The Oz op-ed section has published some dumb stuff in its time, but for sheer mouth-breathing stupidity you couldn’t go past Oliver Marc Harwich’s article today, which discovers that whacko, Kevin Rudd’s hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a neo-liberal. How do that? Well, a bunch of German economists and thinkers in the ’30s, whose work would later evolve into the “social market” movement — in which it is argued that the market must be accompanied by state planning, collective economic sectors, and a strong welfare net — called themselves “neo-liberals”.

The fact that the term ceased to be used for that philosophy, and was then revived in the ’70s and ’80s, to cover an entirely different philosophy — in which it is argued that market relations should dominate just about every sphere of social collective life — appears to be of no import. Hey dimwit — terms change their meaning, slowly or quickly. Lenin’s party used to be called “the social democrats”. “Conservatism” now (i.e. neo-liberalism + social conservatism) has little in common with the aristocratic conservatism of a de Maistre, or Oakeshott. Etc.

A pretty pathetic gotcha, as these things go. Apparently there’s a whole book of it from the CIS, who appears to be coping with the new era no better than most conservative (classical liberal? neo-conservative neo-liberal?) outfits.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey