“Neoliberal” — I’m not sure if I get this term (but I try to)


Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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98 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    ” a form of capitalism that is heavily regulated, managed, subsidized and bureaucratized.”

    IE Corporatism. It’s easier and more effective for big companies to collude with gov’t. It reduces competition, they gain significant influence in “managing” the output of lawmakers, obtain capture over those regulatory bodies “entrusted” to control them, and utilize the revolving door to ensure “their people” are installed into the gov’t system, get trained on how various gov’t elements work, and then come back to the corporations to transfer that knowledge. It ends up screwing the little guy, but hey, who ever said gov’t was for the people?Report

  2. I’ll go in a different direction and suggest that “neoliberalism” is one of those words that obfuscates more than it clarifies and whose meaning changes depending on what the speaker wants it to mean.

    Other, more careful, opponents of “neoliberalism” offer more consistent definitions, as with Rufus’s criticisms of technocratic, “run like a business” innovations in higher ed. I may not really enjoy his use of the term “neoliberalism,” but for him it’s not just a cudgel to criticize people who disagree with him. He is consistent and his use of the term jives with what most most critics, and maybe even some neoliberals, believe “neoliberalism” to be.

    I had my own definitions once upon a time. But loaded words like that don’t mean something just because I want it to mean something. And I’m just as guilty of using the term to mean what I want it to mean.

    In short, because I concede that language is conventional, I concede that “neoliberalism” means something others want it to mean and not what I prefer it not mean. So I’ll not identify with it so strongly or at all anymore, even if my own policy preferences haven’t changed much from what I expressed in those posts.

    As for your preface, I see such things slightly differently. I think there probably is an objective reality, but if there is, it’s very difficult to arrive at it. There are many ways to fall short of the mark but very few to get closer. Gender “dysphoria” might be better than gender identity “disorder” because it doesn’t pathologize transgender identity, or at least not as much. But it seems that dysphoria has potentially bad connotations of its own. Maybe. My point is it can be an open question of whether dysphoria is an advance or is just another way to go wrong, or worse. But transgender issues is not something I know enough about to make an informed comment.

    Also, I think there’s a softer way to look at the discourses of power people like Foucault use to analyze language. Even if Foucauldians usually deny objective reality, we need not. We can consistently believe in objective reality and also that the way we talk about things creates or its own power relations. Or if “creates” is too strong a word, we can say “can be used as an instrument in service to” the power relations, however extra-linguistically we define them.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    What strikes me curious about “disorder” is that it indicates “different from the norm”. It also seems perfectly accurate. It’d be one thing if the number of trans folks was a significant amount, but even 1% in a population of 300+M isn’t really all that many.Report

    • Avatar gingergene in reply to Damon says:

      For laypeople, I think “disorder” implies more than “different from the norm”, it also implies that the difference is “bad” or “wrong” in a way that borders on, and sometimes crosses over, into moral judgment. This may not be how most doctors or psychologists view “disorder”, but as Jon points out, these terms bleed into everyday life, so care has to be taken in the terms we use.

      In some ways, terms like “shell shock” might have been better, even if our understanding of the actual condition wasn’t; there wasn’t the implication that the person was broken or “disordered”, it was just a description of his reaction to a situation.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to gingergene says:

        The OP notes trans people have been classed as “disordered” along with homosexuals, but the two aren’t quite the same case to my mind.

        There was a person in another comment section arguing vehemently that transsexualism WAS a disorder, and I pulled out my popcorn to watch them get their a*s handed to them.

        But they stuck to their guns and were civil and cogent, and the point they were making was this (paraphrasing from memory):

        “I don’t believe that there’s a moral component to the condition, I condemn any efforts to abuse or mistreat trans people, and I want them to get all the medical care they need and live the way they want to.

        BUT –

        If you were born with a condition that can only be sufficiently-corrected so as for you to be happy via the lifelong use of expensive drugs (hormones) and/or fairly invasive reconstructive surgery: that is the textbook definition of a medical disorder.”

        I have to say, that kind of argument for precision in terminology did kind of strike a chord with me, and points out the main reason transsexualism is (or can be, since not all choose to transition) different from homosexuality in terms of being thought of as a “disorder”; homosexuals need only to be left alone to be healthy and happy, no other special medical intervention is required (save perhaps palliative care for inevitable psychological stress, in a homophobic society).Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

          This is exactly why transsexualism has been classed as a disorder, and being homosexual hasn’t. For insurance purposes. [We can all let out a happy cheer that the nice psychologists get to do the DSM, and not the evil psychologists.]

          (I don’t, actually, blame the insurance companies. They’re entitled to ask “but are you REALLY a trannie, or are you fucked up in a different way?” and to ask for some specific diagnostic criteria before being willing to give you particular hormones).Report

        • Avatar gingergene in reply to Glyph says:

          First off, I am hesitant to comment too extensively about a community I am not a member of, especially when we have at least one regular participant here who is both a member of that community and an insightful commenter.

          That said, I do know that within the transgender community, there is a spectrum- at one end are people who choose no medical intervention- no hormones, no surgery. They just need the rest of us to accept them (or at least shut up and get out of the way) regarding which gender they present as, which bathrooms they use, whether there’s an “M” or an “F” on their driver’s licenses, etc. At the other end are those that choose significant medical intervention, and then there is everyone in between.

          Are those that choose less medical intervention less “disordered” than those that choose more? Or maybe “disorder” and all its lay-person and historical baggage should give way to a new word(s).

          Question- what is the benefit to doctors and psychologists for grouping conditions inside or outside the “disordered” bucket? Does it give insight into patients and/or their treatment? If the harms outweigh the benefits, that seems like yet another reason to adjust our language, same as when we moved on from classifying people as “idiots” or “mongoloids”.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to gingergene says:

            While trying to avoid landmines, I’ll just toss in the fact that “transsexualism” is not considered a disorder. “Gender dysphoria,” the DSM-V replacement for the more confusing “gender identity disorder” from the DSM-IV, is pretty clear that transitioning (whatever that entails) is not part of the disorder, and that a person living as their desired gender no longer has the diagnosis (though there is a post-transition specifier largely for insurance purposes so that individuals can continue to get the hormone and other treatments they need even after the diagnosis no longer applies), whether the desired gender is ultimately the one they were born with or a different one (the disorder can be, and is, resolved either way, depending on the individual).Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

              Thanks for the clarification, and apologies for using imprecise terminology in a comment about precise terminology.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                One of the most fascinating, informative, and ultimately disappointing internet conversations I’ve ever seen began with this article, which at root concerns how complex, complicated, and ultimately unknown (empirically) this stuff is. So definitely no need to apologize for not getting it exactly right.Report

            • Avatar gingergene in reply to Chris says:

              What you say seems to reinforce my point to Glyph- if homosexuality is not a “disorder” because it requires no medical intervention, why are such terms necessary for Gender Dysphoria, which only sometimes requires medical intervention? If resolving the dysphoria can be achieved through non-permanent, non-medical means, then how is classifying it as a “disorder” helpful, given how it is (mis) interpreted by society at large?

