Neoliberalism — Nimbin Style

In Jason Soon’s capitalist utopia you can hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening and criticise after dinner. It’s a world where the welfare state has withered away and in its place is an unconditional basic income paid to each adult citizen to spend however he or she has a mind.

But standing in the way of Jason’s minarchist utopia are conservatives like ‘badPeter Saunders who argue that elites need to justify capitalism to the masses by appealing to popular ideas about fairness. Saunders believes that free market’s supporters need to show how it embodies the principle of reward for merit. We "should endeavour to make the meritocratic principle work", he says, because it is the only principle of fairness that commands majority approval. According to Saunders, any income support system that fails to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving will be offensive to tax payers who work for a living.

For Jason, Saunders’ attachment to populist notions like fairness makes him a closet socialist while his insistence on state support for traditional social norms positions him as an obstacle to free market reform. Jason writes:

Now, if some supporters of the free market could lose their irrational fetish for the ‘work ethic’ at least narrowly defined as ‘being a wage slave is the best thing in the world’, the bourgeois supporters of capitalism could join hands with the hippies and hydroponic marijuana cultivators, the hobbyists and community workers and help bring about something close to the withering away of the State.

Few people who hope to influence government policy are ready to join hands with "hippies and hydroponic marijuana cultivators". It’s exactly this image of life under a basic income that’s persuaded academics like Bettina Cass to argue for a ‘participation income‘ instead.

Jason’s proposal looks like an attempt at an alliance with basic income proponents — radical leftists like QUT’s John Tomlinson. But is there any reason to think that a libertarian overture to the radical left would be any more successful today than it was in the 1960s?

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Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

Yes. A lot of the left aren’t Marxist or Marxisant like they were in the 60s.

Seriously, Don, that’s a point which ignores several decades of intellectual and policy change.

I should mention Tomlinson is a former colleague of mine.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

That Tomlinson article wasn’t too bad at all for someone from the radical left.

15 years ago

I’m inclined to re-aarange the current working alliances too, mostly because the conservative impulse is emotionally incapable of handling climate change (and I don’t care if you point out all the libertarian climate nay-sayers to me).

The marriage described in Hartley‘s The Go-Between is well and truly in the past. The conservative impulse not only dislikes change for change sake, if change actually happaens they pretend its doesn’t, particularly if it the direct result of the choices they make.

Divorce them I say.

The future is not a foreign country, they do things we allow/constrain them to do.

Of course Mary Douglas said what Jason has all this a decade ago.

15 years ago

But is there any reason to think that a libertarian overture to the radical left would be any more successful today than it was in the 1960s?

Success requires alliances. No alliance no success.

(Exceptions include coalition of the willing.)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

“Exceptions include coalition of the willing.”

And the Liberal and National Parties in Queensland (at least in recent years).

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago