Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 14, 2007
By: Paul Glastris

LONG LIVE NEOLIBERALISM?....From the comments to my previous post, I see that many otherwise well-informed people had not until recently even heard of the term "neoliberalism," or aren't at all sure what the word means, or doubt that it stands for anything unique or consistent -- other than perhaps the selling out of liberalism itself.

Can't say I'm surprised. This is really inside baseball, dated baseball at that. And even within the rarefied world of people who think about this stuff, I doubt there's a definition of neoliberalism that all of its adherents would agree to.

But, if there is no single definition, there is an ur-text. It's Charlie Peters' "A Neoliberal's Manifesto" (pdf). Anyone really interested in this subject ought to read it.

Charlie wrote the piece in 1983, the same year I started at the Monthly as an intern. Rereading it now after many years, I'm struck by several things. First are the policy positions that seemed persuasive to me then but definitely don't now, like means-testing all entitlement programs.

Second are the ideas that I knew to be crazy back then but, at some level, intrigue me still, like reinvigorating participatory democracy by turning vast numbers of civil service jobs into patronage positions.

Third are the ideas that I strongly agreed with then and still do today. These include some version of a draft to make sure everyone, including the rich, serve the country, and some kind of evaluation system to hire and fire teachers based on performance rather than credentials and seniority.

Indeed, we've continued to publish stories advocating these ideas -- see here and here, for instance -- and we'll continue to do so. In that sense, the answer to the question "Does neoliberalism have a future?" is yes -- at least it does at the Washington Monthly.

But what strikes me the most about the manifesto is just how passionately anti-elitist, anti-snobbery, even populist, it is. I invite younger neo-populist netroots types to read it -- I would sincerely be interested in what they think (you especially, Ezra). I imagine they'll find plenty of passages that affirm their idea that neoliberalism was the caravan slave who let the conservative camel's nose inside the tent. I don't agree -- the camel was coming in anyway -- but so be it. The idea, however, that neoliberalism -- Charlie's and my conception of it, anyway -- is a pro-upper-middle-class ideology adhered to by establishment types who have made their peace with K Street, cannot survive an honest reading of the text.

Paul Glastris 1:06 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (66)

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Comments

"In many ways life in the thirties was much tougher than it is today, but there was, incredibly enough, a lot more sunshine in the soul and a lot more laughter in the land. That spirit is the heart of neoliberalism."

We're supposed to take this seriously?

Posted by: Old Hat on March 14, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

There are some populist ideas in there, but I stick by my previous statement: neoliberalism just doesn't stir the passions of the people.

I believe it was Brian Mulroney that said that in politics its nice to have friends, but essential to have an "enemy." Conservative have gays and atheists and terrorists. We on the left have privilege and hierarchy (and sadly, also "gun owners", "people of faith" (I know, I just booked a room in blogger hell next to Amy Sullivan) and the military). Aside from "other liberals" (and that's probably an unfair charge), what exactly are neoliberals against? Anybody? Bueler? Bueler?

Neoliberalism tells people what they might need to hear (and with the quaint idea that qualifiers like "might" are essential), not what they want to hear.

At any rate, we're not living in 1983 anymore. It's Blue Team or Red Team. And I'm cheering for Blue Team for about the same reasons that I cheer for "whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys" during football seasons.

Posted by: Jim D on March 14, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

don't you mean "good guys and bad guys"?

but point taken

Posted by: craigie on March 14, 2007 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

We're supposed to take this seriously?

How "old" are you really? You should have spent some time talking to my grandparents.

Posted by: harry on March 14, 2007 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

What have you got against means-testing entitlements? Isn't helping people who need it the entire point?

Posted by: harry on March 14, 2007 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Things were definitely better when I was younger. For one thing, I got a lot more sex.

Posted by: craigie on March 14, 2007 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

I like the idea, Kevin. It is the term I hate. The NEO conservatives have so badly misused that prefix to defend bankrupting the treasury, starting preemptive wars, destroying our civil & Constitutional rights, - need I go on? I want no part of that kind of description. Besides, NEO means new, not moderate. The idea & reality is moderates of both Parties have been around for ages.

I frankly don't care whether you like the term, moderate. It describes what I am, dammit! It's good enough for me.

Posted by: bob in fl on March 14, 2007 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

...And I'm cheering for Blue Team for about the same reasons that I cheer for "whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys" during football seasons.

Posted by: Jim D on March 14, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Exactly, in a sense. And that is why socialdemocrats like myself, who believe in democracy, the necessity for compromise, and antipathy for "I'm right, you're wrong, only my way" politics find it both repugnant and impractical.

Not everyone is going to be a Reaganite or a Bushite. It's GW running the country as if he had a landslide mandate after winning 50.7% of the vote. The same would be true if the Democrats played the same game and party politics becomes an end in itself (with ideas like K street, voter disenfranchisement) rather than a means to government of, by and for the people.

I'm hoping that Pelosi can sail a course that continues to make the Democratic Party appealing to a majority of the country, responsible government, and persuade the people to their policies.

I understand why you view it as a fight, but to make it so makes democracy inefficient and, ultimately, unworkable. Viz the preznut.

Posted by: notthere on March 14, 2007 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Not infrequently you crack me up, craigie. Good point.

Posted by: notthere on March 14, 2007 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

"It's GW running the country as if he had a landslide mandate after winning 50.7% of the vote. The same would be true if the Democrats played the same game and party politics becomes an end in itself..."

Notthere,

That is the point though. In the 1970's, it was the Democrats who were becoming complacent and as you say "an end in itself." I can understand where Charles Peters comes from when he says "each group [liberal and conservative] seizes on that supports its position and studiously averts its eyes from any fact that might support the other side."