              Is “disorder”, with all of its negative connotations and misuse, being used to mean “may require medical intervention to resolve”? Or is there more to it than that?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to gingergene says:

                “Medical” interventions, in the forms of hormones, say, are not the only sorts of interventions for psychological disorders. Treatment of gender dysphoria is, from an early age, pretty extensive in most cases (and when it’s not, that’s largely because it’s minor and resolves quickly on its own).

                “Disorder” should only have a stigma outside of the clinical contexts in which it is used by psychologists and psychiatrists. There it is only meant to indicate that a state of affairs causes distress and disruption. If gender dysphoria doesn’t lead to such, then it won’t be diagnosed as a disorder. And again, transgenderism and transsexuality are not the disorder. Living as one preferred gender is, in fact, how many resolve the disorder. They are in that sense the opposite of a disorder: they are the goal state of treatment.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

              I will eventually get this memorized!
              Today’s question of the day:
              “What’s psychologist for asshole?”Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to gingergene says:

            Yeah, I kind of elided that distinction (but did sort of hit it it in a later parenthetical with “or can be, since not all choose to transition”).

            Are those that choose less medical intervention less “disordered” than those that choose more?

            That’s a good question. If two people are each born with club feet and we only surgically-correct one of them, I would still say that both people were born with a “disorder” – that is, something in their natal development did not go the way it usually goes 99% of the time.

            what is the benefit to doctors and psychologists for grouping conditions inside or outside the “disordered” bucket?

            Another excellent question. I’ll take a stab. At the broadest level of medical triage or analysis, I assume it is beneficial for doctors to know what happens 99% of the time, versus 1% of the time; and any outliers may be “disorders” which can possibly be helped by medical or psychological means.

            So if I go to the doctor and say I have a “sleep disorder” because I wake up every time my neighbor blasts his stereo twenty-five times a night, that’s not really a disorder; that’s just waking up to loud noises.

            But if I wake up twenty-five times a night for no “normal” reason (my sleep patterns should be proceeding in an “orderly” fashion but are not), then something is “disordered”, and may possibly be put right via medical intervention.

            Just a thought, and maybe the MDs or MDs in training around here would be better able to answer.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

              We don’t count it a disorder unless it poses difficulties. Sickle cell anemia is a disorder. Being heterozygous for it isn’t.

              Physical problems with the brain are only disorders when they rise to the level of “you’re having trouble functioning because of this…”Report

            • Avatar gingergene in reply to Glyph says:

              See my comment above, but I think we may have reached a point where “disorder” has drifted too far from its foundation and we’d be better served with a better / more precise word(s).Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to gingergene says:

                I guess the issue I see is that at some point, any word will always be seen as worryingly pejorative, since any term, for at least serious conditions requiring medical intervention for health and happiness, must at root mean “outside the norm”.

                Nobody wants to be thought of as “abnormal”, and nobody who’s not a jerk wants a society which demonizes people which are “outside the norm”, so we keep looking for better terms – but all that seemingly ever happens, is that those terms then too become sullied.

                I just don’t know how much more neutral we can get than “disorder” (“did or does not proceed as would be normally expected”). “Anomalous”, maybe? You think that won’t just end up in the same place?Report

              • Avatar gingergene in reply to Glyph says:

                I suppose you’re right; after all “idiot” was originally a clinical term, but has morphed into an insult. It may be the natural progression that as general society gains awareness of clinical terms, some of those terms gain negative, non-clinical meanings. But in the same way that medical professionals have given up on “idiot”, at some point new terminology will be required in many instances.

                Whether we’ve reached that point in this case is debatable, but I do think we need to keep the people affected by these conditions in the forefront, and not subordinate the impact on them to our desire for “precision in terminology”.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to gingergene says:

                People don’t like it even when I use the term in the clinical sense.
                Yes, I suppose I could spell everything out, and talk about someone with such severe “learning disabilities” that certain IQ tests have a hard time crediting them with any intelligence at all. But that’s not five letters, now, is it?Report

              • Avatar gingergene in reply to Kim says:

                Yes, Kim, that’s my point. Anyone who uses “idiot” and claims not to expect her audience to understand it as a pejorative is either incredibly disingenuous or, well, an idiot.Report

              • To jump in, I remember on one of Russell Saunders’s threads, I called something a “neurosis,” and he said the preferred term is disorder. He wasn’t chiding me. If I recall correctly, he was just gently reminding me that “neurosis” can have negative connotations that “disorder” doesn’t, or doesn’t as much.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

          Okay, so I guess I’ll weigh in. First, not every trans person agrees about this stuff, not even close. The following is how I see things.

          First off, most trans people need some kind of engagement with the medical community. Often this includes hormones or surgery, but it can simply be a letter from a professional to apply for gender status change (or whatever). In the past this was a major hurdle, as a largely cis, largely male, largely transphobic medical establishment made it terrifyingly difficult for us. On the whole, things are much better now — at least in most places. (There are still fights to be had, of course.) In any case, this is the way it is.

          To get medial support, you usually need to be “diagnosed” with something. This is true not only for trans folks, but for everyone. If you want some cool new drug that will help you, the doctor needs to write some diagnosis on your chart. Are you “disordered”? “diseased”?

          For example, I have a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” (I came in before the new DSM). Which, whatever. My initial psych therapy was done under a diagnosis of “adjustment disorder,” according to the theory that there was nothing wrong with my gender, but I was going through a major life change and needed support. (I was and I did.) That lasted for the first year, when my diagnosis was changed to an anxiety disorder.

          Mostly these diagnoses exist so my therapist can write something on the form he submits to the insurance company. They don’t mean much.

          Do I need a medical diagnosis? Well, that is part a question of theory. For a comparison, pregnant women benefit from various degrees of medical support. Do they have a “disease”? a “disorder”?

          My gender is female, that’s baked into my brain. This is true despite the fact I (probably) have an XY chromosome pair, and despite the fact I was born with a penis. I suspect it is from birth, and is neurological. In fact, I suspect it has similar root causes as my ADHD and other issues.

          But maybe not. And even if so, it tells you nothing about what some other trans person experiences. After all, brains are complex. People are different. The only requirement for gender transition should be a genuine and well-informed desire to transition.

          Gender transition is in some ways permanent. So is puberty. As our bodies grow, we change, sometimes into something that horrifies us. The ability to alter this process is profound.

          Here is some science fiction, but that I believe is relevant: I am a mind and body, both of these things. They are unified. However, if they became separate, which would be the “real me”?

          If you awoke in some strange cyborg body, and discovered your meat-body had been occupied by some AI consciousness, which would be the “real you”? Are you your mind, your consciousness, your will — whatever the words mean — or are you your flesh vessel?

