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After Neoliberalism

This year is shaping up to be the most unconventional moment in American politics in a generation. A race that mere months ago seemed to promise yet another Bush vs. another Clinton has so far given us instead the populist insurgencies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Whether or not either of them gets his party’s nomination, the neoliberal consensus of the past two decades seems about to shatter. Free trade, immigration, waging war for democracy, and even the relative merits of capitalism and “democratic socialism” have all come into question. Perhaps more fundamentally, so has the right of Clintons and Bushes—and those like them—to rule.

Trump is a billionaire, but his base of support rests among the people once identified by the sociologist Donald Warren as “middle American radicals.” Nearly 40 years ago, Warren’s idea was adapted by the hard-right political thinker Sam Francis as the basis for paleoconservatism—a conservatism very unlike that of the postwar conservative movement, one that would champion the class interests and cultural attitudes of middle- and lower-income whites. The Pat Buchanan presidential campaigns of 1992 and 1996 put Francis’s ideas to the test. They fell short of propelling Buchanan to the GOP nomination, and by the end of the 1990s there was nary a trace of paleo ideology to be found among conservatives or Republicans. The return of the Bush family to power in 2000 seemed to confirm that nothing had changed after a decade of skirmishes.

Now suddenly there’s Trump. And on the left, there’s Sanders, a throwback to a time when progressives embraced the socialist label. That had fallen out of fashion even before the end of the Cold War—indeed, the Democratic Leadership Council, the policy group that paved the way for Bill Clinton’s nomination, was founded in 1985 precisely to move the Democratic Party toward “market-based solutions.”

That economic populism should find a foothold in both parties after the Great Recession and eight years of lagging prosperity under Barack Obama is not entirely surprising. What is more remarkable is the weakness of the bipartisan establishment, whose conventional wisdom is no longer meekly accepted by the rank and file of either party. Every Republican except Trump has tried, to one degree or another, to present himself as a champion of conservative orthodoxy. But that orthodoxy no longer commands the loyalty of a sufficient number of voters to preclude a phenomenon like Trump. Nor does DLC-style neoliberalism appear to be the consensus among Democrats any longer.

A void is opening in American politics, and Trump and Sanders are only the first to try to fill it. Neither of them may succeed. Yet it is hard to see any source of renewal for the crumbling establishment they are fighting to replace. Just as the end of the Cold War marked the passing of an era, and partially or wholly transformed the left and right alike, so another era is drawing to a close now, with further political mutations to come. Trump and Sanders need not be the future, but what Bush and Clinton represent is already past—no matter who wins in November.

Conservatives of Burkean temperament view all of this warily. There is an opportunity here to replace stale ideologies with a prudence that is ultimately more principled than any mere formula can be. But there is also the risk that the devil we know is only making way for another we don’t. At times like these, it is important to know what to conserve, which is not a label or ideology, but a healthy and humane republic.

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29 Comments To "After Neoliberalism"

#1 Comment By May It Be So On February 26, 2016 @ 1:05 am

“At times like these, it is important to know what to conserve, which is not a label or ideology, but a healthy and humane republic. “

Amen.

My people have been here for hundreds of years, and I love my country with a depth of feeling that is difficult to convey. Our hard-pressed republic is our most precious possession, and it must be defended and shepherded through the coming peril. That will require wisdom, strength, and courage, and all the little platoons.

#2 Comment By delia ruhe On February 26, 2016 @ 2:17 am

“At times like these, it is important to know what to conserve ….”

I think a lot of thoughtful Americans know what to conserve: the constitution. With the possible exception of the Second Amendment, the constitution has been virtually torched in its entirety. I just have to shake my head when I listen to the debate over whether or not Apple should be required by law to write a program to destroy the feature on its multi-million dollar product, the iPhone, for which consumers buy it — security in their private information and communication. And the Fourth Amendment, be damned.

How comes it that America — of all countries — is having that debate? Were all those American security agencies always that amoral and I just didn’t notice?

