Saturday, June 11, 2005

Neo-liberalism? I'm so confused...

I'm not too proud to admit that in making my previous post I was introduced to the term "neo-liberalism" (which I think should be "neoliberalism") for the first time. I was surprised becuase I usually pay attention to these sorts of things. I was also surprised because "neoliberalism" was used as a synonym to "right wing politics" in the subject of that post! But it has "liberal" in the name!

So I took a look at Wikipedia:Neoliberalism. It turns out that "Neoliberalism" is actually a conservative political-economic philosophy.

I guess the conservatives of the 1970's thought, "The conservatives aren't doing enough, so what we want to do shouldn't be called 'conservativism.' Since it's not 'conservative,' it must be liberal. However, we're not liberals at all. Thus, we'll be 'neoliberals.'"

What's even more confusing is that neoconservativism, which is the big word in the news today describing some members of the Bush administration, overlaps greatly with neoliberalism!

On top of all of this, in CANADA they have "neoconservatism" and "neoliberalism," but both of those things refer to "new" movements in conservativism and liberalism RESPECTIVELY. Thus, Bill Clinton's "new liberalism" DOES match up with Canada's "neoliberalism" but *NOT* with "neoliberalism" in the United States!

It turns out most of this confusion comes with the term "liberal" being too overloaded. You can't interpret what "liberal" means without knowing where you are, what time it is, and who said it. It makes you wonder how the Republicans can criticize people for being "liberals." Do they actually know what they mean? After all, aren't they "neoliberals?"

So in the end, I threw up my hands and had some pudding. Mmm... Pudding.


~ange said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Theo said...

Well, you say you're cynical, but isn't:

"I think if someone stood up and simply said the truth in a simple way and then came up with viable solutions (or listened to the people that have them) then that person would be respected by everyone"

a little naive (and not uber-cynical)? I mean, suppose that's even possible (a big supposition), to get there from here you have to go through a really long and difficult trajectory. Personally, I don't think it's even possible. I don't think the "truth" is that accessible or that tangible (or even that "knowable", especially by lots of differently educated people at once). Even if it was, I can't imagine it would be that "simple." And I don't think that there is one unique viable solution to every problem. I think sometimes there are arbitrarily many such solutions, and I think in some cases the choice of solution on one problem depends on the choice of solution on another problem.

The politics of a wide body of people or a wide range of small bodies of people is a very complicated subject, which is why people spend whole careers trying to understand it. I think striving for such simple solutions is dangerous and can lead peopleto unite behind absolutists. (it's kinda like temptation leading Anakin to the Dark Side)

By the way, the other quiz you're thinking of is here. It is linked from the Libertarian Party home page, but it is not hosted there.

Theo said...

I still just want to know the story behind "neoliberal." :) Maybe one of the political scientists out there can comment...

AMC said...

I don't believe truth is unknowable- even when spelled "truth".
Any viable solution to humanity's issues is better than no solution at all which is better than expensive ones that don't work. Listening to/ welcoming other people's opinions or ideas is not dangerous but productive.
"Naive" is hardly an effective blandishment.

Theo said...

Why did you delete your comment?

And why do people immedaitely assume that "naive" has a bad connotation? Personally, I think "naive" (said without eye squinting or funny faces) is a reasonable term to use in an argument. It's not meant to be personal. Heck, arguments aren't meant to be personal. I was saying the argument was naive, not you, so calm down.

If it was personal, I wouldn't have justified my remarks. Justification really shows it's about the argument and not you.

And I spelled truth correctly...

Even if you think all truth is knowable (a realism/anti-realism debate), it's still hard to say that there is at least one viable solution to every single problem. An excellent solution to one problem can make another problem worse. With the large number of issues out there, it's hard to imagine that there is a single solution to all the world's problems.

It's not like politicians are purposely hiding all the good solutions from you. The thing that GIVES them license to be slimey is that there is a conflict between a number of different good solutions. Thus, picking one over another fits in the world of politics.

AMC said...