          Whatever your mind is — I think it’s your brain — it’s more the “real you” than the remainder of your body. Now, in the real world, I suspect the physical task of separating mind and body would be too complex to do correctly, but still. I am my mind.

          I am a woman, and my body developed wrong.

          Okay, this is temporally backward, which is to say, my genetics came first, then my brain. I developed male first, then in my mind female. (Perhaps from a pre-natal hormone imbalance. No one really knows for sure.)

          But so what? Why do I care about that, other than a difficulty to overcome? Why should anyone else care, except to the degree that they hate me?

          I am my mind. You can’t change this part of my mind. (In the past doctors tried and failed.) But even if they could, I wouldn’t want that. I want to be me, and I’m a woman.

          Changing my body turns out to be pretty easy. Modern science and medicine lets me be, physically, female. It is not perfect. I mean, when you look at my face, you can tell. I’m obviously transgender. But so what? I’ve been on estrogen a long time. I have breasts, hips, soft skin, etc. I’m way more a woman than a man.

          Do I have a “disorder”? Do other trans people? I need my hormones. My insurance covers them. My doctor writes things on my chart. What does it mean?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to veronica d says:

            Thank you for sharing your perspective Veronica.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

            I read through these comments wincing and writing comments in my head and then erasing them.

            All that to say: Yeah. Thanks.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to veronica d says:

            Just in case there’s some doubt, no clinician who has any business practicing would say that you have a disorder because you are transgender.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d says:

            Hey Veronica, thanks for replying, and in such an enlightening way. I’ll just hit the last bit:

            Do I have a “disorder”? Do other trans people? I need my hormones. My insurance covers them. My doctor writes things on my chart. What does it mean?

            I guess I’d say anyone who needs hormones to be happy and healthy, because their body doesn’t natively-produce the ones they need, has a “disorder” (by which I mean something in their body or development didn’t once or doesn’t proceed as usual, to a degree that requires and benefits from significant intervention) – I know multiple people with thyroid disorders who take synthetics because without them they are not “themselves” (tired, fat, etc.), and I don’t think they or anyone else thinks of that pejoratively.

            The issue to me isn’t the word itself, which as I said to me seems about as neutral as we can get, and fighting to change it seems pointless; the issue to me, is how we treat people.Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

              @glyph — The thing is, this is partly a scientific question, but is also (and very importantly) a political question. Which is to say, physicists can sitting around for decades publishing papers about gravity waves, until one day someone observes them. Yay! This is quite a nice way for science to operate (and pretty darn amazing). But the kind of science we’re talking about here — well, I’m the subject. I can’t wait decades for my life to begin.

              (There is a very real sense that I get to live half a life. It’s hard to explain, but it’s kind of true. Like, I cannot put into words the gravity of that. I get one life, and mine was cut in half. So much is taken from me.)


              Anyway, mental illness has long been weaponized against LGBT people. In particular, it seem like the removal of gays from the DSM caused a material change in their lives. Which, sure the Fox News media set will always be able to find a fringe doctor to come on screen and slag we queers, but when the big official guide says, “Yeah, them gays are delusional perverts” — well that’s a pretty lousy debate position. So when that changed, the discourse changed also. This, I think, drives the motivations to change how transgender people are talked about. In this light, it seems entirely sensible.

              Which is to say, someone like you might take an entirely smart and thoughtful view of things, but “what is sensible” and “what works politically” aren’t always the same. I want to live.


              All that said, there is another big thing: gender dysphoria is real. It is an actual state of mind. I lived it for decades. It’s truly unbearable.

              It kills us, the same way clinical depression kills it’s victims.

              However, unlike clinical depression, it is rather easy to treat. Hormones really work. Personally I think they work on a neurological level. I think the mere presence of the correct sex hormones in the brain is a big part of why, suddenly, my anxiety decreased, my moods changed, my energy went up. It’s huge. If antidepressants worked this way, and this reliably, can you imagine?

              Hormones also give me breasts and soft skin and lovely hips and on and on. I look really pretty in a lovely skirt. It’s a big deal.

              So what do we do? The Fox News jackasses are still out there, saying we’re “delusional” (when they’re not saying we’re sex perverts). Having better language in the DSM is a pretty good thing, since we continue to have to have this conversation (but why?). Ultimately, most emotional problems trans folks face post-transition seem to rest on social stuff, the bigotry we face. Like, we have this recent article. (That’s about kids. But it works the same for we grown ups, except that often we come into the mess with more baggage. All those years of living a lie take their toll. But still. Being hated can sap your energy.)

              Cue up the old cis guy on the television, who sits with a very concerned look and explains how he just wants to help us. After all, clearly we’re in need of psychological care.


              Whatever happens, whatever they call us, I need my hormones. And I need people to stop treating me like disposable human garbage. That would be nice.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to gingergene says:

        For laypeople, I think “disorder” implies more than “different from the norm”, it also implies that the difference is “bad” or “wrong” in a way that borders on, and sometimes crosses over, into moral judgment. This may not be how most doctors or psychologists view “disorder”, but as Jon points out, these terms bleed into everyday life, so care has to be taken in the terms we use.

        Actually, it *is* sorta the way that doctors and psychologists view disorder, because a lot of people here are missing something: A disorder is not just an oddity or a difference, it’s a difference that causes the person who has it has difficulties in something that normal people do not have difficulties in. It’s not a ‘moral’ judgement, but it *is* a judgement.

        It’s why heterochromia (two different color eyes) is not a disorder. It’s a rare genetic mutation, but it doesn’t actually *do* anything, or cause any difficulties.

        So the question, and I think part of where this discussion of changing the name is coming from, is do trans people have difficulties *because of being transgender*, or do they have difficulties due to the fact they are not meeting societal expectations in what gender they say they are? Because that second thing…isn’t actually a disorder, and is in fact *exactly* why homosexuality isn’t a disorder.

        But don’t take the obvious way out there and assume it’s not a disorder because it’s all society. A lot of transgender people have serious body issues that *do* cause them difficulties even absent societal pressure.

        On the third hand, this raises the odd possibility of transgender being a disorder only ‘until’ the body is corrected. Which makes sense if it’s treated as purely a *medical* disorder, but the problem then arises is that a *lot* of interaction that trans people have with the medical system is (I presume) for psychological support and help. (And it means it’s not a disorder for trans people who don’t want to change their bodies?)

        So I have no solution here, I’m just pointing out that ‘disorder’ is a kinda weird term and doesn’t work like we seem to want it to work, and the problem might be ‘disorder’ is a dumbass medical term to start with.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to DavidTC says:

          I mean, medicine is a human invention, and the language we use to talk about it is structured around human needs. The goal of medicine is (or certainly should be) human flourishing. The language it uses should contribute to that.

          Trans folks have a problem. It is a real problem, but it can be solved by medical, surgical, and social intervention. The medical and surgical part is fairly well understood. It can be hard, but it’s not “really the hard part,” which is the social stuff.

