Neoliberalism: A Quick Follow-up

by Corey Robin on April 29, 2016

My post on neoliberalism is getting a fair amount of attention on social media. Jonathan Chait, whose original tweet prompted the post, responded to it with a series of four tweets:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.46.41 PM

The four tweets are even odder than the original tweet.

First, Chait claims I confuse two different things: Charles Peters-style neoliberalism and “the Marxist epithet for open capitalist economies.” Well, no, I don’t confuse those things at all. I quite clearly state at the outset of my post that neoliberalism has a great many meanings—one of which is the epithet that leftists hurl against people like Chait—but that there was a moment in American history when a group of political and intellectual actors, under the aegis of Peters, took on the name “neoliberal” for themselves. That’s who I was talking about in my post.

Second, contrary to Chait, Peters did not in fact invent the term “neoliberal” or “neoliberalism” in 1983. The term was coined by a group of mostly conservative free market intellectuals, meeting in Paris in 1938 at the Colloque Walter Lippmann, in order to counter the rise of democratic socialism and welfare-state liberalism in Western European and the United States. Eventually, that group would coalesce after World War II as the Mont Pelerin Society, with Friedrich Hayek at the intellectual helm.

Third, the reason that earlier coinage matters, and isn’t just a point of scholarly pedantry, is that while some scholars will challenge what I’m about to say, the program that that original group of neoliberals set out at Mont Pelerin does in fact bear a resemblance to the word “neoliberalism” that often gets bandied around by the left today. Insofar as that was a program to rollback the welfare state and social democracy, to revalorize capital and the capitalist as a moral good, to proclaim the ideological supremacy of the market over the state (the practice is more complicated), “neoliberal” is in fact a useful term to describe a political program that has gained increasing traction around the globe in the last half-century.

It’s important to distinguish neoliberalism in this sense—that is, neoliberalism as a political program—from neoliberalism as a system of political economy. Scholars and activists on the left disagree, fundamentally, about the latter, with some claiming that what we call neoliberalism as a form of political economy is merely capitalism. I’m deliberately side-stepping that debate in order to focus on neoliberalism as a political and ideological program.

(It’s also important to acknowledge that one of the reasons the term “neoliberalism” can be confusing is that outside of the United States, particularly in Europe, liberal has often meant support for free markets and a critique of the welfare state and social democracy. Inside the United States, liberal, at least throughout most of the 20th century, meant support for the welfare state and state intervention in the economy. Get into a discussion about neoliberalism on Twitter, and you inevitably find yourself crashing on a beachhead of this confusion. Personally, I think it’s about as interesting and relevant as that Founding Fathers fanboy who’ll periodically pop up in a discussion thread claiming that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. I merely note it here in order to acknowledge the point and move on.)

Fourth, insofar as Peters and his group of neoliberals in the United States declared the fundamentals of their political program to be: a) opposition to unions; b) opposition to big government (except for the military); and c) support for big business, I find the term “neoliberal” to be useful not only for describing Peters and his crew but also for relating that crew to the overall program of neoliberalism, which I noted in point 3 above, and which today characterizes a good part of the Democratic Party. In other words, while I deliberately did not conflate Peters’s neoliberalism with the leftist epithet for Democrats that Chait objects to, there is in fact a relationship between Peters’s neoliberalism and today’s Democrats (more on this below).

(Incidentally, if you think I was being unfair to Peters-style neoliberalism, I urge you to read this interview Peters gave to Ezra Klein back in 2007, where he reiterates the basics of the program as I outline them here and in my post, and says, forthrightly, “I think in many, many areas, the neoliberals, in effect, won.” That is, they changed liberalism (again, more on this below.) The only plank of the original program that Peters thinks needs to be pursued more forcefully is crushing teachers’ unions and means testing mass entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.)

Fifth, the inspiration for my post, as I said, was a tweet from Chait in which he takes particular delight in professing an impish disbelief in the term “neoliberal,” as if it were a made-up word of paranoid leftists used to abuse liberals like Chait. And in this series of tweets, he doubles down on that disbelief, claiming that Peters-style neoliberalism had at best a shadowy half-life in the magazine world; it “barely existed,” tweets Chait, “then died.” No one’s used the word in ages.

In my post, I claimed that one of the reasons contemporary writers like Chait write from this state of amnesiac euphoria—where they fail to recognize the distance they’ve traveled from the midcentury world of labor liberalism—is that they’ve so completely absorbed the neoliberal critique, almost unconsciously, that they can’t even remember a time when liberals thought otherwise.

It turns out that that wasn’t quite fair. There was a journalist back in 2013 who recognized precisely what I was talking about. Here’s what this writer said about the impact of neoliberal magazines on traditional Democratic Party liberalism (h/t the guy whose Twitter handle is HTML Mencken):

Those magazines once critiqued Democrats from the right, advocating a policy loosely called “neoliberalism,” and now stand in general ideological concord.

Why? I’d say it’s because the neoliberal project succeeded in weaning the Democrats of the wrong turn they took during the 1960s and 1970s. The Democrats under Bill Clinton—and Obama, whose domestic policy is crafted almost entirely by Clinton veterans—has internalized the neoliberal critique.


The name of that writer was Jonathan Chait.

Update (6:30 pm)

I was just re-reading the introduction to The Road from Mont Pelerin, which I link to above (and which I highly recommend), and the authors claim that the first usage of “neoliberal” along the lines of what I mention above was actually by a Swiss economist in 1925 (there was actually a 1898 usage as well, but they claim it was rather different). In the 1930s, neoliberal took off as a term, particularly in France, culminating in that 1938 meeting that I mention above. As the Cornell historian Larry Glickman pointed out to me in a Facebook thread, the term neoliberal was also used by anti-New Dealers in the United States in the 1930s, only their point was to stress that FDR had transformed liberalism from its 19th century understanding (an understanding that was much more sympathetic to markets) into a “neoliberalism” that was too critical of the market and indulgent of the state’s intervention. According to the authors of the introduction to The Road to Mont Pelerin, Frank Knight, a close associate of Milton Friedman and George Stigler at the University of Chicago, wrote an essay criticizing the New Deal in the 1930s along these lines.

Update (9 pm)

Jonathan Chait has a longer response on his Facebook page. It’s kind of a non-response response that I’m posting here merely for the sake of, whatever. More amusing to me is how Damon Linker—think of him as Mark Lilla’s Mini-Me—shows up faithfully in the comments section, like one of the Super Friends in response to a summons from the Bat Signal. Anyway, here’s Chait:

I wrote a tweet a few days ago complaining about the use of “neoliberal” as a term of abuse on the left against liberals. “What if every use of ‘neoliberal’ was replaced with, simply, ‘liberal’? Would any non-propagandistic meaning be lost?,” I wrote. My meaning is that no current group of people defines itself as “neoliberal.” The term is simply used by leftists, usually of the Marxist and/or socialist variety, to denigrate liberals.

Corey Robin has fired back in two posts. None of them, however, answer my question. The first post focuses on a small sect on intellectuals called “neoliberals,” a term that was invented by Washington Monthly editor Charles Peters in the early 1980s. Neoliberalism was not really an ideology (though Peters sort-of tried to flesh it out into it) but a collection of Peters hobbyhorses that mostly revolved around streamlining the functioning of the federal government. Some writers tried to take other aspects of moderate liberalism and call it “neoliberalism.” But the main point is that the label died years ago, and nobody uses it any more as a form of self-identification. Importantly, even though elements of its ideas made their way into the Democratic Party, the label also never attracted any real following in the Democratic mainstream. Bill Clinton, probably the closest thing to an ally neoliberals would have found, called himself a “New Democrat.”

I was never a fan of the “neoliberal” label, for reasons that were persuasively explained to me by Paul Starr when I worked at the American Prospect out of college. Neoliberal writers called their farther-left counterparts “paleoliberals.” As Starr told me, the terms were an attempt to win an argument by using an epithet—“neo” implying that its side had already won the future, and “paleo” implying the other was consigned to the past.

That debate was consigned to a handful of writers (most of them baby boomer men from the Washington Monthly and the New Republic of the 1980s) who passed from the scene or lost interest in it. Modern liberals are all just liberals, though of course we have internal differences. Robin does not refute my point that no current faction uses the label to describe itself. Instead, in his follow-up post, he notes that some right-wingers also used the phrase in the 1930s to oppose the New Deal. To a leftists like Robin, this proves that the ideology is all one and the same. “Insofar as that was a program to rollback the welfare state and social democracy, to revalorize capital and the capitalist as a moral good, to proclaim the ideological supremacy of the market over the state (the practice is more complicated), “neoliberal” is in fact a useful term to describe a political program that has gained increasing traction around the globe in the last half-century,” he writes.

And, yes, if you believe that Charles Peters took his inspiration from the anti-New Deal right, and the modern Democratic Party took its inspiration from Peters, then that is an important connection. But the first connection is preposterous. Peters was a New Dealer who worshipped Roosevelt. He did not see himself as an heir to the 1930s Old Right. Peters was much less a statist than Robin, but clearly belonged on the left half of the political spectrum throughout his career.

Of course, it is convenient for Robin to lump the center-left, with figures like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in with the far right. This was all Robin’s ideological foes, those who stand for somewhat higher taxes and more generous social spending and decarbonization and regulation of finance can be lumped together with the conservatives who wish to roll all those things back.

So obviously Robin and many of his allies will continue to use the term “neoliberal” to describe liberals, because it serves an important propagandistic function for them. But it will continue to be used only by those people to describe current politics, and by nobody else, because it is not a neutral term or a fair-minded attempt to describe the world.

{ 246 comments }

1

Priest 04.29.16 at 9:55 pm

The referee needs to stop the fight.

2

Placeholder 04.29.16 at 10:15 pm

My favorite part is how he still doesn’t actually even try to prove it’s a Marxist term.

“In fact I’ve read every Marxist essay quoted in this piece, some of them multiple times”
https://twitter.com/jonathanchait/status/725732709881004033

An he still can’t prove it, but hey, YOUR HATE WILL MAKE IT REAL. How neoliberal.

3

bob mcmanus 04.29.16 at 10:16 pm

The problem for me is making the connections between Hayek, Friedman and Mont Pelerin on the one hand and eventually Clinton, Krugman, and Obama on the other hand while keeping neoliberalism as a specific historic political program with certain covert consequences (for instance hierarchical as you have discussed in some posts). Yes indeed, if you say Hayek = Obama same thing, you will get pushback from the centrists and moderates.

So I have to abstract from the history and programs and describe neoliberalism as something like “the ideology of the use of political power for individualistic purposes” thus including bank bailouts, title nine, the ACA. And of course looking globally at for example the nearly simultaneous repression of labour power on four continents I can only see neoliberalism as the emergent political economy of late capitalism.

4

Layman 04.29.16 at 10:19 pm

“In fact I’ve read every Marxist essay quoted in this piece, some of them multiple times”

He is aware of all the Marxist traditions.

5

William Berry 04.29.16 at 10:33 pm

” . . . that Founding Fathers fanboy who’ll periodically pop up in a discussion thread claiming that the United States is a republic, not a democracy.”

LMAO. Heard Chuck Todd on MSNBC the other day actually say something like: “I sometimes like to remind people [when they complain about the arbitrary absurdities of the U.S. electoral system] that the United States is a republic, not a democracy.”

So, not just Founding Fathers fanboys, but puffed-up, self-important political pundits as well.

Why do some, presumably intelligent (benefit of the doubt and all), people have so much trouble wrapping their heads around the concept of a “democratic* republic”?

*For a range of values of “democratic”, obviously.

6

Cranky Observer 04.29.16 at 10:33 pm

Personally I don’t see the value in trying to connect a 1930s European concept of neoliberalism with a deliberately designed and implemented US movement of the 1970s/80s. Were there sources and influences? Possibly. And as an academic blog possibly more posts on that topic are of value – after the 2016 election and HRC’s selection of her cabinet. But at this moment Chiat is laying down covering fire for those of WJC’s team who hope to make a triumphal return to power and resume punching to the left/down (not saying that HRC agrees), and he well knows that.

7

DaveL 04.29.16 at 11:15 pm

Surely the fact that various political pundits and politicians and even (gasp!) economists used the same term as a way of saying “liberalism has gone astray” means that they all mean the same thing and propose the same program of reform is a rather bold leap. Even in academia, the same word can be construed to mean different things; in political discourse, not so much.

8

Placeholder 04.29.16 at 11:50 pm

https://www.facebook.com/JonathanChaitPublic/posts/1256997364327888

Jonathan has now climbed down from saying neoliberals don’t exist and its all a COMMIE FLUORIDE PLOT to whining about how its unfair people think he’s got anything in common with the right just because all the smart people at the new republic supported the iraq war. And carbon taxes.

Jon, that’s what makes you a neoliberal.

9

kidneystones 04.30.16 at 12:02 am

Hi Corey. Thanks for this, your follow-up is much appreciated and for me much sharper than the original, especially with your update.

You and others here err egregiously only in your assumptions that Chait and other champions of new liberalism give a shit about historical and intellectual accuracy. The entire “new liberal” edifice as it is structured both in the US and in other western democracies is nothing more than a rationale for grasping self-interest. It’s a two-fer for the upwardly mobile class exemplified by Elizabeth Warren, Bill, HRC, and the Obamas. Ivy League connections provide social cache (of a sort) and entry into the world of real money. Warren flipped houses for fun and profit during the great real estate scam we’re all paying for now, while building her cred as a native American legal eagle champion of the poor (true!). Why shouldn’t she get in on the fun? Michelle convinced Barry to cozy closer to Tony to get that amazing Hyde Park property while Tony’s tenants froze with no heat in Chicago.

“Nobody told me!” Is the constant mantra of the new liberal and the concerned conservative (essentially the same person), so the NYT can write op-eds about the
‘unseen poor’ well into the Obama years and Brooks can now discover that ‘hey’ life outside the semi-elite enclaves where six-figure earners gather to lament the rising costs of private schools and ‘good help’ isn’t really all that great after 8 years of new liberal rule.

New liberalism justifies class social climbing at the expense, primarily, of the richest who are expected to provide the cash to keep the lower orders content in public housing, etc, whilst new liberals race to distance themselves from the folks they profess to love, in order to become in every material sense as close to those they profess to hate.

In short, they suck.

10

JeffreyG 04.30.16 at 12:24 am

Chait dislikes the use of ‘neoliberal’ because it sounds to him like a dismissive slur rather than an accurate characterization of his ideas. Of course, Chait himself employs ‘Marxist’ in precisely this manner, so this sounds to me more like a matter of projection than principle.

11

kidneystones 04.30.16 at 12:45 am

The consequences of new liberal bullshit are manifesting themselves now even as Chait whines. http://www.salon.com/2016/04/29/a_liberal_case_for_donald_trump_the_lesser_of_two_evils_is_not_at_all_clear_in_2016/

The core assumption of modern New liberalism is that the greatly increasing number of people lower down on the food chain must learn to content themselves with less and less in a world where globalization and outsourcing are irreversible, and where their concerns and fears are increasingly viewed as meaningless and inconsequential.

For some reason, however, the poor are listening to David Brooks and Jon Chait. In fact, those in fly-over country are every bit as incensed at the hubris, frankly, of CT-type lefties, obscenely rich we know best GOP elites, and other sneerers, as Sander’s supporters. Because, I suspect, so many CT readers and commenters are far closer to Chait in their practices than they’d comfortably acknowledge (Bruce Wilder being a notable exception). Many of the geriatric self-satisfied here are blissfully unaware of just how bad things are for young people. The result is the Salon piece linked, and others, that question whether Trump may well be the better candidate.

This is Salon we’re talking about for fuck’s sake. Not the NRO. The NRO remains vehemently opposed to the Trump candidacy. Even as the tectonic plates shift (or appear to shift) people here are lost in discussions about definitions of neo-liberalism, and yet seemingly ignore how forcefully American voters are rejecting new liberal practices by Democrats many here profess to reject, but will support in the voting booth in November.

It’s a free country (at present). But if any think voters watching protesters force Trump to crawl under fences, smash police cars, and silence free speech on campus are winning over the majority of voters, many of whom have not had a pay raise in 18 years, I’d suggest that assumption needs a re-think. There is no room for nationalism and patriotism in the ethos and world-view of the moral minority. Both are anathemas to some.

That’s not the case, however, for people losing their jobs across America to outsourcing and legal immigrants entering America on visas allowing companies to profit while American workers suffer. The NYT, HRC, new liberals in general, and the GOP have demonstrated repeatedly they couldn’t give a rat’s ass how many Americans lose their jobs and guess what? Americans have finally noticed. Worse for you, is the fact that they now have a champion who has the resources, the rhetorical skills, and the will to set fire to the status quo.

Thousands gathered to protest the Trump rally in Orange County. Cue clapping. A car was flipped and a Trump supporter bloodied-up. Woo-woo. The 31,000 highly-motivated Trump supporters inside the arena noted every scream and epithet leveled at them.

Independent Americans, many of them tax-payers born in the US and naturalized citizens listened as they were abused as ‘racists, bigots, fascists’ etc for demanding strong borders and legal immigration. I’m sure each and every Trump supporter savored and drank the entire experience in. Millions more Trump supporters watched the news and will relive the experience either at Trump rallies across America, or in social media.

There’s a revolution taking place in America today – and it’s a rejection in many respects of many of the most closely held assumptions of new liberalism. Whether Trump can succeed in overturning the old order is a different question. But make no mistake, when magazines like Salon are raising the question of Trump’s appeal to Sanders’ voters at a time when 13 percent of these voters already regarding Trump favorably, new liberalism is under attack.

12

Colin Danby 04.30.16 at 12:54 am

Accepting that the term has multiple births, one connection is Latin American. The term was well enough established in 1982 for Alejandro Foxley to write his 1982 _Experimentos Neoliberales en América Latina_
http://www.cieplan.org/media/publicaciones/archivos/125/Capitulo_1.pdf
in which he traces it to the “monetarist” side of the monetarist/structuralist controversy of the 1960s, and emphasizes key features that emerged in Chile post-Pinochet, in particular emphases on financial liberalization with an open capital account, and the argument that sweeping market liberalizations would lead to macro growth.

The obvious points are that there are links between the Mont Pelerin Society and the Chilean economists, and in turn to numerous U.S. economists with like interests. John Williamson’s canonical 1990 “What Washington Means by Policy Reform” is basically this program, and you can see in his references some of the key players.

I don’t see any *direct* connection between this work and Charles Peters’ crude screed, though. Peters refers to a 1982 Esquire article by Randall Rothenberg as his source for the term. I can’t find the full article online, but a Kirkus synopsis calls it “a commitment to industrial policy–a policy of directed investment, principally through tax policy, to spur economic growth via new technology and new markets–that also entails cost-effective military reform, increased science teaching and technological training, labor/management cooperation rather than confrontation, and some notion of compulsory national service” which is definitely not Latin American neoliberalism. It seems to be the half-baked 80s centrism of people like Gary Hart.

13

Robert 04.30.16 at 1:12 am

I like some of Chait’s work. I think he is somewhat more intelligent than, for example, Wolf Blitzer. (I recall Blitzer on Jeopardy.)

I’ve been rereading the Mirowski and Plehwe book myself. I like to note the existence of this reference:
Milton Friedman (1951). Neoliberalism and Its Prospects.
Friedman begins Capitalism and Freedom (1962) by whining about how the term “liberalism” does not mean anymore what it meant in Manchester in the 19th century. He does not begin Free to Choose (sic) that way.

And, I guess, we are now into discussing Friedman’s hero, Pinochet.

14

kidneystones 04.30.16 at 1:42 am

Josh Marshall is finally demonstrating what a Brown doctorate in history combined with a conscience can produce. I apologize for implying that the academic discussion of neo-liberlism here is deficient because it fails to acknowledge the rise of Trump’s nationalism and America firstism as a consequence of new liberalism. I’m excitable, I confess. Normally, Marshall and his writers editorialize to provide an anti-GOP spin and minimize Dem deficiencies, as he should. That’s the function of the site. The last week, in particular, has seen a real shift in the balance of the content.

I’ll close for the weekend with this TPM clip http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-undocumented-people-killed

The TPM is notable for two reasons. First, the principal speaker is Jamiel Shaw, an individual who is likely to feature prominently in Trump’s appeal to Sanders voters, as well as the general public. I watched the entire Orange County rally yesterday. Marshall, to his immense credit, simply lets Shaw tell his own story.

Peggy Noonan, normally a dunce, produced an astonishingly astute piece on Trump. Trump is not running as a Republican, or as Democrat. His FP speech was flawed, but that won’t matter a bit because Trump is as far from an idealogue as can be. Indeed, according to Noonon, Trump is rising because Americans are sick to death of the failures of ideas and ideologies of both parties.

Trump is running as an American. Moreover, Trump is running as an immensely proud and uncompromisingly patriotic American, socially liberal, pro-immigration, fiercely willing to defend American lives, American jobs, and American interests. Trump like Reagan is utterly uninterested in ideas, only solutions for America’s problems. Trump promises to defend and fight for the interests of Americans, rather than for the rights of undocumented workers. Trump promises to impose punitive duties on American companies who choose to relocate outside the borders in order to discourage American job loss. Trump promises to put the interests of all Americans first, and that would be all Americans – the richest and the poorest, those who want to work in coal mines and those who want to work in colleges, Americans who play and live by a nation of laws.

15

js. 04.30.16 at 1:48 am

I think he is somewhat more intelligent than, for example, Wolf Blitzer.

Well, that’s a bit like saying, “They’re a better band than Happy Mondays,” no?

——

Re CR’s post: I thought the last post (the Jacobin one) was very helpful, but like several others on this thread, I’m a little confused by the Mont Perelin connection. Without getting into the weeds of the myriad possible meanings of “neoliberalism”, I do think it’s useful to distinguish between right-neoliberalism (which the rest of the world calls “neoliberalism”) and left-neoliberalism (which in the US gets called “neoliberalism”). Mont Perelin would I think fall into the first of these, Peters, Chait etc. into the second. And while there are undoubtedly ideological affinities, and both were perhaps shaped by similar social forces (or rather, one was a kind of reaction to the other—perhaps), I do think they are best considered as distinct phenomena. In other words, “neoliberalism = Mont Perelin and Charles Peters” seems like equivocation (or something close to it) to me.

16

Ronan(rf) 04.30.16 at 2:34 am

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to appreciate
That every banality is numbered, by every Jonathan Chait

17

Lupita 04.30.16 at 2:48 am

@bob mcmanus

I can only see neoliberalism as the emergent political economy of late capitalism.

… and late Western hegemony.

@kidneystones

I like your term “new liberalism”. It is to neoliberalism as pounds are to kilos.

@Colin Danby

the term has multiple births, one connection is Latin American.

Of course. Debates that ignore this are as disconcerting to me as football games where the ball isn’t even round.

18

LFC 04.30.16 at 3:24 am

@kidneystones
Trump like Reagan is utterly uninterested in ideas, only solutions for America’s problems.

Too bad Reagan didn’t provide solutions for America’s problems. His supply-side economics and tax cuts — disproportionately for the wealthy — increased inequality; his destruction of the air-traffic controllers union put the admin firmly against (organized) workers and collective bargaining; the Iran/contra scandal was a disgrace; military spending exploded under R.; and he appointed Scalia to the Sup Ct. For starters.

Reagan began his political life as a New Dealer (and, of course, as president of the Screen Actors Guild). When he converted to conservatism, it was for a mixture of reasons, but his conversion came w a full acceptance of the ideological package as expounded in the pages of Natl Review and as preached by Reagan initially for GE.

Reagan wasn’t an intellectual but he was committed to a worldview — a bad, stupid worldview, to be sure, but something probably coherent enough to warrant the designation. I doubt the same can be said of Trump.

19

phenomenal cat 04.30.16 at 3:39 am

“@Colin Danby

the term has multiple births, one connection is Latin American.

Of course. Debates that ignore this are as disconcerting to me as football games where the ball isn’t even round.” –Lupita @17

Yeah, my initial (and painful) understanding of neoliberalism came from literature on Latin America. So maybe I’m biased, but it’s always seemed to me that if one really wants to understand neoliberalism as an interlocking, multi-scaled, programmatic political and economic phenomenon then one only need accost the first Latin American one sees on the street. They’ll fill you in.

It’s obvious Chait has no knowledge of the political and ideological history that informs the term. None. As someone said upthread, it’s just a bad word sanctimonious leftists spit at reasonable people–like shithead or something.

20

Anon 04.30.16 at 4:04 am

@15 ” ‘I think he is somewhat more intelligent than, for example, Wolf Blitzer.’ Well, that’s a bit like saying, ‘They’re a better band than Happy Mondays,’ no?”

