Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. Liberalism, in economics, refers to a freeing of the economy by eliminating regulations and barriers that restrict what actors can do. Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.

Neoliberalism has been used by various scholars, critics and analysts, mainly referring to an upspring of 19th century ideas connected to economic liberalism that began in the 1970s and 1980s. These ideals advocate for extensive economic liberalization and policies that extend the rights and abilities of the private sector over the public sector, specifically the shutting down of state and government power over the economy. Neoliberalism supports fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, privatization and greatly reduced government spending.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition, therefore, are treated as antithetical to liberty. According to Neoliberalism, tax and regulation should be minimized, public services should be privatized; the organization of labor and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers; inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are treated as both counterproductive and morally corrosive.


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