The American constitution is not an instruction manual, it’s a statement of principles — fundamental principles upon which the massive superstructure of law rests. Torch the constitution and it suddenly becomes easy not to call to account those leaders who authorize and order torture, those bankers who bring the world economy to its knees through fraud, those presidents who commit war crimes through the practice of drone-murdering people because they are merely suspected of terrorism. And it’s just as easy to disenfranchise voters with impunity by arguing on the basis of a rash of voter fraud that everyone knows does not exist.

If the country no longer recognizes a constitution upon which laws prohibiting on pain of punishment these and other crimes against democracy, then what you’ve got is a nation of men — barbarians living in a state of nature — not a nation of laws.

#3 Comment By Blas Piñar On February 26, 2016 @ 8:12 am

I agree with this editorial, but, as delia ruhe points out, this republic has not been “healthy and humane” for quite some time. It’s time for a national renewal. I never thought Trump would be the agent of this renewal. There’s plenty to dislike about him, but if he’s what it takes to right the ship and either restore a “healthy and humane” republic or create the conditions for someone else to do so afterwards, then so be it.

#4 Comment By collin On February 26, 2016 @ 9:27 am

There are several holes in the 2016 is ending the Neoliberal changes:

1) Sanders road to the nomination is limited and HRC is taking 65 – 70% next week. Sanders had a good run but the Democratics winnowed down to two candidates in October.

2) Why is Trump that much different that Perot? The Perot movement was minimized by a strong economy and the unemployment rate is getting low in 2016.

3) What if there isn’t another Trump? To whip the radical middle took Trump to pull additional voters, there might not be another in 2020.

4) Is the number of radical middle voters slightly decreasing every election cycle?

5) Finally, isn’t the neoliberalism built on the changes made in the Reagan Revolution?

#5 Comment By pitchfork On February 26, 2016 @ 9:32 am

At times like these, it is important to know what to conserve, which is not a label or ideology, but a healthy and humane republic.

Amen to that.

#6 Comment By Johann On February 26, 2016 @ 10:18 am

I don’t see as strong of a break from orthodoxy in the Democrat party. Hillary will win the nomination and will validate withing the Democrat party the ideology of spreading the democracy gospel around the world through force, and the domestic policy of open borders for future Democrat voters. Its less certain that she will win the general election.

#7 Comment By JR Chloupek On February 26, 2016 @ 10:19 am

Want to solve the political-economy differences between citizens of collectivist and individualist temperament? Eliminate all tax exemptions secretly written into the tax code for individuals and organizations (they are identified by language that applies only to that individual or organization), then invest the proceeds for five years into a sovereign wealth trust fund that pays $25,000 per year, adjusted for inflation, to all legal citizens beginning at age 21 (or pass legislation directing the Federal Reserve to deposit $10 Trillion dollars directly into the fund-quantitative easing for the people, if you will).
This money would be used by citizens to cover life-cycle risk to income from any source: job loss, divorce, illness, transportation and home repairs, macroeconomic chaos, or anything else life throws as a person. The funds would be retrievable as a person chooses: yearly, monthly, weekly, or in a $50,000 lump sum once every three years. In addition, replace all income-based taxes for individuals and organizations with a .005% tax on all transactions cleared through the banking system, similar to the automated payments transaction tax advocated by Wisconsin professor Edgar Feige. This would allow the supply of products and services to roughly match the increased demand generated by the basic income guarantee, thereby avoiding or mitigating the business cycle and inflationary source of current economic problems.
The precise mechanism for this proposal is based on the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend program, which takes monies from state-owned oil fields and invests prudently in a diverse portfolio world-wide. In turn, this concept is based on the “topsy-turvy nationalization” idea proposed by English economist James E. Meade, who suggested governments purchase a 50% share of all publicly-traded stocks, then pay a “social dividend” (Social Security for All) out of the earnings from these investments to all citizens. Professor James A. Yunker proposed a similar idea in his book Pragmatic Market Socialism, finding under a general equilibrium analysis that output and equity, as measured by a utilitarian social welfare function, both increased when income smoothing was financed by pre-distributed social dividends rather than by increased taxes.
Under this proposal, both conservatives and liberals would achieve what they say they desire: non-paternalistic held for people’s income fluctuations for liberals, and real incentives to invest and work for conservatives. Some might say this mechanism for socializing both risk and reward cannot be implemented, as human nature suggests that people might not accept a policy that also benefits rivals. Nonetheless, if we want a political-economic modus vivendi, here is a solution.
Of course, there would still be problems faced by out society, and “solving” the economic aspect of our malaise will not by itself generate nirvana. But give people and organizations real security that does not also support apathy (i.e., both equity and efficiency, as the economist call it), and you would go a long way towards making the culture war less harsh (it is mostly based on economic fears projected onto the “other”). In the socio-political complex, one must honor humanity as it is , not as we wish, or are comfortable with in our own lives. Replace neoliberalism with a respect for both tradition and change.

