In 40 Seconds: Neoliberalism

While learning about capitalism, neoliberalism appears to be the most overused and least-understood term that I've come across.

However, it is one of the core critiques and challenges towards moving to better capitalism.

Unless we all get on the same page about what neoliberalism really is, then it's going to mean a lot of "talking past each other".

So here is my best shot at describing what Neoliberalism is, in a succinct manner.

Neo・liberalism = new liberalism
a modified form of liberalism tending to favour free-market capitalism.

Underlying beliefs

  • Free markets – markets free from government intervention create optimal efficiency.
  • Individualism benefits everyone – individuals pursuing the profit motive, combined with a free market, create a prosperous society.
  • Wealth trickles down – reduce restrictions on wealthy, since their business and spending will go to the poor and help the rest of the economy prosper (known as trickle-down economics).

Liberate the market

  • Deregulate – remove government regulation in an attempt to reduce inefficiency and increase innovation.
  • Remove tariffs – don't restrict globalisation through artificial trade tariffs.
  • Breakup trade unions – which stand in the way of "fair wage" labour. Let the labour market dictate pay.

Marketise everything

  • Apply market theory to everything – create markets around all human needs since this will lead to optimal efficiency.
  • Financialisation – turn consumers (of goods) into financial products the pay interest (credit cards, home loans, personal loans, etc.)


  • Privatisation – minimise government action in the market.
  • Reduce government spending – to increase the role of private sector.
  • Reduce government debt – through the above, aim to bring government debt down to a manageable level.

Protect capital rights

  • Intellectual property rights – enable the protection of intellectual property.
  • Patents – encourage innovation by protecting peoples ability to monazite new inventions.
  • Rentiership – grow capital through monetising (renting) the use of an asset (as opposed to through production).
  • State protection – move the state from playing within markets, to defining and protecting them.

There you have it, the fuzziest term that is shaping our world in 40 seconds.

Read more

  • This article from The Conversation is great.
  • This article by the same author describes how he teaches it to students.
  • This article gives a more positive spin on neoliberalism, by a neoliberalist.


Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on

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