          Whatever role psychologists play in this process, it has to be in this context. We’re not “crazy.” We don’t need a shrink to work out our issues. Blah. Instead, we need help navigating the medical, social, and financial options, along with help navigating a difficult world full of terrible people who hate us.

          Once we realize we are trans, and once we begin the path toward transition, it is the last part that kills us.

          Basically, I want to stop garbage such as this: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/07/13/foxs-erickson-smears-transgender-service-member/204397

          I mean, Erickson is a human-shaped turd, so fine. I doubt even the right-wingers on this forum take him seriously. But all the same, he gets a TV spot, where terrible people watch him say terrible things, and who all dream of ways to ruin my life. We need to put this kind of garbage to bed, to leave men like him in the ash heap. If he began clucking like a chicken and saying “Trannies are lizard people,” well maybe no one would listen to him, but what he said is no more serious, nor any more coherent.

          I’m not delusional. I understand very well the circumstances of my life. I don’t know precisely why I am this way, but who cares? I am this way.

          Which look, it’s probably neurological, and maybe someday we’ll understand the brain well enough to understand why. But at the same time, maybe by then we’ll live in some brave transhumanist future and gender transition will be routine, with nearly perfect results. Perhaps humans will switch back and forth between genders, over their lifetimes of centuries, trying to experience every possible bit of variety.

          Of course, probably not. We’ll probably wipe ourselves out in the next few decades. Whatever. The point is, I’m alive today. I’m been on hormones for years. All that gender dysphoria and all that despair — it is long in the past, a hazy memory of a banal half-life. And now…?

          I wish I was prettier, but tons of cis women wish they were prettier. I wish I was thin, but that is hardly uncommon. Lately I’ve been feeling kind of down and lonely, since my ex-g/f and I broke up, and since I’ve had a few “maybe” relationships fizzle out. That’s hard. But this isn’t “crazy.” It’s just life, much like any other life.

          My biggest fears are not what my body will become, nor what medicine can do for me, nor if I’ll ever be pretty enough, nor skinny enough, nor if I will pass well enough. I don’t care about that. I mean, I care some, but I can deal, just as most people deal with their shit.

          What I care about is this: that I am hated, that these people want to hurt me, and hurt those like me, and that I will miss out on so much I might have had, had I lived in a better world.

          Does that sound crazy to you? Disordered?Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to veronica d says:

            I think a good part of the problem is that the way health insurance works is that you have something wrong with you, and then insurance pays to fix that, or at least tries to fix it.

            Thus, for insurance to help transgender people, there must be something ‘wrong’ with them. This ‘something’ has changed from ‘They think they are one gender but are actually another’, to ‘They are one gender but their body is wrong’, but it’s still *something* wrong.

            This is, perhaps, not the best paradigm for addressing mental health.(In fact, I’m not sure ‘it’s the best paradigm for *physical* health.) And this requirement to classify everything as a disorder is probably partially to blame for the stigmata that causes people to avoid getting help for mental health issues.

            It logically seems to me that trans people people are probably under a tremendous amount of stress from all sorts of causes…and so are a lot of other people, and it might be a very clever idea if we could actually allow everyone to talk to someone about that *without* having to justify it to insurance companies as something being ‘wrong’ with them.

            Of course, *until* we have such a system, the current ‘disorder’ might be the best we can get. It’s not quite correct, but whatever.

            Unless insurance companies really will pay on a diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’, which would be great and let us fix that name, but it does raise the obvious question: What about people who have *general* dysphoria? That’s just a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction.

            Dysphoria seems to cover pretty much everyone who voluntarily seeks out a psychologist and *doesn’t* have obvious symptoms of something else. They are not happy, and/or they think something is wrong with their life, and it’s ‘profound’ enough that they sought help for it. Sounds like dysphoria to me. (Or Munchausen)

            I mean, I’d *love* it if all that was covered, but I’m wondering if insurance is really going to open the door on any type of ‘dysphoria’.

            But at the same time, maybe by then we’ll live in some brave transhumanist future and gender transition will be routine, with nearly perfect results.

            Thinking about ‘transhuman’ in the same context as ‘transgender’ always makes me think that word should instead refer to people are humans who are actually different humans than they were assigned at birth. His parents called him Ted Smith because he looked like a Ted Smith when he was born, but he’s actually been Peter Carter this entire time. (How this works, I don’t know. Switched at birth? Reincarnation?)Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to DavidTC says:

              @davidtc — Medical insurance covers pregnancy and childbirth, which is not a “disease” or “disorder,” so there is a model for this. The important point is, transition is medical and necessary, meaning it is not “elective.”

              Anyhow, the current model, which classifies “gender dysphoria” instead of “gender identity,” is an improvement. I no longer have gender dysphoria, except an occasional sad-feel about all these time I lost waiting. My main problem now is being a hated minority.

              Good grief let us not elect one of these Republican ninnies.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Damon says:

      Let’s also not forget that many if not all psychological disorders are defined based on quantification of syndromes and then applying those quantifications to a normal distribution. Think of the implications of that: no essential, cross-cultural diagnosis, no pathological basis.

      Psychologists and psychiatrists are usually the first ones to point this out.Report

  4. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Noam Chomsky, as far as I can tell, is a democratic-socialist. He believes in democracy and civil rights, but not capitalism and markets. But, interestingly enough, he doesn’t call himself a “democratic-socialist.” I call him that because that’s what he appears to me to be. Rather, he calls himself an “anarcho-syndicalist.” Alas, such term has not stuck.

    Why should it? It’s one of his guises and poses, not a perspective on public life he’s ever developed or even has the tools to develop.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Art Deco says:

      not a perspective on public life he’s ever developed or even has the tools to develop.

      Aside from in all those books and essays and interviews and debates and lectures, this is true.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Chris says:

        No, the point of most of his literature is to discredit a public which pays him and people like him no heed. See Manufacturing Consent.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Art Deco says:

          The Braves started selling tickets to their new stadium.

          Oh wait, you mean we’re not just saying random things to change the subject?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

            I noticed that comment too, and it’s a perfect example of a type of argument I really despise: the critic attributes an intellectually dishonest motive to the writer such that further inquiry into the content conveyed is a pointless activity. I see this all the time. And the irony of the tactic is that it’s most effectively employed by people who are smart enough to actually engage the content.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

              My guess that this happens because many times people are really not able to understand how other people could look at the same set of facts and come to an opposite conclusion. A lot of the fights on the Internet come from people not really understanding that other people disagree with them when the truth seems so obvious. When dealing with this, the easiest way to get around the disagreement is to point to an intellectually dishonest motive.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

                No, nothing like that here. Art made a claim about a specific view of Chomsky’s, I pointed out that it was a silly claim, so he responded by taking a broad dig at Chomsky that amounted to [in sniveling adolescent voice], “Puff… puff… well, so what? No one who matters even pays any attention to Noam, so there!” In other words, it was just a case of someone talking out of his ass and getting called on it.

