Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.
Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism.
Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples.
But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.
Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate.
In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.
It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy.
Hayek’s triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair’s expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had regulated the financial sector.
For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn’t possess a narrative either (except “hope”), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.
As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement.
If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate.
Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite.
The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation.
The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.
The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped.
Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal.
But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow.
The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want.
The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.
Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives.
The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century.
It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.
A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story.
It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish.
The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.
Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong.
Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.