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Tilting at Windmills

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March 12, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

R.I.P. NEOLIBERALISM?....This weekend David Brooks declared neoliberalism dead. Is it? Jon Cohn provides some perspective:

[Neoliberalism] was based on the premise that sometimes liberals were a greater menace to liberalism than conservatives -- by failing to recognize the public sector's fallibility, by not taking seriously middle class resentment over the use of taxes, by putting the needs of constituent interest groups above the greater public good, and so on.

But to the extent that premise was ever true -- and, surely, it was true in at least some instances -- it is no longer. I would argue that turning point came no later than 1994, when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans came to power....When the party in power has, say, declared war on the welfare state, one should probably defend said welfare state's existence before harping on its modest, if still regrettable, flaws.

And yet, unlike my friend Ezra Klein, I'm not quite ready to say that neoliberalism failed, either. One reason it no longer seems relevant is that the liberal left, broadly speaking, has embraced some of its best teachings.

I think this is the key point: neoliberalism didn't die, it won. The reason it's no longer a vital movement is that mainstream liberalism has fully absorbed about 80% of the neolib critique and moved on. This is true even for a lot of younger liberals who may not fully realize where their political sensibilities come from.

No movement wins all its battles, of course, and neoliberalism lost its share along the way. But as Jon points out, winning those last few battles just doesn't seem important any longer. After 1994 it became clear that Republicans had no interest in meeting us halfway. Instead they declared war. Conservatives like Brooks shouldn't act surprised that eventually liberals decided to shed their introspective ways and start fighting back.

Kevin Drum 12:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (108)

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The logic of your post rest on the following premises: (A) David Brooks said something; (B) It is worth commenting on something David Brooks said. The problem is obvious.

Posted by: CJColucci on March 12, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is the key point: neoliberalism didn't die, it won. The reason it's no longer a vital movement is that mainstream liberalism has fully absorbed about 80% of the neolib critique and moved on.

After 1994 it became clear that Republicans had no interest in meeting us halfway. Instead they declared war. Conservatives like Brooks shouldn't act surprised that eventually liberals decided to shed their introspective ways and start fighting back.

I don't see how you can square those two statements. It seems to me that "neoliberals" who I'd call the triangulators, have lost. TNR is going down because the program of centrism and compromise didn't work. The middle class got the shaft in the name of centrism and compromise. Various acceptable memes of the 90s, like SS being in trouble, NAFTA being a tremendous boon, private medical care the only way to go have all been under tremendous pressure in the last few years.

So, yeah, the second sentence makes sense. But the first one, not so much.

Now, mind you, I don't think it matters who "won." And it's just like Brooks to try to start an argument among liberals, and just like Chait to start that argument.

But 6 years of undivided republican government has pretty much put paid to any of their so-called policies, revealing them as nothing more than slogans on bumperstickers. What's going on is centrist voter recognition of that fact not, of course "centrist" beltway folks, but actual voters is now manifest.

I've been fascinated by the number of apolitical people, like glenn greenwald or Josh Marshall or actual republicans, like Markos who have been radicalized and pushed to the left by this administration. It's happened to me, too. I was a pox on both their houses centrist before 2000, never casting a vote for either party for federal office.

This object lesson in republican governance has been very painful, but very informative. It's a pity that it's going to take at least a decade to undo.

Posted by: jayackroyd on March 12, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Well, CJC, you got there first, and were a heckuva lot pithier. Yeah, what you said.

Posted by: jayackroyd on March 12, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting post. If I understand the concept, neoliberalism succeeded when it led to Bill Clinton's welfare reform -- a reform that has proved to be very effective at getting dependent people off welfare and into real jobs.

An area where neo-liberalism has not succeeded is education, IMHO. Public education is conducted along liberal lines, but it doesn't work too well. Our best students don't keep up with students abroad. Our worst students leave school without the ability to read. I would love to see some liberals take the lead in fixing education, just as Bill Clinton took the lead in fixing welfare.

Posted by: ex-liberal on March 12, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals shifted from responsible misguided patriots to people who cheerlead America's defeat in war. This is not, by any sane estimation, a positive development.

Posted by: American Hawk on March 12, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism is dead? Was it ever alive?

Posted by: Nemo on March 12, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

No movement wins all its battles, of course, and neoliberalism lost its share along the way. But as Jon points out, winning those last few battles just doesn't seem important any longer. After 1994 it became clear that Republicans had no interest in meeting us halfway. Instead they declared war. Conservatives like Brooks shouldn't act surprised that eventually liberals decided to shed their introspective ways and start fighting back.

Neoliberalism was never about meeting Republicans halfway, though people who agreed with the neoliberal pragmatic critique of how other liberals preferred to acheive liberal ends might be able to find more common ground with non-liberals. Neoliberalism is not triangulation (though rhetorical embrace of neoliberalism might be a technique used in triangulation.)

OTOH, pragmatic disputes about how to acheive liberal values become less important the more the values themselves are disputed as the goals of government, and pragmatic positions are often grounded fairly firmly in the conditions of a particular time. The rise of the Republican majority from 1994 on reduced the salience of pragmatic disputes within liberalism, the absolute Republican control of government from 2001-2006 did so much more strongly, and while the new Democratic majority and the lack of political capital in the Republican executive may make intra-liberal pragmatic disputes more salient, neither the conditions nor the alternative liberal approaches are the same as when the neoliberal challenge was at its height, so quite likely neoliberalism is simply largely irrelevant now, though some of its components and positions may remain influential in some portions of the liberal sphere.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I forget where I first read this, but a key to understanding modern liberals (not leftists!) is that they've long since made peace with capitalism, because only capitalism is efficient enough to provide a large tax base for funding various social programs. Republicans like to smear the Democrats as socialists or worse, but in fact everyone realizes that a socialist economy would never be able to support a welfare state. Even the most bloated European governments still have normal market-driven economies. Regulations and taxes are not the same as socialism.

It seems to me that "neoliberals" who I'd call the triangulators, have lost. TNR is going down because the program of centrism and compromise didn't work

Not sure I agree with this. I'd argue that part of neoliberalism is a skepticism of massive social engineering projects that were once in vogue, and a more cautious approach to government spending. Old-style liberalism is dead because schemes like the War on Poverty didn't work. Whereas neoliberal programs like welfare reform, as mentioned above, did work.

I was a pox on both their houses centrist before 2000, never casting a vote for either party for federal office.

I'm still that way; I don't really care much for the Democrats, although I vote for one occasionally (Kerry in 2004). Granted, I live in California, so my perspective may be skewed, but I think modern liberalism is still in love with the idea that if we just give the government enough money it will solve all of our problems.

But it'll be years before I vote Republican. Those assholes blew every chance they had, and they need to be punished. I'm willing to give the Democrats a chance; I think it'll take years before they can fuck things up this bad.

Posted by: Nat on March 12, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

What Kevin is too modest to point out is that Brooks used him as the prototype of the new liberal (what he would call the new old liberal.)

Posted by: Wagster on March 12, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

> I think this is the key point: neoliberalism
> didn't die, it won.

The 2008 elections will tell the tale here methinks.

However, if your statement is true it is sad that the "victory" was against ordinary, middle/lower-class American citizens. Winner-take-all society anyone?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 12, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record: I happen to think there were both positives and negatives associated with the neolib critique. However, whether it's for better or worse, I think it's just a fact that modern mainstream liberalism is almost indistinguishable from neoliberalism of the 80s, especially on the domestic side. (Foreign affairs are trickier. There was never as much consensus there as there was on domestic stuff.)

Regardless, the neolib critique certainly seemed more compelling in 1975 than it does today. There are way fewer liberal excesses to be concerned about and way more conservative excesses. Thirty years ago, for example, I wasn't very concerned with income inequality, but today I am. Why? Because the facts on the ground have changed. It's time to move on.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on March 12, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with CJColucci at the top of the thread. Brooks is not worth paying attention to, a blowhard at best, a shill at worst. A good example of the latter: on NPR on Friday evening (I believe), Brooks claimed that the office of United States Attorney was fundamentally a political office, and supported this view by noting that Bill Clinton dismissed 93 US Attornies when he took office. Another case of Brooks simply reading Karl Rove's teleprompter.

