Who Benefits From Market Fundamentalism?
September 5, 2019 8:28 AM   Subscribe

“The grand neoliberal experiment of the past 40 years has demonstrated that markets in fact do not regulate themselves. Managed markets turn out to be more equitable and more efficient. Yet the theory and practical influence of neoliberalism marches splendidly on, because it is so useful to society’s most powerful people—as a scholarly veneer to what would otherwise be a raw power grab.” Neoliberalism: Political Success, Economic Failure (Prospect) “To anyone who lived through the Clinton years — or merely remembers the Obama era — the discrediting of neoliberal ideas that were once sacrosanct among Democrats is nothing short of astonishing.” The Sunset Of Neoliberalism (Jacobin)
posted by The Whelk (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
"I love the poorly educated!"
posted by dozo at 8:57 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]


The economic collapse of 2008 was the result of the deregulation of finance.
No it was not, but even it was, we have added regulations since and the market is even worse in most areas for most people.

"
The elements of a decent middle-class life are elusive—reliable jobs and careers, adequate pensions, secure medical care, affordable housing, and college that doesn’t require a lifetime of debt. "
The economy of the 1950s (prior to neoliberalism per the article) only offered that for a select few

"Meanwhile, life has become ever sweeter for economic elites, whose income and wealth have pulled away and whose loyalty to place, neighbor, and nation has become more contingent and less reliable"

What? So the idiotic, racist protectionist streak we are currently facing is better, and would be the remedy to the lack of 'loyalty to place'? No.

Honestly, this reads like a big list of grievances that are only vaguely related to neoliberalism and honestly it gets more and more nonsensical as it goes along:

"Housing vouchers substantially reward landlords who use the vouchers to fill empty houses with poor people until the neighborhood gentrifies"

Maybe that happens (maybe) occasionally, but it seems well beyond the scope of individual landlords. Also generally, neighborhoods that are to gentrify are really determined by local government (in terms of infrastructure, policing, localized grants), not landlords.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:16 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


"A rising tide lifts all boats" - neoliberalism

Tough break that 90% of the population doesn't have a boat.
posted by srboisvert at 9:40 AM on September 5, 2019 [11 favorites]


Tough break that 90% of the population doesn't have a boat.

I rented a kayak, but it got swamped by the big wakes.
posted by jb at 9:49 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Don't worry, we'll solve that problem with my new boat sharing app. I've already got millions in VC funding and am valuated at $23 billion dollars.
posted by Reyturner at 9:50 AM on September 5, 2019 [12 favorites]


For Kuttner, neoliberal means libertarians, Reagan, and Thatcher. For Sawicky, neoliberal means Obama. This gives a pretty good sense of how loosey-goosey "neoliberal" is as a concept.
posted by factory123 at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2019 [17 favorites]


For Kuttner, neoliberal means libertarians, Reagan, and Thatcher. For Sawicky, neoliberal means Obama. This gives a pretty good sense of how loosey-goosey "neoliberal" is as a concept.

Or how dominant market oriented economic policy has been for a long time.
posted by srboisvert at 10:14 AM on September 5, 2019 [20 favorites]


No it was not, but even it was, we have added regulations since and the market is even worse in most areas for most people.

This is news to me. We wouldn't have credit default swaps without the deregulation found in the CFMA. Banks wouldn't have been able to get so deep into the subprime mess without the GLBA.

Moreover, your latter assertion doesn't actually back up your former, especially considering the regulations "we" have added since 2008 are laughable at best.
posted by Ouverture at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2019 [17 favorites]


Ronald Reagan sold whites the promise that he'd punish black people by cutting social services. Obama didn't. How does it help to stick these two people in the same box?
posted by factory123 at 10:24 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


I believe the assertion is that their economic worldviews were similar enough to draw conclusions about their connected influence (irrespective of Reagan's virulent racism).
posted by avalonian at 2:08 PM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Season Of The Bitch: Neoliberalism?
posted by The Whelk at 6:38 AM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


For Kuttner, neoliberal means libertarians, Reagan, and Thatcher. For Sawicky, neoliberal means Obama. This gives a pretty good sense of how loosey-goosey "neoliberal" is as a concept.

Yep. Neoliberal = liberal = centrist = fascist is something I see a lot of on Twitter and it drives me up the wall. It is sometimes bundled with "the only people I hate worse than Proud Boys are Democrats," "it's good that Trump won because you need real pain before the people rise up and revolt", and "the only bad actor on the planet is the US."
posted by pelvicsorcery at 8:12 AM on September 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


Also: can't we just say laissez-faire economics? So many people see "neoliberal" and just think "liberal but bad. Like those dorky NPR liberals [who want a Western Europe style welfare state just like I recently wanted until I decided a centrally planned economy was the only way to run a society]."
posted by pelvicsorcery at 8:21 AM on September 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


From the first linked article “It’s worth taking a moment to unpack the term “neoliberalism.” The coinage can be confusing to American ears because the “liberal” part refers not to the word’s ordinary American usage, meaning moderately left-of-center, but to classical economic liberalism otherwise known as free-market economics. The “neo” part refers to the reassertion of the claim that the laissez-faire model of the economy was basically correct after all.”
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 AM on September 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


From the perspective of Jacobin or the Season of the Bitch podcast, "neoliberal" means "capitalism". Its use there is as a term of abuse that socialists levy against anybody to their right.

It isn't about laissez-faire economics - Obamacare is anything but laissez-faire, but Jacobin and Season explicitly call that neoliberal. Anything that isn't socialism is neoliberal to these folks, and the word is said while spitting on the ground.

And so you get absurd results such as saying Ronald Reagan, whose economics were white supremacy, is basically the same as Barack Obama.
posted by factory123 at 9:24 AM on September 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


Isn't that kind of rhetoric to be expected from Jacobin, though?
posted by Selena777 at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


Obamacare is anything but laissez-faire

Compared to the deregulated free-for-all that preceded it, sure, but it's still an aggressively market-based solution to a problem that every sane country has solved by reducing or eliminating the market's role.
posted by contraption at 10:10 AM on September 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


Jacobin linked essay, paragraph 5-6

“Among friends, the label “neoliberal” is often taken as an insult. The desire by liberals to avoid being flanked on the Left is strong. Of course, being “more left” is not necessarily better, much less a sign of virtue. There have always been virtuous liberals and low-down radicals.

From my own policy standpoint, I would assert that the radical or progressive option is not intrinsically preferable to the neoliberal: we need to get down to cases. Here are some leading examples of the dwindling currency of neoliberal thinking.”
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on September 6, 2019


Max's take is certainly less aggressive, which I appreciate. And "we need to get down to cases" is a choir of angels to my ears.

But let's be real. Look at the search results for "neoliberal" on Jacobin. The label is "often taken as an insult" because it is often an insult. The Season... podcast is half jokes about how awful neoliberalism, neoliberals, and liberals are.
posted by factory123 at 10:57 AM on September 6, 2019




ob Philip Mirowski interview, because he's a historian of Economics and has a bunch of useful things to say about where Neoliberalism is situated in the intellectual landscape.

"The labels Americans use are incredibly confused..."
posted by sneebler at 12:15 PM on September 6, 2019


FWIW I have always understood neoliberalism to be the ideology that says we can fix laissez faire with taxes and transfers and that therefore most resource allocation should take place in a relatively unregulated market-like setting, and then we can fix the resulting power inequalities and corresponding instability by taxing those who have gained more from market exchange and transferring it to those who have lost out.

The problem is that those who have gained from the intermediate step can easily ensure that they evade most of the tax which leaves little to be transferred. Usually this is done by simply taking control of the legislature so that they can control tax policy directly, but in some places one must resort to cruder forms of corruption.

Some of the people who have advocated for policies shaped like the above did so in good faith that this would deliver the expected benefits, and many of those have learned from their error and switched to advocating for a roughly centrally planned economy.

Some of the people who have advocated for those policies did so in bad faith with the expectation that they would gain in the markets and evade any taxes.
posted by PMdixon at 12:25 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


It isn't about laissez-faire economics - Obamacare is anything but laissez-faire, but Jacobin and Season explicitly call that neoliberal. Anything that isn't socialism is neoliberal to these folks, and the word is said while spitting on the ground.

Neoliberalism covers lots of things, but one of the core tenants is a faith in markets and capitalism in solving massive social problems. Obamacare is deeply neoliberal.

And so you get absurd results such as saying Ronald Reagan, whose economics were white supremacy, is basically the same as Barack Obama.

This distinction about rhetoric really isn't as damning as you think, especially considering Obama's own material record of how his administration's policies destroyed black wealth.
posted by Ouverture at 1:13 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


No it was not, but even it was, we have added regulations since and the market is even worse in most areas for most people.
Emphasis mine. The first part is a blatantly counterfactual assertion for definitions of 'we' that include the English-speaking parts of the world, and 'the market is even worse in most areas for most people' betrays a . . . borderline nonsensical definition of 'market.'

can't we just say laissez-faire economics?
No. There are a number of substantive distinctions that led to a new term.

