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George Monbiot finds the great neo-lib. conspiracy

Tim Worstall has a bit of fun with poor old George Monbiot, who frets about the origins of all that terribly nasty “neo-liberal” (ie, classical liberal) thinking that dared to suggest an alternative to Man’s future in a great socialist project.

Well, I have been to a few events hosted by think tanks like the Institute of Economic Affairs, have been a member of the Libertarian Alliance for 22 years (!) and have been even known to correspond with likeminded people in foreign countries. The sheer horror of it, Georgie!

Seriously, articles such as Monbiot’s suggest to me that the “neo-liberals” have been winning at least some debates, or at least getting under the collars of collectivists of various types. That has to be a good thing.

For a grown-up analysis of the revival of classical liberal ideas in the West, Brian Doherty’s book is a great read. It mainly focuses on the US, however.

21 comments to George Monbiot finds the great neo-lib. conspiracy

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Holy crap, take a look at the comments on CiF from Monbiot’s article.

    I’m trying to figure out which I find more disturbing–the lack of understanding about classical liberalism and liberty, or the insane level of projection regarding “control”–if there’s anybody who wants to control people, Monbiot and his supporters are it.

  • Steevo

    I’m not a Libertarian tho I’ll always agree with a hefty fear of government. Its my opinion its possible the unfettered demands of the movement may have contributed to influencing more government control instead of less. Classic Libertarians like to claim that America was born solely from the Enlightenment. It was born from both the Enlightenment and Reformation. I don’t believe we are born possessing the good necessary to do it, so alone. Too many Libertarians have been naive and irresponsible in this regard. There’s some deep denial and frankly, a lot of hypocrisy when it concerns exactly what government should do.

    As far as Monboit… indeed a conspiratorial idiot. “Bastions of almost totalitarian neoliberal thinking.” I’ve never heard it put quite that way. It also seems he’s a bit confused with American conservatives.

  • guy herbert

    It’s worth noting that everything Monbiot doesn’t like appears to be part of neo-liberalism by his lights, this includes political programmes, such as neo-conservatism and The Third Way, that are as anti-liberal as he is.

  • How is old Moonbat?

  • Frederick Davies

    Paranoia is a psychiatric condition; someone should tell Mr. Monbiot.
    On the other hand, those seeking the truth tend to attract each other, so maybe Mr. Monbiot is onto something; it is just he cannot admit to himself how wrong he is.

  • RAB

    Wow George!
    You mean we’ve won!!
    Er then why doesn’t it FEEL like we’ve won George?

  • nicholas gray

    In line with modern progressive thinking, EVERYONE has won, but not everyone will be getting prizes. Whilst there has been some gains by individuals (less draconian drug laws for small amounts), this is being balanced by more surveillance and intrusion to fight terrorism, in line with modern thinking of fighting fire with fire, not water.

  • Nick M

    I despise Monbiot with a passion. He is a total Bertie Blunt.

  • Julian Taylor

    There was something immensely satisfying in seeing the Monbiot-type character in The Bourne Ultimatum refuse to take advice from the evil neo-con American trying to save his life and rush out into the scope of a waiting assassin …

  • There was quite a lot of mocking from our side in the CiF comments. While it was justified, I thought I’d have a go at some reasoned argument (posting under the name RobFisher).

    Yes, it’s probably a waste of time, but there are bound to be some fence sitters for whom Monbiot’s arguments don’t quite ring true but they’re not sure why.

    The mission of Samizdata as I understand it is to spread ideas. Far from merely preaching to the choir, reading here for the last few years has given me lots of ideas and made me a better debater than I otherwise would have been. Blogs like this could well change things, eventually.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly RAB is correct – just because the enemies of liberty (such as George Monbiot) are full of hatred for us, does not mean we have won or are winning. “Stalin” and other socialists were always inventing plots that were a threat to “the people” (“the masses” or whatever) and funded by mega rich capitalists – it did not mean that the socialists were about to be turned out of power.

    Presently government is about half the economy (G.D.P.) in most Western countries and what is left of the private economy is strangled by regulations and distorted by a credit bubble government money supply expanding financial system.