Posted by: David in NY on March 12, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Liberals shifted from responsible misguided patriots to people who cheerlead America's defeat in war. This is not, by any sane estimation, a positive development."

No the Cons shifted to neo-fascists. Hitler was a patron of the stab in the back thesis, and you can be sure that when Bush's misguided (to put it mildly) fiasco implodes, they'll be taking up American chickenHawk's variation on the theme. Be prepared. Neo liberalism was just ruse for dilettantes that succeeded. It is now of course neither tenable nor credible, but just like the disinformation campaign before the invasion of Iraq, anyone who really wanted to see through it could have.

Posted by: mb on March 12, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Thirty years ago, for example, I wasn't very concerned with income inequality...

And you were how old thirty years ago?

Posted by: shnooky on March 12, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK
Old-style liberalism is dead because schemes like the War on Poverty didn't work. Whereas neoliberal programs like welfare reform, as mentioned above, did work.

Welfare reform has done very little demonstrably to acheive any liberal value like lifting people out of durable poverty; its done a great job at simply reducing the number of people receiving welfare benefits. During the economic boom when it was instituted, poverty rates dropped, when that boom ended, poverty rates rose: both what would have been expected without any reform at all.

While neoliberalism may have worked to provide better pragmatic means to acheive some liberal objectives, welfare reform is certainly not a good example of that.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals shifted from responsible misguided patriots to people who cheerlead America's defeat in war. This is not, by any sane estimation, a positive development.

First let me get this out of the way - your estimation isn't worth a bucket of warm piss, Henery.

And having an unjaundiced eye and seeing whats really there instead of the Potemkin Possibilities the Publicans are selling is not "cheerleading America's defeat" by anyones standards, save your specious ones.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 12, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: ex-liberal on March 12, 2007

One thing's for sure -- given the level of dishonesty purveyed by both Brooks and "ex-liberal," neo-liberalism has a much better track record -- as in, one not of total failure and shame -- than neo-conservatism.

It's sadly amusing to see "ex-liberal" still clinging to the rails of that foundering, pathetic excuse for a failure of an ideology.

Posted by: Gregory on March 12, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, several years of having people like myself tell you liberals how the world really works is responsible for the demise of the discredited aspects of liberalism.

How now your tax and spend tendencies? We conservatives HAVE WON THE WAR on taxation. Or will we be hearing from Billary, Osama or the Breck Girl on how they plan to raise taxes to defund the Iraq war and give everyone free health care for life?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I have said for ages that I am not a member of my parents democratic party. I am a member of my Grandmother's Democratic Party.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 12, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm confused about the term "neoliberalism." Aren't "neoconservatives" former liberals who took up the conservative cause in reaction to the Cold War?

If so, wouldn't that make "neoliberals" former conservatives who made common ground with liberals in reaction to the growing radicalism of the right?

It does say something that a "neoconservative" would be opposed to the left and a "neoliberal" would also be opposed to the left.

Posted by: BrianInAtlanta on March 12, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

The Washington Consenpus is a cult.

Posted by: Brojo on March 12, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Did such Naive Liberalism Ever Have Much Influence?

by failing to recognize the public sector's fallibility, by not taking seriously middle class resentment over the use of taxes, by putting the needs of constituent interest groups above the greater public good, and so on.

Who are the liberals that supposedly held such views? I am willing to grant that some people may have sounded like they believed such things but were they ever prominent? If yes, who were they?

If the thing you proclaim to be against never really had significant influence in the first place, why give credit for winning? Heck such people probably still exist whether or not more or less on the fringes.

There is little question that in the minds of many right wingers such naive views define liberalism. Real people dont tend to have such black and white views.

Posted by: Catch22 on March 12, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

If so, wouldn't that make "neoliberals" former conservatives who made common ground with liberals in reaction to the growing radicalism of the right?

No. The terms do not have symmetric etymologies.

Posted by: Disputo on March 12, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Poor Catch22:

Who are the liberals that supposedly held such views? I am willing to grant that some people may have sounded like they believed such things but were they ever prominent? If yes, who were they?

President William Jefferson Clinton, for one. After being beheaded in the 1994 election, he ran screaming from the traditional liberalism and began, with assistance from the vile and confused Dick Morris, a strategy called "triangulation." Don't forget, Clinton raised taxes, decried deregulation and tried to force Americans to use his wife's health care plan.

We have, to be honest about it, strayed from the Reagan doctrine. I personally blame Karl Rove for this.

You may be shocked, you may pass out from reading this, but your uncle Norman believes that if Karl Rove were fired tomorrow, the Republican party would be the instant beneficiary. Some people outlive their usefulness, and Rove is now a threat to the continued domination of the Republican Party.

The fact that NO liberal will publicly advocate raising taxes is proof that conservatism has won the day, however. I apologize for not making that point more succinctly. It's been a tough week and I am carefully screening these threads to make certain that none of by posts are moderated and deleted. I may need to recruit an assistant to help me in this task.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I have said for ages that I am not a member of my parents democratic party. I am a member of my Grandmother's Democratic Party.
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State

Me, too. As to 'neo-liberalism' put a stake through its nasty little Repub-lite heart and good riddance. Take the Washington Consensus with ya while you're at it.

But, let’s be clear. There is no more a shortage of workers for low-paid jobs than there is a shortage of workers for higher paid jobs. The difference is simply that the workers who perform less-skilled work have less political power to protect themselves against the efforts of employers to get low cost immigrant labor.'
Dean Baker - http://beatthepress.blogspot.com


But that may change if Bill Gates and the editors of the Washington Post have any say so in the matter...

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 12, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Well said Global.

Neo-liberalism is classical liberalism. An idea from the Enlightenment. That everyone has rights to life, liberty & pursuit of happiness. No monarchy. No state religion. No socialist control over production.

Progressive liberalism stole the stage during the Industrial Revolution, because people started getting rich & comfortable -- and they couldn't stand that their neighbors were still living in shacks without food security or clean drinking water. Progressives changed liberalism, so that it was not only concerned with negative rights (right to not be fucked with) but now became concerned with positive rights (right to eat food everyday, right to breathe non-polluted air, right to have good health.)

Neo-liberals say the Progressives went to far in thinking the govt could fix all society's ills. So, it's a retreat from progressivism back to more core liberal values.

Posted by: Absent Observer on March 12, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

> I'm confused about the term "neoliberalism."

"Neoliberals" are what used to be called "Republicans" back in the 1950s and 60s, except that they also believe in invading other countries without provocation ("take a crappy little country and throw it against the wall") from time to time.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 12, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Neoliberals" are what used to be called "Republicans" back in the 1950s and 60s, except that they also believe in invading other countries without provocation

Got a source for that? I doubt you're correct.

Posted by: Absent Observer on March 12, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism lasted about a decade. It accomplished much to aid those who already had too much wealth and too much power. It's primary claim to fame was in helping the republicans demonize minorities and invade random nations. The Neoliberals are the DLC, the New Republic, Zell Miller and Joseph Lieberman.

They won when the rest of us didn't pay attention. Their the reason it's so hard to end the Iraq War, and their responsible for the corruption of our party. It is their fault that business interests have dominated the interests of the people, and it is their fault that the wealthy build their fortunes by refusing to ever raise their worker's wages. Neo-liberals are nothing but a group of old, fat men who have made it their life's mission to aid conservatism any way they could,

Posted by: soullite on March 12, 2007 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

American Chowderhead: "Liberals shifted from responsible misguided patriots to people who cheerlead America's defeat in war."

What's it like to live in a world where skies are pink and it's always raining gumdrops? I ask, because you clearly don't live on same planet as the vast majority of human beings.

