Naomi Klein is not fond of neoliberalism, that much is clear. From an recent interview with Husk:
What I’m tremendously inspired by is that, since 2008, there really aren’t any true believers in neoliberalism anymore.
So it’s been this zombie ideology – it’s still upright, it still staggers around, it has its own momentum – but it’s without a soul. It doesn’t have that animating force.
Yet in the same article she outlines a perspective that is strikingly Hayekian. First, on the ability of well-meaning outside experts to judge the efficacy of a project:
So we can say that [the Occupy Wall Street Movement] failed because it didn’t have demands, but I think it just shows a really short-term view of the way movements actually work.
There are periods when they are obvious to the media and then they go underground into a gestation period – a hibernation period where they learn from their mistakes – and then re-emerge as people who have a fully articulated political platform. Which is what the Sanders campaign had.
I tend to never believe a movement’s obituary because I don’t think our media understands social movements. They’re constantly declaring our movements dead and over – and are perennially surprised when they re-emerge.
Next, on the spontaneous order of social movements she offers imagery reminiscent of Peter Boettke, Hayek scholar and author of Living Economics.
I see movements as this flowing river – it sort of ebbs and flows and we learn from our failures. But we don’t have a lot of time to fail right now.
It is just one of these moments. There’s this quote from Samuel Beckett: ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.’ But I don’t think we’re in a fail better moment. I actually think we’re in a win moment. That’s what we have to try and do.
The obvious difference is that Ms. Klein applies her Hayekian insights to the dynamics of social movements rather than the economy and society writ large. Indeed, she misconstrues neoliberal efforts to express exactly the same reasoning she espouses. She says
Milton Friedman famously said in a letter to Pinochet, when he was advising the Chilean dictator, that the major mistake happened when people thought they could do good with other people’s money.
The idea that by pooling resources, i.e. taxes, we could do something good, like have public healthcare or free education – that was the fundamental error in his view.
Yet, Friedman’s point about bureaucrats and public education was exactly the same as Klein’s on media and social movements. The dynamics are invisible to those with a 30,000 foot view. Instead, Friedman argued that government taxes—pooled resources—should be allocated by parents using vouchers. Independent schools would then be free to: Try again. Fail again. Fail Better. To learn from their mistakes without having to please overseers who would perennially declare reforms dead, only to see the momentum for them rise again.
Believers in different systems—Montesorri, Open Education, The Three Rs—could coexist together in an dynamic system, not unlike a flowing river, learning from their own mistakes as well as one another. It would allow the natural ebb and flow to lead us towards equilibriums that we may not have been able to imagine before we reached them, and indeed, may not even fully understand after they’ve passed.