It’s always interesting to see who is invoking the name of Ludwig von Mises to make a political point. A few weeks ago, Peter Beinart was claiming, rather unconvincingly, that Senator Ted Cruz is some kind of devout anti-interventionist because he allegedly read books by Ludwig von Mises as a teenager.
This week, it was the President of Ireland, in a speech claiming that the “neoliberal” bogeyman is lurking in the shadows to convert the world into a playground for plutocrats. “Neoliberal” is a term used internationally, primarily by leftists in the political sphere, and it generally seems to mean: “evil free-market ideology,” although the real-life economic systems that these leftists describe as “neoliberal” are characterized more by corporatism and crony capitalism than by anything resembling free markets.
For this reason it’s a little odd that the Irish President, Michael Higgins, would say this:
“Neoliberalism has, from the first meetings of Ludwig Von Mises, Hayek and Milton Friedman, been a conscious ideological project” he said, adding that it “does make assumptions about human nature and the good society. Yet these are rarely stated”.
Higgins isn’t trying to speak well of neoliberalism here.
Mises of course wasn’t a “neoliberal” at all. He was simply a liberal in the nineteenth-century tradition. International leftist activists also speak of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as neoliberals. But if Mises, Bush, and Clinton are all neoliberals, then the word as used by people like Higgins, must not have any precise meaning whatsoever.