UPDATE: the letter below was subsequently printed, and can be read here (with some alterations made by the paper’s editor, it seems)…
This is my letter to the Irish Independent (I know, I know, why bother…), about Dan O’Brien’s piece today:
To Whom It May Concern,
Dan O’Brien (29/10) claims that because there are no self-described neoliberals, it is not possible to engage with their ideas. But surely he would not deny the historical existence of self-described free market radicals, like Milton Friedman and Gary Becker, or the historic influence of their ideas on government policymakers, like Paul Volker and Margaret Thatcher.
Neoliberalism, quite simply, is a theory that advocates applying the laws of the market to as many domains of human existence as possible, as intensely as possible. Neoliberals take up the ideas of early liberals, like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Those thinkers had faith in the virtue of market-based competition as a mechanism for optimizing the distribution goods and services. Moreover, they believed the experience of buying and selling in the marketplace was a moral corrective, producing over time a class of responsible and capable citizens, named ‘entrepreneurs’.