I agree with you that GW is a menace and the sooner our nation is rid of him the better it will be. But it is the tendenacy to fall into what Peters' called "automatic responses" or what we often call knee-jerk that we liberals should be aware. We, unlike conservatives, don't need to follow lockstep with the institutions we agree with. It is not a central tenet of our philosophy that our institutions are always right.

I think that Kevin and Paul are right when they say that this attitude of not automatically agreeing with our leaders has pervaded today's liberal movement and the netroots. But there are times when I hear parrots on our side or fora becoming echo chambers. We must be careful that we do not invest too much faith in human institutions. We must always be wary of those institutions potential failures.

Posted by: Noah on March 14, 2007 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. That manifesto attacks unions, and claims that they demand "wage increases that far outstrip productivity increases". Nothing could be further from the truth: productivity has greatly increased in recent years, and workers, even unionized workers, are getting none of it.

Neoliberals stood for, and stand for, the transfer of wealth away from hourly workers and to the investors and entrepreneurs they celebrate.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 14, 2007 at 4:32 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, that's a pretty dishonest, or dumb, read of the other thread.

Glastris should no longer post on the blog, because he's full of shit.

Anyone can read the prior thread and not come up with the idiotic answers he comes up with to basically non-existent questions.

Kevin needs to draw the line because the editor is just a prevaricator.

Posted by: Jimm on March 14, 2007 at 4:42 AM | PERMALINK

Let me put it this way, read the comments to the other thread, and then justify Glastris' comments for this one.

You can't.

Any honest employer or editor would fire the guy, unless this was all just some ruse to pretend to listen to comments while spouting whatever it is you want to say.

Folks hate pretense, and hypocrisy, and entitlement, and here we get it in spades, right in our face.

Thanks.

Not.

Posted by: Jimm on March 14, 2007 at 4:52 AM | PERMALINK

If you believe I'm wrong that Glastris should be fired, or at least fired from the blog space, please explain.

The dude wrote a post, asked for feedback, and then basically misread the thread like a junior college freshman politics 101 student.

People will say I'm mean, but I'm just being honest. The guy has no balls and addressed nothing that was directed at him in the thread.

If Charles Peters wants to put up with that kind of spineless journalism, then he can have it, flush in the faith his legacy will die not long after he's gone.

Posted by: Jimm on March 14, 2007 at 4:57 AM | PERMALINK

Replacing half of civil service jobs with poiltical appointees isn't "intriguing", it's terrorism. I can't imagine anyone even thinking of this in the days of the expanding US Attorney scandal.

We need more professionalism, competence and experience in government, not less. Maybe confining top jobs to the civil service is a bad idea - ie we should develop non-political ways (nonpartisan hiring comissions? competitive salaries?) to bring skilled people from other career tracks - but tying the positions to politics would be a disaster.

Posted by: BC on March 14, 2007 at 6:26 AM | PERMALINK

Paul Glastris: Get. A. Scanner. With. OCR. Technology.

Re Social Security, we have a program that is partly an income guarantee program, partly a retirement program, and partly a disability program. The way it is now, the upper middle class has the worst deal with Social Security, paying in the maximum amount in dollars and getting the least back in proportion to what they pay in. On top of that, 85% of their benefits are taxed as ordinary income. To add further misery to this group by means-testing the benefits would eviscerate any remaining support from the upper middle class for Social Security and collapse its political viability. In short, subjecting Social Security to means testing is an appallingly bad idea.

Means testing veterans benefits is an equally bad idea. People who put their life on the line for America should not forfeit any benefit for doing so just because through hard work, inheritance, thriftiness, or good fortune, they manage to accumulate a little savings.

Re tax breaks for capital gains, this was a conservative idea, not a liberal one. Liberal George McGovern campaigned in 1972 that "money made by money should be taxed the same as money made by men." (This quote is from memory and might not be exact.)

Re the purported liberal principle that Politics Is Bad And Politicians Are Even Worse. This too is more of a conservative principle than a liberal one. Liberal John F. Kennedy inspired a generation to serve, whether in the Peace Corps or in politics or in any other way. This piece was written less than a decade after the Watergate Scandal, which outraged America precicely because we believe that politics should work and Nixon and his henchmen violated our trust. In contrast, dissatisfaction with President Carter was based on his failings as a leader, not on a belief that he or his administration was corrupt.

Why we would want to replace the existing civil service system with one where jobs are assigned based on political connections is completely beyond me. I can't imagine a principled liberal or a principled conservative thinking this is a good idea. Somehow the author thinks this is a good idea because of a five-year limit. Why should a talented civil servant, whether an attorney, an accountant, a computer programmer, a secretary, or a janitor, be subject to political appointment and a five-year limit, and why would America want to reject them after five years?

Taxing social security benefits was a bad idea because the group that is hurt the most is the upper middle class earners who earn approximately the maximum amount that is taxable. They pay as much in, dollar-wise, the super-rich, and much more than them in percentage terms. They get the least back in proportion to what they pay in. And to add insult to injury, now you tax their benefits! And you're proud of this policy? A better approach would have been to raise the ceiling on the income level that's subject to the payroll tax. That would have distributed the pain to a group far more able to shoulder it.

If Charles Peters' May 1983 article about neoliberalism is its ur-text, well, I think it needs a lot more work.

Respectfully submitted,

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 14, 2007 at 6:54 AM | PERMALINK

Too right, Joel.

I would add that means-testing is also a pretty expensive burden on a program and you really shouldn't do it unless you absolutely have to. It's one of those penny-wise and pound-foolish things that lards on extensive administration costs and usually hurts not just those who contribute most, but those who are the neediest, because proving that you satisfy the means test can be a full-time job that requires a lot of knowledge of how to manipulate the system. It works better for con artists than for those who are honestly in need.