Odd analogy. Everyone knows who Blitzer is, only a declining population of aging hipsters knows the Monday’s. No one thinks Blitzer is a paradigm of intelligence, but a whole generation of UK critics think they’re geniuses. They’re all right if overrated, while Blitzer’s dumber than jello.

21

js. 04.30.16 at 4:12 am

All right, it was a dumb joke. I could have said Creed or Pearl Jam or whatever, but in the moment, Happy Mondays seemed like a funnier choice. (Also, loads of UK critics think they’re “geniuses”? Seriously? That does not ring true to me, but I admit I could be wrong.)

22

Ronan(rf) 04.30.16 at 4:23 am

For my own part, I wouldn’t go as far as say they were geniuses, but an inspiration at least, in some respects. None musical.

23

Anon 04.30.16 at 4:23 am

Oh, it wasn’t really meant as a criticism, just honestly found it surprising. Never saw what the big deal with the Happy Mondays was, so interesting that someone thought they were unimpressive enough to stand in for “as bad at music as Blitzer is at smart.” Kind of refreshing, really. That in the day UK critics loved them was my impression, though I don’t know if their reputation has held up. (I do seem to remember that 24 Hour Party People was pretty hagiographic, but that’s getting pretty old now too)

24

Philip 04.30.16 at 8:49 am

Anon @ 20 by everyone I think you mean all Americans as in the UK the Happy Mondays are far better known than Wolf Blitzer. I don’t think the HM’s were seen by anyone as musical geniuses but got a lot of love as they were seen as encapsulating the Madchester scene. I think they are still well regarded as a symbol of what was going on in Manchester and they were never about being great musicians but did make some songs that have stuck in British culture.

25

David 04.30.16 at 8:50 am

In practical politics, ideas don’t usually become powerful until the powerful find them useful to adopt, or at least expound, and the powerful themselves generally don’t worry too much about ideological coherence anyway. Searching for the intellectual origins of neoliberalism is interesting academically, but doesn’t tell us why such policies were actually adopted at a certain point. The generation of politicians and bureaucrats in power since the end of the Cold War understands that simply saying “We will rob you” to the electorate might go down badly, but that on the other hand spending a tiny percentage of its wealth buying academics, journalists, commentators and politicians to pretend that stupid ideas are sensible ones can have a very high payoff. Sometimes politics is simpler than those who write about it professionally are prepared to accept.

26

bob mcmanus 04.30.16 at 9:14 am

Lupita: … and late Western hegemony.

Yeah, thank you. One of the reasons I am attracted to the word or concept “neoliberal” is the assemblage of concepts connected to “liberal.”

“Consent of the governed:” in an unit of analysis about who is consenting, and having the various rights attributed to legitimacy (who can effectively speak, who can form associations); and who is coerced, disempowered, delegitimized, abject.

“Those who consent” are constantly engaged in overlapping processes of territorialization, as in the creations of states, but no longer or less importantly geographical but now based on large part on education and skills and affective networks.

It is important to me to move among all the sites of agency: the Foxconn worker is pretty damn abject, but likely has some degree of agency with her dormmates or village family which might be leveraged for resistance to external hierarchies.

The novelty in New Liberalism might have to do with the diffusion and consciousness of that agency, the skills and opportunities to form or join associations by choice rather than contingent circumstances; and the incentives material, social, psychological to do so in ways that reproduce already existing power relations.

27

engels 04.30.16 at 10:13 am

There’s trolling, and then there’s comparing the Happy Monday to Creed. Wanna to take this outside?

(Fwiw I know for a fact HMs are still pretty popular outside of UK as I was living in a trendy non-Anglophone city a few years ago and hearing them everywhere..)

28

ZM 04.30.16 at 10:37 am

From Australia neoliberal isn’t a hugely popular term I would say. It is used in academia mostly, where readings usually look at neoliberalism from more than one perspective — the main two being as a normative program or agenda, and as a descriptor of governance changes since the mid 70s or 80s.

One main difference is that Liberal is the name of the non-Labor political party in Australia, so Liberal tends to be opposed to Labor generally, and this is the case since before the neoliberal turn in the 70s. The Liberal Party was named after a meeting called by Robert Menzies, and the idea was the non-Labor parties should unite. This worked pretty well for him, since he ended up being our longest serving Prime Minister. But the name was taken from the Commonwealth Liberal Party which was also formed as coalition of non-Labor parties, in 1909.

In Australia our federal Labor party wasn’t so successful in the post-war years from 1945 to 1980 as the Democrat party in the USA.

In the Post-War years Democrats were the majority of US presidents from 1945 to 1980 (Truman ’45 to ’53 ; Kennedy ’61 to ’63 ; Johnson ’63 to ’69; Carter ’77 to ’81) holding office for about 20 years out of 35 years, whereas in Australia we had fewer post-war Labor governments (Chifley ’45 to ’49 ; Whitlam ’72 to ’75) with Labor forming government only for about 9 years out of the 35 years.

I think that if you were talking about the post-war style of governance, you would not say that Australia had neoliberal governance by the Liberal Party, you would identify Australian governance in the post-war period as similar to that in the pre-Reagan USA and the pre-Thatcher UK.

Similarly we had Labor government from 1983 to 1996 (Hawke and Keating), but this was when economic rationalism became most prominent as the dominant economic ideology in Australia (economic rationalism is our closest word for neoliberalism, and is a term in popular usage unlike neoliberalism) .

So governance in Australia has shown similar turns as that in the USA, but with different sides of politics being at the helm.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this argument exactly, but Australian politics did have what you would call a neoliberal turn but it took place under a 13 year Labor government, whereas our “New Deal” post-war bureaucratic governance era would have been under a (non-Labor) Liberal government for most of the time…

29

ZM 04.30.16 at 10:39 am

“The Liberal Party was named after a meeting called by Robert Menzies” , I meant to include that this meeting happened in 1944

30

JPL 04.30.16 at 12:08 pm

Not having been in the US in this period, I was wondering, why did practical politicians, associated pundits and other activists trying to build a movement for the purposes of winning elections for the Democrats (or Labour for that matter) feel that it would be expedient to make like they accepted certain elements of the agenda, and the patterns of justification for this agenda, of the Republicans (or “conservatives” in Corey’s sense), e.g., having to do with the role of “the market”, the role of “big government”, or the approach to problems of crime, etc? It doesn’t seem to make sense from the perspective of trying to construct an explanatory theory of government and economic interactions as consistent with ethical principles rather than the principle of the precedence of power; and doesn’t make sense from a practical perspective, since it involves betrayal of their traditional responsibility of standing up for the workers and minorities on the receiving end of the brutal and callous actions of the powerful. Was it a response to the need to attract big money donors to compete in elections with the Republicans (or Tories)? Were these well-intentioned people who were losing their souls on the way to hell?

Also, let’s not forget the phenomenon focused by Rich Puchalski on the other thread: the system of conventional knowledge, values, standard responses to problems, the “what everybody knows” that never requires reflection or deeper understanding that seems to be held, mostly implicitly and tacitly, by the common “governing class” of the world’s governing institutions. This is a different phenomenon from the above movement- related ideologies, but as Rich says, it’s definitely consequential and has concrete effects. It’s, e.g., the “received wisdom” that was brought so heavily to bear on Greece in their debt crisis. Or the thinking of the cross- administration “foreign policy establishment” that I imagine had to be struggled with to achieve the nuclear agreement with Iran. What precisely are the general principles and values that actually govern the decision- making operations of these institutions? They require scrutiny and making tacit principles explicit, since, again, no doubt they needlessly and mistakenly respect power and disregard the ethical imperatives, and an enlightened people need to be able to say, “That ain’t right!”.

31

ScrewyCanuck 04.30.16 at 12:21 pm

Let us not forget that in the 80s and 90s, when these New Democrats were gaining control of the Democratic Party in the U.S., ‘liberal’ was a VERY dirty word. This is especially true for ‘third way’ types who wanted to convince those on their right flank that they weren’t like those dirty smelly hippies on the left.

OF COURSE it wasn’t a self-applied term: it went against their branding strategy.

The idea that descriptive labels applied by critics aren’t legitimate is another disingenuous complaint from people like Chait. He wants to reserve the right to come up with something that gives this ideology the intellectual credibility of liberalism without seeming stale, soft-headed, or weak. Having his cake and eating it too, in other words.

Chait remains an enthusiastic hippie-puncher, by the way. I suspect his animus is based on perpetual irritation that his critics on the left refuse to fall in line. The original tweet was just an exercise in trolling.

32

bob mcmanus 04.30.16 at 12:38 pm

30: Only halfway through it, and I am having some problems, but Thomas Frank attempts to answer your questions in the recent Listen, Liberal

Very short: meritocracy, education, technocracy, professionalization, and consensus as ultimate value. Let me see, I’m skimming: orthodoxy, academics, blindness to predatory behavior if cloaked in credentialed professionalism, insularity: all East Coast Ivy Leaguers, the vast majority lawyers. Differences and conflicts arise from knowledge gaps, cause we are all so rational, you know.

The problem I have with the Frank book is the lack of any mention at all of race, gender, etc. Who is he writing for? Doesn’t he know his reputation, his problem?

33

Layman 04.30.16 at 12:52 pm

“Not having been in the US in this period, I was wondering, why did practical politicians, associated pundits and other activists trying to build a movement for the purposes of winning elections for the Democrats (or Labour for that matter) feel that it would be expedient to make like they accepted certain elements of the agenda, and the patterns of justification for this agenda, of the Republicans”

I think it was a direct response to the shift of working class whites from the Democratic to the Republican Party, which shift ultimately culminated in the Reagan revolution. The Republican conservative movement tailored their small government message to appeal to white who perceived that large government was being employed to advantage minorities at their expense. Taxes, social programs, redistribution, etc, all became bad large government liberalism, and the strategy was effective enough to bring an end to Democratic control of Congress and doom Democratic Presidential candidates who identified or were cast as ‘liberal”. The DLC and Clintonism – embrace the conservative message and some of their policies – was the response.

34

bob mcmanus 04.30.16 at 1:12 pm

33: Well, that story is certainly the consensus among identity Democrats.

Frank tells a different story, that the McGovern Commission and those it empowered kicked Unions and the white working class out of the Party 1968-72.

And it really isn’t that Democratic Elites are cynically using Wall Street as a money spigot; the fact is that Wall Street is no longer your grandaddy’s Wall Street, much more socially liberal, and Democrats like the Clintons and Obamas genuinely prefer the company of the Bill Gates and Mark Cubans and Summers and don’t want to have anything to do with the working class or poor.

One of the key demographic changes from over the last generations is the inter-educational marriages, someone with a degree or advanced degree marrying someone high school or less. Yes, it was gendered, but it did happen a lot. No longer happens at all.

35

ScrewyCanuck 04.30.16 at 1:47 pm

I think the 68/72 elections and the rise of Reagan acted as a one-two punch on liberal elites. The massive defeat of McGovern convinced them that grassroots movements within the party had to be squelched, and the loss of reliable working class voters, who became known as Reagan Democrats, led to the conclusion that the party’s platform had to mimic the Republican’s, in order to win back those voters.

This story does not take into account demographic changes, racial tensions, nativism, etc., but I think elite opinion was more concerned with hearing a tale that could convince them that strengthening their own control over their party was going to solve the problem of electoral defeat.

One further thought: I think that as the generation who lived through the Great Depression, and fought in WW2, aged out of the governing class, a lot of the liberal ethos was lost.

36

Soullite 04.30.16 at 2:04 pm

t s my frvnt drm tht t sm pnt, w ly vryn wh vr rgd, thr t thmslvs r t thrs, tht scrfcng th wll bng f lw-ncm mrcns n rdr t bst th prspcts f th pr n nd r Bngldsh, t n lng chn, scrd t th grnd by psts, nd tht wll prsnlly b bl t g Ghllghr n ll f thr hds wth sldg hmmr.

Ths ppl r trtrs, bth t thr cntry nd t thr cntrymn, nd thy dsrv t d trrfd nd bldy. []

37

bob mcmanus 04.30.16 at 2:25 pm

36: But that isn’t really what it is about.

What it is about showed up in a comment over at LGM, something like:

“My brother-in-law made $300,000 doing the SAP for the transfer of the Carrier air-conditioning jobs to Mexico.”

Every transfer of 10 $50k factory jobs overseas creates 2-5 $100k “creative class” jobs ( in services, finance, education, entertainment) back in the USA, and I add, probably 1-2 creative/managerial class jobs in the developing country, to identify under conditions of cultural imperialism with their peers in OECD countries.

This is the intersection of domestic neoliberalism with Lupita’s neo-imperialism

38

kidneystones 04.30.16 at 2:43 pm

@36 This comment would get you banned at any responsible site. I’ll say good-bye to all now.

39

Plume 04.30.16 at 2:44 pm

Bob @34,

Frank is frank about Democratic Party realities, and this doesn’t make him popular among “liberals,” who are really just compassionate conservatives these days.

There really isn’t that much difference between them (Dems and Republicans) on economic, war, empire, surveillance issues. Even taxes, which was once a sure-fire point of departure. And because it’s all relative now and PoMod, “liberals” can claim massive differences where they don’t exist, because the bar has been lowered so much. Like the paltry increase at the top from 35% to 39.6%, with even that weakened by making all Bush tax cuts permanent from dollar one to 400K. Weakened further by raising the top from 250K to 400K.

The ethos is basically the same, with different vehicles in place. For “liberal Dems,” it’s education. For Republicans, it’s business, “free enterprise,” etc. etc. That’s the pathway out of poverty or the middle class. Which results in, basically, the Dems catering to the richest 10%; the Republicans to the richest 1%. That still leaves the vast majority of Americans in the dirt, thrown under the bus, kicked to the curb, etc.

I wish America at least had the option of a coalition government that would include an alternative to this: The 100% alternative. No hierarchies to traverse. At least none so steep that they would take lifetimes or several generations. Instead of constantly struggling to move up the ladder, how about no ladder in the first place, and we’re already there, all of us, 100% of us, able to live and let live from Day One?

In short, all of this wasted time — decades, generations, centuries — struggling to find ways to move up the ladder of life. Our time would be far better spent trying to end class distinctions in the first place. End that endless journey up the pyramid. Flatten all of them instead.

40

Layman 04.30.16 at 2:49 pm

“Every transfer of 10 $50k factory jobs overseas creates 2-5 $100k “creative class” jobs ( in services, finance, education, entertainment) back in the USA, and I add, probably 1-2 creative/managerial class jobs in the developing country, to identify under conditions of cultural imperialism with their peers in OECD countries.”

Um, no. The factory employs people in perpetuity, while the transfer jobs are temporary (it’s a one-time event), and with some frequency even those temporary transfer jobs go to outsourcers using at least some offshore labor.

41

Layman 04.30.16 at 2:52 pm

“There really isn’t that much difference between them (Dems and Republicans) on economic, war, empire, surveillance issues. “

Really, this is nonsense. Whatever you think of Obama, the notion that he’s no different a president on these issues than was Bush doesn’t stand up to even a moment’s scrutiny.

42

michael braverman 04.30.16 at 3:15 pm

Once again, Robin embarrasses himself. Striving inexplicably to defeat an unarmed opponent in a battle of wits, he succeeds only at the price of undoing his own argument. In his able hands, neoliberalism comes to refer to everything and nothing at all. Most notably—though hardly exclusively—it involves at once restricting and vastly expanding the role of the state in the economy; profound continuity and dramatic rupture with earlier forms of capitalism; the GOP platform and Democratic opposition to it; and so on.

To be fair, the fault is not solely Robin’s; the term is nearly vacuous in current usage. But styling himself an expert on the history of political thought, Robin assumes the burden of establishing clarity where there is obscurity. Instead, as is typical of his brash but intellectually hollow vituperations, he allows the murk to swallow him whole.

Take just one of many possible examples. Robin claims, somewhat plausibly, that the Mont Pelerin program aimed “to rollback (sic) the welfare state and social democracy, to revalorize capital and the capitalist as a moral good, to proclaim the ideological supremacy of the market over the state…” While not untrue, this description makes neoliberalism sound indistinguishable from traditional market liberalism of the sort Adam Smith himself would recognize. As if to underscore his confusion, Robin dutifully cites David Harvey, who makes exactly the same mistake on page 2 of his “brief history” of neoliberalism.

But of course Hayek et al had an altogether different program in mind, as Foucault and others have pointed out. The problem they confronted was not the welfare state (though they did oppose it) but *endemic market failure*. Since Robin knows next to nothing about economics, he has in all his work consistently misread this confrontation in purely political terms, treating policy outcomes as proxies for the fundamental impasse in economic theory. In a nutshell, mainstream economics discovered roughly a century ago that if free market principles were consistently applied, the results would inevitably include the decline of markets, competition and efficient allocation of resources. Accordingly, the liberal dogma mistakenly ascribed to Smith and his progeny would have to be jettisoned. And the target of intervention would not be state meddling but the market itself. The state would have to be empowered to maintain market discipline—against the will and interests of its participants. Hence economic neoliberalism *could not* simply be a pro-business ideology, for this would precisely repeat the liberal error (as Milton Friedman repeatedly pointed out). Several momentous consequences flow from this, none of which Robin is able to recognize or accommodate in his facile musings.

43

Plume 04.30.16 at 3:24 pm

Layman @41,

There is a difference about difference here. I said “there really isn’t that much difference between” the Dems and Republicans on the listed issues. You then respond by saying it’s nonsense to claim — which I didn’t — that there is no difference between Obama and Bush on those issues. Now, in relative terms, this is a mild misreading for you. You usually get things more wildly wrong than this. But it’s still wrong.

That said, Obama did keep Bush’s defense secretary; rehired his Fed chairman; continued his Wall Street bailouts and prosecuted no one responsible for the crash; kept the war in Iraq going and escalated the one in Afghanistan; opened up several new fronts in the “GWOT”; radically expanded the use of drones; created a deficit commission in the middle of a recession and staffed it with neoliberals; surrounded himself with neoliberal economic advisers like Summers, and installed another, Geithner, at Treasury; offered Boehner the Grand Bargain which included slashing Medicare and Social Security; froze government hiring and pay in the middle of a recession — which even Republican presidents never do, etc. etc.

Throw in his smash-down of Occupy; his mass deportations of undocumented workers; his relentless pushing of TPP; his stimulus package with Republican tax breaks making up 33% of it; his silencing of Single Payer and even Public Option debate; his pushing of the Heritage Foundation’s health care plan, which resulted in the very conservative ACA . . . . and, yeah, there isn’t much difference between Obama and Bush on the issues I listed . . . other than tone, rhetorical style, etc.

44

One of Many 04.30.16 at 3:43 pm

The Wikipedia article on ‘neoliberalism’ gives a nice rundown of the history of different but related usages of the word. And the distinction between right neoliberalism and left neoliberalism at 15 above is useful. To explain the distinction using examples that might mean something to the man on the street, the former is Thatcher and the Chicago Boys in Chile, the latter is Bill Clinton – not unrelated, but not without important differences. (The latter might better be called ‘centrist neoliberalism’, I guess.)

45

js. 04.30.16 at 3:58 pm

Yikes, I most certainly do not think Happy Mondays are as bad as Creed! They’re miles—continents—apart, obviously. I actually sort of like a couple of HM songs (tho mostly I don’t think they’re very good, and their not-goodness is esp. brought into relief when you consider their Manchester musical peers). Also, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but as I remember it, 24 Hour Party People spent a lot of its second half gently poking fun at HM. But again possible I was misreading that.

Sorry this is very OT, but I needed to clear my name nym.

46

bruce wilder 04.30.16 at 4:17 pm

From the late 1950s into the 1970s, the many conservative attempts to confront the Liberal Consensus included a kind of debate between Milton Friedman and the Chicago School on the one hand and John Kenneth Galbraith and the Keynesians who had shuffled thru the Kennedy-Johnson Council of Economic Advisors on the other. It was Galbraith, playing a latter day Veblen, who articulated both an interpretation of New Deal liberalism and a critique of the emerging economy of corporate business and consumerism. Milton Friedman argued “free markets” and all that.

When Charles Peters articulated the ideological surrender which was his neoliberal credo, he was rationalizing the abandonment of the liberal defense of labor unions certainly, but also the more general New Deal idea of countervailing power, which Galbraith had articulated. He was conceding that Friedman had won the debate with Galbraith and adopting Friedman’s framework, if not his libertarian credo.

Thereafter, the neoliberals were in a conversation with Friedmanite libertarians — a pretty narrow dialectic, since it excluded some paleo-conservatives as well as much of the populist labor left as well as the social democratic left. But, it seems that’s the moment when at least some strands of Mont Pelerin neoliberalism as embodied by Friedman’s storytelling merged into the decayed remains of New Deal liberalism as represented by Charles Peter’s neoliberalism and such allied developments as the Third Way politics of the New Democrats and Bill Clinton.

That dialectic with the Friedmanite libertarian conservatives was a feature, not a bug of the Charles Peters neoliberalism. Their joint effort produced a powerful rhetorical machine capable of generating an endless stream of pundit dichotomies and they could legitimize each other. Their joint efforts at consensus and mutual legitimacy gave weight to the “Washington Consensus” later adopted by the bureaucracy of the World Bank and IMF and exported globally as another source for a similar set of doctrines labelled, yet again, as “neoliberal”.

The similarity of tone and substance in these various strands, each adopting the same label, that has given “neoliberal” such great currency. They have been like tributaries coming together into an unstoppable river.

47

Chris 04.30.16 at 4:51 pm

I have mostly seen the term Neoliberalism used by Europeans. In the US, it is nothing like Liberalism. It is like Libertarianism.

48

LFC 04.30.16 at 5:09 pm

Chris @45
I have mostly seen the term Neoliberalism used by Europeans. In the US, it is nothing like Liberalism. It is like Libertarianism.

No it isn’t. There is no similarity to speak of betw libertarianism and Charles Peters/Dem Leadership Council neoliberalism.

49

LFC 04.30.16 at 5:12 pm

p.s. even after reading BW @44, I still don’t think there’s much similarity.

50

Mdc 04.30.16 at 5:34 pm

Agreed w kidneystones (!) @38.

51

Jason Weidner 04.30.16 at 6:03 pm

The following takes nothing away from your main points about the origins and development of neoliberalism, but may be of some interest.

The OED gives the following examples of the use of the term neoliberal:

1898   Econ. Jrnl. 8 494   “We must..bear in mind what is that hedonistic world, that realm of pure political economy, ever kept in view by the adepts of Neo-liberalism.
1924   H. E. Barnes Sociol. & Polit. Theory ix. ii. 161   He [sc. Leonard T. Hobhouse] represents the sociological expression of the Neo-Liberalism of England that has produced..more constructive social legislation than the combined product of earlier English governments.”

1938   Polit. Sci. Q. 53 133,  ” I deplore in an attempt to state a theory and formulate a practice of neo-liberalism, a trace of illiberalism and intolerence toward those who differ from the new credo.”

1978   Washington Post 10 Sept. c1/2   “Political necessities are headed … toward much more serious government intervention in the private economy. If you’re looking for a shorthand phrase, it might be more accurate to predict a period of ‘neo-liberalism’.”

1992   Globe & Mail (Toronto) 1 May d1/5   “These ideas include, beside free trade: privatization, deregulation, competitiveness, social-spending cutbacks and deficit reduction. The ensemble may be called neoconservatism, neoliberalism, the free market, [etc.].”

The first example an article by French economist and historian of economic thought Charles Gide in The Economic Journal (1898). The article deals with the idea and practice of co-operation. Gide begins the article by introducing a critique of co-operation made by the Italian economist Maffeo Pantaleoni.

According to Gide, Pantaleoni argues “that co-operation has not enriched economic science with any fresh principle whatever, and that, in practice, it can add nothing to what we get by way of natural result from the free play of competition” (Gide, 1898, p. 490). Gide refers to Pantaleoni as “one of the highest authorties” of “the Neo-liberal school” (492). Gide defends the idea and practice of co-operation, providing a rebuttal to Pantaleoni. In his rebuttal, Gide insists that “we must from the first bear in mind what is that hedonistic world, that realm of pure political economy, ever kept in view by the adepts of Neo-liberalism when they attack us and cry triumphantly, “You will never get further nor do better!” The answer, Gide argues, is that the “hedonistic world” of the Neo-liberals is:

“one in which free competition will reign absolutely; where all monopoly by right or of fact will be abolished; where every individual will be conversant with his true interests, and as well equipped as any one else to fight for them; where everything will be carried on by genuinely free contract, in which each contracting party will weigh in a subjective balance, infallibly exact, the final utility of the object to be disposed of and of the object to be acquired,-a bargaining where neither violence, nor fraud, nor lies, nor ignorance, nor dependence on others, nor any foreign disturbing element whatever—for instance the miserable preoccupation as to whether there’s anything for supper—will come in to upset so delicate an operation: a world where the law of supply and demand will bring about the maximum of utility for both individual and society, and will always send back the barometric needle, at once and without friction, to ‘set fair’—I mean to the fair price (494-5).”

