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Neo-liberalism defined

Philip Mirowski's review -- "How Did The Neoliberals Pull It Off?" -- is getting a lot of play among the cognoscenti. It's a massive and very funny takedown. Here is the nut graf:

Neoliberalism consists of a thoroughgoing reinvention of the classical liberal tradition, expanded to encompass the whole of human existence as a political animal and a knowing being. In this tradition, the market stands as the ultimate arbiter of truth; the pinnacle of achievement is to become an entrepreneur of the plastic self; there is no such thing as Society; and freedom is recoded to mean anything the market allows. It is generally conceded to have been initially stabilized by the members of the Mont Pelerin Society, a group founded in 1947 and that is still in existence today. Over the last four decades it has expanded to encompass a vast thought collective, ranging from high-profile economists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman to politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan; from the Murdoch media empire to Astroturf movements like the Tea Party; from think tank denizens across the globe to the “shadow elite” described by Janine Wedel. Terms like “market fundamentalism” and “libertarianism” severely misrepresent the movement, as some of the current authors insist.

Jesting Pilates, all!

It's a fun read, so read it all. Note well:

Because the movement’s history involves concerted real-time revision of doctrine, there can be no straight line drawn from some fixed ideology to political programs over the history of “conservatism” or “free market fundamentalism” or any other such contemporary addled notions. Neoliberalism is real; but it does not wear its essence on its sleeve.

Reminds me of High Frequency Trading software, which apparently reprograms itself.

NOTE I don't find the neo-cons mentioned in the article. Perhaps they are a subset.

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Submitted by Hugh on

Writing society out of the picture is essential because it eliminates the link between social purpose and money, that is money is the medium for distributing society's resources to accomplish society's purposes. Break that link and unlimited accumulation of wealth by a few becomes possible, even inevitable.

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Submitted by Alexa on

been subjected to for at least the past thirty-five years.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia's blurb on 'Neoliberalism.' Here's the link.


. . . According to Boas and Gans-Morse, nowadays the most common use of the term neoliberalism refers to economic reform policies such as “eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets and lowering trade barriers”, and reducing state influence on the economy especially by privatization and fiscal austerity.[9] . . .

Some people believe that the term is used as a pejorative for policies that deregulate the private sector and increase its role in the economy.[1] [Gotta love that one!]

Policy implications

Neoliberalism seeks to transfer control of the economy from public to the private sector,[71] under the belief that it will produce a more efficient government and improve the economic health of the nation.[72] The definitive statement of the concrete policies advocated by neoliberalism is often taken[citation needed] to be John Williamson's[73] "Washington Consensus." a list of policy proposals that appeared to have gained consensus approval among the Washington-based international economic organizations (like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank). Williamson's list included ten points, but I'll only list several.

Fiscal policy. Governments should not run large deficits that have to be paid back by future citizens, and such deficits can have only a short term effect on the level of employment in the economy. Constant deficits will lead to higher inflation and lower productivity, and should be avoided. Deficits should only be used for occasional stabilization purposes.

Redirection of public spending from subsidies (especially what neoliberals call "indiscriminate subsidies") and other spending neoliberals deem wasteful toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment.

Tax reform. Broadening the tax base and adopting moderate marginal tax rates to encourage innovation and efficiency.

Liberalization of the "capital account" of the balance of payments, that is, allowing people the opportunity to invest funds overseas and allowing foreign funds to be invested in the home country.

Privatization of state enterprises. Promoting market provision of goods and services which the government cannot provide as effectively or efficiently, such as telecommunications, where having many service providers promotes choice and competition. (Telecommunications Act of 1996)

Deregulation. Abolition of regulations that impede market entry or restrict competition, except for those justified on safety, environmental and consumer protection grounds, and prudent oversight of financial institutions. . . .


{BTW, just saw an interesting factoid (probably most of you economists already knew this}: President Carter reduced the top tax rate on capital gains to 28% from as high as 98%.

This gets more depressing everyday.

Bad enough to find out from the NASI [National Association of Social Insurance] President Janice Gregory, that a Democratic Senator (her boss, FL Senator Claude Pepper) was the politician responsible for raising the Social Security retirement age to 67! Here's the excerpt from his Wikipedia bio, and link.


In the early 1970s, Pepper chaired the Joint House-Senate Committee on Crime; then, in 1977, he became chair of the new House Select Committee on Aging, which became his base as he emerged as the nation's foremost spokesman for the elderly, especially regarding Social Security programs.

He succeeded in strengthening Medicare. In the 1980s he worked with Alan Greenspan in a major reform of the Social Security system that maintained its solvency by slowly raising the retirement age, thus cutting benefits for workers retiring in their mid-60s,


Sigh . . .