In the Harvey article in (“Freedom’s Just Another World”, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, 2005) the question of why we have acquiesced in this state of affairs, I find it hard not to comment on the education of economics classes still being taught in Universities across the world and our over indulgence of material goods as reasons that most of us have done nothing to stop this.

At first, these conversations leave me disheartened. Here we are, in full planetary emergency, a time when we need new young graduates with a realistic understanding of what is wrong with the world, with skills that will help humanity chart a new course. And what do economics departments in big universities aspire to churn out? Individuals trained to not recognize symptoms of impending collapse, trained to ignore appalling inequality, trained to celebrate waste, trained to be closed-minded and unwilling to engage with different disciplines. We need to leave these teachings of the theory out of classrooms. A growing body of research into happiness, much of it by economists, shows that following many of the policies promoted by neoliberalist economists is a pretty good recipe for minimizing happiness in all corners of the universe.

Another reason so many working class members specifically in North America have avoided challenging the neoliberal theory is we still seem to live high on the thrill of early capitalism. We loved the cars, the airplanes, the endless aisles of mega marts with mass-produced goodies. We loved the feeling that each new purchase brings. And then along came the technology: the flat screens, MacBooks, iPhones and Xboxes. Every technological breakthrough makes us feel more connected, more human and more whole. But when the economy collapses and we began to tumble … suddenly we aren’t so sure anymore. Are we becoming immersed in product advertising? The line between necessity and luxury – once blurred becomes a reality – coming into sudden, violent focus. What pleasure is there in a 50-inch plasma if you don’t have a wall to hang it on? What joy does a brand new automobile bring if climate change looms large on the horizon? The endless credit forced on us, and the practice of living well beyond our means, suddenly hits home. Our North American thirst for freedom in purchasing and wasting has placed us in a terrible form of existence for everyone in our world.

And now, as belts tighten and paradigms crumble, I hope we’re hearing the first whispers of a post-consumer era … the dawning of a post-materialist age. Maybe this is the point in history when citizens will stand up and call out what this sickness is. The theories of neoliberalism are not free, maybe now we see what these forms of economic theory have done to the rest of us.
The freedom we are being sold and the economics we are being taught indeed come with a true cost. The benefits are not for the majority of us but for the elite.

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