Politics got weird because neoliberalism failed to deliver

This paper might be interesting. If not, well, breadcrumbs for me.
The Political Movement that Dared not Speak its own Name: The Neoliberal Thought Collective Under Erasure

The Neoliberal Thought Collective was never parochial; it was transnational from its very inception. Amazon lists no Cliff’s Notes entitled “Neoliberalism for Dummies.” This is a characteristic error of those who approach study of Neoliberalism from the Left: they find the doctrine so repulsive, and so twisted, that they want to get their reading done and dusted as quickly and painlessly as possible. You will never understand the Neoliberal Thought Collective that way. While we can locate its origins in 1947, it has undergone much revision since then, and is still a hydra-headed Gorgon to this very day.

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I’m referring to the fact that you can pretend, or even believe, there’s some kind of equivalency between right and left.

There may well be some legitimately worthwhile concepts held dear by the right, but they’re thoroughly swamped by a heinous litany of unconscionable retrograde bastardry that serves to drag the Overton window to the right.

Centrism is piss-ant bullshit. Sitting on the fence between decency and downright evil doesn’t get a pass from me.

Or maybe there’s some way you can ethically justify something resembling right-wing ideology?

LOL. Wait, I’ll put some popcorn on.


well, maybe we’re talking past each other. or, maybe the problem is with the definition of up. if the middle class is losing wealth – even those who are moving upward within the middle class – then that’s not “up” in any sort of absolute sense at all.

that same point is made is that very same study i quoted. if you need, you can look back to the second image i posted, which is titled: “median incomes of the middle class and other tiers fell.”

there are more direct reasons than trade liberalization we can use to explain decreases in global poverty. advances in medicine and technology, for instance.

i really think “free trade” is a great term. it’s a term brought to us by those who were pushing the policies the op cited. it’s great because it suggests the market can and should be both “unfettered” and “without cost”. what that hides – in fact – is that the true conversation should always be: how do we regulate this damn beast capitalism. capitalism only functions because of a solid bedrock of laws and regulations. we get – in theory – to chose what those are, and how to shape its effects.

if we can find common ground, perhaps it would be that its specific policies and laws which really matter. sometimes they will be good, and sometimes they will be bad. it’s always been a mixed bag, and it always will.

to bring it on back – the overall point of the op was in saying those policies have been failing in the west. failing by a) both shrinking and destabilizing the middle class. and, in turn, that has been causing b) politics to become topsy-turvy. (a) is well agreed upon – though some could argue the cause. (b) is most certainly true. are they linked? i think it’s definitely a part of the story, but there are a lot of other factors as well.

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It is the explicit reason that many labor-intensive jobs like manufacturing are lost. I mean, why did those people at the Carrier plant lose their jobs? I can tell you my own company doesn’t hire Americans to do our basic data-processing (India, mostly). I don’t imagine the experience of people at the Carrier plant or at jobs like my own is aberrant.

That interview doesn’t actually show what you claim it shows. The main thing that interview DOES talk about is that most economists don’t think that tariffs are good ideas (except for a small minority who seem to think it’s a good idea for developing nations). That’s not offering an alternative explanation for why people are losing jobs, it’s just claiming that tariffs might not be a great solution for retaining them.

I think it’s more like blaming police violence on racial bias or police militarization - very true, but not exactly a policy suggestion.

I started a thread once on these forums to ask anyone to point me to evidence, because I’ve never seen any. I know that free trade happened and that improvement of the lives of people happened, I have never seen any evidence to suggest that the one was caused by the other. I’d be very interested in seeing the evidence.

Yeah, this is exactly what confuses me about the trade issue. How do you separate out increased technology? I think trade between different people has done wonders for human development. My very amateur reading of history is that isolate themselves don’t advance the way that societies that connect do.

But 2000 years ago in order for Romans and Egyptians to share ideas with one another, someone needed to get on a boat, and someone needed a reason to built that boat and crew that boat. In today’s world, without trade deals, the third world would still be getting our ideas, they just wouldn’t have to obey our patent laws. So I can come up with a theoretical construct that explains why contemporary trade deals are holding back the developing world just as easily and an economist can come up with a theoretical construct to say they are helping. To find out which model is better we’d need real data that was capable of telling the difference. I don’t know what data sources we have that could actually allow the two to be distinguished.

What I’d like is for nations to their money where their mouth is on free trade. Are tariff’s a bad idea? Then get rid of them. Unilaterally, without giving up a bunch of your sovereignty to multinational corporations in the process.


