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In 2021, the Best Way to Fight Neofascist Republicans Is to Fight Neoliberal Democrats

I’m just having fun. Why can’t we get reductionist about the phone call like we do everything else blamed on neoliberalism?

PsyOps?

If your point is that “the word ‘neoliberalism’ has become devoid of meaning,” you are sadly mistaken. It is the driving force behind our collective and planetary demise. It is well-defined, institutionally entrenched in both parties, broadly defended in academia, and deliberate. And while I share many readers’ perspective of Norman Soloman’s shortcomings, I think he gets this particular article pretty much right.

If your point is that using the term disqualifies the commenter as “dumb and insulting” and a “cloistered leftist,” that’s just, well, dumb and insulting.

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I get it. But I also have a more substantive comment for you above, er, below, or wherever it shows up in the thread.

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Well Solomon, who is often very good, clearly doesn’t understand the difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy. I’ve been reading him for a long time and this is one of his stupidest pieces. Of course we need to fight neoliberalism, but it is not the same as the Gestapo rounding up everyone to the left of Attila the Hun.

If we consume the goods here, I’d rather destroy our land than destroy some other country’s land.

Of course everyone on the left has plenty to say on regulation and ways to change consumption habits to try to minimize our impacts.

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I think the point is that neoliberalism is weakening the institutions that protect against fascism. Neoliberalism is not inherently fascist, but neoliberals will settle for fascism if it furthers their goals.

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Importing: Far too much is substandard/fake/tainted, despite alleged “inspections.”

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I agree for the most part with your first point but don’t agree with the second. Re the first, it’s not only a matter of the institutions, but of masses of people hating the corporate political system which has ruined their lives. Thus the populism, right or left. Re the second, there will be and is a split among the capitalist class. Some support fascism, others don’t.

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I recognize it has a real meaning, but in too many cases, it’s become a handmaiden term for “not as progressive as I like.” Here’s one: in California, a big piece of our housing challenge is over-zoning and regulation. Cities and counties have spent years making it more difficult to build housing, particularly multi-dwelling properties, for good and ill. To deal with this, the legislature turned a deregulatory direction: they took away local authority to zone and permit-fee out of existence multi-dwelling buildings in infill areas so the market can function better. It will be easier and cheaper for developers to build now.

Some progressive quarters did (and do not) like this change, even threatening to put propositions for local control on the ballot. They focus on handouts to “big developers” and other issues as the solution, like requiring building quotas. On the other hand, lots of progressives, and I include myself, feel differently: if you want more housing, you have to let people build it. Am I a bad neoliberal for thinking the legislature got it right to deregulate some of the housing market?

That is exactly my point. You see this at work in my comment on California housing issues above. In some circles, I am a genuinely terrible neoliberal for my belief that we made the right choice deregulating a portion of the housing market. For all kinds of reasons, including environmental, I think the traditional regulatory approach to housing in California is bad. Other people disagree, they have their reasons, and some advocates are vocal about “neoliberals” pushing policy for their developer friends (never mind their policies favoring existing property owners).

What bothers me most is that there is no real environmental impact done for zoning and regulation, housing is approved in transitional areas without adequate water resources, that leads to subduction in areas with existing water resources, unacceptable fire risks at four million acres burnt this year alone, air pollution and other health risks. We already have tons of unused space we wouldn’t actually have to build anything.

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This is why the legislation that was passed deregulated infill development. Our existing housing policies in California simply incentivized suburban development, often further away from employment hubs. While many of these policies leaned progressive, with requirements for free parking spaces for tenants, subsidized housing, etc., they drove development costs up. It’s a challenging issue, but I think the legislature made the right call.

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I haven’t looked at this issue, but anything that prevents Northern California from becoming like Southern California is a plus in my book. I don’t like the expansion of ticky-tack developments where houses are built four foot apart, no yard and one designated tree. It is a concept of space and orientation.

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There’s a lot in your reply and I want to give it due consideration. First, “neoliberal” does get bandied around by people who do not understand it, but I don’t think Norman Soloman is using it to be progressiver-than-thou; I think he’s using it appropriately.

Your example from California is interesting, but bears scrutiny. I lived in the Bay Area for twelve years between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Seattle, Washington. When I think of development in the Bay Area, my mind immediately sings, “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky…” Which leads me to remember all the essential reasons to regulate development, from environmental protection to building standards. Zoning is legitimate; so is environmental justice. And I understand how regulations can go wrong, willfully or not. It sounds like the case you’ve presented involves adjusting regulations/zoning/permitting to enable “fill in,” multi-family dwellings among already developed areas (redevelopment, in fact). Seattle has been unable to reform zoning to allow taller, denser housing in proximity to neighborhood commercial districts and public transit due to nimbyism from single family homeowners (which describes a vast expanse of Seattle neighborhoods). This forces peripheral development that has consumed local farmland and degraded endangered watersheds, and also forces poorer people into longer commutes to their “essential” work. I could go into more detail, but my point is that revising and improving regulations is essential, but I don’t think that constitutes an argument for neoliberalism, which ideologically opposes all regulations on the absurd notion that some invisible hand will intervene to rebuke those capitalists who exhibit unbridled greed, unethical and illegal behavior. Neoliberal is, by definition, always extremist. What you’ve described sounds to me to be more like regulatory progression than neoliberalism. I’m vehemently opposed to neoliberalism, but I’m for developers being empowered to actually improve our urban environments. It goes without saying that I will always oppose developers to whom a “better-functioning market” means profiting from cultural or environmental destruction.

So, when you ask, “Am I a bad neoliberal for thinking the legislature got it right to deregulate some of the housing market?” I guess I have to answer, “No, because I don’t see your argument as evidently supportive of neoliberalism.”

Then these people are, in fact, just degrading the argument, which I think was one of your first points in the whole thread. We agree, then, that neoliberalism is real and therefore subject to criticism. As I said in my other comment, I’m not sure the case you’ve described really constitutes neoliberalism, per se. It doesn’t support the ideological tenet of across-the-board deregulation. A true neoliberal would say, “See how deregulation improves things? Next, let’s get rid of all the environmental regulations, building codes, worker protections, and, while we’re at it, bring back redlining. That’ll free the market and make things just perfect!” The case you’ve presented sounds more like regulatory tuning than neoliberal deregulation.

The existence of neoliberalism clear from the above commentary points strongly in my mind to the need for a multiparty system. In a multiparty system, several parties unite to focus on some issues and dissolve alliances when they believe otherwise.

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I like that phrase, “regulatory tuning,” but there were multiple pitched battles over zoning reform here, and “neoliberal” was bandied about quite frequently at times. And not without some merit: the goal is to deregulate a portion of the housing market to encourage multi-unit dwelling construction. After years of going in a more layered regulatory direction, California opted for a deregulatory approach. We’ll see if it works.

Solomon is spot on. Neo-liberalism gave us Trump, and if not defeated almost certainly will bring us even worse.
I would note that Norman gives a bit more credence to the self representation of the neo-liberals than warranted. The various trade agreements include all sorts of intellectual property protections, which amount to government interference with markets on behalf of the corporate elite. Bank bail outs/ corporate banker get of jail free cards [Obama/Holder’s “too big to fail” fairy tales] are the antithesis of free markets. Ultimately, the neo-liberals are old style plutocrats, preaching laissez faire for the rest of us, and securing socialism for themselves.

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This isn’t Raw Sewage. Corporate shills and extreme centrist neolibs don’t get a pass here. Who on earth do you think led to Trump in the first place?

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