The transformation of left neoliberalism

by Henry on March 5, 2019

I haven’t been blogging at Crooked Timber as much as I used to. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been active – the last two years have probably been the most productive two years of my life (it turns out that my way of dealing with political stress is to write. and write. and write – more on that as the stuff I have been up to comes out). But it’s hard to resist noting Brad DeLong’s very good interview, and Mike Konczal’s response to it. Brad:

Until something non-rubble-ish is built in the Republican center, what might be good incremental policies just cannot be successfully implemented in an America as we know it today. We need Medicare-for-all, funded by a carbon tax, with a whole bunch of UBI rebates for the poor and public investment in green technologies. That’s the best policy given the political-economic context. If the political-economic context were different — well, I’m fundamentally a neoliberal shill. It is very nice to use market means to social democratic ends when they are more effective, and they often are. If you can properly tweak market prices, you then don’t just have one smart guy trying to design a policy that advances an objective — you have 30 million people all over the country, all incentivized to design a policy. That’s a wonderful thing to have.

Mike:

Delong focuses on the political aspect of this shift, noting that there is nothing on the conservative Right that meets left-leaning neoliberals halfway to try and negotiate market-based policies. “Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” and yet conservatives give him zero credit, call him a socialist, and actually attack each of these ideas just as much as they would more ultra-left policies. … I’ve also carried a rifle in this battle, trying to move the party Left—and it is happening. But this movement is happening largely because the story that left neoliberals tell us all about the economy itself, not just the politics of it, has fallen apart. … This is a matter of ideas: ideas having failed, and us needing new ones. … The positive effects of more inequality never happened. … we are seeing a revival of structural arguments that wages are increasingly determined by institutional structures rather than individual measures. … Relaxation of antitrust enforcement would lead to more competition and innovation, as was told. Unions would no longer get in the way of businesses. [but] …  firm dynamism has fallen dramatically. The rate of business startups has fallen. … high markups and profits, low interest rates, weak investment—point to a significant market power problem that impacts the macroeconomy.

Mike is building on the old Internet argument about ‘left neoliberalism’ (a term that I semi-accidentally popularized; but the best and most succinct account was Cosma’s). It’s notable that the people like Brad, Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein who got grief in that debate have moved significantly to the left in the interim: Brad’s interview is a formal acknowledgment of a shift that has been taking place for a long time. Which is not to say that they are going to join the DSA, but that just as there’s a significant distinction between social democrats and democratic socialists, they have plausibly changed from being left neoliberals to neoliberal leftists. It isn’t just that they want neoliberal tools to deliver left-leaning results; they have always wanted that. It is that they tacitly or explicitly realize that preferred neoliberal means of policy delivery need to be embedded in a framework that is being built up by a broader social movement.

Two questions follow (for me, anyway). One is for the neoliberal leftists, as a part of a broader left coalition. When and to what extent will their preferred approach to delivering policy clash with, or undermine, the necessary conditions for achieving collective action and making the policy sustainable? If they are pushing for market means towards social democratic ends, that is fine and good – markets can indeed sometimes be the best way to deliver those ends, and few of us would want to be completely without them (including Marxists like Sam Gindin. But one key lesson of the last couple of decades is that market provision of benefits makes it harder to build and sustain coalitions – private gain and public solidarity are at best uncomfortable bedfellows. Figuring out the political tradeoffs – when market means are worthwhile even when they make collective action tougher, or where non-market means might be better for sustainability reasons, even when markets are more efficient – is going to be hard, and we need to start building shared language and concepts to make it easier to resolve the inevitable disputes.

The other is for the left including both its neoliberal and non-neoliberal variants. It is clear why Brad and others are jumping ship – apart from the intellectual problems that Mike describes, there isn’t a politically viable there there to their right. But  I am not as sure as I would like to be about the there there to their left either. The left is enjoying a resurgence in the US (not so much elsewhere). There are coalitions being formed, plans being conceived. But there are enormous obstacles to be overcome. First in the US (where the system seems almost deliberately designed to prevent the radical action required e.g. to tackle global warming, and where billionaires can credibly threaten to pull down the election if the Democratic candidate is not to their liking). Second, at the global level, where the soi-disant liberal order is in decay, and it is not clear that there is very much that is going to replace it. There may be no plausible choice in American politics other than the left right now. That doesn’t mean that the left has a very good chance of doing the things that it needs to do.

{ 64 comments }

1

Ayo Hirschman 03.05.19 at 8:24 pm

Can’t wait till more cognitive democracy stuff comes out. Dewey for the win!!!

2

Brett 03.05.19 at 8:40 pm

I tend to favor direct public provision of goods and services that we’ve deemed necessary regardless of private income ability to pay, but I don’t see that as exclusive to market provision of those as well. Having public schools open to any students has not made it impossible to have private schools, nor did the Post Office make it impossible to have private carriers of mail. Some things you might want a monopoly of state power on, but mostly not.

Second, at the global level, where the soi-disant liberal order is in decay, and it is not clear that there is very much that is going to replace it.

The US still has a lot of room to act unilaterally, if it wishes to do so. But that is rapidly diminishing, and the Chinese leadership at least seems ambivalent at best about the existing order (and absolutely against anything that would impinge on authoritarian control at home).

3

b9n10nt 03.05.19 at 8:59 pm

Building shared concepts will only occur to the extent that we agree to think differently about “private consumption”. Upward mobility (increased private consumption) is the neoliberal means to human flourishing, solidarity the leftist one. To my mind, no leftist disputes the value of increased private consumption (of health care, education, leisure time) among the poorest, but the neoliberals do not seem to likewise acknowledge the intrinsic value of solidarity as a similar, countervailing organizing principle for economic production.

When we can design our politics for homo sapiens, not homo economicus, then we can more clearly assess the tradeoffs we’re considering in any policy discussion.

4

bob mcmanus 03.05.19 at 9:01 pm

As always, of course, in the streets with the self-conscious power to make demands.

In the streets does not only mean Paris 1871 or whatever. It does mean mass action beyond existing institutions, parties, and liberal processes. Riots not strikes, meaning extralegal and non-hierarchal.

I like the marijuana movements as an example, although BLM and MeToo also work, if not yet as effectively. In Oklahoma the movement wanted medical, so the PtB wrote an absurdly permissive medical regime, thinking it would lose. It passed. Then the Right used institutional means to contravert the written language, and the Movement said Eff you, referendum to full recreational now. The right capitulated.

