On Wednesday, December the 4th, 2019, a panel of Constitutional Law professors presented historical data and scholarly observations before the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. 

As requested by the House, they did their part, as representatives of the academic community, to assist in the process of the impeachment investigation of US President Donald Trump. Long live scholarly research and respect for university professors! Many, for years, have engaged in research and in so many ways—classrooms, scholarly papers, public forums, or via newspaper–share their findings with the public.

The three constitutional scholars the Democratic Party had called to testify in the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing on Wednesday were “unanimous in their assessments that President Trump committed impeachable offenses in his dealings with Ukraine” (Rashaan Ayesh, “Legal Scholars,” Axios, 4 Dec. 2019).

Even the Republican-selected professor agreed with the possibility of impeachment, if accusations prove to be confirmed. We need them all; for, usually, “the authority of a professor . . . does not derive from the [economic] market, but from humanistic values such as public spiritedness, conscience, or the longing for justice,” (editorialThe Guardian, 18 Aug. 2017).

Here in the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, we also have academicians who research, and teach, and “profess.” I am one of them. Another is Dr. Samuel Freeman, a previous contributor to the Rio Grande Guardian. We were colleagues in the Department of Political Science, Pan American University (now UT Rio Grande Valley), Edinburg, Texas.

We are still friends but often represent different points of view. On foreign policy and domestic policy there have been spirited debates between us in these pages. They were sometimes complimentary, sometimes conflictive views. But, today, both of us agree long-time trends have led to the crisis of Trump. Our disagreements regarding causes are a matter of degree, not of kind. Solutions? “Ay, there’s the rub.” I’ll mention some. But, meanwhile, both agree in the existence and dominance in our times of the ideology of neo-liberalism.

What is “neo-liberalism? (NL).” It is “The Idea that Swallowed the World,” (Stephen Metcalf, The Guardian, 18 Aug. 2017). International Monetary Fund scholars recently met and settled the long and bitter debate over NL. Yes, they concluded, it exists, despite denials, despite accusations from conservatives that it only exists as an insulting term against capitalism.

Many of my students (and some of the readers here?) might not be aware of NL; you rarely hear it on television. But it can remain no long anonymous; the core of beliefs and practices of NL is overwhelming. It has been adopted by right-wingers in Europe such as Margaret Thatcher—forever to be remembered by her infamous line: “there is no such thing as society—only individuals” (James Wood, “Can You Forgive Her,” New Yorker, 2 Dec. 2019).

NL was also embraced by supposed “progressives,” such as Tony Blair (joining Bush in his invasion of Iraq), Bill Clinton (North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA), and Barack Obama (Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP). Arising from a resurgence of 19thcentury ideas, NL is: “The dominant ideology permeating public policies of many governments, including the U.S. and a variety of international agencies, such as the World Bank” (Metcalf).

NL arose in the 1970s, “intended to address the alleged failures of the New Deal” (Rob Urie, “Left is the New Right,” Counterpunch, 8 Nov. 2019). By the 1980s this “old-new” ideology was codified as the “Washington Consensus.” This apparent consensus admitted old Liberalism of the Adam Smith variety was finished, as, so they said, were the New Deal experiments of the 1930s and 1940s.

However, there was not yet—not fully—a realization that Smith’s famous term – “invisible hand” – had become more like a “thumb on the scale in favor of the world elites” (Robert Kuttner, “NL: Political Success, Economic Failure,” The American Prospect, 25 June 2019). That is, not all shared in the bounty promised by old or new Liberalism. Certainly, most are cynical about “trickle-down” economics by now? And certainly, it is no secret multinational corporations favored by neo-liberals pay few, if any taxes” (Kuttner). Care to “top this”? Three men in the U.S. own more wealth than 50 percent of their countrymen and women; and “eight men hold as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet,” (Patrick Iber, “How NL Limits the Power of Democracies,” The New Republic, 23 April, 2018).

Neo-liberals now say the “proper role of government is to support [elite/rampant] capitalism, not to constrain it” (Kuttner). Even the masses bought into Reagan’s corny phrase “government is the problem, not the solution” sermons. Our choices now seem to be between liberal neo-liberals, who try to speak more for “the people,” on one side and, on the other, conservative neo-liberals (Republicans of all stripes) who support unbridled capitalism.

But even the “grandfather” of NL, Friedrich Hayek, had his suspicions of the applicability of NL on such a massive basis. He might not have been surprised by the major role NL played in the financial meltdown of 2007-2008, in the slow collapse of public health and education, or, indeed, in the rise of Donald Trump.” The “free market” [which has never been free] produces “a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers”—who support, in their “thirst for revenge, Brexit and Trump” (Guardian).

Indeed, we now face the grim reality, thanks to the decades of neo-liberalism, of a Trump: “a creature of pure whim, a man without the principles or conviction to make a coherent self. A man without a mind, who represents the total absence of reasons, who is running the world—or at least ruining it” (Guardian). Not that he understands neo-liberalism either; he is just its willing tool.

The differences I have with another professor, my colleague mentioned above, center on how best to negotiate out of this quagmire. I am almost always of the opinion (like Voltaire): “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good” (the neo-liberal, but “nice guy,” Biden?). My colleague does not agree; for our elections, he prefers the nearly perfect (Sanders or Warren?) either best described as an FDR New Deal Liberal. Neither of us can even imagine (yet must consider) the continuation of a Trump administration past 2020. In that hope, we are together. Perhaps that unity gives us strength.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this guest column is of economist Friedrich Hayek.