THE NATION REVIEWED
Comments by Don Watson and Richard Denniss, plus Patrick Witton and Josephine Rowe
He who gnaweth a cow’s horn gnaweth in vain and shorteneth his life; for he grindeth away his teeth, yet his belly is empty. So said an Indian prophet, we are told. Astute as his observation was, to be fair to inveterate gnawers the example of a dog will tell you how hard it is to give the thing up once you’ve started in on it. It’s not for nutrition that dogs go on chewing a cow’s horn long after the last flecks of blood and viscera have gone, but for the narcotic effect of the chewing. I have seen them: a dog with a cow’s horn falls into a kind of stupor from which no amount of shouting, whistling or clod-throwing can release it. I have seen the same thing – we all have – among the power elites.
For three decades now, the politicians and their advisers, economists in both public and private spheres, many of the media wiseacres, and pretty well all our business leaders, including the most egregious rent-seekers, have had their jaws jammed round the idea that free markets are in every way beautiful, and that government, even of the most democratic kind, is the market’s natural enemy and tends always to the horrid – even towards “evil”. Call it what you will – economic rationalism, neoliberalism, trickle-down economics, monetarism, Friedmanism, Hayekism – this is the cow’s horn of the political culture.
How else has the doctrine survived the madness performed in its name? Put aside the full-blown atrocities of the ideology in practice that Naomi Klein describes in The Shock Doctrine. Forget the criminal tragedy of Russia that gave the world Vladimir Putin. Forget the grotesque inequality that gave it Donald Trump. Forget the 2008 financial debacle. Leave out altogether, if you will, the example of the United States, where the doctrine evolved in partnership with the long campaign by corporations and “libertarian” ideologues to reverse the New Deal and stamp out every other manifestation of Keynesian and liberal thinking. Forget the corporatisation and debasement of American democracy. As the American journalist Matt Taibbi said in a 2009 article about