Ritchie on neoliberalism

The failure of neoliberal thinking is increasingly seen all around us. That thinking is, of course, intensely simplistic. It says, without having any foundation in reality, that if only everyone profit maximised then the world would be a perfect place.

Err, no. Really, no.

Neoliberalism (to the extent that it isn\’t just a code word for \”things the Murphmeister doesn\’t like\”) does not assume that if everyone profit maximised then the world would be a better place.

It doesn\’t even assume (nor even desire!) that everyone profit maximises.

It does rather assume that individuals maximise, to the best of their ability and knowledge, their utility. But as any fule kno, utility and profit are not the same thing. Utility leaves room for feeling better about contributing to the care of others for example, something that profit doesn\’t.

But do note that neoliberalism only assumes that everyone\’s trying, within their limitations, to do this. It most certainly does not go on to state that the world would be a better place if everyone were able to achieve this.

To take an absurdly extreme example. There are those who enjoy torturing kittens. Torturing kittens increases their utility. Neoliberalism does not go on to say therefore torturing kittens is just fine as utility maximising behaviour.

Indeed, to relax the absurdity, neoliberalism places very strict limits upon such utility maximisation. The utility maximisation of fist swinging very definitely should be stopped in the vicinity of others\’ noses for example.

We can go on: neoliberalism (I can say this because I am indeed that Hoodoo Man, the unrepentant neoliberal) is entirely happy with the idea of action to deal with externalities. Say, road pricing to deal with congestion, carbon taxes to deal with emissions. Even, dare I say it, areas where we really would not like to have competing market suppliers of goods and or services. The Wars of the Roses were an example of how we most certainly do not want to have competing private armies.

I have a very strong feeling that Richard Murphy hates neoliberalism for one very important to him reason. He\’s got a very large case of Kip Esquire\’s Law. The planners always imagine themselves as the planners. One of my definitions of neoliberalism (perhaps better to call it a personal prejudice?) is that I want the system to be built upon the certainty that I\’m not going to be the planner.

That is, instead of a system in which I get to tell people to do what I tell them, what system which still actually works can be built where I don\’t have to do what others tell me to do?

Yes, there must be rules. Yes, there has to be governance. Even, yes, there has to be tax to pay for it. But I want a world in which we set general rules and then observe how people act within them in order to solve those societal and communal problems. Perhaps neoliberalism is the wrong word for this: Worstallism if you like. What I absolutely do not want is planners getting the power to force us all to do as they want. Perhaps that\’s why Ritchie hates neoliberalism/Worstallism so much. The system would provide no space for him to impose his rules upon us.

25 thoughts on “Ritchie on neoliberalism”

  1. Chaps like Richie seize on every imperfection of life to claim that the market does not work and should be done away with.

    This is like abolishing football because a referee missed an offside or a player took a bribe.

  2. To develop Serf’s point further, the thing that I like about neoliberalism, liberalism, market economies and or Worstallism, is that is degrades relatively gracefully in spite of bad actors. And goodness knows, it looks like we’ve had plenty of those over the last decade or so – in banks, in get-rich-quick companies, in governments, and yes, individuals taking on debts many knew deep down they didn’t need and couldn’t service.

    Whereas the alternatives seem – from history – to require near-perfect behaviour from nearly all participants, or they fall into dysfunctional, oppressive, authoritarian tyrannies.

  3. famous investor Peter Lynch once said as a long term investor you should invest in a company that could be run by an idiot, because sooner or later it would be. Strikes me that economic systems are just a scaled up version.

  4. @PaulB

    ‘Is neoliberalism one of those marvellous systems, like Socialism and Christianity, which has somehow never been tried?’

    Nothing has ever been tried. Bits and pieces of lots of things have been tried.

    The difference between liberalism and socialism, or trends towards either, is that all that I require for liberalism is that people like you fuck the fuck off and leave me alone, whereas your socialism requires that you poke your fucking nose into every crevice of my life.

  5. That’s interesting, because the neoliberals I’ve read require an interfering state to protect the property they’ve arrogated.

    Do you suppose that being gratuitously rude compensates for the intellectual paucity of your arguments?