BTW, do you ever actually read the posts, or do you gonads just get all engorged and tingly when you see the word "liberals"? But that word doesn't mean anything like what you think it means. More to the point, avoiding pointless wars based on lies is not the same as wanting defeat. Guess that distinction is far too subtle for you, what with the gonads and all.

Posted by: Kenji on March 12, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Just so you don't think I'm a heavyweight on the topic, here's my source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

Posted by: Absent Observer on March 12, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

soulite - please learn the difference between the possessive pronoun 'their' and the contraction they're (they are).

Geez.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 12, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I'm being particularly cranky.

I hate stupid DLST.

Which saves nothing whatsoever.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 12, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Absent Observer,
I don't mean to be rude, but did you even read your own link? What Wikipedia describes could also be called "country club Republicanism" or even "Eisenhower Republicanism". I am not saying the neolibs are the exact same people as the 1960s Republicans (the way the neocons are the same people as the Trotskyites), but that they take the same positions - they just do it from within the Democratic Party, the old-fashioned Republican Party having chased its tail to the right first following Ronald Reagan and now following Norquist/Cheney/Rove.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 12, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"The fact that NO liberal will publicly advocate raising taxes is proof that conservatism has won the day"

Sorry Norman, John Edwards is already advocating higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for Universal Healthcare. He's not afraid of a toothless boogeyman.

Posted by: kullfarr on March 12, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Guess that distinction is far too subtle for you, what with the gonads and all.

Now that they have finally descended, he's like a kid with a new toy.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 12, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Norman, John Edwards is already advocating higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for Universal Healthcare. He's not afraid of a toothless boogeyman.

Higher taxes on the wealthy, yes. Of course, one would have to add that caveat to the proposal in order to get it to fly.

However, Mr. Edwards languishes third in a field which is, to put it mildly, completely unrealistic. Do any of you seriously believe Billary or Osama will be on the ticket in 2008? If so, please excuse me for cackling at you and laughing until I am blue in the face.

No credible Democrat will ever campaign on the notion of raising taxes for all Americans--and for that, you have President Mondale to thank.

Bwah hah hah hah hah hah!

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The verdict is not yet in as far as neoliberalism, and triumphalism is not in order yet. The jury, i.e. the world including the world outside the US and US media, is in flux right now and there is no reason yet to believe that neoliberal goals have been 80% or 50% integrated or permanently set in place and accepted. I say this without making any comment whatsoever on the relative merits of neoliberalism, positive or negative, or to whom they go.

Posted by: Jimm on March 12, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Way to spin Norman!

To be fair, Obama has also called for repeal some of the Bush tax cuts. So both liberals that are in the running for the Democratic Party's nomination favor increasing taxes on the wealthy. I'm sorry but you did say "NO liberal"; I was just correcting your ignorance.

As for laughing until you're blue. I won't comment on anyone's disabilities be they mental or physcal. (psst...It's 2007, not 1980, and that's the Great Prevaricator not the Great Communicator in the Oval Office.

Now be a good boy and take your meds.

Posted by: kullfarr on March 12, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

The term "neoliberal" is itself a Beltway construct that has little meaning for anyone in the real world. It's a way of saying "I'm kinda liberal, but I'm not one of those really crazy liberals that hate America."

Posted by: gummitch on March 12, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I hear you too Global. I was raised by my Grandmother; she saw conservatives and weak, money hungry psychopaths...nothing has changed.

Posted by: elmo on March 12, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Way to spin Norman!

To be fair, Obama has also called for repeal some of the Bush tax cuts. So both liberals that are in the running for the Democratic Party's nomination favor increasing taxes on the wealthy. I'm sorry but you did say "NO liberal"; I was just correcting your ignorance.

As for laughing until you're blue. I won't comment on anyone's disabilities be they mental or physcal. (psst...It's 2007, not 1980, and that's the Great Prevaricator, not the Great Communicator, in the Oval Office).

Now be a good boy and take your meds.

Posted by: kullfarr on March 12, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Mister Rogers. To paraphrase the immortal words of Ann Coulter, I've never seen someone so thoroughly enjoy the deaths of American soldiers.

That's real blood over there, and all you do is cackle over the supposed political weaknesses of people who are (to varying degree) trying to end this pointless suffering. Do you care about anything that is not an abstraction?

Posted by: Kenji on March 12, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK
I'm confused about the term "neoliberalism." Aren't "neoconservatives" former liberals who took up the conservative cause in reaction to the Cold War?

Not really; "Trotskyites" aren't the same things as "liberals". Trotskyism, like Leninism and all its descendants, is, while rhetorically oriented to certain leftists ideals, pragmatically a hard-right authoritarian movement that seeks to transform society through a narrow elite (the "vanguard party") acting in a largely top-down, totalitarian manner. Though, within the spectrum of Leninisms suriving descendants, it is relatively liberal and open and democratic, compared to the major alternatives during the Cold War (that is, Stalinism, and its descendants like Maoism.)

The one important practical aspect it shares with liberalism but not with paleoconservatism is its internationalism; that, plus the mortal opposition to Stalinism, made neoconservatism a powerful force bringing energy to the Right during the late Cold War, where previously the most effective articulations of opposition to Stalinism grounded in internationalist ideology had come from liberals.

If so, wouldn't that make "neoliberals" former conservatives who made common ground with liberals in reaction to the growing radicalism of the right?

No, "neoliberalism" and "neoconservatism" share the prefix "neo" because both are seen as "new" movements within the broader movement they are found within, not by analogy to each other. And their roles are very different; I'd argue neoconservatism is a distinct ideological movement from the broader conservative movement (that is, while it shared some values, and hence is legitimately "conservative", the movements differed in significant fundamental values), whereas neoliberalism wasn't principally ideologically distinct within liberalism, but a pragmatic critique of approaches to realizing liberal values.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

That's real blood over there, and all you do is cackle over the supposed political weaknesses of people who are (to varying degree) trying to end this pointless suffering. Do you care about anything that is not an abstraction?

Yes. If they're so convinced they can end the war, why don't they have the moral courage to do so?

I mean, it's one thing to say you oppose the war; it's quite another to have control of the US Congress and then do nothing substantive, other than fail to pass non-binding resolutions, in order to end the war.

If liberalism is in the ascendancy, then the de-funding of the war begins...when, exactly?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think one thing that annoys many (non-"neo") liberals about neoliberalism is that all too often, the dialogue went like this:

Liberal: We ought to continue and enhance our pursuit of method m to realize liberal value v.

Conservative: We ought not pursue method m any more. In the first case, realizing value v isn't the proper role of the government, in the second, even if it were, method m isn't working. Instead, we ought to eliminate method m, thereby reducing the size of government.

Neoliberal: We ought not pursue method m. While certainly realizing value v is the proper role of government, method m won't achieve it.

And thus, the neoliberal critique often provided support for the conservative position.

(It doesn't help that in the prominent policy "successes" of neoliberalism, such as welfare reform, have done little to advance the liberal goals they were supposedly going to serve better than the liberal status quo ante, but much to advance the conservative policy goals that are what made them easy compromises between the neoliberals and the conservatives.)

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

it's quite another to have control of the US Congress and then do nothing substantive, other than fail to pass non-binding resolutions, in order to end the war.

While I understand that I'm addressing a parody troll here, the Dems don't have filibuster proof control of congress, much less veto proof control. All they can reasonably do is continue to rally public opposition of the war until a few more Repubs take notice.

Posted by: Disputo on March 12, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

And there you have a point, Mister Rogers.

Posted by: Kenji on March 12, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Deficit continues to drop.

Just thought I'd mention it. Tax cuts do increase revenues, but the Republican spending is killing us. It isn't just war spending, either.

It's weird to realize that if the budget had been frozen in 2004, we'd be in surplus today.

Posted by: henry on March 12, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK
Tax cuts do increase revenues, but the Republican spending is killing us.

So, clearly, we just need more tax cuts to produce the revenue to pay for that spending.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, Kenji--

Parody troll? Point? Filibuster?