Of course, Gide points out, this world does not exist; or rather, it exists “nowhere save in the inaccessible regions of abstract thought. It has no more relation to the society in which we actually live, than has the world of pure geometry with the configuration of the earth or the human form” (495). Furthermore, Gide argues, given that this imagined world of Neo-liberalism is a utopia, Neo-liberals such as Pantaleoni ought to consider the possibility that co-operation is instead the best way of producing “that which laisser faire and individualism never will,—a society governed by free competition and free contract” (495).

For Gide, the central problem that the new Liberals fail to account for is that the fin de siècle economy is characterized not by pure competition but by an “anti-social and demoralising competition…[a] struggle for existence in which the least scrupulous win and the most honest go to the wall” (496). Moreover, Gide argues, the purpose of the various “co-operative societies” is precisely to “abolish everything which tends to vitiate free consent between co-exchangers,” including: “adulteration of food, false weights, lying advertisements, tips to servants, usury, sale by credit which is but a form of usury, and, above all, the friction resulting from an excessive number of intermediaries and in fluctuations of price or an inert balance” (496).

In an interesting argumentative maneuver, Gide points out that under Liberal theorizations of perfect competition there is not profit, since “the value of things is always brought down to the level of the cost of production”—and this is precisely the goal of co-operative societies: “to abolish profit!” (498).

Lurking in the background, and at times even appearing in the foreground, of Gide’s discussion of cooperatives is “the Social Question.” This term, with its origins in 19th century Europe and North America, referred to the consequences of industrial capitalism—or, as Tony Judt put it: “How could the virtues of economic progress be secured in light of the political and moral threat posed by the condition of the working class? Or, more cynically, how was social upheaval to be headed off in a society wedded to the benefits that came from the profitable exploitation of a large class of low-paid and existentially discontented persons?”

52

Lupita 04.30.16 at 6:31 pm

@ZM

governance in Australia has shown similar turns as that in the USA

Earlier in your post, you mentioned the similarities in timing and ideology between Thatcher and Reagan, resulting in three Anglophone countries going neoliberal at the same time: the UK, the US, and Australia, which points to the existence of global forces at play. If we add IMF-imposed neoliberalism in Latin America and elsewhere, by the year 2000 the world ended up, either through democratic elections or imposition, with a global system characterized by independent central banks, a deregulated financial system, weak labor unions, and decreased social spending. The banks had taken over.

The underlying global conditions that explain this world-wide phenomenon are, starting in the 80s, the US-USSR stand-off in which the West needed to prove the superiority of its system and, continuing into the 90s after the fall of the USSR, the consolidation of a unipolar system with the US at its helm. It was all about Western supremacy.

I think the notion of supremacy in Western countries (not racial supremacy anymore, but modern, objective, technocratic, mathematical model, freedom loving supremacy), is part of a deeply ingrained identity in which being the only ones responsible enough to control nuclear weapons, patrol the oceans, and head global institutions is considered as part of the natural order. However, now that their own personal welfare and material comfort is at stake, many are timidly beginning to see the big picture of empire and question their personal alliance to it.

At this point, I believe it would be wise to look at the Latin American experience. Recent history shows that when people voted out neoliberalism, it was then imposed, not by bombs, but by the threat of an equally devastating financial crisis. TINA means the threat of economic ruin is so certain that heads of government, even socialists like Lula and Tsipras, prefer to give in than to preside over the certain ruin of their country.

53

Lupita 04.30.16 at 6:50 pm

@michael braverman

the term is nearly vacuous in current usage.

In case you haven’t noticed, commenters on this thread come from different countires and have different languages as their mother tongue. If we can talk about neoliberalism here and understand each other, that means that “neoliberalism” is precise enough to be understood across language groups and cultures and your assertion that it is a vacuous term is pretty much debunked.

I would respectfully urge you to burst out of your US-centric bubble and acknowledge the great work of economists from all over the world who have described and explained neoliberalism, of the political parties and heads of state who have stood up to its imposition, and of the courage and determination of popular movements such as the people of Cochabamba and the Zapatistas..

54

William Berry 04.30.16 at 6:52 pm

@kidneystones, Mdc:

Soullite, like Brett Bellmore and Data Tatushkia (Ze K), has been banned here before (and doubtless at many another “responsible” site). But time passes and, like the undead, they just keep coming back.

55

LFC 04.30.16 at 7:09 pm

Jason Weidner @52
Interesting. I recall *many* years ago seeing a history of economic thought by Gide and Rist.

I think, however, that usage of a term as malleable as ‘neoliberalism’ has to be seen very much in the context of a particular time and place; thus, whether any kind of line can be convincingly drawn from Maffeo Pantaleoni to Charles Peters — or, as Corey would have it, from Mont Pelerin to C. Peters — must be, at a minimum, highly debatable. The line from Maffeo Pantaleoni to Thatcher and Reagan seems much more direct.

56

Donald 04.30.16 at 7:10 pm

Braverman– it’d be more useful if you’d flesh out what you mean in your final sentence. It sounds interesting, but I have no idea what you mean. Not surprising, since I am no expert on the history of economics or politics.

More generally, the comment section here has gotten increasingly hostile. ( I’ve contributed in a small way.) The circular firing squad here has become a fractal, with everyone shooting at everyone else.

57

LFC 04.30.16 at 7:36 pm

michael braverman @42
The state would have to be empowered to maintain market discipline—against the will and interests of its participants.

How? You leave off the comment just where it starts to get interesting.

Btw, your tone toward C. Robin is unnecessarily insulting. I certainly don’t always agree w him — I disagree with certain things in ‘The Reactionary Mind’ (I haven’t read his ‘Fear’ except for the excerpts he put up here some time ago). However, your “brash but intellectually hollow vituperations” goes overboard, imo.

58

phenomenal cat 04.30.16 at 8:17 pm

“michael braverman @42
The state would have to be empowered to maintain market discipline—against the will and interests of its participants.

How? You leave off the comment just where it starts to get interesting.” –LFC @58

Yeah, condescending commenter is on to something with that line, but it is still too vague and could give the wrong impression, especially the phrase “maintain market discipline.”

It’s not so much discipline of the market which neoliberals saw as necessary for various apparatuses of the state to maintain. Rather neoliberals understood that state interventions, support, and coordination were necessary for redefining swathes of social and political life in economic terms. In other words, the power of state was necessary to make the “non-economic” amenable to various and particular kinds of market capture.

It’s never been about “market discipline.” It’s always been about disciplining everything else for the market.

59

Colin Danby 04.30.16 at 8:22 pm

Re @42: yes, the Braverman comment is dreadful, and its reading of Foucault eccentric too.

The place to start is Foucault’s 1979 biopolitics lectures, published in French in ’04 and English in ’08. An earlier version, with two of the lectures, emerged in 1991 in the Burchell/Gordon/Miller _Foucault Effect_ (Chicago).

And really (re@42), *everyone knows* the term has been overgeneralized. it is not a logical conclusion from that obvious fact that there is no such thing as neoliberalism.

60

bruce wilder 04.30.16 at 8:23 pm

I did not say there was a similarity, at least I did not intend to. More like, there is a symbiosis, as they simulate debates or disputes between them and further common goals by compromise with the other. That last is a particularly neat trick for practical politics, as neoliberals can avow one goal in principal while pursuing another in compromise.

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bob mcmanus 04.30.16 at 8:40 pm

59: It’s always been about disciplining everything else for the market.

The place to start is Foucault’s 1979 biopolitics lectures

Nah, it’s ok to start a few Foucault decades earlier, since, although he might have denied it, much of his work delineated the everyday mechanisms of Gramscian hegemony.

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LFC 04.30.16 at 10:09 pm

Plume @43
Re Obama “kept the war in Iraq going”:
Actually Obama ended the U.S. combat role in Iraq, and the Repubs criticized him for not arranging a status-of-forces agreement for a continued troop presence, even though Maliki made quite clear he didn’t want one. (According to McCain and Graham, it was the admin’s ‘fault’ for not negotiating long enough w Maliki. Or something.)

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alfredlordbleep 04.30.16 at 10:24 pm

Plume @2:44 pm

There really isn’t that much difference between them (Dems and Republicans) on economic, war, empire, surveillance issues. Even taxes, which was once a sure-fire point of departure. And because it’s all relative now and PoMod, “liberals” can claim massive differences where they don’t exist, because the bar has been lowered so much. Like the paltry increase at the top from 35% to 39.6%, with even that weakened by making all Bush tax cuts permanent from dollar one to 400K. Weakened further by raising the top from 250K to 400K.

It should be noted that taxation of income from wealth went down, down to 15% under Bush-Cheney and is back up to 23.8% (in the limiting case) under Obama as a combo of increase on cap gains&dividends and the ObamaCare surtax (I leave out the fine print. . . )

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Plume 04.30.16 at 10:30 pm

LFC @64,

It took him nearly three years to do so, and it’s still not really over. The last “official” combat troops left in December of 2011, but we still have a presence there of several thousand.

From Wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War

With the collapse of the discussions about extending the stay of any U.S. troops beyond 2011, where they would not be granted any immunity from the Iraqi government, on 21 October 2011, President Obama announced at a White House press conference that all remaining U.S. troops and trainers would leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously scheduled, bringing the U.S. mission in Iraq to an end.[307] The last American soldier to die in Iraq before the withdrawal was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on 14 November.[308]

In November 2011, the U.S. Senate voted down a resolution to formally end the war by bringing its authorization by Congress to an end.[309]
U.S. and Kuwaiti troops closing the gate between Kuwait and Iraq on 18 December 2011.

The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on 18 December, although the U.S. embassy and consulates continue to maintain a staff of more than 20,000 including U.S. Marine Embassy Guards and between 4,000 and 5,000 private military contractors.[310][311] The next day, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi. He has been accused of involvement in assassinations and fled to the Kurdish part of Iraq.[312]

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LFC 04.30.16 at 11:19 pm

still not really over

that is, unfortunately, true, in more than respect.

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LFC 04.30.16 at 11:20 pm

more than one respect.

ok, time to get offline.

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tony lynch 04.30.16 at 11:56 pm

layman@41 perfect example der Narzissmus der klienen Differenzen. Lovely.

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ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 05.01.16 at 12:54 am

When people whine about the term neoliberal, I an willing to compromise.

How about, “corporatist and warmonger?”
~

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J-D 05.01.16 at 2:12 am

kidneystones @11

‘For some reason, however, the poor are listening to David Brooks and Jon Chait.’

I wouldn’t be prepared to guess who the poor are listening to. What’s your source of information on this point? And, if they are listening to David Brooks and Jon Chait, what are David Brooks and Jon Chait suggesting that they do? Are they suggesting that the poor should vote for Donald Trump?

‘Many of the geriatric self-satisfied here are blissfully unaware of just how bad things are for young people.’

So tell us, how bad are things for young people in the US? I’ve read about some of them being shot dead by the police — is that the sort of thing you had in mind?

‘The result is the Salon piece linked, and others, that question whether Trump may well be the better candidate.’

Does Salon speak for, or to, the poor? The linked piece doesn’t argue that Trump will be a better President for the poor in the sense of achieving more for the poor; one of the reasons given for thinking that Trump might be the better candidate is an expectation that he would achieve nothing as a President.

‘It’s a free country (at present). But if any think voters watching protesters force Trump to crawl under fences, smash police cars, and silence free speech on campus are winning over the majority of voters, many of whom have not had a pay raise in 18 years, I’d suggest that assumption needs a re-think.’

To me it seems unlikely in the extreme that people who have not had a pay raise in eighteen years are thinking to themselves ‘It’s because they’re silencing free speech on campuses, that’s why I haven’t had a pay raise’ or ‘It’s because people smash police cars, that’s why I haven’t had a pay raise’. You appear to be suggesting a connection between things which are not connected. (Also, I don’t know what makes you think it’s a free country.)

‘There’s a revolution taking place in America today – and it’s a rejection in many respects of many of the most closely held assumptions of new liberalism. Whether Trump can succeed in overturning the old order is a different question.’

To say that there is a revolution but then to suggest that it’s not certain the old order will be overturned does not make sense: if the old order is not overturned, then there’s no revolution.

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Val 05.01.16 at 2:17 am

Mdc @ 50
I also find myself in agreement with Kidneystones (!) and have drawn the comment @ 36 to Corey Robin’s attention, hope he sees it.

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J-D 05.01.16 at 2:27 am

bob mcmanus @34

‘And it really isn’t that Democratic Elites are cynically using Wall Street as a money spigot; the fact is that Wall Street is no longer your grandaddy’s Wall Street, much more socially liberal, and Democrats like the Clintons and Obamas genuinely prefer the company of the Bill Gates and Mark Cubans and Summers and don’t want to have anything to do with the working class or poor.’

What’s the contrast here? How much of the socialising of Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt, or Democrats like John Kennedy, was with the working class or the poor?

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Plume 05.01.16 at 2:49 am

J-D @72,

Those earlier Dems came from the upper class, and seemed to have a certain noblesse oblige. They actually talked about the poor, a lot (especially RFK), and created programs they thought would help them. In general, they didn’t try to bootstrapsplain things, as is now the wont of the neo-Dems too. Those neo-Dems typically come from the middle class, and once they escape, seem to want to pull the ladder up after them and make the poor feel guilty about their plight in the bargain. They endlessly go on and on about how hard work and dedication and education will lift everyone, blah blah blah. They seem not to recognize the rarity of what they, themselves, have done, or the massive amounts of help they had along the way, or the much lower costs in their day — and sheer luck. And now, we get John Lewis, on behalf of Hillary, mimicking the “free stuff” rhetoric of the Republicans to further guilt the non-rich. To further guilt people who think tuition-free public schools is a great idea. It is.

In short, they aren’t that different from propertarians who also think that if a few can seemingly become billionaires overnight, anyone can, and anyone who doesn’t is just a lazy SOB. For propertarians, the vehicle is business ownership. For neo-Dems, it’s education. Both have amnesia, on a personal and systemic level. And both want to pull up the ladder after they’re own ascension.

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Peter T 05.01.16 at 3:02 am

Since the earlier thread on this has been taken over by Brett, Brett and Plume, I’ll continue my historically-inspired musings here. I was thinking about the social bases of liberalism as contrasted with neo-liberalism. Liberalism found its original home in the British upper middle classes, a group concerned to preserve their access to the state, but fearful of the magnates who controlled the state after 1688. As the middle class broadened after 1850 or so, it expanded its political reach – although it was then pushing as much against the ‘socialist” working classes as the oligarchy. A comparison with the continent is instructive – the same classes there supported royal absolutism, since the middle classes were smaller and more dependent on the state, and the magnate threat larger and more direct (the magnates wanted to neuter the state, not control it).

Neo-liberalism has, as others have pointed out, not much a political base at all. It’s hostile to the security and settled relations that are the hallmarks of middle class life as much as it is to the communal solidarity of the working classes. It’s an ideology of administrators working with and for the new magnates – the global rich and their placemen. The careers of people like Blair, the Clintons, or their Australian counterparts illustrate this nicely.

The relationship to state power is also quite different. Former magnate groups – the Czartoryskis, Sapiehas, Radziwills and Eszterhazys who disabled the Polish and Hungarian states could rest confident that their private armies could keep the serfs in line, and the networks of commercial middlemen who translated their produce into urban palaces and Haydn symphonies would survive changes of regime (in this they were right – as a group most did fine up to the 1930s). British magnate power is more complex – they needed professional and political allies if they were to keep the French out and the Irish down and, in a strongly centralised state, they could not fall back on local power.

In the current case, the magnates need the state to collect their rents – from students, mortgagees, debtors abroad, IP rights everywhere. In Britain and Europe, local power is not an option. In the US, owning a local patch (Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina…) is still possible. And there’s an affinity between magnate power and the military/police which goes beyond economic interest which, in the US case, can be exercised locally as well as nationally.

The sum here is that, to understand neo-liberalism you have to look not at intellectual antecedents but at the rise of magnate power. Piketty, not Peters.

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Val 05.01.16 at 3:07 am

(It’s also important to acknowledge that one of the reasons the term “neoliberalism” can be confusing is that outside of the United States, particularly in Europe, liberal has often meant support for free markets and a critique of the welfare state and social democracy. Inside the United States, liberal, at least throughout most of the 20th century, meant support for the welfare state and state intervention in the economy. Get into a discussion about neoliberalism on Twitter, and you inevitably find yourself crashing on a beachhead of this confusion. Personally, I think it’s about as interesting and relevant as that Founding Fathers fanboy who’ll periodically pop up in a discussion thread claiming that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. I merely note it here in order to acknowledge the point and move on.)

Really don’t agree with this. It is confusing trying to discuss neoliberalism or liberalism with Americans (ie people from USA).

I think as a starting point it would be useful to take a step back and look at the meanings of liberalism. Many Americans seem to use the term in a different way to other nations, as if either:

– there isn’t a clear concept of public/social/communal (or ecological for that matter) good in the USA so you don’t have political positions based on it, or
– Americans use the term “liberal” to mean people who are concerned with public/social/communal good, even though others use the term “liberal” to mean those who prioritise individual human rights as the basis of politics

It’s confusing and I’d appreciate clarification from political scientists on this.

(just to make it clear, I am not talking about libertarians in the second example – I won’t go into that further now as it would take too long but I can clarify if necessary)

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Val 05.01.16 at 3:15 am

I just tried to post a comment disagreeing with Corey’s parenthetical remarks that the difference between the way Americans (USA) use the word ‘liberal’ and the way that others use it is not important to this discussion. Went into moderation possibly because the quoted bit was too long.

Anyway to make it brief, I am confused over what Americans mean by their use of the word “liberal” and I do think it’s worth further clarifying the differences between American usage and others. Anyone care to clarify?

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SeanMI 05.01.16 at 4:50 am

Val @75
As I understand it, the relative weakness of socialist and labour movements in the US, the aggressive turn to social conservatism by the traditional American party of liberalism (the Republicans), and the hegemony of a moderate social liberalism over the American left within and without the Democrats, have resulted in the term ‘liberal’ being extended to cover social democratic and even socialist politics, while free market liberalism tends to be labelled ‘libertarianism’.

So, although variants of liberalism have long been hegemonic throughout American politics, Americans tend to use ‘liberal’ to refer to the liberal dominated liberal-left alliance rather than the liberal dominated liberal-conservative alliance, which is the opposite of eg. Australia.

(Basically, Americans have trouble defining ‘liberalism’ like fish have trouble defining ‘water’).

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LFC 05.01.16 at 5:16 am

@Val
I think CR’s parenthetical, though brief, is accurate. In contemporary European usage, the word ‘liberal’ tends to mean pro-‘market’, anti-state-intervention in the economy. In contemporary American usage, the word ‘liberal’ means someone a bit to the left of the nominal center in the US political spectrum, on both economic and social/cultural issues, unless it’s qualified as in “fiscal conservative, social liberal” (and those who describe themselves that way thus aren’t actually liberals all-round).

For aspects of the U.S. historical context w/r/t liberalism, I might suggest Alan Brinkley, Liberalism and Its Discontents (1998), essays written roughly over the decade preceding its publication (n.b. I can’t claim to have done more than glance through it, but he is a widely read historian of the U.S. C20th). For one influential view of the longer perspective, cf. Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (orig. pub. 1955).

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J-D 05.01.16 at 6:09 am

Lupita @53

As far as I can tell, the concern of the US (or the West) to demonstrate its superiority over the USSR is not something that began in the 1980s (or in the 1970s) but a consistent phenomenon from the Second World War onwards; something that has been going on for seven decades does not appear to be a good explanation for a new development that’s only three or four decades old.

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J-D 05.01.16 at 6:24 am

Plume @73

You’re defending a statement something like this:
‘Modern Democrats like Obama and the Clintons differ from Democrats of an earlier age in the extent to which they’re committed to policies which genuinely benefit the working class and the poor.’

But the statement bob mcmanus made earlier, which I was responding to, was something more like this:
‘Modern Democrats like Obama and the Clintons differ from Democrats of an earlier age in their preferences relating to the company of the working class and the poor.’

Those two statements are not equivalent.

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Val 05.01.16 at 6:27 am

Thanks LFC. I don’t have time to do the further reading at present but have added it to my (long) list of recommendations from CT commenters that I mean to read one day. I wasn’t questioning Corey’s definition really, rather his suggestion that the difference isn’t particularly important in the discussion about neoliberalism, because it seems to me if we don’t agree on what liberalism means, how can we agree on what neoliberalism means?

i guess I take liberalism as that thinking of the Modern era which saw all individuals as having rights, in opposition to the pre-modern idea that everyone had a place in a god-ordained hierarchy. So the Modern thinkers created a basis for equality, although as Carolyn Merchant clearly shows, what they were talking about was equality of men (adult males) and as others have pointed out, of white (‘superior races’) educated men (‘men of science’). However as Merchant also argued, what got lost in that was the sense of community and ecology – the sense that we are all part of the whole. This is going a bit off topic for this thread though.

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novakant 05.01.16 at 9:22 am

LFC I’m afraid that’s simply not correct, “liberal” is inherently ambiguous in the European context and economic liberalism is only one possible aspect.

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Val 05.01.16 at 10:36 am

@ 82
It’s ambiguous here (oz) in the way we use it too. Hence we say ‘Liberal’ – party of that name- and ‘small l liberal’ – tolerant, open-minded on social issues.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.01.16 at 11:38 am

Peter T: “Since the earlier thread on this has been taken over by Brett, Brett and Plume, I’ll continue my historically-inspired musings here. […] The sum here is that, to understand neo-liberalism you have to look not at intellectual antecedents but at the rise of magnate power. Piketty, not Peters.”

I’ll continue here too: I’m not sure that this is a “rise” of magnate power. There’s a familiar effect in studies of local elites in which they never decline, exactly, but at some point they are swamped by elites from further away as their local society becomes more connected to a larger one. It’s possible for the 1% to take more and more without the political power falling to the .0001%.

If administrators are working with and for the new magnates, well, the administrators are the ones being put into the positions of direct control. They can’t go against the direct, core interests of the magnates: I didn’t mean to imply that they could. But they have real power, and neoliberalism is in part the process of them thinking of each other as constituting a class. Part of that process is not-always-hidden scorn for the magnates who aren’t also administrators, concealed when the neoliberals are politicians who have to raise money directly, not so concealed in other cases.

I’m treating neoliberalism as different from right-wingerdom. It’s always possible for magnates to simply support the right, and the right has no difficulty in making a full-throated effort to support every magnate interest whether it’s financial like inheritance taxes or rhetorical like “job creators”. But the right is not how the world system comes together.

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Peter T 05.01.16 at 12:18 pm

Rich

I agree. One thing that makes the current magnates rather different is their dependence on the state. This is a real vulnerability, and one that gives the administrator/politician class leverage and a measure of power. But they are in the same boat – the administrators can’t change the policies without detaching themselves from the magnates, and they can’t do that without considerable loss as a group. They are clients, not partners.

The escape, for non-US magnates, is to un-moor themselves from any particular state (Russians in London, Latin Americans in Miami, Chinese in Vancouver and Sydney). US magnates have little choice but to pull levers more directly, as the US is the ultimate guardian of their ability to collect.

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LFC 05.01.16 at 12:58 pm

@novakant
LFC I’m afraid that’s simply not correct, “liberal” is inherently ambiguous in the European context and economic liberalism is only one possible aspect.

Ok. (I did use the phrase “tends to mean” in an effort not to be too certain-sounding).

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LFC 05.01.16 at 1:24 pm

J-D @81
Those two statements are not equivalent.

Indeed they are not.

The Roosevelts and the Kennedys were of course upper class (in terms of wealth, and in the case of FDR, iirc, it was rather old wealth). FDR had to be taught to lose or downplay his upper-class accent and manner before he could become a successful politician. He became the embodiment of a politician with the ‘common touch’, but I don’t think he spent all that much time in the company of the working-class or the poor (though he prob would have been comfortable doing so).

