There are terms we see used promiscuously yet cannot define. Sometimes this is for the purpose of obfuscation. “Fascism,” as Orwell knew in 1946, means “something not desirable” to the left; the word “liberalism” has very nearly the same meaning for the right. It is not so much conceptual difficulty that keeps us from defining these things, but propaganda.
The same is generally not true of neoliberalism. Though few care to even attempt a definition of it, there exists a kind of understanding between those who use “neoliberal” such that a formal definition seems almost superfluous. Granted, those who use it are generally outside the superstructure looking in. But whether coming from left or right, we all acknowledge the existence of neoliberalism and can provide characteristics of it, along with the dreadful atmosphere it produces: Cheap products, decaying morale, commoditization of everything. The “vision” of neoliberalism I have in my head is a custom-made t-shirt that says “Black Trans Lives Matter” at the Democratic National Convention. You can have anything you want printed on it. It is made in Myanmar by children. It is uncomfortable. You will wear it twice.
But still we lack a definition. We know the material of the thing better than its form, or its motive force. Will Davies in American Affairs recently attempted on as “a political doctrine depending upon a strong state to pursue the disenchantment of politics by means of economics.” This definition seems facile to me, for it could just as well be applied to the Soviet model.
Better attempt comes from Michael Anton in a recent American Mind essay: A more precise name for neoliberalism,
“might be ‘managerial leftist-libertarianism,’ for this governing ideology is top-down, bureaucratic, and anti-democratic, committed to social engineering and grievance politics, while undermining virtue and promoting vice… Neoliberalism elevates as a matter of ‘principle’ the international over the national; it rejects the latter as narrow, particular, cramped, even bigoted, and celebrates the former as cosmopolitan and enlightened. Neoliberalism is (for now) forced to tolerate nations and borders as unfortunate and unhelpful obstacles but it looks forward to a time when such nuisances finally are behind mankind forever.”
I like this description because it focuses on what makes neoliberalism unique; it is not merely a list of its effects. In fact, I would say the defining characteristic of neoliberalism is its elevation of idea over the pursuit of wellbeing. And with that in mind, I would offer my own stab at a definition as follows.
Like liberalism, its forebear, neoliberalism is about the destruction of hierarchies. Neoliberalism is the ethos that develops to support the breakdown of hierarchies, and which eventually becomes a motive force of its own. Some of this is caused by the nature of institutions; it is only natural that once a bureaucracy is instituted it will become a political force of its own. But neoliberalism is an ideology, that is, it is premised on Rule by Idea, whereas liberal changes are motivated by expediency. Liberalism is the women’s suffrage movement, meant to reorient society and women’s role within it. Neoliberalism is “Women’s Rights,” which has no set end and is of course incoherent. The former had some notion of being oriented towards human wellbeing (at least this was its claim). But “Women’s Rights” are an end to themselves. No one seriously thinks the past century has been good for women as women; they work for not reason, they tranquilize and degrade themselves, they exist only as inferior men. The only way it can be considered a success is if it is compared to “Women’s Rights,” which since it is a nebulous and meaningless concept, can never suffer by comparison.
Every good law and policy has as its ultimate goal human happiness. The liberal recognized this, if just in lip service, even when he was destroying the social order. The neoliberal transcends human wellbeing as a putative end. Moreover he is not attached to any one end. His ideologies are ad hoc, formed only because an ethos must be created in order to justify and bolster the new order created by liberal change. “Women’s Rights” can never be a coherent concept because it exists only in response to liberals using women as a societal dissolving agent. It doesn’t matter how the state achieves these ends. In a classical sense, democracy, aristocracy, monarchy, all pursued as their ends some notion of the common good. But the end of the neoliberal state is some higher ideal. The form of the government does not really matter. In every case, the neoliberal elevates some secondary principle over human wellbeing.
The most concise way I can put it is that the ends of liberalism are real, the ends of neoliberalism are notional. It is the transition from real ends to notional ends that characterizes neoliberalism. The less real are men’s concerns, the easier they are to subjugate. The politician who can get his subjects to worry about nebulous rights has less to worry about their revolt over material degradation. A dependent consumer is worth more to a capitalist than one whose scruples affect his economic behavior, or who has a fallback of consuming from a non-capitalist source.
