In my first university admission interview, the interviewer was baffled as to why I chose International Politics for my course even though I studied the Sciences and Maths for my A-Levels. I answered that I was always interested in global affairs and had some sort of idea on how the world ticks but was never given the opportunity to delve into it in high school or sixth form. I was given a place on that course but little did I know how ignorant I was. This is only a fraction of ideas I studied in university but it is the best way to show my rollercoaster of knowledge.
In my first semester of university, I was exposed to Karl Marx’s teachings which galvanised me and turn me into a Marxist sympathiser. I was never taught about Karl Marx in high school and only heard his name once or twice in conversations but I can see why so many people levitated towards his teachings. However, the more I studied him the more contradictions and problems arose as well as the impact it had on global politics even though it was not what Marx envisioned. Stalinism and Maoism, a mixture of Marxism and totalitarianism spoiled Marx’s name in the United States as well as the rest of the Western World. But socialism, if applied like in the Scandinavian countries, can be highly beneficial for the people and the economy.
Therefore, I continued with my journey of knowledge which led me to John Maynard Keynes. The Great Depression and the two world wars took a massive toll on the world’s economy in the first half of the Twentieth Century. The rise of communism threatened global capitalism but, Keynes, an eccentric man for his day, devised a plan to combat a shattered global economy by advising governments to have an active role in the economy. To briefly summarise Keynes’ ideas, the government’s job is to push the economy into the right direction when the economy was not doing so well through high spending and low-interest rates but do the opposite when the economy is doing well. This led to the golden age of capitalism with the rise of the middle class. However, Keynes was not alive to solve the 1970s global recession which had the combination of his stagflation and unemployment.
This led me to Fredrich Hayek’s neoliberalism, which I think is the most controversial one so far on my list. His idea was simple but revolutionised the global economy, it was deregulation and privatisation of governmental assets. In other words, it was to unshackle the economy from the government. He went as far to privatise all aspects of life including basic utilities like water and healthcare as well as the military where the government drew the line.
Nonetheless, I found his ideas the hardest to come to terms with because this made the wealthy even wealthier while punishing the poor. Neoliberalism has been the dominant form of thinking until the 2008 global economic crash, but the repercussions of the crash are still felt today with the rise of nationalistic parties.
In my journey of knowledge, one thing I am certain of is that, one theory cannot explain everything which is the reason why governments apply different aspects of different theories and which is why I questioned those who follow one set of theory
At the moment, I am more inclined to support some level of controlled capitalism like Keynes but allow the economy to readjust itself naturally without interference from the government or wealthy individuals and companies.
By Kaled Abdi