Neoliberalism is a simple cult. All it really says is that competition is the only way to efficiently allocate resources in society and that to achieve this the state must keep its nose out of almost everything so that market meshcanisms have the best chance of being effective by ensuring that the tax take is kept to a minimum, maximising the impact of personal spending preferences as a result. There is nothing more to the philosophy than that, although of course there are many unspoken themes behind that statement. That’s why it is so easy for its proponents to be so effective: the message is easy to deliver, however wrong it may be in theory, evidential support and consequence.
Corbyn’s challenge is to now build on the following he has created and the intellectual opposition that underpins it to build an alternative to neoliberalism that is as deliverable. I have a suggestion. Corbyn has to offer a vision of a world in partnership, where the state and private sectors and individuals and organisations, all work together to best effect to ensure that the most appropriate person or organisation delivers what people need with regulation making sure that all honour the obligations to which they commit, whilst in those areas where there is either a natural monopoly or where need and not income dictate demand then the collective power of society at large, operating through the the medium of government, will ensure that the best possible services that can be supplied with the resources that are available are on offer to all who need them.
The problem is that that second paragraph is as good a definition of neoliberalism as you’re ever going to get. We neoliberals (and given that I am regularly decried as such I take it that I can speak out here) are not anarchists, we agree there’s a role for the state. We agree that monopolies should be regulated where they must be, abolished where they can be. That people do indeed honour their contracts, that we should indeed be striving to provide the best services that resources will permit.
So, err, what’s different?
Well, actually, the only difference is in which areas of life we think that those personal preferences should take precedence. You know, us neoliberals really do go around saying that Teh Gayers can get up to whatever they like among consenting adults, it’s another group entirely that says buggery is damaging to society. Just as we think it’s just fine that there’re 40 deodorants, something Bernie Sanders doesn’t agree with. Or even that consenting adults can agree between themselves the rental price of housing something Jezza doesn’t agree with.