That said, mcmanus may be right that recent leading Dem politicians are more prone to hang out with the wealthy in social settings than some of their predecessors were. FDR of course was reviled by many of the wealthy as a “traitor to his class.” FDR was also disliked or hated by a number of medium-sized and smaller businessmen (e.g. closely-held manufacturing businesses) who felt that New Deal and subsequent wartime regulation fell more heavily on them than on larger companies that were better able to adjust or cope. How widespread that sentiment was I’m not sure, and opposition from that sector didn’t do much to dent FDR’s huge popularity.

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One of Many 05.01.16 at 1:30 pm

Just to try to map the dispute here a little bit, one side sees the difference between right neoliberalism and centrist neoliberalism as a distinction without a difference. On this view (see 46 above) right and centrist neoliberalisms are playing bad-cop/good-cop in a nefarious common project to dissolve all alternative social structures in the acid of the market. On the other side we have the likes of Chait, who don’t see centrist neoliberalism as a participating in any such project but as responding in a commonsensical way to the recognition of supposed economic facts. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the question of whether welfare liberalism is or is not a camel’s nose for communism (at a high enough level of abstraction, i.e. leaving out the relative dumbness of the latter question). But a third possibility is that centrist neoliberalism may indeed suck, but not because it’s not importantly distinguishable from Friedmanite liberatarian conservatism. Put it this way, do we really want to say that Paul Krugman (whose roots lie in centrist neoliberalism) is in his essence just Tyler Cowen? Maybe not.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.01.16 at 1:48 pm

BW: “In this view (see 46 above) right and centrist neoliberalisms are playing bad-cop/good-cop in a nefarious common project to dissolve all alternative social structures in the acid of the market.”

I can’t speak for Bruce Wilder, who wrote “46 above”, but I don’t think that the market as such has anything to do with it. At best it’s managerial, and managers know better than to depend on the market for anything critical. At worst it’s a looting operation. All alternative social structures are being dissolved into managerialism, which is why differing attitudes towards the market among elites in the U.S, Europe, and China really make no difference.

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Tony Wikrent 05.01.16 at 2:33 pm

Sorry I am late to the party. At the risk of being that “fanboy” CR dislikes who points out that USA was founded as a republic, I insist that is important to note how neoliberalism is basically a rejection of the anti-authoritarian political economy which was launched by the formation of the American republic.

Liberalism was a revolt on behalf of a rising middle class against the power and privileges of European ruling oligarchs and monarchs, who used their connections and influence at royal courts to gain economic monopolies and other privileges. This is generally known as the system of mercantilism. The intent of classical liberalism was to limit and curb the power of these oligarchical and monarchical states, to make room for greater economic freedoms and property rights for the rising middle class.

The creation of the American republic, then, was a high point of liberalism. However, it is crucial to note that under the Constitution of the new American republic, economic freedoms and property rights were subject to the Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare.

There are many who argue that the new American republic was merely a continuation of European mercantilism. This obscures the historical breakthrough represented by the creation of that republic, and its explicit Constitutional mandate to promote the General Welfare. Failing to see how this breakthrough represents a culminating triumph of the political and scientific Enlightenment over irrational and arbitrary power—ecclesiastical as well as oligarchical and monarchical—is a major reason the left today is so confused, disjointed, and ineffective.

The words “mercantilist” and “mercantilism” are generally used whenever government powers are used to promote a state’s economic powers. By specifying in the Constitution that government powers are to be used to promote a state’s economic powers in promotion of the general welfare, the American republic made a sharp break from European mercantilism, in which the welfare of a sole monarch or small group of oligarchs was often conflated with the general welfare of a state or nation.

In advanced industrial economies, the way a sovereign nation-state promotes and protects the general welfare is by imposing environmental, workplace, and consumer regulations on economic activity. There should also be strict limits on usury, speculation, and economic rent-seeking, which all drain financial capital away from the industrial economy and industrial enterprises.

Historically, then, where liberalism was a revolt against mercantilism–a mercantilism which channeled most of the wealth generated by economic activity to a small elite– neoliberalism is a revolt by a newly arisen class of corporatist oligarchs and plutocrats who are enraged that the promotion of the general welfare by modern sovereign nation-states involves laws and regulations which “stifle” their “business opportunities” and “economic creativity.” Not surprisingly then, we find, after nearly a half century of neoliberal reordering of the world’s economies, that just like mercantilism, neoliberalism channels most of the wealth generated by economic activity to a small elite.

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jake the antisoshul sohulist 05.01.16 at 6:28 pm

In practical terms we are all neoliberals now. In the West, and much of the developing world, there is pretty much a “market liberal” hegemony. The only question is how much government should do to soften the rough edges. Some, that call themselves libertarians in the US, think that it is a violation of their liberty if the state does any more than protect them from “the mob”. And it is tyranny of the highest order, if the state protects “the mob” from them.

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Brett Dunbar 05.01.16 at 6:29 pm

Latin America was vulnerable to economic pressure due to not being able to borrow cheaply. This was due to the international financial markets lacking confidence in their ability to repay loans. The IMF would offer loans at below market rate but on condition that the borrower adopt policies that make re-payment more likely. The poor credit worthiness of Latin America was due to a long history of economic mismanagement and high inflation. They found themselves unable to lend in their own currency due to high inflation while borrowing in someone else’s currency can lead to solvency issues.

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bruce wilder 05.01.16 at 7:57 pm

One of Many @ 91: . . . do we really want to say that Paul Krugman (whose roots lie in centrist neoliberalism) is in his essence just Tyler Cowen?

That’s certainly not what I want to say. What I do want to say is that the dialectic where Krugman responds to Tyler Cowen is an important foundation for narrowing the range of discourse between an economic-issues “left” anchored by Krugman and DeLong and Thoma and the like and a respectable “right” of libertarian conservatives like Tyler Cowen, Greg Mankiw, those Worthwhile Canadians, and so on. It is how TINA (There is No Alternative) is built and maintained.

Tyler Cowen has been very, very good at playing the provocateur; he persuades people by manipulating them into following his agenda and disagreeing with him in ways framed to serve his agenda. There have been times when some nominally left econobloggers have been responding to little else that some Tyler Cowen screed. He’s really smart and I think he’s enough of a sociopath to play his role with maximum degrees of freedom.

I am not saying there’s any intentional deception on the part of the left neoliberals. Krugman, DeLong, Thoma, Dani Rodrik, Simon Wren-Lewis et alia believe their own b.s., and take genuine pride in their membership status within the mainstream of their professional discipline. However politically liberal or progressive they may be, they are conservative in their economics. DeLong wants to have an exchange with Greg Mankiw where DeLong draws some comfort from the fact that they are both New Keynesians who agree about certain facts, though they have different political viewpoints. The problem is both intellectual and sociological. They accept stylized frames that are prejudicial, like the convention that analyzes policy remedying income inequality as tax-and-transfer “re”distribution. (Look at poor Quiggin’s recent post — “predistribution”, really?) And, it is social as well as some are within the blessed circle of serious and reputable scholars. Krugman wants us to know that Ben Bernanke is a trustworthy technocrat who shares his understanding of the economics; Krugman wants us to know that Larry Summers is saying smart things about the root causes of stagnation.

There’s professional pride in the notion that the mainstream of the economics profession has labored mightily thru the data and successfully and scientifically rejected the Laffer Curve, Friedmanite monetarism, Barro’s Ricardian Equivalence, and Lucas’s rational expectations and similar notions that supposedly undergirded Reagan’s economic policies. Mark Thoma’s motivation to start blogging was supposedly his determination to bury the idea that economics could provide any support for the idea that tax cuts can be self-financing, a la the Laffer Curve. And, they think that professional agreement on the canon of market failures justifying (sic!) government regulation puts them on the right side of the deregulation policies first set in motion in the Carter-Reagan years — market liberalization good! but GWB went too far, seems to be the message; oh yeah, sorry about the blowup in 2008, but we’ve got that well in hand; we’ll tell you what to worry about going forward . . . blah blah blah.

The problem is that these left neoliberals are conservative economists, and they are policing the boundary on the discourse that places them on the left pole of “serious” discussion. “Brad DeLong sees red” is a pattern that limits the ability to introduce genuinely progressive/social democratic critiques and discussion.

It would not be a serious practical problem if conservative economics had any utility, other than as a civic religion, but it doesn’t. Understand from their viewpoint, left neoliberals think being a conservative economist is fully compatible with being a political liberal; being a conservative economist is a matter primarily of “rigorous” method, not specific dogmas. Stiglitz, arguably the most important economist of his generation with contributions to many subfields, is a political progressive and critic of institutions like the IMF and World Bank that use “Washington Consensus” neoliberalism as a cover story for corrupt or counterproductive policy. It just doesn’t do any good.

It doesn’t do any good, because the distilled version of mainstream economics that informs popular political discussion and rationalizes policy frameworks at a high level of abstraction — often called Econ 101, because it follows the introductory (and intermediate) college textbooks — maps out a theory that has few reliable referents in the world. Economic theory imagines an economy organized as a system of markets, coordinating activity with perfect numéraire prices and fairly complete information. It is a pretty good theory, capable of being rendered as an impressive axiomatic system and productive of considerable and valuable insight. Sometime in the 1950s, economics arrived at the conclusion that the actual economy could not possibly be like that for a variety of reasons, which can be summarized as uncertainty and bounded rationality. The traditional pedagogy of indoctrinating students in the theoretical system, while waving out the window as if the actual economy was like the imaginary world of theory, but just messier in mostly unspecified ways continued despite this result. The advanced research program in various subfields continued, with varying degrees of accommodation to reality, but the pedagogy remained paralyzed, while macro and policy economics have degenerated into a Dunning-Kruger combination of arrogance and ignorance.

That neoliberalism is the ideology of a managerial elite cadre that doesn’t want anyone to interfere with their self-serving complacency let alone looting and doesn’t want to be held responsible for results becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way, since the underlying economics does not supply much in the way of practical wisdom or practical tools for that matter. When Krugman announces that IS / LM analysis — an 80 year old kludge that even its originator regards as fundamentally wrong-headed — provides a sufficient insight into what’s going on in the macroeconomy and with monetary policy, he’s defying others to parody him.

You cannot remain in this narrow space between Tyler Cowen and Krugman or DeLong and Mankiw and say or think much of anything that’s relevant to the 21st century problems of a globalized economy, climate change, resource exhaustion, overpopulation, or the Third Industrial Revolution of communication and computing.

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LFC 05.01.16 at 8:19 pm

Joseph M. Schwartz[*] weighed in on Chait & liberalism & socialism at Jacobin on 4/28. I haven’t read his piece, but if you go there it shdn’t be hard to find.

(*Joe Schwartz to those acquainted w/ him.)

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Peter K. 05.01.16 at 8:39 pm

http://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/05/early-monday-self-smackdown-by-the-often-insightful-corey-robins.html

DeLong comes out against Robin. Of course DeLong is now blocking anyone who is even mildly critical of him or Hillary. Just like Dsquared these neoliberals are awfully touchy about criticism.

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JeffreyG 05.01.16 at 9:22 pm

bruce wilder @96
100 times this.
They all have to keep up the charade that economics is not fundamentally political, that it is at root instead a technocratic enterprise about managing economic laws. Krugman is the high priest of the orthodoxy; read any of his posts on heterodox approaches to economics and this comes across clearly.

It is a shame, because there was a range of interesting work coming out of the 50’s and 60’s – think Kaldor, Robinson, Sraffa – that somehow never found its way into the mainstream. Even before that you have people like Gunnar Myrdal who in the abstract you might expect to have significant influence on the discipline, but don’t. Proponents of the neoclassical view didn’t triumph over these dissenters in an intellectual sense, but they were still widely successful in marginalizing these viewpoints.

I wonder at times if there is something distinctly American to this sort of narrowness.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.01.16 at 10:05 pm

“It is a shame, because there was a range of interesting work coming out of the 50’s and 60’s – think Kaldor, Robinson, Sraffa”

With all due respect to Kaldor, Robinson, and Sraffa, I don’t think the important economic problems of our time concern the business cycle, managing the business cycle, or human productivity. If economics is fundamentally about scarce resources, then at this point all economics has to be based on environmental economics. Sure, some people have worked on that, but it’s nowhere near being foundational to the discipline.

If I can analogize human activity to beavers building dams, we have lots of economists beavering away at how many dams there should be, which beavers should build them, whether they should be planned or built ad hoc, etc., and meanwhile the river level is dropping every year. At a larger level a lot of the left-right conflict in economics just replicates what BW describes as the Krugman/Cowen conflict.

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JeffreyG 05.01.16 at 10:28 pm

Rich-
Certainly in the face of environmental apocalypse, all that looks trivial.
I guess what I mean is that if the discipline was unable to really engage with the ideas of someone marginally on the outside like Kaldor, there was no chance of them taking the ‘limits to growth’ thesis seriously. But I don’t think this intellectual closure is essential to the discipline – Galbraith not too long ago talked about affluence as replacing scarcity, for instance. Sometime after WWII it gets locked in; the narrowing of focus over the intervening decades is fairly remarkable.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.01.16 at 10:58 pm

I might as well annoy everyone by spreading blame around. I don’t think that “sometime after WW II” is precise enough for this particular thing, at least in the U.S. It has to do with the New Left and reactions to it. As late as 1970 environmental concern had not become tribal (Nixon starting the EPA, etc.) Before 1960-ish, it just wasn’t on people’s radar, pretty much. In the intervening period some economists started to work on it. Then came Reagan and the tribalization of environmental concern, which pretty much ended any chance that economics as a whole could reorganize itself around it.

So why didn’t left economics reorganize itself around it? Because left economics is, still, connected to ideas from the 19th century that were connected to active hostility to environmentalism as a bourgeois concern. At best, left economics were concerned in the tribal era with defending the gains of Keynesianism or the New Deal era broadly, and that was an era all about the business cycle and avoiding crashes in the human economy.

Now that we’re in the neoliberal era, and it’s apparent that *something* is going to have to be done, the solutions are all flatly neoliberal solutions about carbon taxes,pollution permits, selling off public assets to avoid tragedy of the commons, doing nothing because it’s too costly, etc. Neoliberal solutions, even the well-meant ones, have the common characteristic that they aren’t implemented, or if they are they don’t have the political support to withstand the predictable opposition. Look at John Quiggin’s support of carbon taxes and then what happened in Australia. (Not saying that JQ is himself a neoliberal: he isn’t.)

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Val 05.02.16 at 12:07 am

I wonder how many people here have read ecofeminist critiques of mainstream economics? They show clearly that mainstream economics excludes subsistence work and unpaid caring/body work as well as environment/ecology, and the connections between them. I would strongly recommend Marilyn Waring if you haven’t already read her, especially her analysis of the United Nations System of National Accounts
Marilyn Waring ‘Policy and the measure of women: Revisiting UNSNA, ISEW, HDI and GPI’ pp 165-179 in Ariel Salleh (ed) Eco-sufficiency & global justice : women write political ecology.

I know I have mentioned Waring before but given that previous discussion of ecofeminist analysis got derailed by silly insults about “nutty” theory etc, it is certainly worth mentioning her again. I’m not sure that the environmental/ecological discussion comes out so clearly in that chapter, but there are numerous others in the book that make it very clear.

I have tried to engage John Quiggin in discussion of these issues but I don’t think he has yet engaged with the feminist critique of mainstream economics at a deep level (though he certainly does not dismiss it).

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Peter T 05.02.16 at 12:48 am

I think one has to distinguish academic neo-liberalism, which has an independent intellectual existence, from the practice of the administrative class who carry out the program. The one is a fascinating piece of conceptual flower-arranging; the best analogy for the other might be that the administrators are the enzyme injected into the host so that the contents of the body might be more easily extracted.

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Brett Dunbar 05.02.16 at 12:58 am

The idea of emission permits or pollution taxes have worked when actually implemented. The emission permits for SO2 worked at eliminating acid rain. The fact that the special interest lobby opposed to the pricing in of this externality has been strong enough to prevent implementation doesn’t make much difference to whether prciing in the externality would be an effective solution. Like with stimulus do you, as an economist, make a proposal that you think is what is best or do you moderate it based on what you believe to be politically achievable.

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Howard Frant 05.02.16 at 1:55 am

I am astounded that this absurd discussion ever got started, let alone that it’s still going on. The term “neo-liberal” was coined, as best I can recall, by Peters as a sort of counterpart to the word “neo-conservative,” which was then in vogue. Nobody thought it had any connection to an old European term based on a meaning of “liberal” pretty much the opposite of the American meaning. It’s a bit confusing when Hayek talks about liberals to realize that he’s referring to himself. (Though Hayek was opposed to laissez-faire, believed that government intervention was needed to make markets work better, saw nothing wrong in a guaranteed annual income, etc. But that’s another story.)

Meanwhile, as Chait says, Peters’s term never caught on. But the old European term came back in Europe as a derogatory term for Thatcherism. Now some intellectuals have discovered Peters’s term and decided that he was following a tradition from the 1930s. It’s totally ridiculous. It’s as if someone had discovered that there was a group of Russian revolutionaries in the 1880s who called themselves “New Dealers” and said “Aha!”

The basic idea of Peters-style neoliberalism as I recall it was to use “conservative” means to achieve liberal ends more effectively. Hardly anyone today would think it a good idea for the government to hold down the price of natural gas to help the middle class and poor, but that was the standard liberal position at the time. A carbon tax or cap and trade are both P.-style neoliberal positions, as opposed to having the EPA set hard limits for each smokestack, and controversial at the time. Now a carbon tax has become a litmus test for Bernie Sanders. I don’t think this is because Sanders has been infected with right-wing ideas.

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bruce wilder 05.02.16 at 3:04 am

LFC @ 90

FDR sank his personal fortune into a polio rehabilitation hospital which was run essentially as a charity. He spent much of his free time there among his guests and that’s where he passed away in 1945. His wife, as a young woman, had worked in a settlement house and had a life long interest in helping the poor. I think at least three members of his cabinet had professional backgrounds in social work.

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bruce wilder 05.02.16 at 3:24 am

Peter T: I think one has to distinguish academic neo-liberalism, which has an independent intellectual existence, from the practice of the administrative class who carry out the program.

Indeed, such a distinction would be valuable. I think academic neoliberalism has a legitimizing function, which is very important for creating and maintaining TINA and the learned helplessness of inverted totalitarianism — so more than “flower arranging” but still less than pragmatic identification of cause-and-effect for purposes of policy control.

But, it is also true that academic economists over the last couple of generations have been trained according to standards that involve learning next to nothing about the actual economy. There was a time, when a macro-economist was expected to actually know something about the business cycle as a phenomenon. Large business corporations hired them not as adjuncts to their PR departments, but to manage internal economic forecasting and planning — doing the kind of stuff one sees on the Calculated Risk blog. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

It is not clear to me what the boundaries are between “neoliberalism” as a public policy doctrine and the kind of business school doctrines that promote the idea that corporations are properly “profit-maximizing” entities that should be oriented in their management and operations to increasing shareholder value, with particular concepts of the “cost of capital” applied to investment planning and executive compensation.

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J-D 05.02.16 at 3:27 am

bruce wilder @107

Thanks for drawing my attention to that. I think it would be a good thing if there were more people in Cabinets (everywhere) with a background in social work. But that also reminds me that Barack Obama was a community organiser, and Wikipedia tells me that he spent three years in that job and helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organisation. If that’s true, he probably spent a lot of time with poor and working-class people.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.02.16 at 3:44 am

Brett Dunbar: “The idea of emission permits or pollution taxes have worked when actually implemented. The emission permits for SO2 worked at eliminating acid rain. “

No, not really. This is another zombie factoid that won’t die. A couple of sources chosen for their easy availability:

http://org.elon.edu/ipe/ludwig_edited.pdf
“Therefore, when one looks at the impact of tradable pollution permits on SO2 emissions relative to other contributing variables, one sees that participation in clean air markets has a small affect.”

http://web.mit.edu/ceepr/www/publications/reprints/Reprint_248_WC.pdf
“It was widely recognized by the late 1990s that SO2 reductions in excess of those resulting from the trading program of Title IV would be required by other provisions in the Clean Air Act dealing with air quality standards because of the signi cant adverse health effects of ne particulates associated with SO2 emissions. But the law did not give the EPA authority to adjust the Title IV program, such as by tightening the overall cap, in response to new information about the bene ts (or costs) of emis- sions reductions. “

If you read these and other sources, you’ll see that the main contributor to declines was plain old Clean Act Air command-and-control regulation, that the trading system never had a major effect, and that the trading system predictably collapsed for political reasons when it looked like it might actually need to be tightened and have an effect.

The economists who write pieces like these always present their data and then somehow conclude that the program worked. They’re just reaffirming dogma, as far as I can make out. I would say that a program that had a minor effect that was vastly outweighed by regulatory effects which changed the kind of coal in use and that collapsed due to political opposition as soon as it would have really been needed was a failure. But the theory says it can’t fail, I guess.

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bruce wilder 05.02.16 at 5:10 am

Peter T @ 75

Liberalism, broadly understood as an emerging ideology of secularism, meritocracy, constitutionalism, and rational and humanistic reform arises out of the 17th century experience with religious war, expanding literacy and the Scientific Revolution and the expanding commercial opportunities of a newly global world.

As an ideology liberalism is shaped historically as much by the need to garner and contain mass popular support as it is by needs and fears (and fears of) magnates. The Civil Wars of the mid-17th century in the British Isles have their Cavaliers, but also the New Model Army, which is the source of Leveler spirit in the good, old cause. The run-up to the Glorious Revolution of 1689 is marked by turning out popular demonstrations of support by Whigs and Tories.

The liberalism of France is more purely theoretical, the product of the reading clubs and the surplus of under-employed lawyers in an overly litigious society until hunger prompts the Paris mob to intervene and, of course, the emergence of the nation-in-arms at Valmy.

In both 17th century England and late 18th century France, the democratic spirit animates a republicanism which runs aground on the inability of assembled representatives to make sensible decisions. A dictatorship results. In France’s case, Napoleon proves the key factor enabling far-reaching institutional reforms, like the establishment of the Bank of France, the settlement with the Catholic Church and the landmark legal reforms embodied in the Code Napoleon. (And, yes improbably, Napoleon participated rather forcefully in the deliberations that moved forward his namesake law reform.)

Liberalism has an ambivalent relationship with the lower classes whose support is needed to obtain and exercise political power, but who want and need economic support in return, support liberals are reluctant to give.

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RNB 05.02.16 at 5:37 am

Heard John Roemer in an on-line lecture years ago say that the sense of social solidarity or unity that underpins broad support for social democratic politics was created by the joint sacrifices during the Second World War. Moreover the destruction of petit bourgeois wealthy especially in the countries that were defeated created broad popular support for social insurance given the vulnerability to risks that broad swathes of the population suffered.

I am wondering whether one of way of understanding neo-liberalism is cultural. That is, neoliberalism is best understood as the cultural change that strengthened politics against redistributive taxation, an elite attack on various forms of power sharing and a cultural critique of social responsibility for individual misfortunes.

And the cultural change here was the loss of a sense of national solidarity and national unity forged during war. Perhaps that was bound to weaken over time but also that sense of solidarity was attacked as a source of weakness for Anglo-American elites who feared that their relative global power was diminishing (as suggested by Piketty).

But this of course also suggests that the cultural critique of neo-liberalism is tied up with attempts to reassert nationalism. And that creates a different set of problems.

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Howard Frant 05.02.16 at 6:28 am

Rick Puchalsky @110

I just read the Schmalensee and Stavins article, and I have no idea what you’re talking about. They conclude that the unrelated deregulation of rail lines might have accounted for one-third of the emissions reductions and cost savings from cap and trade, though some command-and-control alternatives, like mandating scrubbers, would have wiped out the possibility of those savings. How do you get from that to “minor effects”? By “regulatory effects” do you mean, um, deregulation? The program didn’t “collapse due to political opposition as soon as it would have been really needed.” It collapsed because a court struck it down. What might have been needed was a tightening of the standards, which the law didn’t allow. These people are neither dumb nor mindless ideologues, much as you may wish to think so.

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Charles Peterson 05.02.16 at 7:24 am

A movement that can be named can be defeated. Neoliberals have used a large collection of descriptions of their policies and ideas so as to further promote the idea that There Is No Alternative. When one name becomes deglamorized another appears.

They basically promote the ideas of lower taxes on income and wealth, less regulation, less social welfare spending, and programs where people who obtain services, as much as possible, pay for their own costs–such as ACA, which then fits with the plan of continuing to reduce taxes on income and wealth. “Redistribution” is to be phased out. In this understanding, I’m not exactly sure the difference between Conservative and Neoliberal in economic ideas and policies, except in small degree, the Conservative would claim the benefit of eliminated rather than merely lower cost programs. But in real government systems, both types of governments mainly create more programs than fewer…the claimed distinction is false.

