How Neoliberalism Made me Selfish


It’s just after lunchtime here on Moon Base 170, and before I get onto the second half of my days work, I wanted to clear out my mind with a blog post.

Saturday was election day in New Zealand, and while the final configuration of parliament is still being negotiated, as has become normal under the proportional representation system, it’s petty clear that New Zealand has voted for a continuation of a neo-liberal approach to governance.

It seems to me that neo-liberalism posits that government can’t be trusted to run the show, and in the past, as evidence, it’s proponents point to the strikes in 1970s England, oversupply of some products, shortages of others. In the neo-liberal model, the best system to smooth out all the wrinkles of supply and demand is the market.

My take is that “the invisible hand of the market”, pretty quickly devolves into rich guys, and their mates (I say “guy” advisedly, the participation rates of women in senior business is very low, and the participation of non-binary and trans individuals is zero). So, you could say I’m not a huge fan of neo-liberalism.

But there’s another side to neo-liberalism. The dogma that has dominated my life since my childhood in the 1980s. And that is the fact, that under this system, I have been nudged into taking a selfish stand in my life.

In the neo-liberal model, there is a great emphasis placed on the individual as a cog in the machine, and this cog want’s to “rationally maximise it’s utility”. Which is to say, me and you are viewed as selfish little sociopaths, who will do what ever it takes to max out our profits, or salaries, and we will do this at the expense of others.

This isn’t how I am, and if you are reading my words, there’s a good chance it isn’t you either.

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But there have been changes along the way that push us towards taking this position. The abolishment of compulsory unionism being one of the big once. So instead of using a collective advantage when negotiating salaries, we now are pitted against each other, and our employers. There’s a lot written about how this disadvantages people in their working conditions. I’d add to that, that is makes us more selfish too, because we are rewarded for that attitude, and even if we wanted to act as a part of a collective, those collectives have been weakened.

So I’m buckling in for another three years of looking out for myself. It’s not an enticing prospect, especially because I believe that fundamentally humans are social creatures looking for meaning as part of a collective, but we are encouraged to act alone in this crazy world.


  1. Neoliberalism is the dog eat dog approach and look after ones self, it also encourages cronyism whereby you work yourself into a position of power to feather ones own nest. Meanwhile you kick the shit out of everyone else so they become subserviant ?

    We are reverting back to feudalism with the overlords and the serfs ?

  2. I maintain that a clear viable alternative to neoliberalism for New Zealanders to vote for was not available . So we don’t know how NZ would have voted if it was. Some wanted to hold the hope that Labour / Greens represented such , but there is not sufficient evidence to assume that; it remains a hope. Some voted for Winston who at least says he is against it, but NZF is not a significant enough player for the electorate at large to hope they might become the government. So their support is limited to those who stubbornly vote for the principles they believe in knowing their vote is almost wasted. It is what people deem the lesser evil that they have to vote for. Until a major party unequivocally denounces neoliberalism we will never know what most people want.
    D J S

    • If NZ First choose to govern with Labour and the Greens (and drop their policy on lowering corporate taxes), we will have our first post-neoliberal government in 30+ years. The Greens have always been against deregulation that hurts people and our environments, corporatization and privatization of public organisations, ‘corporate rule treaties’ (“free trade agreements”), and the various other manifestations of “neoliberalism”. As for Labour, their new leader recently agreed with reformed neo-lib Jim Bolger that neoliberalism has failed:

      This is what a narrow majority of kiwis voted for, and I expect that majority will be larger after the specials are counted. It’s up to Winston and co. whether or not they get it this year, or in 3 years time.

  3. Great post. Neolib is competitive, ie working against – against each other, against the environment, against anything that isn’t in our immediate bubble. The alternative is working, and benefiting, together.

    The only people who ‘suffer’ under the latter are the rich and selfish. And who needs them? We could all be wealthy if we ditched the m/billionaires.

  4. LaQuisha It is not your fault for being selfish.

    We are always wired to follow the leaders/stateperson’s who fills our lives with their principals & purpose, so we had a very selfish self-centred leader and his Government who cared very little for us all, even those less fortunate than others, so we follow suit, its that simple really.

    Love you always so be kind to all.

  5. The other element in the mix that doesn’t get so much airplay is the whole “self help” industry and the “you can do/achieve anything if only you work/strive hard enough” mantra – that by inference divides society and community into winners and losers.
    On the losing side? Well it’s your own inadequate fault, sucker.

  6. You may be “looking for meaning as part of a collective” but that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare to me. Perhaps you’re not old enough to remember how things were in the more socialist, unionist and conformist times under Muldoon et al.

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