#8 Comment By a free people On February 26, 2016 @ 10:57 am

@delia ruhe & may it be so – I fervently agree with you and the editors.

To save the republic and constitutional government, these wars in the Middle East and elsewhere must be ended, we must get out of that region, and the government must be made to perform the basic duty of securing our own borders and finding and expelling those here illegally.

A government perpetually at war is a danger to the republic. It has squandered our money and blood in foreign adventures half way around the world and undermined our liberties and dignity here at home while shirking its own basic duty.

#9 Comment By Rossbach On February 26, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

The source of all of this republic’s woes is an absence of competent, responsible leadership. Neither of the 2 government parties has come close to providing this at the national level. Everyone knows this, but now – for the first time in at least 5 decades – people are starting to discuss it openly. It really is a breath of fresh air.

#10 Comment By Clint On February 26, 2016 @ 12:26 pm

One difference between Trump an Sanders is that The Democrat Washington Establishment is beginning to show Sanders and his supporters the door, where The GOP Washington Establishment is beginning to be shown the door by Trump and his supporters.

The Cubano Twins,Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear to be a pair of Neoconservative Big Money Donor Financed Bookends.

#11 Comment By Trump / No Trump On February 26, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

“The Democrat Washington Establishment is beginning to show Sanders and his supporters the door, where The GOP Washington Establishment is beginning to be shown the door by Trump and his supporters.”

That’s a problem with which the Democrat base must must come to grips. Across the great political and cultural gulf that separates us, I salute those honorable and decent Democrats and liberals who make the attempt.

But it is instructive to consider the very different trajectories of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. Occupy Wall Street, having ebbed from front pages and headlines long since, has now virtually disappeared into Sanders’ wickering campaign.

But the Tea Party kept at it. It has been stirring the pot for over six years now, menacing the establishment, chronically kicking out incumbents (including disappointing or coopted Tea Party incumbents), and continuing to drive broad political developments.

Occupy is dead, Sanders is dying, and the Democrats will soon be a wholly owned subsidiary of Clinton Inc. Rather, it is the widely ridiculed and derided Tea Party tendency (not to be confused with the various attempts at cooptation by groups using the name) that proved to be adults with staying power, real agents of change. The pacts born of deep concern for the republic made years ago in hearts, homes, conversations among friends and coworkers, over the Web on sites like this one, is alive and well.

Trump or no Trump, that is cause for hope.

#12 Comment By Reagan On February 26, 2016 @ 4:54 pm

I’m sorry folks. Reaganomics is the era we may see coming to an end – perhaps. And what did Bush Senior call it?: ‘Voodoo Economics.’

The Soviets were not defeated by our military build-up – the fact that their factories were turning out unusable junk and exploding TVs was what defeated them. China saw the writing on the wall earlier in 1979.

But Reagan succeeded in creating massive deficits and building up a military that was then primed for war. He was absolutely counter to Dwight Eisenhower in almost every respect (who was arguably the last Great Republican President).