I had not thought that neoliberalism included necessarily being hawkish on war, but perhaps it does, and looking at actual known neoliberals they may all fit. I had preferred to use the term “neoconservatism” to describe the pro-imperial hawkishness, so in my previous use the same person, say Hillary Clinton, could be both neoliberal (and I see her as the best example, save for some promises recently I hope she can be held to) and neoconservative. Perhaps that is wrong. I’ll have to check.

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David 05.02.16 at 8:58 am

Charles – classical liberalism was intensely anti-militaristic, not least because the Army was an instrument of royal power., and a potential source of tyranny. War was seen as a waste of time and money, and the military a profession dominated by aristocratic idiots. There were two interesting exceptions; One was the use of the military (and especially the Navy) to acquire and protect trade routes and keep the sea-lanes free, as I imagine the ghost of John Locke is now explaining to John Quiggin in a parallel thread. The other, never really separated from the first, was the spread of western liberal values, Christianity, and various normative ideas about government and society. The two were to some extent necessarily at cross-purposes with each other, but the rather awkward mix is visibly the origin of liberal militarism today, which on the one hand underwrites things like “free” trade and access to raw materials with force, and on the other hand believes that you can make the world a better place by killing all those who disagree with you; or as Tom Lehrer said in 1965 “I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!”. But liberal militarism is, and always has been, a different issue from traditional militarism, largely because liberals don’t know, and don’t want to learn, anything about the actual limitations of the use of force.

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Igor Belanov 05.02.16 at 10:42 am

In the UK I think there is a bit of a problem with use of the term ‘neoliberal’. Many in the UK and abroad refer to Thatcher as ‘neoliberal’, but while she was influenced by the thought of Hayek, Friedman and their British acolytes, in many ways hers was an old-fashioned Conservatism, taking advantage of the economic changes of the 1970s to reassert class control and dominance and weaken the influence of trade unions and the more ‘social democratic’ aspects which the state had accrued since WWII. Like Reagan, her monetarist aims failed miserably and it was the unintended or opportunistic advantages of North Sea Oil and privatisation that helped to keep the government’s head above water while using the proceeds to reward her friends and divide her enemies.

In the UK the real neoliberals are the Blairites. They are fully signed up to the idea that every person is a potential entrepreneur, using acquired skills and innate qualities to achieve ‘success’. This combines perfectly with identity politics, as being a member of a minority is seen as offering some kind of market niche. Unlike the Tories, they believe in a ‘carrot’ as well as a ‘stick’ approach. Thus some form of state spending is advantageous in providing ‘skills’ that individuals can use in the market, working tax credits and minimum wages are good for encouraging the poor to work for low wages, while cultural subsidies help improve image (which is vital) and encourage investment.

Their socio-economic mantra is ‘what works’, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this is not an objective criterion, and that there may be differing interpretations of the effectiveness of certain actions, as well as their ends. In essence you have to put faith in their ability to manage the market to the benefit of all.

The other side of the coin is that Blairites are also very anti-liberal in personal matters. If you reject their central logic then you are either on your own or subject to sanctions. Any behaviour considered ‘self-defeating’ (drinking, smoking, obesity, anti-materialism, even ugliness!) is either frowned upon or to be punished. This is the inhuman face of their elitist managerialism.

To cut a long story short, you’re really taking about the difference between ‘neoconservative’ and ‘neoliberal’, not that there is a great deal that sets them apart.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.02.16 at 10:50 am

Howard Frant: “I just read the Schmalensee and Stavins article”

And I suspect that no amount of my explaining how it presents an incomplete picture will help, since you evidently aren’t reading the parts of it that make claims forthrightly as really making those claims forthrightly. But I’ll try a little bit:

HF: “They conclude that the unrelated deregulation of rail lines might have accounted for one-third of the emissions reductions […]”

So unrelated deregulation of rail counts as a success for the pollution trading program, because both programs are part of one big, nebulous thing called “deregulation”?

HF: “though some command-and-control alternatives, like mandating scrubbers, would have wiped out the possibility of those savings.”

There was effectively dual regulation of these emissions, something that you have to know the history involved to realize or read between the lines of the article a bit to see. You don’t have to read very far, though. Here’s a quote:

“It was widely recognized by the late 1990s that SO2 reductions in excess of those resulting from the trading program of Title IV would be required by other provisions in the Clean Air Act dealing with air quality standards because of the significant adverse health effects of ne particulates associated with SO2 emissions. “

Those “other provisions in the Clean Air Act” always existed, and the cost of pollution permits was marginal because facilities had to install scrubbers or make fuel replacements anyways.

HF: “The program didn’t “collapse due to political opposition as soon as it would have been really needed.” It collapsed because a court struck it down. “

Any long-lasting program periodically need to be adjusted by legislation. The court did not strike down any possibility of this kind of program. From the article: “the courts af rmed that EPA could not set up a new interstate trading system or modify the Title IV system in the absence of new legislation from Congress. ” When the program started to bite, it encountered predictable political opposition, and there was no constituency capable of pushing it legislatively against that opposition. Which is exactly what I wrote upthread.

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One of Many 05.02.16 at 4:50 pm

Bruce Wilder @96 – Thanks for that (very useful to me) explanation. But surely there are still going to be important cases in which constraints of an orthodox-economics sort on what is feasible as policy will be real. And if I had strong views as to what those were I could easily imagine being anxious not to discredit my preferences as to outcomes (freedom, dignity and empowerment of ordinary people) by a self-defeating choice of means. What I think distinguishes this from TINA (even if the strong views in question are empirically wrong) is that the latter doesn’t just see such constraints where there is no empirical reason to believe they exist, but moreover does so motivated by a prior normative assumption that ordinary people are unvirtuous and would benefit morally from austerity and ‘market discipline’. There’s obviously no such assumption made by the likes of Krugman and DeLong. Krugman was of course very clear that the pain caucus is perverse, and that we should have taken the easy way out of the Great Recession. I guess if Krugman and DeLong are as wrong as you say they are about the objective constraints, then their humane normative assumptions wouldn’t do much to mitigate the unfortunateness of their objective role in the dialectic, but I think reasonable people on the genuine left can disagree about whether they are in fact so clearly wrong about those constraints.

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Howard Frant 05.02.16 at 5:33 pm

Rich Puchalsky @117

I’ll try not to be as condescending as you.

1. “So unrelated deregulation of rail counts as a success for the pollution trading program, because both programs are part of one big, nebulous thing called “deregulation”?”

Who on earth said that? What I said, based on what S & S said, is that as much as a third of what’s attributed to emissions trading might actually be attributable to rail deregulation. That leaves two-thirds attributable to emissions trading. I repeat, how do you get from that to “minor effects”? They also say that if there had been a command-and-control program in effect mandating scrubbers for every smokestack, even the one-third savings wouldn’t have been realized.

Emissions trading is not, in my mind or anyone else’s, “part of some big nebulous thing called deregulation.” It’s part of a big nebulous thing called regulation. It’s just better regulation.

2. In the late ’90s it was realized that the big problem with these emissions was not so much acid rain as human health effects from particulates. That’s why they say, in a boldface section heading, that the Act did the right thing for the wrong reasons. So the limits needed to be tightened because of other provisions in the Clean Air Act dealing with human health. Yes, those provisions already existed; what didn’t exist until the late ’90s was the scientific understanding that made them applicable. There was never any contemplation of moving to command-and-control.

3. No, as I said, according to S&S what happened was a series of court decisions striking down interstate trading. This didn’t happen “when the program started to bite.” It was the result of court decisions.

Emissions trading worked. I’m not sure why you’re so eager to say that it didn’t, and that good old command-and-control is the way to go. Possibly in your mind it’s part of a big, nebulous thing called “neoliberalism.” For that see my comments at 106.

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Lupita 05.02.16 at 6:12 pm

Many of the cultural underpinnings of neoliberalism are, of course, those of the region from which it hails, particularly the Protestant notion that outward signs of prosperity reveal one’s virtues and God’s favor. This is why neoliberal notions, such as conceiving one’s body as private property and marketing one’s person, found fertile ground in the West resulting in neoliberalism being self-imposed through democratic elections. Westeners may find analyzing neoliberalism from the perspective of ideology and culture both meaningful and productive.

In the non-West, however, Anglo-American/ Protestant/ individualist notions actually clash with many societies, cultures, and religions, so neoliberalism was imposed by means of debt, financial crises, and the IMF. This is why, in Latin America, neoliberalism is explained in mostly monetarist, technocratic, financial, and neo-colonialist terms.

So, how you conceive of the boot is different depending on whether you are the one wearing it or the one being crushed by it. It is the same neoliberalism, but it is important to note that there are two important perspectives at work.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.02.16 at 7:20 pm

HF: “What I said, based on what S & S said, is that as much as a third of what’s attributed to emissions trading might actually be attributable to rail deregulation.”

The article twice qualifies this 1/3 with “in the early years of the program”, but let’s move on. More broadly it’s my contention that nearly all of the gains were attributable not to emissions trading, but to concurrent command-and-control regulation of the same sources.

HF: “No, as I said, according to S&S what happened was a series of court decisions striking down interstate trading. This didn’t happen “when the program started to bite.””

Oh yes it did. Look at the timeline in Figure 2 of that paper. In the late 90s, you get the realization that SO2 levels are going to have to be lowered a lot further. There’s no effect on allowance prices because no one sees this actually happening soon. Prices of allowances don’t start to zoom until it looks like something is actually going to be done via CAIR. But as prices go higher, EPA announces it will re-evaluate CAIR. Why did EPA make this announcement? Because of industry pressure, of course. Why was the agency sued over CAIR a year later? Because of the higher prices of allowances that a lower SO2 target would involve. The court decisions happened “when the program started to bite” because the court cases themselves were brought when the program started to bite.

HF: “Emissions trading worked. I’m not sure why you’re so eager to say that it didn’t […]”

Because I don’t think that it actually worked. Instead, I think that it failed just as other emissions trading schemes have failed or are going to fail. They share the common characteristic that as soon as the trading scheme becomes actually expensive for the regulated entities, the trading scheme effectively goes away.

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bruce wilder 05.02.16 at 9:20 pm

One of Many @ 118: . . . surely there are still going to be important cases in which constraints of an orthodox-economics sort on what is feasible as policy will be real.

Stopped clocks are right twice a day; you just don’t know when, if you are not allowed access to a working clock for comparison.

I think it is good that the left neoliberals think, in your example, that “the pain caucus is perverse”. That’s a lovely sentiment, and gives those who wish to wring their hands somewhere to light, but it is not enough. There has to be some practical engagement on mechanisms and personnel. Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Olivier Blanchard — these are powerful neoliberals implementing TINA policies and they will never be criticized adequately by fellow members of the club. Krugman can travel in Europe and call for greater fiscal spending, but there is no fiscal authority for the Eurozone and so no mechanism for carrying out his otherwise formless suggestion — it remains an impotent and meaningless sentiment, not a practical policy alternative.

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bruce wilder 05.02.16 at 10:40 pm

RP @ 121: . . . as soon as the trading scheme becomes actually expensive for the regulated entities, the trading scheme effectively goes away.

I read the Schmalensee and Stavins article and it is hard for me to form a definite impression, beyond the sense that they don’t know what they are talking about.

If I were investigating, I would have been interested in the monitoring regime, its effectiveness and cost. How well were the EPA and the firms able to monitor and account for actual emissions? Was it a proxy measurement? How frequent? To what extent were things arranged to give the firms superior information?

Command-and-control does not go away. A market for permits introduces a possibly valuable decentralization, but the quality of command-and-control depends on the quality of the feedback and the freedom to act upon it. It doesn’t seem to me that our economists are curious enough about the right things.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.02.16 at 11:06 pm

BW: “If I were investigating, I would have been interested in the monitoring regime, its effectiveness and cost.”

It’s basically self-reported (i.e. the polluting facility self-reports the numbers) with occasional inspections if the facility is a large polluter. See here if you want to dig through bureaucratese. My impression is that proxy measurements were a lot more common than actual ones up until the point where sensors got really cheap.

I work with an air/land/water pollution self-report-to-the-government database that is intended to inform the public. Every year I score the polluters to see the top ones: every year there are some of them that look like really big polluters that when contacted say the equivalent of “Oops, we added an extra zero at the end and overreported by a factor of ten.” The ones who underreport by a factor of ten don’t get found out, in general: as far as I know EPA only does enforcement on that program if a facility doesn’t file reports at all. But that dataset isn’t considered as important.

But yeah, if you really know what’s going on with this program, the real question is how much is due to the trading program and how much is due to command-and-control Clean Air Acts regs, which were forcing the same kinds of measures (fuel replacement, scrubbers) at the same time for a different regulatory purpose. That requires detailed knowledge of the actual history of the program and how it changed from one time period to the next, and it’s not easy to disentangle.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.02.16 at 11:36 pm

I’ll just anticipate the next obvious what’s-the-difference question: “what’s the difference between a trading program and a command-and-control program if the regulated industry has the political power to get its way when it becomes expensive for them? Couldn’t they quash either one?”

There’s a big difference. Command-and-control says: you will not pollute more than a certain amount, because pollution is dangerous. This often uses the concept of best available technology, which means that within the bounds of reasonability cost isn’t really the deciding factor. If industry wants to pollute more, it has to say “Can we pollute more and kill more people? This is expensive!” That mobilizes a constituency that can effectively oppose the deregulation.

For a trading program, you’ve already said that money is the most important thing and that no one facility really has a limit on how much it can pollute. So they aren’t asking to break an individual limit. They’re basically saying “Do we have to buy these government issued pieces of paper? This is expensive!” And there’s no big constituency of angry economists waiting to rise up and defend their permit trading schemes.

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Howard Frant 05.02.16 at 11:59 pm

RP: More broadly it’s my contention that nearly all of the gains were attributable not to emissions trading, but to concurrent command-and-control regulation of the same sources.

You totally lost me. What is the basis for this contention?

“Started to bite”: If by that you mean “when allowable emissions were cut by 2/3,” then yes. I would’ve said that they started to bite, in the sense of constraining behavior, much earlier. When they got new information suggesting that the caps should be reduced a lot, the law did not permit the EPA to tighten the caps. So when Bush proposed changing the law, the expected costs (and benefits) of the program zoomed, and industry pushed back. I don’t see what your point is here– that with command-and-control this wouldn’t have happened?

Yeah, when pollution control becomes suddenly much more expensive, there’s big political fight. What does this have to do with cap-and-trade vs, command-and-control?

Look, here’s a link to Stavins’s blog. The blog has a link to his email. Why don’t you write to him and see what he says?

http://www.robertstavinsblog.org/

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Rich Puchalsky 05.03.16 at 12:07 am

Sorry, I already anticipated your question.

124

Howard Frant 05.03.16 at 12:13 am

Bruce Wilder: You impression is mistaken. S and S have been working on this stuff for thirty or forty years. They definitely know what they are talking about.

The article you read was a review article intended for an audience of non-specialist economists. It’s not the limits of what they know.

I already suggested to Rich Puchalsky that take a look at Stavins’s blog. If you’re particularly interested in the subject (I’m not, particularly) it’s:

http://www.robertstavinsblog.org/

125

NG 05.03.16 at 12:30 am

I’m surprised to see Paul Krugman, and especially Simon Wren-Lewis, described as neoliberals. Perhaps I’ve missed something, but they’re both anti-austerity, and as far as I know neither of them argues for implementing more neoliberal policies.

126

awy 05.03.16 at 3:10 am

this is really a conversation rendered unproductive by an overly broad brush. defining what you mean by the label becomes pointless past a certain point, when simply defining what specific policy or factual beliefs you wish to attack would be more efficient.

but there is no rhetorical or narrative points in that, is there.

127

One of Many 05.03.16 at 4:37 am

What Wren-Lewis is criticising under the rubric of “neoliberalism” is right neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism has been adopted and promoted by monied interests on the right, and that money often resulted from what we might call today crony capitalism.

Which he’s doing from more or less a left neoliberal perspective.
More generally, it is a huge error to think that because [right] neoliberalism invokes a highly selective and distorted view of basic economics, the left must therefore oppose mainstream economics.

128

bruce wilder 05.03.16 at 6:40 am

One of Many @ 131

Yes.

Brad DeLong had a post recently, which makes an interesting complement to the musings you quote by Simon Wren-Lewis.

He called it, Whose are the ruling macroeconomic ideas?, and in it he first recalled Keynes saying, “Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas…”

But, he goes on to suggest that he doesn’t see the ideas of “academic scribblers” having much influence at the moment. “The ruling ideas are not those of “academic scribblers”. They are, rather, much simpler. . . . If the ruling ideas were those of Bagehot, Kindleberger, Keynes, Friedman–even a Hayek–we could do something, . . . But, the ruling ideas are barely ideas–they are, rather slogans. The bipartisan technocratic policy center of politicians who listen to arguments about what policies might actually work is gone–or at least paralyzed.” He lists five examples.

Simon Wren-Lewis makes a similar observation about the quality of neoliberal ideas: “. . . neoliberal ideas have become so commonplace, not just on the right but also the centre of politics, that no self-identification by label is required. But there may be another reason why few call themselves neoliberal, and that is because if we try and regard it as a coherent and consistent set of beliefs it can very quickly be shown to be inadequate and confused. Commonly held beliefs do not have to be coherent and consistent.” Wren-Lewis goes on to make the point that right neoliberalism is a kind bastardized version of free market economics, driven my the corrupting self-interest of monied “crony capitalism”.

Where I ranted to the effect that economists are at fault for clinging uncritically to an often irrelevant economic theory, these two see no such responsibility.

129

Rich Puchalsky 05.03.16 at 10:15 am

awy: “when simply defining what specific policy or factual beliefs you wish to attack would be more efficient.

but there is no rhetorical or narrative points in that, is there.”

I guess that’s why I haven’t been writing about specific policy beliefs as illustrated by a specific policy example.

130

Bruce B. 05.03.16 at 10:52 am

Rich, word on the street is that all this is solid dissolves into air. Turns out this includes substance that offends very serious people.

131

Rich Puchalsky 05.03.16 at 1:23 pm

Bruce B., if one doesn’t go into detail, one gets back (paraphrased) “this is all vague and you’re blurring unlike things together”, if one does, one gets back (paraphrased) “I’m not that interested in this and why don’t you talk to the experts.”

There is no golden mean between the two, so it just becomes something that can’t be talked about in blog comments. Taking both parts of Dunning-Krueger into account, I’m not a top expert on this — I’m a data user rather than regulator, and although I worked in an area very close to this one for the last 25 years (i.e. through the entire history of the EPA acid rain trading program) it was an area close to this one, not exactly this one. So I know how much I don’t know about it. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that I do know a lot more about it than the other people here, some of whom seem pretty confident that they know how this program worked despite it not really being their area at all. I would guess that some people think that they know how this program worked because of theory. But that theory doesn’t work out in practice for reasons I’ve described above.

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F Lengyel 05.03.16 at 2:45 pm

A friend and I once published a NY Times Op-Ed proposing a neoliberal labor arbitrage program for multinational corporations: outsource CEOs. The Corner Office in Bangalore.

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Bruce B. 05.03.16 at 2:53 pm

Oh, I’m not disagreeing. Particularly not with the experience of ending up condemned for too much or not enough with no allowance for anything in between.

134

awy 05.03.16 at 3:59 pm

was just referring to the corey-brad exchange. i didnt read the comment thread in full and i would not defend the left center consensus entirely

135

bruce wilder 05.03.16 at 7:16 pm

awy @ 130, 137: defining what you mean by the label becomes pointless past a certain point, when simply defining what specific policy or factual beliefs you wish to attack would be more efficient

If you could pin those specific beliefs down, maybe it would, but these are moving targets in a fluid, only semi-transparent medium, as people circle in an endless cycle of explaining themselves, “yes, but . . . ” distinguishing themselves from others along several dimensions while also maintaining alliances and alignments. Persuasive rhetoric being what it is — manipulative, to speak plainly — those “yes, but” explanations offered in one particular context — even if strictly true and honest — can be deceptive or misleading regarding the overall program or constellation of ideas.

It is only over time, with recurrence of certain themes or stances, that one begins to pick up the pattern. The label is meant to draw attention to the fact that there is such a pattern by giving it a name. The pattern is more important, more telling than any particular proposition defended in the singular context of a place and moment in time.

It ought to be said that these patterns are, as Simon Wren-Lewis aptly observed in the phrase I quoted above, not necessarily in the nature of consistent and coherent beliefs. They may relate to theories, as various patterns, all labeled “neoliberalism”, relate to economic theories, but like any ideology what holds them together functionally is a foundation of partially unconscious shared social as well as idiosyncratic personal interests and preferences.

“Neoliberal” has been a label adopted by or applied to several different historic movements, each with a relation to theories and programs of political economy. The antecedent “liberal” has been a label both for the political seeking after the liberty of the market as an organizing principle of political economy and, in American politics, as a label for the politics of generosity in rejecting means-testing and discriminating the “deserving poor” in policy design.

Attaching “neo” to “liberal” is an obvious construction. Pedantry of the etymological variety seems sorely misplaced. Maybe, there would be some usefulness in pedantically exploring the psychology that drives people to use “neo” or “new” or “post” or “pre” or “ante” or “3rd” and so on, to demarcate the evolution of ideas with particular prefixes at particular times, and what it means when these labels are self-applied, and when they relate to retronyms. In American politics, “liberal” was adopted by FDR, using the semantic association with generous and universal as well as freedom (in the sense of freedom from fear, freedom from want) to distinguish New Deal reform movements from the earlier Progressive Movement, which was more deeply paternalistic and conservative. In continental European politics, “liberal” has antecedents in 18th century French laissez faire ideology as well as 17th century Whig philosophies. In Europe, the post-war ordoliberalism promoting a strong state and the EU introduced another strain, one that I think is probably often the primary if not exclusively the proper or intended antecedent to many applications of “neoliberal” as a label for recent developments in EU politics.

So yeah, even just acknowledging the diverse uses of “neoliberal” (and the diversity of antecedent uses of the label, “liberal”, that may be important to explaining why the label was constructed) throws up maybe too much information to process in a blog, let alone a twitter exchange.

Still, what Corey Robin pulled out of this dust cloud deserves attention. It is that there is a resonance or recurrence between the neoliberalism of Hayek and Mont Pelerin and the neoliberalism of Charles Peters. They do not descend from anything like the same or similar ideas of political economy. But, when countervailing power and institutionalized class conflict was amputated from New Deal liberalism to create the crippled third-way politics that Charles Peters labeled “neoliberal”, that remnant, allegedly centre-left “neoliberal” constellation began immediately to take on a symbiotic relationship with the Friedmanite conservative libertarian narrative, which was more properly heir to Mont Pelerin “neoliberalism”.

That affinity between these two “neoliberalism” with quite different pedigrees and ostensible theories originating in different periods, places and contexts — that’s the critically important takeaway insight.

That affinity is no small thing and no mere coincidence. It is at the core of American left neoliberalism, which you can see from the bit I quoted just above from self-described neoliberal Brad DeLong, where he’s nostalgic for Friedman and even Hayek. (He’s not saying he agrees with them; he’s saying he could productively argue with them. That’s why I keep using the term, dialectic, to describe this relationship.)

That this affinity becomes most salient when “Brad sees Red” and is motivated to attack more radical leftish advocacy than his own centrism, as stupid and/or unethical shows us important aspects of how this affinity between differing “neoliberalisms” affect our political dynamics. Brad is going to fight to remain the left pole of mainstream discourse; he’s not going to play nice and he’s not interested in a productive dialogue, doesn’t even see the possibility of a productive dialogue with critics to his own left, outside the axis he’s established in his own mind with Milton Friedman et alia. This reluctance among neoliberals to engage with those to their left contributes to the epistemic closure of “There is No Alternative”.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.03.16 at 8:49 pm

BW: “That this affinity becomes most salient when “Brad sees Red” and is motivated to attack more radical leftish advocacy than his own centrism […] Brad is going to fight to remain the left pole of mainstream discourse”

I still think that this is slightly wrong. Maybe some neoliberals think, consciously or unconsciously, that they are fighting to remain the left pole of mainstream discourse, but I don’t think that most do. Instead I think that they are totally immersed in a managerial world to the point where anything else looks crazy to them. It’s not that they are denouncing hippies because they are members of the set “left”, they are denouncing people to their left because they are members of the set “hippies”.