I erased my post because it inspired the Dark Side. All I was saying about the word "naive" is that words most likely to be taken with negative connotation are least likely to be persuasive. My point was that there is one party, "the Cash Party", and humanitarian solutions (that do exist (really) and don't make anything else worse) don't always bring in cash. As for neoL, while we're waiting for a PolySci PhD, I found these interesting sites: (Great article but Spanish)

Theo said...

Those links answer my (mostly rhetorical) question. Thanks.

I was nice about how I used naive. I justified my meaning. I didn't imply you were naive. I was trying to show that I don't think such solutions exist (and if they do exist, no plain and simple truth telling person is going to be able to easily find them, and even if they do find them, it's not going to be easy to spot that they're telling the "truth").

While it is appropriate to say that all of the parties in power are grealty influenced by lobbyists and campaign contributors, focussing entirely on this over-simplifies the process.

If it helps, consider politics at a very local level. Consider politics where you do not need contributors; all you need are a few votes around the small city that you live in. Even here it's hard to talk about the one solution that's best for everyone. Some things are going to hurt certain business owners while other things are going to hurt the schools while other things are going to hurt the baggers in the local grocery store. You could argue that the business owner can take a cut because it's best for everyone in the long run, but you need the business owner, and if he takes too much of a cut, then you lose the business.

Advertising that politics and governance is simple invites trouble. It's not simple. EVEN WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY there are many conflicting interests.

It's not like finding a solution to a problem. It's about finding an optimal point to a time-varying problem. There is no solution, there's only a point that can maximize over some metric at one particular time.

Let's say you have your humanitarian solution. Who is going to pay for it? Government? Then you have to raise taxes. Who pays those taxes? The upper-class? How do you define that? And if you tax them too much, there can be a great deal of negative effects on the rest of the economy that hurt the lower class. So tax the lower class? Then there's no one left to participate in the economy and even the upper class hurts. There's some mixture of taxation that works well, and it's difficult to find the right mixture, and this correct mixture changes over time.

There's nothing you can do that isn't going to screw someone. You could argue that the people who get screwed aren't good people anyway, but you need those people too. If those people went away, eventually new people would take their place because you need someone there.

And it can get more complicated than that. Who is to say what the "humanitarian" public school lunch is? Who is to say what the humanitarian way to fund science is? Is it more humanitarian to fund a study of the decline of Elm trees on the east coast or to fund a study of the increase in transgenic sunflowers in the southwest?

Do you actually believe that things are that simple?

AMC said...

The sunflowers, definitely. :)
I agree that solutions to every problem are not simple. I do think that problems can be phrased in such a way so as to make more of the public understand the various conflicts and decisions. I think you have a good way of phrasing things so as to be understood; I don't think many politicians do. I think sometimes misleading information is publicized so as to keep real issues off the table. It's not so much that these "real" issues are simple- just that they're not in the interest of those who can affect their publication or public awareness/ debate. For example, ask the average person what % of the world's population doesn't have access to clean drinking water and then ask them who won American Idol. Now, the (hypothesis- more people would know the latter) results of this poll could be explained, but I doubt we could track the cause back to any one particular thing. There would be many causes and reasons and just as many ways to "correct" them (I put it in quotes because I'm saying drinking water has more value than American Idol, and I could be "wrong".) I'm not saying that topics of public discussion are simple. I'm saying they can become so. They can get as simple as possible- just not any further.

"It's not like finding a solution to a problem. It's about finding an optimal point to a time-varying problem. There is no solution, there's only a point that can maximize over some metric at one particular time."

I don't really understand this statement- are you saying that finding an optimal solution at one point in time is pointless because there exists time?

Back to naive- I actually looked it up. I suppose 'ingenous' or 'artless' or 'not suspicious' have better connotations than 'foolishly' or 'simple' or 'childlike', but I see how you could say any of them are opposed to 'cynical'. I am quick with the quills eh?
After reading so much on neoL, I think that there are solvable problems that can have a symbiotic outcome. We could go with the "greater good" mindset and argue that a solution that saves many and hurts few is viable, but to answer your Q, no, it's not that simple. I'd like to let some seriously talented accountants get into America's books- but they would have to be very, very complicated accountants.