If you asked me what 'neoliberal' meant, I'd point to the austerity policies being imposed on Greece and other weak euro countries, Thatcher, Reagan, the World Bank and IMF before the IMF started being convinced by the evidence. Obsession with balanced budgets, cutting social programs and raising taxes to balance those budgets, free trade deals at the expense of environmental and labor protections, austerity policies (austerians). Overlapping a lot with 'fiscal conservative' because words are weird.
However, in 2016, it seemed lots of people used it differently, almost to the point of being a generic insult by leftists. A lot of my above view comes from Paul Krugman, who opposes all that, so when I saw some writer call him (and Christina Romer, who's done good work to debunk supply-side economics
) neoliberals, because they supported Hillary and were dubious about Bernie's economic numbers, I knew something had gone horribly wrong.
For that matter, there's treating Hillary herself as an avatar of neoliberalism, despite supporting minimum wage increase (and indexing to inflation!), universal health care, and other basically liberal things, as well as voting against the only multilateral trade deal (CAFTA) that came before her as a Senator.
And just the other day I saw someone call "build more housing" the "neoliberal solution to gentrification". Which I guess is true, in that neoliberals would support it, but if that's distinctly neoliberal, then call me a neoliberal...
But while searching for some gun post, I ran across the /r/neoliberal reddit, and these related posts:https://medium.com/@s8mb/im-a-neoliberal-maybe-you-are-too-b809a2a588d6#.vblgkqcswhttps://www.reddit.com/r/neoliberal/wiki/faqhttps://bensouthwood.tumblr.com/post/68356441500/neoliberalism
which don't entirely agree -- the first is "trashing" the work of the third -- but paint a rather diffent picture than the austerians terrorizing Greece. The first is market friendly, but also liberal consequentialist, endorsing strong but not absolute property rights and endorsing redistribution. The third calls neoliberalism very similar to social democracy, maybe a bit more market-friendly, where I'd have called neoliberalism largely about dismantling social democracy.
The second, the reddit faq, calls it to the right of social democracy. Also, somewhat vaguely, as supporting capitalism and government interventions to fix the flaws of capitalism. Which, the way I grew up, is just liberalism, though maybe friendlier to free trade and to talking about markets. And:
"while we often share similar goals, social democrats tend to be significantly more skeptical of the merit of the free market on principle than neoliberals tend to be. In the same way that classical liberals might be seen as one step to the right of us, social democrats might be seen as one step to the left."
Though when it talks about rising income inequality (as a problem!) it 'blames' technology first, institutions second. I'd blame institutions more, and suggest that you can't educate everyone into having high income.
OTOH, if you look at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
the lead is basically what I described at first. Laissez-faire, privatization, austerity, etc. Ick! OTOH, in the 1930s it meant 'an attempt to trace a so-called "third" or "middle" way between the conflicting philosophies of classical liberalism and socialist planning... promoted instead a market economy under the guidance and rules of a strong state, a model which came to be known as the social market economy.' But it dropped out in the 1960s, and came back in the 1980s associated with Pinochet's reforms.
So, interesting. I *have* wished for a term that would unambiguously cover me, Krugman, and Yglesias -- fairly liberal, even lefty, people, who still like markets and want to fix them, not replace them or grudgingly put up with them. Social democrat and US liberal have a strong connotation of being suspicious of that, in understandable but excessive reaction to conservative/libertarian worship of markets. I think there are things that need deregulation (zoning, taxis), but it's not a general principle or anything, Some regulations good, some suck.
That said, unambiguous labels pretty much don't exist. I'll stick to 'liberal' or 'social democrat' for now, while getting called 'neoliberal' by lefties because I believe in supply and demand curves. But it'll be interesting to see if these reclaimers go anywhere.