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On “neoliberalism”

“And as to neoliberalism laid bare. Yes, the industrial revolution is the only way we humans have found of improving the living standards of the average guy in the street. I, as a liberal (even if neo) would like the living standards of the average guy to increase. Thus I support the industrial revolution. Yes, in all its mess and clamour: for it is making things better. I’m out and I’m proud. As a neoliberal I buy things made by poor people in poor countries. For that’s how poor people and poor countries get rich.”

Tim Worstall.

I think I can formulate a new “Johnathan Pearce law”. Namely, the presence of the word “neoliberal” in a piece mocking markets and capitalism is almost always evidence that the author of said piece either does not understand what he or she is attacking, or is misrepresenting it, and also regards such ideas as being promoted by some sinister, all-powerful cabal, as suggested by that rather creepy use of the term “neo” in front of something else, such as “liberal”.

18 comments to On “neoliberalism”

  • Lee

    I’ve had a similar one for a few years now,

    Any use of the prefix “neo” no matter what follows it (unless used as a quote) causes me to immediately stop reading the article as if I don’t I’ll likely put my fist through my monitor…and I like my monitor

  • Not quite sure where you are coming from on this Jonathan as Tim Worstall is pretty sound on most things libertarian and has a good Austrian economic background (as well as being former PR for UKIP if my recollection is correct).

    I don’t think he’s mocking, or if he is then he is mocking idiots like Richard Murphy aka ‘Ritchie make-everybody-poor’.

    The only thing Tim Worstall is suspect in is his foolish belief that there is some rational basis to Warble Gloaming.

    However he might just be doing that to flog a few books, you never know (only joking Tim).

  • Glen Dorran

    John Galt – don’t want to speak for Jonathan, but from his past posts it’s clear he knows Tim’s views pretty well (and is a fan like you and me). It’s also clear from Tim’s post that he’s using the word ‘neoliberal’ in a snarky manner to respond to yet another piece of idiocy.

  • You’ve got to love the line in Tim Worstall’s blog post though:

    “People who throw themselves off a roof again and again are not commiting suicide, they are bungee jumping.”

  • Like Glen Dorran, I am very confident that Pearce’s Law is to be applied to the foolish actor Tim Worstall was having a go at, not to TW himself, who’s rip-roaring defence of “neoliberalism” had me cheering.

    One good thing about the use of the word “neoliberal” by idiots is that it it may make the word “liberal” so odious in the eyes of lefties that that we eventually we may one day get back our stolen word. Having successfully taken ownership of a word that originally meant someone who loved freedom and by degrees redefined it to mean someone who loves well-intentioned coercion, quite why they want to undo all their hard work is a mystery to me. Either they are exceptionally honourable people determined to undo this linguistic injustice perpetrated by their own side or they are neo-twits.


    In the post above it should, of course, have been “…whose rip-roaring defence”.

    (Just checking that I didn’t top it all by writing “should of” before pressing ‘Post’.)

  • Well I must confess I do sometimes use the term “neo-fascist” to describe some people… i.e. a modern lounge suit fascist as opposed to an armband-n-jackboot fascist.

  • Perry, may I suggest that you have a better term right there in the sentence you just wrote. “Lounge suit fascist”. Love it! It, not them.

  • RRS

    Neo: shortened articulation of even more fore-shortened thinking.

  • I don’t trust any label that starts with “neo” and ends in “ism.” I’d sell that word short against the Euro.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    John Galt, I think, as someone else notes, that you misinterpret me. Tim W uses the term without irony, but a lot of people, such as that idiot Richard Murphy (the guy who thinks we don’t pay enough tax), is always using it incorrectly, ignoring the important nuances and qualifications.

    I also cannot help but feel that some – not all – folk who talk about “neo liberalism” have the same conspiratorial mindset as those who get into a tizzy about “neoconservatives” (with possibly even anti-semitic undertones). All very juvenile.

  • MajikMonkee

    Its only in the english language were “liberal” means “social democrat”, in every other European language it still has its original meaning.

  • the other rob

    To be fair, I did quite like “Neo Arbeit” to refer to New Labour. I think that I first read it here.

  • Rob

    “neo-liberal” is a modern version of the standard “hate words” the Left used to use reflexively, “fascist” and “imperialist”.

    99% of people using the word “neo-liberal” will have no idea of its meaning except that it means “them” or “other”, ones separate from the herdmind.

  • Laird

    Actually, Rob, I don’t really know what it means, either. I think you’re right that it’s like “fascist”: a non-specific term of opprobrium with no real content.

  • At a bar sometime last summer, I challenged one of these morons to explain to me what “neoliberalism” was, since he kept jabbering on about it. He looked at me like I’d just asked him to show me his elbow.

  • Paul H

    (Just checking that I didn’t top it all by writing “should of” before pressing ‘Post’.)

    Natalie, that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. What does it for me though is ‘try and’ instead of ‘try to’ which allways makes me wince.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post and good comments.

    However, dealing with people who talk about “neoliberal economics” can be fun.

    When I hear (or see) someone talking about “neoliberal economics” (in the “third world” or in the West) I always hasten to add “Oh I am much worse than that – the “neo liberals” are far too moderate for me”.