Volume 36, Issue 2, Fall 2022
The Metamorphosis of a Key Concept in the History of Ideas of Economic Theory and its Consequences for Applied Political Ethics as Related to Political Theories of Justice
The criticism of neoliberalism is omnipresent. The term is seemingly self-explanatory, but its original use in public has been forgotten. Its form originated in the international movement of ordoliberalism in the 1930s, which used neoliberalism to describe its distinction from laissez-faire capitalism. This conceptual confusion has created considerable consequential problems that overlay today’s debate on the future of the market economy. The fact that the neoliberalism of the ordoliberals is today equated by its critics with the capitalism of the libertarians raises questions. Since the economic dogma of Milton Friedman, who was the inspiration for the so-called Chicago Boys in Chile, whose economic policy was first captured by today’s negatively connoted term neoliberalism, this approach needs to be looked at more closely. Should the ideas of the Chicago school of thought substantially distinguish themselves from the other currents of economic liberalism, a solution to the confusion of terms could be possible, giving a new twist to the debate on the market economy. Such a clarifiation would be of fundamental importance for the ethical question of the social orientation of the economic order, since ordoliberalism was in turn the godfather of the social market economy. Furthermore, this would have consequences for applied political ethics in the context of political theories of justice, whose theoretical constructs reflect the existing economic order as a fact of experience.