The Neo-Liberal Project in the World and in Brazil Is Anti-Life and the Enemy of Nature


Leonardo Boff – TRANSCEND Media Service

18 Oct 2019 – I will address the reflections of one of our best philosophers, Manfredo de Oliveira, from the Federal University of Ceara, specialist in the relationship between the economy, society and ethics. His work on the topic is vast. We will summarize here a lengthy study on the project developed elsewhere, and now in Brazil: the ultra radical neo-liberalism.

de Oliveira writes:

«This project fundamentally consists of the radical extension of what is called “Economic Liberalism”. This theoretical economic current is known as the Chicago School. However, its philosophical foundations lie in the theses of the so called Austrian School, whose principal exponent is Ludwig von Mises. These are his basic theses: «the right of property is the only universal, fundamental and absolute right. It begins with the absolute right to one’s body and includes all the goods that can be acquired. From this right derives the absolute right of non aggression against one’s property and the right to defend that property.

«The State is seen as the great usurper of property. The only ethically acceptable institution in economic activity is the “Free Market”. Everyone in the free market has the same rights. Each individual is solely responsible for his objectives. Its rules constitute a mechanism similar to the laws of nature: they are objective, and humans cannot modify them. We must study human action as physics studies the laws of nature.

«In the same way that we cannot judge the law of gravity as good or bad, we cannot judge the laws of the market. There is no sense in positing ethical questions that belong on another level. Here the only question is its technical efficacy. The market is understood as a self organizing mechanism and as such it can be evaluated for its efficacy and not on an ethical basis.

«There are no rights other than the laws of the market. Consequently, inequality and exclusion have nothing to do with social injustice. Thus,poverty is not an ethical problem, but one of technical incompetence.The main error the opponents of capitalism commit is the accusation of social injustice, based on the idea that “nature” gave all persons some rights simply for having been born. For this reason, in reference to the distribution of wealth… «it makes no sense to refer to a supposed natural or divine principle of justice» (Cf. Mises L. von, The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, Auburn, 2008, p. 80, 81).

«Tax is a form of confiscation of property. Consequently, neither health, education nor justice, are legitimate when financed by the State. The poor are individuals who by their own fault lost the competition with others. Thus, merit emerges as the only criterion of social promotion.

«That social project is frequently denominated by Pope Francis as “anti-life”, “assassin of the poor and of nature”. It purports to oppose the Social Well Being State (in Brazil, Democratic State of Rights). This adheres to the following elements along the line of J. M. Keynes: 1) Intervention by the State in the mechanisms of the market; 2) Politics of full employment (improving the performances of citizens); 3) Institutionalization of the system of protection; 4) Institutionalization of help for those left behind by the work market.

«The result of this process has been the increase of the capacity of consumption of the least favored classes.

«The fundamental objective now, in the new model of neo-liberal society, is to maximize the profits made by capital. That makes social rights tend to disappear, along with deregulation of the labor markets, and that the wealth of the wealthiest increases. Hence the global crusade against intervention by the state, and the social and economic rights created by the policies of the Social State, because they constitute an obstacle to the functioning of the laws of the competence, and for that reason are considered irrational and populist policies. In this form, the defenders of the “totally free market” oppose social policies, considered inefficient and disruptive of the productive process.

«The path now is to totally trust in the market as a self-organizing system that, once free from regulation and undue intervention, solves by itself the socio-economic problems.

«In this context it is seen that the basic axis of the project of civilization is now the subordination of human’s quality of life to the accumulation of capital.

«It is important, then, to recognize that the results of this process threaten human life and all life on the planet. The unlimited exploitation of nature is seen in the socio-environmental catastrophes. The most prestigious scientists warn us of the fact that the current economic model can lead humanity to an ecological and social collapse».

If Bolsonaro and Guedes accept this ultra-neo-liberal project, they will create a country with millions of poor and even pariahs, with a few rich and a handful of multimillionaires, a country that is not just poor but also unjust.


Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian, ecologist, writer and university professor exponent of the Liberation Theology. He is a former friar, member of the Franciscan Order, respected for his advocacy of social causes and environmental issues. Boff is a founding member of the Earthcharter Commission.

Translation from Spanish by Melina Alfaro, Done at Refugio Del Rio Grande.

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