Once again! — back to the thread about Lysander Spooner and Frederick Douglass. You don’t get to be “left” of BDL by favoring the end of chattel slavery, because everyone now favors the end of chattel slavery. For that matter Douglass wasn’t countercultural as is now currently meant by that term. Douglass’ “stupidity” according to BDL was that he didn’t support Lincoln for President. Now maybe BDL was just straightforwardly exporting anachronistic knowledge to the past or using the past as a club with which to attack contemporary enemies. But the last doesn’t seem to hold up, because Douglass was a bona fide American hero. I can’t really conceive of a calculated smear that begins “You’re acting like Douglass.”

Instead I think, as I wrote in that thread, that some people just don’t get it. Don’t understand how people of other classes or backgrounds think; are insulated by their class ideology to the point where their ideology looks like the only rationality that there is.

137

Howard Frant 05.03.16 at 11:52 pm

NG,One of Many,

This whole huge discussion about “left” and “right” neoliberalism is the result of an academic misunderstanding.

Charles Peters was trying to find a single word to describe what we might call the Washington Monthly approach to public policy. He coined the term “neoliberal” as a contrast to both traditional American liberalism and American neoconservatism. The basic idea was to achieve traditional American liberal goals with nontraditional, often market-oriented, means. The term was, I think, a new coinage. It never really caught on. I recall Nicholas Lemann, once at the Washington Monthly, saying later, “I never called myself anything but a liberal.” It would make life much simpler if we just called these people New Liberals.

At around the same time, we had the rise of Thatcher in Britain. People in Britain use the term “liberal” not as we in the US do, but to describe a strong belief in markets, associated with the right (but not traditional Tory right). For example, Hayek called himself a liberal. So people in Europe started referring to Thatcherism, in a derogatory way, as neoliberalism.

This pejorative term spread to the academic left in the US. Then some academic discovered the old Peters term, and assumed completely wrongly that there was some connection between the two terms. So we got such absurdities as people saying, “Hillary Clinton is neoliberal in that she’s for free trade, but she seems to lack these four other characteristics of neoliberalism,” and other people talking about it as a sinister ideology in America. No. Hillary Clinton is not a neoliberal. Bill Clinton was to some extent, and Hillary is to a lesser extent, a New Liberal, but neither is a Thatcherite. The confusion is, however, convenient for people who really, really dislike Hillary Clinton.

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Howard Frant 05.04.16 at 12:55 am

Bruce Wilder

I didn’t see you post before my own briefer post.

No, leaving aside any “resonances” it is in fact mere coincidence that the two terms have something in common, such as belief in the usefulness of markets. There’s no takeaway. Using the same term for both, and then trying to distinguish “left” from “right” neoliberalism just gives rise to endless , unnecessary confusion. They’re not the same thing. Don’t try to fit them into one Procrustean critique.

I am not aware that DeLong ever identified himself as a neoliberal. I’m not sure he’d even know what you meant. He’s, you know, a macroeconomist. He’s saying that he’s prepared to argue macroeconomics with people who have a different theory than him, but that it’s hard to argue with people who have no theory at all. I assume he’s referring to Republicans. Beyond that I have no idea what particular sin of DeLong’s you’re referring to, but come on, I don’t think DeLong is spending much energy worrying about remaining the left pole of anything. I imagine when he calls someone unethical, he doesn’t mean that the person is attacking him from the left, he means they’re behaving unethically. This isn’t some reference to the whole Friedman business, is it? Supporters of Sanders really did behave badly in that instance. They should not complain about DeLong not engaging them. It was they who refused to engage him. It was pretty shameful.

139

LFC 05.04.16 at 12:59 am

H. Frant:
This pejorative term spread to the academic left in the US. Then some academic discovered the old Peters term, and assumed completely wrongly that there was some connection between the two terms.

Some of us were alive and even adults (young or otherwise) in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Thatcher was elected in late ’79, and the Peters piece appeared in the early ’80s. It’s obvious that Peters was not a Thatcherite. But it’s still possible to argue, as Corey R. does in the OP, that there is *some* connection between the two. One can disagree w that argument (and I myself lean quite strongly in the direction of disagreement) without positing some mass amnesia such that everyone forgot about the Peters piece until some foolish academic stumbled onto it much later and “assumed” there was some connection betw the two terms or phenomena.

The Peters manifesto, and even more the Wash Monthly in general, made a bit of a splash among people who followed politics. I remember occasionally reading The Washington Monthly in those years. Peters hired a lot of young journalists many of whom went on to become well-known writers for glossier, more ‘mainstream’ publications. Those journalists (including the likes of James Fallows, Gregg Easterbrook, and Jonathan Alter, to name only three, of somewhat different ages) proceeded to take the Peters perspective or some variant thereof into the pages of Newsweek and The Atlantic. The idea that neoliberalism in the Peters sense went into some collective black hole of un-memory and was only much later discovered by an academic who misguidedly assumed that there was a connection betw. neoliberalism à la Peters and neoliberalism à la Thatcher is wrong. The degree to which there actually is any connection is (highly) debatable, but I object to the supposition that it’s all a complete misunderstanding, the result of some ignorant academic stumbling onto old copies of the Wash Monthly and leaping to the conclusion that the same word in two different contexts must mean the same thing. I don’t think that’s how it worked or that an academic who did even a minimal amt of research cd persist in an initial naive assumption. A decent historian wd be not be so gullible as to be misled by one word into being unable to draw any distinctions betw the ‘new liberalism’ of Bill Clinton and the ‘neoliberalism’ of Thatcher.

140

Howard Frant 05.04.16 at 1:11 am

Rich Puchalsky

If you’ve been working in or near this field for 25 years, as you say upthread, then you certainly know more about it than me. I wish you’d said so instead of making me squeeze information out of you drop by drop.

Stavins has been working in this field for 25 or 30 years. If you really think he’s wrong, please don’t waste your time talking about it on this blog. As I suggested, send him an email (robert_stavins@hks.harvard.edu). Surely you don’t want him spreading misinformation.

141

ZM 05.04.16 at 1:46 am

LFC,

I haven’t read all the thread but —

“Some of us were alive and even adults (young or otherwise) in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Thatcher was elected in late ’79, and the Peters piece appeared in the early ’80s. It’s obvious that Peters was not a Thatcherite. But it’s still possible to argue, as Corey R. does in the OP, that there is *some* connection between the two. One can disagree w that argument (and I myself lean quite strongly in the direction of disagreement) without positing some mass amnesia such that everyone forgot about the Peters piece until some foolish academic stumbled onto it much later and “assumed” there was some connection betw the two terms or phenomena.”

I think there is a connection, although I would say the two uses of neoliberalism are different but related.

I think at uni the readings are usually specific in terms of if they are discussing normative neoliberalism of which you could say Peters was a proponent of one variety, and descriptive neoliberalism which is more like saying the period 1970-2005 was a period of neoliberalism, or something like that.

I think it is a bit like post-modernist where you have people who were normative proponents of post-modernism, but also you have people like Harvey or Jameson who use the term postmodernism as a descriptive term to describe a period.

I think in the West neoliberalism and postmodernism overlap without being exactly the same. Lupita has brought out some differences between Western neoliberalism and neoliberalism in Latin America.

Where you might use neoliberalism to talk about governance and economics, you would use postmodernism to discuss arts and culture. You might call some art and culture neoliberal (?) but mostly no one would call governance and economics postmodern.

I think postmodernism was contested a lot more, and contested primarily from a conservative perspective, although also I think a working class perspective (hence Harvey and Jameson’s interest as Marxists of a fashion)

Neoliberal governance and politics on the other hand was embraced by conservatives as way of getting away from the control of big government I guess, but at least in Australia had working class critics using the name economic rationalism as a bit of an insult.

When you think about what the connection is between the two, I think it is that the event and aftermath of WW2 was profoundly destabilising, which paved the way for the 60s. And then some of the more radical parts of the 60s like the riots and perhaps just people’s fear of change sort of paved the way for neoliberalism in the normative sense by someone like Thatcher.

I moved to the country when I was one year old when my parents moved there as part of a bit of a migration of the counter culture to the country that happened in Australia in the 70s. There were quite a lot of people that moved to the area, but also a lot of families that had been here for generations. One man was talking about the hippies moving into the area in the 70s and 80s to the local paper a few months ago and said that towns welcomed them and even though it was a bit of a change they went along with their journey.

My area is a bit different because it is where people really mixed. I remember in high school we got called hippies quite a bit, but one guy in my class one time said we weren’t really hippies we were fake hippies. I just insulted him back as is my wont, and only many years later did I think he must have said it because he grew up in Nimbin before moving to this area, and that was a quite extreme counter culture town, compared to what happened here where the counter culture people mixed with the other residents mostly pretty well.

We didn’t really have a Thatcher in Australia, as I said above the neoliberal economic reforms here were mostly brought in by our Labor government in the 80s and early 90s.

So in Australia perhaps the Peters style of neoliberalism was more prevalent, but without the opposition to unions that Corey Robin says characterises Peters’ neoliberalism.

142

bruce wilder 05.04.16 at 2:03 am

RP: I still think that this is slightly wrong.

Maybe slightly wrong — maybe just a slightly different angle of vision. For my purposes, you can toss the form of my hypothesis into the basket marked, “as if”. Professor DeLong acts “as if” he is determined to defend his perch very near the left pole of the axis of acceptable discourse. But, I see what you are saying. It doesn’t seem like it can make much sense in relation to Spooner, because Spooner is dead and the controversies of 1860 are settled, unless we suppose DeLong is projecting big time.

143

Rich Puchalsky 05.04.16 at 2:09 am

HF: “Stavins has been working in this field for 25 or 30 years. If you really think he’s wrong, please don’t waste your time talking about it on this blog.”

This blog is supposed to be a distraction from work, not more work. If I ever get this into defensible shape — which, as mentioned above, would involve a whole lot of detailed examination of what was happening year-by-year in terms of command-and-control CAA regulation vs Acid Rain trading program regulation — I’ll write it up. But that’s not actually my job and I’m sort of hoping that some economist gets to it before I do.

144

bruce wilder 05.04.16 at 2:28 am

Howard Frant: They’re not the same thing.

No kidding. I never said they are the same thing.

I did say that I thought Peters’ neoliberalism had established a dialectic with Friedmanite conservative libertarianism (which is also sometimes referred to as “neoliberal” because of its affinity with classical liberalism and Mont Pelerin neoliberalism.) This parallels the dialectical relationship between Thatcherism and Blair’s New Labour or Reaganism and Clinton/Obama New Democrat politics.

It is not my fault that the label, “neoliberal” has been coined at various times and places by other people to label multiple movements or ideological clusters.

If people want to give me control of the political lexicon for the planet, I’ll get right on making it much clearer. Just tell me where to send my invoices.

145

ZM 05.04.16 at 2:33 am

would you call it wilderspeak or brucespeak?

146

Donald 05.04.16 at 3:19 am

I followed the Sanders Friedman Krugman Delong food fight– shameful is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. To my non- economist eye, it looked like a theological spat.

147

LFC 05.04.16 at 3:30 am

ZM @145
I’ve read your comment w interest. The hour is too late here for any substantive comment in reply, however.

I will only add that from a somewhat parochial U.S. standpoint, I think Peters’s role as mentor to and/or incubator of young journalists, quite a few of whom went on to v. successful careers (I mention three of them by name in the second graph of my comment @143) may be just as important as, if not more important than, his ‘manifesto’ and anything else he wrote. (Btw, I think he might have published a memoir; not looking it up.)

148

Lupita 05.04.16 at 3:35 am

If you are not a socialist, you are a neoliberal. Easy.

149

J-D 05.04.16 at 4:11 am

Lupita @152

But if I’m not sure which of those I am, how do I tell?

150

Lupita 05.04.16 at 4:23 am

The left is where your heart is.

151

MilitantlyAardvark 05.04.16 at 4:41 am

@Lupita

“If you are not a socialist, you are a neoliberal.”

What if I just want to belong to the People’s Front of Judea?

152

Howard Frant 05.04.16 at 5:20 am

LFC: No, I certainly didn’t mean to say that “Washington Monthly” ideas had disappeared. What disappeared was the word “neoliberal.” I just don’t recall it being applied to anyone after, say, Gary Hart. It’s only recently I’ve heard it being applied to anyone in the US. HRC, naturally, and my immediate reaction was, “Well, that’s wrong– she’s not a Thatcherite.” It seems to have become a general snark that academics like to apply to Clinton to make her sound more conservative than she is. I think that it detracts from, rather than adding to, clarity. If you want to criticize the whole Third Way thing, I’m with you. But for crying out loud, let’s leave Hayek out of it, because he has no relevance to current American politics except as an icon for people (Paul Ryan, Glenn Beck) he would’ve had no use for.

153

Howard Frant 05.04.16 at 5:33 am

Bruce Wilder:

“No kidding. I never said they are the same thing.”

Fine. Then let’s retire the term “neoliberal” to describe the Clintons, and use some other term. I realize we can’t do it alone, but we can keep from adding to the confusion. Maybe at some point in the future people will have forgotten all about the European term.

154

One of Many 05.04.16 at 7:03 am

I’m largely in agreement with LFC @143 on the relationship between right neoliberalism and centrist/left neoliberalism, in that ‘there is *some* connection between the two’.

Then there is the issue of the nature of the connection. And sure, part of that connection is that they both lay claim to some sort of commitment to orthodox economics. But that doesn’t mean that they necessarily function symbiotically. That left neoliberalism doesn’t share right neoliberalism’s normative assumptions about hierarchies of virtue isn’t a purely ‘subjective’ matter of feelings and niceness, but can make a difference to their objective dialectical role. It means, for example, that policymakers influenced by New Keynesians rather than Friedmanites will be looking for opportunities to use fiscal policy effectively, rather than excuses not to use it.

Of course, it depends a lot on whether there is a core of genuine knowledge in orthodox economics. If there is, then we have a connection rather like the one that would hold between social darwinists and scientific darwinists, if the latter had genuine policy implications. Social darwinism is motivated largely by a set of prior normative views (about the existence of a hierarchy of excellence between races and classes) but scientific darwinism is not. The former misrepresents the science and the latter does not. If on the other hand natural selection were a myth then it might make sense to treat the latter purely ‘externally’ as ‘objectively’ (whatever their subjective feelings and motivations) just providing cover for the former.

155

Collin Street 05.04.16 at 9:05 am

> But if I’m not sure which of those I am, how do I tell?

You ask one of the guards, “if I asked the other guard, what would he say?”

156

One of Many 05.04.16 at 1:58 pm

To clarify, when I say that “left neoliberalism doesn’t share right neoliberalism’s normative assumptions about hierarchies of virtue” I’m thinking of Krugman-style left neoliberalism rather than Peters/DLC-style centrist neoliberalism. Though maybe the distinctions are getting too fine here to be useful.

157

Howard Frant 05.04.16 at 4:00 pm

Donald,

“I followed the Sanders Friedman Krugman Delong food fight– shameful is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. To my non- economist eye, it looked like a theological spat.”

Alas, just because something is over one’s head doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. This one involved the Sanders campaign claiming that its policies could, within ten years, raise the median income by fifty percent, reduce the poverty rate to three percent, etc., etc.

It didn’t take much expertise to see that the behavior of one side was shameful. In fact, it was pretty much an encapsulation of everything that repelled me about the Bernistas, and, eventually, their leader: the refusal to engage on policy, the strong and loud suggestion that anyone who disagreed with them was corrupt and a liar. (I’m omitting the details because I’m a slow typist.) They’re a blight on political discourse, and thus on democracy.

158

Donald Johnson 05.04.16 at 4:13 pm

Actually, I followed all those claims, Howard and don’t agree with you on who was behaving badly. Some of the economists on the Friedman side were claiming that drastic changes in how we do things could have much bigger effects than what the more mainstream economists claim is possible. On the substance, I can’t judge between the heterodox and mainstream economists. Not my area of expertise. I don’t think it’s the same as heterodox vs mainstream in the real sciences, where heterodox means crackpot.

Krugman himself tossed out a corruption charge, claiming that people (meaning Friedman) could be tempted by all the attention they were receiving to make irresponsible claims. In his usual classy manner he then claimed he had nothing personal against Friedman, after implying that he was a sensation-seeker. Krugman in particular has been pretty much a Clinton bro for several months now. He barely acknowledges anything wrong with Clinton’s record or behavior and sees everything wrong with Bernie. An objective observer could see some bad behavior on the part of the campaigns and supporters on both sides. Partisans, amazingly, only see such things on one side.

159

Donald Johnson 05.04.16 at 4:22 pm

“Then let’s retire the term “neoliberal” to describe the Clintons, and use some other term”

DLC Democrat, centrist Democrat, something of that sort? In the 90’s the Clintons were known for being this new, improved Democrat (we could use that term too), Democrats who were pro-market, against big government, willing to use military force (failed in Rwanda, but never again), “reformed” welfare, deregulated Wall Street, got tough on crime, etc… And very pro “free trade” agreement.

In the US, I think this is what neoliberal has usually meant.

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Howard Frant 05.04.16 at 5:55 pm

Krugman did resort to that one low blow after the Bernistas had been pummeling him for some time about how he just wanted a job in the Clinton cabinet. Here’s how it started: The campaign ran around promoting this analysis that made clearly outrageous claims– as I recall, that in Sanders’s plans were fully implemented, in the next ten median income would go up 50%, the poverty rate would go down to 3%, the economy would grow by more than 5% per year, etc. The four previous heads of the Council of Economic Advisers under Democratic presidents, people at the top of the profession, published a letter saying we’re the party of reliable numbers, the Republicans are the party of fantasy numbers, please walk back these claims.

The Bernistas responded by calling them the Gang of Four, and finding an economist I’d heard of who said this analysis uses standard assumptions, and look, here are three years in the 80s when growth was above five percent, so why not ten years in a row? (I Googled this and there were two years of high growth and one year of pretty high growth, preceded by a year of negative growth. This was in fact the Reagan recovery.)

The Bernistas decided that this ended the discussion. Reich asked his FB followers ominously: “So why do you think Krugman and these others are attacking Bernie’s plan so ferociously?” The website Naked Capitalism ran a headline, “Krugman and His Gang’s Libeling of Economist Gerald Friedman For Finding that Conventional Economic Models Show That Sanders Plan Could Work” and saying “This isn’t just a bad case of tribalism and intellectual dishonesty. This is purveyors of a failed orthodoxy refusing to indulge any consideration of plans that would show how badly they’ve mismanaged the economy.”

Finally, Christina Romer and her husband got down into the weeds of Friedman’s analysis and found he’d made a rookie mistake. The Times asked him about this, and he said, basically, oops. But within the same interview, he switched to claiming that he was using different economic models. He later went on to say that he was a Keynesian, while Romer and Romer were using static Classical models, which even I knew was ridiculous. But the Sanders campaign has gone on claiming that he’s got some new heterodox model, erasing the previous claim that these were standard models. No, there’s no heterodox model.

By the way, the Sanders campaign claimed that Friedman had no connection with the campaign, omitting to mention that he had also done the analysis for their single-payer health plan. And if this was truly a food fight, surely someone would’ve mentioned that Friedman’s field is actually economic history, specializing in labor history, which makes him a pretty odd choice for what he was doing.

I don’t even know how DeLong comes into this; I assume that he came to the defense of the “Gang of Four,” and was called a corrupt liar by the ignoramuses. I’d be pissed off if I were him. I’m sure now he’s part of some imaginary left neoliberal galaxy and differs in this and that way from other left neoliberals. Actually he just a liberal and an economist.

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awy 05.04.16 at 9:25 pm

bruce wilder@ 139

the situation as i see it places the burden of explaining the term on the side that uses it to describe a lump made of people who wildly disagree with each other. the ‘neoliberal consensus’ defined by the …left people…(see, if i use a term here i would be at pains to define it again, let’s just use the extensional set of the term) as i see it is an acceptance of certain market economy principles , including belief in market led development, fundamental importance of economic growth, etc as well as a political worldview that is optimistic about the market led world order.

there are a lot of particular disagreements as the calendar turns but the fundamental perspective difference seems to be this. but as i originally claimed, if the discussion or disagreement is around who is right about the virtues or replaceability of market and market based institutions, strategies etc, then let’s discuss them in those terms. those who are described as neoliberal are mostly respectful of empirically grounded economics.

the CT type left is really important in fulfilling the role of critic and expanding the expectation/aspiration of politics, but doing so does not need to come at the cost of either respect for reality or level of discourse. i don’t see much value in hammering on the neoliberal label. it seems like a sort of moral or character flaw attack. maybe point at specific wrong beliefs etc.

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Howard Frant 05.05.16 at 2:57 am

“DLC Democrat, centrist Democrat, something of that sort? In the 90’s the Clintons were known for being this new, improved Democrat (we could use that term too), Democrats who were pro-market, against big government, willing to use military force (failed in Rwanda, but never again), “reformed” welfare, deregulated Wall Street, got tough on crime, etc… And very pro “free trade” agreement.”

Yes, any of those would be more fruitful for discussion.

BTW, it strikes me that what everyone here knows but no one has mentioned is 1984 (the year, that is). 1. New Democrat vs. Old Democrat for nomination. 2. Old Democrat wins nomination. 3. Old Democrat is rejected by the electorate (oh, them) in second-biggest (?) electoral-vote landslide in history.

The good old days were not killed by the DLC; they were already dead.

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phenomenal cat 05.05.16 at 5:34 am

“the situation as i see it places the burden of explaining the term on the side that uses it to describe a lump made of people who wildly disagree with each other. the ‘neoliberal consensus’ defined by the …left people…(see, if i use a term here i would be at pains to define it again, let’s just use the extensional set of the term)…” –awy @165

Not really. If you find the term so inchoate as to be incomprehensible you can read through this thread and many, many others on this blog or delve into literature across multiple disciplines to get a sense of how and why the neoliberal term is deployed in the way that it is. Anyway, it seems like you’ve got a decent start on grasping the import of it, but…

“i don’t see much value in hammering on the neoliberal label. it seems like a sort of moral or character flaw attack. maybe point at specific wrong beliefs etc.”

It’s not ad hominem . It’s a term of analysis. Perhaps if you start from this premise you’ll see differently.

“The good old days were not killed by the DLC; they were already dead.” –Howard Frant @166

Complete non-sequitur. Or is your point that everything about Bernie Sanders’ politics died a pathetic death in 1984? So, you know, wake up and smell reality, Bernistas.

By the way, what exactly are Bernistas anyway? Care to define that term? It sounds admirably objective.

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engels 05.05.16 at 10:23 am

If you find the term so inchoate as to be incomprehensible you can read through this thread and many, many others on this blog or delve into literature across multiple disciplines to get a sense of how and why the neoliberal term is deployed in the way that it is.

As someone who uses the term neoliberal and believes it does (can have) a definite meaning, reading threads like this do make me think the right-wingers have a point, at least sometimes. A lot of people do seem to be using it as a kind of conceptual dumping ground for their personal grievances with contemporary capitalism and the established Left in particular, which seem to be at best contingently related.

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engels 05.05.16 at 12:43 pm

I’d hypothesise that some of the hysteria about neoliberalism in US may be driven by nostalgia for a ‘purer’ capitalism of the past (and likewise the obsession with corporate capitalism and the division of management and ownership as the root of all ills). Also since criticising capitalism and advocating socialism is unsayable in many USian political circles, objections to capitalism may be vocalised as objection to ‘neoliberalism’. (Some of the criticisms about ‘neoliberalism’ on this thread are definitely just criticisms of capitalism.)

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Donald 05.05.16 at 1:21 pm

I’m not going to go through the whole thing, Howard, but I read the links at Dollars and sense and Naked Capitalism and Galbraith and Mason and what I saw was this–

People in the Clinton camp wanted to discredit Sanders as soon as it looked like he had a chance, so they went public bashing a very optimistic model that nobody would have heard of otherwise. That was the point– they wanted a fight. The defenders of Friedman mostly conceded his numbers were high, but also said that it was possible the economy could grow much faster than people like the Romers claim. One Romer , at the top of her profession, badly underestimated how poorly the economy would do in estimating the effects of the stimulus back in 2009. The debate over single payer also took a weird turn once it became associated with Sanders, and all of a sudden it became not just politically impossible, but terribly expensive, as though the conservatives had been right all along.

More generally, yes, I have read Clintonistas claim that the Sanders people got nasty as though their side hasn’t been at least as bad, and whining about perfectly legitimate criticisms of Clinton’s record. It’s typical Very Serious People posturing.

