WHO KILLED NEO-LIBERALISM? Matthew Yglesias fingers . . . neo-liberalism, with a cry of “Sic Semper Success”:
I think the primary cause of its declining fortunes is that, as tends to happen with once-ascendant political tendencies, it had a lot of successes. The most persuasive neoliberal ideas have become conventional wisdom. The netroots shares the neoliberal critique of interest group brokerage as a model of party-building. Absolutely nobody nowadays makes the sort of arguments that you heard from the 1980s-vintage left about the possibility of winning elections purely through increasing voter turnout. And a lot of the low-hanging policy fruit has already been implemented. Nobody thinks TANF will be re-reformed as an open-ended entitlement. Nobody thinks NAFTA will be rescinded. Nobody thinks we’re going to re-regulate the airlines or restore the government-sponsored telephone monopoly. I even think people have privately reconciled themselves to the fact that race-based affirmative action is going to fade away. And so on and so forth.
What tends to happen when a political tendency achieves a fair amount of success, however, is that what continues to make that tendency distinctive are precisely those strains with the least appeal and cogency. Similarly, insofar as neoliberals succeeded in reformulating a more politically viable conception of liberalism they’ve tended to render their own habits of mind less relevant since the revived, more viable liberalism wants more self-confident, more earnest advocates.