Like many things, the meaning of Liberalism has been perverted by the right. Originally, to be liberal was to have compassion for the poor and helpless, and skepticism of the ‘successful’. But since the dark days of Thatcher and Reagan, a new form of capitalist exploitation has masqueraded under the same name, referring to itself as “neoliberalism”.
The curse of neoliberalism has touched every aspect of modern politics, even taking hold in the Democratic party, which now pursues policies far out of line with the views of classical liberals such as Karl Marx and Che Guevara. In essence, neoliberalism promotes a regression to the days of laissez faire capitalism, and the selling of important government assets to private corporations, a nightmare for progressives and political scholars who understand that this has failed throughout history. Decades of neoliberalism eventually culminated in the financial crisis of 2007-08, which was thankfully rectified by the Obama administration with the help of America’s top economists and think tanks.
Real liberalism on the other hand, promotes a strong welfare state and a large, strong government which owns and regulates industries for the benefit of all. As top economists and progressive scholars will tell you, this is proven time and time again to be the best system for wealth equality, the environment and overall prosperity. It’s a system that promotes the well-being of the collective, rather than a few individuals at the top. The below lists break down the key differences between real and neoliberalism.
- People dressed in business suits and golf gear, making cut-throat corporate deals and earning millions of dollars
- Financialization and corporationalization of our economy
- Investment banks trading in dangerous derivatives
- College graduates working as barristers because corporations don’t appreciate their degrees
- Corporations ripping off the consumer and paying slave wages to their employees
- Unjust and costly foreign entanglements
- People casually dressed, designing arts and crafts and running small hip coffee shops
- Banks making loans to green energy enterprises and investing in green technologies
- Investment banks trading in pollution-reducing carbon offsets
- College graduates pursuing careers in activism on a living wage
- Well-compensated government employees providing valuable services
- Overseas humanitarian interventions to liberate people from oppressors
If you peruse the message boards of a variety of progressive websites such as Salon, the Huffington Post and the Guardian, you will see a lot of anger and resentment at the rise of neoliberalism, and the so-called ‘failings’ of the left will be blamed squarely on this perversion of true liberalism. The fact is, we haven’t had real liberalism in America yet. We haven’t yet tried a combination of strong social welfare programs, free education, universal healthcare and a universal basic income. Instead of continuing to go down this path of ever escalating right-wing populism, why don’t we give real liberalism a chance? With wealth inequality at record levels, climate change challenging the very existence of our species, and Trump threatening to deport millions of undocumented Americans; ask yourself, what do we have to lose? It’s time to give true, Bernie Sanders-style liberalism a fair shot.