Monday, May 18, 2009

On Faithless Neoliberals

Following the Boediono-Neolib controversy, I think the problem is not so much that some people dislike neoliberalism. It is perfectly OK if you disagree with something, but it'd be better if you have clear idea on what you disagree with is about.

In my old posting, quoting Stanley Fish, you can find the broad definition of neoliberalism (at least from the perspective of its critics) that I won't repeat here. Problem of definition aside, the real catch is that --also from Stanley Fish, quoting Boas and Gans-Morse of UC Berkeley in his subsequent Times' column --, its force is more rhetorical (Boediono, you accursed neoliberal) than analytic.

In the last debacle on neoliberal here in Indonesia, I think the problem is even more depressing: some people attach moral or religious value on neoliberalism. It is akin to say that because you are neoliberal, your faith is questionable.

In Boediono case, you can confirm this by reading the weird flip-flop statement from Tifatul Sembiring who said that Boediono is not a neoliberal because during his time as Coordinating Minister of the Economy, shariah economy was developed and he passed the Law on Shariah Economy.

While Homer Simpson would say "D'oh!", Econ 101 students would say: the opposite of neoliberalism is socialism.

I am fine if you are socialist. I will disagree with you, and sometime ridicule you, but I will never question your faith based on your socialist viewpoint - unless you kidnap, torture, and kill others.


  1. labeling ppl is terms of isms is unhelpful.

    for example, you would probably agree with socialists on many things -- e.g. whenever market failures occur.

    i think the term neoliberal is a term just as defunct as globalisation. it is interesting how such terms can be subverted...

  2. ha ha how about labeling an organisation.
    UI is neolibist. UGM is propeoplist (propeople), then Budiono isn't a neolibist (if it's true he's from UGM).
    my apology if there're some wrong words.

  3. johnorford, agree. We'd better talk about policies than labels. And the current religious inquisitive tendency in examining policies is unhelpful too, if not worrisome.

  4. i think the big problem is because most people don't even know what you mean.

    yes, the whole moral thing, (very good point), is nonsensical and misleading.

    nice :)

    always like coming around here despite the missing lesbians.

  5. ts, you may want to come more often. The barista is grinding new coffee called "market economy strikes back".

  6. I think if you want to really know what the historical ramifications of "neoliberal" economic policy has been (and continues to be) you should take some time and read Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine" or spend a few hours reading David Harvey's "A Short History of Neoliberalism."

    Milton Friedman got the Nobel Prize but Chile got Pinochet. Neoliberal economics is designed to prop up the elite as the expense of all other citizens in the countries which it is practised. It cannot be practised unless at the point of a gun or a torture chamber. It's most famous advocates were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pinochet, and Chairman Dung. The "free market" of course was not free at all.

    Is Indonesia's economy "neoliberal"? No. There is far too much state intervention in the economy for it to be defined as such. Also it has progressed somewhat from the crony capitalism practised by Suharto and Co.

    Are the terms "neoliberal" and "globalization" defunct. I should think not! They remain serious subjects which effect the lives of millions, perhaps billions of people.

  7. ultratupai, how do you relate, conceptually, the free market economy to political killings?

    I think a system that largely relies on redistributive policy by the state is more prone to the state's coercion. You can't just ask people to redistribute their wealth.

    On Friedman in Chile, in my opinion, Milton should be held responsible on economic policy, not the political killings. He gave economic advice, as far as I know.

    In this point, I agree with Greg Mankiw's take on Klein's book.

  8. Ultratupai,
    with that kind of logic, should we condemn Marx because of the existence of Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot?

  9. Hey, can I put this link in my facebook network? Some of my friends might want to know this kind of reference.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Rika, feel free to do so

  12. Hi rizal,

    Do you know "Milton" well enough that you are on first name basis?

    I actually do equate "free market" economics to political killings, especially if these "free economies" have the bonfide stamp of Freidman neoliberal economics.

    The historical evidence is overwhelming. The Greg Mankiw link seems to be nothing less that apologetics for Freidman economics and he clearly has no given Klein's book the the credit it deserves in exposing just what neoliberal economics can do for you.

    This is not the same as Marx being responsible for the crimes of Mao, Stalin, or Pol Pot. That is a rather specious argument.

    It is rather like saying the PKI was responsible for the 65 coup and that all PKI are guilty and that this guilt is inhereited by their sons and daughters and for generations to come. This is guilt by association.

    However the links that Friedman had to (and still has to) American foreign policy, global banks, and torture chambers are quite direct.
    For example, even before the smoke cleared in Santiago, Chile, Freidmanites were on the ground with their "free market" cookbooks. This program was extended to Uraguay, Argentina, and other nations which fell under the sphere of influence of US foreign policy of the day.

    And previously Suharto's Indonesia was held up as a shining example for all to follow.

    Klein makes a very powerful argument in her book "The Shock Doctrine". I would not discount what she has to say so easily.

  13. ultratupai, at least I know Milton's (and Maynard's) argument way better than Naomi's.

    So you do equate free market economy with political killings. Isn't it like saying that orange is equal to apple?

    On overwhelming historical evidences. What historical evidences? Suppose that I have historical evidences that in Indonesia orange grows well, so does apple. Does it mean that orange is equal to apple? or orange causes apple to grow?

    Or, following your Chile example, if you see that in the same area orange trees grew right after apple trees sprung up; does it always mean that they come in as one package, or, as you say, that orange tree is equal to apple tree?

    What I request you to tell me is how they relate, again, conceptually, to each other. How?

    And how come Indonesia under Soeharto (suddenly) become a shining example of free-market-equals-political-killings? Did you just say in earlier comment that Indonesia is not neoliberal?

    Moreover, I fail to understand your analogy of blaming PKI's descendants. It doesn't seem to fit into ap's Marx example.

    If I were to give example, it'd be: Soeharto was responsible for the mass-killings of PKI members and the discrimination against their descendants, and it would be a specious argument to blame Mafia Berkeley for this crime.

    p/s: Of course you can replace Soeharto with Pinochet and Mafia Berkeley with Chicago Boys.