Women and minorities still feel vulnerable, and also opportunistic. They can still use the status quo, and think it protects them and can enable them. This is the story of the Democratic Party, but Harris and Gillibrand are still Clintonite neoliberals and will fail and disappoint. Warren and Booker might change to meet the challenge.

It should be Sanders, and the tragedy of 2020 will be the final straw. I hope like hell Sanders and the DSA walk out of the convention (which can only nominate a candidate acceptable to Bloomberg and Howard Schultz, and lose). The Democratic Party needs to die.

Then we must get the charismatic populist hard-left Woman of Color this country needs to go LEFT. Wait. We have her. We know her name.

5

John Quiggin 03.05.19 at 9:03 pm

I was just composing a post on this in my mind, but this is much better. Thanks, Henry.

6

Chris Mealy 03.05.19 at 9:05 pm

I used to be reluctantly skeptical of minimum wage policies (for the usual dumb econ major reasons), but fifteen years ago or so Brad had a reassuring post saying they were great actually for exactly the sustainability reasons you’re talking about. No, I’m not going to spend all day looking for it, because his blog is a mess.

7

b9n10nt 03.05.19 at 10:25 pm

Brett, I perhaps naively believe there are many ways to hybridize public provisions w/ markets. Nevertheless an ultimate manifestation of communal health would manifest an ethic of “there are goods we must possess equally for them to fully qualify as goods.” Legal representation, voting. But also, I would argue under ideal conditions, education, health care. Ultimately (again), we simply won’t tolerate substantive differences in health care. This social reality could co-occur with differential private access to “status-goods”.

I think we explain it to ourselves like this:

1) DSA-ish policy using existing institutions as given as a means to end poverty [“solidarity”]

2) progress towards radical egalitarianism (a “policy architecture” described as 3 baskets: equality goods, floor goods, and status goods) [“equality”]

3) discover ways to use the public policy lever to encourage and support diverse local communities that can integrate to some extent with the broader political-economy. [“liberty”]

But this is the easy sloganeering.

The more honest thing to say, I think, is that we do the No. Eu. social democracy thing first because that’s what we know how to do. We can think of our predicament, if we’re being pragmatic, as akin to one walking a mystical bridge, whereupon the next step appears only after you’ve completed the step you’ve begun.

In that spirit, The next lefty move in the discourse: dear Professor DeLong et al.* and the neoliberal wing of the left, if the 2020 goes house-senate-exec blue, would you put any elbow grease into promoting the social aspects of the GND as well as the tech grant aspects if both were to be equally prioritized?

*”the reforma-Rubes”

8

Birdie 03.05.19 at 11:07 pm

Left and Right are both national movements and it turns out the American nation (among others) is too large and too evolved to have an orderly discourse either by party (either/any party) or as a nation alone or as a nation among nations. It’s a fight to the finish and all sides must sacrifice and hold on for the win. So it goes! Time to look not up or sideways but down. Time to get small and fade away. Come back later, maybe.

9

Peter T 03.06.19 at 1:07 am

Here and in the post on Hayek there is an almost invisible conflation of “value” with “money value”, a deference to the economic convention that we can use money to measure value. It’s the assumption that leads to contorted figuring of the dollar value of friends, family, dish-washing, national parks…

It’s nonsense, of course. Money is not value, it’s money value. Much politics is about what should be counted in money and what should not be, including at least one famous civil war. Maybe we could notice this, and stop talking about what we would be willing to pay?

10

Brad DeLong 03.06.19 at 4:03 am

https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/03/eg-surge-in-us-economists-support-for-carbon-tax-to-tackle-emissions-financial-times.html :

Let me say that I am extremely disappointed that Janet Yellen, Marty Feldstein, and Ted Halstead did not insist that this Financial Times story say that, while they believe that their proposal is much stronger than “Green New Deal” proposals, that the “Green New Deal” proposals would be a vast improvement over current policy. Extremely disappointed. Extremely: Leslie Hook: Surge in US Economists’ Support for Carbon Tax to Tackle Emissions…

11

Gareth Wilson 03.06.19 at 5:48 am

” Nevertheless an ultimate manifestation of communal health would manifest an ethic of “there are goods we must possess equally for them to fully qualify as goods.” Legal representation, voting. But also, I would argue under ideal conditions, education, health care.”

I’ve worked as a private tutor. How would you have punished me for that?

12

Procopius 03.06.19 at 6:10 am

My biggest objection to “neoliberalism” is their obsession with deregulation. Their emphasis on privatization is bad enough (if any “public-private partnership” ever actually delivered benefits to citizens and did not end up stealing from them I would love to hear about it), but the insistence that government regulation is ALWAYS bad for entrepreneurs and ALWAYS produces inefficiencies is insane. Many “natural monopolies” exist where introducing private actors always has bad results. The earliest writing we know about includes codes of law that invariably include regulation of markets. Since some of these codes go back four or five thousand years, and are based on millennia of daily experience, the claim that markets will regulate themselves is delusion. I hate Milton Friedman, Wossisname von Hayek, all “libertarians,” and Phil Gramm.

13

Chris Bertram 03.06.19 at 6:49 am

We’ve been living through an entire historical period when politicians have been convinced that what we need to do is to tweak the incentives in order to bring about benign behaviour. The confidence that this was all straightforward and easy (incentivize them into work and off benefits; get academics to produce better research, you name it) seem to be undiminished despite the failure of actual human beings and their institutions to perform as expected (because feedback loops, gaming the new system etc).

14

MFB 03.06.19 at 7:59 am

Why should the neoliberals who have infiltrated social democracy and liberalism wish to abandon neoliberalism? Their first allegiance, surely, should always be to plutocracy.

I would suspect that they are not abandoning neoliberalism, but rather are recognising that a) what little remains of social democracy and liberalism is heartily sick of their thuggery and corruption, and b) the right wing, which remains wholly committed to neoliberalism, has an oversupply of crooks and thugs of its own and doesn’t need them. Hence, in order to survive, they must pretend to abandon neoliberalism. (Perhaps, too, they feel that they are more effective agents of plutocracy where they are in a position to undermine social democracy and liberalism and thus prevent these movements from making any kind of comeback.)

If so, then the answer to henry’s first question (by the way, this is one of the few posts from henry which I heartily agree with) is “the people whom you call neoliberal leftists espouse policies which clash with the values of the social democrats and liberals right now, always have done so, and always will do so, and any attempt to bring them into a social democrat or liberal coalition undermines that coalition by definition”.

15

Z 03.06.19 at 8:08 am

@Chris The confidence […] seem to be undiminished despite the failure of actual human beings and their institutions to perform as expected (because feedback loops, gaming the new system etc).

