April 10, 2024


It’s no longer about markets.
It’s about identity.

The historian Prof. Gary Gerstle maintained that the neo liberal order was coming to an end, that free movement of goods, money, ideas and talent characterized the neo liberal order and that it was in the process of losing ascendancy. Losing ascendancy does not mean disappearing, it means losing ascendancy. Peter Zeihan says much the same and locates the issue in the guarantee offered by the US Navy since WW2 to police the sea lanes of the world. Also large diesel engines and cheap fuel may have as much to do with trade as any deliberate policy measures. I digress.

Somewhat to my surprise I agreed with the leftist professor of history.

So far so good. I have ordered his book and will read it skeptically. (The Rise and Fall of the Neo-Liberal Order).

The neo liberal order got going about the time of Reagan and Thatcher and was characterized by reliance upon, and praise for, the market. In the period under discussion, various US Presidents, of whom Clinton is prominent, also pursued neo liberal promarket policies. This illustrates the tendency for large movements of policy to continue despite changes in the party holding the presidency. Canada obtained free trade with the US, and many liberalizing trade measures were adopted throughout this period roughly 1970-2000.

The next assertion of the professor was that the dominance of neo liberalism was coming to an end. I also agree with that assertion, perhaps for different reasons than those of the learned professor.

The effects of the neo liberal order were various and I shall try to point out the major features. This is obviously me talking, not Professor Gerstle.

  • off shoring of domestic North American manufacturing, which led to the gutting of manufacturing towns, increasing despair and drug addictions (viz Angus Deaton on deaths of despair in the working class) and much cheaper goods at the stores

  • Industrialization of much of the rest of the world. When did you first notice that clothing you wore came from Cambodia, Indonesia, or Vietnam?

  • Very significant increase of the national share of wealth to the top 1% and eventually the top 1% of the 1% as the economy became more monetary and intangible and less a matter of things produced. Software firms worth more than Boeing or Ford for instance.

  • Oxycontin plagues and mass drug addictions

  • Very high rates of non white immigration of peoples to Europe and North America. You are not supposed to notice this, by the way. But assimilation is not proceeding too well in many European countries and the same process is well underway in the United States.

The remainder of Professor Gerstle’s talk concerned Trump, Orban and Bolsonaro and the supposed authoritarianism of same and the threat to democracy. I should say “democracy” because clearly the word has become code for something other than changes of governments in a populist direction. These are held to be threats to “democracy” which seem to consist of changes of history of which leftists disapprove.

Here is where I depart from Professor Gerstle’s alarmism about populist changes to governments.

He was also concerned with the January 6th insurrection on the hill and the menace it portended to the continuity of American institutions. I was once very alarmed by January 6th riots until I began to believe the entire event was a police -infiltrated and significantly police-inspired stunt to disgrace Trump. It has worked.

Prof. Gerstle along with many other Democrats believes that democracy is under attack.

Let me try to set forth the reasoning of many on the Trumpist right, if “right” is the term to be applied. Here we get to territory that will summon forth political disagreement.

For many of us, a combination of events has persuaded us that democracy is already in grave danger from the following, which is largely drawn from the US experience.

  • A politicized leftist judiciary and prosecutorial apparatus

  • A politicized federal police

  • A politicized intelligence apparatus

  • An almost certainly manipulated if not stolen presidential election

  • Uncontrolled immigration of people, some of whom are in the United States with subversive intentions

  • The immigration of 20 or 40 millions is not being controlled because the Democrats want to achieve permanent electoral supremacy by endowing the illegals with votes

  • A minor but serious plague has been used as a pretext for a massive repression of personal liberties both of trade and movement on the basis of compulsory vaccination by radical mRNA therapies that have been insufficiently tested, and which appear to be causing a serious increase of deaths in the general population

  • which plague was engineered by experiments in gain of function (increased lethality) research funded by US sources in Chinese laboratories (RFK I pushing these buttons as a central part of his electoral campaign)

  • A push by all global leaders and bureaucracies to reduce energetic throughputs, the basis of wealth creation, in the name of a spurious climate agenda.

  • A fundamental attack on sex roles being carried on as the focus of the next personal liberation struggle.

