In an effort to get away from the simply pejorative use of the term neoliberalism, which can be attached indiscriminately to various forms of anti-democratic or pro-corporate power, the more historicist approach to the concept highlights its fluidity and contingent development. However, this approach also risks lapsing into pure historical description, without critique or an account of how ideas translate into policies and strategies. Others apply a more sociological and critical method, which aims to examine which aspects of neoliberalism are at work amongst elites and governments today. This poses the question of precisely how much of neoliberalism has survived the global financial crisis, and through what means this survival has been achieved.
Definitions of neoliberalism across these literatures are various. But they tend to share four things:
- Victorian liberalism is viewed as an inspiration for neoliberalism, but not a model. Neoliberalism is an inventive, constructivist, modernizing force, which aims to produce a new social and political model, and not to recover an old one. Neoliberalism is not a conservative or nostalgic project.
- Following this, neoliberal policy targets institutions and activities which lie outside of the market, such as universities, households, public administrations and trade unions. This may be so as to bring them inside the market, through acts of privatization; or to reinvent them in a ‘market-like’ way; or simply to neutralize or disband them.
- To do this, the state must be an active force, and cannot simply rely on ‘market forces’. This is where the distinction from Victorian liberalism is greatest. Neoliberal states are required to produce and reproduce the rules of institutions and individual conduct, in ways that accord with a certain ethical and political vision.
- This ethical and political vision is dominated by an idea of competitive activity, that is, the production of inequality. Competition and inequality are valued positively under neoliberalism, as a non-socialist principle for society in general, through which value and scientific knowledge can best be pursued.
By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual lynchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean
Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America’s burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.
James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.
The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.
That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.
A new report by Health Poverty Action.
The so-called ‘war on drugs’ was always built on shaky foundations. Now countries and jurisdictions around the world are dismantling it piece by piece and building a new, 21st century approach to drugs that puts public health first.
Read the report
Nowhere are the foundations of this new approach to drugs more obvious than in the global movement towards regulated, legalised cannabis markets. And despite the US being the ostensible leader of the ‘war on drugs’, it has been US states at the forefront of this move. The results from the US so far are generally positive: confounding critics whilst bringing in additional tax income to fund public services. And this is just the start: in the summer of 2018 Canada will become the first G7 country to legalise cannabis.
Regulating and legalising cannabis is an idea whose time has come.
Sign the petition
It is time to accept that prohibition is not only ineffective and expensive, but that regulation could – if it is done well – protect vulnerable groups and support public health. It would also generate both taxes (at least £1 billion annually, but potentially more) and savings, which taken together would mean more resources for health, harm reduction and other public services.
It is time for the UK government to catch up with the global shift and take the responsible approach by bringing in a regulated, legal market for cannabis.
To do this the UK government should
- move primary responsibility for cannabis policy and all other domestic (legal and illegal) drug policy to the Departments of Health (DH) and International Development (DFID);
- bring together a panel of experts to develop the most effective model for a regulated market; and,
- establish a Cannabis Regulatory Authority to implement their recommendations.
It is time to act.
Read the full report here:
 Transform, (2015) ‘Cannabis regulation in Colorado: early evidence defies the critics’ Available online: www.tdpf.org.uk/blog/cannabis-regulation-colorado-early-evidence-defies-critics
 Health Poverty Action (2018) ‘Building a 21st Century Approach to Drugs’ Available online: https://www.healthpovertyaction.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Building-a-21st-century-approach-to-drugs_briefing2018.pdf
Making cannabis legal ‘could bring £3,500,000,000 to the UK’
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4yzrm from 46:50