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Pointing Right

United Kingdom
United States

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THE NEW RIGHT [image, unknown] The facts

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Pointing Right
You have to measure up a tough set of criteria to qualify as a bonatide New Right government. Our correspondents analyse their own country's administrations to see how they rate on the New Internationalist 'pointing score card.

Key indicators of New Right ideology

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Great faith is placed on the value of a free and unhindered market and the beneficial effects of private enterprise. High priority is given to reducing inflation, whatever the social costs. Tax cuts regarded as essential to restore incentives to the wealth generators - corporations and top income earners.

The state has taken over too many welfare functions better done by charities or the family; like care of the old, sick and small children. The ‘featherbedding’ of the work shy should be discouraged by lowering unemployment pay and making it more difficult to receive.

Foreign policy is conducted with the understanding that communism and the USSR are the essence of evil. Military strength is therefore a priority to combat this menace. National and racial pride is emphasized.


Leader: Ronald Reagan
(Republican Party)
In office: 1980

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In its first year the Reagan revolution swept to Washington with hymns to the free market. the virtues of wealth and a determined attack on big government and the welfare state. Policy reflected ideology with massive individual and corporate tax cuts, substantial cuts in domestic social spending, tight monetary policies, an attack on government safeguards of health, safety and the environment and a boom in military spending. The implicit goal: shift income and wealth to the rich from the poor. The 1981 tax cut lowered taxes for wealthy Americans far more than for the less fortunate. Reagan singled out ‘big government’ interference as the principal cause of inflation. Curiously enough, 1983 saw ballooning government spending and lower interest rates bringing less unemployment and a booming economy - in direct opposition to the monetarist policies Regan claimed to espouse.

Since 1980 more than two million US children have become officially poor. The percentage of families living below the poverty line has increased to over 14%. This is not surprising given the targets of the spending cuts: employment and training pro grammes, health, education, food stamps, child nutrition, housing subsidies - all programmes which had lifted some of America’s poorest citizens out of poverty in the past two decades. The govemment has also encouraged anti-labour, union-busting campaign in the private sector, signalled by Reagan’s firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Reagan’s brand of nationalism is fuelled by intense anti-communism. It’s doctrine has three elements: Soviet-Cuban adventurism threatens the stability of the Third World (and US interests there); the US has been too soft in the past; it is time to stand up to Soviet-inspired insurgency. This logic has led the Administration to push for $1.6 trillion (trillion - a million million) in military spending between 1982 and 1987. Other government spending was cut but military spending went up. It took 32% of the federal budget this year as against 23% in 1980. By 1987 it is expected to reach 37%. Anti-communist obsession has also led to a dramatic increase in US military intervention - in El Salvador and Nicaragua, in Lebanon and, most recently, in Grenada.

By Richard Kazis.


Leader: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal Party)
In office: 1968-79, 1980-

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The health of the Canadian economy is closely tied to US economic growth because 70% of Canadian trade is with the US. High interest rates have stalled growth and dampened demand. The resulting recession has squeezed inflation down to four percent but unemployment has spurted to 10%. In traditional have-not provinces like Newfoundland, the jobless rate hovers close to 30%. Unlike the US, Canada has an important state-owned sector including airlines, railways, broadcasting and public utilities, Ottawa has increased its subsidy programme for private industry and has strongly endorsed ‘voluntary wage restraint for workers in the private sector.

Canada’s national medicare programme is now at the centre of debate. In the country’s two-tier system the provinces control vital areas of welfare like education, welfare spending, health and social services. The federal government is run by the Trudeau Liberals but most of the provinces are run by cost-conscious Tories. The result has been increased pressure to charge for doctor and hospital services. With declining schools enrolment, education boards across the country are refusing to agree on new spending. Some cutbacks have hit traditional social services like family counselling, daycare and support for the disabled, the elderly and young people.

Sharing a border with a superpower, Canada has a long history of trying to maintain control of its culture and economy. This has led to significant state support for the arts. But Trudeau is wary of nationalist sentiments, having had to devote much of his time in office to cooling out Quebecois nationalists in his home province. Instead he has stressed bilingualism, making French schooling and government services universally available. Trudeau’s stature as a senior statesman, his friendship with leaders like Julius Nyerere and Indira Gandhi, and recent globe-trotting disarmament initiatives have all helped to cement his ‘internationalist’ image. Never a military power, Canada has a neutral role which has - more often than not - led to tacit support for US foreign policy.

