Politics got weird because neoliberalism failed to deliver

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/17/politics-got-weird-because-neo.html


It really is that simple. And what’s been so hard for so many to see is that “the left” as they know it has really become just another part of the right.


Unfortunately, it’s a massively popular pitch that has controlled the vote for both popular parties in the country since Reagan. It’s literally the same electoral college votes being drawn to it like moths to a flame.


Arguably, it is the politics of the 50s and 60s that were weird, at least in the sense of being different than the usual. There was a general recognition at that time BY THE ELITES THEMSELVES that too great a concentration of wealth and power leads to populist unrest and thence to the sorts of unstable populist revolt that plunged Europe into chaos and war. There was a recognition that we are all in the same boat, and we need to keep it afloat and off of the rocks, even if that means sharing some of your bread with the oarsmen.

But of course, as time passed and memories of the great depression and the war that it engendered faded, the elites forgot this lesson. So we started to see a greater emphasis by the wealthy on lowering taxes and weakening the safety net. Add to that the return of a rebuilt Europe and Japan to the world economy and we have seen the long slow relative decline of the middle class in the US.

What we have now are two political parties which differ mostly on social issues and not in their allegiance to money and those that have it. The difference in economic planning between the two is relatively small, unlike the 50s when the main difference between the parties was on economics, and both parties were a combination of those with liberal and conservative social values. The fact that both parties have at least acquiesced to the ever greater concentration of wealth led to revolts by economic populist voters in BOTH parties. Neither party has really done much to help the economy as it is felt by the majority of Americans.


These core promises all turned out to be lies. It’s that simple. For most of the population, the last 40-odd years were either an experience of stagnation, or an experience of decline.

I think it’s reasonable to be skeptical of an argument which implies that anything about economics is simple, and that those who disagree on economic issues are liars. Issues of free trade and globalization aren’t like evolution and climate change. There isn’t a consensus as to what works and what doesn’t among the people who study these things.

This is an article I find much more interesting, because, while it doesn’t condemn capitalism, it acknowledges the need for something more than capitalism. Also, the comments which are critical of the article are thoughtful, nuanced, and don’t imply that the author is some sort of villain for his opinions on the subject.


Neoliberal Capitalism has not failed us; we have failed neoliberal capitalism. Clearly, we must double down.


There are two errors in the article.

First, that neoliberalism is the problem.

Second that neoliberalism is any way a cure for the problem.

The problem is redistribution of wealth by governments.

Go and look at your pay check. Look how much money you pay governments for your old age. They have spent the lot. It’s all gone. You are now on the hook to pay those pensions. You’ve got no wealth.

Hence most people have correctly identified that wealth inequality is the problem. They have failed to identify the cause, welfare state’s redistribution the wealth, leaving no assets and massive debts.


Uh, bvllshit? Here in the US, we have a political system where turnout drops by 1/3rd every other cycle, something that has happened for at least 40 years. On top of that, the US system is designed around an 18th century concern about territorial integrity that gives a voice to the states themselves, which when combined with the industrial revolution, gives them no reason to keep non-land-holders around. The failure is in our constitution, which is a far more grave sort of failure, all your neoliberal bugaboos are a distraction.


Is this liberalism? I’ve always heard such statements from conservatives. :thinking:


In today’s world of privatized health-care, “accountability” movements in education, migration crackdowns, monopoly telecoms, and winner-take-all franchise capitalism, the west has become the land of long lines, form-filling, phone support queues, and malls that all sell the same things.

I get the point, but this seems like a reach. If I had to choose to live in the USSR or stay here in today’s totally imperfect USA, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here.


Not liberalism, neoliberalism. In case you were being serious:



I think the idea’s sort of right, but in pinning neoliberalism, it misses the bigger picture. As time’s gone by, the US has had a more and more technologically sophisticated economy with more and more people without an education were left behind and had little to lose. At this point if all you’ve got is a HS diploma you’ve got few prospects, and whatever field you get into, there’s a good chance your job’s temporary and you’re not going to do ass well as your parents/grandparents with the same level of education. Neoliberalism’s embrace of globalization played into that, but automation, changes in technology, and other things play into the issue as much as neoliberalism. This article on Hunter S Thompson’s prediction of the future hit the nail on the head:


Privatization is not a victimless crime


But isn’t one of the nasty planks of neoliberal ideology the belief and practice that the economic benefits of technological sophistication should primarily funnel upward, instead of more equitably?

I don’t think it’s a good idea to speak of technological sophistication as if it “naturally” leads to steadily declining standards of living for all but a few.


I would argue that education has become a bit of a “red queen race,” and because a higher percentage of people have college degrees, more jobs require them. 50 years ago the average person who managed a retail store would not have had a college degree, but these days it would be quite difficult to get that job without one.


Quite serious.

I try not to follow political labels. For example, I have no idea what specifically “neocon” means either, I just know I don’t like their ideas.

Thanks for the article. I found Wikipedia to be more helpful to a beginner. To me, it seems a better name would be “financial libertarianism.” Or possibly “Laissez-faire-Minded Rich People.”


Sounds very familiar.

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The reckoning was at hand in any case. The postwar economic anomaly in the West couldn’t last forever, and the neoliberal globalist consensus of the Western elites just hastened its end. The music stopped sometime between 2000 and 2008, depending on how one reckons things, and now a whole lot of people will be fighting for the few empty chairs left (and creating a lot of unfamiliar chaos for those lucky enough to have a seat).

Don’t forget climate change. It’s already driving conflicts and mass migration crises, and yet the U.S. is still dragging its heels (and will soon dig them in) because the neoliberal consensus has allowed no future place for coal miners with only a HS diploma who still must be pandered to politically.

Absolutely. Also, the quality and/or priorities of a lot of colleges don’t imply what some would assume to be an overall commensurate level of actual post-secondary education in the 32% of Americans holding a bachelor’s degree.


Yeah, in a lot of ways it’s just the same old bamboozle with a different name.


Oh, not this again. Puh-leaze.