Yes, I will continue to explain to you how things really work. No, I do not accept that modern liberalism will be able to explain away its failure to address the issue of the Iraq war because they did not have a 'filibuster-proof' majority.

If, in the end, it turns out you were right, it would naturally fall on the party that filibustered--namely, the misguided Republican Senators led by that hillbilly Mitch McConnel--and when this all falls, it shall be spectacular in its landing.

The fault of the Iraq war? Well, obviously, it will fall on Bush the Elder, who foolishly failed to take Saddam out when he had half a million troops ready to go to Baghdad.

No, I read every day how the Iraq war is the defining issue in American politics. And yet, despite "polls" and public sentiment, the Democrat party doesn't have the cojones to end the war, period.

Something about wanting to win the next election, I guess.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't read the piece by David Brooks because it is behind the Times Select wall. But there is something wrong with this discussion. Can we please define what we mean by neoliberal and neoliberalism before we try to ascertain its vitality or the lack thereof?

Neoliberalism as I understand the term has only one meaning — a meaning that diverges somewhat from what people seem to be discussing here. Neoliberalism is a set of policies pursued by international financial institutions such as the IMF and the WTO. These policies include:

Favoring the rights of corporations over the rights of workers, consumers, and the general public.

Supporting unrestricted capital flows, but limiting labor flows.

Supporting high interest rates in poor countries to attract foreign capital but that make it difficult for local businesses to borrow and expand.

Allowing the patenting of life forms, but only based on technology, not based on thousands of years of cultural knowledge. The result is that transnational corporations can and do mis-appropriate — steal — food and medicinal crops from the developing world, make trivial modifications, and then assert exclusive ownership of these life forms, denying the world's peoples their own cultural heritage. I am not making this up.

Requiring developing countries to eliminate trade barriers that could be used to help launch and incubate new industries.

Requiring developing countries to cut subsidies on food, public transportation, education, and health care — even to the point of requiring school fees (tuition) to attend first grade — even though the developed world has universal free public education.

Opposing international debt cancellation, no matter the odious terms under which the debt came into existence and without regard to the consequences for the health and education of the people living in the indebted country. Because of great public outcry on this issue, neoliberal organizations have been forced to yield at least partially on this.

These are the main planks of neoliberalism.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 12, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

So, clearly, we just need more tax cuts to produce the revenue to pay for that spending.

We need both together. I don't think taxes should be cut any further, but I don't think raising them will fix much either. Obviously, there's at least something to the Laffer Curve.

Incidentally, any rational economist realizes that the biggest budget problem the U.S. faces in the future is entitlements.

How long can people go on pretending that problem doesn't exist? Never mind adding a monster like universal health care on top of it.

Posted by: henry on March 12, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

ok, so could somebody explain briefly how this weird idiolectal American politics-junkie use of "neoliberal" relates to the mainstream Europe/UK/Canada version of the term? I'm serious; you folks seem to be using it to parse incredibly fine distinctions.

The non-American formula is pretty simple: globalization, market fundamentalism, pushback against social democracy, IMF pressure on states that try to buck the trend, and self-presentation as a form of "realism": "this is just how it is in the new global reality". Clinton-Blair, "third way", you know the drill. And this (post-1970) development correlates pretty damn precisely with the growth of economic inequality in the US (see Krugman). So I'm confused: what was neo-liberalism good for? Excesses of socialism? Dirty fucking hippies? Is that all it comes down to?

Posted by: metalpetic on March 12, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, there's at least something to the Laffer Curve.

Take it from me, son. I'm a true Rockefeller Republican, a lover of all things Reagan and a staunch believer in tax cuts:

The Laffer Curve is a figment of your imagination. It does not work, it never has worked, and it is as queer as a three dollar bill.

This has been another installment of your uncle Norman telling you how things really work. Had this been a real emergency, you would have received instructions as to where to go and as to what to think.

That is all.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

‘Neoliberalism' is quite elusive. It can roughly be thought of as anti-welfare statism. Politically it should be viewed in the context of the Cold War. It very much follows an older version of the anti-utilitarian doctrine of Herbert Spencer (later taken up by “libertarians” like Ludwig von Mises). Spencer’s Social Statics (1851; a very popular book in America- “The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics”- Oliver Wendell Holmes) was a critique of the possibility of good government by bureaucrats and "the greatest happiness principle." Spencer himself said that the liberal revolution of the 1830's merely resulted in re-regulation under liberal government. In essence, the nation (be it led by a monarch or represented by a democratic parliament) has no business regulating prices, particularly of labour.

The anti-statism of neoliberalism has really not changed in argument since the followers of Ricardo and Smith undid merchantist regulation of the economy. Various radical movements (utilitarian liberals, charitable Christians, progressives, socialists, communists, union workers, populists, nationalists)pushed back against the negative effects of government by the industrialists and warehousers only to get turned back again by those that fly the banner of anti-collectivist Thatcherism.

Posted by: bellumregio on March 12, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

metalpetic:

Dirty fucking hippies? Is that all it comes down to?

Yes.

(See above!)

Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Your laughter makes you look like a deranged idiot.

Posted by: Kenji on March 12, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK
…a reform that has proved to be very effective at getting dependent people off welfare and into real jobs.…ex-laxi at 12:57 PM
No, it just helped Bush increase the number of people in poverty by 3,000,000 people without having to offer any help. During the Clinton years, we saw once again that, as the economy grows for working people, more are able to obtain jobs. During the Bush years, as inequality grows, the workforce participation rate declines and more people become impoverished to the point that now, 750,000 are on the streets. That is a RepubliConTarian economic triumph.
a positive development. American Wawk at 1:03 PM
Bush, the biggest enemy of the military
…modern liberalism is still in love with the idea that if we just give the government enough money it will solve all of our problems….Natat 1:15 PM
Poverty decrease during the War on Poverty, it's increased under Bush; crime decreased under Clinton's aid program, it's increased under Bush, to name two. However, your easy acceptance of RNC talking points shows your lack of seriousness.
…We conservatives HAVE WON THE WAR on taxation… Norman Rogers at 2:59 PM
All you've done is endorse a Borrow and Send ideology. 6 years of Bush have added $3,000,000,000,000 to the national debt, and it will rise by another trillion (with a 'T') before the bum leaves office. To clowns like you, 'winning' a war means destroying your country, but then you are the people that really hate America.
…The fact that NO liberal will publicly advocate raising taxes … Norman Rogers at 3:17 PM
Please provide citations for any Democrat calling for the continuation of the Bush tax cuts.
…President Mondale to thank…. Norman Rogers at 3:51 PM
Mondale: The difference is that I'm telling you we will increase taxes, my opponent won't and will" (paraphrase) In truth Reagan did pass the biggest tax increase in history. Lesson, Republican liars beat veracious Democrats.
…then the de-funding of the war begins... Norman Rogers at 4:18 PM
When Republicans wake up and realize that they are holding a losing hand and end their filibuster. Posted by: Mike on March 12, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Your laughter makes you look like a deranged idiot.

Actually, my cape and my floppy clown shoes do that, but thank you for the insult, as opposed to your substantive response to my points.

Typical liberal!

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kenji, spend some time with Mike the Communist and you may learn something.

President Mondale certainly did a find job of leading us out of the Cold War, didn't he?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK
Deficit continues to drop. Just thougDeficit continues to drop.… henry at 4:51 PM henry at 4:51 PM
You can accept the misleading and incorrect Bush numbers or you can go by the annual increases in the national debt, which isn't subject to smoke and mirrors.
…Something about wanting to win the next election… Norman Rogers at 5:01 PM
End the Republican filibuster and things will happen. Unfortunately Republicans are too devoted to their Dear Leader to put their country over their party.
lover of all things Reagan and a staunch believer in tax cuts: … Norman Rogers at 5:11 PM
Iran contra, death squads, biggest tax increase in history, most corrupt administration in history, selling weapons to the mullahs of Iran, the magnificent invasion of Grenada, the death of 240 Marines in Lebanon. 8 years of fiasco and bad governance, just like Bush. Posted by: Mike on March 12, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK
President Mondale certainly did a find job of leading us out of the Cold War… Norman Rogers at 5:30 PM
While your dear Raygun did nothing. The credit goes to Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev You share the same lack of knowledge with every Republican Posted by: Mike on March 12, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, give the credit to Rock-n-Roll, Levi's and McDonalds.