The best place to start is with economic theory, because as we know, economic methodology is central to the conception of neoliberalism, as well as the technical apprehension of what neoliberals have of their own projects. The transformation of economic thought is almost perfectly representative of the transformation of liberalism to neoliberalism. Capitalist economics is part and parcel with any good definition of liberalism, and the fundamentals of economics—“the queen of the social sciences”—expose how the transformation from liberal to neoliberal thought has progressed.
The “classical liberalism” in the economic realm is embodied by those who are called “classical economists.” This included men like Quesnay, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo, all of whom can fairly be called classical liberals. All were in favor of breaking down monopolies, of dividing labor, of property rights, and promoting capitalist production. They stood against feudal structures, government monopolies, and generally impediments on economic growth.
Crucially, the center of their analysis was the labor theory of value. Smith’s notion of a healthy market structure is where the market price of a commodity is equal to the “natural price” of the commodity, which is determined by the allowances of labor contributed to its production. The reason for choosing labor as the universal measure of commodities is simple: All commodities require labor to be brought to market in the first place. The amount of labor required to bring any given commodity to market is intrinsic to the commodity itself; difference between a commodity and any other object in nature is the labor employed to refine the object into a commodity. The amount of labor necessary to bring an apple to market is much less than necessary to bring an automobile to market. The classical economist also acknowledged that some labor used to produce commodities is more “socially valuable” than others (this played a large part in dooming Marx’s theory of capitalist collapse). But this does not change the fact that every commodity is united by at least one quality: The labor put into it.
Modern economists operate in a much different fashion. At the center of modern economics—called neoclassical economics, but for our purposes definitively neoliberal—is the concept of utility. The methodology finds its rooting in the work in Bentham, and came to maturity in the work of Alfred Marshall, whose supply/demand format is recognizable to anyone who has taken an Intro to Microeconomics class. Its method abstracts away from individual consumers and firms and takes us into the realm of marginal utility and production functions. This innovation allowed great developments in mathematical modeling, for economists no longer had to deal with individual consumers, firms, and industries, but with homogenous consumption and production functions. The goal of study is no longer finding answers to discrete questions based on economic methodology, but finding a general “equilibrium” at which efficiency is achieved and the utility of both producers and consumers is maximized. Equilibrium and utility-maximization come first; an increase in human welfare was expected to follow as a secondary effect, but it is in terms of the model it was secondary. The homogeneity of the neoclassical model also allows it to be applied to situations outside of economics; the utility-maximizing “rational actor” is now found across the social sciences (at least those where Marxist ideology is not regnant).
The shift of economists’ central focus from labor towards utility has been momentous. Those who placed the center of their analysis in labor strove for an objective measure. Now utility is the heart of everything, and every commodity is an indirect effect of utility. Classical economists were in favor of capitalist production, but were so because they saw it as favoring universally acclaimed ends—individual prosperity and, of course, the Wealth of Nations.
Neoclassicals take market forces as religion. The classical economist saw himself as discovering tendencies of economic life, methodological tools to help study the real economy and apply them to concrete scenarios. The neoclassical economist has delusions of grandeur. His goal is “equilibrium,” and there is no impediment of humanity or good sense that will stand in its way. The fatuity of the system—of putting this notional belief in utility ahead of human welfare—has shown itself in disastrous real-life consequences. The economists who gave their endorsements to the mishmash of arbitrage and scamming before the 2008 crisis operated on the most perverse of neoclassical market analysis. They imposed conditions like “perfect information” because equilibrium in their models could not be achieved otherwise. The idiocy of this was apparent to anyone not bound by ideological blinders. The housing market functioned by turning a very extant object, a house, and turning it into an intellectual figment composed of countless financial instruments. Many millions in 2008 found they did not live in a house made of brick and wood, but a complex web of financial instruments beyond even the wisest man’s full comprehension. Any decent and humane policymaker must care more about the former than the latter, because the former are actually necessary for people to live. Capital investors may get “utility” from a home just as the man who lives in it, but it is only the homeowner who sleeps in the cold when the market collapses.
