Having looked him up, apparently he\’s something like the Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the Open University. And entirely ignorant to boot:
Neoliberalism is grounded in the \”free, possessive individual\”, with the state cast as tyrannical and oppressive. The welfare state, in particular, is the arch enemy of freedom. The state must never govern society, dictate to free individuals how to dispose of their private property, regulate a free-market economy or interfere with the God-given right to make profits and amass personal wealth. State-led \”social engineering\” must never prevail over corporate and private interests. It must not intervene in the \”natural\” mechanisms of the free market, or take as its objective the amelioration of free-market capitalism\’s propensity to create inequality.
As an analysis of neoliberalism that\’s a pretty good coq au vin recipe. That is, it has entirely fuck all to do with the subject under discussion.
All good little neoliberals, myself for example, are entirely signed up to the idea that the State must intervene at times. That markets must be regulated, that profit making not only might be but should be justly and righteously limited. Yes, even that \”social engineering\” should prevail over corporate and private interests.
Our arguments with \”social democracy\” (to give one possible name to the system which neoliberalism is fighting against) come in three flavours.
1) The areas where private interests prevail over State are much larger than social democrats declare they are. To take one trivial example from the current news: salt in HP sauce. If a company wishes to market and consumers which to purchase and consume a sauce which is higher in salt than the State thinks is wise then the State can bugger off. Nothing to do with the State at all. On yer bike matey.
2) We do not move from \”this must be regulated\” to \”the State must regulate this\” quite so easily as the social democrats. Should the freshness, taste, ingredients and general potability of Heinz Tomato Soup be regulated? Yes, most certainly: but the interesting question is by whom? We neoliberals would note that actually, it\’s become the world\’s best selling brand of the stuff (well, I assume it is anyway) because Heinz has a reputation to maintain, a brand, and consumers do very well at regulating, through their purchase or not of such a product, the quality of such repeat purchases. Heinz gained this reputation by poisoning fewer consumers than the competition back in the early days of canning.
There are areas where consumers are not so good at such producer regulation. One time purchases with long term payoffs for example: there\’s no neoliberal out there who doesn\’t think that the pensions industry needs a goodly bit of State oversight.
3) We don\’t think that the welfare state should be abolished either. Nor that there should be no redistribution, no intervention in market outcomes or market distribution of consumption. Indeed, we\’re all usually far more radical about how to do these things than the social democrats are. It\’s us, people like Uncle Milt, Charles Murray, who argue that bugger it, just give everyone enough to live on. Go on, do it, stop buggering about with 50 p a week here, a tenner there. Just send everyone £6,000 a year or whatever and leave them alone. Negative income taxes, the EITC in hte US, tax credits in the UK, these are neoliberal ideas you must recall. So is the London Congestion Charge (no, really, Alan Walters).
However, what we do argue is that much of the time you do want to let the market rip: then do the balancing and redistribution after that. Rather than cripple the market to get to your desired goal, use the market to create the wealth to get there. Further, that subtle adjustments to markets to cure their imperfections are better than bureaucratic dictats. For example, a Pigou Tax on carbon emissions is better than 3,500 pages of rules and regulations on who may emit what, when and how.
In the end though, what you\’ve really got to remember is that us neoliberals are in fact liberals. In fact, we\’re the only people in the political arena who are consistently liberals. On the conservative side there are most certainly those who would regulate which adults you can voluntarily exchange bodily fluids with. Over on the left, socialist and green, side there are most certainly those who would regulate which adults you can voluntarily exchange economic goods with.
We\’re the only people who are arguing that who you fuck and who you trade with is no damn business of the State at all. The only people arguing that you\’re an adult, you\’re a free adult living in a free country and, well, have fun, eh?
You know, liberals arguing for liberty.
Which is why we get such stick from both left and right of course: both groups being insistent that the proles have to be told what to do by the proper, edumacated, enlightened sort of people who make up said lefts and rights.
And we liberals are out there shouting, as we have been for three centuries now, shouting that aristocracies, whether by birth, self-selection or political power, can simply fuck right off out of the lives of free adults.