I am entitling this post “Neoliberalism” even though what happened in this period was much more than the development of neoliberalism (also known as market fundamentalism) in the world, but that by itself is more than enough. As we’ve seen before at times of midpoint configuration between the three outer planets, things change in such a drastic way that it is hard to remember what life was like before that time. One could call it a “phase change” in society, a watershed moment, or a Zeitgeist (German for spirit of the time) change.
First we should define neoliberalism. My favorite definition, which I coined myself, is Market Über Alles, the market above all. Thus the demands of the market supersede anything else: We must lower the taxes on markets and those who run them, privatize everything, the government can not do anything right, regulation of markets (by the government) is bad so we must reduce regulation. These policies have been ascendant since this time; for another look at this phenomena see Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A History of the World in Three Castes by David Priestland.
We can see signs of this all around, and it is increasing: privatize the Post Office (it was partially privatized long ago), replace public schools with charter (ie., private) schools, replace the government-run military with private contractors, what use to be called in a simpler time mercenaries. Let the water system be run by private contractors. Replace government-run prisons with private prisons. How about private roads and bridges? And don’t forget medicine; trust the (private) insurance companies to provide you with health care.
First we must start with Ronald Reagan. Many people are upset at the title of Sean Wilentz’s book The Age of Reagan, but I realized that it is certainly true. Some President have such a wake that the administrations after them take on some of the same characteristics that the eponymous President’s administration had. Thus we speak of the Age of Jackson from at least 1829 when Andrew Jackson took office to 1861 when a Republican took office, the Age of Roosevelt, from 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt took office until 1974 when the last New Deal President resigned. And finally we have the Age of Reagan, starting when the sainted Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 and still going strong, in fact stronger than ever. Just as I believe those previous two Ages started before the named President was elected, and his election was just a concrete manifestation of the changes that took place in the country’s psyche, the Age of Reagan, the only one whose start I was able to witness, started before Saint Ronnie was elected. One can see many signs of the upcoming age under President James Earl Carter. Among other things, Carter deregulated the airline industry, the trucking industry, railroads, and he started the process of deregulating the telecommunication industry. He also got the CIA involved in Afghanistan before the Soviets invaded, a forerunner of Reagan’s boosting the Cold War. This is much like Roosevelt carrying forth ideas of Hoover to combat the Great Depression, as a member of FDR’s Brain Trust Rexford Tugwell pointed out. Conservatives who are not blind to Carter realize that just as it took a Republican to recognize Red China — as the expression Nixon in China well illustrates — it took a Democrat to realize the “miracle of markets” and start the ball rolling for neoliberalism. In fact, Carter’s final defense budget was greater than Reagan’s first. And he proclaimed the Carter Doctrine, that any threat to Middle East oil is a threat to America, and even force may be used to stop that threat.
Carter’s Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, early in 1979 convinced Carter to allow the CIA to set up operation against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, hoping to embroil the Soviets in what he called “their Vietnam” in that country. The Soviets took the bait to support the Afghanistan government, and the result was a long and bloody civil war that the next president was more than willing to support. From that came Osama Bin Landen, the Taliban, 9/11, and the continued involvement of America in Afghanistan still 35 years later. What may have seemed like a good idea at the time had long-ranging repercussions and the world is worse for that decision.
Another thing that Carter did that helped get neoliberalism started, even though it cost him the 1980 election, was to appoint Paul Volker head of the US Federal Reserve in July 1979 and Volker soon changed the monetary policy of the country, resulting in bad economic conditions that doomed the Carter presidency.
Half way around the world, China in 1978 got a new leader in Deng Xiaoping to replace Mao Tse-tung who had died a couple of years earlier. Deng started a massive change in the economic policy of China; he is reputed to have said “To be rich is glorious” which certainly could be a motto for neoliberalism. But the changes that he started in China are well known today in the United States, where it seems that more and more of the products for sale in our stores, whether cheap clothing or expensive computers, are made in China.
And in Great Britain in May of 1979 the shopkeeper’s daughter Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. She served as a good partner for Ronald Reagan, elected 18 months later, to remake the world in the vision of neolibreralism. Her motto was TINA — There Is No Alternative. And she certainly remade England, with her crushing of a coal miners strike being only the most obvious example. And governments after Thatcher, either Tory or Labor, followed the Thatcher formula. Even now Britain’s National Health Service, a beacon for the world, is being dismantled and replaced by private practice.
But on a more local level, California passed Proposition 13 in the Summer of 1978 to amend the Constitution of that state. Passage of this had profound implications for the state, and was a trendsetter for the country. The major effect of this act was to limit property taxes in the State of California, which hampered the construction of new schools, among other things. The act also required a two-thirds majority of both houses of the state legislature to change the state taxes. Since it was difficult to get such a majority in both houses, there became less and less money for such things as education, both for public schools and the state university system, which had been relatively inexpensive for residents and had been renowned for its quality. Both those things disappears in the aftermath of the passage of this act.
The National Rifle Association — NRA — is famous for their strong stand on the supremacy of the Second Amendment and their equally strong political stand. Many people forget that the NRA use to be a simple organization devoted to gun safety and teaching young people to handle firearms. Then, in 1977, there was a right-wing coup in the organization called the Revolt in Cincinnati; the NRA was taken over by a small band of firebrands and the organization was remade into the NRA we know today.
Iran has been ruled by an autocrat who had been put into office by a coup instigated by Kermit Roosevelt, son of Theodore, working for the CIA in 1954; this was Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His secret police SAVAK were notorious. But in 1979, while the Shah was out of the country, an Islamic revolution occurred which toppled the government that had been strongly backed by the United States. Ever since that time Iran has been ruled by an Islamic government and has been severely opposed by the United States government, which still does not have diplomats in that country.
This graphical ephemeris show a period of five years from the middle of 1976 through the middle of 1981, with the center at the start of 1979. The blue wavy line is transiting Uranus, and the other wavy line is the transiting Neptune-Pluto midpoint. You can see they start to get very close at the beginning of 1978, are in contact through 1979, and separate in 1980. The other chart near the top is a standard wheel for a specific time. In that you can see clearly Uranus at the midpoint of Neptune-Pluto. This was the third and last midpoint involving the three outer planets this century. The previous two midpoints, which have already been discussed, were in the first decade of the Twentieth Century and at the end of World War II.