    In one looks at the United States (the nation that Mr Monbiot is most interested in) its government (Federal, State and local) takes almost twice the share of the economy in government spending than in did back in 1948-1949 (when the evil “neo liberal” project supposedly started).

    If George Monbiot was interested in (for example) the effects of deregulation one could suggest he examine the effects of Ludwig Erhard deregulation of the German economy after 1948 – but, of course, George Monbiot is not interested in reality at all.

    George Monbiot is uninterested in truth as can be seen, for example, from his claim that Mr Blair and Mr Clinton (I suppose these social democrats are “neo liberals” as well – which would mean that we are NOT if the term “neo liberal” acutally means anything) supported intervention in Kosovo in order to develop an oil pipeline – a pipeline that neither man was interested in and does not go through Kosovo anyway.

    As for free market ideas being for the benefit of the “ultra rich” – most American billionaries (i.e. the “ultra rich”) involved in politics supported John Kerry in 2004.

    Also the money that goes to the left (whether foundations such as Ford, or universities such as Harvard and Yale) is vastly more (hundreds of times more) than money that goes to people who want a smaller government (including the handful of pro smaller government universities such as Hillsdale).

    When the I.E.A. (founded by a ex R.A.F. man turned farmer – not American “ultra rich” folk) gets as much money as Oxford or Cambridge – then we can talk about a level playing field between those who want a smaller government and those who teach that a yet bigger government is what is needed.

    As it is I rather doubt whether University of Buckingham (the only university in the United Kingdom where a person in favour of a smaller government has much of chance of getting a job) is much of a threat to the statist powers-that-be.

    Even the Members of Parliament for Buckingham (both the present one and the one before him) tend to be weird sorts of “Conservative” – quite happy with a bigger government in all sorts of ways.

    So it seems the one semi free market university in the United Kingdom can not even help elect a single free market M.P. (even though Buckingham is not a big town – indeed there is little there bar the university).

    An American gentleman above mentioned the problem he thought that radical libertarians were.

    Well I tend to be more of Frank Meyer libertarian than a Murry Rothbard libertarian.

    But even Murry Rothbard was a social conservative in many ways (he just also thought that the United States was a great source of evil in the world). With a great respect for traditional religion (although I do not know whether he ever converted to the Roman Catholic faith of his wife).

    The idea of the libertarian as a person on drugs and having sex with anything that moves is a bit of a myth.

    There is a vast difference between thinking that the state is a bad (indeed counter productive) method of improving individual moral character and conduct (which was, after all, the position of Gladstone – harldy a hippy type) and believing that that there is no such thing as bad moral conduct.

    Libertarianism and libertine ism are rather different things.

    The point reminds me of the British govenrment position that Northamptonshire should be under Nottingham in a “regional government” (most likely because “Northampton” and “Nottingham” sound similar to people who do not know that these places have no connection).

  • RAB

    Libertarianism and libertine ism are rather different things.

    Bugger! I kinda thought I’d been mixing those two up.

    Do I have to give up the sex drugs and rock n roll then?

    I’d be very reluctant….

  • RAB


    I came across that one earlier and couldn’t resist it.

    Do you reckon George will be there?

  • Un-dirty-word-believable.

  • transforming university economics departments into bastions of almost totalitarian neoliberal thinking

    Right-o, so why then does the idea of government as deus ex machina appears in many economic models taught in our universities? What a silly boy Monbiot is, although he’s welcome to attend any of the neo-liberal supervisions I plan on giving next term.

    I can only think that Monbiot has a very broad definition of “neo-liberal”. Probably something like “anyone who believes that free markets are a good for moral reasons or anyone who believes markets have any efficiency properties”.

    Has anyone else realised how wonderfully anagrammable his name is?

    George Monbiot = Big Remote Goon = Emoting goober.

  • veryretired

    Geez, Paul, I’d volunteer to be a libertarian if I could get in on that myth deal, even if it was just a little bit.

    Of course, the anythings couldn’t move too fast…

    Does it matter that I can’t find my libertine card? I get all my books from Amazon now. I don’t have to remember how the duedecimal system works, and I get free shipping.

  • Paul Marks

    There certainly should not be statutes (or other regulations) agianst sex, drugs and rock and roll. But that is a very different thing from saying that people should have sexual relations with anything that moves (for example a motor car), or should use various harmful drugs, or that rock and roll is a good form of music.

