R.I.P. NEOLIBERALISM?….This weekend David Brooks declared neoliberalism dead. Is it? Jon Cohn provides some perspective:
[Neoliberalism] was based on the premise that sometimes liberals were a greater menace to liberalism than conservatives — by failing to recognize the public sector’s fallibility, by not taking seriously middle class resentment over the use of taxes, by putting the needs of constituent interest groups above the greater public good, and so on.
But to the extent that premise was ever true — and, surely, it was true in at least some instances — it is no longer. I would argue that turning point came no later than 1994, when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans came to power….When the party in power has, say, declared war on the welfare state, one should probably defend said welfare state’s existence before harping on its modest, if still regrettable, flaws.
And yet, unlike my friend Ezra Klein, I’m not quite ready to say that neoliberalism failed, either. One reason it no longer seems relevant is that the liberal left, broadly speaking, has embraced some of its best teachings.
I think this is the key point: neoliberalism didn’t die, it won. The reason it’s no longer a vital movement is that mainstream liberalism has fully absorbed about 80% of the neolib critique and moved on. This is true even for a lot of younger liberals who may not fully realize where their political sensibilities come from.
No movement wins all its battles, of course, and neoliberalism lost its share along the way. But as Jon points out, winning those last few battles just doesn’t seem important any longer. After 1994 it became clear that Republicans had no interest in meeting us halfway. Instead they declared war. Conservatives like Brooks shouldn’t act surprised that eventually liberals decided to shed their introspective ways and start fighting back.