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Revitalizing manufacturing enterprise in the post-industrial void

By Murray Hunter - posted Tuesday, 28 April 2015


The growth of the neoliberalism school in the 1990s, with zealous implementation through variations of Thatcherism, Reaganomics, Rogernomics, and economic rationalism in Australia, has cleared the rich forests of local manufacturing enterprises that once existed in Europe, the US and Australia. Now barren level playing fields exist after being blasted with a cocktail of philosophical actions, which included market deregulation, privatisation of state-owned enterprises, near elimination of tariffs, with lower direct taxation, and higher inequitable indirect taxation.

Local economy was destroyed in the name of seeking a 'mythical' national comparative advantage, where each country would compete upon the global stage, doing 'what it could do best'.

One of the deep costs of neoliberalism has been the destruction of local economies for the lowest common denominator. A McDonaldscape exists in most places, where communities now tend to look physically the same. Through the rise of 'big business', most companies that serve the needs of local communities are outlets or franchises of multinationals. One part of a city looks like any other, and one town looks like another.

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This brave new post-industrial world is a bland one. Not only is it bland to the local vista, but bland in opportunity for any growth in employment due to large businesses moving their manufacturing centres offshore to the lowest bidder, while new technologies decrease the need for labour.

Today, small businesses find it difficult to survive, let alone grow due to the rush of market/business concentration that has occurred since the 1980s. Most businesses are now parts of chains or franchises, with most of the choice small family companies and brands having been taken over by conglomerates.

High barriers of entry which are almost insurmountable now exist due to market centralization. There are now fewer independent channels of distribution and very few independent retail chains around. And although markets have been deregulated in terms of competition, government has heavily regulated procedures and imposed so many operational requirements, that the cost of opening a new business is prohibitive. This has favoured the large chain businesses which can afford the high set up costs, come in over the small family businesses.

Today, the majority of goods and services consumed in local communities come from large rather than small business.

The socialscape in Europe, the US, and Australia now boasts almost a whole generation of dispossessed youth in terms of economic and entrepreneurial opportunity. The youth of today have few vocational skills relative to previous generations, experience in industry, or any sense of the strong work ethics that once existed as a cornerstone of society.

The above has occurred both in urban and rural regions where these countries have become the barren fields of material and spiritual poverty, with a distinct lack of hope running through the younger generation.

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Contemporary governments seem to be void of any visions of how to build their respective societies within their countries. The politicians of today seek election to run and operate government, rather than seek government as a means to enact new visions and directions for society.

Governments have become regulators, adding thousands of new laws and regulations to the statute books each year. Regulation, in the opinion of the author, has been one of the destroyers of community vitality, and as stated above, made the costs of opening and operating a business almost prohibitive.

Overzealous regulation by government has ripped out the soul of 'Western society'.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis.

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