What comes after neoliberalism?

”There is no alternative” is really a demand, namely, “Stop trying to think of an alternative!”

Cory Doctorow


Air Force One in flight; dropping away from it are a parachute and its landing gear.

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In his American Prospect editorial, “What Comes After Neoliberalism?”, Robert Kuttner declares “we’ve just about won the battle of ideas. Reality has been a helpful ally…Neoliberalism has been a splendid success for the top 1 percent, and an abject failure for everyone else”:


Kuttner’s op-ed is a report on the Hewlett Foundation’s recent “New Common Sense” event, where Kuttner was relieved to learn that the idea that “the economy would thrive if government just got out of the way has been demolished by the events of the past three decades.”

We can call this neoliberalism, but another word for it is economism: the belief that politics are a messy, irrational business that should be sidelined in favor of a technocratic management by a certain kind of economist — the kind of economist who uses mathematical models to demonstrate the best way to do anything:


These are the economists whose process Ely Devons famously described thus: “If economists wished to study the horse, they wouldn’t go and look at horses. They’d sit in their studies and say to themselves, ‘What would I do if I were a horse?’”

Those economists — or, if you prefer, economismists — are still around, of course, pronouncing that the “new common sense” is nonsense, and they have the models to prove it. For example, if you’re cheering on the idea of “reshoring” key industries like semiconductors and solar panels, these economismists want you to know that you’ve been sadly misled: