George does rather go over the top

Humankind\’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that man-made climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business.

I have a feeling that I\’m the only neo-liberal who actually interacts with George in any regular sense. And of course the Adam Smith Institute is one of his regular bugbears. Which does indeed make all of this most odd.

For I, and we, are the neoliberals who are saying, look, deal with climate change with a carbon tax.

You know, exactly as Lord Stern said we should?

24 comments on “George does rather go over the top

  1. Well, it’s a terminology thing. George is equating “neo-liberalism” with libertarian economic preferences, and if “neoliberalism” is the currently prevailing economic dogma, that is a mistake. If we take “neoliberalism” in that way, several differences emerge.

    Neoliberalism is generally statist, or “corporatist”, rather than libertarian. For instance, it supports state banking and state support for the financial sector in its current form. Libertarians want radical reform on that issue. Neoliberals can be found circle jerking with the State in bodies like the CBI. Neoliberals generally support high taxes, so long as they fall on other people (e.g. consumption taxes that transfer consumption from the poor to the wealthy rather than direct taxes on incomes or profits, which do the reverse).

    One way to look at it is that if a stereotypical leftist sees “labour” as the salt of the Earth, neoliberals prefer “the entrepreneur” as the salt of the Earth. That is, neoliberalism is a “pro business” lobby, the other side to leftist “pro labour” lobbies. A libertarian does not support either, or any such lobby. Socialists think you can tax the bosses without hurting the workers. Neoliberals have a similar oddity in believing you can tax the consumer without harming the producer. Tis all very strange.

    Anyway, that’s the thing George has got wrong, and lefties commonly do get wrong. They think that “neoliberals” are laissez faire, small government (libertarian) types and they aren’t. Hence Tim’s

    For I, and we, are the neoliberals who are saying, look, deal with climate change with a carbon tax.

    Because people on the poverty line will freeze when their heating bills go stratospheric, whereas the better off people in the “neoliberal” lobby, will not.

  2. So the country that has increased emissions the most (China) must be neoliberal then?
    Also, for example, Putin – a neoliberal??!!

  3. Because a carbon tax alone wouldn’t allow GM and his Guardian ilk to be able to control what people do by banning things in the name of ‘saving the planet’. People would still be free to do what they liked if they could pay the carbon tax associated with that activity.

    Freedom? We can’t have that!!

  4. Malaria kills more people per year than climate change is estimated to do by 2100 and would cost far less. Why are there almost no malaria stories in the Guardian compared to climate change ones?

  5. Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business.

    Hmm, I thought that was the phislosophy of minarchist libertarians. And I thought that because I am one.

    It’s nice of George to occasionally pop up and tell me how to self-define though. Hey-ho, now I’m a ‘neo-liberal’, apparently.

  6. sam-

    Unfortunately both Left and Right collude in this myth that the corporatist state is a “free market”. Which annoys the bejesus out of this minarchist libertarian.

  7. @ Ian

    Fair. But if they didn’t do that what the hell would we all argue about? The comments on this blog would be reduced to jeering at Murph’s latest piece of analphabet idiocy and waiting for Arnald to come and amuse us all.

  8. ….in the grip of an extreme political doctrine …..

    Letting people run their own lives, rather than the completely middle of the road, locking people up for selling the wrong kind of light bulb.

    Interesting use of the word extreme.

  9. “Why are there almost no malaria stories in the Guardian compared to climate change ones?”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/15/gm-mosquitoes-dengue-fever-feature

    “Dengue fever, borne by mosquitoes, kills around 20,000 people a year. Oxford-based scientists think they can solve the problem by disrupting breeding in high-risk areas with genetically modified insects. But is that safe?”

    Obviously any sane person would end that not with “But is that safe” but “FUCK YEAH, HUMANITY 1 MOTHER NATURE 0″. But its the Gaurdian so they’d prefer a few million dead Africans to GM.

    One ludite solution I would approve of would be if they used all that Oxfam aid money to send us vast quantities of Gin and Tonic with 1800′s levels of Quinine

  10. MakajazMonkee

    That story completely sums up the greens.

    Clever chaps find way of killing dangerous insects without spraying everything with poison. Proper result? Hurrah for the clever ones. Green response? There might be a risk.

    The unknown risk from releasing sterile mosquitoes is going to have to be huge to by worse than thousands of dead children or industrial quantities of pesticide. But cost benefit analysis is just so Neoliberal.

  11. DDT would kill a lot of mosquitoes. Except that Greenie Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring and falsely claimed loads of health problems from it – without any balance to the positive aspects of DDT. So the Greenies prefer that a few white people not have cancer and have no problem with loads of darkies getting Malaria and dying.

  12. “Malaria kills more people per year than climate change is estimated to do by 2100 and would cost far less. Why are there almost no malaria stories in the Guardian compared to climate change ones?”

    Because they can’t use malaria as a cover for anti-capitalist anti-consumerist bollocks as well as they can with climate change.

  13. Well, there’s a strong Malthusian heritage to the Greens, and with it the belief that stopping nature killing people is just clogging the world with useless eaters.

  14. I know I am ignorant and out-of-date, but I’ve never seen a definition of the words “neoliberal” and “neoconservative”; they seem (to me at least) to have popped up as convenient labels for some small groups of people in respect of some restricted aspects of policy, and then to have been accepted by drunken journalists as serious philosophical positions applying to the whole range of political belief. It may be that, in places where political philosophy is discussed, like Oxford PPE courses perhaps, they do have precise meanings, and that the aforesaid drunkards have all participated in such courses or discussions, but it is odd that they expect all their readers to be informed of their contents.

  15. SadButMadLad – “So the Greenies prefer that a few white people not have cancer and have no problem with loads of darkies getting Malaria and dying.”

    There is next to no risk of White people getting cancer from DDT. The risk is that some bird eggs might be a little thin – and I say might because no one actually knows and the difference we are talking about is such that if you look at older eggs from museums, a layer of dust can upset the measurement.

    That is how little Greenies value darkies.

    Mind you, among many Deep Greens, the death of people in the Third World was a bonus, not a cost. Third World population growth is a terrible thing it seems.

    Which brings us back to George. It is not that his language is useful for illuminating any particular argument he has. Rather it serves as an alternative to rational thought. If he can use Strong Language about people like TW – words like fundamentalist – he doesn’t feel he needs to actually engage with TW’s ideas. He can just project a little and be done with it. Monbiot’s teachers from that rather pretty place next to the Bodleian ought to be ashamed.

  16. pedant2007-

    “Neoconservative” at least originally was a quite specific term, referring to a group of American former Democrats who crossed the aisle to a form of big state conservatism, led by thinkers like Norman Podhoretz, who is sometimes credited as the first neoconservative. It is perhaps characterised by using “Democrat” methodology (big State action) to nominally Conservative ends.

    Of course nowadays it’s just a perjorative for “anyone more “right wing” than the speaker”, including small government conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, religious conservatives, etc etc. It seems to have replaced “fascist” and “bourgeois” as the leftist denunciation of choice. But it did once mean something specific.

  17. IB — thanks for that. As regards the “neocons”, it was pretty much what I had supposed (and indeed hinted at in my post). But “neolibs”?

  18. Ian B – “I’ve no idea of the origin of “neoliberalism” as a term. Anyone else?”

    I assume it means those people who turned back to Classical Liberalism and Adam Smith despite having heard the joyous news proclaimed by Marx and/or Keynes. They are not Classical Liberals because they do not reject every little bit of 20th century economics, but they are strongly aligned with them.

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