I mean, it’d be nice, but cronyism is cronyism for a reason, and what is better in the abstract for “the nation” might not be better in the details for individuals…who vote…

I think the only equivalency is what people bring to it with their own personalities. People devoted to the right will tell you that Hitler was really on the left and people who are devoted to the left will tell you that Stalin was really on the right.

I’m not sure what you mean by “right-wing ideology.” I don’t believe that the concept of free trade belongs to the right, anymore than I believe that the concept of, say, public schooling belongs to the left.

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There are informative links in these pieces. From what I’ve read, the consensus among economists on the demonstrable benefits of free trade was similar to the consensus among climatologists on the existence of anthropogenic climate change. But it’s changing now in that more economists are digging deeper to find out why outcomes are as complex as they are (not universally positive).


I don’t doubt those things play a major role, but they don’t happen unless local economies grow. And I’m less interested in how we explain it than I am in how economists explain it.

I certainly can’t disagree with this. And I have no doubt you and I would agree more than not if we were discussing this in person.

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Yes, I agree.

Certainly, we can agree that people lose their jobs all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with free trade between countries. Businesses fail or shrink all the time for a variety of complex reasons. It seems our biggest challenge is to provide a safety net for people who lose their jobs, so that economic ruin is less frequently just around the corner.

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Sales taxes take paltry amounts of money from everyone, spreading the load, but increase the suffering of the poorest and least able to contribute, preventing them from becoming more productive and happy.

Income taxes rake in money from those who would have been most likely to use it for the benefit of society if they’d been allowed to keep it, and punish people for working.

Asset taxes bleed off money from the wealthy and decrease the power of free-riding parasitic aristocracies based on inherited wealth.

Inheritance, gift and estate taxes help prevent the formation of such free-riding parasitic aristocracies.

Which of the groups named has the most funds and time to lobby for tax law revisions? There’s tax reality. The people building and maintaining the human world are “always the last when the cream is shared out - for the worker is working when the fat cat’s about.”

I am always amused by the rhetoric of the corporate-owned major parties on taxation… it’s so unworldly it’s like watching My Little Pony on acid.

Democrats: We’ll mostly only tax rich people who can (and do) buy and sell us like bars of soap! They’ll totally let us do that, so vote for us! Yay!

Republicans: We’ll Make America Great by cutting taxes on everybody, except the poor who deserve “skin in the game”! Funding a massive and invasive government by taxing people without money will totally work, so vote for us! Yay!


Yeah, but that’s sort of the problem with economics. For years we’ve been told that there’s a concensus on free trade and now that people are looking at data they are finding that it doesn’t work out the way they thought. Climatologists have been looking at data the entire time, not working on models that are built from models.

From the article you link saying that trade is a no-brianer:

The economic argument for free trade dates back to Adam Smith, the 18th-century author of “The Wealth of Nations” and the grandfather of modern economics. Smith recognized that the case for trading with other nations was no different from the case for trading with other individuals within a society.

That’s the problem, the argument dates back to Adam Smith - a guy who was just pointing out his own personal observations about other people. A person who didn’t give lectures because he thought if people got his ideas for free they would never buy his books - i.e., he had literally no idea how human beings behaved whatsoever.

Economics is founded on absolutely broken models of human behaviour. Everything from assuming self interest to the law of supply and demand just plain don’t work in reality.

I want hard facts showing that trade has been of benefit before I believe it. But I’m not sure how those could even be generated. We don’t have thousands of worlds to run experiments on, and the number of competing factors seems too high.


Sure, but they’re not saying it doesn’t work at all. They’re saying the evidence for the benefits of trade is still abundant, but that they need to see where the risks are occurring and how to mitigate them.

Evolutionists and climate scientists are constantly disagreeing and revising their theories, but that doesn’t mean they disagree about the basic facts revealed by the evidence.

I don’t know of a single economics teacher or scholar who would say that Adam Smith “had literally no idea how human beings behaved whatsoever.” That doesn’t mean they’re not out there, but Adam Smith (who, btw, advocated for a variety of public works, schools, etc.), despite some disagreements with his larger theories, has a much higher level of esteem in his field, than, say, Freud.

Charles Darwin was criticized for similar reasons, he was just one man making personal observations. But it didn’t matter, because he was right. I think most economists think Smith was right more than he was wrong.