The rise of Wall Street and unregulated finance also took place under Reagan’s watch. Declining investment in infrastructure. The power of lobbyists became massive in the 80s after being relatively tame prior. This all set the stage.

We all have confirmation biases (fueled by a personal history) in how we choose to interpret history and how we bookend things.

The concluding paragraph is excellent. I pray we are not entering even darker times and that there can be renewal for the American Republic.

#13 Comment By sps On February 26, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

“Occupy is dead, Sanders is dying, and the Democrats will soon be a wholly owned subsidiary of Clinton Inc.”

Only because older voters, particularly older black voters keep propping it up. Not exactly a firm foundation. Sanders margins among young voters along with the successful political work done by actual political groups (rather than disruptive groups) like the Working Families Party show who is going to inherit the Democratic Party.

#14 Comment By Clint On February 26, 2016 @ 6:17 pm

But the Tea Party kept at it.

Yes we did.

#15 Comment By Chris 1 On February 26, 2016 @ 6:37 pm

That economic populism should find a foothold in both parties after the Great Recession and eight years of lagging prosperity under Barack Obama is not entirely surprising.

Understatement of the year.

#16 Comment By Andrew On February 26, 2016 @ 11:44 pm

I’ve long wanted to read the Donald Warren book but it has been out of print and unavailable at Amazon. If anyone knows of any online bookseller that has used copies, please tell.

#17 Comment By Mike Schuder On February 27, 2016 @ 10:40 am

My Daddy used to say, “You’ll never be conservative until you have something to conserve”…..

#18 Comment By AndyG On February 27, 2016 @ 10:48 am

Thanks to @Blas another first on the pages of TAC: the words “Trump” and “Humane” used in relation to one another.
And thanks to the Tea Party, a Congress that won’t pass any sort of populist reform simply because it might mean shaking hands across the aisle.

#19 Comment By Punch and Judy On February 27, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

@AndyG “And thanks to the Tea Party, a Congress that won’t pass any sort of populist reform simply because it might mean shaking hands across the aisle.”

What a laugh.

“Across the aisle” from the Tea Party congressmen are Democrats who say “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable. You must not only tolerate what is repugnant to you, you must accept it or I’ll have you arrested. The Federal judiciary is the engine of democracy. I only enforce laws I like. Only a fanatic would try to balance or reduce the federal budget. It’s as impossible and absurd as controlling immigration. Wall Street is just fine as long as it hires lots of Diversity Officers, and the only people who oppose globalism and the corporations who fill my campaign coffers are racists and bigots.”

As to populist reforms that TP Republicans and Democrat dissidents might have cooperated on, like reimposition of Glass-Steagel, or laws requiring vigorous prosecution of Wall Street criminals and Wall Street-owned government officials, or reining in the NSA, or ending the Middle East wars, the establishments of both parties have collaborated to crush their efforts. Just ask Rand Paul (R) and Ron Wyden (D).

Of course the Tea Party base is still fighting back hard. It’s engaged in mortal combat with the GOP establishment. God willing and with perseverence it may prevail.

And what are those “across the aisle”, the congressional Democrats, doing? Other than politely watching Sanders sputter into oblivion as they prepare for HRC’s coronation? And what is the Democrat base doing other than making that possible? Most of them aren’t even going to the polls

#20 Comment By Clint On February 27, 2016 @ 7:06 pm

And thanks to the Tea Party, a Congress that won’t pass any sort of populist reform simply because it might mean shaking hands across the aisle

You’re welcome.

And do expect The Tea Party to continue to work with Trump to follow a different form of Populism from that of Socialistic Democrats.

#21 Comment By the unworthy craftsman On February 28, 2016 @ 6:57 am

Trump/No Trump said:

“Occupy is dead, Sanders is dying, and the Democrats will soon be a wholly owned subsidiary of Clinton Inc. Rather, it is the widely ridiculed and derided Tea Party tendency (not to be confused with the various attempts at cooptation by groups using the name) that proved to be adults with staying power, real agents of change.”

