The failure of Neoliberalism – which to many represents a libertarian economic approach – is not in its embrace of classical liberal economics … rather, its principle flaw is in its embrace of the idea that groups of people equate to individuals.
Neoliberals (such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) in general support an empowerment of groups, e.g. corporations, to operate free of regulation, and wield power both politically and economically that is traditionally reserved for individual persons. From this principle extends a number of corollaries. For instance, the concept that corporations “have political views” and should be free to spend money on campaigns.
The thing that neoliberals do not seem to understand is that by empowering groups such as corporations, we actually diminish the power of individual persons. Not because people within those organizations may not have a say in how the organization is run or what political campaigns it gives money too … but simply for the fact that an individual person will never have the money or influence of a corporation. They will simply be shouted over.
Perhaps not the intended consequence, but a consequence nonetheless. Ironically, in that sense, neoliberalism actually exhibits a sort of collectivism reminiscent of socialism … the only real distinction is how one defines the group collectives: worker collectives vs. corporate collectives. It is not laissez-faire capitalism.
No true classical liberal would support empowering groups over individuals, even if it is done so as an unintended consequence. And as such attributing neoliberalism to the ideas of libertarianism or Friedrich Hayek’s works is laughable at best. Neoliberalism was simply trying to mish-mash the principles of classical liberalism with collectivist planning (albeit with corporate “collectives”). Its failure lied in thinking that groups of people could be equated to individual persons.
If you’ve ever read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (linked above), you would know he’d be rolling in his grave at that.
The Supreme Court is currently deliberating on whether religiously-affiliated organizations should be forced to provide birth control coverage as part of their health care insurance for employees. What is interesting about the case, given the above discussion of the critical failings of Neoliberalism, is how both the Right and the Left have taken principles of neoliberalism and applied them to particular issues that fit their agendas. Call it cherry-picking …
In the current Supreme Court case, the debate is really about whether groups can “have religious rights” the same as individual persons. That would be the religious right’s argument.
And equally on the Left, we have Progressives and SJWs arguing that certain groups should be given special privileges (e.g. Affirmative Action for women or blacks) even at the expense of disenfranchising individuals who are not part of that group, even if they are just as under-privileged (think poor white children from rural Appalachia).
Both sides are in essence arguing that groups equate to individuals. That groups are entitled to individual rights. Even at the expense of actual individual persons and their rights.
Cannot say this clearly enough, so I will say it simply: That is NOT a Liberal position. Nor does it align with Western principles of classical liberalism, free markets, and individual rights.