It only makes sense that capitalism defeated communism. Why can't you free-market radicals see the one instance where it is clearly apparent that it really did change the world?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 12, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK
Mike the Communist…… Norman Rogers at 5:30 PM
Wow, name calling using the appellation 'Communist!' Who says Senator Joe is dead and buried. What a brilliant rebuttal to the info and hard data presented to refute the idiotic talking points of the Republican National Criminal corps. Posted by: Mike on March 12, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, name calling using the appellation 'Communist!'

Well, if the red star fits...

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK
Neoliberalism as I understand the term has only one meaning — a meaning that diverges somewhat from what people seem to be discussing here

Well, you're wrong. It has at least two technical uses, one that you overstate with hostility in terms of international economic policy, and another in the field of international relations. (I don't mean to endorse the Wikipedia articles as great on either topic, but they are decent starting points and get the basic idea across.)

The sense its being used here is a sense in which it has been adopted to describe a tendency in the US political system which is connected to both of the former senses (in that it tends to adhere, in broad outline, to both of them) while generally adhering to a view of the goals, if not the desirable means, of government that falls within the broad consensus of American liberalism and that has been generally located within the Democratic Party.

I'm not sure its a great label (its potentially rather confusing), but I've seen it used a lot, and had to puzzle out the scope of its application largely through context.

It is certainly not coextensive with the economic policy sense of "neoliberal"; while political "neoliberals" tend to broadly support economic "neoliberalism", they tend to have somewhat less unqualified support for it than the various politically conservative backers of that approach (and the politically neoliberal support for economic neoliberalism seems to be contingent, while the politically conservative or libertarian support for it seems to be more intrinsic.)

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Worth repeating: "The logic of your post rest on the following premises: (A) David Brooks said something; (B) It is worth commenting on something David Brooks said. The problem is obvious."

Posted by: CJColucci on March 12, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Brooks imagines himself a conservative Arthur Schlesinger. He's really trying to make his size eight loafers fit into Mr. Safire's size ten steel wingtips.

Neocons - especially the subset who like to call themselves "private equity" - have certainly declared economic warfare on those who work for a living, and who might feel their efforts earn them a piece of that CEO salary that's at 400X average and climbing.

Ninety-nine percent of us might feel aggrieved at the outsourcing of government that can be made profitable (by upping its costs), and the dismantling of the rest, starting with whatever might expose or threaten the neocon's pursuit of happiness, defined as "property". The guys who might take issue with mountain top removal, unregulated marketing of prescription drugs, propaganda campaigns that call global warming a fad, etc.

I really don't care what you call it. It's time to Just Say No to the neocons' sacking of North America's Rome. It's also time to figure out what we'd do with it once we've sent "those guys" back across the economic Rhine.

Posted by: mbbsdphil on March 12, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

And I do believe it is widely accepted that Pope John Paul II had more to do with ending Communism than comrade Gorby...

Posted by: Norman Rogers on March 12, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

When are we going to cut the "NEO' shit out? Anyone with any brains can see the neo-conserves are no longer conservative in their core beliefs. An example is conservatives believe in living within our means, The neo guys just cut the country's income to get the votes needed to get into office. They then spend us into bankruptcy. That prefix has left a bad taste in our mouths.

What we need to realize is that the moderates, either slightly to the left or the right, are the people who have learned over time that the extreme measures of our youth just don't work

Don't call me a neo-anything. Just call me the Moderate that I am if you insist on hanging a label on me.

Posted by: bob in fl on March 12, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism is the co-opting of liberal politics by capital.

NAFTA was sold as liberating trade. The poor in Mexico now cannot afford their food staple, corn.

Utilities need capital to build infrastructure. Bolivia's water rights are sold to Bechtel. Water is monopolized for profit.

The US economy is over regulated. Industries are deregulatied and the Savings & Loan sector disappears because of bankruptcy. Taxpayers guarantee deposits that were blatantly stolen by Neil Bush and others.

Neoliberalism is a propaganda theme to make corporatism acceptable.

Posted by: Brojo on March 12, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is full of shit. He is on NPR every week opposite E.J. Dionne and Dionne invariably rips him a new asshole. Brooks thinks he knows the minds of liberals and he clearly does not - the pompous turd.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on March 12, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is full of shit. He is on NPR every week opposite E.J. Dionne and Dionne invariably rips him a new asshole. Brooks thinks he knows the minds of liberals and he clearly does not - the pompous turd.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on March 12, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

A neo-liberal is just a liberal in different packaging. It's just a shield to sneak in their multiculturist, secluarist agenda.

Posted by: egbert on March 12, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Mister Rogers: "...thank you for the insult, as opposed to your substantive response to my points.

Typical liberal!"

Don't you see what happens there? You express opinions that seem to come from a thoughtful place, you get thoughtful responses. You start cackling, and people want to get away from you.

Posted by: Kenji on March 12, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK
When are we going to cut the "NEO' shit out? Anyone with any brains can see the neo-conserves are no longer conservative in their core beliefs.

Well, no, neoconservatives are perhaps the clearest modern example of what conservatism has always meant since it first existed as resistance against classical liberalism, the most proud defenders of the established elites to be found anywhere.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

These are the main planks of neoliberalism.

See Joel Rubinstein's excellent post at 5:05 PM.

Posted by: Brojo on March 12, 2007 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Young people of the left have drawn the contrast between what they are taught in college? What is given intellectual credence there & how the democrats represent them on issues.

Universities are the monasteries of the left. Pure leftism is kept alive and clean so as to always be comparable to the imperfect outside world.

Posted by: Fitz on March 12, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

I read Brooks column yesterday and I think there was one thing he forgot to point out. The more virulent strains of leftism are constantly being kept alive and cultivated within the universities. People take the campus radical to be some sort of fixture but it was not always so, or need be.

Young people of the left have drawn the contrast between what they are taught in college? What is given intellectual credence there & how the democrats represent them on issues.

Universities are the monasteries of the left. Pure leftism is kept alive and clean so as to always be comparable to the imperfect outside world.

Posted by: Fitz on March 12, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism WON. Precisely, Kevin.

That's why Brooks and the other repugs are so determined to declare it dead - their position depends on the fallacy that liberalism still stands for nothing but acid, amnesty and abortion.

This is the same fallacy that gave rise to and still feeds the despicable DLC and its premise that dems can win only by becoming republicans.

DLC-ers are not, never have been and never will be neoliberals. They are DINOs, period.

Let's also not forget that the early and still standing champion of neoliberalism is none other than Charlie Peters and the Washington Monthly.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on March 12, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Okay - I'm an academic. I teach int he Community College system and I'm a doctoral candidate in the state University system.

Where are these radical lefties you are talking about? I see one of these walking punchlines on occasion, but really, they are not institutional installations by any means.

On my campus, it's those of us in the sciences who are the so-called lefties, insisting on empirical evidence for everything. Of course, having our body of work attacked by a fundamentalist state school board across the state line hasn't done much to foster conservatism among the science researchers...Especially when one of our biology faculty - who is a raving fucking lunatic, by the way - tarnished our reputation as a department by joining the Kansas State School Board when they attacked science once again.

First, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards. --Mark Twain

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 12, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen)

My entire family law department was made up of three Lesbian Polyamorists.

Posted by: Fitz on March 12, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

The Progressive era was authoritarian. The CCC, the WPA... Our govt never assumed that much authority until then. Remember prohibition? (oh, we're still under it?) Those are progressive ideas. Eminent domain was originally a progressive idea. Hate crime legislation is progressive.