So yes, the people, rightly or wrongly, are unhappy with the state of their governments and what these governments have so clearly indicated they wish to do.

Consequently, as a result of governments being so badly misaligned with their electorates, and so apparently ready to call opposition to their intentions as “far right” “fascist” “transphobic”, and so ready to denigrate the white settler populations of which the electorate is still mostly composed, the neo liberal order is coming to an end. This is occurring not because of trade issues, or income inequality, but because of fundamental challenges posed by left wing governments to the people who still compose the electorates.

To what do we belong? To the nation, or to various sexual and cultural minorities?

Trump has a clear answer. Biden, if he has an answer at all, says that most Americans belong to an illegitimate race. And if he cannot say this, his minions state it or insinuate it.

The neo liberal order is coming to an end because the issues have decisively moved on from trade and markets to identity and belonging

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About the author 


Retired, sometime civil servant, sometime consultant, active intellectual, former lawyer, active property manager, and on rare occasions in the past a political activist. He has recovered from the experience.

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  1. I am not sure that "governments [are] so badly misaligned with their electorates".

    If we review the last Canadian federal election:
    – 33.7% voted for the Conservative Party
    – 32.6% voted for the leftist Liberatl Party
    – 17.8% voted for the socialist New Democratic Party
    Even though the Conservatives had the most votes , the leftist-socialist coalition was chosen by the majority of Canadian voters (50.4%) to rule Canada. We get the government we deserve.

    A more recent example is the October 2023 election in Poland, where:
    – 35.4% voted for the conservative Law and Justice Party;
    – 64.6% voted for a rag-tag coalition of radical left wing, far-right wing, former communist, and liberal parties.
    Again, even though the conservatives had the most votes, the leftist-communist dominated coalition is ruling Poland. They got the government they deserve.

    Human nature leads people to vote for "free" things that they think will be paid by others.

    1. I think the polling data come from the deep manipulation of the climate of opinion through the media and education systems.

      It is an institutional problem not easily fixed, especially since a huge proportion of the population (and the vast majority of the professional an managerial class) owe their jobs directly or indirectly to tax funding and rigging of the market to increase demand for parasitic work.

      Possibly things need to get so bad that an Argentina-style revolution occurs.

  2. 50 years ago, Reagan/Thatcher neoliberalism gave corporations unchecked power to consolidate, which is why we have monopolistic control, aka tyranny. The State used to invest in a robust public sector, which is required for any healthy society. Natural monopolies like healthcare and education have become privatized, central banks issue bank credit over government investment, adding to private debt, medical bankruptcy, etc.

    Until the State once again begins to invest in the common good, societies worldwide will continue to unravel. Neoliberalism, aka privatization, lies at the core of fascism.

    “For generations, we'd all been educated to worship at the altar of private capital's unrestrained pursuit of profit for the greatest benefit of its shareholders, as Milton Friedman argued in his 1970 essay entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” (PDF). No other considerations can shape the development of production and distribution of goods and services in our economies, else someone will shriek, SOCIALISM! Worse, we’ve even allowed ourselves to become convinced that individuals’ unrestrained pursuit of their own interests can somehow automagically lead to the best possible outcome for the whole society.

    As it turns out, those ideas were the owner class’s self-serving delusions that incubated the fatal flaw within their system, rendering it fragile and weak. The flaw has festered as an undiagnosed malignancy because it enabled the interests who own our Military Industrial Complex and other key industries (the big banks, big tech, big ag, and big pharma) to become extremely wealthy. They also became deeply entrenched in society’s power networks. As such they’ve grown and wholly resistant to any curtailment of their extraordinary privileges, even when it becomes clear that they are driving their nations to destruction.

    That gang is now discredited. And yet they remain in control. That is the essential problem we face today. It is a problem that vexes all the lower orders of society all across the world as they work to find ways peacefully to unseat the elites from their ill-used power. In this struggle, it is not Daniel Bell who is our prophet but C. Wright Mills and Murray Rothbard, who despite their divergent ideological perspectives agreed on one thing: it is unjust and unworkable that a small elite should rule the world without the consent of the governed.”

    Excerpt from article: Ukraine war and Western system's fatal flaw
    The undiagnosed malignancy at the core of our system is now out in the open view


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