This distinction about rhetoric really isn't as damning as you think
It isn't remotely damning - there is no contradiction from the economic theory side. Just because he wasn't a social conservative doesn't mean many of Obama's domestic economic policies weren't on a continuum with Reagan's.

Anyone interested in a more rigorous Marxian discussion of the subject should probably read David Harvey's concise monograph. Or just watch Crises of Capitalism.

"[T]he doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action" is a pretty good summation of how the term is used by people who are using the term in a way that actually means something (which doesn't really seem to include the Jacobin). "Public risk, private profit" is even more concise.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:24 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


"there is no contradiction from the economic theory side". Right, from a certain point of view, there's no difference between Reagan and Obama. From certain point of view, there's no difference between Clinton and Trump. And from a certain point of view, there's no difference between Gore and Bush.

White supremacy, patriarchy, concentration camps, the impending apocalypse of global warming -- those things aren't really relevant to a certain point of view.
posted by factory123 at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


White supremacy, patriarchy, concentration camps, the impending apocalypse of global warming -- those things aren't really relevant to a certain point of view.

I think I know where you're trying to go with this, but the sad irony is that Obama's syncretism of wokeness and neoliberalism benefited wealthy white men more than anyone else.

Moreover, Obama helped build the deportation and concentration camp systems that Trump has taken to the next level and he also did nothing meaningful about fighting climate change.

From the certain point of view of the millions of near-future climate refugees in Bangladesh, soaring rhetoric and gentle reforms have never made a difference.
posted by Ouverture at 4:16 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


20 years ago, there was a presidential candidate who was singularly focused on fighting climate change, but he wasn't a socialist, and so 97,000 Floridians decided that he was no different from George Bush. We lost 20 years of addressing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. Imagine having those 20 years back. How many lives will be lost because of that certain point of view?

It's a blindness - the only thing that matters is smashing capitalism, because that's going solve everything, with the attendant implication that those other things aren't really problems, anyway. Barack Obama? Eh, he's woke, so what? I think this point of view has very valuable things to say about class and is a tremendous tool for understanding the world, but it's actually not that straightforward to see how you get from worker control of the means of production to fighting climate change or addressing racism or sexism.
posted by factory123 at 5:00 PM on September 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Noting that both mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats push market-based programs that can be broadly described as "neoliberal" is not at all the same thing as claiming that their policies are indistinguishable or that it doesn't matter which are in power.
posted by contraption at 5:24 PM on September 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


What contraption said.

from a certain point of view, there's no difference between Reagan and Obama.
I didn't write that there was no difference, I wrote that their economic policies were on a continuum, and in fact specifically mentioned the difference in their social policies.

Part of the issue seems to be the sloppy and ambiguous 21st century usage of the word 'liberal' in US political discourse. Neoliberalism as originally conceived specifically refers to economic policy. Using it for other things isn't substantively much different from calling people 'globalists.'

Obama wasn't a social conservative and isn't even a full-on market fetishist. But shit, his admin continued to humor and appoint the bankers and the banking class (I don't know a better term for people like Geithner), many of whom pretty much exemplify the neoliberal economic mindset. The advisers were chosen from the same think tanks and agencies (IMF and Council on Foreign Relations, e.g.) that basically created neoliberalism.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:31 PM on September 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


20 years ago, there was a presidential candidate who was singularly focused on fighting climate change, but he wasn't a socialist, and so 97,000 Floridians decided that he was no different from George Bush

I mean this sincerely. Do you think the 2001 election, with all the GOP voter suppression and conservative Supreme court meddling and Brooks Brothers Riots was legitimate? And do you think the cause was cause a handful of people in Florida thought Gore ..wasn’t leftist enough? And even if that was true, how does that matter now, when a lot of people who were toddlers when that happened can vote? Like, I’m angry Bush Sr. abandoned his quasi-environmental and pro-abortion moderate Republican stance in order to get Reagan’s Veep nomination (picked so he’d assure the moderate and business voters Reagan wasn’t an unhinged religious weirdo) but that does not actually matter anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 6:47 PM on September 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


I have no clue whether it was legitimate. I think it's pretty inarguable that Nader's campaign is, at the very least, a "but for" cause of Bush's election. If that's too far in the past, then I think it's also pretty clear that similar leftist thought caused severe damage to Hillary in 2016.