Like quantum physics and cosmology (two more disciplines in which opinions and theories are constantly revised, despite general agreement on the basics), I probably wouldn’t understand the hard facts if they were handed to me. That’s why I rely on consensus from the experts.

That said, I think economics is more like sociology and psychology, in that hard data is much more difficult to obtain and much more open to subjective interpretation. My position is that I believe there is more evidence for the idea that free trade is a net positive. I am, however, nowhere near as certain of that as many here are of the opposing view.

What I feel much more certain about is that the question is still an open one, and that people who disagree about it aren’t liars or villains.

So you agree with the message that free trade means lost jobs.

I’d certainly support the idea that it’s not the whole story, but it is a true thing to say and can serve as a starting point for asking what one does about that fact.

And with where the Overton Window is right now, that’s an important message to harp on. Most of the world’s power-brokers aren’t on board with that idea in any functional way - they are still entwined with free markets as magical panaceas that inevitably would lead to great results for everyone if only governments got out of the way. Modern economics is forged in this crucible, and is only very slowly becoming willing to question it.

I’d agree with that goal, but remember the Overton Window - getting to that point is going to require getting people to first question their internalized Calvinism. That’s a tremendous task.

So the first step is in getting a lot of people to question the idea that free market capitalism is always the best solution.


Again, I want to understand what that evidence is. I am not going to take the word of economists who appear to be leading the world down a course of terrible decisions and then taking credit for the fact that things managed to go well despite them.

Whether or not Smith was right when he said that we get our bread from the self-interest of the baker is more of a question of psychology (or possibly of philosophy) than of economics, and I don’t really care if economists think he was right - that’s not their field of study.

Yeah, Freud was mostly talking out his ass, and we know that because psychologists have since conducted experiments to find things out. Economists, as best I can tell, have continued to construct models based on Smith’s flawed understanding.

The fact that economists don’t recognize that Smith was basically completely wrong about human behaviour and motivations is a very large part of why I don’t trust economists.

I think you are substantially better qualified than anyone else here to have a position on whether or not you believe economists. If you don’t think you would understand the evidence and so you don’t want to examine it yourself, that makes perfect sense (though I wouldn’t go comparing it to quantum physics). I asked what the evidence was (as I have in the past and as I will likely do again in the future) because I genuinely want to examine the evidence, which I would say is a little bit different than thinking that people who disagree with me are villains or liars.

I think Adam Smith is widely misrepresented and selectively quoted, and mostly misunderstood by economists, who’ve typically only read unrepresentative quotes and excerpts when I press them about it.

Mind you, I haven’t read all the way through Wealth of Nations in at least twenty years myself, so I could be wrong. But every time I hear some economist expounding on Homo Economicus I think to myself, geez, that’s the opposite of what I got out of reading Smith. My reading was that he recognized the irrationality of man and the power of social connection, and wanted to use the latter to constrain the former by building economic systems that made Doing The Right Thing™ both the easiest and the most rewarded activity.


(I know that I’m late…)


Unless you are willing to re-examine these statements in light of alternative evidence, you have no hope of approaching the truth.

so what evidence is there that I’m wrong. You don’t present any.

Look at your national insurance [in the UK] or social security payments in the US. That’s real wealth being transferred to the state.

They owe you as a consequence and you own no wealth in exchange for what you’ve given up.

what i own as a consequence of the money i give to the state is a better, more humane society which cares for its citizens/participants/residents. i’m thinking here of well-funded welfare states with both depth and breadth like the scandinavian model. even more poorly funded systems with less breadth such as the u.s social security provide a safety net greatly reducing the rate of abject poverty among the elderly and the disabled.

many people here have provided you with both thoughts and links providing you with alternative evidence amounting to a thorough refutation of your position. at this point you are either being completely disingenuous and deliberately obtuse or you are deliberately trolling us by taking a controversial position to argue and are deliberately maintaining it to spur on the argument or you just really aren’t too bright.


Hah. It’s not like left and right wing are unfamiliar terms, is it? And although there’s a bit of room for debate at the edges here and there, anyone claiming the terms have no currency anymore is just being absurd.

Assuming we’re starting on the same page, that the whole point of a value system is to promote the flourishing of humanity and the biosphere, it’s a very tough case to make that the set of ideas and values typically characterised as right wing has a shred of efficacy compared to that of the left, given all the available evidence.

‘Conservative’ = opposed to evolution.