What is neoliberalism?

[Read the post]


What is neoliberalism?

Conservatism with lipstick on?


The simplest explanation is the social policies of the left with the economic policies of the right.


…Intensive high-tech farming is how we save forests, by using genomics, high tech pesticides and other techniques to produce more food on fewer acres, leaving behind green spaces for the rest of the world (contrasted with low-tech-pesticide-intensive, land-intensive “organic” farming, which can’t feed the world at the current population, nor projected populations, and is wishful thinking wrapped up in unscientific nonsense). …

For those families encumbered by disproportionate health risks in places like the San Joaquin Valley in California, there are pressing, valid questions to consider about the proper scale of agriculture and how best to get from what passes for “high-tech” production and distribution to safe air, water, soil and edible food.


Any time someone starts talking about the planet’s “carrying capacity” I want to see their numbers.

The same applies to the arguments against austerity ecology. I have some sympathy but please be careful that you’re not doing just as much arm waving. And that your arguments aren’t just as much wishful thinking wrapped up in unscientific nonsense. If you think technological progress can save us then show your working. I want to see the numbers.

And especially explain how we can maintain a rising population of 80m pa, 1b every 12-14 years while simultaneously increasing GDP exponentially, cutting fossil fuel use to zero, coping with the pollution and the resource constraints and generating the fixed nitrogen fertiliser to power the industrial agriculture to feed all that. If you do the numbers and build the model, chances are you’ll end up roughly where the Club of Rome are now with the revised “Limits to Growth”. That’s the one that says if the resource constraints don’t get you, the pollution will with an overshoot, collapse and correction later this century.

IMHO. Techno-Cornucopianism is just as much of a lie as Austerity Ecology. By all means disagree and prove me wrong, but please do it with a reasoned logical argument with numbers.


It’s not even that. Neoliberlism found itself to be entirely comfortable with a wide range of social policies. It was imposed at gunpoint in Pinnochet’s Chile, with riot gear and moralistic conservatism in Thatcherite Britain, and with actual left leaning social policies in continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

All that it is is am assertion of 19th century market liberalism, and its deification of the market economy before all else. The only “Neo” bit of it was that it dropped and was opposed to all the social progressivism of earlier “new” or “social” liberals who argued for limited forms of social democracy.

I find it a useful reminder that it isn’t actually conservative, even though it is usually deployed by conservative politicians. It’s an ideology that calls for the radical reshaping of society, into a marketised dystopia.

Also, back on the main article I’m glad that Cory had time to flag up his disagreement with hair shirt environmentalism. That is the point where many in the green movement lapse into their own form of romantic conservatism, and get in the way of saving the world. It’s a critical failure of imagination (and a bit of technophobia) to say that we can’t make a sustainable world with a decent standard of living for all, so we’re going to have to get used to being cold and hungry. If you put that choice to people, the skies will burn before anyone would accept that they have to freeze in winter for the greater good.


Not really. Liberal in this case refers to classical liberalism, prior to the age of progressivism - free markets, with a globally interconnected economy, and little to no safety net provided by the state. It’s not liberal in the modern use of the term, but liberal to refer to a belief in free markets.

Or, I could have just said that I agree with @Purplecat! :wink:


And “free markets” ends up closer to an anti-democratic variety of socialism for rich kids.

Regulators Warn 5 Top Banks They Are Still Too Big to Fail

The nation’s top bank regulators have added an unexpected voice to the growing chorus of critics worried that the biggest American banks, nearly eight years after the financial crisis, are still too big to fail.

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said on Wednesday that five of the nation’s eight largest banks — including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America — did not have “credible” plans for how they would wind themselves down in a crisis without sowing panic.

That suggests that if there were another crisis today, the government would need to prop up the largest banks if it wanted to avoid financial chaos.


We will get a sustainable world, whether we like it or not. It’s open to debate though whether that’s a technological civilisation, where the energy comes from and how many of us there are. Because, “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”


The economic policies are the social policies in the end.


When I use the term “neoliberalism” in Internet forum discussions I’m finding that more and more of its proponents respond with some variation of a feigned “what does that even mean?” response. As Monbiot mentions, they really don’t like it being named, preferring that people simply accept it as the natural economic state of things after “the end of history.”


Not exactly. It’s mainly an economic philosophy, which can be implemented somewhat independently of social policies (as with the Third Way Democrats and New Labour) or alternately use them to its own ends (as we see with Republicans and Tories).


Yeah, basically. It’s what Nixon was talking about when he said he was a liberal.


Nah. That would be libertarians. Libertarians are not at all liberals. The basic concept of libertarians is preservation of personal freedom. That is accomplished by limiting government power and control. Capitalism is the ONLY economic system that allows personal freedom, and Democracy is the only political system that has a chance at preserving it; though democracy can easily become a “Fascism by majority” if the people use the ballot to force their preferences on others. To that end, they often side with more liberal social policies and more conservative economic ones. “Moderate conservatives” would be the classification. Basically, if someone doing something does not infringe directly with a more important right of others… then it should not only be permitted, but protected. The most extreme example I can think of at the moment would be making crack legal. You can’t (theoretically) outlaw crack just because people who do it often do stupid and illegal things, because someone might be able to do crack and NOT do stupid or illegal things and it’s not their fault other people are incapable. That would be the equivalent of making cars illegal because someone crashed into a street sign. This is the most extreme example I can show to describe the Libertarian principals.
Liberals however… brings to mind idiots from California who would outlaw smoking in bars (violates the right of bar owners to run their business as they please) and all the crazy crap California does, or what was that? New York that outlawed large soda for a bit? That is all “Liberal” crap that is completely opposite from “Libertarian” agendas. Liberals CRUSH personal freedom at the mention of a buzz word like “health” or “safety”. They HATE freedom. Those who would sacrifice freedom for safety will have neither.

I read more and more that the myth of the “free market” has been generally and long abandoned. Was I misinformed?


I’m getting pretty tired of the techno-cornucopian’s hand waving arguments and jeering at the de-growth austerity ecologists. IMHO, they’re both just as guilty of “wishful thinking wrapped up in unscientific nonsense” as each other.


I see neo-liberalism, boiled down completely to it’s essence, as the primacy of ‘the market’ over the needs of the people.

If it doesn’t hurt the money-makers or the corporations, then it’s okay. So, can result in socially more libertarian policies, or can approve of low-wage subsidizing, or war and money for oil or funding for science research to benefit companies. But as soon as laws impinge on the corporate class, be they owners or the corps themselves, then it’s a negative. So, no environmental protection with teeth, decisions about corporations as people à la Citizens United, less banking regulation, no untied foreign aid, privatization of health care, education, and social care, contracting out of pretty much all functions of government, etc. etc.

EDIT: clarity


The problem with modern economic theory is the notion of “growth”. “Growth” dictates the economy _must grow with some rate each year to remain healthy.

But that, as a matter of fact, maintains a constant state of exponential growth. We do know one thing about exponential growth, it’s not stable and maintaining the paradigm of growth means we will run out of planet some day.

That is, a healthy economy does not “grow”, it maintains a healthy balance with the rest of the world. And looking at living standards, what does this mean? Well, I can say this: In a country like mine (Denmark) or in the remains of, say, the American middle class, the standard of living is rather too high than too low. This does not necessarily entail some sort of Stalinism, maybe it just means people should stop focusing on material wealth and start counting the things that really matter. The general living standards in the Western world are adequate by far, what we need is to eradicate poverty; we could do that by clamping down on inequality, i.e. with the 1 percent’s money.

As for farming, “organic farming” is indeed not always scientifically based. The last several years I’ve been closely following permaculture, and I believe that is a scientifically and technologically sound path towards completely replacing industrial agriculture. As many people have indeed pointed out, a lot could be achieved by reducing the intake of meat.

So, all in all, if we want to solve the environmental problems, we must forget about an ever improving standard of living. And why would that even be important, by the way? Subsistence economies have been some of the most successful and stable societies ever known. We definitely should hang on to modern technology for communication etc. as far as we can, but the belief in the “Tech Fairy” should not lull us away from abandoning the growth paradigm entirely. Because unfortunately, as @julian_bond1 points out, if we don’t solve them they’ll solve us, implacably.


I wish collapsers would stop conflating “economic growth” with “more everything”. That’s only the case where technological ideas are “owned” by people who use it to form monopoly, duopoly, and oligopoly. They do this to foist throwaway goods and unsustainable production on people, then blame the people for being “consumers”. Because this idea isn’t questioned, collapse fantasies appear to make sense.

When design is acknowledged to be a non-exclusive good, this stupid ideology of waste and hatred of other humans’ existence will seem quaint and tragic, like “scientific” racism.


But it is indeed the case as the word is understood in modern economies. Last year we produced more crap and burned more fossil fuels, so the economy grew and that’s a good thing!

We should rather talk of “shrinkage”: How to reduce economic activity while maintaining our standards of living. E.g., by finding our food outside our doors, in our gardens, rather than on a supermarket shelf. By making stuff that costs, but lasts, preferrably ourselves. Etc.