  6. Alex B

    Spot on – before Murphy extended a blanket ban on any ‘NeoLiberal’ comments and commenters (described as ‘astroturfing Right-Wing Trolls’ by one of his allies who I know well) the argument was made that the ‘NeoLiberal’ vision was a pessmistic one of human nature that was unrealistic, and that Murphy’s supporters and others who advocated what later became the ‘Courageous’ State had a more realistic view that people as a whole were largely mutually supportive and friendly.

    This assumption I contend is at best naive, and possibly excusably in some ‘A’ Level wish list, but from a man of over 50 who had any experience of the real world it is outright stupidity. It’s as though the philosophical element of Hayek and Mises was never noted, and as with the USSR (perhaps the closest thing to the ‘Courageous State’ you’d see in recent times) it’ll all end in a messy, bureaucratic tyranny.

    P.S Obviously it’s simple from reading the ‘Tax Research’ blog to conclude that the man has no experience of the real world before anyone else mentions it.

  7. ” …because the neoliberals I’ve read require an interfering state to protect the property they’ve arrogated.”
    Not sure if that quite reflects the situation. Most neoliberals would prefer to take steps to protect their own property. The involvement of the state is more to save unwanted harm to those progressives who might be unwise enough to continue to attempt to take it from them. Opinions are very much divided on this.

  8. “the neoliberals I’ve read require an interfering state to protect the property they’ve arrogated.”

    Nonsense. That’s the precise opposite of neo-liberalism. The Blair government made property rights a matter of government jurisdiction when he abolished squatters’ right to adverse possession, but that certainly wasn’t liberal.

  9. Oh, and on the topic for a second: neo-liberalism is akin to the choice of engines for vehicles like snowmobiles and aeroplanes, where graceful degradation in performance, rather than catastrophic failure, is a more important factor than ultimate theoretical efficiency. Idiots like Ritchie see the inefficiency without realising it’s a trade-off.

  10. @paulb – I have zero interest in the ‘neoliberals you have read’. Does that help you? You interfering, lefty, smartarse cunt*.

    *gratuitous rudeness

  11. PaulB is quite correct. The Washington Consensus, produced by Williamson, includes protection of property rights. To the extent that we think neoliberalism matches the Washington consensus, we do expect the state to protect property rights. PB is also a very polite individual unlike some left of centre commentators and it would behoove others to treat him in a like manner.

  12. What exactly is worstall’s vision of the future.

    It seems just a load of insulting, badly thought out, irrelevant bullshit. Just because he can.

    Fair enough, liberally, but it’s still insane gobshittery.

    No wonder he tagged along to the mildly intellectual Nigel Farage, even though that wanker has no clue about cause and effect.

    I’m happy to be insulting, but one thing you divs forget is that Richard Murphy projects ideas instead of fuckwittering about decades old failures.

    Stick to your metals, old boy. In your rented shack. Whilst pretending to be English in Portugal.

    That goes for all you tossers pretending to know how people work.

    FFS there’s even Nigerian oil types thinking they know shit about anything.

    Fucking do some reading about the real world and stop drawing pretend lines between pretend and biased data.

    At least Murphy is transparent.

    You’re all piss-poor, blinkered nobodies.

    I look forward to So Much For Wanking’s properly argued counter argument to Murphy’s Courageous State.

    I don’t expect Worstall to be able to since he has no intellect in that field, only in making up names for people he doesn’t like and regurgitating absolutely fuck all.

    Unintelligent, irrational and only marginally relevant.

    See what I did there. Marginally relevant because you read a book once. And then sucked off a bunch of US corporate shills who couldn’t debate themselves out of their internet diplomas.

    The State creates the foundation for privvate prosperity. Without it Worstall would be more of a nobody than he is now.

    As for the regular posters (bar a few): get a life. You’re shit and you love it.

    I applaud PaulB because he argues his case without partisan connections.

    In fact he tends to destroy Worstall’s main non-arguments.

    Worstall is ignorant, and probably brainwashed by non-factual vitriol disseminated by his pals.

    What a tool.

  13. let’s have alook at your blog

    “Shades of Grey

    Which was the 48th episode, and the final episode of the Second Season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, …It’s widely considered one of, if not the worst episode in the entire Star Trek pantheon.”

    fuck me that’s incisive. next you’ll be saying “Teh Gayers” and sniggering each time.

  14. Arnald

    You disagree with the assessment of that episode? Or what is your exact point – How is that relevant to your ill-tempered diatribe on Tim’s points above?

  15. the USSR (perhaps the closest thing to the ‘Courageous State’ you’d see in recent times)

    A feudal tyranny that’s overthrown by a ragtag coalition which lasts for a few months, which is then overthrown by the most extremist and fanatical faction in said coalition, which proceeds to slaughter its former colleages in a bloody civil war, then liberalises very slightly, then falls into the hands of one of the bloodthirstiest tyrants to ever walk the earth, then mobilises for the most violent single military conflict in human history, then spends 40 years locked in an economic war of attrition with a massively economically superior power.

    Many left supporters in the West wrongly supported the USSR when it wasn’t clear how bad Stalin was. Some continued to do so even after they should have realised how bad Stalin was. These people are cunts, as is anyone who calls himself a communist given that term’s history.

    But using the predictable fact that Russia was governed by evil shithouse bastards as any kind of proxy for how the left-liberal vision would turn out when implemented in a liberal democratic state is stark staring bonkers. Sweden and Finland remain gulag-free, whatever Julian Assange’s swivellier supporters might claim.

  16. Johnb, it is fair comment to say that under the “rules” that existed in Russia/Soviet Union after the revolution, it was always going to fall into the hands of the most bloodthirsty, that’s the nature of the political movement. And don’t underrate Lenin, didn’t really get the time to develop the blood lust like Stalin, but made a pretty promising start.

    Any “State” that believes it has the right to dictate how you can live and trade over a certain level will, I suggest, always turn into a tyranny, as bloodthirsty as the underlying culture allows. For all their sins, the Scandinavians were never as personally oppressive as the Russians, and so never descended anywhere near as far. But their record with, for example, eugenics practices shows that they were far from blameless.

  17. Van
    It’s to highlight that calling my post ‘manure’ whilst all you can talk about is fucking Star Trek makes your opinion piss.

    So shut up

  18. Arnald

    I’m just grateful for your sake that Tim allows all comments on his blog, rather unlike Murphy. I can only deduce from the level of your argument, which appears to be evinced both in your argument that talking about a TV programme makes ones opinions on another topic invalid, and in your absurd statements at 15. I’ d say to look at the beam in your own eye before pointing out the motes in others but the reference would probably pass you by. Ironically I don’t think I’ve actually seen even a sycophantic comment from you on the Tax Research blog, probably because you can’t control your use of expletives or ad hominem attacks to warrant publication.

  19. Not really. It just shows you are an irrelevance, as much as I am.

    Since I’ve been following the various tax justice organisations since some of their inceptions, I haven’t anything more to add, hence no posts.

    And, I only use ad hominems because this blog is just one long ad hominem. It is valueless and not libertarian in the slightest.

    I think you’ll find more expletives in worstall’s drivel than most other places.

    Yet you don’t seem to care about that.

  20. Arnald

    Luckily It seems based on your last post that we at least adhere to the belief in Freedom of speech, even if we think it irrelevant, as you seem to.

    I happen to agree that at times I think Tim does descend too readily into ad hominem attacks, especially regarding the Author of Tax Research UK, but to claim, as you do that the aforesaid man doesn’t do the same shows a degree of one-sidedness. I’m happy to normally keep the debate civil. Your extraordinary diatribe at 15 above, however could probably have presaged a 3000 word response. Or I could, as you have done merely told you to ‘shut up’ which seems to in your eyes count as a convincing argument…

  21. @johnb

    I take your point to a degree, although Lest we forget the Bolsheviks did at least come to power through partially democratic means initially, and it’s also defensible to acknowledge that the fact that an externally supported Civil insurrection, then the most bloody theatre of the most destructive conflict the world has ever seen tended to make the ruling body somewhat paranoid.

    However, the question that is never asked by the likes of Toynbee or Murphy, who are quick to, as you have done, invoke the four Nordic countries as a more ‘valid’ comparison of where a Specific ( in this case) Left-Liberal outlook will end up, is why are these countries like it, and no others? I’d say the relative racial homogeneity, Strong Liberal traditions and far better education evinced by the peoples of Norway, Finland and Denmark simply aren’t there in the UK, which is why I fear that going down the root proposed by Murphy would be closer to the USSR than Finland…

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