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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Neo or not neo?

Trying to decide if you are liberal or neo-liberal? Here is a handy guide, complete with history.
What the hell is a neo-liberal?

It's a term that the Left uses to describe liberalism itself. Here is a secret that many Lefties don't know. Liberalism means private property, individual rights, free markets and limited government. It never meant socialism. Socialists were opponents of liberalism. But liberalism created the first popular movement of the working classes and the workers were the socialists target.
Typical socialists, why invent your own brand when you can steal someone elses?
The neo-liberal of Clark's derision is the liberal of history. But the Left says that the label "neo" is meant to show this is some sort of new liberalism. Odd since the new liberalism they deride is the old liberalism that they hated. They are, in the real sense of the word, the "neo-liberals". They are the ones who are trying to turn the word into it's opposite meaning. And it irks them when someone refuses to surrender the word to them.
So, neo-liberals are original liberals and socialists who call themselves liberals are... thieves. Rather fitting.
· Linked Article

Posted by Chefen | 8/25/2005 10:45:00 pm


Blogger Ashley Clarkson said...

Well, I would quibble with that definition a bit. Neoliberals (like neoconservatives) are reactionary - that is, they seek to move away from "big government" and its associated roles and behaviour to a smaller state. Whereas a classical liberal might base their philosophy more on Adam Smith and other liberal thinkers from the 18th & 19th Centuries, neoliberals take some of their economic philosophy from the likes of Milton Friedman and Hayek.

Personally, I identify with the neoliberal ideology for my economic beliefs - I'm quite influenced by Friedman and Chicago School Economics, although I acknowledge that markets can and do fail (socially I'm neoconservative). For me anyway, classical liberalism seems to be more of a socially based theory linked with laissez-faire economics, whereas neoliberalism is an economically based theory regarding the retrenchment of the state in favour of the markets with some social theory tacked on. In that way it makes it easier I guess to ditch the liberal social theory and attach neoconservative social theory instead.

It would be interesting to see what other neoliberals think the name promotes. It probably means something different to different people.

8/25/2005 11:31:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

wooooah there tiger (Ashley).

In Marx's usage, reactionary referred to those who argue in favour of present policies for no more reason than they are the present policies.

Of course Marx wanted nothing less than complete revolution, so to him pretty much everyone was a reactionary.

In fact after browsing through the Commie Manifesto Chapter 3, it looks like he invented the term reactionary simply to negatively label anyone who stood against revolution. Obviously to argue in favour of a Revolution of the Proletariat it helps to brand your opponents as stuck in the old days (even then the Marxists were obsessed with propaganda/marketing - no wonder they get so upset with the Coca Colas and McDonalds).

Creating and entering such a term into popular language would have been very powerful propaganda tool. Imagine the young University intellectuals going around asking everyone if they were a reactionary. Sort of like calling someone an old fuddy duddy.

Commie Manifesto, Ch3.:

"For the rest, so little do they conceal the reactionary character of their criticism that their chief accusation against the bourgeois amounts to this, that under the bourgeois régime a class is being developed which is destined to cut up root and branch the old order of society.

What they upbraid the bourgeoisie with is not so much that it creates a proletariat as that it creates a revolutionary proletariat."


8/26/2005 01:01:00 am  
Blogger Psycho Milt said...

I don't think even modern socialists would call themselves "liberals". They prefer the term "socialist"!

Clark-style liberals aren't thieves, they have liberal attitudes to things like sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. They just aren't economic liberals. And they aren't entirely to blame for the terminology - look at the way US conservatives use the word liberal as an insulting term for exactly the kind of attitudes that Clark-style liberals have.

8/26/2005 01:19:00 am  
Blogger Jordan said...

As a short definition, I would regard "neo-liberals" as people who have a hazy and incomplete knowledge of Smith's "Wealth of Nations", a working knowledge of Barro's "Macroeconomics", and who know nothing of Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments".

Social democrats are the true liberals in the Smith tradition, as modified in economics by Keynes and his successors to reflect the modern world.

8/26/2005 02:13:00 am  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

How hilarious that a man from the ethically-challenged Labour Party dares to reference Smiths book as if he understands what it means.

Or should that read "outrageous".