No one wants corporations to run rough-shod over the impoverished third-world. But the mistake was made when the Supreme Court decided corporation are individuals, which they clearly are not. Corporations do not deserve the liberties of human beings.

I don't support gay rights or women's rights or minority rights. Everyone gets human rights, nothing more. That's a classical liberal position, not a progressive one.

Posted by: Absent Observer on March 12, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz - Wow. I've never run up against that kind of concentration of leftie ideology in one spot. But then, my contact is primarily with other science types. The one lefty-ideologue I know is a psychologist.

I personally have never had any contact with the law school at any university where I've studied, however.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 12, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK
…Universities are the monasteries of the left…Fitz at 6:53 PM
Yup, that's were Bush became a commie, at the Harvard Business School,

thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine. I still vividly remember him. In my class, he declared that "people are poor because they are lazy." He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to "free market competition." To him, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was "socialism."

Posted by: Mike on March 12, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK
My entire family law department was made up of three Lesbian Polyamorists.

Neither lesbians nor polyamorists are necessarily adherents of any left-wing ideology.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 12, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism killed itself when it went so far to the center that conservatives were allowed to redifine Liberal as "McCain". neoliberals really blew it when they backed the war, and mostly continue to defend their decisions.

Posted by: polo on March 12, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

The real issue that should be discussed is the relationship between conservatism and libertarianism.
I would argue that liberalism is social expansionism and conservatism is cultural, civil and economic consolidation.
Social functions which create and distribute knowledge/power, such as education, media, sciences, etc. tend toward being liberal, while those that consolidate these energies, such as institutional religion, government and business tend to be conservative.
The New Deal and its large scale government social programs created a form of conservative liberalism, which manifested itself in the popular imagination as political correctness. The reaction to this was a liberal conservatism, ie. libertarianism. This rejection of large scale social responsibilities and its negative civil philosophy is just fine in Idaho, but in Washington it amounts to political Ebola virus, as it eats away at the civic cell structure. The irony here is that government is the core of conservatism, as any understanding of history would make obvious and it is this lack of understanding that is at the heart of the disaster of this administration. It is a rot that goes to the core of this movement for the last 27 years.
The political pendulum will always swing back and forth, so it's wise to understand the coin always has two sides, even if you can only see one at a time.

Posted by: brodix on March 12, 2007 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

The other silliness was in brooks' referring to thenew liberals as bloggers, with Kevin the archtype. Bloggers are not the new (modified old) liberals, they are the points that brought us together and made us a force to be reckoned with. Kevin ought to take the lead to point that out.

Posted by: polo on March 12, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's a bit ironic that the terms "neo-liberal", "neo-conservative" are so badly defined. It seems like some folks think that "neo" sounds scary and vicious, so they apply it to anyone they dislike.

Anyway, proper liberalism stands for small limited government. I suggest you study good old liberal authors like Mises, Hayek - all the way back to Smith and Hume. Modern day "liberals" are modern day socialists. Of course, few of american liberals actually read classical socialists, like Lenin or Marx, so they are essentially repeating marxist and leninist arguments, while honestly believing they are not socialists. In other words, they are ignorant of where their arguments came from and where they would lead them, if applied logically.

In any way, Europe is way ahead of the US in "liberalism". It's economy grows very slowly, the unemployment is huge, and the system of the government handouts is unsustainable. Democracy is slowly dying - due to the characteristics of the EU. It's easy to imagine what will happen in Europe in a couple of decades, if not even earlier. So, I suggest American "liberals" to be somewhat more cautious. It also seems to be quite obvious that modern "liberalism" in America is not sustainable either (in the short run, not just the long run like the soviet progressive regime), and people will realize this pretty soon. It's only a matter of time. At what point will the American working people revolt against the freeloaders?

BTW, someone here said that people in the government tend to be right-wing. "Hm" three times. Are you saying that federal and state employers vote republican? Maybe Washington DC, the city filled with government workers is the republican bastion? No, normally, people on the government handouts and government subsidies (universities, schools, government) tend to be left-wing, while people who earn their money honestly in a free competition are right-wing. And it's only natural.

Posted by: gringo on March 12, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

"people on the government handouts and government subsidies (universities, schools, government"
...the military, defense contractors, oil companies, farmers, mining companies, trucking companies, airlines, automobile manufacturers...

Posted by: jefff on March 12, 2007 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, how dare those people be paid by... each other!

Posted by: Kenji on March 12, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

this one is not too kind to neoliberal foreign policy:

http://maxspeak.org/mt/archives/002914.html

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 13, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Fads and Fashion in Economic Reforms:
Washington Consensus or Washington Confusion?

The impression that the Washington Consensus was, in fact, a set of rigid, almost unalterable, set of theoretical propositions about which the powerful and the knowledgeable had no doubt was widespread. Moreover, the often-implicit corollary espoused by the more politically motivated of the Consensus' proponents was that most dissent with its policies was often inspired by anti-market ideologies, nationalism, anti-Americanism and other forms of the modern-day equivalents of obscurantism. In 1993, Williamson explained that "we can now develop far more consensus . . . [because] we now know much more about what types of economic policy work."2

Really? Perhaps that was the case a few years back or what the world needed to believe at the time. But an objective assessment of the situation shows that, while some convergence did emerge, confusion rather than consensus characterized then and now the intellectual climate among experts in the field of economic development and market reforms. In the last few years, this confusion among the leading lights of development thinking has even spilled over from scholarly seminars to television shows and from the pages of technical journals to those of daily newspapers...

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

After Neoliberalism?

The first thing to recognize is that neoliberalism is widely understood, even by many mainstream economists and policy wonks, to have failed in terms of its announced goals. It has not brought more rapid economic growth, reduced poverty, or made economies more stable. In fact, over the years of neoliberal hegemony, growth has slowed, poverty has increased, and economic and financial crises have been epidemic. The data on all of this are overwhelming. Neoliberalism has, however, succeeded as the class project of capital. In this, its unannounced goal, it has increased the dominance of transnational corporations, international financiers, and sectors of local elites.

The admission that neoliberalism has failed in terms of its announced goals has forced its proponents to a tactical retreat—defending the broad thrust of the neoliberal policy agenda under cover of “reform.” The result is an augmented Washington Consensus that blames client states and not international institutions or transnational capital for the failures of neoliberalism. It is the poor who are expected to make still further adjustments along neoliberal lines. From this point of view, what comes after neoliberalism must be more neoliberalism.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

I'm going to give a few more links, from some different areas of the political spectrum, so that people can add a little more insight into their understanding of neoliberalism, starting with Chomsky, then to libertarianism, and maybe one more from the supportive mainstream.

Chomsky:

The neoliberal Washington consensus is an array of market oriented principles designed by the government of the United States and the international financial institutions that it largely dominates, and implemented by them in various ways-for the more vulnerable societies, often as stringent structural adjustment programs. The basic rules, in brief, are liberalize trade and finance, let markets set price ("get prices right"), end inflation ("macroeconomic stability"), privatize. The government should "get out of the way"-hence the population too, insofar as the government is democratic, though the conclusion remains implicit. The decisions of those who impose the "consensus" naturally have a major impact on global order. Some analysts take a much stronger position. The international business press has referred to these institutions as the core of a "de facto world government" of a "new imperial age." Whether accurate or not, this description serves to remind us that the governing institutions are not independent agents but reflect the distribution of power in the larger society. That has been a truism at least since Adam Smith, who pointed out that the "principal architects" of policy in England were "merchants and manufacturers," who used state power to serve their own interests, however "grievous" the effect on others, including the people of England. Smith's concern was "the wealth of nations," but he understood that the "national interest" is largely a delusion within the "nation" there are sharply conflicting interests, and to understand policy and its effects we have to ask where power lies and how it is exercised, what later came to be called class analysis. The "principal architects" of the neoliberal "Washington consensus" are the masters of the private economy, mainly huge corporations that control much of the international economy and have the means to dominate policy formation as well as the structuring of thought and opinion. The United States has a special role in the system for obvious reasons. To borrow the words of diplomatic historian Gerald Haines, who is also senior historian of the CIA, "Following World War II the United States assumed, out of self-interest, responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system."
Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

One more critical account before I link to the libertarian case:

Neoliberalism Plus

Concerns about adverse consequences of neoliberalism, together with pressure from protest movements, have in recent years provoked considerable discussion about changes of policy toward globalization. Already a number of reforms have attenuated the ultra-liberal marketism that prevailed in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. As of late 2002, it remained far from clear how deep these revisions would go. However, the relative modesty of policy alterations to that date suggested that neoliberalism would retain general primacy in our (mis)management of globalization. No full-scale shift of approach is in immediate prospect.

Most changes of the last five years regarding the regulation of globalization have fallen in the mould of what has been called the post–Washington consensus or, as Rodrik (2001:15) has more aptly described it, the “augmented Washington consensus”. In this vein, globalization-by-marketization has been pursued with greater attention to institutional contexts and social consequences. Even an arch-neoliberal like Milton Friedman has conceded that his earlier call to “privatize, privatize, privatize” needs a supplementary injunction to couch the market in solid institutional arrangements (Friedman 1991). Privatization, liberalization and deregulation remain the order of the day, but these core neoliberal policies are now undertaken in tandem with more measures that address corruption, transparency, financial codes and standards, unsustainable debt burdens, the timing and sequencing of capital control removal, social safety nets, poverty reduction, corporate citizenship and so on. Recent trends have also seen some technocrats reduce their earlier inclinations to take a one-size-fits-all approach to the application of neoliberal policies and to give greater attention to the diversity of cultural, economic and political contexts.

However, “Washington Plus” has still had neoliberalism at its core. Thus, anti-corruption drives, information disclosure schemes, and other so-called good governance measures have had the primary aim to improve market efficiency. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers spearheaded by the Bretton Woods institutions since 1999 have continued to centre on marketization through privatization, liberalization and deregulation. Concerns about “moral hazard” in the marketplace have severely constrained creditors from extending more substantial debt relief to poor countries than a handful of bilateral cancellations and the grudging heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative on loan repayments to the IMF and the World Bank. Capital account liberalization remains a key macroeconomic policy objective, even if it is approached with greater caution. Corporate citizenship is an exercise in market self-regulation and often has the aim—implicitly if not explicitly of pre-empting greater public sector interventions to secure social and environmental standards in business behaviour. The second generation neoliberal framework has more or less ignored issues of social inequality, ecological integrity, cultural protection and democracy. In all of these respects there has been limited “post” in the post–Washington consensus.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

I see I'm a little off-base here as there seems to be more than one "neoliberalism", though there are obvious points of convergence, and apparently the Washington Monthly is the gathering ground for neoliberal Democrats. From the New York Times, via 1985:

Evidence continues to mount that active elements of the Democratic Party are groping for a new identity. On Capitol Hill, a group of staff members for Democratic Senators and Representatives have organized the New Democratic Forum to discuss issues and new approaches periodically with some of their bosses and journalists over breakfast.

Leaders of the forum cautiously call their ideology ''neoliberal'' but are more at ease naming their kind of legislators - Senator Gary Hart of Colorado is one - than at defining their philosophy. As explained by one of its prophets, Charles Peters of The Washington Monthy, neoliberalism is like regular liberalism but less prejudiced for labor and big Government and against business and the military.

Tomorrow morning in the Russell Senate Office Building, forum members will have breakfast with Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Morton Kondracke, the Newsweek Washington bureau chief, and discuss Nicaragua. The first session last month brought out 70 people to hear Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Come to think of it, I do remember centrist Democrats calling themselves neoliberals, but I guess too many years in IR caused me to forget that coinage of the term.

For what it's worth, there definitely is no reason for neoliberals to be triumphant in Democratic Party circles, and especially progressive circles.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's unfortunate we have such wildly divergent meanings and socio-political-economic ideologies that adopt the same labels.

For one, you have liberals, in the classical liberal (libertarian) tradition, and the free market neoliberalism that has extended from a particular school of such liberalism.

On the other hand, you have liberals as understood in America, generally falling under the Democratic Party rubric and embracing social democracy, and a strain of neoliberalism that has extended seeking to emphasize social democracy and government less, free markets more (and more like the other, original liberals).

At least we know what we're dealing with when someone brings up neoconservatives, though now that this is coming back to me more, a comment from cmdicely comes to mind where he distinguishes between neoliberals and neoliberalism, since those who have pushed neoliberal globalization and market policies have not generally identified themselves as neoliberals, while neoliberal Democrats don't really speak of "neoliberalism".

Babel.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry for all the posts...a last one about neoliberalism and Iraq (from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey) that ties together the dueling schools of neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism in a Conflict State: The Viability of Economic Shock Therapy in Iraq

With Iraq's economy still shattered and little recovered eight months after the U.S. ouster of Hussein, the Coalition Provisional Authority ordered a package of reforms reminiscent of the "Shock Therapy" programs carried out in the early- to mid- 1990s in many of the Transition Economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Over night Iraq became the most open economy in the Arab world.[6]

While there had been persistent rumors that major free market reforms were contemplated, most observers were surprised as to the extent they embodied key elements of the neoliberal agenda. As The Economist noted "If carried through, the measures will represent the kind of wish-list that foreign investors and donor agencies dream of for developing markets."[7] The main thrust of the neoliberal reforms centered around four key provisions:

1. Investors in any field, except for all-important oil production and refining would be allowed 100% ownership of Iraqi assets, full repatriation of profits, and equal legal standing with local firms.
2. Foreign banks would be welcome to establish operations immediately, or to purchase equity shares in existing Iraqi financial institutions.
3. Income and corporate taxes would be capped at 15 percent.
4. Tariffs were to be reduced to a universal 5 percent rate, with none imposed on food, drugs, books and other humanitarian imports.
5. Although no precise table was set, Iraq's state owned enterprises (SOEs), excepting the oil sector, were to be privatized (although the method of privatization was not specified).[8]

Tax treatment in particular is a classic application of the neoliberal philosophy, sprinkled with a touch of Reaganomics. As explained by Kamel al-Gailani, Iraqi Finance Minister: "Low tax rates that will help create strong incentives for future investment, employment, and limit the size of the public sector, simplicity in order to minimize the administrative costs of tax collection, transparency to minimize room for tax evasion and corruption, and fairness to ensure that all sectors pay reasonable shares of future taxes."[9]

I highly recommend following the link and reading the whole report.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

Jimmy...

>The first thing to recognize is that >neoliberalism is widely understood, even by many >mainstream economists and policy wonks, to have >failed in terms of its announced goals.

Any actual quotes from mainstream economists? Take American Nobel prize winners for one. What do they think?

>It has not brought more rapid economic growth,

Well, I would most certainly would like to see the data proving this. One can compare much more libertarian USA with far more left-wing Europe. Where is the growth more rapid? Ay?

>reduced poverty,

I would love to see the data on that.

>or made economies more stable.

Hm. Great Britain before the Iron Lady and her neoliberal policies - and after. I would like to see any evidence that UK is worse off now than it was in the 60ies or 70ies.


>In fact, over the years of neoliberal hegemony, >growth has slowed,

Slow down, tiger. Are you trying to say that countries with more free economy grow more slowly than the countries with less free economy? Bring the data.

>poverty has increased, and economic and >financial crises have been epidemic. The data on >all of this are overwhelming.

So, overwhelm us with data. But you cannot, of course.

Posted by: gringo on March 13, 2007 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism lost its way. At first, it was a critique of methods and policies but still firmly focused on liberal/social democrat goals. At some point in the 1980s, prominent neoliberals moved away from their original critique and began their way on two separate paths 1)criticism of not only liberal policies but the underlying goals 2)reflexively favoring market solutions for all problems and dismissing critiques of the market itself

Neoliberals didn't win, they surrendered their original goals by embracing criticism of liberalism itself and favoring market solutions for all problems. In essence they stopped being neoliberals and transformed into something else -- centrists, triangulators, libertarians/social liberals, pragmatic technocrats, what have you.
Surely, there were a few who remained true to the original ideas and goals of neoliberalsim but I would be hard pressed to name one that had been prominent during the past 15 years. Maybe Bill Bradley?