I was heavily involved with the original Zucotti Park Occupy encampment, doing outreach to unions and the working class. There was quite a bit of hope for this in the early heady days of Occupy; but in the end, the priorities of a movement run by and for impoverished and entitled graduate students won out. Around this time I started to understand that the center of gravity of real radicalism in this country was on the “right”.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 28, 2016 @ 11:07 am

The problem for me is several fold.

“Every Republican except Trump has tried, to one degree or another, to present himself as a champion of conservative orthodoxy.”

If you are having to measure it in degrees of this or ht, then there’s a good chance you don’t represent what it is that you partially represent. In my view conservative is not hodge podge, it’s a mechanism or an a priori vie point by which one approaches most or all of their life. My guess is that people are not responding o a conservative orthodoxy because they just don’t see one. In my view Sen Cruz and Dr. Caron and even (CEO)Mrs. Fiorina have the closest ties to a conservative view. Where i seems to come undone is on the issue of (needlessly) aggressive foreign policy. Mr. trump is a conservative now, but his life has not fully reflected as much.

The traditional conservative

a. very pro the “common man” Does not oppose wealth but that is not a goal in of itself.

b. does not pretend that that there is not objective realities — there are facts that matter – Truth is not relative even if opinions, ideas and tastes are.

c. prudence to change, why and what it’s consequences.

d. fairness, fair play and undying desire or justice

e. economic efficiency (not just frugality)

f. a definitive sense of country and kinsmen – even if he or she thinks they are less their cup of tea and morality –

g. a belief in a divine being with whom one is dynamically involved with – while Christianity is my own preference it need not be the sole belief that a conservative adhere’s to.

h. I have to comprehend the community benefit for killing children in the womb, much it’s complete undermining of what innocents means. It makes little practical sense for a community that pushes the choice of homosexual expression a some kind norm when it adds nothing of community value beyond individual satisfaction. That a dynamic which is retrograde to community flourishing should be a national agenda is also incomprehensible
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I am not inclined to give the “Tea Party much credit. They have been part of the very problem. Though I guess, the shift to another direction is a positive sign. As I recall the Tea Party was the last to give up the ghost that the invasion of Iraq was worthwhile and certainly a leap from conservative thought and practice, in almost every respect.

It dawned them rather belated that the PA and HMS was going to come back to haunt them. And yet for those who are christian , what they should have known is that in the end, it is just such programs that will be used to round them and send them packing — yet, they have been all for extreme forms of government when it suited them. Now that democrats are using those against their interests, they are suddenly awake — suddenly they are about the Constitution. Yet they have been all to happy to abandon the same when it comes those who come into contact with police. When Republicans should have embraced civil protections, they shunned it as though such concerns were unconstitutional the powers that began turned their sights on them. Hard to claim some populist mandate unless the so called populism benefits your interests alone. I am dubious that this is some kind middle and lower class uprising in the Republican party — the support for Mr. Trump appears to be much broader.
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Sadly, I think it is accurate that blacks have come to the rescue of Sec. Clinton. It is sad, but it is understandable. I was walking on campus yesterday. And having lived in these community for some time, it struck me as deeply depressing that there were large groups of asians and hispanics groups and it was starkly distressing to realize that that for all of this country’s embrace of diversity, blacks remain non existent on campus. Considering that eduction is the now the bastion of democratic and liberal life, blacks seem very ill served by the people they support. I doubt the Rose Law firm is going to abandon overseeing contracts to support cheap labor which will most impact negatively the lives of no few blacks. But if you don’t have th gumption to fight, the democratic broad rode is a sensible choice. Fear of losing what you don’t have is a liberal/democratic tote bag.