                Which, to be fair, is equally common on the internet.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                There’s an exchange on the Showtime show Billions that goes like this:

                Rhoades: I’ll do all of the talking. We have someone else that made the same pharmaceutical trade, first one in gets a lollypop.

                Spiro: But to be clear, we don’t really have anyone?

                Rhoades: To be clear, I am making a play.

                Spiro: That’s what I like to call “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.”

                Rhoades: No you don’t like to “call it that,” that’s what it’s called. Started as a thought experiment, game theory, in the ’50s. Does no one ever check you on this bull shit?

                I really want a video of that to just post when people talk out of their asses on the internet.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

                “That’s what it’s called.”
                … yeah, i gotta love that.
                Particularly when my wiseass friends decide to start “creating” terms in various fields. [To be fair, they are actually experts in said fields]. Let’s just say Mexican Hat is … a lot more clean than what I’m referring to. [Bonus points if you get where Mexican Hat is from].Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim says:


              • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:


                Psych’s your field, am I right?
                (No, seriously, I’m not really expecting you to know about the appropriate forms of creating a lossy compression format that the human eye will then reinterpolate the lost detail, because we do pattern creation as well as recognition).Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim says:

                I don’t read vision journals unless I’m looking for something specific.

                And I would bet a fair amount of money that your friends did not name Mexican hat wavelets.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

                Sorry, this is one of those “but it’s just about the only thing that’s important!” moments.
                (and no, he didn’t name Mexican Hat wavelets, I just pulled that because it has a silly name.)

                I can’t give him credit for the Dorsai Irregulars, though he’s running them these days.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

                My guess that this happens because many times people are really not able to understand how other people could look at the same set of facts and come to an opposite conclusion.

                Sure. It’s easy, convenient, maybe even correct! And if the purpose is to score political or ideological points according to an adolescent schoolyard taunting calculus, then it makes perfect sense. But it’s not intellectually honest. I’ve said this before, but accounting for someone’s obviously absurd beliefs by attributing nefarious motives seems not only intellectually counterproductive, but dishonest as well: IF their views actually are obviously absurd, isn’t it better – for both the interlocutor as well as interlocutee – to point out the absurdity than to attribute malignancy to them?

                In the case in question, reducing Manufacturing Consent to an attempt by Chomsky to get noticed by a public that ignores him mischaracterizes not only Chomsky’s stature but the content conveyed in the book. Expressing that type of judgment reveals the very thing Chomsky is being accused of: intellectual dishonesty. Cuz, to repeat, if what he (Chomsky) says is obviously absurd, then the intellectually honest thing is to do the work of pointing out that absurdity. Which, if it’s so obvious, oughta take no time or effort at all.Report

            • the critic attributes an intellectually dishonest motive to the writer such that further inquiry into the content conveyed is a pointless activity.

              Not intellectual dishonest, just greed and exploitation.

              We’re still talking about the Braves, right?Report

        • Avatar j r in reply to Art Deco says:

          I don’t want to defend @art-deco or his specific comment, which smacks of mood affiliation. I will offer a defense of a more reasonable version of his comment, though.

          I’ve never read Manufacturing Consent, but my problem with the Chomsky that I’ve encountered in articles and documentaries and interviews – let’s call that the bite-size Chomsky, is that he has a system of criticism that relies heavily on a particular world view. That is, it assumes its premises as conclusions.

          If I sat down and read Manufacturing Consent, I’m sure that I would find lots of specific examples that resonated with me and that had a fair amount of empirical validity. But, if you assume that the media functions as a machine for manufacturing propaganda, then it’s not hard to find specific examples that fit that model. I don’t think that Chomsky sets out to discredit those who disagree with him, but his world has always struck me as circular.

          Again, that’s just my take on the bite-size Chomsky, so take it for what it’s worth.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Art Deco says:

      If you’re going to call yourself anything, it better be easy to pronounce, if it’s going to catch on…Report

  5. Avatar Art Deco says:

    It’s no surprise that the American Conservative would be the place on the Right

    The American Conservative was founded by Pat Buchanan. That aside, it would be an error to regard it as a locus of people elaborating an understanding of political economy or culture. It’s a collecting pool of misfits making exhibits of themselves and flashing their upraised middle fingers.Report

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    Who in the world could possibly think that a human brain is healthy?Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Kim says:

      What is meant by that is something for which you need not see a neurologist. If brain tissue has “health” issues, that’s where you go.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jon Rowe says:

        A neurologist can’t fix loss of sapience, and I don’t think we’d much like it if he could.
        Cognitive flexibility is an ailment of the young and the young at heart.

        Sapient minds aren’t healthy, they’re brain-damaged. They’re inevitably slower than non-sapient minds, even if they sometimes get better results.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think of the terms neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism both rising out of a particular time. They both come from the potentially heady excesses of the 1960s and 70s.

    Both were reactions to the New Left and other things happening on the left. The original neo-conservatives were left-wing radicals in the 1920s-40s who slowly and then suddenly moved to the right during the 1960s and 70s. They became anti-Communists but still liberal after revelations of Stalin’s purge trials and they disliked how 1960s student radicals were hip on Mao.

    The original neo-liberals did not go as far to the right as the neo-conservatives but they were humbled by McGovern’s loss to Nixon in 1972 and Labour’s loss to Thatcher in 1979 and 1984. They were not interested in old-school pro-union liberalism but in more technocratic solutions. Neo-liberalism was meant to save the Democratic and Labour Parties from their own alleged excesses.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The original neo-conservatives were left-wing radicals in the 1920s-40s who slowly and then suddenly moved to the right during the 1960s and 70s. They became anti-Communists but still liberal after revelations of Stalin’s purge trials and they disliked how 1960s student radicals were hip on Mao.

      That describes to a degree Seymour Martin Lipset and Irving Kristol, though you need some qualifications regarding those two (there was nothing very sudden about their change in perspective). That does not describe Norman Podhoretz political odyssey at all, or Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s, or Richard John Neuhaus’. or Joseph Epstein’s, or Nathan Glazer’s. It does not describe the Schactmanite auxilliary to the Podhoretz circle, either (e.g. Penn Kemble), or Sidney Hook.

      The original neo-liberals did not go as far to the right as the neo-conservatives but they were humbled by McGovern’s loss to Nixon in 1972 and Labour’s loss to Thatcher in 1979 and 1984. They were not interested in old-school pro-union liberalism but in more technocratic solutions. Neo-liberalism was meant to save the Democratic and Labour Parties from their own alleged excesses.

      There wasn’t much of it, and it collected around Charles Peters and the Democratic Leadership Council. Peters’ founded his magazine in 1969. The Reagan era was the backdrop of his writings, but it had only a mild influence on his interests. DLC was founded by a Capitol Hill fixture named From.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I partially agree, but don’t think the term is obsolete.

