August 6, 2016


I'm a neoliberal. Maybe you are too (Sam Bowman, 8/06/16, Medium) 

Many of our left-wing opponents would describe us as neoliberal to slander us. I suggest we follow the Suffragettes and wear this label with pride.

So who are "we"? Here are a few common beliefs that I think "we" have in common. I'm not claiming that these beliefs are exclusive to us, of course.

We like markets -- a lot. We think that markets are by far the best way of organising most human affairs that involve scarce resources, because they align people's incentives in ways that communicate where resources can be be used most efficiently, and give people reasons to come up with new ways of using existing resources. This means that markets and market-like systems are desirable in many, many places they're not present at the moment -- healthcare, education, environmental policy, organ allocations, traffic congestion, land-use planning.

We are liberal consequentialists. A system is justified if it is the one that best allows people to live the lives that they want to live, or makes them happiest or more satisfied than any other. There are no inherent rights that override this. People's wellbeing is all that matters, and generally individuals are best at defining what is best for themselves.

We care about the poor. [...]

We care about the welfare of everyone in the world, not just those in the UK. [....]

We base our beliefs on empirics, not principles. There is an unlimited number of stories that you can tell about the world, but only a few are true. You find out which are true by comparing the stories to reality with experiments and throwing away the ones that don't fit. It doesn't matter if a theory appears to be internally coherent -- if it can't stand up to experimentation, it's wrong. In particular, quantitative empirical research is what we look for.

We try not to be dogmatic. [...]

We think the world is getting better. And, really, it is: pro-market ideas have taken hold nearly everywhere, raising living standards by an extraordinary amount for a huge number of people. [...]

We believe that property rights are very important. Predictable and formalised ownership of scarce resources is extremely important. [...]

But we're comfortable with redistribution, in principle. Because we're consequentialists we don't think that property rights are morally significant in and of themselves -- they're a useful rule that allows the economy to function properly but there is no intrinsic value to them.

These are the Third Way principles that the winner of every national election in the Anglosphere has been more closely identified with than his/her opponent.  They can be boiled down to the simple concept that utilizing First Way means (free market capitalism) is the best way to deliver Second Way ends (social security).

Posted by at August 6, 2016 4:42 PM