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awy 05.05.16 at 1:56 pm

@167

how is it that you want people who wildly disagree with each other to characterize this rather hostile label that they are grouped under? that does not seem fair at all.

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Corey Robin 05.05.16 at 2:41 pm

Howard Frant at 141:

Aside from the trenchant hand-waving in your comments, I was amused by this: “I recall Nicholas Lemann, once at the Washington Monthly, saying later, ‘I never called myself anything but a liberal.'”

Scour the entire internet, and you won’t find a single instance of Lemann ever saying that. But you will find Lemann saying this: “Our mission [at The Washington Monthly] was to help Carter make liberalism, the country’s reigning creed, function better. Our name for this project was neoliberalism.”

You’ll also find him saying this: “It’s a cruel irony of the Monthly’s history that our preferred label for ourselves, neoliberal, has come to denote political regimes maximally friendly to the financial markets. I’ve come to see the merits of the liberal structures I scorned in my younger days.”

So whatever fantasized memory you have of Lemann saying whatever you imagined him to be saying, he says quite the opposite here.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/march_april_may_2014/tilting_at_windmills/a_bygone_age_the_unraveling_fa049283.php?page=all

But more important, his statement gives the lie to your claim that the neoliberalism of Peters’s vintage bears no resemblance to the neoliberalism that’s come to be used as an epithet. (And for everyone else in this thread: when Isay in the OP “does in fact bear a resemblance to” — and repeat some version of that phrase over and over again in the OP — it would be minimally helpful for rational discussion if you didn’t swap those words out and substitute in their place words like “is identical to” or “is the same as.” I’ll argue about what I claimed in my post; I’m not going to argue about some straw man you’ve concocted in your head.)

As Lemann notes, it is a “cruel irony.” That statement is preceded by the following set-up:

“Second, we failed to anticipate the way that eliminating all those structures that struck us as outdated—the government bureaucracies, the seniority system in Congress, the old-line interest groups—would almost inevitably wind up working to the advantage of elites more than of the ordinary people on whose behalf we imagined ourselves to be advocating. The frictionless, disintermediated, networked world in which we live today is great for people with money and high-demand skills, not so great for everybody else. It’s a cruel irony of the Monthly’s history that our preferred label for ourselves, neoliberal, has come to denote political regimes maximally friendly to the financial markets. I’ve come to see the merits of the liberal structures I scorned in my younger days.”

Now, if you go back to the original post from me — conveniently linked to in the very first sentence of the OP! — you’ll see that I say quite clearly that the neoliberalism of Peters et al was premised on the notion that they were pushing for all these attacks on government (except for the military) and unions and in defense of business, that they were pushing for all this on behalf of the people at the very bottom: the poorest of the poor. And I say that that is a version of the Great Society (though not of the New Deal, which tended to see the fate of the poor as intimately bound up in the fate of the working class or the middle class. Hence policies like unions, Social Security, wages and hours, etc., as opposed to the War on Poverty.)

But what Lemann is saying here is that it turns out the program they, the Peters neoliberals, were pushing didn’t in fact work so well for the people on the bottom; what it did wonders for is the people at the top.

The cruel irony of Peters/Lemann neoliberalism being linked to the conventional left epithet for neoliberalism is a double irony: on the one hand, the Peters-style neoliberals hoped their program would help the very poor and it’s unfair that it came to be associated with a name that signals a politics that helps the very rich; on the other hand, there’s a reason, Lemann himself acknowledges, that Peters-style neoliberalism came to be associated with a politics that helps the very rich. And that is…that it actually helped the very rich. That is why the irony is so “cruel.” (Just take a look at the statistics on where all the post-recession growth during the Obama recovery went to as compared to where the growth in post-Depression recovery and post-recession recoveries went to in the 1940s and 1950s. Expansionist policies used to help everyone; now, not so much.)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/09/25/how_the_rich_conquered_the_economy_in_one_chart.html

Now there’s a whole debate to be had here about intentions, unintended consequences, and the like.

But the notion that a politics that sets out to dismantle unions, that sets out to radically push back on mass entitlement programs (and for God sake, please read the Peters piece before you pretend to know what he stood for), that wants to downsize and restructure virtually all parts of the government — except for the military, where it instead wants the left to get over its hostility to spending on war (and ironically the one mass universal program that Peters supported, after pooh-poohing Social Security and Medicare, was…the draft) — and that wants to put the entrepreneur and the market at the center of its social vision; the notion that that politics, which Lemann himself acknowledges turned out to have had results that look an awful lot like the right-wing neoliberalism we all know about — namely, massive inequality — the notion that that neoliberalism bears NO resemblance to the other neoliberalism, well, I think you know where I am going with this.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.05.16 at 2:57 pm

Brad DeLong routinely calls himself a neoliberal, so Howard Frant’s whole “I am not aware that DeLong ever identified himself as a neoliberal. I’m not sure he’d even know what you meant” is, well, kind of uninformed. But I’d given up by that point.

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Corey Robin 05.05.16 at 3:04 pm

Howard Frant at 142: “I am not aware that DeLong ever identified himself as a neoliberal. I’m not sure he’d even know what you meant.”

Odd, then that DeLong would say:

“Marx thought that business cycles and financial crises were evidence of the long-term unsustainability of the system. We modern neoliberal economists view it not as a fatal lymphoma but rather like malaria:…”

“We neoliberal economists shrug our shoulders and say that we are in favor of a market economy…”

“[Benjamin] Friedman is—as I am—a card-carrying neoliberal.”

“Hence the neoliberal imperative: lower barriers to trade and contact; lower barriers of all kinds; lower barriers in the expectation that faster economic growth will itself generate countervailing pressures that will undo and cure the bad social and distributional side-effects of faster growth. Friedman’s reading of the moral consequences of economic growth provides a powerful piece of support to this neoliberal imperative. (Support so powerful, in fact, that Joseph E. Stiglitz, our Nobel Prize-winning non-neoliberal friend, has an attack on The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth in the November-December 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs.)”

Seems like DeLong not only has a pretty clear idea of what neoliberal means — and that it’s a very useful way of describing him — but that it’s also a useful way of distinguishing himself from other, non-neoliberal economists like Stiglitz.

You’re batting 0 for 2, Howard. And this is just on the quick and easy stuff that I checked up on.

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Corey Robin 05.05.16 at 3:05 pm

Oops, I see that Rich beat me to the punch.

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RNB 05.05.16 at 3:28 pm

For some neo-liberalism means not just the free movement of goods across national boundaries but also strong IPRs (I have trouble seeing how this is actually compatible with liberalism as it seems to be a form of monopoly) and the free capital movements favored by what Bhagwati once called the Wall Street-Treasury complex.

I would have to check but I think DeLong, like Stiglitz, has never been really in favor of strong IPR’s (again I would have to check this, but I think DeLong expressed skepticism about the IPRs in TPP), and has changed his mind about free capital movement (perhaps coming closer to Stiglitz here).

Don’t have time to check all this. There are some nuances here worth exploring, I think.

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bruce wilder 05.05.16 at 4:01 pm

awy @ 165: [“neoliberalism”] is an acceptance of certain market economy principles , including belief in market led development, fundamental importance of economic growth, etc as well as a political worldview that is optimistic about the market led world order.

. . . if the discussion or disagreement is around who is right about the virtues or replaceability of market and market based institutions, strategies etc, then let’s discuss them in those terms. those who are described as neoliberal are mostly respectful of empirically grounded economics.

One reason “neoliberal” has become a bitter epithet in the mouths of its critics and detractors is that it has been revealed by political policy practice to be not much more than b.s., when it is not simply a pretext and apology for fraud and kleptocracy.

Neoclassical economics supplied a powerful rhetorical engine built around the idea of the self-regulating market and the Friedmanite conservative libertarians were ready to carry on an endless dialogue using that same rhetorical engine, creating the appearance of political deliberation and contention using a common language referring to consensus reality. But, the policy agenda was oriented to the opportunities for the elite — particularly RP’s managerial class perhaps — to profit from dismantling the institutions which had protected common and mass interests.

The deregulation of the financial sector that led to a global financial crisis, mass foreclosures, a prolonged period mass unemployment and stagnating wages ought to be a wakeup call on the functional nature of neoliberalism. Ditto the Euro crisis that has kept several European countries in economic misery.

Sure, you can accept the neoliberal pretension, accept their premises and self-regard . . . or you can keep your sanity and integrity.

Sure, Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman are going to say that they are guided by sound economic analysis and a careful consideration of empirics. What else are they going to say?

I don’t think an objective observer has much in the way of sufficient evidence to reject the hypothesis that neoliberalism is just an ideological fascade for elite rip-offs and incompetence (that facilitates rip-offs). What we know now ought to make us extremely skeptical of neoliberal claims and pretensions.

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bruce wilder 05.05.16 at 4:10 pm

RNB @ 176: There are some nuances here worth exploring, I think.

Or not.

In defending his position as the left pole of acceptable serious discourse, Brad DeLong serves as a sheep herder. It is a political function I believe you are already familiar with.

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RNB 05.05.16 at 4:52 pm

Not sure if that sheep herding quip is more insulting to me or to the people whom you think I am herding. Gratuitous at any rate.

We are talking about liberalism and then liberalization. We can move liberalize the movement in goods, the movement in money capital, we can ‘deliberalize” the flow of ideas and then call strong IPRs liberalism, we can liberalize the movement of people, we can liberalize the movement of productive capital (which seems to be in many ways what TPP is about at least according to a blog entry by mainstream economist Tim Taylor) or we can liberalize the workplace by making it more difficult to unionize.

It would help serious discussion, acceptable or not, to clarify what we are talking about here. We may want to oppose all these forms of liberalization or just some. It’s an open question.

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Lupita 05.05.16 at 5:05 pm

@RNB

We can liberalize local production and consumption, monetary stability, productive work in one’s locality, the production of AIDS drugs, and the opportunity for workers to unionize.

We may oppose the forms of liberalization that concentrate wealth and power and support those that help the poor, the environment, and social justice. But then, it would not be neoliberalism. It would be socialism.

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bob mcmanus 05.05.16 at 5:44 pm

Perhaps a quick note near the end of this thread about my own possibly minority position:

My interest in neoliberalism as a practice epithet mode of reproduction is what makes it sell. As someone attracted to autonomist theories of agency and complicity in the working class or supposedly oppressed groups I need to look at the aspects and mechanisms of an ideology that make it attractive to those that an outsider objective observer elitist or vanguardist might claim are its victims.

Because neoliberalism is not imposed by force or coercion anymore, it at a minimum tolerated by millions who are supposed to be victimized by it, as claimed by ideologues on all sides of the political spectrum. Who, as I have learned, will be most displeased by any attempt to connect gay or trans rights with the privatization of public utilities and outsourcing of the welfare state.

So for instance the connections between cliches like “free to be you and me” or “get the gov’t off our backs” or choice and diversity on the one hand and the claims of oppression by dominant social structures on the other hand and market liberalization on the gripping hand are areas of study.

In any case, neoliberalism is our current political economy, we are all neoliberals and there is no outside neoliberalism, and in point of fact, it appears we like neoliberalism quite a bit.

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engels 05.05.16 at 6:07 pm

“we are all neoliberals and there is no outside neoliberalism”

Umm perhaps you can explain how eg. John McDonnell or Richard Seymour are neoliberals?

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bob mcmanus 05.05.16 at 6:24 pm

The important and interesting question for a communist or radical is not “who is the boss and how does she rule” but “why don’t we rise up”

The commitment to revolutionary possibility necessitates a recognition of complicity, not as guilt but as agency.

The successful operation of liberalism in nascent capitalism and neoliberalism in communicative capitalism requires the internalization of myths of individual freedom and social oppression as a process of atomization and de-collectivization.

And I am Spartacus. :)

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bob mcmanus 05.05.16 at 6:36 pm

The important phrase in “Nothing to lose but your chains” is “nothing to lose” including your body and life.

The revolutionary is always rushing the machine guns with a pitchfork.

I don’t blame those who don’t, I have infinite compassion for those who don’t, but I absolutely will not in any way say they can’t.

Romanticism has gotten a bad and unfair rap.

I’m through.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.05.16 at 6:36 pm

bob mcm: “My interest in neoliberalism as a practice epithet mode of reproduction is what makes it sell.”

The non-ironic benefits of neoliberalism:

1. Better than the alternatives! If the alternatives are a right-wing authoritarian state, a somewhat less right-wing nationalist state, or a socialist state that has signally failed to protect its citizens and is effectively neoliberal anyways.

2. Neoliberalism is opposed to the raw deal you may have gotten by being born the wrong ethnicity, gender, or with the wrong sexual preference. That’s a huge deal for many people.

3. An operating world system. Once again, this is better than a *not* operating world system, most of the time. Under neoliberalism China, Europe, the U.S. etc. all work together and preserve stability.

4. A pathway for personal ambition, if you’re a technocratic type.

5. Preserves social hierarchies that people secretly like if they’re a step up from the bottom. Keeps down people who you don’t like.

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LFC 05.05.16 at 6:44 pm

@181
Because neoliberalism is not imposed by force or coercion anymore, it at a minimum tolerated by millions who are supposed to be victimized by it, as claimed by ideologues on all sides of the political spectrum. Who, as I have learned, will be most displeased by any attempt to connect gay or trans rights with the privatization of public utilities and outsourcing of the welfare state.

Isn’t there a difference betw freedom for individuals (personal rights) and ‘freedom’ for business/capital (property rights)? (Milton Friedman, e.g., would say no, but that doesn’t make him correct.)

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Lupita 05.05.16 at 6:49 pm

6. GDP growth, very good for highly indebted countries.
7. Participation in the global system (as second class members for 3rd world countries, but still).
8. Modernity (do not underestimate the power of its allure in poor countries).

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bob mcmanus 05.05.16 at 6:51 pm

187: Capital, like soylent green, is people (social relations) LFC.

Don’t anthropomorphize your abstractions.

Now I really have to run away, not only because I dislike engagement and conversation, but because I really do suck at it. Seymour is better. The wisdom is found in the usual places.

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Lupita 05.05.16 at 6:57 pm

@LFC

Isn’t there a difference betw freedom for individuals (personal rights) and ‘freedom’ for business/capital (property rights)?

In Latin America, de-criminalization of abortion (under some circumstances) and equal marriage have been instituted by left-wing governments. Also, in practical terms, I see no difference between highly organized countries passing legislation tolerant of abortion and homosexuality and chaotic countries, such as Mexico, where the state does not have the organization to enforce anti-abortion and anti-gay practices anyway, so everybody ends up doing as s/he pleases. It feel just as free.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.05.16 at 7:20 pm

I’d put Lupita’s benefit 7. as a kind of subset of 3. Participation in the global system, even as second class members, is generally better than having a non functioning system.

The bit about the allure of modernity is something I’d missed, though. The real reason why “neoliberalism” is a useful category, and why it’s not simply a forgotten backwater of U.S. politics or a synonym for capitalism or anything of the other things suggested here, is because neoliberalism really has taken over the left’s ambitions to be a truly international, universal system. I think it’s a big deal that neoliberalism as a system can reach places where capitalist ideology never could.

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The Temporary Name 05.05.16 at 7:49 pm

I know nothing about your fancy ‘personal rights’, but one thing I know for sure: in a free country one can take a sip of beer from a bottle. In public.

Or kiss the boy or girl of their choice.

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bruce wilder 05.05.16 at 8:39 pm

a sip of beer from a bottle. In public.

Or kiss the boy or girl of their choice. who consents to be kissed.

Lupita: I see no difference between highly organized countries passing legislation tolerant of abortion and homosexuality and chaotic countries, such as Mexico, where the state does not have the organization to enforce anti-abortion and anti-gay practices anyway, so everybody ends up doing as s/he pleases. It feel[s] just as free.

Way back when, before neoliberalism, there was an acknowledged tension between rights of property and rights of persons, natural rights and chartered rights in liberal philosophies. There’s freedom, as in safety from private violence or the arbitrary violence of the state, and there’s freedom, as in the capacity to realize ambitions by manipulating the levers of social cooperation in society — the ability to access resources and technologies and to associate with others in common enterprises.

A “chaotic” country like Mexico suffers from low levels of public investment and weak constraints on violence. People can have a hard time figuring out how to make a decent living or just get around. One of my personal images of Mexico is seeing a body by a toll road I was travelling on — the authorities could not be bothered to provide sufficient pedestrian crossings, and people are forced to run across.

Very often, the allure of modernity has been answered by a cellphone. Cellphones work in places that were never able to assemble the more socially demanding systems necessary to make wired phone systems work. And, some of the people who delivered cellphone systems are among the richest individuals in the developing world: Carlos Slim Helú in Mexico or Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand.

The freedom that matters to the non-ideologue is the freedom to do things.

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bruce wilder 05.05.16 at 8:46 pm

Re: whether Lupita’s 7 is a subset of RP’s 3

I have vivid memories of talking with friends and acquaintances in Greece in roughly 2010 about the developing debt crisis. I had done back-of-the-envelope calculations and thought it obvious that “the only way out” would be some kind of exit from the Euro. But, that kind of reasoning had no purchase in Greece, especially with anyone who aspired to be middle-class or “European”. Greece’s own currency, even Greece’s sovereignty, were tainted by an experience of cronyism and other symptoms of political corruption. The Euro represented progress toward 1st world institutions.

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bruce wilder 05.05.16 at 8:48 pm

RP @ 192: The real reason why “neoliberalism” is a useful category, and why it’s not simply a forgotten backwater of U.S. politics or a synonym for capitalism or anything of the other things suggested here, is because neoliberalism really has taken over the left’s ambitions to be a truly international, universal system.

Nice.

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J-D 05.05.16 at 9:13 pm

Howard Frant @166

‘BTW, it strikes me that what everyone here knows but no one has mentioned is 1984 (the year, that is). 1. New Democrat vs. Old Democrat for nomination. 2. Old Democrat wins nomination. 3. Old Democrat is rejected by the electorate (oh, them) in second-biggest (?) electoral-vote landslide in history.’

No, not second, fifth.

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J-D 05.05.16 at 9:15 pm

phenomenal cat @167

‘Not really. If you find the term so inchoate as to be incomprehensible you can read through this thread and many, many others on this blog or delve into literature across multiple disciplines to get a sense of how and why the neoliberal term is deployed in the way that it is.’

Reading through this thread I observe that it’s deployed by different people in incompatible ways.

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Val 05.06.16 at 12:50 am

I’m actually writing about neoliberalism now, and I’d like to put some of it here for the (no doubt) robust criticism of CT readers, but it seems a bit cheeky. Maybe just a short piece:

‘Much of the political analysis in [literature in my thesis topic area] is concerned with changes in the late twentieth century, particularly globalisation and neoliberalism. Neoliberalism has been described by David Harvey (Harvey 2007) as:

“a theory of political economic practices proposing that human well-being can best be advanced by the maximization of entrepreneurial freedoms within an institutional framework characterized by private property rights, individual liberty, unencumbered markets, and free trade” (Harvey 2007)

Neoliberalism has been characterised by governments restricting welfare benefits and introducing private sector [market?] principles to publicly funded and government provided services, for example through changing governance structures from direct government provision to government owned but arm’s-length corporations, funding non-government organisations to provide services, or selling them off to for-profit corporations (privatisation). This movement has also been described as “economic rationalism” in Australia, or “neo-classical economics” (Stretton 1999) , however I use the term ‘neoliberalism’ as a general term to describe a broad political position with advocates on both the left and the right. …

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engels 05.06.16 at 1:17 am

Val’s definition is fine with me.

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engels 05.06.16 at 1:19 am

[My beef with this thread is that people seem to be using neoliberalism either as (a) a swear word (b) a synonym for ‘the universe’ [à la Cde Bob] (c) for what I would term ‘managerialism’ [or perhaps managerial capitalism, technocracy, Taylorism, etc] – and I don’t think I’ve ever come across this usage outside of the CT comments section (if anyone has references though I’d be delighted to peruse ’em…)]

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Val 05.06.16 at 1:30 am

So this is my definition of ‘left’ neoliberalism (I acknowledge that the term ‘left neoliberalism’ is an oxymoron since once they become neoliberals they are no longer left, but this is about the movement from the [broad] left to neoliberalism)

… ‘left neoliberalism’ or ‘third way’ politics. In the 1980s and 90s, parties of the broad left, such as the Democrats in the USA, Labour in the UK and Labor in Australia, which had historically represented the interests of labour and the working class, moved towards an accommodation with capitalism in which self-regulation by corporations was seen as preferable to government regulation. As in the Australian competition policy example [which I had previously discussed], the role of government was seen as being to ensure that companies competed fairly within the market. Similarly to [the document I’m analysing], the ‘left neoliberals’ expected that a framework of government regulation, and the power of consumer choice, would be sufficient to ensure that corporations would regulate themselves. The historical context of this approach, as Fran Baum has noted, was the apparent failure of socialism with the fall of the USSR (Baum and Labonte 2014).

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ZM 05.06.16 at 8:53 am

Val,

As well as the fall of the USSR there was also the introduction of economic reforms into China with the Deng Xiaoping government, which are along neoliberal lines, apart from in a Chinese way.

Lupita says above one of the appealing things about neoliberalism was the allure of Modernity.

I think it is a bit more complicated than that, depending on how you are defining Modernity.

In China the neoliberal era coincided with the 5th Generation of film makers. Compared to the 2nd 3rd and 4th generation of film makers the 5th generation were less part of the state apparatus and engaged in what can be said to be critiques of the communist government, generally through films which were set in historical periods and explored tradition.

While Chinese films have moved on from era this now, I think this period really coincided ideas that modernism — in the Chinese context being communist modernism — had not fulfilled all its promises, and also that it could be seen as part of a continuity with historical Imperial China with similar problems emerging between individuals and the collective, and also with feelings that a lot of Chinese people didn’t want to discard all Chinese traditions in the name of modernism and communism, and also with ideas about gender in China where maybe women did not want to be the *same* as men which I think had been sort of the cultural revolution gender equity goal.

I think this ties into what in the West tends to be described pejoratively as “identity politics” here on CT…

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engels 05.06.16 at 9:48 am

GM factory can be closed and, with a relatively minor expense and huge raise of profits, re-opened in Mexico or China.

and vice-versa

The crucial change that has taken place over the past decade or so is that wages in low-cost countries have soared. According to the International Labour Organisation, real wages in Asia between 2000 and 2008 rose by 7.1-7.8% a year. Pay for senior management in several emerging markets, such as China, Turkey and Brazil, now either matches or exceeds pay in America and Europe, according to a recent study by the Hay Group, a consulting firm. Pay in advanced economies, on the other hand, rose by just 0.5% to 0.9% a year between 2000 and 2008, says the McKinsey Global Institute. In manufacturing, the financial crisis actually reduced pay: real wages in American manufacturing have declined by 2.2% since 2005.

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Val 05.06.16 at 10:02 am

I’m interested in how you see ‘Chinese neoliberalism’ ZM – I’m a bit ignorant about China, to my shame

200

Peter T 05.06.16 at 10:10 am

Val

As a description of an ideological position, your wording is fine. Still, I’d note that the practice of the “third way” has been decidedly at odds with its proclaimed ideology. It has, for instance, been increasingly restrictive of individual liberty (work tests, drug tests, means tests…), and not much better on regulation, free trade (where very low tariffs are abolished but a host of protections for IP holders and investors are instituted) and so on. This is where the overlap with managerialism comes in – it turns out that the invisible hand requires ever more active management.

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Val 05.06.16 at 10:10 am

In the area I’m looking at (debates in public health in the last 20 years) I got the impression that people were sometimes using ‘globalisation’ and ‘neoliberalism’ for a similar phenomenon – deregulation, privatisation etc. – but globalisation was a less politically charged term.

I think you could see globalisation as the vehicle for neoliberal capitalism – via those opportunities for cheaper, deregulated centres for manufacturing (and the creation of new markets). I use the term neoliberal capitalism because what happened in wealthy countries (at least the Anglosphere) is that capitalism got deregulated. However I suppose the threat of offshoring was also used to pressure governments to deregulate, so it’s a checked and egg question,

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Val 05.06.16 at 10:15 am

@208, thanks good point and I like the way you show how managerialism gets into the picture. I am interested to explore the inconsistencies in both ‘left’ and ‘right’ neoliberalism but will probably get to that a bit later than the theoretical chapter I am currently writing. Maybe I can just briefly suggest some of the inconsistencies and explore them more later.

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ZM 05.06.16 at 10:16 am

engels,

I think that it is not a great argument that it is bad that wages in advanced economy countries are staying the same or moving down and wages in poorer countries are moving up.

