Since the 1980s, successive waves of ‘economic reform’ have radically changed the Australian economy. We have seen privatisation, deregulation, marketisation, and the contracting out of government services such as transport and education. For three decades, there has been a virtual consensus among the major political parties, policy makers and commentators as to the desirability of the neoliberal approach.
Today, however, the benefits of economic reform are increasingly being questioned, including by former advocates. Alongside growing voter disenchantment, new voices of dissent argue that instead of free markets, economic reform has led to unaccountable oligopolies, increased prices, reduced productivity and a degraded sense of the public good.
In Wrong Way, Australia’s leading economists and public intellectuals do a cost-benefit analysis of the key economic reforms, including child care, aged care, housing, banking, prisons, universities and the NBN. Have these reforms for the Australian community and its economy been worthwhile? Have they given us a better society, as promised?