Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bruenig on Left-Neoliberalism

I've been googling myself - and probably will for the next couple days - because it honestly does matter to me that anyone who picks up on Noah Smith's piece understands that I am firmly on Sandra Fluke's side (so if you're linking to him and accepting his interpretation uncritically, expect a comment from me!).

One thing that came up in my search was
this interesting discussion of "left-neoliberalism" by Matt Bruenig. Watoosh, an occasional commenter here, chimed in in the comment section, suggesting that I fit the description "rather well". I agree. I've described myself as "neoliberal" in the past. I shy away from "left" because of associations with the harder left, but if it comes with "neoliberal" attached, I think I'm satisfied with being associated with the left.

Bruenig writes
: "Like the rest of the left, left-neoliberals identify certain problems with the present slate of economic and political arrangements. Over 50million Americans live in poverty, around 50 million more Americans live just above poverty, income and wealth are distributed very unequally, and so on. Left-neoliberals recognize that this kind of economic inequality is unjust, and think that government policies should be reconfigured to remedy the problems created by it.

Although left-neoliberals diverge in different ways from one another, they generally support a policy scheme that combines laissez-faire capitalism with large amounts of tax-funded income redistribution. More traditional left-liberal approaches try to fix economic injustice through unionization, government subsidies, and business regulation, among other things. Left-neoliberals, on the other hand, accept the free market economic analysis that claims these traditional approaches lead to economic distortions and other kinds of problems."

A lot of the rest of the post is about unions. I actually don't have a problem with unions at all. I think collective action of all sorts - democratic, labor unions, corporate, etc. - is a very important way to get things done. That having been said, I'm not usually particularly "pro-union". I don't like, for example, the special treatment that some unions got in the health reform bill. But I've got nothing against them either - they play an important role, although that role is probably going to diminish over time.

On regulations I think he's basically right about "left-neoliberals". There's nothing inherently wrong about regulation, but the evidence for market efficiency in "normal" circumstances is strong, so any proposed regulations ought to come with a good sense of why we're regulating.

In the comment section, Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias, and Brad DeLong are all identified as "left-neoliberals" too. Brad has used this language before. I think this is basically right too - after all, these are the economics bloggers I identify most strongly with.

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