Turning back the clock

Turning back the clock

Share of all income received by the richest 1% in Britain, 1918–2005

Setting aside the old joke that anyone who really lived through the sixties wouldn’t remember them, I did and I remember great and terrible things. Among the great things were the movement and the legislation to desegregate US schools and society, and the protests on University campuses. Among the terrible things were the violent responses to both of these. So I’ve always been curious when neoliberals such as Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher blame all the ills of modern society as they see it (fecklessness, drunkenness, the breakup of the traditional family) on the sixties.
Clearly their politics was driven by the need to remake something which they saw as having gone wrong; they wanted a return to what they saw as a golden age.
As the graph above shows, what they have actually engineered a return to is the Gilded Age, the age of huge and increasing inequality between the richest and everyone else. And they have engineered it by professing a new age for economics and society while removing, piece by piece, all those institutions, regulations, and – most crucially – ideas which had been assembled since the Wall Street Crash to reduce inequality and poverty, such as universal healthcare, and public education.
The message of neoliberalism is that there are fundamental economic and social laws which cannot be changed, that There Is No Alternative: the actuality is that progress has been interrupted and driven back by the neoliberal project. We have returned to the 1920s. We will be returned to the 1780s before the project is done.


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