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October 12, 2014 | by  | in Features | [ssba]


In this opinion piece, I would like to make a simple ethical argument. The argument is that those with privilege have a moral responsibility to undermine illegitimate authority. I do not mean those privileged in the business and state sector, who, I might be expected to argue, should try to undermine their own authority. It would be a moral thing for them to do so, but given the history of those two institutions we shouldn’t expect it. There are people who have smaller privileges, such as having the opportunity to write honestly to thousands of students. That is the privilege that Salient has. When I speak of illegitimate authority, I mean those who are responsible for New Zealand’s biggest political change in the last 30 years. The change towards neoliberal policy.

What is ‘neoliberalism’? Neoliberalism is the policy of stagnating real wages, persistent unemployment, an atomised workforce, turning social-purpose-driven assets into short-term profit-purpose-driven assets, the introduction of student fees, socialising costs while privatising profit through bailouts and state subsidies. Increasing prison, military and ‘intelligence’ spending, while cutting social spending. The three biggest political parties unanimously support neoliberalism, with the Left being slightly less supportive than the Right. Neoliberalism, in a sense, is a war on the population. One side of that war wishes to impose a certain human nature in the population. That human nature consists of not caring about other people, being passive, obedient, and not being able to even have the thought that you should have some sort of say in the political decisions that matter.

If we trace back the causes of neoliberalism, it is not hard to find out where it came from. Trace it back 200 years, and it is what was called ‘classical liberalism’. Which, after being perverted into an ideology, came to espouse the belief that a human’s value is that which they can bargain for on the marketplace. But let’s just go back about 40 years, when that value system was repackaged and hence called ‘neoliberalism’. The policies of neoliberalism were designed and implemented by American elites. In American academia, economists trained at prestigious universities became the priests of neoliberalism, by using economic models to justify the system that America was about to impose on the Third World. Some of the economists were trained at MIT or Chicago University, and went back to run the economies of Latin American countries. In all of the countries which followed the advice of these economists, the economy became a complete disaster. This is why political scientists call the 1980s ‘The Lost Decade’, since there was little-to-no economic growth for the Third World during this period.

In New Zealand, neoliberalism was introduced in 1984. But not because it was imposed. Professor Jane Kelsey in The New Zealand Experiment documented the implementation of neoliberalism, which was something our country’s arrogant and deluded leaders took up voluntarily, dismissing the overwhelming opposition to them by the general population which reached its peak during the 1990s with a depression. In our own universities, economists took to teaching the economic models that support neoliberalism.

Well, since the ’80s, things haven’t got much better. There has been some reversion, but not much. In some cases, it has gotten worse. In academia, there has been overwhelming passivity and obedience towards these changes. Most economists have become a major threat to the population by taking up the teaching of these economic theorems. This has come from rejecting the moral principle I argue for: that privileged people should undermine illegitimate authority. And instead of undermining authority, most of academia has been obedient towards it, whether they justify it or do nothing about it.

One critic, economist and Professor Steve Keen argues (while referring to the dominant school of thought in economics) that, “if change is to come, it will be from the young, who have not yet been indoctrinated into a neoclassical way of thinking.”

We who are young must challenge the authority of those who want us to obey. And I believe Salient has a great responsibility to do this, since they have the power to write for thousands of students.

Salient could start by removing some of the news which shouldn’t really be called news but infotainment.

There are plenty of cases of illegitimate authority around here that we can question. For example, the student fees which have been rising have no good justification behind them, certainly not the one given by the Vice-Chancellor. Student fees are simply there to increase obedience. They indoctrinate students such that they have to work more, and when people work more they have less time to think about fighting the human nature that businesses want to instil in us.

Anonymous is a student double majoring in mathematics and philosophy. He wishes to give himself and others a way to defend themselves vs illegitimate power that stems from our institutions; namely the corporations, state, media and university.



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