I asked the powers that be at Persephone if I could start this series because I think that every Progressive should have a functional understanding of the economic theories that form the foundation of Conservative policy. I am, of course, not exactly the greatest living expert in these matters, I am studying as I go along, but I’m happy to stumble through them in public for your information and, I hope, entertainment.
For the purpose of simplicity I won’t be discussing particular theorists much, but if you ever have any questions about my sources or want to contest a point just leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.
Okay. Here we go!
Neoliberalism is a set of Neoclassical economic and social theories that emphasize the importance of economic efficiency, the expansion of the free market, the reduction of the role of the state often in the form of deregulation and privatization, self interest and individualism. In Neoliberalism, one of the primary objectives is to shift economic risk from the collective to the individual, and subsequently from the state to the corporation. Financial gains, however, are typically measured in terms of what’s good for the individual is good for the group–think “Trickle-down” Economics–rather than in terms of increasing or decreasing inequality.
It is named neo, new, liberalism because of the resurgence beginning around the 1970s of policies associated with the age of Liberalism–the era during which Mercantilism began to fail and powerful Imperialist powers began to realize the potential of the free market. Hm. Colonial powers using the free market for exploitative means? That sounds familiar. “Corporate imperialism” truly is a telling moniker.
The opposition, which if you hadn’t guessed is where I fall, is generally lumped together as Heterodox economics, though this term can denote everything from Marxism to feminist economics, as well as schools of thought like the post-Keynesian that fall relatively close to the mainstream but with a more progressive and redistributive outlook. These groups of theorists tend to emphasize the importance of economic justice rather than simply efficiency, controlling the failures of the free market by expanding the role of state regulation and social programs, and exploring the role of the collective in economic decision-making.
In the next few weeks I plan to talk about the specific policies that uphold Neoliberalism, and the various arguments that Heterodox schools use against them. While I do intend to be speaking mainly from the perspective of the United States, I will be including information about the impact these policies have on other countries and global organizations.
So what do you think, Persephoneconomists? Any burning questions, requests, or requests to change the name of the column on the basis of heinous punnery, as we delve into the thrilling and dangerous world of economic theory?