By Wayne Ellwood


Former leader: Malcolm Fraser
(Liberal Party)
1975 - 1983 (main photo)

Present leader: Bob Hawke
(Australian Labor Party)
1983 - (inset photo)

(Hawke administration)
provisional assessment
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Was Fraser’s government of the New Right? The stereotype does not quite fit the Friedman mould (See here for Friedman’s ideas). And the last budget deficit was many billions of dollars overspent. Fraser preached free market at home and death to protectionism abroad - which is correct New Right rhetoric. But he was gentle with business, providing tax concessions, investment allowances, increased profit retention allowances and maintaining tariff barriers on imports: all most incorrect for a New Right government. Elected on platform of fighting inflation and cutting govemment spending, redistribution of income has tended to be from lower to higher social groups. Some progress with inflation was made. But deflationary policies sent unemployment soaring, in turn boosting government spending on the dole.

The size of government overspending has hampered the incoming Labour administration. Legislation to control tax avoidance been blocked by the opposition-controlled Senate. There is a worrying enthusiasm by for Hawke’s govemment by big business.

Having promised to retain Labor’s national health scheme Medibank, Fraser instead began dismantling it Following electoral scare in 1980 there was much talk about helping ‘genuine needy’ but little attempt to define who they were.. Funding for the neediest Australians (the Aborigines) was cut by 22% in the first two years of Fraser’s administration.

With the return of Labor, Medibank has risen from the dead as Medicare. Moves to combat sex discrimination are also under way. Hawke backs uranium mining, which could contradict his pledge to improve land rights legislation for Aborigines.

As with domestic policies, foreign affairs for Fraser’s administration were a confused New Right position. He was a key figure in the Zimbabwe settlement and a dedicated enemy of apartheid - most un-New-Right - but also a Cold War warrior to gladden Reagan’s heart. He made the usual genuflections to the Australia-US alliance. Fraser also played the sporting card vigorously, being photographed with any Australian winner, however obscure. He was later to lose this title to Bob Hawke who has revelled in the America Cup and Davis Cup wins. The new Labor leader has signalled approval for Reagan’s Central American policy. And he has ignored his party’s opposition to Indonesian absorption of East Timor.

By Cameron-Forbes


Leader: Margaret Thatcher
(Conservative Party)
In office 1979-1983, 1983-

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The Thatcher government is one of the world’s leading exponents of monetarism. Central to it s policy is the reduction of government spending to reduce inflation. And strict control of money supply. Inflation, 22% in 1979-80, is now down to 5%. In theory, regeneration of the economy was to be achieved by new businesses encouraged by tax cuts. In practise, company bankrupt cies in England and Wales is up from 4,537 (1979) to 12,039 (1982). The tax burden on the average worker has risen from 44% in 1979 to 48%now - £6 a week more. Only the highest paid are better off - supertax has been reduced from 83% to 60%. Official unemployment is also up from 1.2 million (1979) to 3 million. Investment in manufacturing is down 36% - the lowest since 1959. More manufactured goods were imported in 1982 than exported for first time since the Industrial Revolution.

Public spending cuts have hit education, health, housing and social benefits. They are justified in terms of good housekeeping and encouragement of ‘self help’. This is the first government to cut benefits since the 1930s. Invalidity benefit has been cut by 5%. And there has been great publicity for campaigns against social security fiddling by the poor. But action against wealthy tax evaders has been undermined by cuts in staff fighting an estimated £4000 million tax losses. Spending on school textbooks has fallen by 6 1/2% in primary schools, 11% in secondary schools. At the same time £12 million a year is spent on assisting parents use of private schools. National Health Service spending has also been cut in real terms, with prescription charges up 600%.

The Falklands War in 1982 gave new popularity claimed as part of a resurgence of Victorian values that ‘made Britain great’. The popular appeal of the war far exceeds resentment at its cost (1983-4) garrison costs £424 million the estimated cost of Fortress Falklands by 1986 is £3,000 million).

Defence spending has increased to 5.3% of GNP (£20 a week in taxes for each family of four), a level only surpassed by the US and USSR. The independent nuclear programme, Trident, has been approved at a cost of £10,000 million in its first 12 years.

By Chris Brazier

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