8/26/2005 05:00:00 am  
Blogger Chefen said...

Ah Jordan, funny how you go and prove the point of the original article.

8/26/2005 06:45:00 am  
Blogger Ashley Clarkson said...

AL - well that is a nice definition of reactionary from the revolutionary socialist cloud cuckoo land, but back in the real world...

Proactive - before the fact (e.g. working towards solving a problem before it arises, working on stopping big government before it arises).
Reactive - during/after the fact (e.g. solving a problem once it arises, stopping big government by reversing the trend).

Therefore in seeking to reverse big government neoliberals are reactive. Just because Marx used the term to refer to Conservatives (or rather, the bourgeoisie probably if I recall correctly) who would be reacting to the "inevitable" proletariat revolution (it's so imminent that cultural marxists invented Media Studies to find out why people were more concerned with Gucci than their "social class"), that does not mean that it cannot be employed in another manner. It's just that you seem to have developed a boogey man attitude towards the term.

As for Jordan's interesting definition of liberal and neoliberal...have to say that was clouded more by personal and ideological distaste - it reads like somebody arguing that Social Democrats are the new Communists (does it not comrade?). I believe that some of what Jordan was claiming about "true liberals" is demarcated as "modern liberal" (as opposed to classical). It just goes to show that everybody wants to own a piece of liberalism.

8/26/2005 11:06:00 am  
Anonymous Caskman said...

Ashley - just a couple of points

"Personally, I identify with the neoliberal ideology for my economic beliefs - I'm quite influenced by Friedman and Chicago School Economics, although I acknowledge that markets can and do fail (socially I'm neoconservative)."

This is a contentious area and the truth or otherwise of 'market failure' seems to depend quite crucially upon the definition of 'failure'. If it is defined to be 'that which the govt/state would not do (or would not allow to happen)' then pretty much anything becomes fair game for failure since the failure can be argued on political terms rather than economic. If it is defined to be something along the lines of not providing some service that an individual or group wanted (but perhaps hadn't stumped up enough cash to make it worthwhile to produce) then that doesn't seem like a failure of the market but rather of someones ability to pay for something they wanted. I once heard the BBC described as an 'essential' public service as it corrected an obvious 'market failure'. The case in point was Radio 3 supplying a programme of classical music and culture that was unavailable (and likely to remain so) on the free market. Radio 3 has a small audience who I'm sure are delighted with the high-brow quality of their station rather than the 'pap' thrown out by commercial enterprises. But I'm also fairly sure that if that small audience were prepared to stump up enough cash an entrepreneur would give them exactly what they wanted. In reality what we have is the preferences of a group (who are otherwise unwilling to pay for those preferences) being subsidised by those who have no interested in those preferences. In other words the 'market failure' corrected by the BBC is the market failure of being unable to get someone else to pay for one's own listening preferences.

"For me anyway, classical liberalism seems to be more of a socially based theory linked with laissez-faire economics, whereas neoliberalism is an economically based theory regarding the retrenchment of the state in favour of the markets with some social theory tacked on."
I'm not quite sure what the difference is that you're talking about here. Chicago School is generally free market oriented. Clearly one of the basic tenets of free market economics is that intervention by govt is a 'bad thing' as the market is then no longer 'free'. So I'm not I understand how you can support the basic concepts of Classical Liberalism without also wanting a decrease in the size and power of the state given that the state is likely to be the biggest aggressor against liberalism. Given that classical liberalisms recognises both individual and economic freedom is there really much value in the distinction you make?

8/26/2005 12:50:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

A side issue to the points you raised - if a 24 hour (state funded) classical music radio program was replaced by a few 2 hour time slots on standard (state funded) radio, then access would be maintained at a greatly reduced cost.

Those very interested in classical music would likely pursue a good CD collection, and/or borrow from the library.

Thus, a "market failure" on non-supply of music by a radio station might be addressed in another area of the market (with more sales to CD shops, good quality stereo and greater use of the public library resources).

Socialists tend to paint State funded solutions in an "all or nothing" approach. "Nothing" is hardly ever the case.

