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Gary Gerstle on his new political economy epic, Ralph Nader, and if Joe Biden is Jimmy Carter 2.0

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Maybe it was The Matrix .

The sci-fi classic from 1999 gave the world the character of Neo, played by Keanu Reeves as a man awakened from slumber to a world that operates by completely different rules than he’d realized. He responded with a memorably profound utterance: “whoa.”

After the turn of the millennium, the “neo” prefix spread into the political and business worlds, with similarly eye-opening revelations about the way of the word. First it came to foreign policy with the “neoconservatives,” who broke with decades of limited engagement and isolationism.

Then it came to economics with “neoliberalism,” although that was not identifying a new trend so much as recasting an old one. Ronald Reagan was not a conservative, the argument went, he was rather putting a new spin on the liberalism that birthed the concept of free markets. Similarly, Bill Clinton was not so much a standard liberal, but rather a neoliberal who reinforced Reagan’s revolution from the standpoint of the Democratic Party. Whoa.

Now there’s a history of the movement to give proper understanding to what neoliberalism is, or was, in The […]

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