free market

Neoliberalism in Action

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/07/2018 - 2:00am in

Book Review: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

How did a network of libertarian influencers mobilize ideas and resources to restructure American society to reflect their radical “free market” perspectives? In her recent book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, historian Nancy MacLean strives to provide an answer to this question.

MacLean views the radical right as a group of “true believers” in freedom, an idea they associate with market freedom, aiming to remove public services and replace them with privatized schools and prisons that respond the market, not voters within a democracy. In doing so, MacLean argues that the radical right will eventually reduce freedom for the majority while privileging the propertied minority. The more power the propertied minority has, the less democratic society becomes. The ultimate target of the radical right, which has gained control of the modern Republican Party, is to change American society to privilege capitalism over democracy even more than it does now.

For libertarian economist James Buchanan, the market mechanism was the most efficient method of allocating resources, which he views as a form of democracy. Educated at the University of Chicago under Frank Knight and Milton Friedman, Buchanan played a significant role in the “stealth plan” of changing the rules of American society, not just people who make the rules. MacLean argues that Buchanan was radicalized at Chicago, where he earned a PhD in economics and learned the “science to support his existing “antigovernment feelings” (p. 36). Buchanan spent most of his teaching and research career in Virginia where he co-authored The Calculus of Consent: The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy with Gordon Tullock.

In extending the market rationality to American politics, Buchanan and Tullock argued that politicians only pursued their own self-interest rather than any broad interests of society. Given that public institutions are led by officials that only pursue their own interests, public governance should be based on the principles of the market. They called this public choice theory, a framework that focused on non-economic decision making and served as a basis for awarding Buchanan the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1986. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that was funded by billionaire Charles Koch, viewed The Calculus of Consent as a form of protection for capitalism against government, while MacLean argues that “[i]t might more aptly be depicted as protecting capitalism from democracy” (p. 81).

As a Nobel Laureate, Buchanan created an influential research program at George Mason University, which gained the attention of the Koch Network, which funded and later controlled Buchanan’s program, aiming to leveraged the legitimacy of economic theory to produce a society that was governed by the market, not by democracy. The “stealth plan” of this radical right was to mobilize ideas and resources to change the rules of American society to reflect its free-market perspective, not just who rules. To do so, they had to change the way the rules were rationalized. Buchanan’s public choice theory offered a way to re-conceptualize American law and politics.

On the surface, MacLean’s book offers a critique of libertarianism, although, it could perhaps better be understood as a critique of public choice theory—or neoclassical economics more generally—as a way of thinking and rationalizing society, which became dominant through powerful libertarian social and economic networks. By examining these nuanced power dynamics, MacLean offers a brilliant look at neoliberalism in action. She reveals the real-life experience of neoliberalism by showing us how and why the radical right extended the principles of the market rationality to areas outside conventional limits of the economy.

In her discussion of law and economics, a field of law that draws on the principles of economics, MacLean frames the entire field—rather than elements of it—as an attempt to undermine the broader public interest, while privileging the corporate language of profit, which uses cost-benefit analyses to make decisions. While MacLean makes a very persuasive argument, she overlooks the idea that cost-benefit analyses can be useful, depending on the context and purpose for which they are used.

Beyond this and other minor issues with MacLean’s book, such as her conspiratorial tone, Democracy in Chains offers an excellent look at the American political process and how seemingly marginal ideas, can become powerful enough to radically alter it.

About the AuthorJohnny Fulfer received a B.S. in Economics and a B.S. in History from Eastern Oregon University. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in History at the University of South Florida and has an interest in political economy, the history of economic thought, intellectual and cultural history, and the history of the human sciences and their relation to the power in society. 

The post Neoliberalism in Action appeared first on Economic Questions .

Conservatism and the free market

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 6:15am in

National Review just ran a review of my book, which Karl Rove tweeted out to his followers.

The review has some surprisingly nice things to say. It describes The Reactionary Mind as “well researched and brilliantly argued” and praises my “astonishingly wide reading…masterly rhetorical abilities…wizardry with the pen.” But on the whole the review is quite critical of the book. Which is fine. I’ve gotten worse.

But I couldn’t help noticing the appositeness of this.

Here’s the National Review on my book:

At no point in his book does Robin make any effort to account for the influence of Enlightenment-era classical liberalism on modern conservatism….[Adam] Smith’s influence on later conservatives is ignored.

And here’s Bill Buckley, the founder of National Review (and the modern conservative movement), to me, as quoted in my book:

The trouble with the emphasis in conservatism on the market is that it becomes rather boring. You hear it once, you master the idea. The notion of devoting your life to it is horrifying if only because it’s so repetitious. It’s like sex.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 - 9:22pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 30/01/2018 - 9:22pm in

Well, I feel better now.

On 30/01/18 13:15, Talent Acquisition Team [company name witheld] wrote:
> Hello Matthew,
> We're writing to you regarding your application for the above position of
> [interchangeable anonymous cubicle drone] at [company name witheld].
> Unfortunately, we have not received your completed Talent Assessment so are
> unable to progress your application at this time. If you’re still interested in
> working with us, please refer to the [company name witheld] Careers
> <>
> or LinkedIn page <> for opportunities.
> We wish you all the very best for your future career choices and hope to hear
> from you again soon.
> Warm regards,
> Talent Acquisition Team - [company name witheld]

Hi Warmly Regarding TAT,

That would be because your online application process set a cookie with a very limited expiry time given the amount of information I was expected to assemble, and deliberately cut me off (my working hypothesis at the time), or else just crashed or futzed up in some unidentifiable way.

I was a software developer in a past life, but - even so - was not inclined to report a bug, even if there were some self-evident way to do so. You see, the larger issue, to the determined jobseeker, arises from losing whole days to combing through job search websites which all screen-scrape each other, and consequently all index the same jobs, albeit with differently-dreadful database query interfaces. Once you have painstakingly whittled down a shortlist your patience and optimism levels are at a low ebb, while your bleak hopelessness and can't-give-a-fuckedness is soaring.

To my mind, ignorant as I am about the transition from HR to TATs (which appears to have happened about the time The Rock became Dwayne Johnson; coincidence?), the personal qualities required to submit, submit, and submit again in a lengthy and repeatedly failing multi-stage job application process (never mind what is required to get far enough to begin that process) are not necessarily consonant with what is desirable across all the roles in a large organisation. In the jargon of a hypothetical recruiter, I expect this to yield applicants who are less "warm and customer-focused" than they are "detail-oriented", as in "Dustin Hoffman turned in bravura performance as the detail-oriented Rain Man".

However, I am pleased to report that for you, the fine people of the Talent Acquisition Team, the news is all good. Given that the cascade of flaws, all the way up the recruitment chain from to your good selves, introduces so much baked-in randomness to the process, anything that you could personally add is negligible.

You are off the hook! After showing up for a morning coffee and apricot danish, you might as well spend the rest of the day in the pub! I only wish that I could join you there on the coalface of the optimally efficient job market. If you find your roster of talent too loaded with twenty-something boys who can't tear their gaze away from their shoes, just drag in a homeless person from the street. They're quirky! They're the new office character! They think outside the box, then go home to it!

Hope this has helped, and warm regards,