Don’t call it a recession. This is what neoliberals call a ‘vacation.’


Mark Blyth wrote of European Union-imposed austerity in the recession precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008,

The notion that unemployment is voluntary is, in the context of the current self-inflicted wound in Europe, downright offensive. Real workers must pay bills and feed families from jobs that have fixed hours and fixed wage rates. The idea that workers “trade off” labor against leisure by figuring out the real wage rate and then slacking off or going on an indefinite unpaid leave is the type of thinking that leads us to see the Great Depression as a giant, unexpected, and astonishingly long unpaid vacation for millions of people: original, yes; helpful, no.[1]

Intellectually, neoliberalism stands utterly discredited,[2] but it remains mainstream Democratic Party ideology and an ideology professed by Republicans even when they run up huge deficits on their turns in power.[3] I have concluded, in fact, that the defense of neoliberalism is a higher priority for Democrats even than winning elections—the latter is merely a means to the former.[4] And certainly Nancy Pelosi’s dithering on economic relief[5] does nothing to dispel this conclusion.

Meanwhile, Luke Taylor offers an introduction to some of my passengers,[6] although I doubt many of them are nearly so creative as he claims. Whatever. They aren’t going anywhere now.

David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020,

Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020,

  1. [1]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University, 2013), 159.
  2. [2]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017,; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019,; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013,; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015,; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013,; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013,; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013,
  3. [3]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019,
  5. [5]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020,; Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020,
  6. [6]Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020,

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