This is the transformation from liberalism to neoliberalism. Again, both groups of economists promote the same means: the breakdown of monopolies, encouragement of commerce, encouragement of proletarianization. But the ends of the neoclassical/neoliberal are greatly transformed. Liberal economists wanted an increase in wealth, by better technical use of labor. Neoliberal economists abstract away from concrete goods and things with particular characteristics and needs towards utility analysis in which production is of secondary importance. That real wealth comes from labor is a truism as old as time; “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Now, real wealth is a side effect of growth—witness the fraud of stock market growth for the past forty years.
Milton Friedman envisioned a day when individuals would sell advertising space on their t-shirts, when everyone would exploit his marketable potential to the fullest. This is essentially what we have now with a “gig economy.” Young people are expected to maximize all their productive potential—they are utility-maximizing machines. The only problem is those machines are humans that still need to eat. The individual person—that creature that still needs food, drink, and shelter to live—he is lost as an end in himself, is at best a secondary consideration in the grand theoretical apparatus of the neoclassical market.
This was a discussion of theory, and as such was about ideas. The transition from real to notional occurred in the central foundation of the theory, but it was nevertheless a theory. The same phenomenon is observable in what I would call neoliberal property rights. The change in property relations, and our idea of property, again show the difference between liberal and neoliberal conceptions, in that the concern that once had to do with the real, tangible things is replaced by concern with the notional and intellectual.
The political economy of liberal land ownership has an eternal feature: a redistribution of property from the hands of Old Money into the hands of the New Rich. In the case of Henry VIII’s usurpation, the land went from the Church to a wealthy class of private landowners. In France, the estates of the Old Regime went to the bourgeoisie or the State. In America this process was more peaceful and actually democratic. We see Jefferson’s attack on inherited wealth and Lincoln’s Homestead Act broadly redistributed economic power away from the old class of landowners. This was in complete accord with the liberal belief that large landowners tended to waste the productive capabilities of their land, whereas small yeomen in great part exploited them. The end of the liberal program was the productivity of the land and the betterment of state and society.
The redistribution was followed by a solidification of private property rights, as if the bourgeoisie double-locked the doors after they had appropriated the house. From here we get Locke’s infatuation with nearly inflexible property rights. Property is personal; common property is discouraged as being prone to wasteful use. It is primary in the political conception of man: Life, liberty, and property are the undoubted heights of secular life. But behind this enshrinement of property was the capitalist process which was already stripping a majority of people from meaningful access to or use of productive property.
The original justifications of capitalist production touted redistribution from rich to poor. The victory of capitalist production was achieved largely because its proponents claimed that the average man could possess a great deal more wealth. But the deal involved putting the means of production under the hands of fewer and fewer. This was the characteristic of the industrial revolution, which brought those once engaged in, say, textile manufacturing with their own personal capital under the onus of the large capitalist.
This process has continued. In the era when classical Marxist agitation was at its height, America was still a largely agricultural nation of many small proprietors. In the present day the small proprietor, whether agricultural or otherwise, is a nonentity. The transformation in farm work is especially shocking, for though American farming has long been capitalistic—i.e. primarily market-oriented—the rise of corporate farming has killed any last semblance of democratic land-ownership. Whether or not a farmer owns his land is of the utmost political importance. However market-oriented he may have been, the fallback for the farmer-landowner could have been subsistence farming from season-to-season. Man under capitalism may be nominally richer, but his restricted access to the means of production leave him much less free. The modern wage-slave is similarly oriented around the market, but has no similar fallback. He is completely dependent on the owner of the means of production, that is, the industrial capitalist. This was what Belloc called the Servile State.
This is all a traditional reactionary critique of capitalism. But the indictment is stronger than this, because capitalism functions to weaken the very nature of property itself. It does so by denigrating use values at the expense of exchange values. I take these terms from the classical economists: use value is the intrinsic usufruct of a commodity to the individual user. The exchange value is the amount a commodity can fetch on the market or, in a modified sense, the socialized value of the commodity. The use value of an apple, say, is clear. It does not vary, whether it is sold on the market or it is plucked off one’s tree. It has the same intrinsic properties as an individual apple as it would amongst a thousand apples. But an apple’s exchange value is dependent on social factors largely independent of the intrinsic usufruct of the apple—are buyers particularly desirous of apples in this season? is there a glut of apples which will drive the price down? One selling apples must take these factors into account. The consumer only cares if the apple is useful to him or not—that is, whether or not the apple is tasty to him.
The initial claim made by proponents of capitalist production was that it promised to increase the use values of goods available to the average person. Capitalism would have been indefensible otherwise. And to a large extent this was the case. Man gave up his land and went to the factory, but in return was rewarded with access to incredibly useful technology. The dynamics of the Servile State were there, for the growth of capitalist production more and more alienated man from the means of production. But the promise of growth—and not mere “economic” growth, but the increase and access to useful goods—still stood.
The problem with this is another underlying tendency in capitalist production, what we called when I was a knife salesman the “planned obsolescence” of commodities. As a consumer and property owner, the average worker prefers to own products that last—products with a higher use value. But as a worker, he prefers to stay employed, and continued employment requires further production. Thus, both the capitalist and the worker have an incentive to make a product that does not last forever, for the sooner the producer has to make and sell another. In other words, the capitalist and his workers benefit when the use value of a commodity diminishes. You the consumer buys a good because it functions well; the producer benefits when it functions only so well that you have to buy it, hoping that within a short period of time you have to buy another. The capitalist and consumer must ever be at odds, for the capitalist desires the exchange value of a commodity to be as high as the market can bear, the use value as low as it can bear; while the consumer wants a lower exchange value and the highest use value.
Capitalism’s heightened ability to produce requires that it make shoddier products as the capitalist form or production drives out traditional forms. This is roughly what Schumpeter called creative destruction, that is, the characteristic of capitalist production to destroy use and exchange values in the process of bringing commodities to the market. Capitalism is extraordinarily good at producing goods, but it is just as good at destroying the value of commodities produced in the past. The need for expanding production and profit requires this.
Note that in early stages of capitalist production, the average man was not completely dependent on the capitalist for sustenance; at least he had a credible threat of returning to or relying on pre-capitalist forms of production. This man still had some theoretical power as an independent producer. The modern worker has no such fallback in the land or other resources. He cannot produce anything outside of the capitalist process; he has not even a credible threat to do so. Outside of his wage drudgery, he is nothing but a consumer. Most importantly, he is dependent on his own consumption, for without his consumption there would be no production, and he would have no wage and starve.
What we often hear referred to as “late capitalism” can be defined thus: Capitalist production at the point where the market bears the tendency of use values to fall. The market can bear this because there is no credible competitive threat of non-capitalist production. The average worker benefits from increased production because it pays his wages, and benefits from products being worse and worse, that is, having lower and lower use value.
The degradation of commodities occurs in other ways. We could posit a general rule: The more technically advanced a product, the more its use value is tied to its social value, for the more advanced a commodity is technologically, the more dependent is its owner on networks able to maintain or repair the commodity. The apple needs no accoutrements, while the sewing machine, however sturdy, needs maintenance.
This rule is exacerbated with digital technology. A smartphone has a use value, if only for its tiny light and its use as a small club. But its intrinsic utility is tied to the social aspect of its use. If a majority of users stop using a given software, or networking between one phone and a majority of others becomes impossible, the individual phone’s use value shrinks to nothing. The use value of the smartphone, now seemingly the most important commodity possessed by the modern man, is not intrinsic to the phone. The use value of the phone is inherently socialized. The intrinsic use value of an apple exists regardless of how the market values it. When the social value of the smartphone is stripped of it, you are left with a very expensive flashlight and a lame club.
The crank in me wants to say the smartphone is not a thing, it is an idea. Its actual physical presence is nondescript. Its greater functionality and capability are ontological qualities, they are cardinal attributes. The map and address book both held information; the smartphone makes information the end. It cuts out the medium and sets things in terms of information as an end in itself. It is more akin to a second consciousness, nothing but an extension of the intellect. What “intellectual capital” is to physical capital, the smartphone is to real goods. The smartphone is an invitation to be unreal.