I remain hopeful that one day, blacks will wake up and reject the liberal bait and switch spoon fed them.
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Unfortunately,

Pres. Reagan has been saddled with the term “Reaganonmics”. When in fact, it never existed as designed and as result was never fully implemented. Reality got in the way and as such subverted a good deal of the intent. It is incorrect to posit the model as top down. The model is as old as the country – keep money in people’s hands and it will flow and redistribute throughout the country. There’s just no incentives created for those with the most to reinvest in their community the US.
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I think the observations concerning how the financial industry have been totally unaccountable to the law, best practices and basic math are spot on. I embrace WS, but they cannot become so unmoored from the country that has bestowed luxurious benefits (loopholes) as to operate outside that frame without consequence. I am unsure of the monetary efficacy that investing in investing. If one is going bandy about “law and order” then to have any genuine legs – it’s an across the board application.
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#23 Comment By Nelson On February 28, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

I still think we should have bailed out the depositors, not the bankers. But that was Bush, not Obama’s choice.

#24 Comment By tea for all On February 28, 2016 @ 4:36 pm

” As I recall the Tea Party was the last to give up the ghost that the invasion of Iraq was worthwhile”

You recall incorrectly. I and a number of people I identify with the Tea Party movement in great part because of wrong-headed interventions under Bush and Obama, and Iraq leads the list.

That coupled with anger over reckless spending in general and the massive failure of basic accountability in DC and on Wall Street during the 2008-2009 financial catastrophe brought the Tea Party into existence.

Granted, some politicians posing as Tea Party are mindless warhawks. But most Tea Party voters and activists aren’t like that. We value self-control, intelligence, knowledge, sound judgment, prudent management. The Iraq War was a failure on all counts.

#25 Comment By Sema M. On February 28, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

Israel’s interests are not America’s.

Both parties have to come to realize this fact about US foreign policy.

Rand Paul does too and so does Donald Trump.

Why are the media and politicians so afraid to confront the Israel issue? Are they all cowards?

#26 Comment By ek ErliaR On February 29, 2016 @ 2:13 pm

A bunch of happy talk.

We’er going to lose. This going to be like the Restoration of 1660 and all we’ll be left with are memories of “the good old cause” and green ribbon clubs.

Harrington’s great insight was that political power follows economic power. Fifty years ago economic and political power was firmly vested in the middle class. That has been lost.

My heart says “no” but my head says this is going end like Spartacus’s slave revolt or the German Peasants Revolt.

#27 Comment By Epaminondas On February 29, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

We are sick and tired of “compassionate conservatism.” And where did “a kinder, gentler America” lead us? We have had horrible leadership since the end of the Reagan administration and we don’t have much time to fix the damage done by Bushes, Clintons, and Obama. The nation needs radical surgery.

#28 Comment By Richard M On March 1, 2016 @ 12:59 am

My people have been here for hundreds of years, and I love my country with a depth of feeling that is difficult to convey.

So have mine – well, most of them.

But I do not feel the depth. Mainly because I’m Catholic, most likely, but also because even such as it once was, America is no longer the embodiment of even the limited set of virtues it once was.

#29 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On March 1, 2016 @ 2:57 pm

Indeed it is very important to know what is a republic.
Lat. res publica means “common cause”
In the world among 190 countries 140 are officially the Republics.
Probably the republic will not arise without a common cause, but something else is needed in order to the republic became healthy and humane.
If you’ve ever climbed aboard an airliner, then you are lucky to live at least a few hours in a fair republic. According to IATA, each year about 2.5 billion persons flying in 36,800,000 flights around the globe. When you are reading this post, there should be around 822,000 persons flying over the skies. Passenger Boeing unites all: rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old, black and white. The people who sit in the chairs of Airbus chose this vehicle voluntarily, one destination unites them, they believe in the pilots knowledge, but most importantly – all have a common fate for a few hours of flight.
If the flight is successful, it is good for everyone: for passengers with economy class seats, with business class seats, with first-class seats and of-course for the crew.
If the flight is bad, it will be bad for everyone.
Common fate – that’s what’s missing this 140 republics to be healthy and humane.