      Neo-liberalism was a movement among liberals who noted the perverse outcomes generated by such policies as Medicare, urban renewal, and rigid regulation.

      The neo-liberals hoped to achieve liberal ends by less rigid and command-oriented means, mostly by tinkering with incentives so as to achieve those ends in more dynamic and market-oriented ways. Such notions as a carbon tax come directly out of the neoliberal critique: in the 60s or 70s, carbon reduction would have been achieved by promulgated 600 pages of regulations restricting the use of petrochemicals in industry and transportation.

      I am, I confess, mostly neoliberal in my outlook, but have, over the past few years, started to reconsider my outlook a bit. FDR was mostly down-the-line liberal in his approach, and he and his administration have built institutions that have mostly stood for 80 years. Our last three Democratic presidents have been neoliberals (Carter, Clinton and Obama), and the general take on them was that they were technocratic, and not terribly effective.

      This is perhaps because they all take an intellectually-driven and nuanced approach to resolving our nation’s problems. The Republicans have generally been seen more effective (until GWB, at least), because they learned to speak the language of emotion and morality–they seem more principled, even if–as I would argue–their desired ends are precisely counter to the kind of world I would like to see.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        FDR was mostly down-the-line liberal in his approach, and he and his administration have built institutions that have mostly stood for 80 years.

        Do you think that these institutions are sustainable with nothing more than minor tweaks? And I ask honestly, not to be argumentative.Report

        • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to j r says:

          I do, and for two reasons: they have pretty much worked, and they are well-constructed personally. FDR was smart to construct Social Security as a universal retirement entitlement, without maximum incomes: it has come to be embraced by all, and is not in the least perceived as a mechanism of income redistribution, although that is a good part of what it is.

          Similarly, the regulatory regime of the financial quarter seemed to work well: and kept us free of financial crisis for close to 70 years (a record stretch in American history), until they were mostly dismantled by conservatives and neo-liberals at the end of the 90s.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

            Savings and Loan Crisis is what, swiss cheese?Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kim says:

              Coming just under ten years after the S&Ls were largely deregulated in 1980 — and began many of the same sort of practices that got the banks in trouble after they were deregulated.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

            There’s a huge amount of survivor bias in this analysis though. Yes, we still have regulatory agencies from the New Deal era, (and a few here and there from before then), but there are large parts of the New Deal framework that went by the wayside while FDR was still president – either because of SCOTUS or because even the Administration saw what wasn’t working – and the majority of the rest of it went away when everything was folded into the war effort.

            Even the ‘good’ regulatory regimes of the financial sector that mostly endure today- does anybody really want to go back to Regulation Q?Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kolohe says:

              While I think I agree with Snarky’s overall point, yours is good, too. The NIRA/NRA was particularly disastrous. Not the sum total of what the New Deal eventually came to be about, but disastrous nonetheless.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Kolohe says:

              There’s a huge amount of survivor bias in this analysis though. Yes, we still have regulatory agencies from the New Deal era, (and a few here and there from before then), but there are large parts of the New Deal framework that went by the wayside while FDR was still president – either because of SCOTUS or because even the Administration saw what wasn’t working –

              Well, yes, but I don’t see the fact that such things *can* go away if they don’t work as a bad thing.

              This is, frankly, a welcome alternative to *everything else in the government*, where we continue things long, *long*, after it’s become very clear they failed. I could bring up plenty of conservative policies here, but there are plenty of bi-partisan ones too, like the war on drugs.

              In fact, the fact we’re willing to dismantle broken welfare institutions directly leads to the way that conservatives try to dismantle the existing ones: By claiming they have, or are about to, fail. It’s just about the only way to get the left to agree to help take them apart.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        Carter is definitely seen as ineffective but most people but Clinton and Obama have many people who perceive them as incredibly effective Presidents. Unless you outright hate him, Clinton is remembered for the the 1990s boom more than anything else. Among is fans, Obama is seen as the most successful liberal President since LBJ because of the amount of legislation he managed to pass and for reversing or not making worse a lot of GWB’s foreign policy mistakes. I really have no idea why you think the general take on Clinton and Obama is that they weren’t technocratic. Clinton might be seen as less liberal than Obama but nobody can accuse Clinton of lacking charisma.

        Carter, Clinton, and Obama are not as popular as FDR but all operated in a much more partisan political environment. The Great Depression really caused a lot of people to hate the Republicans and Civil Rights for African-Americans was only emerging as an issue during FDR’s presidency. Once Carter became President, you already had millions of Americans who switched who became Republicans because of the Democratic Party’s pursuit of Civil Rights or were about to. The Republicans also spent a lot of time portraying the Democratic Party as out of touch tax and spend liberals who were soft on crime. FDR didn’t have to deal with that. Plenty of people did hate FDR during is Presidency because they thought the New Deal was Communist and his foreign policy anti-American. Plenty still loathe FDR.Report

        • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to LeeEsq says:

          All three of the post-Nixon Democratic presidents were generally perceived, while they were in office as technocratic sellouts to liberalism. Carter and Clinton were sharp tacks to the right compared to most of the Democratic field (it was commonly observed during Clinton’s tenure that his policy stance was that of an Eisenhower Republican.

          Obama may feel liberal: half the country is shouting that he’s a radical socialist: but his legislative initiatives and achievements–primarily health care and financial reform–are the very models of technocratic complexity.Report

  8. Avatar Kim says:

    Libertarians aren’t going to like it, but Russia makes a decent libertarianish place, doesn’t it? Corporations do whatever they please (including nigh-on slavery), and Putin has enough of an army to defend the joint.

    [I’m not doing this to be mean: Just like the Liberals don’t get to choose only sweden, when france and italy are also in their utopic space, the Libertarians don’t get to not choose russia, simply because russia is corrupt and unfun.]Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Kim says:

      I’ll stick with Hong Kong.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

      I’m thinking Russia is much less libertarian in terms of firearms that most libertarians would consider acceptable.


      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

        What if America is the utopic-example of libertarianism?
        Is that a bad thing? Would that upset you?
        (going to cite the underground economy numbers I just googled — we’re at around 9%, which must mean that our regulations and stuff isn’t all that onerous. Hong Kong is at 14%, fwiw).Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

          America by definition isn’t libertarian, it’s corporatist, so how can I be upset that it isn’t?Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

            What in particular would you change about America to make it more libertarian?Report

            • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

              Frankly, I wouldn’t. I don’t think it’s possible, baring some radical event that changes mindsets. To quote someone I read a while back, which provide a decent summary of my attitude on the subject: “There’s a phrase some use to describe this attitude: “let it burn.” Some misunderstand this as a call to destroy the nation. But its not. Its a call to step back and give up the fight because its going down either way……That’s what Let It Burn means; not “revolution!!!” but rather “its already burning and the firefighters know it won’t be saved.” Let it Burn recognizes that its already on fire. We’re past the point of preventing it.”

