How We Got Here and Where We’re Going: Neoliberalism Has Failed, and a New Progressivism Is on the Rise

January 15, 2020

New Roosevelt reports explore the failures of neoliberalism and the framework for a post-neoliberal economy and society


New York, NY—At a time when corporate profits are sky-high, workers’ wages remain flat, and affordability crises run rampant, many are beginning to understand that the neoliberal ideal has not only failed to deliver shared prosperity but has harmed the collective good and driven us to a second Gilded Age. For four decades, neoliberals have argued that unregulated markets would bring us both economic and political freedom, and that our economy and politics should, therefore, privilege individual private choice and profit-driven private-sector companies above all. The fracturing of this dominant but fundamentally flawed consensus lies behind much of the political debate we see today.

To better understand the current political and economic moment, and to chart a new path beyond neoliberalism toward a more democratic economy rooted in progressive ideas, rules, and institutions, the Roosevelt Institute released two reports today:

  • The Emerging Worldview: How New Progressivism Can Go Beyond Neoliberalism: Authored by Felicia Wong (President and CEO), the paper identifies the emerging and coherent strands of a progressive alternative to neoliberalism, as well as the risks of failing to make real a new worldview, including increased racial and economic disparity; and
  • Empirical Failures of Neoliberalism: Authored by Mike Konczal (Fellow) and Katy Milani (Director of Advocacy and Policy), the brief outlines the economic evidence that neoliberal policies failed to deliver on their promised benefits (as seen by regressive trends such as growing tech monopolies and runaway CEO pay and low wages) and lays a foundation for a new set of economic policies that are capable of building a stronger, more inclusive economy and democracy.

The papers provide the context of how neoliberalism has failed to deliver increased growth for all, equality, or mobility and explain the emerging alternatives (put forth by today’s leading progressive politicians and thinkers) that would create an economy that works for all Americans.

Insight From Selected Authors

“We see a progressive worldview emerging that reimagines how government shapes the market, creating guardrails, directly providing goods and services, and catalyzing growth. We have reason to be hopeful, but this vision will only succeed if it is inclusive. The biggest threat is a nationalist alternative that harnesses progressive economic rhetoric in service of white supremacy,” said Wong.

“The research is clear. Neoliberal ideology did nothing but make the rich increasingly richer. The task now is to flesh out policy alternatives and examine how these new, bold policies would be best carried out—an endeavor that requires a new framework for how we examine the economy. Though this will be difficult, we can move forward knowing that the status quo is not working and that we have the best available evidence to support this fact,” said Konczal.

Today’s reports were released at a public event in Washington, DC, moderated by Joelle Gamble, a principal with the reimagining capitalism team at Omidyar Network. The event featured Roosevelt’s Wong and Konczal and leading post-neoliberal thinkers Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times opinion columnist, and Quinn Slobodian, a historian of modern German and international history. A full video of the event can be found here.

As we head to the next presidential election, it is clear that our economy needs a coherent worldview that encompasses a new set of common understandings about how our economy can work for more people, how our politics and society can solve problems, and how we can live our values. “A new progressivism—one that measures freedom not by human capital but by human thriving—is possible,” said Wong.

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes bold policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st-century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a transformative vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.

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