Doing some bloggingheads with Bob Wright, Mickey Kaus argues that while the “neoliberalism is dead because it won” perspective (attributed to me) and the “neoliberalism is dead because it failed” perspective (attributed to Ezra) can’t both be right, they can both be wrong. That’s Mickey’s perspective — neoliberalism has won some important battles but has much further to go.
I actually think Ezra and I are both right. Read Paul Glastris and you’ll see what I mean. On the one hand, a lot of neoliberal ideas have ceased to be distinctively neoliberal because they’ve become widely accepted. On the other hand, a lot of neoliberal ideas have ceased to be distinctive because lots of neoliberals — like Paul — have abandonned the idea that progressive politics can do without entitlement programs or labor unions. In short, most of neoliberalism’s good ideas have become mainstream liberal ones, and the remaining distinctively neoliberal ideas tend to be bad ones that have very little left-of-center support these days. The early neoliberals, in short, had a tendency to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but the bathwater really did need to be thrown out. Fortunately, it mostly has been thrown out these days, and relatively few people are left who want to throw out the baby. Hence, the salience of this dispute has tended to be eclipsed while, at the same time, 9/11 has prompted new divisions about different questions.