than many richer countries. Also, there are some parallel things happening in Venezuela. The real ‘reform’ or revolution, to the extent that it’s occurring at all, is occurring in the slums, not in the treasury office. This will be the ultimate measure of Chavez’s success or failure, not whether some stooge agrees with Chavez’s media policies.

  77. Michael Fisk

    Um, no, I haven’t quoted anything from right-wing blogs. I simply researched actual economic data and did a rough calculation of the amount of money that Chavez has wasted. His revolution has been a bust.

  78. Michael Fisk

    It’s good to see that you support Chavez’s Conroy-Plus plans to censor the internet, BTW.

  79. No that’s just bullshit.

    It just doesn’t work that way. Re read what I wrote instead of making a quip.

    “These guys have pretty much a 1:1 correlation with death squads in the region.”

    What a crock of shit. Boy do you know how to use a shovel.

    Milt “ordered” death squads or it was inevitable? You’re delusional. Milt gave the best advice he could to a raging opportunist who should have gave up his power to a temporary replacement agreed to by him and Parliament.

    A politician tries to subvert the constitutional arrangements and he gets overthrown by the military and it doesn’t work out. You blame his foreign adviser who gives advice (and who opposes the draft, pro civil rights etc) that stops the place becoming a basketcase and lets it have an income when the terror ends.

    If you weren’t a myopic relic from 1930’s Russia, you’d blame Allende and Pinochet.

  80. dover_beach

    Are you forecasting that Chavez will bring in ‘experts’ from Chicago or the School of the Americas? These guys have pretty much a 1:1 correlation with death squads in the region.

    I think they dabbled in death squads in the region before the invention of the Chicago School, THR.

    Yes, on paper. Not in practice.

    Yes, I’m always bumping into death squads here in Oz as others must be in Europe, North America, and Asia.

  81. THR

    A politician tries to subvert the constitutional arrangements and he gets overthrown by the military and it doesn’t work out.

    Read carefully. I said correlation. Chicago boys weren’t pulling any triggers, but their presence in Chile and Bolivia correlated fairly precisely with those who were. And your attempt to justify a CIA-backed coup is pro-terror ‘liberalism’ at its worst.

    Note that I also mentioned the School of the Americas. These guys were much more hands on when it came to death squads.

    Yes, I’m always bumping into death squads here in Oz as others must be in Europe, North America, and Asia.

    A patronising tone doesn’t win arguments, dover. Have a look at some of Central Asia, for instance.

  82. JC

    Reliance on Petro dollars? It’s not like he relied on petro dollars and the market tanked leaving the country with a huge hole.

    Your supposition that he’s in trouble or not doing so well because of oil money is not right at all.

    He couldn’t be doing any better and yet the country is a miserable fucking failure compared to its neighbor that didn’t have the luxury of a continuing windfall.

  83. FFS THR. Correlation isn’t causation and I never “backed” the coup. Clearly I am saying it was a clusterfuck.

  84. THR

    Okay. I just don’t understand the insinuations that Allende was some kind of dictator, who brought a coup on his own head. It wasn’t directly said, but it was hinted at.

  85. He was turning sour. The legislature requested his removal after he suspended legislative authority and judicial independence:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende

    “Allende established a Marxist regime in Chile.[2] His economic policy resulted in inflation hich exceeded 300 percent a year. He adopted the policy of nationalization of industries and collectivization. His policy of collectivization resulted in expropriation of lands and crop production dropped. Protests were held in Chile against Allende’s rule.[3] The Supreme Court criticized Allende for subordination of the judicial system to serve his own political needs and the Chamber of Deputies requested the military to restore laws in Chile. After this request by the Chamber of Deputies, General Augusto Pinochet removed Allende from office[4] in a U.S.-backed[5] coup d’état on September 11, 1973 and this ended the Popular Unity government.[6][7] During the air raids and ground attacks that preceded the coup, Allende gave his last speech where he vowed to stay in the presidential palace.[8] The cause of his death was officially declared suicide.”