Yes, exactly, as I remarked only yesterday in the comments to Corey’s post, a striking property of the neoliberal (say catallactic, to be precise) analysis is its failure to reconstruct the social conditions of its own existence; a cybernetic property that was I think already well understood by Dewey (indeed, it can be argued that this pragmatism outlook was the impulse behind Norbert Wiener’s development of cybernetics). Now that this is for everyone to see, it’s time to wonder whence the confidence Chris attributes to politicians, and act in accordance.

The left is enjoying a resurgence in the US (not so much elsewhere). There are coalitions being formed, plans being conceived. But there are enormous obstacles to be overcome.

True. Coincidentally, the French prime minister gave today an important speech in which he managed to quote twice Hayek, surely a first in French history. Then again, I don’t think many people would have predicted just 5 years ago the importance Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez have now, so give us 5 to 10 years to catch up, and we’ll be fine.

16

bad Jim 03.06.19 at 8:21 am

DeLong, the unrepentent NeoLiberal free trader, is on record defending policies making people in other countries richer, and his neighbors in his brutalist high-rise (Berkeley’s version of an Ivy tower) are Piketty’s partners, so inequality is in contention; in this respect hes’s more global than most. It would appear that his priorities have shifted, as well they might, given that the most catastrophic projections of climate change now appear to be the likeliest.

To be sure, economic inequality and climate change are orthogonal issues, but so are racism and sexism and [your issue here]. We need to fix everything as we go along, using every tool in the box and fashioning others as the need arises. I suppose this is a pitch for the Green New Deal: if you’re going to roll up your sleeves, you might as well take care of this or that. And what is else not to be overcome?

17

roger gathmann 03.06.19 at 9:18 am

12. I think you are so right. Neoliberalism arose in a context in which the regulatory structure for governing corporations was still only partly done. For instance, that corporations can still register and headquarter in states that will allow them whatever leaway they want – like Delaware – is simply an absurd situation, which Roosevelt – Teddy – first tried to deal with by making all interestate corps register with the commerce department and specifically obey commerce department dictates. Similarly, the explosion of the financial sector in the 80s was met, by the neo-libs, not with a plan for applying an appropriate and restrictive regulatory system, but with de-regulation – with consequences that have changed everything. And they still don’t seem to understand this. Brad Delong is perfectly happy with an economy in which the financial sector represents 20 percent of the GDP, which to my mind is a rentier nightmare. In a well balanced economy, given the utter cheapness of investment via our internet technologies, it should be about 5 to 10 percent smaller. That it hasn’t shrunk is to my mind prima facie evidence that the neo-liberal order was built on false premises. Efficiency my ass.

18

Z 03.06.19 at 9:31 am

@Henry But one key lesson of the last couple of decades is that market provision of benefits makes it harder to build and sustain coalitions

That’s a very thought-provoking observation, but I think it is not quite correct, and I think that can be seen from the immediate continuation (my emphasis) “private gain and public solidarity are at best uncomfortable bedfellows”. It is not that market mechanisms of provision of benefits make it in themselves harder to build and sustain coalitions, what makes it harder to build and sustain coalitions is when inappropriate mechanisms of provision of benefits are employed (whether markets, when they are inappropriate, or central planning, when it is inappropriate, or philosophers kings rule, when it is inappropriate), because it is hard to cooperate in an enterprise whose rules, aims and mechanisms are skewed – indeed, it is even unclear what “cooperate” means in such an environment. So the problem is not with markets in and on themselves, the problem is with the monetary evaluation of things which are not meant to be evaluated in this way, or more bluntly the problem is not that private gain and public solidarity are uneasy partners, it is that when it comes to environmental regulations, or education, or healthcare, or labor and safety laws… private gain (especially in its implicit economical understanding) is not an appropriate evaluative tool or analytical category (and here I’m back to uninstalling Hayek).

So indeed there will be inevitable disputes, indeed, but not on whether markets should be employed, but on who will win between those who benefit from the power of wielding markets onto others, and those upon which which markets are used. Left-neoliberal must make this choice: loose some of their current social power (and accompanying advantages) or abandon the pretense of favoring markets because they are efficient, and not because they are useful as tools of social control (become Right-neoliberal, in effect). Left-neoliberal in France have made their choice. In the US, this election cycle will surely bring an answer.

19

Louis Proyect 03.06.19 at 1:08 pm

The discussion of markets above has an abstract quality and Sam’s Catalyst article that it links to is even more abstract. There is no difference between Brad DeLong’s social democracy and Bhaskar Sunkara’s democratic socialism. Both of them are pushing for a Swedish style welfare state in which the economic lynchpin is the private ownership of the means of production, not whether there are markets. In Sunkara’s latest Jacobin article, he admits that the Swedish model is not even viable since the big capitalists will subvert it just as they subverted Allende in Chile.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room is revolutionary socialism that the “democratic socialists” disavow. In a period of world history when insects, birds, clouds, water and fish are being threatened by the private ownership of the means of production and the relentless pursuit of profit, it seems rather Panglossian to be holding up Sweden as a model.

Scientists believe that the earth will die because of major changes in the composition of the Sun between 1.5 billion and 4.5 billion years from now. At the current rate, I don’t see the planet sustaining human existence past the 22nd century at the rate things are going. It is difficult for the average person to conceive of an alternative to the system we live under now. Too bad that the failure of humanity to take hold of its future by wresting control from the capitalist class condemns it to extinction.

20

WLGR 03.06.19 at 2:52 pm

MFB hits the nail on the head, and there are any number of ways to make the obvious point that so-called “left” neoliberalism was never anything but an annexation and hollowing-out of social democratic politics by a form of political and economic reason that has always been inherently of, by, and for the right. Seeing as how Slobodian’s Globalists is the trendy new take on the origins and objectives of the neoliberal movement, an interesting way to make that point is to note that one of the strongest running threads throughout Slobodian’s account is the connection between each successive development of neoliberal politics, and the ever-vigilant defense of global distributions of wealth, property, and class power inherited from previous eras of direct colonial annexation and appropriation. Whether it’s the early neoliberals’ interwar nostalgia for the imperial economic order of central Europe under the Habsburgs, the postwar neoliberals’ opposition to Rostow “stages of growth” developmentalism as an alarming concession to colonized nations’ potential demands for social-democratic baseline affluence, or the post-Bretton Woods elevation of the Washington Consensus model specifically as an alternative to the NIEO model championed by the anticolonial Third World, Slobodian’s account makes almost too perfect sense if we read the history of neoliberalism from top to bottom as a means of legitimation for the global ethnonationally-based economic disparities of European colonialism.

