We need a myth March 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Jonathan Hopkin has an excellent post discussing neoliberalism and why it isn’t a dead idea yet. The final paragraph is especially insightful:

The problem is that academic political economists know a lot more about the historical record than the average voter does, and there is no point in assuming that voters are going to come to the same judgement – they don’t have time to read Quiggin, Crouch and Krugman (alright, a few read Krugman). Voters never understood Keynesianism, so why would they understand neoliberalism? To achieve change, we need a mythical story about social democracy that sounds as good as the mythical free market – a vehicle for aspiration of a better life. If nobody has ever explained to voters how a better life doesn’t always come through a market, than we can’t expect neoliberalism to die the death it deserves.

4 Responses to “We need a myth”

  1. Central planning keeps dying the death it deserves (stay tuned!) and no one seems to notice. And no myth can paper over the inherent flaw in the ever-popular free lunch.

    How about Classical Liberalism, limited government and…the constitution?

  2. What constitution? Oh, you mean the American constitution? Funnily enough, not being American, I don’t have that. John Hempton is insightful on some of the pros and cons of that situation here http://brontecapital.blogspot.com/2012/03/when-did-us-constitution-cease-to.html

  3. Well then, most likely your liberties will be restricted to the areas of sex and shopping that much sooner than mine will be.

    But sure, having a bill of rights that your government can easily ignore isn’t much better than not having one in the first place.

  4. Thanks for the plug, David! Mercury, I’m not of course talking about central planning. But I am talking about a free lunch – the idea that you can have a generous welfare state and a successful market economy. Peter Lindert explains here: http://lindert.econ.ucdavis.edu/Docs/17/Welfare%20States%20Paper.pdf

    As for our liberties being restricted, well I think sexual freedom is a bit safer in the UK than the US, if the GOP primary is anything to go by.