Rubik Roy reviews 'Dead Right: How neoliberalism ate itself and what comes next' by Richard Denniss

Rubik Roy reviews 'Dead Right: How neoliberalism ate itself and what comes next' by Richard Denniss

Dead Right: How neoliberalism ate itself and what comes next

by Richard Denniss

Black Inc., $24.99 pb, 192 pp, 9781760641306

A spectre is haunting Australia, that of neo-liberalism. For the last thirty years, both major parties have subscribed to its tenets in order to propitiate big business. It is an ideology (and language) that dare not speak its name. Instead, from London, from Berlin, from Washington, DC, politicians beat the gongs of ‘efficiency’, ‘productivity’, ‘competitiveness’, and ‘incentive’. These are duly echoed in Canberra, causing banks to be deregulated and public assets to be privatised.

All this is contended in Richard Denniss’s Dead Right: How neoliberalism ate itself and what comes next, which is an updated and expanded version of his 2018 Quarterly Essay. Denniss, chief economist at the Australia Institute (a public policy institute in Canberra), makes a powerful argument for state intervention in the economy. Denniss is in favour of free markets but argues that even free markets need rules. In his view, the rich and powerful end up controlling markets, without regulation, denying equality and freedom of access for everyone else.

The economic pendulum has swung over the last four hundred or so years between state intervention and laissez-faire capitalism, but Denniss focuses on events in the twenty-first century, with occasional forays into the twentieth. He defines neo-liberalism as ‘the catch-all term for all things small government’ and describes it as the antithesis of democracy. However, its intellectual origins were more egalitarian. In the seventeenth century, European monarchs dominated economic policies; mercantilism was the norm. Classical liberalism emerged, alongside the Enlightenment, as a response when philosophers such as John Locke argued that certain individual rights could not be abrogated by anyone; furthermore, the state should serve the people and protect their rights. Economists such as Adam Smith advocated unfettered commercial transactions; supply and demand would control prices of goods and services. By the eighteenth century, classical liberal ideas led to democratic stirrings, culminating in the American and French Revolutions and the separation of church and state.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Rubik Roy

Rubik Roy

Rubik Roy is a casual academic and PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Flinders University, and is currently working on his first novel. He holds degrees in Arts and Law from The Australian National University, and a Masters in Journalism from the University of Queensland. He previously worked in the banking sector and as a public servant in the South Australian government.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.