Monday, October 9, 2017

The Fake News Portrayal of Neo-Liberalism By the Left

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

My new article on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation is on “Neo-Liberalism: From Laissez-Faire to the Interventionist State.”

One of the most accusatory terms used by “progressives” and others on the political left is “Neo-Liberal.” To be called “Neo-Liberal” is to be condemned as an “extremist” advocate for unbridled capitalism and, therefore, an enemy of humanity.

In fact, the origin and meaning of “Neo-Liberalism” is
exactly opposite of the interpretation given to it by those on “the left.” It emerged out of Walter Lippmann’s 1937 book on, “The Good Society,” and a conference held about the book in Paris, France in August 1938.

In the book, Lippmann often eloquently writes on the dangers for individual freedom and free markets from totalitarian collectivism (communism, fascism and Nazism), and from the “creeping collectivism” arising from many forms of government intervention. But he insists that if “liberalism” is once more to be a vibrant voice against the collectivist trends of the time it must be a “new” liberalism open to and insistent for many forms of government regulation and redistribution.

The Paris conference brought together any of the leading proponents of classical liberalism and free market capitalism. But except for a few of the participants, and especially Ludwig von Mises, all of the attendees concluded, with Lippmann, that there needed to be a “Neo-Liberalism” that defended the unique benefits of competitive capitalism but is made acceptable to “the masses” of modern democratic society by offering tempering government interventions and income supports and redistributions without which the collectivists will win the day.

Thus, the progressive’s “Neo-Liberal” bogie-man of “unbridled” capitalism is in fact “fake news.” Historically “Neo-Liberalism” was and has been an attempt by some friends of freedom to “save” capitalism by conceding the case for the main elements of the interventionist-welfare state. And, in reality, it has been one of the factors, by some of those considered to be politically on “the right,” to enable the growth of “Big Government” by conceding and accepting the core criticisms that “the left” makes against free market capitalism.

Neo-Liberalism must be distinguished and not confused with “”Classical Liberalism,” which has historically stood far more unreservedly for individualism, free markets and a limited government meant to secure individual rights and not violate them.


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