I have never understood where an honest support for eliminating taxes on income that was not earned by work comes from. If money I worked for should be taxed, why shouldn't other income? What makes that money special?

Turning the government into a patronage scheme is obviously insane and guarantees corruption - I can't imagine an honest argument for that, either.

Isn't it interesting that people who want to make teachers submit to constant merit-tests don't think civil servants should also be hired and retained based on merit, but rather political patronage? If the people who work for the government shouldn't be employed based on merit, why should anyone else?

Yes, neoliberalism was just the conservative wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. It is astonishing that Glastris still thinks it is defensible.

We have had more than five years to see how that works. It isn't pretty.

Posted by: Avedon on March 14, 2007 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

Neoliberalism and Washington Monthly. I guess that's why I'll never by the mag. Pie in sky BS.

After Vietnam, a draft, really, I mean I know the rich were never serve, Charlie Rangles ideas can RIP. It's stupid, a non-start that smacks of Peter Beinhart's complete stupidity about the liberal aspect of freedom for Iraqis. The fight was never in the dog.

People like Bill Clinton and George did indeed turn out to be liars, the both of them. And both lied about WMD too.

Posted by: Cheryl on March 14, 2007 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

I see that Gonzales is pulling a Dennis Hastert act now:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded Wednesday that he "absolutely" should've been more plugged in to the process that saw eight US attorneys fired.

What does Gonzales have in common with these GOP men, Hastert and Libby, they both lie like there is no tomorrow.

Posted by: Cheryl on March 14, 2007 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Cutting capital gains taxes has been an absolute disaster. The Internet Boom would have happened in that regardless or not, and what it's done is created a pyramid scheme in our investing markets that is way out of control. (And heading for disaster)

This has had the side effect of accelerating necessary profit growth, stunting long-term sustainability for short-term profitability.

Read http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=11130

Yes. It's the American Spectator. Even more yes, it's written by Ben Stein for crying out loud. But read it. It's the best breakdown of the American economy that's been wrought by neo-liberalism and conservatism.

Which almost leads me to believe this is a trial balloon for a new type of conservatisim that's socially conservative and fiscally revolutionary.

And that mix will be hard to beat.

Posted by: Karmakin on March 14, 2007 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

I am very surprised that no one has chimed in about how much of the rest of the world sees neo-liberalism: Market "reforms" that, under the pretense of free trade, break down policies in developing countries, designed (for better or worse) to protect their economies from the dominant economic powers.
One can argue that these protections only serve the interests of a clatch of cronies in, say, Nigeria. But to much of the world it is a just question of whose cronies. And of sovereignty. Neo-liberalism, i have long thought, is largely co-extensive with globalization, with most of the benefits flowing to elites in the developed world. It seeks to break down national sovereignty.
Neo-conservatisim is a subset of this. They are advocates of intensive, wide ranging market reforms (see CAFTA, NAFTA, and everything afta) who left thier traditional home in the Democratic party over issues such as confrontation with the USSR. Many of them share with Dems fairly expansive views of a government's role in domestic affairs (hence the uneasy jostling with the isolationist and budget hawk wings of the GOP)
but are far more hawkish than many mainstream Democratics. Of course they are generally much more pro-Israel than the progressives in the party (and tend not to apply their economic critiques to Israel itself).
On the domestic side, for many Americans it is pretty agreeable. For much of Latin America it is considered imperialism. However, the decrease in union influence, the de-regulation of major sectors of the economy (see: airlines, telecoms, electricity), and the massive increase of consumer debt may all be seen in relation to neo-liberal economics hitting us on the home front.

Obviously, my politics are strongly to the progressive side. And I've read some Chomsky. But I am surprised that the integrated nature of neo-liberalism, in its global and domestic manifestations have not been discussed here.


Posted by: dianbi on March 14, 2007 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

My feeling is that neoliberalism died with Dukakis, partly because it was too wonky. Peters' manifesto would be an outlier, which isn't unusual with pioneers. What I remember most from the old neoliberals was contrarian liberalism, which is old and tired now and has been quite destructive (for example in the media), and which I associate with the DLC, perhaps wrongly.

In 1988 the DLC-New Republic types took over, and they had a neocon streak. One belief was that Dukakis lost because he wasn't militarist enough, and 20 years later "You can't be a dove" is the basic principle of DLC foreign policy. Look at Hillary.

Throw in the Blue Dog Democrats and that covers the conservative Democrats. The Blue Dogs seem to be mostly non-urban and I suspect that a fondness for pork is what differentiates them from the DLC. They seem to be more socially conservative than the DLC and about equally militaristic, but without the wonky good-government side.

Do the neoliberals exist any more as a separate political group, or were they absorbed by the DLC (as I suspect)? The other neoliberals named below are the centrist journalists like Kaus and Kinsley and Ignatieff and Friedman who have contributed an enormous amount to stinking up the political dialogue by simultaneously claiming to be liberals and sabotaging the actual liberals.

Posted by: John Emerson on March 14, 2007 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Even when I disagreed with him, I really liked and respected Charlie Peters and thought the neo-liberalism of the late 1970s (especially Kinsley's contributions) was a positive and constructive force overall and provided a new vision for a still powerful but tired Democratic Party.

Jimmy Carter's administration was probably more reflective of neo-liberal principles than any other. In some sense, the victory of Carter over Kennedy in the 1980 Democratic Party represented the triumph of neo-liberalism in the Democratic Party. The conception of neoliberalism was very different from its current TNR, Steny Hoyer incarnation.