When we put it that way, especially if we also view the modern origins of white racism itself as similarly grounded in the ideological legitimation for colonialism, it seems absurd to imagine any fundamental incompatibility between neoliberal capitalist politics and Trumpian ethnonationalist politics — which perfectly explains why the self-conceived “left” establishment neoliberals of the hashtag-Resistance are now a rump technocracy without a constituency, because the global finance-capitalist “Davos people” with whom they’ve been trying to curry favor since the ’90s have more or less made peace with the modern wave of “populist” ethnonationalists including figures Modi, Bolsonaro, and even Trump himself. This exact issue has been the focus of Slobodian’s recent ongoing work since publishing the book, and the more you look into the deeply interconnected histories of neoliberalism and the racist/fascist far right, the more the historical moment of “left” neoliberalism seems like a flukish aberration from neoliberalism’s natural right-wing racist state.

21

Cian 03.06.19 at 4:06 pm

I broadly agree with Z above, but I think I’d put it in a simpler and starker form.

By their own criteria for success, the left neoliberals failed. Their market reforms destabilized and destroyed existing markets. Their attempts at creating new markets have resulted in complex, bureaucratic and inefficient solutions that are politically unpopular. Their ideas do not work and they have destroyed any political capital they may have had.
The problems we face are not about markets – and to the degree markets play a part it will be about rolling them back, and regulating the hell out of them. The skills that are required, and which under the neoliberals have been allowed to atrophy, are about managing institutions and delivering large projects successfully (however that is defined).

Anyone who thinks that the solution to global warming is carbon taxes is someone who doesn’t understand the scale of the problem, and has never successfully managed a large scale project in their life. These people do not need to leave public life because their politics are bad, but because they just don’t have the skills that we need.

22

engels 03.06.19 at 4:26 pm

Looking forward to Delong retracting his blog posts calling David Harvey an ‘intellectual masturbator’, Noam Chomsky a liar, Paul Sweezy a Stalinist hack, …

23

mpowell 03.06.19 at 5:05 pm

Glad to see you acknowledge the political limitations that exist in the US. Leftists or Democrats, if they don’t want to go through another decade or two of heightening the contradictions (which could potentially backfire in a permanent hard right turn), need to think about coalition building and how to achieve in the context of the US political system where simple national popular majorities are not a sufficient condition to set policy. I don’t pretend to have the answers here, but if you answer is “my personal policy preferences will obviously command resounding majorities if we simply achieve sufficient purity”, probably you don’t either. Would like to see people talk about this with a more realistic attention to the American electorate.

24

Scott P. 03.06.19 at 5:34 pm

DeLong, the unrepentent NeoLiberal free trader, is on record defending policies making people in other countries richer,

Is this a bad thing, now? If you want to make people in other countries poorer, you could go back to old-school colonialism, I guess.

25

Fledermaus 03.06.19 at 6:41 pm

Konczal: “Relaxation of antitrust enforcement would lead to more competition and innovation, as was told. . . . An unleashed financial sector would fund and lead the entire enterprise. The idea of market power, or concentration, was seen as laughable concepts stacked against the disciplining power of markets themselves.”

Setting aside the nonsense about anti-trust which refutes itself. This was why the 2008 crash was so fatal to neoliberal theory. They had spent the previous two decades lecturing everyone on how regulations (all of them) hurt economic growth, issued dire warnings against government action and demanding that everyone submit to “the disciplining power of markets”

Yet in 2008 when the time came for their banker friends to face that supposed disciplining power, instead the answer was to shovel trillions in government handouts to protect incumbent firms from market outcomes dictated by their own fraud.

That was the moment that neoliberalism revealed that it true operating principle is government action is only warranted to protect the existing distribution of wealth and to subsidize the profits of very large corporations and financial firms.

26

Lupita 03.06.19 at 6:42 pm

The left is enjoying a resurgence in the US (not so much elsewhere).

The most resurgent left is right across the US border. López Obrador in Mexico has almost a 90% approval rate, the highest of any head of state in the world.

I have noticed that he is practically banned from the US media, both legacy and social. Out of sight, out of mind. Meanwhile, Sanders and Ocasio trip all over themselves regarding the recent Jussie Smollett level coup-by-tweet attempt in Venezuela. Any left asking itself whether or not to invade a country that poses no threat is not resurgent. It is not even left.

The real left, López Obrador , respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Venezuela and offered to mediate if both parts agreed. That is the left: non-interventionist, an advocate for peaceful solutions, anti-imperialist.

27

thor 03.06.19 at 8:46 pm

What a great post. It encapsulates in a few paragraphs a good diagnosis, reaction and questions in a earnest way whats to be done.

On a side note. Henry, could you please point to some academic material on the market delivery vs solidarity trade offs?

28

SamChevre 03.06.19 at 10:00 pm

It seems to me that a very necessary pre-condition for this move away from neo-liberalism by Brad Delong etc is that the left/neo-liberals won, decisively, against the working class; they won to the point where the Democratic Socialists are dominated by the same finance-friendly college grads that the neo-liberals are, and not by working class activists. I somehow think that if the “left” were heavy on private sector unions and represented their interests, Brad Delong would be distinctly unenthusiastic about moving in that direction–and most of the other commenters on this board would share his disinterest.

Who commenting here would be enthusiastic about a left/DS movement that was dominated by the concerns and interests of LIUNA, the UMWA, IBEW, and the Teamsters? This used to be a significant chunk of the left; at this point, it isn’t.

29

phenomenal cat 03.07.19 at 2:33 am

@27
My grandfather made over $30/hr in the 1960’s working as an unionized boilermaker at a paper plant on the far side of nowhere, Deep South, USA. There is nothing the reanimated mind of Schrodinger’s cat could possibly tell me about the mysteries of the multiverse that boggles as much as that.

Anyway, I’m onboard.

30

b9n10nt 03.07.19 at 4:49 am

Glad to read that Prof DeLong (& other Rubinstas?) will not be playing neoliberal school marm to the GND.

Gareth Wilson @11: “I’ve worked as a private tutor. How would you have punished me for that?”

there will be consequences

31

bad Jim 03.07.19 at 6:50 am

Scott P., there is nothing wrong with making poor people richer. As a former manufacturer I am sad to see fabrication fleeing our shores for points east. As a consumer I’m delighted by the well-made and surprisingly affordable products I find in the market.

