Neoliberalism is fundamentally the idea that if two people would like to make a deal that does not directly affect anybody else, we should let them. It is opposed both to regulation and cartels, and the neoliberal agenda can take credit the de-regulation (and union cartel breaking) that allowed for containerization of global shipping, as well as the economic boom that removed nearly a billion east asians from extreme poverty WITHIN MY MEMORY.
I’m just going to pause there, because anybody who questions the moral status of free trade and the neoliberal agenda needs to grapple with this fact first. In 1990, a year that I have clear (if few) memories of, there were about 1.2 billion fewer Asians than there are today, and nearly a billion MORE people living on less than two dollars a day in east asia. To call this an economic miracle is to under-play it. This makes Jesus and the loaves and the fishes look small. There are literally hundreds of millions of people born hungry in 1990 who eat well today, as a consequence of free trade.
Any argument against free trade and/or neoliberalism that doesn’t grapple with this, any argument against trade that starts and ends with the American rust belt is at best uninformed.
All that said, this started as the pre-amble to a critique of neoliberalism as applied to rent-control, and then quickly developed into something that deserved its own post, since really anything but the near ending of extreme poverty in east asia is a second-order policy effect. Stay tuned for that more nuanced post.