Three-dimensional printing is perhaps the reductio ad absurdum of this. Someday in the future one will find himself paying not for a good, but information on how to make a good. One will not be paying for ownership per se, he will be paying for mere access to the good. All commodities will be what the neoclassical calls “rent-seeking.” The prices of regular commodities are the result of the materials used in their production and the labor employed to make it. How will the price of such a thing as 3-D printed widgets be determined? One can imagine prices being infinitely high until the “market” is flooded by other providers of information, in which case the prices will fall to zero. Government will naturally have to be involved, and a host of enforced monopolies will keep the system in some kind of balance.
The original promise of capitalism was that in giving up his personal property (specifically the means of production), man would gain more wealth, and ultimately more property. His fallback means to subsistence would be gone, but his wealth would be so increased that no one could much care; he would be stripped of his fallback, but he would in turn be free from the vicissitudes of nature and poor fate. Now the little property modern man has is less stable than ever. Modern man owns more STUFF, but it is less real, less useful. The commodities that have value have less than they used to; they are manufactured to fail. Many of the commodities have no intrinsic value at all. The action of owning property, which is a personal act, is transformed into a social one.
This is a way of saying modern capitalist production tends to diminish the actual concrete value of commodities, their usufruct, for the sake of social value. The primary end of traditional production is to make a product with the most usufruct possible given the technical means; this is what it means to have a good product. But the modern economy does not exist to create good products. The end of modern production is more production. And the end of technological advance is not greater usefulness of commodities, but the opposite: the more technology is useless on its own, the more dependent the consumer is on the producer.
The use value of commodities is subsumed by exchange value, that is a social value of the commodities. Our economy does not even pretend to rely on production. The lunacy of the modern stock market, which sees historic gains while individual wealth shrinks, is proof of this. The fact that a huge hunk of the American economy could be eradicated and replaced by $1,200 checks is more proof how it truly works.
This isn’t the Servile State, which merely alienated man from his means of production. The neoliberal/late capitalist economy alienates man from any kind if useful property whatsoever. The modern man is wealthy, but all that wealth is tied to an absolute dependency on the system. Property itself has transformed from an individually useful thing to a mere social value—a notion.
I have focused on economics because the theory and practice of it provide the material basis for neoliberal change. But of course we know that neoliberal politics.
The most prominent and clear instance of neoliberal politics is “Free Speech.” Approaching the history of the modern First Amendment, one is shocked to find how rarely liberals defended free speech as a principle rather than an expedient for some particular cause. The liberalization of speech rights was always—absolutely always—done for selfish ends, towards which greater “freedom of speech” was speciously appended. Witness the unjust Seven Bishops case, which served to destroy a legitimate king. Witness Milton’s Aeropagitica, which can only be read with the background that its author was a political radical and religious heretic. It is to their credit that these instances of proto-free speech are specious and instrumentalist, meant to destroy the moral legitimacy of opponents. None of the parties involved claimed that Free Speech was a sound principle, or could be a principle at all. No one was so crazy to assert that speech laws could become so lax to threaten the destruction of the state, either through direct sedition or by eating away at the morals of the state’s inhabitants.
Compare that with modern notions of speech, which is schizophrenic and insane. Advocating for sedition is now a positive right. Thus we get the Brandenberg v. Ohio holding that allowed all manner of violent speech so long as it wasn’t direct incitement. The perverted John Stuart Mill avowed the usefulness of lying, for its use in ultimately revealing the truth through discourse, and the Court enshrined this in law with New York Times v. Sullivan. The recent hit piece on President Trump could not have been published were it not for the high standard of “actual malice” necessary to call a lie a lie. And this is to say nothing of pornography. The totem of Free Speech can justify this all—a nebulous, self-contradictory notion that has so often been used as a weapon to assault us all.
Let me give another example, that of criminal justice. The goal of the criminal justice system is to punish those culpable for bad acts; hence the central components of any criminal law are actus reus, or the intrinsically harmful act, and mens rea, the guilty mental state of the offender. Properly enforcing the criminal law necessarily has secondary effects, one of which is deterrence. But this is a side effect of the fundamental purpose of the system, which is to punish evil acts and evil minds. Put plainly, the state has no right to criminalize an act that is not intrinsically harmful, and it has no right to punish those who, at the very least, do not realize they are committing a harmful act.