              The real question for me is whether this will happen before I’m dead or will things carry on long enough for my ashes spread. 🙂Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Kim says:

      Russia is more Oligarchy than most libertarians are comfortable with. Perhaps if that Oligarchy was more interested in rule of law and other social stability, it would be better, but as it stands, there is a decided lack of balancing competing interests that falls much more heavily in favor of corporations.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        What competing interests is a libertarian likely to want?
        Do libertarians have a problem with corporations requiring binding arbitration in all contracts you sign with them?Report

  9. Avatar North says:

    I’m with Gabriel Conroy in conceding that Neoliberal is a pretty malleable term though I haven’t yet conceded the definitional battle.

    Merriam-Webster defines Neoliberal as “a liberal who de-emphasizes traditional liberal doctrines in order to seek progress by more pragmatic methods.”

    That is the definition I ascribe to neoliberalism myself. Neoliberals ARE liberals and they desire the same general end results that liberals desire. They think that it is desirable for as many people to be materially prosperous as possible; they believe in legal equality; they believe in egalitarianism and individual autonomy but they are emphatically pragmatic and practical by inclination. Unlike their ideological liberal siblings (pure libertarians to the right, pure and arch liberals to the left) neoliberals accept that the different liberal goals exist in tension with each other and that we (currently) live in a world of limited resources. So a neoliberal is a heretic to the libertarian because they say that individual freedom and autonomy needs to also contribute to the communal good yet they’re heretics to the liberals because they note that the communal good must not excessively infringe on individual autonomy.

    At their best neoliberals have been the rescuers of the liberal project, trimming and compromising to balance ideals with reality and keeping the books balanced preventing regression back to preliberal modes or collapse into extremist populist dead ends. At their worst neoliberals can become notoriously corrupt, corporatism comes very naturally to neoliberals, or excessively set in their ways and insufficiently dutiful to empiricism. Neoliberals and neoliberalis ideals in one variant or another sit at the helm of most of the developed world. That makes them very easy to criticize because the world is far from ideal. The charges fly heavy from the liberal left (having long since spectacularly failed in their own attempts to run things in a pure leftist manner) and the liberal right (having never run anything at all).

    And you know what? That criticism is salutary and necessary even if it’s sometimes unfair or unkind. A proper neoliberal should relish it or at least accept it.Report

  10. Avatar Roland Dodds says:

    Fine piece @jon-rowe. I have found myself having this very conversation over the meaning of neoliberalism many times in the last 15 years. I would like to add one element that isn’t addressed above: the role of the managerial upper middle class in into fruition. When we look at things like charter schools and NAFTA, we see many big government liberal types telling us that we can make the state and economy work better if we just put the right leadership and institutions in place to manage these institutions. Often, this managerial class is the well-to-do upper-middle class that goes to fine universities but isn’t necessarily wealthy in their own right.

    The sneering from this class towards the lower middle class and working class is part of what makes for antagonism between Clinton and her type of Democrat and some of the rank and file further down the social totem poll.

    I also think this is revolt against the managerial class and their policy prescriptives within neoliberal economic/social policies is propelling someone like Trump, but I have probably bit off more than I can chew in a single comment.Report

    • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Roland Dodds says:

      As someone old enough to remember the 60’s and 70’s, I can report that “neoliberal” was originally used to describe a constellation of beliefs similar to those North describes, and that, sociologically, neoliberalism appealed to the sort of folks Ronald Dodds is talking about, with political effects evolving pretty much as he says. One of its signature beliefs was an eagerness to use market mechanisms for liberal ends, for example, effluent fees over emissions controls. The Washington Monthly of 40 years ago would be a good place to look for examples.Report

  11. Avatar Chris says:

    The best way to understand the term “neoliberalism,” outside of its pejorative sense (which has become both rampant and divorced entirely from its original meaning — it was not uncommon for some activists to refer to Sanders as a neoliberal earlier in this primary season, not because it makes any sense to refer to Sanders as a neoliberal, but because those activists knew that the term was used pejoratively to refer to enemies of progressivism, and he was seen as such an enemy — is to read writings on the politics and economics of Latin America in the 80s and 90s, particularly, of course, in Chile. It’s in the policy and scholarly literature of that place and period that the term came into wide use, and eventually leaked out into other literatures.

    I’d recommend this, but I’d rather not deal with the comments, so perhaps this instead.

    This, by the way, is probably the most relevant piece by Chomsky on his socialism. As he notes, the whole Marxist project is ultimately aimed at statelessness, so to some extent all Marxists are anarchists. The difference between straight-up anarchists and Marxists tends to be the route to statelessness. Chomsky’s not an orthodox Marxist, of course, so his anarchism is more immediate, as his focus is largely on the legitimacy of institutions.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Chris says:

      @chris That Chomsky piece is a blast from the past. Having not followed Noam for the last 10 years, I forgot how powerful his work can be.

      I would disagree slightly about Marxists inherently working towards statelessness. While the more libertarian minded like Chomsky do put a premium on that goal and discuss it frequently, many Marxists I have encountered rarely see the “end of history” social reconfiguration as central to their ideology and policy prescriptions. In a de facto sense, they are statists because that end goal of Chomskys’ is an afterthought and thus not of great importance to their political outlook.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        This is probably true, particularly of mainstream American socialism. I mean, if you read Jacobin, for example, you’d have no sense of the importance of an ultimate statelesness in orthodox Marxism. See, e.g.Report

  12. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    You must mean that you’re confused about the critique of neoliberalism. Because the term, as a descriptor for a series of political and economic policies, is fairly uncontroversial at this point. Hell, I just clean a poli-sci department and I know what it means! Here’s how one of the recent books in our department described it: Neoliberal policies aim at:
    Privatization and reduction of the state’s economic role,
    Enthusiastic embrace of globalization & liberalized trade and investment regimes,
    And (I would disagree with this as necessary) Dismantling the welfare state.

    We can call it “libertarianism” or “free trade” if that’s more comfortable, but the term isn’t some arcane epithet. Now, the critique of these “free trade” policies and globalization comes, as you suggest, from the socialist left. It absolutely is people like Noam Chomsky. Or people like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump who the serious political class know are not serious people. And who, let’s face it, won’t likely be in power.

    But the mainstream of both the Democratic and Republican Parties support these policies. This puts you in the position of arguing that the policies lost out, but occupy the mainstream of policy thinking. But, of course, the reason for this- why European countries have the “democratic socialism” you talk about- is that to achieve any sort of utopia, a lot of social institutions will have to be radically restructured or eliminated and we’re simply not there yet. Not to mention the awkward problem that average people tend to be pretty resistant to and unhappy with those changes, which is why they’re often implemented without popular consent. As you also suggest, that causes problems for libertarians in that the “freer” policies often have to be implemented in fairly undemocratic ways. But, the people making policy know what’s best à la longue.Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I agree the definition seems accurate enough; and yes we don’t need “dismantling the welfare state” as part of it.

      But I would also note that neoliberalism (as I understand it) seems compatible with all sorts of regulations that are inconsistent with libertarianism.

      I know there more to life than macroeconomic utility. But such is something that Democrats, Republicans and political libertarians all seriously value.

      And “[p]rivatization and reduction of the state’s economic role, [e]nthusiastic embrace of globalization & liberalized trade and investment regimes,” are all pretty much proven methods of achieving such.

      When I say “proven methods” — I mean among economists who work with the data.

      However — as much as I like Milton Friedman — I concede if I am going to appeal to the academy to make this point, there are plenty of viable, respected theories that both support what we put in quotes above, but also aren’t consistent with Friedman’s first best world. Keynesianism for instance is entirely consistent with

      “[p]rivatization and reduction of the state’s economic role, [e]nthusiastic embrace of globalization & liberalized trade and investment regimes,” …

      Paul Krugman won his Nobel Prize defending free trade. I see him as a “neoliberal” as well. Likewise even though I’m no expert on John Rawls, I see his theories as compatible with “neoliberalism.” He understood you needed inequality and markets to get the macroeconomic pie as big as possible. But saw a role for government in redistributing on egalitarian grounds provided the pie could be kept big.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jon Rowe says:

        Right, so pretty much what I’m saying: these ideas are the political and economic status quo thought. They’re conventional wisdom at this point. Possibly even more so among Democrats than Republicans.

        I’d also note that the people who advocate for these policies tend to be insulated from their effects. Paul Krugman’s not going to have to be trained for a new career. He can afford to run the experiment, so to speak. His data backs him up.

        But, the really interesting thing here is that liberals, in general, are concentrated in professions that, until very recently, weren’t much affected by the globalization policies they advocate. So, their knowledge is limited to data and not experience. Weirdly enough, working class people don’t much like the liberal class at this point.

        In fact, they’d rather vote for buffoons and demogogues simply because they’re outside of the liberal class enclaves. Liberals don’t understand why. The people whose pain they understand, without ever experiencing, don’t seem to understand them. It’s heartbreaking.

        But I would also note that neoliberalism (as I understand it) seems compatible with all sorts of regulations that are inconsistent with libertarianism.

        Very true. But that’s a problem for libertarians, not me.

        Whatever we call it, this mainstream line of thought has served mostly, so far, to increase the investment opportunities of transnational corporations, which is fine for what it is. I’m not against that. But, either globalization will slowly lift the world’s poor out of poverty and all of the other rather sweeping predictions the WTO and other groups have been making for years now, or it won’t. I’m a pessimist by nature, but would love to be proven wrong.Report

        • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Rufus F. says:

          I had a professor in graduate law school (Henry Richardson) who raised the “neoliberalism” concern. His question was “what about the free trade losers?”

          It seems to me Rawls might offer a solution or a justification for a safety net or wealth redistribution (like a negative income tax) but that is compatible with the neoliberal system of economic liberalization.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Rufus F. says:

      At the moment, there are laws setting minimum wages. There are people who want to abolish the minimum wage. There are people who want to adjust the minimum wage. There are people who want to replace it with a “living wage.” Most people prefer not to think about it all that much.

      I am not convinced that attaching labels to them does all that much until you marry a position on a particular policy with other policy positions.

      When you do this based upon a small number of philosophical postulates, the result might be called an “ideology.” None such yet have been implemented with any generally desirable fulfillment. People seem to find these important and claim that they subscribe to them.

      If you’re someone who doesn’t care much about the minimum wage one way or the other the way I do, but does care about, say, the degree of belligerence we exhibit in foreign policy, we might make common cause: I will support your pacifism and you will support my “living wage.” Scale this up to a large population and we might call this a “faction,” a “coalition,” or a “political party.”

      Political parties claim to adhere to ideologies. They do not in truth do this but find the illusion of it helpful in scaling up the alliances of disparate interests. Those who claim ideologies are, in my opinion, generally actually proclaiming their partisanship.

      What interests me most, though, is what happens with the minimum wage.Report

      • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Utilitarianism is a big concern. Post-Wickard v Filburn government can regulate all it wants. But the question then is, what should it do? If raising the minimum wage really does lead to bad economic outcomes (higher unemployment, less growth) that seems an argument against doing it.

        The “neoliberals” as I understand the term won the debate on economics. But I’m including men like Paul Krugman, Bill Clinton and Milton Friedman as all “neoliberals.” We need capitalism and markets. Government in “socialist” Western Europe (pre-Thatcher) was owning and running too many enterprises. Market oriented reforms and free trade are good things in a macroeconomic sense.

        What role government should play beyond that is entirely debatable.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jon Rowe says:

          I doubt you’ll get any disagreement round these parts that “can” does not necessarily mean “should” and the government’s ability to act is not a substitute for good judgment exercised by our leaders prior to undertaking such action.

          I note with caution that minimum wage laws are but one possible example in my comment above concerning the tenuous relationship between policy preference, ideology, partisanship, and labels attached to the same. Although I’m pretty sure you get it.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Neo-liberalism was an attempt to remove moral judgment from government regulation of business.

    It shouldn’t be a parasite sucking its blood… it should be a remora going along for the ride and getting stuff done with the money that business makes! Win-win!

    Business, of course, loves neo-liberalism.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Jaybird says:

      Actually, I think that business only likes neo-liberalism better, because the complexity of the neo-liberal solutions to societal problems gives them more opportunities to interfere with them (through lobbying, public relations campaigns, and subverting their intent while complying with the letter of the law).

      As an example, I would offer the attempt to create a carbon tax regime. The proposals were complex, creating carbon offsets, marketplaces, exemptions, and dynamic pricing. That offered a whole bunch of leverage points that business could insert its crowbars into. If, instead, the government created flat limitations on carbon use (e.g. carbon limits for new cars and power plants, phased limits for legacy polluters, etc.) it probably would have been easier to sell, easier to pass, and would make the moral reasoning behind the restrictions more clear to the public.

      Obamacare is another example. By most metrics, it has been fabulously successful: medical inflation has gone down to historic lows, the uninsured rate has gone down by half, and medical care is available to those with “pre-existing conditions.” Being a consultant, I had to buy insurance on the individual market, and I saw my (un-subsidized) rates go down by more than half. But because of the very complexity of the law, it has been very easy to mis-characterize, and the fact that it hasn’t halted medical inflation, or that there continues to be churn in insurance plans conveniently attributed to Obamacare, when they existed–in greater measure–in the pre-Obamacare medical insurance regime. But Obamacare continues to be “disapproved of” by the largest plurarity of polled citizens, notwithstanding that its individual provisions are liked by overwhelming portions of the population (with the exception of the individual mandate).

      (BTW: I really appreciate the opportunity to edit my responses for 5 minutes after you post them. Almost everything I drop here has some stupid, embarrassing grammatical, spelling and construction error, and I get a chance to do some fixing after I’ve hit the “save” button.Report