The problem is that since the early 1980s neo-liberalism has been highjacked by alleged moderates, the K-Street crowd within the Democratic Party and the DLC to make alliances with elites and turn other Democrats (who don't share their views) into boogeymen.

Those who have stayed truer to the impetus behind the original neo-liberal vision like Gore, Carter, Krugman, Soros, Dean, Glastris are now personae non grata among those who are to alleged to be neo-liberals now.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on March 14, 2007 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

I'm still on-board with this:

'Yes, neoliberalism was just the conservative wolf dressed in sheep's clothing.' - Avedon

Enablers. Period.

'There is also a need to take off our political blinders and to confront the neoliberal underpinnings of current immigration policy. There is nothing progressive about flooding the lower echelons of the labor market with desperate immigrants who depress wages for each other as well as native workers. It is also problematic when the nation imports workers to fill higher echelons of the job pyramid, instead of upgrading the skills of native workers. For example, we import thousands of nurses from the Philippines and the Caribbean and then shut down nursing schools that traditionally provided channels of upward mobility for working-class women. Indeed, the traffic in nurses has become an export industry, with the additional irony is that there is a shortage of nurses in the Philippines.'

http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue39/Steinberg39.htm
Immigration, African Americans, and Race Discourse
Stephen Steinberg

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

John Emerson makes a lot of important points about what happened to neo-liberalism in the 1980s.

The ideas people behind neo-liberalism were still fervent and productive in the Washington Monthly (which remained an excellent magazine). With Easterbrook, Kaus and to a limited, but much smarter extent, Kinsley, an annoying contrarian streak (seemingly largely for the sake of contrarianism) did infect neo-liberalism in the 80s and 90s.

Outside the Washington Monthly, however, neo-liberalism was being hijacked as a K-Street fundraising strategy with business interests and, less problematically, as an electoral strategy. Emerson's comments about the DLC response to the Dukakis campaign are spot-on. Even at that time, though, the DLC did have some valid criticisms and suggestions for electoral success and was still a constructive force within the Party until the mid 1990s, when they increasingly became a destructive force within the party and finally, hopefully now, increasingly irrelevant.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on March 14, 2007 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Paul,

Conservatism didn't stick it's nose inside the tent. Whatever the Republican party has been selling over the past few decades sure as hell isn't conservsatism, and I am astonished by the fact that so many otherwise smart liberals still don't get this.

Posted by: global yokel on March 14, 2007 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Why no means testing of entitlement programs again? I was surprised to see that you once supported this and now reject it. To me its a no brainer. Why on earth should the wealthy get Social Security or Medicare? They dont need it. A safety net should be for those who need the safety. I am stumped why this is now off the table in your mind.

Posted by: Jammer on March 14, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

One thing that strikes me off the bat about the manifesto is that, right from the start, the biggest problem I've seen with neoliberalism as a movement outside of its particular policy proposals is right up front. It pretends to be a reaction against a fundamental flaw in liberalism, but what it is a reaction to is, to the extent that it was a common combination of features of liberalism at all, a momentary combination that peaked in the 1970s and had already significantly receded by the time the manifesto was written, and was by the 1980s (and is even moreso by now) a conservative and particularly neoconservative caricature of liberalism. Even in the 1960s and 1970s, though, the combination of approaches it reacts to where not generally dogmatic, automatic, and divorced from pragmatics as neoliberals characterized them, but reactions, if exaggerated ones, to recent experiences of what worked and what didn't. The distrust of military adventurism was grounded in the immediate experience of the Vietnam War and other, lesser, events. It might perhaps have been good if the neoliberals dogmatic, reflexive dismissal of such justified distrust had not so controlled the Democratic Party in the first term of the Bush Administration, had there been more robust questioning from the notional opposition of the support for and wisdom of the Administration's planned war in Iraq.

The same is true of everything else the neoliberals, in the name of their notionally pragmatic rejection of supposed liberal dogma have themselves dogmatically opposed, from strong unions to so-called "big government" programs, on and on down the list. Each of those was not so much a dogma but a pragmatic position built on recent experience, and to the extent the neoliberals have succeeded in purging those positions from the liberal mainstream, they have directly contributed to the narrowing of wealth and power in the country, and the destruction of the kind of progress for the average citizen that Adam Smith rightly points to as a key ingredient in not only the material progress of a nation (though, arguably, it also really defines material progress), but also its moral progress.

Peters was wrong in 1983, and the results of the neoliberal "success" (that is, success in taking over the mainstream of the Democratic Party) has demonstrated even more clearly now that it is wrong to say that the strong unions, a strong and broad social safety net, distrust of military adventurism, etc., are barriers to community, democracy, and prosperity. Indeed, as we've seen Democratic support for the positions attacked by neoliberals wane, we've seen the weakening of communities, the erosion of effective democracy, and an increasingly narrow benefit of what prosperity the nation experiences.

The Manifesto proposes more tax breaks for capital, which at the time (and now) was already heavily favored over labor in tax treatment, and opposes unions specifically over demands for wage increases. It accepts uncritically the right wing caricature of white collar and teachers unions as simply a barrier to firing the incompetent and filled with incompetents.

Neoliberalism claims to be pragmatic and idealistic, and certainly I would expect that most of its adherents believe it to be so. But it seems to me that from the start it was a demonstration of the success of the right-wing propaganda mill; from its portrayal of the broader liberal movement it sees itself as a reaction to to the particular "facts" it sees justifying its reaction, it seems based on very little beyond a broad-brush acceptance of blatant right-wing propaganda as gospel truth.