But these simple facts would be foreign to most attorneys and jurists in the present day. The Supreme Court now recognizes the two ends of criminal law as retribution (which really just means simple justice or lex talionis) and deterrence. This is the effect of the long reach of Caesar Beccaria, who first began the disorientation of criminal law away from simple justice towards deterrence. His project was recognizably liberal. He discouraged the use of unnecessarily harsh punishment, striving to go back to the “first principles” of punishment which would necessarily result in crime prevention. This is easy to recognize as a republican goal, for what was good for the tyrant was not necessarily good for the res publica. It also tends towards the secularization of the law, for if the welfare of the secular republic were the primary consideration of criminal law, matters of religion would tend to be forced to the side. The trademarks of “liberal” change are there, though the common good is still nominally at the forefront.
Come to the present day. Deterrence is now in practice the only legitimate end recognized for criminal law. While retribution still exists on paper, civilized jurists do not like to discuss it, and it is a almost always ignored. No one thinks that the modern criminal justice system exists to punish bad acts and evil minds. Only the contrary, more than 90 percent of criminal cases are resolved by a kind of contract between the defendant and the state in which the state promises to punish the defendant much less than it could if the defendant agrees to forgo being condemned by a jury of his peers. This is the plea bargain. This being the norm, the average criminal or would-be criminal does not fear the law, he only knows that he stands to be inconvenienced by it. The average offender knows in practice what Gary Becker advocated in theory: he is a part of a system of crime management based on utility analysis, not criminal justice. Becker, in fact, posited that we are happy with a certain level of crime, and that a certain amount of crime should be allowed by policy—a fact which is true with regards to jaywalking, not so much with regards to theft. But Becker’s conception has won the day. Many if not most property crimes are not punished in major cities. The fundamental matter of criminal law, which is the punishment of the culpable offender for evil acts, has changed to one of “social preferences for crime and enforcement.” (As it so happens, the less laws are enforced, the more the “social preferences for crime” tend to increase—go figure.)
Deterrence, which was once a secondary consideration in the natural functioning of the system, has now become an end in itself. Most everyone knows this is wrong, because every average person is born with a moral compass. It is one of the reasons the death penalty has never been eradicated by popular vote. It is the reason why ghouls like Elizabeth Warren can tout life imprisonment over the death penalty because the former is actually crueler than the latter. But these lingering sentiments do not change the concrete functioning of the system, which relies on bureaucrats in the state’s attorney office to make contracts with bureaucrats in the public defender’s office, all with the intent of managing crime, at least of a point where the populace does not hang the bureaucrats. Deterrence is king. What is in fact a secondary consideration under a system of simple justice is now the end goal of the system.
NEOLIBERALISM VS LIBERALISM
Liberalism is called an individualistic ideology. I don’t think this is true, because true liberty is placing oneself correctly in the hierarchy of being. But liberalism at least claimed for itself noble ends. Liberalism in its classical sense was largely a Utopian project. Condorcet—the most Utopian of liberals—predicted that men might live forever once the technical means allowed for it. Julian Huxley went so far in his UNESCO manifesto to suggest eugenics could lead to a golden age unknown since the Fall. These were lofty goals. Some were achieved: Longevity, strength, good health. The reactionary/conservative and the liberal disagreed about ends, but no one is so reactionary that he can’t understand the temptation of Utopia.
The nominal end of liberalism was human advancement, but what is called neoliberalism is much different. The teleology of neoliberalism is not some universal and concrete human end, but rather the movement itself. The good of it is change for change’s sake. The end of liberalism is some common good; it is something concrete and real. The end of neoliberalism is an idea, a notion; the end is liberal relations for their own sake.
Neoliberalism is not individualist. There may be lipservice paid to individual liberty at times, but the heart of the neoliberal operation is anti-individualistic. This is necessarily so, because neoliberal methodology and ideology transcends the individual. It does not treat man as he is, with distinctive needs and characteristics. The neoliberal man is not a man who enjoys a certain cuisine, but who has caloric requirements; the neoliberal sees not a man who must worship God, but who has “spiritual needs.” Liberalism breaks down formal hierarchies to nominally benefit the individual; neoliberalism breaks down the composite “hierarchy” of man himself. The individual in the market is replaced by the utility function; property is replaced by socialized use. In art, subject is replaced by technique; in criminal law, the punishment of wrongs is replaced by crime management.