My criticism only applies to US domestic politics/policy as neoliberals in areas of trade and foreign policy have remained fairly consistent. I don't think most of us regard Alan Greenspan, Paul Wolfowitz or Tom Freidman as "liberals" however.

Posted by: they stopped being liberals on March 13, 2007 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

Gringo, I was offering some excerpts and links to help bring some more information and perspective to this thread. I didn't champion or defend any particular excerpt. If you have a problem with whatever is said, make your points, leave me out of it, and, if you care to, contact the author in question behind the link.

Thanks.

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 4:40 AM | PERMALINK

A little more food for thought, from the International Society for Ecological Economics, and from a perspective near to my own:

...[w]hile neoclassical economics and Neo-liberalism has legitimized market penetration into almost every sphere of human activity and every part of the globe, some participants in social movements and political parties suggest a different balance between market and non-market relationships and activities. Reference to �cooperation� rather than exclusively �competition�; �community� rather than market and �commons� rather than private property exemplifies such tendencies (Bollier 2003, Orr 2004). There is a pressure in society to privatize specific kinds of knowledge, the Internet etc but also a contrary social movement to keep many doors open to public access. �Commodification� and �market enclosure� is not necessarily equal to progress, it is argued.

Ironically, or perhaps fortunately, even market relationships are often of a cooperative kind. While neoclassical ideas about markets in terms of supply and demand are built on principles of self-interest, any serious observer of real world markets will also find networks of cooperative relationships based on similarity of interests or � in our present language � similar ideological orientation. Market actor A simply internalizes to some extent the interests of market actor B and may even be dependent on the continued relative success of B. Not only individual-to-individual, or individual-to-organization relationships but also �organization-to-organization� e.g. �business-to-business� relationships are often built on this kind of consideration (Ford 1990).

Thinking of business in terms of Political Economic Organization as guided by a �mission statement� or its �core values� is helpful also in relation to issues of transparency and accountability or more generally issues of Corporate Social Responsibility. The point here is not that the neoclassical model of the market should be replaced by some other model. Reasoning in terms of supply and demand of homogeneous commodities is still useful in some situations and for some purposes. But other more complex models where ethical aspects of market relationships can be taken into account or where multiple transactions and multi-functionality enter into the picture can add to our understanding (S�derbaum 2002). The plea for �fair trade� as an example is not easily understood within the scope of the neoclassical paradigm. Rather than accepting what is referred to as �world market prices� of coffee or cocoa, some market actors build alliances and cooperate on the basis of prices to producers of coffee or cocoa that lie above current world market prices. The commodity is sold with a fair trade label and consumers get a chance to enter into a relationship that presumably is less unfair than trade in the conventional sense...

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2007 at 5:34 AM | PERMALINK

thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine. I still vividly remember him. In my class, he declared that "people are poor because they are lazy." He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to "free market competition." To him, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was "socialism."
Posted by: Mike

Triumph of the 'mossbacks'.

"Prosperity has neither trickled down nor rippled outward. Between 1973 and 2003, real GDP per capita in the United States increased 73 percent, while real median hourly compensation rose only 13 percent." - Robert Rubin

'The one truly continuous trend over the past 25 years has been towards greater concentration of income at the very top. ...The figures are startling. According to Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, the share of aggregate income going to the highest-earning 1% of Americans has doubled from 8% in 1980 to over 16% in 2004. That going to the top tenth of 1% has tripled from 2% in 1980 to 7% today. And that going to the top one-hundredth of 1% - the 14,000 taxpayers at the very top of the income ladder - has quadrupled from 0.65% in 1980 to 2.87% in 2004.' 'The Economist' - Inequality and the American Dream'

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 13, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

"The general view is that tax cuts do not pay for themselves." - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

"Even over the long term, once you've allowed all of the extra growth to feed through into extra revenue, cuts in capital taxes juice the economy enough to recoup half of the lost revenue, and cuts in income taxes deliver a boost that recoups 17 percent of the lost revenue. So a $100 billion cut in taxes on capital widens the budget deficit by $50 billion, and a $100 billion cut in income taxes widens the budget deficit by $83 billion." - A Heckuva Claim - Washinton Post Editorial - 06Jan07


The 'on budget deficit' which includes borrowing from the SS Trust Fund was actually $437 billion for fiscal 2006. - Dean Baker

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 13, 2007 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

It is no coincidence that the orgins of neoliberalism can be found near the end of the secular bear market in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Posted by: David on March 13, 2007 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK
Anyway, proper liberalism stands for small limited government.

I disagree that this is properly the case; limited, certainly, though not necessarily "small" government in the sense that phrase is used in modern debates.

I suggest you study good old liberal authors like Mises, Hayek - all the way back to Smith and Hume.

Von Mises is a fairly modern (20th century) writer whose work was influential in prefiguring economic neoliberalism; Hayek is the foundational economic neoliberal author. Neither is an "old liberal".

Smith wasn't all that much of a proponent of small government as modern proponents of small government would make him. He certainly favored recognizing, based on empirical analyses rather than abstract ideology, certain practical realities about the utility of certain approaches.

Modern day "liberals" are modern day socialists.

Perhaps; there is considerable overlap between liberalism and socialism, particularly non-Marxist socialism (Marx and Engels may have laid the theoretical foundation for Communism that Lenin built on, but socialism predates them, and has continued developing outside the Marxist framework as well as within it.)

Of course, few of american liberals actually read classical socialists, like Lenin or Marx, so they are essentially repeating marxist and leninist arguments, while honestly believing they are not socialists.

Its quite possible to repeat Marxist (or Leninist, as the two are essentially the same in this regard) critiques without being socialist (much less a socialist in the Marxist mold).

Indeed, this is particularly true when echoing Marx's critique of the capitalist class, which, after all, is itself prefigured—though in slightly less strident terms as that class had not attained the power it would over the next century—in Smith's critique of that same class, seen, for instance, in the conclusion to Chapter 11 of Book One of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:

The interest of this third order, therefore, has not the same connection with the general interest of the society as that of the other two. Merchants and master manufacturers are, in this order, the two classes of people who commonly employ the largest capitals, and who by their wealth draw to themselves the greatest share of the public consideration. As during their whole lives they are engaged in plans and projects, they have frequently more acuteness of understanding than the greater part of country gentlemen. As their thoughts, however, are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter. Their superiority over the country gentleman is not so much in their knowledge of the public interest, as in their having a better knowledge of their own interest than he has of his. It is by this superior knowledge of their own interest that they have frequently imposed upon his generosity, and persuaded him to give up both his own interest and that of the public, from a very simple but honest conviction that their interest, and not his, was the interest of the public. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

Smith, it should be noted, is not usually counted a "socialist".

In other words, they are ignorant of where their arguments came from and where they would lead them, if applied logically.

You presume that Marx's and Lenin's critiques (including those shared with Smith!) would naturally lead to Marx's and Lenin's conclusions "if applied logically". But clearly, though Smith, Marx, and Lenin have similar critiques of the capitalist class and the dangers they pose to society, Smith, Marx, and Lenin have three different proposed policy approaches. So, clearly, either the possibilities of conclusions which may be justified by those shared critiques are open (in which case your criticism is unwarranted since the shared critique does not, if taken to a logical conclusion, imply the same policy as Marx and Lenin—an inconsistent idea in the first place since Marx and Lenin had different programs, Leninism existing quite simply because the Marxist program did not apply where Lenin wanted it to) or at least two of those did not correctly follow the shared critique through logically (in which case your criticism is also unwarranted, since at least one, and possibly both, of Lenin and Marx themselves missed the one conclusion to which the shared critique logically leads.) In either case, your criticism is unwarranted.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 13, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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