After World War II, the Keynesians reformers took unjustified credit for the postwar economic upswing. Similarly, in the 1980s the extreme right-wing governments that came to power in Britain in 1979 and the United States in 1980 also took unjustified credit for the end of the protracted economic crisis of 1968-1982.
These right-wing governments attempted to take back as many concessions as possible that had been granted to the working class after World War II. At first, the policies of the new reactionary governments was called “monetarist,” but later they were called “neoliberal” for reasons that will become apparent below.
As I mentioned last week, the “monetarist,” or “neoliberal,” era in the United States actually began with the appointment of Paul Volcker as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board by the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter in August 1979. The post-World War II reformist era had been made possible by the generally expansionary economic conditions that prevailed between 1948 and 1968. The collapse of the London Gold Pool in March 1968 marked the end of the early post-World War II era of capitalist prosperity.
Attempts to relaunch the post-World War II capitalist prosperity through Keynesian methods repeatedly failed during the 1970s. This was the economic basis for the new era of reaction that was symbolized by the election of Ronald Reagan in the November 1980 U.S. presidential election, as well as the rise to power of Margaret Thatcher in Britain with her “there is no alternative” slogan.
What Thatcher really meant was that there was no “Keynesian” alternative to her reactionary “monetarism” as long as the British pound was plunging in value both against gold and even against the dollar on world currency markets.