    As for the Deputies resolution:

    “Specifically, the Socialist Government of President Allende was accused of:

    * ruling by decree, thwarting the normal legislative system
    * refusing to enforce judicial decisions against its partisans; not carrying out sentences and judicial resolutions that contravene its objectives
    * ignoring the decrees of the independent General Comptroller’s Office
    * sundry media offenses; usurping control of the National Television Network and applying … economic pressure against those media organizations that are not unconditional supporters of the government…
    * allowing its socialist supporters to assemble armed, preventing the same by its right wing opponents
    * . . . supporting more than 1,500 illegal ‘takings’ of farms…
    * illegal repression of the El Teniente miners’ strike
    * illegally limiting emigration

    Finally, the resolution condemned the creation and development of government-protected [socialist] armed groups, which . . . are headed towards a confrontation with the armed forces. President Allende’s efforts to re-organize the military and the police forces were characterized as notorious attempts to use the armed and police forces for partisan ends, destroy their institutional hierarchy, and politically infiltrate their ranks[51].”

  86. Michael Fisk

    Let’s see if this gets past the mod:

    Net oil exports in 1999 (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Venezuela/Oil.html) were over 2.5 million barrels/day. Let’s say the average crude oil price in 1999 was around $15 per barrel. This means they received at least $14 billion of oil revenue in 1999. In 2005, net oil exports were around 2.2 million b/d, and prices averaged around $50. Which means Chavez was getting about $40 billion of oil export revenue in 2005.

    So, that’s an extra $26 billion per year / 26 million people in 2005, or $1,000 per person per year. This equalled about 30% of the average income in 2005 (http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/1206). So a country that enjoyed an economic rent windfall that could have increased incomes by 30%, achieved a very modest reduction in poverty over the same period. And now that oil prices have come back down again the economy is collapsing. It’s a bust.

  87. JC

    It wasn’t directly said, but it was hinted at.

    It wasn’t a coup at all. It was demanded by the Chilean supreme court.

  88. Michael Fisk

    By the way, does anyone have any figures on Colombia’s poverty rate from 2002 (when Uribe began his term) to now? Even this hostile site claims a reduction of 8% between 2002 and 2008.

    http://colombiareports.com/opinion/the-colombiamerican/6101-presidential-report-card-the-economy.html

    But the reduction in violence has been particularly heartening. It’s a shame that just as Colombia has moved towards peace, Venezuela has become the murder capital of Latin America.

  89. JC

    Columbia is one of the countries in Sth Am you would buy into, Fisk.

  90. Michael Fisk

    JC – Chavez’s IQ is about 105, tops. He’s a dullard who has no business running a moderate-sized country.

  91. JC

    I know and i actually think it’s less than that. He really is fucking dense.

    Years ago when i was living in the US I met Venezuelan guy of German extraction who would spend the northern summer in the US. He had a manufacturing business making valves or some boring junk like that. The dude had around 200 employees and it was a family business. He was a really nice guy and told how he treated the employees like family.

    He was so pessimistic about Chavez. I heard that he closed his business about 3 years ago and moved to the US with his family. Closed it down, not sold it, just closed it down.

    Atlas really does shrug.

  92. Michael Fisk

    You’re right. The guy is a low-IQ baboon as far as I’m concerned. Here he is embracing one of his cousins:

    http://specpol.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/chavez_ahmadinejad.jpg

    And here is a clip of him being put back into his monkey cage by the clearly exasperated Spanish Prime Minister (it didn’t work, because another low-IQ simian, this time from Nicaragua, broke loose and debased the summit even further).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3Kzbo7tNLg&feature=fvw

    Zero class.

  93. Rafe

    It is my understanding that Allende did not have a majority, he was the senior partner in a coalition that was formed on the basis of certain agreements, like no nationalisation of industry. He defied the coalition partner and pursued his own agenda, which did not have majority support.

    Acording to some reports Columbia is looking good right now, also it rates quite high on the Freedom Index. Venezuala ranks a little above the Sudan and Chad.

  94. dover_beach

    A patronising tone doesn’t win arguments, dover.

    You made a silly remark that suggested that ‘neoliberalism’ always involved death squads, THR. And now you’re pointing me to Central Asia as if that region has no history of political assassination, death squads, etc. It seems to me that the association of ‘neoliberalism’ and death squads is entirely spurious. BTW, as for patronizing tone, have you ever re-read your own remarks occasionally?

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