And certainly, if not in 1983 then by now, those still holding to neoliberalisms policy orientation are often as dogmatic as neoliberalism own portrayal of more traditional liberals.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK
he idea, however, that neoliberalism -- Charlie's and my conception of it, anyway -- is a pro-upper-middle-class ideology adhered to by establishment types who have made their peace with K Street, cannot survive an honest reading of the text.

Well, certainly a generous reading of the text might suggest that in 1983 it might not have been such an approach. But, especially given the results of the broad acceptance of neoliberal ideas and the implementation of neoliberal ideas from expanded patronage in government to welfare "reform" to decreased Democratic skepticism about military adventurism on down the line, it certainly underlines that anyone holding on to neoliberalism today is dogmatically detached from reality or simply a shill, not for the upper-middle-class, but for the major capitalist class. Perhaps both. But a pragmatic, reality-based pursuit of the supposed ideals of neoliberalism would not lead to any anything like the policies of neoliberalism, which are proven failures.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

All this miserable miscegenation in the middle is producing so far is disaster. Its like red fascist China or Mussolini style Corporatism - the worst of communism and the worst of capitalism. The only good thing thats emerging so far is a net-based pincer movement of the far-left and far-right anti-statists who are ripping you tax and spend fat-cats a new one every five minutes.

Sayonara authoritarian socialists!

Your lies precede you and your grave is in front of you. Fuck with the Bull and you get the horn.

Posted by: professor rat on March 14, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: reinvigorating participatory democracy by turning vast numbers of civil service jobs into patronage positions.

George Washington Plunkitt said about the same thing a hundred years ago. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall is well worth reading.

Posted by: anandine on March 14, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I try never to do this, but when I read, "These include some version of a draft to make sure everyone, including the rich, serve the country," I think, "gee, those were simpler times. We could still believe something like that would be allowed to happen."

Posted by: BrianInAtlanta on March 14, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

But, especially given the results of the broad acceptance of neoliberal ideas and the implementation of neoliberal ideas from expanded patronage in government to welfare "reform" to decreased Democratic skepticism about military adventurism on down the line, it certainly underlines that anyone holding on to neoliberalism today is dogmatically detached from reality or simply a shill, not for the upper-middle-class, but for the major capitalist class. Perhaps both. But a pragmatic, reality-based pursuit of the supposed ideals of neoliberalism would not lead to any anything like the policies of neoliberalism, which are proven failures.
Posted by: cmdicely

Yeah!

It's nothing like the camel's nose under the tent. It's flinging open the city gates and grabbing hold of the ropes and helping to drag that big wooden horse inside. Then standing around in burning ruins a bit later and saying, 'But we meant well.'

(Oh, and since I graduated from high school in 1969 and seem to be rather more senior to you than I care to think too closely about, I think I will accept your offer and call you 'Chris'...without the slightest slackening in my regard for your analysis implied, of course. - Cyn)


`When you talk about no documentation loans, you can't have any less of a standard than that,'' said Martin Fridson, chief executive officer of high-yield research firm FridsonVision LLC in New York. The lenders ``lower their standards and say `Well, we can put them into CDOs.' Like that's somehow burying that it's toxic waste.''
Quoted By Caroline Salas and Darrell Hassler - CDOs May Bring Subprime-Like Bust for LBOs, Junk Debt
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aCITz8HS6ewk&refer=
home

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

FYI, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall online.

Posted by: anandine on March 14, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

These include some version of a draft to make sure everyone, including the rich, serve the country

Wow. Since I'm on the more libertarian end of the political spectrum but support public education and a safety net, I've often described myself as a neoliberal. But if you're going to include support for a draft as part of the definition, count me out. That's just more ill-considered social engineering of the type that drives people like me *away* from the Democratic party - which, fortunately, appears to be smart enough to realize this.

Posted by: Nat on March 14, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

What people need to remember about neoliberalism of the 80s, and a number of other ideas bouncing around the party in the 80s, is that we were getting our clocks cleaned election after election starting in 1978. Lots of Democrats were trying to come up with ideas to reinvigorate the party as it was moving into huge losses.

Romantic ideas of good ole neoliberalism (for those who held them) are not even relevant anymore. For one thing, we are not getting our clocks cleaned in elections. Yes, we suffered election losses in 2000, 2002 and 2004, but none of them were by wide margins. As someone who worked until the polls closed in 84 to drag voters to the polls, anyone who watched those returns could not possibly be as depressed by the 2000+ elections--yes we lost, but it wasn't a nationwide complete rejection of everything we stand for. We might be angry, but not depressed.

For another thing, every single thing done by the Bush administration intervenes with the history of Democratic neoliberalism and progressivism. Compared to Reagan and Bush 41, what this administration has done domestically and in foreign policy is absolutely and completely nuts. Even if we were suddenly able to implement every major progressive policy initiative conceivable, this will take years to reverse.

The Clinton legacy of budgetary caution was derived from some of the neoliberal ideas of the 1980s. We don't even need to debate whether Clinton was right in pushing the progressive agenda back until he fixed the budget problems left by Reagan/Bush--it would not be right for today given the state of the nation now. As a result, neoliberalism isn't dead, but simply irrelevant. On the Democratic side, the neoliberals pining for days of yore are gradually being reduced to Joe Lieberman.

Posted by: tfisher on March 14, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Why no means testing of entitlement programs again? I was surprised to see that you once supported this and now reject it. To me its a no brainer. Why on earth should the wealthy get Social Security or Medicare? They dont need it. A safety net should be for those who need the safety. I am stumped why this is now off the table in your mind.

Because it rips the last tattered facade of "entitlement" off the program and reveals it for the wealth redistribution program it's been for decades now. Although it would excel at keeping lower income and disadvantaged citizens out of poverty, this would be politically disastrous.

