'Revenge of the Rich' – Austin Mitchell Returns to The Fray
Austin Mitchell’s new book 'Revenge of the Rich: The Neoliberal Revolution in Britain and New Zealand,' published by Canterbury University Press, charts the development of a market-driven neoliberal creed, where governments are devoted to efficiency, cost-cutting and austerity at the people’s expense.
Many New Zealanders will remember Mitchell’s best-selling book The Half-Gallon Quarter-Acre Pavlova Paradise (1972). In this new outspoken opinion piece, Mitchell – who was a long-serving British Labour MP for Grimsby denounces the economic policy of the last three decades as “a long march down Dead-End Street” – a neoliberal experiment that has benefitted the rich and eroded the “good society” with its welfare state and government commitment to the betterment of the people.
In Revenge of the Rich Mitchell considers how neoliberalism became government policy in Britain and New Zealand and discusses its consequences in terms of greater inequality, lower growth and higher unemployment.He believes this book is the first to look at the rise and fall of neoliberalism as the prevailing ideology in the two countries where it was imposed “further and faster” than in any others.
The role of the state was cut back and power handed to the market, he says.
“In both countries industry declined, assets were sold to survive and the social balances which had been tilted to the people after the war were tilted back to wealth. Taxes on business and the rich fell as their share of Gross Domestic Product increased. The result, in each country, was a revolt of the people, voting for proportional representation in New Zealand to tie the hands of the politicians and, much later, voting for Brexit in Britain as the people and the regions left behind by the austerity said ‘enough is enough’.”
Mitchell says that gaps between the rich and the less well off in both Britain and New Zealand have been widened over the three decades of neoliberalism. Ultimately, he would like readers to take a hopeful message from the book: “Things don't have to be this way and alternative policies become possible if governments listen to the people rather than follow an ideology,” he says.
In the book’s foreword the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, who was prime minister of New Zealand 1999–2008 says:
“Agree with it, or disagree with it, love it or loathe it, Austin Mitchell’s writing provokes us to reflect on what our common future could be. It is written in a lively fashion with highly quotable turns of phrase.”
About the author
Austin Mitchell lived in New Zealand for eight years while lecturing in political science at the universities of Canterbury and Otago. He was one of the first lecturers in the newly formed Political Science Department at the University of Canterbury (in 1964–67), and returned to UC as a Canterbury Scholar in 2016 to deliver a series of summer lectures. In the UK he has been successively a Fellow of Nuffield College, a journalist for the BBC and ITV, and the Labour MP for Great Grimsby from 1977 to 2015.