32

Naadir Jeewa 03.07.19 at 8:11 am

The Slobodian book sounds interesting, and points to something that remains depressing in Britain: left neoliberals persuing “legitimate concerns” ethnonationalism and their continued insistence on the greatness of neoconservatism, with the Labour right continuing to insist on the greatness of the Iraq War (“only the hard left opposed it”) whilst their hero, Saint Anthony, shakes hands with Bolsonaro. Who is any of this supposed to appeal to?

33

b9n10nt 03.07.19 at 8:16 am

Alternative reply @11:

I can’t decide between consumption taxes or dungeons.

34

Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.07.19 at 3:09 pm

Here’s my problem with the neoliberals – summed up in two separate response from Brad himself. Early on he does something I should give him credit for because it is an incredible rarity from neoliberals. He admits error. Here are his words:

We were certainly wrong, 100 percent, on the politics.

They most certainly were. And the entire time the dirty hippies were telling them that siding with the mythical unicorn of moderate and reasonable conservatives was a bad move. So on the basic question of understanding of the politics, the “art of the possible”, neoliberals were self-admittedly 100% wrong and their “hard left” critics were 100% right. In people with a modicum of self-awareness, this might result in a bit of introspection and maybe less overwhelming confidence of their superior understanding of the world. And yet this is what he says about the left a little later on in the interview (emphasis mine:

Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people, as far as leftists in the past are concerned. They’re social democrats, they’re very strong believers in democracy. They’re very strong believers in fair distribution of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to work and what is not. But they’re people who we’re very, very lucky to have on our side.

No Brad. You’re projecting again. No one can use more education about what will and will not work from people who thought that appealing to the Iraq Invasion era Republican Party was a winning move. Here is DeLong’s argument “we neoliberals might have been totally wrong and the dirty hippies were right, but you should still punch them hippies. It’s only the current batch of leftists that are okay, not the older ones who called us mean names. Sure those dirty hippies were just stating what we know now to be true – that us neoliberals were acting like stupid idiots – that doesn’t change the fact that we’re better than them.”

Okay, rant done. Sure it’s not a kindness, especially considering that this is a prominent neoliberal admitting error and trying to adjust their behaviour to account for that fact. But really – even in this mea culpa and shift to the left, it still looks like he’s kicking hippies and cozying up to the “new” progressive movement because they have influence.

35

Yan 03.07.19 at 3:22 pm

“Then we must get the charismatic populist hard-left Woman of Color this country needs to go LEFT. Wait. We have her. We know her name.”

Given AOC’s cooperation with the neoliberal Democrats in two bipartisan, cynical, and covertly racist attacks on Ilhan Omar, I’m not sure I do know her name.

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Z 03.07.19 at 3:46 pm

@b9n10nt an ethic of “there are goods we must possess equally for them to fully qualify as goods.” Legal representation, voting. But also, I would argue under ideal conditions, education, health care.

I think that is an important and correct point, as these goods underlie one’s ability to intervene in the polity (not to mention their moral and humanist dimension, but I would argue that these two dimensions are ultimately the same).

@Gareth Wilson I’ve worked as a private tutor. How would you have punished me for that?

Serious or not, that’s in fact quite a profound question.

The deepest line of fracture running through contemporary prosperous democracies is not material, it is educative. This means that deep down, the ultimate source of the woes that plague these societies (the inhumane inequalities, the crippling social stupidity, the creeping authoritarianism and the breathtaking collective tetany in face of those …) is, well in first approximation, not quite private tutors but definitely people who pay private tutors for their children (an uncomfortable conclusion for the crowd of commenters in an academic blog). Yet education seems to me to be both an individual unconditional good (contrary for instance to material prosperity) and not readily amenable to redistribution (ditto).

I have no real idea to solve this conundrum, except to point out that the more you disconnect educational achievements from basic welfare provisions, the more you mitigate the problem (UBI+Job Guarantee+universal healthcare+universal education, and if the question is how to pay for all this, the answer is by taxes on people who can afford private tutors) and vice-versa. The alternative chosen in my country is open warfare of one side against the other, and that is not pretty to see.

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Dr. Hilarius 03.07.19 at 6:28 pm

@28: I worked as a dishwasher at a downtown lunch counter (catering to lower middle class and working class shoppers, nothing posh) in 1969 and made something like $2.50/hr with time and a half overtime. That works out to about $17/hr in 2019 adjusted dollars. I was union, Cooks and Assistants local 33. Many younger people don’t realize that even the lowest of occupations once paid a living wage thanks to unions. Neoliberals don’t want to raise the pay of dishwashers, they blame the dishwasher for not having a college degree.

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mpowell 03.07.19 at 8:49 pm

I think SamChevre may hit the nail on the head @27, which is echoed by, eg, Louis Proyect @19 comment on the lack of option for revolutionary socialism. In the US, at least, too many union or union membership had a hard time embracing gender and racial equality. This vulnerability has existed in US politics for a long time and the conservatives were able to take advantage from the 70s on.

But I think you could be too quick to dismiss the neoliberals on this one. I think they’re comfortable with finance, but they are not strictly opposed to greater worker power. I don’t know where Delong stands, but there are plenty of neoliberals willing to support Warren’s proposal for worker representation on corporate boards.

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engels 03.07.19 at 11:46 pm

A sampling of Delong’s blogospheric corpus:

On David Harvey:
“I can’t call what David Harvey does pointless intellectual masturbation because what David Harvey does does not feel good at all”
https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/02/department-of-huh-in-praise-of-neoclassical-economics-department.html

On Chomsky:
“Chomsky tears up the trail markers that might lead to conclusions different from his… In a world in which there are lots of people who try to tell it as it really happened, why should I spend any time reading someone who tries to tell it as it didn’t happen?”
http://j-bradford-delong.net/Politics/Chomsky.html

On Paul Sweezy:
“Paul Sweezy called himself an intellectual. Paul Sweezy publicly revised his opinion on an analytical issue in order to agree with the position taken by a genocidal tyrant. Fill in the blank: Paul Sweezy was a ________.”
http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/000386.html

More joy in heaven etc I guess

40

Cian 03.08.19 at 3:03 am

Louis Proyect:
There is no difference between Brad DeLong’s social democracy and Bhaskar Sunkara’s democratic socialism. Both of them are pushing for a Swedish style welfare state in which the economic lynchpin is the private ownership of the means of production, not whether there are markets.

Regardless of what you think of their politics, this is a profoundly stupid comment. Brad DeLong does not want a traditional Swedish style welfare state, while Bhaskar sees a Swedish welfare state as a step towards his ultimate goal.

In fact there’s evidence for this in the next statement that you make: “In Sunkara’s latest Jacobin article, he admits that the Swedish model is not even viable since the big capitalists will subvert it just as they subverted Allende in Chile.” Gosh, maybe he understands the basic flaw in Social Democracy.

