Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Menace Defined

Johann Hari gives as good a definition of "neoliberalism" as I've seen.

This in reply to a series of questions which included,

I wonder why we don't identify these people as fiscal conservatives of the old school and their policies as being the same old reactionary "markets fix everything always" that have failed time and again in the past?

As Hari mentions, why such people aren't defined in these terms is probably due to confusion about the word "liberal". Though the assumption of the query is correct -- we are dealing with reactionaries here, and of the vilest sort -- a label containing the word "liberal", at least in America, leads to some head-scratching. Add to this the fact that most neoliberals are "realists" or even somewhat progressive culturally and it makes for more confusion. But I think Hari makes quick work of sorting them out -- at least for Brits.

For Americans, let us consider the taxonomy: neo-laissez-faire "markets, markets" economics? check. moderate or progressive on social issues? check. What we have here, then, is libertarianus nutjobus, a libertarian, though a subspecies to be sure: the neoliberal does not have the unhinged animus to even a small amount of entitlement programmes (when pressed, he will concede that food stamps may be a necessary entitlement "in principle") that most libertarians, wacko social darwinist-like, have.

Like any other ideology, neoliberalism is a continuum: some are dabblers while others are True Believers. But one thing is certain, they aren't progressives or, as Hari comes right out and says, social democrats. The problem is, far too many of them self-identify as Democrats; or put more precisely, it's not that so many of them are Democrats (the more, the merrier) but that they hold so much power over the Democratic party. More or less -- some far more than less -- neoliberals are people like Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum, Sebastian Mallaby, Tom Friedman, Mickey Kaus, Terry McAuliffe. Terms associated with neo-liberals include: "triangulation", "fucking sell-outs", "NAFTA", "fuck the unions", "loses the election", and "So what? I just saved 10$ at Pier 1!".