Criticisms of Neoliberalism, Capitalism, and Free Markets.

Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 05/03/09.

Libertarians are unabashed free marketeers, and generally can see no wrong with the market, either historically, philosophically, or economically. In this they overlap strongly with neoliberals. The rest of the world can though. Libertarians generally hysterically reject anything criticizing capitalism, such as the notion of classes, despite the fact that capitalism is well known to have severe problems.

These criticisms range from the cogent to the ludicrous. Judge them for yourself.


The Limits Of Markets.
Robert Kuttner's article in The American Prospect which summarizes his book "Everything For Sale". This short article goes a long way towards explaining the fallacies of libertarian economic arguments. Highly recommended.
A Short History Of Neo-Liberalism
Susan George provides a terse overview of the rise and effects of neoliberalism.
Globalism Bites Back
Robert Kuttner's article in The American Prospect which details problems of naive internationalist economic foreign policy.
If You Took An Airplane Recently, You Know Deregulation's A Loser
Robert Kuttner describes the recent failures of deregulation in airlines, power, and banking.
The Scorecard on Globalization 1980-2000: Twenty Years of Diminished Progress
The Center For Economic And Policy Research found that globalization seems to reduce progress in growth, life expectancy, child mortality, and education in defiance of neoliberal propaganda.
Living in a Second-Best World
by Jodie T. Allen. A Slate article which does a fine job of introducing why deregulation and competition may not create their intended benefits, due to the Theory Of The Second Best.
The Internet and the Abiding Significance of Territorial Sovereignty
by Jack Goldsmith. Shows why it is both desirable and practical for territorial governments to regulate the internet. See also the other related articles in Indiana Journal of Global Studies Volume 5 Issue 2 Spring 1998.
A Libertarian Tricked.
Libertarians may react hysterically to criticisms of capitalism, and the revelation of their errors. This one is truly funny.
What Is an Economy For?
James Fallows' describes how Asians employ pervasive strategic economic policies yet still are winning the competition against free marketeers. From Atlantic Unbound.
How the World Works.
James Fallows' debunks free trade as an engine of growth, detailing Friedrich List's theory and protectionist history of major economic powers. From Atlantic Unbound.
Anti-Market Forces.
Doug Henwood's census of failed free-market dogmas of the recent past. From his Left Business Observer.
Democracy and the Market section 2: The Flight of the Bumble Bee.
In Part II of Noam Chomsky's Year 501; The Conquest Continues. Exposes free market theory as a hostile weapon against development of emerging nations.
The Capitalist Threat.
George Soros' February 1997 article from The Atlantic Monthly. 'The main threat to social justice and economic stability now comes from the uninhibited pursuit of laissez-faire economics, argues one of the world's most prominent capitalists, who warns that the very ideal of an "open society" is at stake.'
The Asian About-Face
James Surowiecki's Slate article where he notes that free-market advocates praised the "Asian Tigers", finding them free of government interference, until their currencies and economies collapsed.
Capitalism's Crises and Critics.
Chapter 11 of Human Society and the Global Economy. An evenhanded review of Marxian economics, identifying what has stood the test of time, what has not, and why. Very easy reading.
The Arthritic Hand of Oligopoly
Chapter 12 of Human Society and the Global Economy. An overview of the economics of oligopoly, the problems, and solutions. Good, unprejudiced background.
New Zealand's Vaunted Privatization Push Devastated The Country, Rather Than Saving It.
New Zealand was the site of a neoliberal/libertarian policy triumph, which Murray Dobbin describes as catastrophic.
Bishop, Beware Part II: The Divine Right Of Capital
Fr. Miller and Mike Greaney's "Social Justice Review" attacks neo-conservatism from a Catholic viewpoint.
The Divine Right of Capital
An excerpt from Marjorie Kelly's booklet and forthcoming book question the mandate to maximize returns to shareholders.
Efficiency at What?
An overview of "economic efficiency" and why it is only a component of the real social goal, welfare.
William Graham Sumner -- Social Darwinism and neo-liberalism in defense of laissez-faire capitalism
Libertarians recycle these hundred year old arguments that were refuted in the Progressive Era.
Twentieth Century Alchemy
by Ernest Partridge. How neoconservatism is founded on overemphasis of severely limited models such as "economic man".
The State Religion
Ernest Partridge explains how surprisingly accurate the "market fundamentalist" metaphor really is.
Spheres of Affluence
Michael Lind's The American Prospect article points out ahistorical libertarian ideas on the benefits of free trade.
Tinker Bell, Pinochet and The Fairy Tale Miracle of Chile
Greg Palast points out that Chile's success was due to Keynesian policy and socialist measures such as the nationalized copper industry and agrarian reform, not neoliberalism.
How free is the free market?
Noam Chomsky identifies free market policy as markets for the poor, socialism for the rich.
Are Markets Wise?
Markets are wise the way gravity is wise. There are times when they do and don't serve public interests.
Blood Count: Cultivating the ethic that everyone should give blood
Robert Kuttner describes why markets for blood don't work as well as volunteerism, and that volunteerism needs to be encouraged by government.
The Ethics Of The Free Market: Why Market Liberalism Is Wrong.
Moral, political and social objections to market liberalism and the market itself.
Globalization and economic sovereignty
John Quiggan rejects neoliberal claims of "inevitability", and presents historical and policy arguments limiting globalization.
Liberty! What Fallacies Are Committed in Thy Name!
Cosma Shalizi points out that libertarian-style arguments about eliminating antitrust have severe empirical difficulties: ie. price fixing is rampant in the global marketplace.
Cycles of Conventional Wisdom on Economic Development (pdf)
Paul Krugman points out that the association between free trade and economic development is not supported by economic research, and in fact is a recent, spurious belief.
NEW 2/06: Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion?
Dani Rodrik, of Harvard University, points out that the neoliberal prescription of free markets, privatization, and non-interference has been a great failure for developing nations. India and China have done vastly better with their own prescriptions.
NEW 10/06: The Social Welfare State, beyond Ideology
Jeffry Sachs' Scientific American article on how social welfare states do as well as or better than low-tax, high-income countries. The punch line is that Friedrich Von Hayek was wrong.
NEW 2/07: Markets Are Not Magic
Mark Thoma, at Economist's View, explains when markets can perform very badly, and how the belief that "privatization and deregulation are always best" is wrong.
NEW 2/07: Querying Economic Orthodoxy
Angus Sibley's collection of monthly articles and other publications opposing libertarian market-worshipping economics.
NEW 4/07: Milton Friedman's Hong Kong Misconceptions
This AsiaSentinel article points out that Friedman ignored four major areas of socialism in Hong Kong: subsidized housing, free medical care, free education, and external security provided by another nation.
NEW 10/07: Routes of Infection: Exports and HIV Incidence in Sub-Saharan Africa
Free trade has externalities, including some of our most important diseases. (Also invasive species.)
NEW 3/08: Trade and inequality: The role of economists
Dean Baker faults economists for exaggerating benefits of trade, and dishonestly ignoring or downplaying the distributional consequences: who wins and who loses. At the post-autistic economics network.

