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

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