Markets Good, Public Bad: The False Promises of Market Populism

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1746 ... January 22, 2019

Markets Good, Public Bad: The False Promises of

Market Populism

Ingo Schmidt

Ruling elites stand naked. No more hoping for a rising tide to lift all boats. No more waiting for the trickle down. Fears of drowning in the maelstroms of global finance abound. Feelings of powerlessness among the have-a-little-bits and have-nots fuel the hate of the even more down-trodden and the yearning for the good old welfare state. Bereft of their market populist cover, ruling elites publicly bemoan the rise of xenophobic populism on the right but are really concerned about flares of left populism that might develop into a challenge to the unbridled power of capital.

Yet, the anti-populism from above is helpless in several ways. First, it is blind to the... role its own brand of populism -- market populism -- played in rolling back the countervailing powers of labour and other social movements. Second, it doesn’t realize that telling the people that they shall not be populist confirms the populist charge of arrogant elites who are disconnected from the anxieties and aspirations on main street. Third, professed anti-populism doesn’t correspond to a change in direction. Occasional avowals of understanding ordinary peoples’ concerns coupled with promises of change always end up in the profit-enhancing policies that did so much to produce the economic crises, social inequalities and insecurities that undermined the legitimacy of market-rule in the first place. In so many variations, the ‘market über alles’-theme remains the same.

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