The case for neoliberalism

By Morgan Schondelmeier, head of development, Adam Smith Institute

MorganHeadshot.jpgA few years ago, the Adam Smith Institute – an economic policy think tank in Westminster – decided to adopt the moniker ‘Neoliberal’. Derided by some as emblematic of a corrupt, greedy, and destructive world order, ‘neoliberal’ has for many years been a term of disdain used by the left to describe those with whom they disagree. By reclaiming the term, proponents of neoliberalism feel able to change the narrative back to the principles which define our views; freedom, liberty, security, and compassion.

Socialists might believe that the world can be designed from the top down, but neoliberals know that it is actually built from the individual up. We believe in maximising the power of individuals to voluntarily self-organise, in families, businesses, charities, and other community groups for their own self-fulfilment. We believe that the role of government is to protect and facilitate your liberty to flourish – as long as you do not interfere with others doing the same.

This might not seem very different from what one might expect from traditional free marketeers. But there is a distinction which is particular to the neoliberal world view. While we support free markets – and acknowledge that they are the most powerful tool ever devised for generating wealth and prosperity – neoliberals realise that markets are not always good at redistributing wealth. Sometimes, the natural actions of the market can lead to negative consequences. Therefore, we believe in limited, effective state intervention in order to address these externalities and provide for those who are worst off in society.

This is not to say that those who advocate for free markets but do not identify as neoliberals are in any way crass or unsympathetic of the challenges people face; but there is a misconception that policies driven by compassion and which provide for all members of society are the property of the left. Our means will be different – favouring individual choice and private enterprise over restrictive government mandates and massive bureaucracies – but our aims are similar – support for the poor, universal healthcare, world class education, and a prosperous society.

This is why the Adam Smith Institute and neoliberal opinion platform 1828 have published a Neoliberal Manifesto. We wanted to make clear the principles for which neoliberals stand. By outlining core policies like healthcare, welfare, technological advancement, housing, and more, we are attempting to show how leading with the principles of neoliberalism can lead to practical solutions for a free, prosperous, and modern society.

By putting forth our vision for a neoliberal world, we are ensuring that we reclaim issues so often co-opted by the left: from migration, to criminal justice and drug reforms, through to housing and the generation after the financial crash who feel left behind and let down. By discussing the environment, drugs, healthcare, immigration, education, and welfare through the lens of neoliberal policies, we can show that the centre-right has practicable solutions to the ‘burning injustices’ of the world. In turn, we can move on to the bread and butter of the right, like taxes, infrastructure, and free trade.

The Neoliberal Manifesto serves as an entry point to neoliberal ideas, and underlines the consistent and coherent thinking that lies behind each and which modern politics so often fails to reflect. By setting out a positive vision for the future, as well as solutions to current struggles, we can endear more people to the policies of the centre-right. It’s time to make the case for compassionate policies founded on efficiency, evidence, and – most importantly – personal freedom.


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