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J-D 03.08.19 at 3:20 am

Dragon-King Wangchuck

Hear, hear.

What the interviewer should have asked is: ‘You say you were 100% wrong on the politics. Do you have any insight into how you came to make such an egregious error?’ And if the answer to that question was ‘No, I don’t’, then the interviewer should have said ‘Then is there a reason why we shouldn’t just drop this interview for now and return to it when you do have some insight worth discussing?’

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b9n10nt 03.08.19 at 3:23 am

Z: the more you disconnect educational achievements from basic welfare provisions, the more you mitigate the problem [of needing equal education to support an egalitarian society]

& we can hope that, in a situation where public education is equitable and sufficiently funded, the economic elite of an egalitarian society would sense the futility of consuming private educational resources as a future investment in furthering their kids social status.

Thx for giving Gareth Wilson the more thoughtful response he likely deserved.

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Gareth Wilson 03.08.19 at 3:30 am

@35 If it helps, verbal intelligence seems to be an even better predictor of support for Trump than education.

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Faustusnotes 03.08.19 at 1:17 pm

Henry, two big things wrong with this post…

1. Mike writes in his response that Obama has “romney’s Healthcare policy.” This is wrong, he didn’t, and you shouldn’t be taking advice on politics from someone who doesn’t understand this. This is important because mike isn’t trying to say the republicans opposed Obama on partisan grounds but they didn’t – they opposed him because his policies helped poor people. If he had run on Romney’s policies they would have quietly stopped opposing them after he left. This is particularly cute since you’re using mikes response as a springboard to say that left neoliberals failed but it’s basically just wrong. Here’s a tip: anyone who thinks Obama could have introduced Medicare for all either doesn’t understand healthcare policy in the us or thinks the only successful left wing politics is revolutionary. It’s funny that you use an article that misses the class war being waged in the us as a springboard for a commentary on how the world needs more class war!

2. The reason the left is becoming popular in the USA is that the USA is a uniquely right wing country in desperate trouble, and political shifts in the USA are not reflective of the rest of the world. Yes we are all waiting for Americans to grow up, but their process of growing up is irrelevant to what is going on elsewhere. Too many people on the internet mistake the us for the world (I see this shockingly on twitter), and you all need to stop. In particular there are things happening in Asia and Africa that American commentators just ignore in their assessment of global political trends. Lupita also makes this point above about her neck of the woods.

Americans are confused and lost in their racist class war nation. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the rest of us are lost with them.

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William Timberman 03.08.19 at 2:22 pm

Back when I was a committed New Leftist, and Brad DeLong was still 25 years away from deciding that Bill Clinton was the bee’s knees, I could never have imagined that the ship of state would one day develop a 15 degree list to port from all the David Frums, Matt Yglesias’s and Brad DeLongs rushing to throw up over what had hitherto been our very own gunwales to do with as we pleased. While struggling with my comrades to lower the lifeboats before the whole I too am now a leftist, but not one of THOSE leftists enterprise capsizes, I pause to wonder who’ll turn up next — Phil Gramm hisself?

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Yan 03.08.19 at 5:39 pm

Bob McManus @4

Anyway, best laid plans agley, etc.
I think Sanders will be ready to retire after a first term. Omar 2024, what do you say?

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Geriatric Millenial JD 03.08.19 at 11:22 pm

The story is also a very demographic driven shift leftwards. People born after 1982 have increasingly become more likely to be liberal than conservative. Political views are largely solidified by age 24 or so. This is true in other countries as well just that the demographic makeup of the US is much younger than the west. So I would say Europe will also be shifting left but at a slower and less extreme swing.

This demographic change is so much larger than the one that gave us the Reagan revolution. There Republicans peaked at about 60%-40% in certain cohorts of the youngest Boomers oldest Gen X. Gen Z is well over 70%-30% for Democrats over Republicans and the unpopularity of Trump is helping to solidify these people when forming their political affiliation.

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Brad DeLong 03.08.19 at 11:28 pm

JD: “And if the answer to that question was ‘No, I don’t’, then the interviewer should have said…”

Shouldn’t you find something better to do with your life than writing fake DeLong fanfic?

49

J-D 03.09.19 at 12:30 am

Brad DeLong

If you put it like that, I have to agree that I should be making better use of my life: if you have any specific constructive suggestions for my life, I would be pleased to receive them.

However, even if I’m not making much good use of my life, that doesn’t change the fact that the interviewer missed asking you the best (most relevant, most obvious, most significant) question. I hope you understand that I regard this as a failing on the interviewer’s part, not on yours. I had no expectation that you would be reading this discussion, and even less expectation that you would, if you became aware of it, respond to me. If you are prepared to respond to me, I do genuinely think it’s the best question and would be genuinely interested in the answer: Do you have any insight into how you came to be, in your own words ‘wrong, 100%, on the politics’? When I get things wrong, I want to figure out how I did so, in order to achieve a better understanding for the future. Surely that’s not just me?

50

Brad DeLong 03.09.19 at 3:52 am

Kabaservice and Perlstein have a lot good to say. It’s not clear to me that they are 100% right. However, it is clear to me that they know more than me on this and are much more worth listening to.

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bob mcmanus 03.09.19 at 7:28 am

private gain and public solidarity are at best uncomfortable bedfellows.

The genius of liberal capitalism is that in a condition of free markets and liberal freedoms, extended universally, the only possible or efficient authority is an emergent hierarchy based on wealth. All other restraints by a collective will seem “unnatural” or inefficient interference in the workings of the markets and an unacceptable restriction of individual freedom. Market capitalism, cause science and instrumental reason and atomistic individualism, eventually delegitimates and renders primitive and irrational all previous forms and future possibilities of collective authority.

Liberalism makes the concept of obedience more attractive by making authority transcendent (constitutional gov’t, human rights) or invisible, hidden in market mechanisms.

Socialism and communism differ from anarchism in that we consider it a necessary interim step to make the sources of authority and power apparent…in the state, in inequality, and then in the workers once they see how they cede their own power.

52

Lee A. Arnold 03.09.19 at 12:43 pm

The lefty resurgence should get away from academic theorizing about the virtues of social democracy, and concentrate instead on the SPECIFIC attributes of SPECIFIC goods and services, in order to decide whether the market, or else government monopsony, should provide it. (We will even find within standard economics itself some of the tools to characterize these problems, such as the insurmountable market failures and market inefficiencies in healthcare on the supply side, on the demand side, and in the private insurance intermediaries.)