Posted by: hayak on March 14, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, a progressive taxation system (which I support) already makes sure that everyone, especially the rich, do indeed serve the country. I see no reason to change a system that works in favor of indentured servitude.

Posted by: Nat on March 14, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I am very surprised that no one has chimed in about how much of the rest of the world sees neo-liberalism: Market "reforms" that, under the pretense of free trade, break down policies in developing countries, designed (for better or worse) to protect their economies from the dominant economic powers.

Posted by: dianbi

Agreed. It's been at least ten years since I last saw "neo-liberalism" used in reference to anything else. But I almost never read anything about South American politics without seeing it used in reference to inhuman American sponsored economic policies.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on March 14, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

That quote by Salas and Hassler is stupid.

Posted by: Walt on March 14, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK


PAUL GLASTRIS: I see that many otherwise well-informed people had not until recently even heard of the term "neoliberalism,"

You see that, do you? You should have whispered it instead of typing it because I think you're seeing dead people.

But even as you see things that aren't there, you completely miss things that are. Boasting that neoliberalism is a "rarefied" "inside baseball" world that practically no one alive can understand, you claim that it is "passionately anti-elitist" and "anti-snobbery."

But, who knows? Maybe Ezra will hear your plaintive pleas for help and eventually whisper the truth to you: Your Neo is dead, and (mixing movie references) your Neo is not the one.

GLASTRIS: Long Live Neoliberalism?
No.


Posted by: jayarbee on March 14, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps my reading comprehension is lacking, but from what I can tell Neolibralism sounds like Neoconservatism without the social conservatism, i.e., no appeals to traditional gender roles, evangelical Protestant Christianity, or the like.

But it seems to have everything else.

Am I wrong?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 14, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

In all fairness to Paul Glastris and Charlie Peters, both of whom I generally respect, they are defending a particular definition of "neoliberalism" that never really took hold.

Many 1980s-era liberals were just as frustrated as conservatives with the cumbersome bureaucracy, regulation, and entrenched political interests of the era, and they sought to reform the system by experimenting with new ideas to achieve liberal goals, rather than ceding the entire (very popular) mantle of political reform to the pseudo-populism of the Republicans and the monied interests they represented. This was, more or less, the spirit behind the Gary Hart Presidential campaign.

By the time Clinton finally did win election on a "neoliberal" platform, however, the definition of "neoliberalism" had come to be associated almost entirely with economic and trade policies that promoted the laissez-faire, center-right, pro-corporate agenda around the world, encouraged outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries, and used the World Bank and IMF to force poorer nations to sell their national assets to foreign investors. With the notable exception of welfare reform, the neoliberals generally decoupled this political position from conservative domestic policy, and robustly defended the broadly popular middle-class entitlement programs. Thus, "third way" politics.

I think Democrats ought to appreciate the important role that neoliberal reforms played in rehabilitating the public image of liberalism, and preventing the complete dismantling of the American welfare state during an era when conservatives held most of the levers of power. But it's long past the time when such triangulation is necessary to win public support. American conservatism has spent the past 6 years thoroughly discrediting itself. The country now faces an entirely different set of economic and bureaucratic problems than it faced in 1983, and it now badly needs a dose of good-government liberalism.

The Democratic Party has absolutely no use anymore for political leaders or pundits whose first instinct is to attack Democratic interest groups and second instinct is to promote "free-market reforms." But those neoliberals who can adapt to the changing realities of American politics should feel perfectly welcome in the resurgent Democratic Party.

Posted by: LaFollette Progressive on March 14, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK
I am very surprised that no one has chimed in about how much of the rest of the world sees neo-liberalism: Market "reforms" that, under the pretense of free trade, break down policies in developing countries, designed (for better or worse) to protect their economies from the dominant economic powers.

That's not how the rest of the world "sees" neoliberalism, its quite simply a definition of neoliberalism from a different specialized domain which is also used in the United States. Quite likely it hasn't been mentioned much because its been mentioned and discussed at length in several of the other previous threads on the American political movement called "neoliberalism", and despite the label and the fact that members of the American political movement tend to support the theory of itnernational economics (but no similar relationship exists in the reverse direction) the two concepts are mostly unrelated. They are "neo-" to entirely different forms of liberalism (also discussed in those threads is the neoliberal school of international relations theory, which is yet another largely unrelated use of the word "neoliberal".)


Its like discussing the "rock" genre of music and someone jumping in with "Why is no one discussing granite and marble and obsidian?"

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

reinvigorating participatory democracy by turning vast numbers of civil service jobs into patronage positions.

I still have to read Peters' 'manifesto,' but I think increasing patronage jobs within the already huge spoils system cannot be a good thing. I also think this idea reflects W. Bush's faith based initiative, which is really just a way to transfer my tax dollars to authoritarian political extremists.

Calling neoliberalism populist is either a deliberate lie or a delusion. The Washington Monthly may be good at writing articles about the resurgence of bathhouses, but its writers are too establishmentarian to offer any decent political economy theories to increase the welfare of the majority of people.

If neoliberal proponents were liberal and new, they would not advocate for a draft to feed the established military industrial complex' machine and perpetuate US militant hegemony. No, a new liberal would demand the destruction of the US military industrial complex because it adds no value to its citizens and is not necessary for national security. The inability of so called 'liberals' to understand that the US miiltary is a detriment to its citizens and world peace belies their controlling elitist hearts.

Posted by: Brojo on March 14, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK
Because it rips the last tattered facade of "entitlement" off the program and reveals it for the wealth redistribution program it's been for decades now. Although it would excel at keeping lower income and disadvantaged citizens out of poverty, this would be politically disastrous.

