Invited to deliver a lecture last month at Chicago’s DePaul University on the rather straightforward topic “Dictatorships and Radical Islam: Enemies of LGBT Rights,” I was met with protest by a left-wing student group denouncing me as a “White, Zionist, neoliberal.” Guilty as charged.
What is neoliberalism? Denunciations of it are ubiquitous. A writer for The Guardian describes neoliberalism as nothing less than “the ideology at the root of all our problems,” one responsible for “epidemics of mental illness” that is “crushing the minds and bodies of millions.” Upon the election of Donald Trump, left-wing professor Cornell West declared “the neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang.”
Reading the perfervid attacks on neoliberalism today, one is put in mind of what George Orwell observed seven decades ago about “fascism,” a word with “no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’ ”
Broadly understood, neoliberalism describes a set of policies generally aimed at reducing the role of the state in the economy. Neoliberals embrace free trade, capital and labor mobility, privatization, and fiscally solvent social welfare systems. Think Bill Clinton in the United States, or Tony Blair in Great Britain. Neoliberalism is embodied by the “Washington consensus,” a set of 10 economic prescriptions laid out by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for developing countries beset by economic crises.