The left might also take the fight to the right, and continually hammer on the facts: that the free market turn of the last 40 years has been half-a-disaster. It is hurting people, and we should all be a lot further on in our lives.

All this back-and-forth about first getting a “social welfare state” that is going to solve problems is a big waste of time. First, not everyone is on the same page, and after a couple of hundred years of this talk already, they may not be for a long while more. Second and pursuant to the first, even the brightest bulbs on the left, as on the right, don’t appear to know that much economics and are going to fuck it up royally. Third, the real way to transform the majority’s social preferences — which is THE central issue we should be thinking about — is by making piecemeal improvements that help people find the future for themselves.

Look: In the U.S., corporate plutocrats have been doing their darnedest for decades to curb Social Security and Medicare but haven’t made a dent in the majority’s social expectations about those goods. So: pick another good or service which MUST be provided, and make the plan to provide it!

Don’t worry about the blowback from the plutocrats who will undermine all your good deeds so why even bother. CHANGE the majority’s social preference about another specific good or service, instead. Let’s “cut to the chase”, people!

It will be a mind-numbing political disaster to continue with endless discussions about whether lefty neoliberals or neoliberal leftists have the tools to get to social democracy or democratic socialism, and all the rest of this erudite hairsplitting as on Jacobin.

If you still want to go theoretical instead, then SHOW how government is another form of cost-saving and is analogous to physical capital, only it is placed at a higher, social level. Government reduces transaction costs and environmental costs; physical capital reduces production-transformation costs.

It follows that for some goods or services the future is monopoly, whether private monopoly or government monopoly, because that means less physical effort. Is this neoliberalism or socialism? Can you even tell the difference?

Markets allow freedom of choice and quicker innovation, but (and it’s a big but), if the good or service in question has been transformed from scarcity into satiety, or else, the good or service should be provided to all despite an inability to pay money for it (e.g. healthcare), then it is ridiculous NOT to have a government monopsony for that particular good or service, still allowing private ownership and innovation on the provider side (e.g. “Medicare for All”). The government monopsony should follow Ostrom’s rules for common-pool resources, i.e. narrowly focused on that good or service; simple rules; easy process; lots of transparency; etc.

A preamble:

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William Timberman 03.09.19 at 1:47 pm

bob mcmanus @ 49 (03.09.19 at 7:28 am)

Much as I enjoy this poetically Marxist narrative of yours, I also think that it contains just as many mystifications, both deliberate and inadvertent, as the left neoliberal narrative under discussion here. The truth is that it’s essential to make authority either transcendent or invisible if we don’t want to litigate in plenary session every damned decision confronting the collective, from where to put the streetlights to how much toilet paper to produce, and that’s not to mention the majority of us that either can’t sit still long enough to decide anything, don’t have a clue what we’re talking about in the first place, or prefer Netflix to socialism no matter the cost to our collective future.

I do appreciate politics, and political actors, inasmuch as they do the actual work of getting things made, or done, or started or stopped, permitted or forbidden, and that under a constant hail of rhetoric, and sometimes more or less dangerous foreign objects. Political economy and economists, on the other hand, can explain much with their analyses, but often not the crucial things. I sometimes think that we’d be better off preparing ourselves to act politically by reading as much Levi-Strauss as we do Marx, particularly the parts where he explains how pre-literary thought is encoded for posterity by being written onto the physical landscape in architecture, dance, or rituals of one kind or other.

But enough. Any further with this line of thought, and I’ll be ringside with Corey Robin, taking bets on the sempiternal wrestle between Nietzsche and Kant.

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JimV 03.09.19 at 2:34 pm

I used to read BDL’s blog (“Grasping Reality”) daily, although it has always been one of the hardest blogs for me to read due to html and organization issues it has on my browser. I wonder if his critics here know things such as he was loudly against the Iraq invasion in 2003, loudly against the return of John Yoo to a teaching position at Berkley, loudly for a stimulus package twice the size of the one the Obama administration proposed, and loudly supported Piketty’s work on inequality; and that he regularly publishes a “smackdown” post of opinions critical of his own, and regularly publishes a “mark to market” post explaining where and why his opinions have changed. I think he remains a supporter of NAFTA, which he worked on in the Clinton administration, however, but acknowledges that it has had some unintended consequences (which should have been ameliorated legislatively had the votes been available).

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Robert Waldmann 03.09.19 at 3:26 pm

[citation needed]

I think Konczal is conflating neoliberalism as defined West of the Atlantic and neoliberalism as defined East of the Atlantic. I will start with your list of left neoliberals. Brad, Yglesias and Klein never advocated reduced enforcement of antitrust regulation or saw anything good in increased inequality. I detect no trace of interest in the idea that wages are equal to marginal products.

If Konczal wants to assert that left neoliberalism has failed as an economic theory (as opposed to as a political strategy) he really has to quote some left neoliberals saying things which were proven false by the data. I think there should be a rule against critiquing an ideology, theory, hypothesis or worldview without naming names and citing publications (I will call this Chait’s rule of disorder as I read about it on his blog).

On the other hand, I think you are equating contracting out with markets. They aren’t the same. The advantages of markets noted by Brad does not apply to public contracting out. In (maybe silly) economic theory there is general equilibrium theory and mechanism design. They are ultra different fields. In particular, the fun of the mechanism design literature is that it is hard to design mechanisms. The correct assertion that bureaucrats are too dumb to centrally plan also implies that they are too dumb to design efficient and incentive compatible mechanisms.

The correct (and more important) argument that public servants can’t be trusted to be purely public spirited, that regulators can be captured and just look at that swamp, applies in order of increasing force to a night watchman state which allows people to starve, a public agency (such as public schools and the Center for Medicare and Medicade services) which provides some service, a public agency where lowly paid civil servants negotiate with profit seeking firms and are trusted to aim for the public good and ignore any prospect of being hired at much higher salaries and (who ever had such a stupid idea (Al Gore and Bill Clinton)), and a Stalinist centrally planned economy.

There is inevitable inefficiency involved in the public sector. It is most extreme at the edges where public service meets the profit motive. We should want a small state, but the key is a small surface area not a small volume. Shrinking the state by drilling so there are private sector salients worsens the problem. This wasn’t at all obvious in 1992, but the evidence is now very solid.