Would it excel at keeping people out of poverty? It would be more expensive, since means-testing means a more involved eligibility process and associated bureaucracy, more challenges and appeals, etc., etc. It would certainly create an industry around gaming whatever eligibility criteria there were. And it would, of course, reduce the incentive for people who could earn somewhere in the margins between the full benefit amount and the no benefit amount to do so (though, unless—as many welfare programs, unfortunately, have—it adopted a 1:1 or greater effective benefit reduction, it wouldn't entirely eliminate that incentive.) But excel at keeping people out of poverty? Why should we believe that?

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

My first reaction was 'Gee, it's kinda cool that Paul Glastris would show up over here and has actually read some comments.'

I still think that but I'm getting together a little side bet says it'll be a while before that happens again...

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Your concern about a new bureaucracy is a valid one, but means-testing doesn't need to be complicated.

Income tax laws have a number of places where above a certain level of adjusted income, you can no longer take deductions for medical, education, or many other things. The entitlement breakoff would work the same way, worked with the existing income tax system. If you think about it, it's no more complicated than taxing those benefits has been.

It goes without saying that anyone who does not make enough money to file income tax returns would be eligible for full benefits.

It would work better than the current system because it would be easier to bring the entitlements back into solvency. Not that the poor would be getting any more money than they are now.

Posted by: hayek on March 14, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Income tax laws have a number of places where above a certain level of adjusted income, you can no longer take deductions for medical, education, or many other things.

Insert 'used to have'...carry on.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Bravo, Lafollette. Perhaps neoliberalism is a function of being old(er). It makes perfect sense to me- but I've got a wife, a kid in college, and a mortgage. And I read Atlantic Magazine in the mid 80s. And I liked Clinton's incrementalism.

Posted by: kreiz on March 14, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK


Perhaps, neo-liberalism should be be considered an ineffective example for attempting to achieve some egalitarianism to the extent that the self-empowerment by the Individual, did not do much or even well for what little was accomplished. And not much by way of transformation.

Further, the American "transformation" since World War Two has had three exemplars: FDR for the New Deal; Harry Truman for the National Security Apparatus; and Lyndon Johnson for the Great Society. With this in mind, the Neo-libs attempted to be "transforming" as well, but did not succeed.

On the downside, they advocated eliminating the military draft, and this is where I come into this discussion. As a resident of America's "racial and ethnics", I viewed and took advantage of my service in the armed forces. Thus, my self-emplowerment at the financial cost of my fellow citizens, the tax payers, has been quite effective, and in the myriad ways returned to the national treasure. And today, there are over 3 million Chicanos who have demonstrated their ambition and the avialable opportunities to achieve the American Dream. Add in the Native Americans and the African Americans here in the Sonoran Desert, and America has been well-represented and repaid many times over.

So, among the many chastisements offered, the neo-libs 'enabled' the destruction of individualized self-empowerment. And with a quiet chuckle, the now demonized Neo-libs should not be visiting my Sonoran Desert, otherwise, we will have to articulate the old Sonoran Desert adage,"the only thing that changes in America, is its history!" And more to the point, Neo-libs should have known that 'new' approaches to old and successful ideas, tend to prove that failure is just around the corner.

Somewhere in the future, another nexus of"identity politics", i.e, neo-libs and neo-cons, will surface and play havoc with our national politics.

Jaango

Posted by: Jaango on March 14, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK
By the way, a progressive taxation system (which I support) already makes sure that everyone, especially the rich, do indeed serve the country.

Progressive taxation would do this, but while the "income" tax system is notionally progressive, that's to a substantial degree undermined by the payroll tax system and the preferential taxation of capital income (since dependence on capital income has a strong positive correlation with overall wealth.)

Of course, neoliberals tend to favor selectively expanding rather than generally reducing the preferential treatment of capital income.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Insert 'used to have'...carry on.

You obviously haven't been within a mile of a 1040 in a long time. I remember when all interest was deductible too, not just mortgage.

Posted by: hayak on March 14, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see now, he's going to prove that neoliberalism isn't an upper-class idealogy, by referring me to a document that only somebody with broadband and a computer on steroids can read.

Sorry, life is too short, at least considering the nature of the reward that is offered.

I'll do the short form. How do you rate teachers on "performance"? School districts avoid timeclocks, and use contracts, because teachers work 9-10 hour days, and work at home, during the summer "vacation", and so forth.

Presumably Glastris means that if students do well, that means the teacher "performed". In reality, most students do better if their families have more money, and do worse if their families have less.

In short, the one neolib idea that Glastris still supports in his post is just an ignorant Republican talking point to attack teachers.

Color me unconvinced.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 14, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK
Income tax laws have a number of places where above a certain level of adjusted income, you can no longer take deductions for medical, education, or many other things.

The income tax system is pretty much the prime example of both a complex enforcement bureaucracy and a system of regulation that has created a massive industry dedicated to gaming the criteria of the system, too.

The entitlement breakoff would work the same way, worked with the existing income tax system. If you think about it, it's no more complicated than taxing those benefits has been.

Insofar as that's true, the existing tax on certain of those benefits is a "means test", and the debate is not properly over whether or not to have a means test vs the status quo. Though most proposals that call themselves "means tests" are, in fact, substantially more complex, and are not worked through the income tax system (though, of course, they tend to take income tax records as one input.)

It goes without saying that anyone who does not make enough money to file income tax returns would be eligible for full benefits.

How gracious.

It would work better than the current system because it would be easier to bring the entitlements back into solvency.

Social Security is solvent for the forseeable future, the only funding problem with them stems from the imbalance in the general fund.

