What do we mean by "Neoliberalism?"
Neoliberalism is a political ideology that is rooted in laissez-faire, or free-market economics. Proponents of neoliberalism believe that the private sector is more adept at fueling economic growth and should, therefore, be left with the responsibility of creating jobs. Government interference, they believe, hampers free markets. Economist Friedrich Hayek believed that interventionist measures to redistribute wealth would lead to totalitarianism.
Neoliberalism is related to the free-market ideas espoused by classical liberal theorists, particularly those from the Austrian school of economic thought, including Ludwig von Mises. Classical liberals, like today's neoliberals, disliked protectionism and thought that economic growth would be best facilitated through free-trade.
Certain politicians from recent decades have come to be associated with neoliberal ideas, including Margaret Thatcher and her contemporary, Ronald Reagan. Thatcher, like many neoliberals, disliked labor unions. One of the most controversial policy measures during her time as prime minister involved privatizing the coal industry in 1984. Thatcher's argument was that the coal industry was in great decline and would be better managed by private firms.
Neoliberalism remains politically controversial, particularly due to its association with the idea of unfettered, unchecked capitalism. Since the economic crisis of 2008, brought on by the irresponsibility and excesses of the financial industry, many people have become skeptical about the efficacy and soundness of neoliberal ideas.