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bianca steele 03.09.19 at 6:36 pm

On the evidence of the Internet, I’ve thought for a long time that the real coming conflict/polarization was is going to be between secular liberals (including religious people who honor the secular sphere), who value science and communicative reason, and conservatives or reactionaries, who are acutely aware of the losses Marx and Bob M. refer to and will accept nothing less than to reverse them. The real debates seem to be about who can capture the narratives, and the votes, on either side. On the Republican side, the conservatives have clearly beat out the liberals among voters. The only way moderates can regain the Republican Party is to make reaction taboo among most voters, yet still gain the trust of reactionary elites on the right. That seems not in the cards. On the left, reflexive animus toward “neoliberals” seems to me to reflect the absorption of the same, essentially conservative, critique. I wonder how stable such a left can be once it’s in power. A fair proportion of Europe’s social democracies are monarchies, in which the left can hold power without threatening the power structure. All liberals seem to have to answer the lack of similar safeguards in the US is attacks on Evangelicals as inherently legitimate.

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William Timberman 03.09.19 at 9:25 pm

That’s pre-literate thought rather than pre-literary thought in my last post, if you please. I’d like to blame auto-correct, but decaying neurons is a more likely explanation. That, and impatience.

58

Peter T 03.10.19 at 2:32 am

“There is inevitable inefficiency involved in the public sector.”

First, there’s inevitable inefficiency (how do you define that term anyway?) in any sector.
Second – nothing is forever. No institution is even close to perfect for any length of time.
Third – it may have escaped your empirical test, but French, German, British, Australian etc bureaucracies have been dealing efficiently with health, education, transport, banking, social security and so on for a century or more. Not perfectly, but better than the private attempts they superseded. Heck, the British admiralty has been dealing efficiently with all the intricacies of naval power for three centuries.

It may be that the US, with its embedded patronage, ongoing racial cleavages, size, archaic constitution and regional disparities is unable to develop and maintain an efficient national bureaucracy, but that is a different matter from theoretical musings about inherent limitations.

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J-D 03.10.19 at 2:54 am

Brad DeLong

Kabaservice and Perlstein have a lot good to say. It’s not clear to me that they are 100% right. However, it is clear to me that they know more than me on this and are much more worth listening to.

It’s curious, then, that they weren’t mentioned in the interview.

Lee A. Arnold

Hear, hear.

The lefty resurgence should … concentrate instead on the SPECIFIC attributes of SPECIFIC goods and services, in order to decide whether the market, or else government monopsony, should provide it. …

… Third, the real way to transform the majority’s social preferences — which is THE central issue we should be thinking about — is by making piecemeal improvements that help people find the future for themselves.

Look: In the U.S., corporate plutocrats have been doing their darnedest for decades to curb Social Security and Medicare but haven’t made a dent in the majority’s social expectations about those goods. So: pick another good or service which MUST be provided, and make the plan to provide it!

Hear, hear.

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Brad DeLong 03.10.19 at 3:33 pm

JD: “Brad DeLong: ‘Kabaservice and Perlstein have a lot good to say. It’s not clear to me that they are 100% right. However, it is clear to me that they know more than me on this and are much more worth listening to.’ It’s curious, then, that they weren’t mentioned in the interview.”

No, it isn’t. I’m sure that Zack Beauchamp will or has done a piece on how and why the Republican Party now dwells at the Tophet in Gehenna. But that was not what he wanted to interview me about. That you find it strange that Zack and I talk about what we want to talk about rather than what you want is to talk about is far stranger…

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WLGR 03.10.19 at 6:33 pm

Just look at how often self-conceived “left” neoliberals are willing to wafflingly concede that the economic logic of midcentury Keynesian social democratic models is much more sensible than the asinine “drown government in the bathtub” type sewage that’s been issuing full-blast from the septic drainpipes of neoliberal think tanks since the ’70s — and then the same “left” neoliberals will be perfectly willing to turn around and depict something like Varoufakis’ proposed social-democratic agenda for indebted Greece, or even the Bolivarian welfare-state agenda in Venezuela, as some kind of crazy starry-eyed radical commie nonsense that’s inherently beyond the pale, because come on now, those kinds of people in those kinds of countries just aren’t supposed to be able to have nice things the way we good affluent Americans or Germans are! If it sounds like I’m being facetious, I’m not, because from a Marxian perspective the underlying economic logic of this political double standard is quite clear: capitalism can only function if at least some of its subjects, probably the vast majority of them, are kept in a state of precarity, destitution, disenfranchisement, and exploitability.

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J-D 03.10.19 at 11:47 pm

Brad DeLong

Your allegedly having got something 100% wrong is not a topic I chose to bring up, it’s a topic you (in the interview) chose to bring up. As far as anything I know goes, or anything I would be prepared to assert, maybe you didn’t get it 100% wrong. I can read that you said you did, but that doesn’t make it a guaranteed 100% correct assertion. For all I know, you didn’t get things as far wrong as you say you did, especially as I don’t pretend to know just what it is that you’re supposed to have got wrong, or just how it is that you’re supposed to have got it wrong.

What I do know is that if I were interviewing anybody about anything and that person said ‘I got the politics 100% wrong’, it is something I would want to follow up on, and that’s why it seems curious to me that the interviewer in this case did not follow up on it.

Now, if the interviewee, in the course of the interview, referred to a good analysis of the alleged error appearing somewhere else (and possibly written by other people), that would help me to understand why the interviewer didn’t follow up on the point; or, if the interviewer, in the course of the interview, referred to having read such an analysis, that would help me to understand; or, if the interviewer, in the course of the interview, referred to a past or planned interview with other people with an analysis of the alleged error–anything like that would have made me think, ‘Ah, that’s why the point wasn’t followed up in this interview’. But I find nothing like that in the interview, and so I remain curious about why the point wasn’t followed up in the interview, not even by a reference to an analysis of the alleged error existing elsewhere; being told now, after the fact, that such analyses exist doesn’t answer my question.

Since my question is ‘Why did the interviewer not follow up on that point?’, there’s no particular reason why you should have any better idea of the answer to it than anybody else and I don’t expect you to. The question is interesting to me. But if it’s not interesting to you, of course there’s no reason why you should discuss it.

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Bernard Yomtov 03.11.19 at 12:06 am

@29,

Median household income in the US in 1970 was $8734.

No way was a boilermaker in the 1960’s, union or not, making $30/hour, seven times the median income.

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phenomenal cat 03.11.19 at 8:49 pm

Yeah, I’ve wondered that myself. According to my father the figure is accurate but let’s put it this way: my grandparents owned 1000 acres of farm and pasture land outright for many many years and had saved a very significant sum of money by the time my grandfather retired in the early 80’s- not a dime or acre of that was inherited. So whatever the exact number, my grandparents did all of the above and more on that unionized boilermaker’s wage.

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