Medicare is, of course, a different problem, but while means-testing might control its cost, its far less clear that it would do so without making it drastically worse at its mission.

I'll believe means-testing will excel at keeping people out of poverty (or even do passably well at that) when I see a concrete means-testing proposal supported with solid reasons for believing that particular proposal will, in fact, do that.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, right, he also supports some form of a draft in which even the rich would serve their country.

ROFLMAO.

That'll be the day.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 14, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, neoliberals tend to favor selectively expanding rather than generally reducing the preferential treatment of capital income.
Posted by: cmdicely

The problem, one of them anyway, is that there's no mechanism for distinguishing genuine productive investment over a term of years from speculation.

Flipping stocks and other purely speculative activity should be treated exactly like any other gambling losses. Deductible to the extent of gains from same in that year. Period.

The preferential treatment of capital gains is a means of boosting the yield of 'investments' beyond the market value. It's a subsidy and a gross distortion. It rewards the beneficiaries of inflation and punishes the victims.

'Finance has been trending away from economic reality since the Ronald Reagan era on an accelerating basis. By this I mean the role of finance no longer represents sets of mechanisms and institutions designed to raise legitimate capital for investment in legitimate productive activities. Finance is now an end in itself, essentially a racket.' - Jim Kunstler

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Interest deductions are welfare for the rich. Poor people do not receive loans, nor do they have the income, or types of income, to utilize deductions anyway.

Posted by: Brojo on March 14, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

hayak

Hahahahaha.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK
The problem, one of them anyway, is that there's no mechanism for distinguishing genuine productive investment over a term of years from speculation.

That's a problem, sure. Beyond that, though, why should returns realized from productive application of capital be taxed more favorably than returns realized through productive application of labor in the first place?

Admittedly, long-term gains need some special treatment in a progressive tax system, but that can be just as easily acheived by taxing all income (capital and otherwise) as regular income when realized but allowing the taxpayer to voluntarily recognize (and pay taxes on) anticipated future income, as from capital investments, in advance of realization.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 14, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Admittedly, long-term gains need some special treatment in a progressive tax system.

This is one reason conservatives support eliminating the estate tax and liberals don't. If Daddy buys a stock and keeps it until he dies, it passes to the kids with no capital gains taxes.

Posted by: anandine on March 14, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

The income tax system is pretty much the prime example of both a complex enforcement bureaucracy and a system of regulation that has created a massive industry dedicated to gaming the criteria of the system, too.

True enough. But it already exists, and we're already paying for it, so why not use it?


"It goes without saying that anyone who does not make enough money to file income tax returns would be eligible for full benefits."

How gracious.

It wasn't a matter of "graciousness." I was just pointing out that the means testing issue would not apply in the first place to people on that income level, so that the income tax idea would still be workable even if there are no income tax records for them.

I'll believe means-testing will excel at keeping people out of poverty (or even do passably well at that) when I see a concrete means-testing proposal supported with solid reasons for believing that particular proposal will, in fact, do that.

Again, you miss the point. The objective isn't to deliver more money to the poor, or faster. Obviously, a "no questions asked" policy would do that. Same as a flat tax would be easier than the current mess.

The point is that it would save money, and our entitlements desperately need something to do that.

I agree that specific proposals need to be looked at. For example, deciding where to set the means testing bar would be one issue.

Posted by: hayak on March 14, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Chris. Exactly.

Hot damn, but you're smart.

'Since 1986, there have been some 15,000 amendments to the tax code, always to help some interest or other but each time distorting free-market incentives. To an economist, when someone invests for profit, that's good. When they invest to take advantage of a tax break, that's bad. "It's a standard canon of economics," Poterba says. It means that capital is being diverted from its best use, and the economy suffers as a result.
.......
You wouldn't have to invest in a house to benefit; you could invest where you wanted. That's called a free market.

The real-estate industry logically prefers a protected market to a free one. ----You can see why home builders are upset: their margins are fattest on luxury homes; a policy that pushes prices toward the middle, as egalitarian as it might sound, would end their party.

But tax policy was never intended to function as a price support. Even less should it support a putative housing bubble. Even the president's directive mentioned sustaining housing ownership — not sustaining housing prices. High prices may even be a disincentive to ownership. And the housing market, the panel concluded, is overcapitalized anyway. Thanks to the interest deduction and other breaks, the effective tax rate on owner-occupied real estate in the U.S. is estimated to be only a fraction of the tax on business. Some of the capital being plowed into McMansions with Olympic-size lap pools would earn a higher return (tax considerations aside) in medical research or pollution control.'
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/05/magazine/
305deduction.1.html?

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

This is one reason conservatives support eliminating the estate tax and liberals don't. If Daddy buys a stock and keeps it until he dies, it passes to the kids with no capital gains taxes.
Posted by: anandine

Ummm...tax free step-up in basis...Estate taxes do not involve capital gains to the the benes. They get to take possession at DOD value.

Damn shame about those poor Gallo kids, huh? I weep for their loss.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 14, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

For the life of me, I can't figure out why this post rubbed me so wrong last night. It was really late, I was really tired, and I had just lost every pool game I played (against some really good players), so maybe I was primed to be negative.

Anyhow, I apologize to Mr. Glastris for my little outburst, which was unwarranted, and retract every single bit of it, especially the prevaricating part, which is not true and a little bit of unintentional and ironic prevaricating of my own.

Peace.

Posted by: Jimm on March 14, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm - I have played Valley league and BCA as league captain and subbed for friends on APA.

It can be exhilarating or it can be infuriating, but rarely is it a neutral experience.

Shoot well.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 14, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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