If you care about equity then you would have to support some sort of alignment with incomes in all countries, instead of a situation where people in advanced economy countries earn much more for the same work as people in less advanced economy countries.

Maintaining global inequality between countries is unfair socially, but also it will be disastrous for the environment if the only way which people from advanced economies accept as progressing towards global equity is rich countries incomes continuing to grow and poorer countries having to try to catch up.

Even Nestle had an internal report in 2009 (released on Wikileaks) acknowledging that it would destroy the environment if people all around the world adopted food consumption patterns the same Northern American ones —

“It is clear that current developed country meat-based diets and patterns of water usage do not provide a blueprint for the planet’s future. Based on present trends, Nestle believes that the world will face a cereals shortfall of as much as 30 percent by 2025. [Nestle] stated it will take a combination of strategies to avert a crisis.”

In Australia we didn’t have such a severe economic downturn with the GFC as the USA and UK so we have been quite lucky in that regard. But I think it is really inspiring a lot of what has been happening in places like Detroit as a response:

https://youtu.be/8uYgFRXz8bM

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Val 05.06.16 at 10:17 am

@ 209 I meant chicken and egg (obvs I guess) though checked and egg is kind of nicely random

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Howard Frant 05.06.16 at 10:27 pm

Donald

Possible, of course, that we just saw different stuff. But what I saw was that the Sanders campaign eagerly pushed the Friedman analysis to the media, and that after the numbers were criticized they didn’t say oops, never mind, but rather called the critics the Gang of Four and doubled down on the numbers. So it doesn’t look to me like the alleged Clinton people were just trying to pick a fight. Rather, the Sanders people responded by insulting and impugning the motives of the others. Then after they got one rather cursory and unconvincing letter from Galbraith, the response was, Well, this proves we were right! We demand that the Gang of Four plus one apologize! Yes, it was shameful. And then there was “Friedman? He has no connection with us!” And “Oh, he didn’t screw up! He’s just heterodox!” (After Galbraith had said the assumptions were completely standard.)

And this is typical of what I see on social media– an unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of differences of opinion that are honest. It’s always “He’s a Clinton shill” and “He wants a job with Clinton” and “That’s a totally Clinton newspaper.” I’ve never heard anyone called a Sanders shill. And, as Dukakis once said, a fish rots from the head down.

Yes, Romer was way low on predicting the effects of the recession, but that was a very early estimate, before all the numbers were in, which the Republicans promptly turned into a “promise” by Obama. Doing that stuff is hard. Was Friedman better in his predictions? Oh, he didn’t do any? Because that’s not, you know, his field (economic history of the labor movement)? Was Bernie saying the numbers were too low?

On health care, the criticism I recall from newly minted Clinton shill Ezra Klein, not to mention Clinton shill Paul Krugman, is that there wasn’t really much there. Bernie was promising people no copayments or deductibles, not mentioning that Medicare has them as well as a lot of European countries. Britain is much cheaper than us, why? Not just because they’re single-payer, but also because they pay doctors a lot less. Maybe that’s justified, but let’s have a little public discussion about it. People think they won’t have to deal with being turned down by the insurance company; no one tells them they’ll have to deal with being turned down by the government. And I distinctly recall Hillary using the word “relitigate” as what we shouldn’t be doing about health care. As for saying Paul Krugman supported it, I recall her saying that about her Wall Street plan, not health care. Little did she know that Bernistas were onto Krugman’s shilling.

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J-D 05.07.16 at 2:00 am

Ze K @213

I can’t think of any reason why the evaluation of inequality between people in different countries should be different from the evaluation of inequality between people in the same country.

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Layman 05.07.16 at 2:19 am

@J-D, self-determination?

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Howard Frant 05.07.16 at 2:20 am

Corey Robin,

Gosh, aren’t you charming? Not by any chance a Bernie Sanders supporter, are you? I only ask because there’s a certain style….

I don’t know where I saw Nicholas Lemann say that, but you’re certainly right that he applies the label to his work at the Washington Monthly, if not to himself. Remind me– why was this so important? Given that Peters himself coined the word? Good article, I thought. I didn’t even know that the Washington Monthly was still around.

Actually, I’m quite familiar with the statistics about where the money from the recovery went. But I doubt that either Peters or Obama had much to do with it. Union membership in the US has been declining since the ’60s. There were big tax cuts for the rich under both Reagan and W., but not under Obama. Or Bill Clinton.

I’m not sure what is or isn’t ironic, or what does or doesn’t bear a resemblance to anything else, but let’s at least be clear on one thing: it is, in fact, mere coincidence that the same term came to be applied to both WM-style liberalism and Thatcher-style conservatism. Is it mere coincidence that the same term, boot, is used in the US for a device to immobilize a car and in Britain for a part of a car? Yes, it is.

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J-D 05.07.16 at 2:23 am

Layman @216

I’m afraid I would need to see that chain of reasoning spelled out at greater length before I could make sense of it.

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Layman 05.07.16 at 2:32 am

Two communities, side by side, one of which lives by choice in a closed, agrarian subsistence lifestyle, for philosophical reasons. The two communities are unequal in economic terms, but it is largely because one has chosen to be unequal. Think of the Amish, on a national scale. What should we think about the resulting inequality?

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Corey Robin 05.07.16 at 2:38 am

Howard Frant at 217: “But let’s at least be clear on one thing: it is, in fact, mere coincidence…”

Well, since you can’t reason a man out of a position that he hasn’t reasoned himself into — particularly when, by his own admission, he lacks the most elementary grasp of the facts — I’ll leave you with the last word.

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Howard Frant 05.07.16 at 2:52 am

Corey Robin,

On second thought, after reading Lemann’s article, one thing does strike me as ironic: that the people who are most critical of Peters-style neoliberalism are, or so I imagine, people from mostly upper-middle-class backgrounds who believe that overthrowing the old corrupt established structure, without much idea what will take its place, will serve the interests of people at the bottom rather than further empowering the rich.

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J-D 05.07.16 at 2:54 am

Layman @219

If you could find an example of two countries which are unequal in economic terms because one has intentionally chosen a different lifestyle from the other for philosophical reasons, that analysis would apply. I don’t think you can.

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Corey Robin 05.07.16 at 1:26 pm

Howard Frant at 221:

You really do operate in a fact-free universe, don’t you? Let’s take your average Sanders supporter (since you introduced that as a characterization of me upthread) as a proxy for your average critic of Peters-style/Clinton-style neoliberalism who wants to replace that corrupt old order with something else. What do the exit polls tell us?

In Iowa, Sanders won 50% of the voters making less than $50,000. Clinton won 55% of the voters making over $100k.

In New Hampshire, Sanders won 72% of the voters making less than $30k. He won 60% of the voters making between $30k and 50k. Among voters making over $200k, Sanders’s support plummeted to 46%, and Clinton won there with 53% of the vote.

In Oklahoma, Sanders won 54% of the voters making under 50k. Among voters making over 100k, Clinton won with 54%.

You find similar patterns in Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Missouri, Nevada, and other states, where the higher you go in the income ladder, particularly among whites, the lower Sanders’s base of support, and vice versa. It’s by no means universal; in southern states, he lost among virtually all income groups in part b/c his support from black voters was so low.

But your portrait of the criticism of neoliberal politics as driven by upper middle class people is so exquisitely opposed to reality, it’s almost a work of art. Albeit in keeping with your empirically weightless comments throughout this thread.

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Layman 05.07.16 at 1:44 pm

@ J-D

First, I would not foreclose the idea that one factor driving varying levels of wealth among countries is self-determination. Second, if we should strive to make all countries equally wealthy (on a per capita basis), should we ignore their preferences in order to achieve that? Third, since it is unlikely that all countries can be as wealthy as the wealthiest countries today, because of ecological limits, does this mean we should strive to reduce wealth and standards of living in the wealthiest countries, against their collective will?

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J-D 05.07.16 at 1:59 pm

Ze K @224

I can’t see how it’s any more (or any less) your concern how people in other nations organise their societies than it is how other people in your nation organise their societies.

217

J-D 05.07.16 at 2:06 pm

Layman @222

I wrote that I don’t think you can find an example of of two countries which are unequal in economic terms because one has intentionally chosen a different lifestyle from the other for philosophical reasons. I note that you haven’t even tried. I did not write ‘we should strive to make all countries equally wealthy’. I do think people’s preferences should be taken into account, but I can’t make sense of the idea of countries having preferences, and you haven’t given any evidence of the existence of the kind of preferences you refer to.

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Ronan(rf) 05.07.16 at 2:13 pm

“If you could find an example of two countries which are unequal in economic terms because one has intentionally chosen a different lifestyle from the other for philosophical reasons, that analysis would apply”

Example that comes to my mind is post world war 2 ireland, compared to either UK or Nordic countries. There were deeper roots to irish economic underdevelopment, but relative poverty at this time could plausibly be said to be in significant part because of policy choices at elite and societal level that were driven by a particular philosophical perspective, ie nationalist, Catholic, conservative, concerned with ethical living (which romanticized frugality and rural life) above material comfort.
The “philosophy” wasn’t the only factor, but was part of it.

219

J-D 05.07.16 at 2:15 pm

Ze K @224

The organisation of global society is a concern of all people in it.

220

Ronan(rf) 05.07.16 at 2:33 pm

“I can’t see how it’s any more (or any less) your concern how people in other nations organise their societies than it is how other people in your nation organise their societies.”

Because nationalism is the primary mode of political and economic organisation? Because most people are socialised as nationalists? Because people tend to be more aware of, concerned about and knowledgeable of domestic politics and economics?
You might wish adopt an extreme cosmopolitan perspective where there is no moral or practical reason to favour one over the other, which is fine, but that doesn’t mean the opposite (that people might not agree with you) is literally inexplicable.

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J-D 05.07.16 at 2:33 pm

Ronan(rf) @229

Policy choices made at elite level are choices made by some people for others.

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Ronan(rf) 05.07.16 at 2:45 pm

Politicians in power in a democracy were generally elected by the majority . Some policies can be said to represent a “societal reference” particularly those with widespread support, ie gay marriage is a societal preference in country x because y amount of people support it, even if it doesn’t have one hundred per cent support. Mostly this is a shorthand, used in conversations to state a broad claim without having to get bogged down in endless caveats.
Through a combination of policy analysis, polling and examination of a country’s political economy you can can make some caveated arguments about what counts as a societal preference. And to understand why a specific country developed as it did you would need to look at the values and normative preferences across society, which are of course are unlikely to be entirely homogenous, but also unlikely to be so fluid as to be literally impossible to generalise from
I don’t see what your alternative is here. People don’t collectively have preferences, cultural and philosophical differences are irrelevant, so.. what exactly ?

223

LFC 05.07.16 at 2:48 pm

Ze K @213

As long as we’re not meddling with other countries, global inequality between countries is not our concern.

Stated in this bald, unqualified form, this is an insane comment, like about two-thirds of what Ze K writes.

There are several reasons why “global inequality between countries” might be a concern. As an empirical matter, income and other economic-indicator gaps between countries have been narrowing in recent decades and income/wealth gaps within most countries have been growing. But it is nonetheless the case that a world in which a country with, say, five or six percent of the world’s pop. uses roughly 25 percent of the world’s energy resources (or other resources) might well reflect a skewed system that raises significant moral and political questions.

There is a substantial lit. on global distributive justice and related issues (as they relate to both inequality within and betw countries and absolute poverty) and for Ze K to toss the whole matter overboard in a single sentence is typical of his know-nothing approach to commenting. Ze K clearly knows a good deal about certain subjects, e.g. politics in Russia and the former Soviet bloc, but unfortunately his comments range much more widely than that, resulting in inanities of the sort just noted.

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LFC 05.07.16 at 2:52 pm

Ze K @233
All pomposity aside, currently there is no global society.

Another bald, unqualified bullshit statement. It’s a matter partly of definition. There are a large number of non-state actors, not just ‘multinational capital’, that scholars have spent whole careers studying. Indeed there’s a whole lit on ‘global society’ — look at the work of John Meyer, just to mention one name.

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LFC 05.07.16 at 2:59 pm

That’s why I repeated every time: ‘as long as we’re not meddling’, and ‘as long as we’re not robbing’.

I guess I didn’t take your intended implication from “robbing”. My view is that such inequalities do not *have* to be the result of theft or (in the classic Marxian sense) exploitation, though they certainly can be in some cases.

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LFC 05.07.16 at 3:05 pm

Re: Meyer

John W. Meyer is Professor of Sociology (and, by courtesy, Education), emeritus, at Stanford. He has contributed to organizational theory, comparative education, and the sociology of education, developing sociological institutional theory. Since the 1970s, he has studied the impact of global society on national states and societies (some papers are collected in Weltkultur: Wie die westlichen Prinzipien die Welt durchdringen, Suhrkamp, 2005; a more extensive set is in G. Kruecken and G. Drori, eds.: World Society: The Writings of John W. Meyer, Oxford 2009).

There is no ‘global society’ in a particular, strong sense of the phrase, but that’s different from saying “there is no global society” period.

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engels 05.07.16 at 3:23 pm

The “philosophy” wasn’t the only factor, but was part of it.

Yup, and also the case for Europe v US imo (crudely, US seems to prioritise consumption over leisure time, relative to Euro countries at a similar level if development)

228

engels 05.07.16 at 3:39 pm

inequalities don’t particularly trouble me (generally, that is; perhaps it’s possible to find some special case), unless they are a consequence of exploitation

Bad news for a couple of million unemployed people

229

Lupita 05.07.16 at 3:44 pm

‘as long as we’re not meddling’, and ‘as long as we’re not robbing’

… and helping and giving us foreign aid and charity, looking after our security, protecting us from communism, terrorism, drugs, sexism, racism, and oppression, or bringing civilization, truth, democracy, freedom, and modernity. Just leave us alone. Stop bombing us. Thank you.

230

J-D 05.07.16 at 10:33 pm

Ronan (rf) @231

‘Because nationalism is the primary mode of political and economic organisation? Because most people are socialised as nationalists?’

I am aware of these facts. Most people are socialised as nationalists, and more’s the pity. They shouldn’t be.

‘… that doesn’t mean the opposite (that people might not agree with you) is literally inexplicable.’

The first thing I want to know when people disagree with me is not whether there is some explanation for why they disagree with me (obviously there must be some explanation) but whether they are right.

Ronan(rf) @234

‘Politicians in power in a democracy were generally elected by the majority.’

Fianna Fail under Eamon de Valera held power for long periods without receiving a majority of votes cast.

‘Through a combination of policy analysis, polling and examination of a country’s political economy you can can make some caveated arguments about what counts as a societal preference.’

That is probably so (allowing — I digress here — for the unexplained and unjustified tendency to add two extra letters to the word ‘social’), but it’s not the same as saying that we can tell solely from the actions of Irish governments that the Irish people were willing to accept a lower level of material prosperity in exchange for other considerations of the kind previously referred to.

‘I don’t see what your alternative is here.’

My alternative to what? My alternative to supposing that the actions of governments generally represent the preferences of the governed is not supposing that the actions of governments generally represent the preferences of the governed. My alternative to supposing that what happens in one country is no concern of people in other countries is not to suppose that what happens in one country is no concern of people in other countries. Is there something else that I missed, that you would like to know my alternative to?

Ze K @233

‘Societies are organized along the lines of nation-states … it’s still the only legitimate model, as far as I know.’

It’s true that the world is organised into nation-states, but it’s not clear to me in what sense you consider that to be ‘legitimate’.

It’s also true that the USA is organised into States, and the States into counties. The fact that the USA is organised into States does not justify saying that what happens in Massachusetts is of no concern to Minnesotans; the fact that the States are organised into counties does not justify saying that what happens in San Diego is of no concern to San Franciscans; and the fact that the world is organised into nation-states does not justify saying that what happens in Australia is of no concern to Canadians.

‘I’m saying that inequalities don’t particularly trouble me (generally, that is; perhaps it’s possible to find some special case), unless they are a consequence of exploitation’

I note but do not share your unconcern. But I also wonder how large a factor you consider exploitation to be in explaining international inequality; if you consider it to be a major factor then it would seem to follow that your stated unconcern is a theoretical consideration of limited relevance in practice.

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Howard Frant 05.07.16 at 11:12 pm

Charming as ever, Corey.

You have totally missed the point of my comment. We were talking about neoliberalism. 99% of Sanders voters (or any voters) have never heard of neoliberalism. Only a few academics have.

Lemann notes that it was ironic that the very policies being advocated by upper-middle-class people like him, of sweeping away old corrupt structures to help people at the bottom, ended up creating space for the rich to get greater power. I noted that it was ironic that the (mostly upper-middle-class) critics of neoliberalism would probably, if successful, do the same thing. To spell it out, by sweeping away the corrupt old Democratic Party they would end up helping the Republicans and hurting the people at the bottom.

As for facts, they’re tricky to find sometimes. Bernie voters are more likely to be single. Is there something about being single that makes people want to vote for Bernie, or it is just that young people are more likely to be single? Similarly, young people have lower incomes than older people. I’d love to see the income figures controlling to age, but so far I haven’t. So– at a given age, are poor people more likely to vote for Bernie? Someone may know, but I don’t.

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Corey Robin 05.08.16 at 4:20 am

Howard Frant: “As for facts, they’re tricky to find sometimes.”

Yes, I’ve noticed that you have an especially difficult time finding them.

233

Howard Frant 05.08.16 at 9:25 am

Really, Corey, this sort of slanging watch is the best you van do? My point was that there’s more to finding facts than listing a bunch of numbers you found somewhere. Sometime it takes effort, for example, to understand numbers.

234

Val 05.08.16 at 11:20 am

@233
All pomposity aside, currently there is no global society. Societies are organized along the lines of nation-states, according to the concept of Westphalian sovereignty. It’s true that this concept is currently under attack by multinational capital, and yet it’s still the only legitimate model, as far as I know.

There is this thing called the United Nations. It’s been around for quite a long time. Sad that you seem to have forgotten that it exists.

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engels 05.08.16 at 11:39 am

The whole point of the above exchange was that (in my view) justifying low wages and high unemployment in your own society by ‘reducing global inequality’ is brazen bullshit

I’m not unsympathetic to that but if you think inequalities don’t matter unless they arise through exploitation than logically you appear to think inequalities between employed and unemployed workers in the same state don’t matter.

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ZM 05.08.16 at 5:23 pm

Lupita,

“… and helping and giving us foreign aid and charity, looking after our security, protecting us from communism, terrorism, drugs, sexism, racism, and oppression, or bringing civilization, truth, democracy, freedom, and modernity. Just leave us alone. Stop bombing us. Thank you.”

I was thinking more along the lines of last years UN sustainable development goals.

They were adopted unanimously by the general assembly, so apart from the countries and dependencies that aren’t UN members they have widespread support. And their difference from the previous Millennium Development Goals is that where the MDG were focussed on things like reducing poverty and improving health and education in developing countries, the SDG are meant to be universally adopted in all member countries to change the pattern of development to be more sustainable.

I remember there was a discussion a few threads ago about people migrating from less advanced economy countries, and I saw on Facebook a while ago an African woman speaking at the UN saying it is very difficult for women and children who are left behind in the place in rural Africa she lived in (I have forgotten her name and cant recall the country she lived in unfortunately) to deal with climate change when a lot of the men were migrant workers. She was saying that there needed to be financing to deal the current needs of adapting to climate change. I think some part of Africa like the Rift Valley already have rises in average temperature of around 4 degrees.

Do you think there is a role for countries to work together internationally on some areas like those?

237

ZM 05.09.16 at 9:22 am

This was the video I was thinking of

This week, 175 Parties to the UNFCCC signed the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement – the largest ever number of countries to sign an international treaty in one go. Amid all the jubilation, there were stark warnings of the accelerating impacts of climate change and fact that the worst impacts can only be avoided by leaving the bulk of fossil fuels in the ground.
“Our young mothers are becoming climate refugees”, said Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, civil society representative from Chad, in a stirring speech.. Watch the full video.

https://youtu.be/n1b7ZskKukE

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Lupita 05.09.16 at 3:18 pm

@ZM

Do you think there is a role for countries to work together internationally on some areas like those?

Yes, of course. Regional organizations – political, financial, and economic – have been sprouting all over the worlds to replace, and accelerate the decline, of Western dominated ones. There is much to say for international cooperation but it should be distinguished from Pax Americana which is just global domination with some PR thrown in to placate and ensure the continued support of the 1st world populations, including feminists.

Another important aspect of this trend towards multipolarity is the internet. We now have easy access to voices other than state representatives, such as your video of Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, which, I am sure, has more impact on people’s understanding of climate change than all the mathematical models put together.

I said that Westeners should “just leave us alone”. After watching that video, I will change my statement to ”just follow our lead”, on climate change, on feminism. I say this as someone who was once the lone voice, here on CT, arguing that 3rd world women’s groups organizing to get water into their communities are examples of feminism and was informed (educated) by the CT feminists that they were no more than obsolete housewives acting out their assigned roles in the patriarchy. This is why I do not participate in feminist arguments on CT anymore. I will let Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim do the arguing for me. She is the future.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.09.16 at 3:43 pm

Lupita, you wrote something before about how work against climate change and anti-poverty had to go together, and how it was bourgeois to focus only on the first. But this is why I don’t agree. Working on climate change means primarily that wealthy countries have to change their own economies, because they are the main sources of GHGs. (I’m including China as a wealthy country for this purpose.) Working on poverty gives wealthy countries carte blanche to interfere in any way they like anywhere they like. Of course there are actual things that can be done against poverty, but not, I think, from that distance away.

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Val 05.10.16 at 12:47 pm

Lupita @ 255
I say this as someone who was once the lone voice, here on CT, arguing that 3rd world women’s groups organizing to get water into their communities are examples of feminism and was informed (educated) by the CT feminists that they were no more than obsolete housewives acting out their assigned roles in the patriarchy

When did this happen, Lupita? I ask because I’ve never seenPerhaps it was before my time on CT.

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Lupita 05.10.16 at 1:55 pm

Maybe 8-10 years ago. It was before intersectionalism and #solidarityisforwhitewomen, when it was still perfectly acceptable for 1st world feminists to be as patronizing and condescending towards 3rd world women as IMF neoliberals were towards Latin American socialists. Both manifestations of Western supremacy were the norm here at CT.

242

Val 05.10.16 at 6:09 pm

@ 258
Wow that sounds bad. Eight years ago, not that long. I just read an article today by Jesus Ramirez-Villes, about community health workers, in which he said there was a conception in the international aid literature of these women (they were mainly women) as maternal, caring about their community, oppressed by patriarchy, poverty and disease, and as “the third world woman” or the “Hispanic woman”. He suggested that the white academics writing the articles were implicitly constructed as the other, as democratic, free, humanitarian. That was in 1999.

I had some reservations though because I was also reading articles about community health nurses (similar roles but ‘professional’ and paid) in white countries, who were also frustrated by hierarchical (and often patriarchal) authority structures that used them in caring roles but didn’t give them a say in policy. So I think there could have been more solidarity and less othering going on than Ramirez-Villes realised. But obviously I don’t know about CT eight years ago, I didn’t know it even existed then!

All this stuff about patriarchy is complicated, especially when women feel it’s being used in a way that denies women agency.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.11.16 at 1:32 am

Very late in this thread, but this article by FDB mentions some of the points discussed — how Chinese commissars and the rest of the transnational class cooperate, how “income equality” across national borders is used as a tool to directly attack workers when it’s convenient to do so. The last time FDR was discussed here he was completely discredited because he’d written some sexist comments on a blog five years ago, but amazingly enough the man still has enough gall to keep writing.

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J-D 05.11.16 at 2:27 am

The statement ‘What happens to people in poor countries is (and should be) of concern to people in rich countries’ and the statement ‘As many jobs as possible should be offshored from rich countries to poor countries’ are not equivalent; it is not a contradiction to endorse the first and reject the second.

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bruce wilder 05.11.16 at 5:23 pm

No contradiction, but also no point of distinction at which to stop and rest, or take responsibility. For DeLong, that’s the excuse for another rendition of “There is no alternative” rather than an incisive analysis of what’s gone wrong that financial entrepreneurs can accumulate wealth while devastating the lives of millions to an extent scarcely equalled since Caesar pillaged Gaul to pay for an election campaign at Rome.

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J-D 05.12.16 at 12:16 am

Ze K @263

The expression ‘what was discussed’ and the expression ‘what was discussed by Ze K’ are not synonymous.

Besides which, you wrote, and I quote your exact words, ‘it’s not our concern how other nations organize their societies’. It’s not clear to me how you reconcile that with writing ‘You can be concerned of whatever you like to be’.

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