A reader recently inquired as to my usage of the word ‘neoliberal,’ and my use of it in an apparently positive light. The reader was confused; they had only heard the term mentioned in a negative manner to describe an unfettered economic system that’s destroying the lives of the poor. And they are correct. By and large, this word has carried a negative connotation, but it shouldn't. The allegations against neoliberalism are at best misguided, and at worst, pure buffoonery. At its heart, neoliberalism is a modernization on the ideas of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson, and their ilk.
In the words of Sam Bowman, director of the Adam Smith Institute, “neoliberals are classical liberals with smartphones, internet access, and frequent flier miles.” Neoliberalism is the belief that humans should be free of the constraints of government and that people and companies should be allowed to prosper without onerous regulations and taxes. However, it also accepts the reality that not all people, due to various factors, can find success in this world, and that therefore government should assist them through simplified wealth transfer schemes, such as negative income taxes or basic incomes.
In union with these domestic policies, neoliberals hold a view of the world that is globalist in nature. People should not be confined to the nation of their birth, and immigration rules should respect the desire of humans to transcend artificial national boundaries. Companies should be free to do business across different states with minimal interference, and people should be allowed to freely trade goods and services without poverty-inducing tariffs. The advancement of its regulation and taxation reducing beliefs has led to the incredible position humanity is in today. From the lowest levels of poverty and infant mortality, to the highest levels of educational attainment our species has ever witnessed, it is clear to anyone with open eyes that we have never been better off.
We would be remiss to believe that the advancement of neoliberalism is inevitable. With the rise of politicians in the west idiotically parroting falsehoods, the ideology is under threat. Whether it be Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders in the United States, or Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen in France, their victories, or almost victories, in elections should be frightening to us all. For this reason, it is important for us to be steadfast in our beliefs and advocate for the open and free society that we desire, rather than capitulate and co-opt their ideas in an attempt to keep them out of power. So yes, I am a neoliberal, and a ferociously proud one at that.
Parker Mitchell, Associate Editor
Parker Mitchell is an associate editor and economics correspondent at The EC Journal. His work focuses on the economics and politics of globalization, including immigration, trade, integration, and global poverty reduction.