Popular perception and critique: The free market and neoliberal economics

Many popular conceptions are false. The 2003 Iraq invasion was based on false connection by Cheney of Hussein and Al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attack, though the 911 Commission and the intelligence community reported no such connection (Pincus and Milbank 2004; Waas 2005). The murder of MG Soleimani was portrayed as a response to aggressions. Both have been argued above to be strategic actions to support U.S. influence on global, oil-based economics. Against popular climate denial in the U.S., climate impacts on agriculture have been shown to be especially damaging to women’s food security practices that put hunger at the core of the nexus dynamics of forced migration. Against portrayal of women as passive victims, active rape culture has been argued to expose women in forced migration to sexual violence through dehumanization to a body that is available for exploitation. These misconceptions are founded on false assumptions about global economics.

Popular neoliberal perception is that economics functions best as a ‘free market’ in which supply and demand interact to create an ‘invisible hand’ that balances economies by driving price up or down when a commodity is sparse or plentiful. Policy interventions, e.g. price controls, rationing, or rent control, disrupt this balance by creating excess demand that raises prices beyond the budget of the poor, or excess supply that lowers prices and drives companies into bankruptcy. Rationing and supply caps also prompt black market exchange. No market is, however, in actual fact ‘free.’ The obscure if not ‘invisible’ economic hand globally is the hand of governments and cartels through trade agreements, and land and oil appropriation, or sanctions such as embargos and tariff's.

Even what are commonly understood as well-intended interventions into a country’s economics cause harm in neoliberal contexts of global finance that create ‘maldevelopment’ (Mies and Shiva 1993). Aid programs create mass debt to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and attach unwelcome conditions. Jamaica’s entry into the global economy, for example, devastated its industry and agriculture (Black 2001); unemployment was still almost 10% in 2019 (Statista 2020) despite GDP growth from $3.5 billion USD in 1992 to 15.7 billion in 2018 (World Bank 2020). By favouring traditional metrics such as GDP, neoliberal approaches do not actually indicate lived experiences of poverty. For example, land appropriation for corporate agriculture looks like development because GDP goes up; but the woman previously farming that land for subsistence has lost her food source and livelihood. That is, economic success is perceived on the basis of capital outcomes rather than ecosystem and human well-being. Accordingly, governments are at best the tools of capital, at worst, its weapon.

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