There's a similar dynamic going on now on Twitter, where there's a debate as to whether Elizabeth Warren is left enough or really too neoliberal to support. Everybody else? Fuck em. Because four more years of our current situation is, from a certain point of view, really no worse than Joe Biden.

I think the "there's no difference" argument is basically poison. It doesn't get asses into the voting booth to pull the lever for the big D. It's much better at making snarky Twitter accounts and discord servers and podcasts about how much liberals suck. And if all elections are illegitimate, well, why bother voting?

I mean, you hear it in that podcast you linked -- the only-half-joking hope that a socialist revolution will save us from the tyranny of capitalism. If your mind is preoccupied with fantasies about socialist revolution, why bother doing something as dismally real as supporting a candidate who has to win popular support in a world which has surprisingly few Marxians?
posted by factory123 at 7:54 PM on September 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


If you are serious about climate change causing apocalyptic damage (and agree with the scientific consensus that we need absolutely massive changes to many aspects of our society), how exactly do you imagine anyone wedded to neoliberal ideology and the wisdom of the markets fighting it?

Do you really think leftists are all white men? Is that the "certain point of view" you keep talking about?
posted by Ouverture at 3:57 AM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


In another thread I mentioned that Bernie and Warren supporters should have a natural affinity, because their policy plans are pretty similar. But then it came up that Warren labels herself a capitalist, which for many Bernie supporters is like labeling oneself a racist. Whatever the merits of the argument, we need to start building bridges together. I worry about all the people that will not work together towards shared goals because of labels.
posted by xammerboy at 9:18 AM on September 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


In another thread I mentioned that Bernie and Warren supporters should have a natural affinity, because their policy plans are pretty similar. But then it came up that Warren labels herself a capitalist, which for many Bernie supporters is like labeling oneself a racist. Whatever the merits of the argument, we need to start building bridges together. I worry about all the people that will not work together towards shared goals because of labels.

I can't speak for all Bernie supporters but I'll still vote for Warren if she wins the primary. I'll fight like hell for her campaign against Trump.

But it also means, among a lot of other devastating things, I have to accept that climate change is not going to be addressed in the foreseeable future because there is no way for capitalism, even at its most reformed and restrained, to effectively fight apocalyptic hyperobjects.

Labels are incredibly important, especially when it comes to how administrations react to resistance.
posted by Ouverture at 5:46 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


And if it's Biden?
posted by factory123 at 6:08 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think the "there's no difference" argument is basically poison.
It ain't great, but you are the only one who's making it here. It is a reductio ad absurdum of a much more complex argument.

I'd point out that in relitigating past elections, you can't have it both ways - it takes redefining basic terms to argue that "leftist" umbrage was simultaneously responsible for H. Clinton and Gore losing their elections, and yet there are "surprisingly few Marxians." This is pretty similar to how Fox News frames it, incidentally: the "left," which is now anyone to the left of Reagan, is simultaneously unpopular and enormously influential.

What really lost both those elections, along with our bizarre electoral model, was a whole bunch of assholes voting for the obvious asshole, and a whole bunch of other people not showing up (or not being allowed to show up). I (backed by a majority of the polls) find it vanishingly unlikely that more than a handful of the people who didn't vote in either election were angry "leftists," but at any rate, if we're going to blame people for these presidents, can we at least blame the fuckwits who voted for them?

But to the topic at hand, it seems the term neoliberal has now joined 'leftist,' 'fascist,' and 'market' in the pantheon of words that have been thrown around enough rhetorically to essentially lose semantic significance.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:42 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


FWIW I can't fucking stand Bernie despite mostly agreeing with his politics, I find Warren identifying herself as a capitalist frustrating but not a deal-breaker, and despite being an actual card-carrying leftist I'll be holding my nose and voting 'D' again in 2020, regardless of which milquetoast candidate rises to the top of this boring bunch, because every single one of them (including lame centrist racist grandpa Biden) is still better than Trump or any other candidate the GOP has run in the last 50 years.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:01 AM on September 8, 2019


I don't think it's inconsistent - enough folks to act as a spoiler (97,000 FL Nader voters, election decided by 500 votes) or to depress voting by acting as anti-Dem propagandists ("actually, Obama was bad for black voters"). There just aren't enough to win elections.

a whole bunch of assholes voting for the obvious asshole

This gets to the heart of my point - let's all fight the real assholes!
posted by factory123 at 12:37 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


How many registered Democrats voted for Bush in Florida in 2000?
posted by MrBadExample at 2:34 PM on September 8, 2019


« Older "Learn. Fight. Win."   |   Forces of Chaos Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments