George Monbiot is a regular contributor to The Guardian in the UK and is highly critical of the outcomes from neoliberalism as detailed in this article 'The ideology at the root of our problems'
The proponents of neoliberalism have contended that competitive individualistic profit maximising behaviour was a good thing, that we have dominant characteristics of selfishness and greed, and that stimulates enterprise, which produces wealth, which will somehow trickle down to enrich everyone.
George Monbiot gave a wonderful refreshing response when being interviewed on his latest book ‘Out Of The Wreckage’ .
He was given this question and his answer follows:-
Over the past 20 years or so, there has been a remarkable convergence of findings in neuroscience, psychology, anthropology and evolutionary biology. They all point to the fact that humankind, as this paper from 'Frontiers in Psychology' puts it, is “spectacularly unusual when compared to other animals” in our degree of altruism. There’s a list of references to scientific papers on this subject in Out of the Wreckage.
We also have an astonishing capacity for empathy, and a tendency towards cooperation that is rivalled among mammals only by the naked mole rat. These tendencies are innate. We evolved in the African savannahs: a world of fangs and claws and horns and tusks. We survived despite being weaker and slower than both our potential predators and most of our prey. We did so through developing, to an extraordinary degree, a capacity for mutual aid. As it was essential to our survival, this urge to cooperate was hard-wired into our brains through natural selection.
But the great tragedy we confront is that this extraordinary good nature has been hidden from us. Partly by our own perceptions. We have an inherent tendency to look out for danger. The violent and destructive behaviour of the few is more salient in our minds than the altruistic and cooperative behaviour of the many.
Of course, in any nation, there are people who do not share the general tendency towards altruism and empathy. We call them psychopaths, and they comprise about 1% of the population. Unfortunately they are disproportionately represented at the top levels of government and business. The current US president is a good example. We see them, and the way they behave, and tell ourselves that this is what human beings are like. It is not. It is what 1% of human beings are like.
But the other reason for this tragedy of misperception is that we are immersed in a virulent ideology of extreme individualism and competition, which tells us, against all the scientific evidence, that our dominant characteristics are selfishness and greed, and that this is a good thing, as it stimulates enterprise, which produces wealth, which will somehow trickle down to enrich everyone. This is the central ideology of neoliberalism, which valorises and centralises our worst tendencies, and celebrates the inequality and domination that results. One of our principal tasks is to replace this false story with what the science tells us about who we really are. We do not need to change human nature. We need to reveal it.