The failure to see the notional—or religious—aspect of neoliberalism ends leads to some embarrassing political conclusions. Many Christians who decry the old eugenics movement fail to see the primary difference between it and the pro-aborts today. Margaret Sanger, for whatever her faults, was not a nihilist. The eugenics league broke down the natural restraints of sex and biology, but their end was nominally “good.” The elimination of the weak was not for the strength of their elimination per se, but the betterment of the race as a whole. Compare this to Planned Parenthood’s modern existence, which is primarily and consciously for the ease and convenience of promiscuous women; and in the present day even the richest and most powerful abort and contracept their bloodlines away. The pink billboards are not oriented towards ghetto niggers or recent immigrants. They are aimed at the elite. It makes complete sense why the Rockefeller family would want to support contraceptive policies for the underclass; it makes no sense why so many modern Rockefellers have sterilized themselves. The former is policy; the latter is true zealous madness.
It is embarrassing to read Neocon critics of liberalism who think we suffer from too much liberty rather than too little. They speak of “common good” ideals, but they do not understand that the neoliberal is seeking the common good as well. But the neoliberal has abstracted away from the individual. The neoliberal is consumed with the common good, it’s just that good is only indirectly related to the individual good. As a matter of theory and policy, the neoliberal has left the individual behind.
I do not mean that the distinction between neoliberal and liberal is a hard and fast one. John Stuart Mill was a neoliberal. Hubert Humphrey (from what I can tell) was not. Joe Biden, back when he was cognizant, was not either. Most people who support neoliberal parties are not neoliberals, just as a vast majority of people who supported the American neocon party in the 2000s were not neocons. There are still a fair share of liberals; the old black lady, the crusty northeastern union man—they still believe the liberal platform can benefit the station in life of them and their kin. This is foolish, but not despicable. Genuinely conservative voters are duped by the ideological conservatives; liberals are duped by the neoliberals.
The goal of neoliberalism is always to make its subjects revert away from the Real and accept the Notional as the highest order of life. The more man is divorced from the real, the easier he is to control. A man who is tied to concrete things is harder to control. Man in his normal state would demand his most basic needs be tended to. He would not accept a secondary concern being placed as the highest purpose of government. In contrast, the more bound a man is to a pure idea, to notional figments which nonetheless hold a preeminent part of his life, the less a tyrant has to worry about satisfying the needs of his subjects.
Nature is hierarchical. The only way to remove hierarchy is to remove oneself from the order of nature. The neoliberal intellectual in the 19th Century could do this, as could many a bourgeois. Now this is allowed to the great lumpen mass of people. A nation of farmers rather than proletarians could never be full of bugmen; the farmer, no matter what the state in which he lived, was dependent on real property, on the whims of nature, on kinship and community. His life was real, even if the politics around him were liberal. The modern emasculated bugman lives a life that is really unreal.
All tyrants up to the modern age had to confront their subjects as men—as living, breathing creatures who lived by the sweat of their brows. Modern man’s “needs” are so exceedingly notional that the tyrant more and more only has to satisfy man from an intellectual sense. That same man—the bugman—will seemingly let every material aspect of his life deteriorate so long as his intellectual needs are satisfied. This is the terrifying thing about modern politics, that so many modern men are happy to be degraded so long as his ideological needs can be satisfied. The conservative hope is that Nature must at some point rise up to correct leftists perversions, that sooner or later it all gets real. There is no sure hope of this. To the bugman, his degradation may in fact be witness to his cause. Almost every American city has been ransacked for the sake of “racial justice,” yet the cause is undiminished for the rapes, murders, and squalor that has followed as a matter of course. The materialism of liberalism has given way to ideological fervor, a fervor which apparently cannot be diminished by material decline. This is why, unlike say Communism, the neoliberal state can only be defeated after collapse.