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Political Philosophy

Who's Afraid of Neoliberalism?

Only yesterday I premised that an obvious distinction between the London looters and Madrid missionaries was traditional, religious education and rearing. NLT's ever-faithful Cowgirl brought to my attention Walter Russell Mead's excellent article on the dwindling religiosity of the poor and uneducated (which would aptly describe the lot in London) and the comparative rise in faithfulness among the rich (many of whom undoubtedly flew into Madrid for their celebration with the Holy Father). I believe that I wrote on this same theme some time ago, but these trends - and the dire consequences - seem obvious to a casual observer of moderate intellect and powers of perception.

Enter the liberal discontents and their airs of smug superiority, lacking both knowledge and prudence. They have discovered the true devil beneath the shallow culprits fingered by "dumb moralisers" such as myself.

Margaret Thatcher is the reason for London's riots.

Pankaj Mishra writes: "London's rioters are Thatcher's grandchildren." Polly Toynbee's Guardian article ridicules that "small-staters blame the collapse of moral values, school indiscipline and feral beasts without fathers or consciences." She sees beneath the veil: "Grab what you can, winner takes all, no wealth is ever too much, this neoliberal amoral creed has reigned unquestioned since Margaret Thatcher."

What exactly do they mean? "Neoliberalism," explains Brendan O'Neill.

This claim, the outrage-heavy but evidence-lite argument that the rioting is a product of the unleashing of market forces into every area of life, captures what the term 'neoliberalism' represents in modern public debate: not a serious attempt to analyse or describe events, but an expression of political exasperation, a borderline childish belief that a bogeyman, in a Thatcher mask, is responsible for every terrible thing that happens. The screech of 'neoliberalism!' is meant to sound assertive, radical even, but really it speaks to an extraordinary intellectual passivity and unwillingness to face up to the true forces laying waste to British communities.  

So the same liberal social engineers who cringe at the sound of words like "moral," "good," "evil," "religion," "God" and the like - preferring "diversity," "multi-cultural," "faith-tradition," "values," "relativism" and so on - are now claiming that the decay in public virtue is not the result of having banished virtues from the public, but rather the economic policies of free-markets advanced by Hayek and Friedman in response to the failures of Keynes' quaint socialism.  

Politics is full of absurdities like this. Sometimes just making the claim that your opponent is responsible for your own most egregious fault is an effective tactic. The truth is so obvious to rationale observers that it seems ludicrous to mount a defense. But these attacks aren't aimed at the rationale - they target the ignorant and gullible. 

During John Kerry's run for the presidency, Democrats identified themselves as the "Catholic party" and insisted that their platform was the most consistent with Catholic social teaching. Partial-birth abortion advocates accuse pro-life prayer groups of condoning violence. Obama repeatedly promised that Obamacare and stimulus spending would reduce the deficit - whereas the Republicans secretly wanted deficit spending. And, of course, liberals call conservatives "terrorists" while admonishing them as the party of heated rhetoric. 

The use of such elusive academic-sounding terminology as "neoliberalism" is also purposeful. Few people would go along with the claim that a lack of government interference in private business is the reason young people do drugs and commit violent crimes - and even fewer would agree that Eastern European / Latin American socialism is the solution to this generational decay. So, capitalism becomes the unintelligible "neoliberalism" and socialism becomes "social democracy."

This is a common trend among liberals - who themselves have now evolved out of their "liberal" cocoons and emerged as "progressives." For the party of "No Labels," liberals seem to have no shortage of appellatives to cast about. Christians have pretty much been calling themselves the same thing since Rome and the Middle Ages - there's a valuable lesson in conservation there.

Leftists who liken themselves "academics" will never admit the banal truth observable by the unwashed masses. Truth, in the minds of these modern-day Gnostics, is their enlightened reserve. And like Tertullian, they believe it because it is absurd - only their object is not unfathomable divinity, but their own self-righteous conceit. 

Discussions - 5 Comments

"the decay in public virtue is not the result of having banished virtues from the public, but rather the economic policies of free-markets advanced by Hayek and Friedman in response to the failures of Keynes' quaint socialism. "

My question, of course, is how the public virtue came into being in the first place then, because obviously Keynesianism has only been around three to four generations, whereas obviously public virtue has been around longer. Unless we wish to claim it hasn't, and that what Keynesian methods *really* do is bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All by spending money obtained from others with absolutely no other requirements. Which, I guess, means that taken to the logical extreme, pillaging other countries for loot is really okay, as long as you spend it all on the correct causes internally.

So who knew--the Nazis were right all along....Nuts--I always end up rooting for the wrong side....

Before some criticize me on my "pillaging others" jibe---as a thought experiment, what if the nation to be pillaged was a country entirely composed of rich people (maybe something along the lines of a Kuwait, discussing citizens only). Wouldn't it be alright to invade and take 90% of what they make, every year, if you spend the money on the right things? I mean, wouldn't it?

And to head off an counter-argument--does not the mythical country of the rich most likely derive its riches in some way from trade, and thus depends on the work of our poor? Should they not pay their fair share to help insure the continued survival of a system they benefit from?

I guess it helps if the rich country is also a vulnerable country, for the richest country--the USA--is the least vulnerable, at least so far. So all those iittle prosperous coummunites, like Singapore, Hong Kong, the Cayman Ilands, Monte Carlo, would be fair game. Switzerland is unfortunately hard to access, as all those past conquerors who passed it by acknowledged, tacitly or otherwise. Of course, Keynesians are making war on the rich in the countries whose politics they influence. But you're right to be concerned about being misunderstood. Reduction ab absurdum debating points sometimes have the opposite effect of what is intended.

Not really--I think the point is clear. It, at some point, is about taking from those who can't resist superior force, whether it be military force (the international case), or political force (the domestic case). The second case, of course, was a concern of many at the time of the Founding, and is apparently an unanswered question about democracies--will citizens always vote themselves benefits that can only be obtained by taking from others who have more? Can the people forgo even when they don't have to?

And, concerning the international case--with just a little bit of changing, it becomes the complaint of the third world versus the first, and just because they can't use force majeur now does not mean it will always be so. so the question becomes once again--does the basic complaint ever have merit, or should it be rejected always? Sometimes? Never? You tell me.

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