Print References

The links here are to, through their associates program, primarily because of the review information. Books without links are generally out of print, and can often be easily found at AddAll Used and Out Of Print Search. Good sites for bargain shopping for sometimes expensive new books are Online Bookstore Price Comparison and AddAll Book Search and Price Comparison. Both of those list applicable coupons. Another is

A. B. Atkinson "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State"
MIT Press, 1999. Points out unintended negative side effects of reduction of government.
James Arnt Aune "Selling The Free Market"
Guilford Press, 2000. Explains the neoliberal rhetoric of markets, and how "economic correctness" is used harmfully to trump all other values. Criticizes Nozick, Rand, Murray, and Posner.
Nicholas Barr "The Economics of the Welfare State"
Stanford University Press, 1999. A thorough overview of the real world economics of market failures and government interventions. Click here for a review.
Frank Bourgin "The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the Early Republic"
Allen Buchanan "Ethics, Efficiency, and the Market"
Rowman & Littlefield, 1985. From the cover: "... contains the most thorough and systematic analysis of economic and moral arguments both for and against the market as an instrument of resource allocation." The chapter, "Moral Arguments For and Against the Market" occupies most of the book.
Noam Chomsky "Profit Over People: Neoliberalism And Global Order"
Seven Stories Press 1999. Places the current ascendsncy of neoliberalism in historic context as yet another form of oppression by elites.
Charles Derber "Corporation Nation: How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives, And What We Can Do About It"
St. Martin's Press 1998. Ascendency of corporate power is decried as illiberal, and a new positive populism is prescribed.
Thomas Frank "One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy"
Doubleday 2000. Deflates the propaganda and hype for markets that are the new justification for ever-growing inequality.
Barbara H. Fried "The Progressive Assault On Laissez Faire: Robert Hale And The First Law And Economics Movement"
Harvard University Press 1998. The first, full-length study of Hale's work, which showed that "private", unregulated economic relations were in fact determined by a state imposed regime of property and contract rights which were hard to square with common-sense notions of social justice.
John Gray "Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment"
Routledge 1994. John Gray once held views very close to libertarianism, but in this book he repudiates both neoclassical liberalism and libertarianism. Chapter 3, "The Moral Foundations of Market Institutions" contains some strong criticisms of the libertarian position.
John Gray "False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism"
New Press 1999. A critique of the politics of neo-liberalism that shows the ideological connections between neo-liberalism and Marxism.
William Greider "One World, Ready or Not : The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism"
Simon & Schuster 1997. A liberal examination of the implications of the global industrial revolution.
Naomi Klein "No Logo: Taking aim at the Brand Bullies"
Picado USA 2000. Discusses the ill effects of allowing popular culture to be shaped by branding in the quest for corporate profits.
Robert Kuttner "Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets"
Knopf, 1997. Why mixed economies would outperform pure markets. Essential for countering libertarian economic arguments.
Charles E. Lindblom "The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What To Make of It"
Yale Univ. Pr. 2001. The big picture of what markets do well and poorly, their benefits and harms. Very balanced.
Linda McQuaig "The Cult of Impotence: Selling the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy"
Viking 1998. Why economic globalization and its effects are not inevitable, and why democratic government can and should ameliorate those effects.
William J. Novak "The People's Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America"
Univ. of North Carolina Pr., 1996. "Blasts to pieces... the libertarian fantasy that until the twentieth century the American state left private property owners and economic entrepreneurs alone." --Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School.
Philippe Van Parijs "Real Freedom for All: What (If Anything) Can Justify Capitalism?"
Oxford University Press, 1998. Policy implications for resolving the conflict between capitalism's unacceptable inequality and the paramount importance of real freedom.
Michael Perelman "The Invention of Capitalism : Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation"
An academic examination of how governments created the preconditions for capitalism by separating peasants from their land, following the advice of classical economists such as Adam Smith.
Margaret Jane Radin "Contested Commodities: The Trouble with Trade in Sex, Children, Body Parts, and Other Things"
An examination of how non-market values are important to personhood, and how social and economic inequality threaten those values, necessitating regulation.
Elton Rayack "Not So Free To Choose"
An extensive criticism of Milton Friedman's economic and social philosophy.
Douglas Rushkoff "Coercion: Why We Listen to What 'They' Say"
The coercive and manipulative arms race between marketers and the public.
Cass Sunstein "Free Markets and Social Justice"
(Oxford Univ. Press 1997). Takes on the claims of the Law and Economics camp, libertarians such as Epstein and Posner.

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( ).
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