The policies of Milton Friedman are being implemented by the ConDem Coalition, and Labour isn’t even paying attention

I’m finding it hard to blog these days.  What is happening nationally is too depressing and Britain and the Left are sleep walking into the restructuring of British society.  No, I don’t mean the Big Society.  I don’t even mean severe cuts to public services.  No, something more fundamental is happening. 

Labour and media pundits agonise over aspects of government cuts, and Labour leadership candidates are obsessed about positioning themselves against each other.  Meanwhile the economic extremists in both the Tories and Lib Dems (David Laws having been in the vanguard and he will no doubt remain influential before returning to the Cabinet) are embarking on a programme of privatisation, dismantling the welfare state, and (in due course) tax cuts.

If anyone has read Naomi Klein’s brilliant ‘The Shock Doctrine’ will recognise that what is happening in Britain today comes directly from the philosophy of Milton Friedman.  Klein explains the concept of ‘Disaster Capitalism’ where there are “orchestrated raids on the public sphere” in the wake of a disaster or crisis, the crisis at this time being the near collapse of the banks and the ensuing economic crisis which is being used to justify just about anything.  And the Labour Leadership contenders fiddle while Britain is burnt.

Friedman wrote: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.  When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”.  Klein say that “some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas”.  Friedman believed that once a crisis happens, it is crucial to act swiftly to impose rapid and irreversible change before society slips back into what he describes as the “tyranny of the status quo”.

Friedman wrote that “a new administration has some six and nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity”.

The ideas of Milton Friedman are alive and well and thriving in the Conservative Party and on the right of the Lib Dems.  Both Cameron and Clegg worked for Moneterist ministers in Thatcher’s government, and their economic philosophies have evolved since then.  The only difference is that their presentational skills have also developed to ensure that they are seen as ‘compassionate’.  But the political and economic intentions are just the same.  David Laws gave the game away when he said that he wanted the cuts he proposed to send shock waves throughout Whitehall. 

The Welfare State is being dismantled before our very eyes.  Education (as in the USA where Charter schools are taking over) is being privatised through the acceleration of Labour’s Academies programme.  In due course the NHS will be privatised.  And Cameron and Clegg’s friends (and also those of Blair) are ready for some very rich pickings. 

And the Labour leadership contenders continue to fiddle.