To continue the theme - cancelling a Polynesian radio station in Auckland is saving 20 million dollars of tax payer money. Five million of that could be diverted into community organisations. Hearing Polynesian music might then require the person to front up to their local community groups, and gain extra benefit from the intercourse, rather than being closeted away.

8/26/2005 01:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Caskman said...


Sorry this is all a little off-topic for the original post - I blame Ashley ;-)

a "market failure" on non-supply of music by a radio station might be addressed in another area of the market"

Agreed - in many cases purported 'market failure' is simply that the alternative solution as preferred by the market is simply not to the taste of the bureaucrat or lobbyist.

Radio 3 it supplies an eclectic mix of more 'cultural' fare which quite conceivably might not be provided in exactly that way by the market without sufficient inducement to do so. If one is so inclined then yes it produces a product that the market has not yet produced (although I don't believe that is justification for it's funding). However the BBC popular/rock music station Radio 1 competes in perhaps the most crowded area of commercial broadcasting enterprise (and since the degree of commercial specialisation in this genre is far more advanced it could be argued that Radio 1 provides an inferior service). Whatever the rationale for public service broadcasing (re market failure) I'm not sure how Radio 1 (and Radio 2) fits into that.

Additionally there is the argument that state provision of service crowds out the market alternatives - why should the market produce something as specialised as Radio 3 when a) nobody is willing to pay for it and (b) the state already provides it for 'free'. Can the state 'cause' the very situation it chooses to describe as market failure?

8/26/2005 01:41:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Caskman, I'm not sure how many people read the threads, so I'm sure we can keep off topic for a while, before any-one notices...

So, given I agree with your outline, I'll keep the meander by looking at your last point:

"Can the state 'cause' the very situation it chooses to describe as market failure?"

Yes, I think so. Having argued with a lefty a while ago who wanted the State to completely take-over ALL charities, your point also applies!

And this post discusses it further:
Big Governments Discourage Private Charities

8/26/2005 01:54:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

..just thought it was interesting in the context you raise. Especially with Labour so determined to convince the public that taxes must continue to rise to continue the expansion of public services (and the converse - you lower taxes and public services must "therefore" be removed.

They do not like to consider the areas where tax dollar input might be higher than a commercial alternative.

Your last point underscores the damage that can be done by growing the government.

8/26/2005 01:58:00 pm  
Blogger Ashley Clarkson said...

Caskman - I pass the blame right back to you. :-p

What I mean with regards to neoliberalism and classical liberalism (and hopefully this doesn't muddy the waters further) is that while classical liberalism approaches the economy from a social viewpoint - that is, free markets are good because they reinforce basic theories on private property, personal freedoms etc. - neoliberalism started with the assumption that the state shouldn't be interfering in the economy because it was an inefficient allocator of resources, and that free markets were the solution to the problems being faced. With freer markets comes private property, the need for people to be able to enter freely into contracts etc. Some (such as myself) apply on top of this a neoconservative social framework which says that though the state shouldn't be interfering in the economy, it should be preserving a functioning society based on strong morals and the family.

As to the question of market failure - well yes, this is a contentious issue. I don't favour the state owning classical radio stations (as nice a station as it is). Personally I think that if 3 Christian radio stations can run in this country aimed at different target groups, funded by "member" contributions and some advertising, then a similar solution could be found for ConcertFM. But here are things I don't want left solely to the state - essential health services (that is, the matter of life and death stuff, not elective surgery - that could be competed on between private and public hospitals using some sort of bidding system...but then the government would probably have to foot the bill for under a certain level of income), conservation (I'm not at all amused by the idea of farming kakapo - the private sector equivalent of conservation is something like a wildlife sanctuary, once the population is out of the terminal area. I'd like to see more wildlife sanctuaries with entry fees - perhaps providing a 2-3 day tramping experience with huts as the attraction), housing and food (ie: there should be a hand-up benefit system so that people don't starve, and some means of subsidising those who can't afford market rents). I also think that the state should be the sole provider of police and defence forces, but I think that is a given even for classical liberals and libertarians, right? I also realise that some of the functions mentioned above could be provided by charities, but that needs to be phased in and it should be watched over just in case funds start drying up (as could happen).

I suppose that makes everything clear as mud. Oh well, I need to get back to my history essay.

8/26/2005 02:51:00 pm  

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