    I know the confusion of the libertarian and the libertine is an old chestnut (an often deliberate confusion of people who do not think that moral character is not the business of the state – and those who think that moral character should not exist), but I find that the obvious has to be stated (again, and again and again…….).

    Take the quotation that Jonny reminds us of.

    There are so many absurdities in it.

    “neo liberalism” is not defined, but let us assume it means belief in civil interaction rather than state control.

    Yet it is called “almost totalitarian” – when civil society (the voluntary trading and nontrading interactions of human beings) is the opposite of totalitarianism.

    As for “university economics departments” – there may be some free market folk in some university economics departments – but there are also many people who want government to be even bigger than it is already (and in most Western countries government spending takes about half of the economy and the rest of civil society is tied up in endless regulations).

    What is “totalitarian” is the fact that so few people who are (for example) hostile to the Welfare State have a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting a job in most other “social science” and humanities departments at universities (including most American private universities, although these “private” universities get most of their income from either the taxpayers, in one way or another, of from investment income – investments the universities do not pay tax on, so no wonder they do not worry about other people paying high taxes).

    “But all you have just said is obvious”.

    Yes I know – but it has to be said again and again.

    The fact that George Monbiot (an utterly ignorant man) is treated as some sort of serious thinker by the media and so on, shows just how bad the general state of knowledge is.

    With most people we are still at the “C A T spells cat” stage in relation to economics, history, politics, philosophy…….

  • RAB

    Paul, sometimes you sharpen your pencils too finely.
    As you well know by now, I was having a little joke (sort of).

  • Steevo

    “An American gentleman above mentioned the problem he thought that radical libertarians were.”

    Paul, I tend to see the forest more than trees. You’ve taken this thread personal and I’d like to be a little more clear.

    “The idea of the libertarian as a person on drugs and having sex with anything that moves is a bit of a myth.”

    OK, but the American Libertarian party or those identifying with the movement are a bit of a mosaic to be sure as there are differences right down to our efforts in Iraq and abortion. Then they do seem to have consistencies. There is ‘controlled’ substance abuse. I was involved in drugs, heavily for years and had many friends doing the same. Without going into all the reasons why, from my own experience and that of many, many I knew making it legally assessable can be fraught with problems far greater than what we have to deal with now. A lot of Libertarians have never had any personal experience or anything serious beyond pot smoking yet they’re intent focusing on the overreach of government. They simply don’t recognize how naive they can be toward human nature and the potential consequences of certain behavior. Mine is an honest assessment backed up by more than just good intentions which I don’t doubt most Libertarians have. And then take incense and, apparently, no laws governing sexual behavior as long as there is ‘consent’… I don’t agree. Like making drug use legal its wrought with the potential for severe abuse. This all comes down to the same thing: where do you draw the line, because it has to be drawn. I don’t see the solutions as rational and ‘moral’. The focus is largely the problem of government and the right to be free, based on understanding of human nature I believe foolish.

    I’m more in agreement than not tho. Reducing taxes, private property rights, getting government out of the welfare state business, gun rights… etc.

    The main point in my initial post is I don’t believe Libertarians can claim their policies have helped keep a check on our government’s growth as many of them do. I’m inclined to think the opposite but that’s just my opinion… I don’t know for sure.

  • Paul Marks

    RAB – yes I am terrible stuffed shirt at times (sorry). Of course I knew you were joking (I even tried a joke of my own – about a motor car, a rather pathetic joke), but I went into my default mode of prig.

    Steevo – I have no personal experience of drugs. I did not even drink as a young man. Indeed in my undergraduate days (long ago) I did not even bother with tea and coffee.

    Nor can I claim to know people who have had experience of drugs.

    So if you say that making such things as cocaine legal would increase their use I must take your opinion seriously.

    As I have not got a clue what makes people use such things in the first place, I hesitate to say “you are wrong, I know better – because doctrine tells me so”.

    I take a different view from you (based on historical experience as much as on libertarian theory), but even I am not arrogant enough to tell you “must” be wrong, when (as you rightly guessed) I have no more direct knowledge of this subject than I have of the dark side of the Moon.