Neoliberalism has been used to describe the contemporary and recent political history both in the U.S. and abroad. Neoliberalism has crossed party lines in unique ways and has been enmeshed in every fabric of American society since in the 1960s and the election of Richard Nixon. As an ideology and policy model, neoliberalism refers to a style of 20th and 21st century politics that has transgressed back to 18th and 19th century liberalism focused on lasaiz-fare economics. However, neoliberalism encompasses social and political qualities that transform society in significant ways that are not outlined solely in economic definition above. For the purpose of this paper, Pain: A Political History by Keith Wailoo, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link” by Robert Procter, and “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain” by Patrick Keefe will be contextualized in broader themes of neoliberalism such as competition, individualism, and the monetization of many aspects of society.
Pain by Wailoo looks at the ways pain has become an effective political issue over the last century. Wailoo gives insight into the rise of the welfare state and entitlement programs today with the ending of the world wars and copious soldiers who carried pain home from war and needed support from the state. Veterans became a political opportunity for presidents to shape pain to their political advantage. Wailoo begins in the Eisenhower era and continues through the Clinton and well into the Obama years discussing theories surrounding pain and how the right and left positioned themselves to extract votes from their respective bases, but simultaneously made pain a highly divisive issue that would dictate American politics.
Procter and Keefe capture the historical corruption in industry and corporate greed that has killed millions. Procter assess the corrupt history of tobacco companies and their squelching of scholarly and public knowledge that uncovered the link between smoking and lung cancer. Similarly, Keefe discusses the opioid epidemic and how Purdue Pharma engineered an empire that would produce, review, and advertise opioids across the nation and now the globe.
Each of these three scholars unveils the neoliberal ideology in an indirect manner. Wailoo highlights individualism, a pillar of neoliberalism, when he quotes Republican representative Mike Rogers saying, “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You can’t make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak.’ And so what we have decided to do today is abandon the very principles of America and say . . . we’re going to punish the 85 percent of Americans who have earned healthcare benefits . . . to cover the 15 percent that don’t have it. Rogers said this in response to the Affordable Care Act, affirming the traditional conservative but contemporary neoliberal narrative that tells people to pull themselves up by their boot straps and take care of themselves. Wailoo presents this individualist ideology in the context of healthcare and the broader idea of pain, but healthcare and pain management policy are just one of many fields that are affected by this neoliberal framework. Wailoo consistently addresses this theme throughout, and identifies pain treatment from conservative and liberal perspectives. Breaking down this construction of pain even further, it is evident that the ways politicians and society have decided to define and construct institutional solutions to remedy group pain is rooted in whether or not one feels compelled or responsible for others. In other words, whether they share values of individualism or collectivism.
Proctor’s analysis of pain felt by cigarette smokers due to addiction and lung cancer aims to assess the corruption in the tobacco industry. Further, proctor unearths the core concept in neoliberal ideology that qualifies everything, even the life of person, under monetary standards. As publications came out about the harm of smoking and revealed the link between smoking and lung cancer, tobacco companies engaged in a frontal attack on the science community by funding propaganda to tell people otherwise. This tactic proved effective and has since been used by other denial campaigns such as the fossil fuel industry and right-wing media aiming to protect their interests at the expense of the environment. All this said, neoliberal ideology has played a role in shaping corporate greed and exploitation. First, tobacco corporate exploitation of the public and denial campaign was done to keep the money coming in. Tobacco companies began competing against the science community to convince the public that cigarettes were not harmful. Competition was always a foundation of Americanism due to capitalism, but has been emphasized in the neoliberal era.
In a more substantive manner, Proctor assess the fatalities of tobacco companies’ corruption by monetizing the lives of the people in the U.S. Proctor found that the value of a life to a cigarette manufacturer is $10,000. By monetizing the life of an individual, Proctor has identified the neoliberal mindset that drives every decision tobacco companies make. Tobacco companies no longer see death or harm to a society as a fault of their own, they only reflect on the profit they make when someone smokes. Large corporations in this neoliberal ideology are no longer able to see humans. They see capital. Keefe identified the same horrifying truth behind Purdue Pharma and the opioid crisis: the fact that corporations become enshrined in an ideology and market based system that teaches them to squelch competition and get rich at the expense of others, and shift blame to the consumers. Keefe highlights this last point while quoting a psychiatrist from the University of Washington saying, “Our product isn’t dangerous – its people who are dangerous.”  He explains how Purdue concluded that it was not the corporation’s fault that users of opioids overdosed or became addicted. Rather that onus rests with the consumers, Purdue argued.
Corporate desire to elevate themselves at any cost, even the lives of others, was present before the onset of neoliberalism, but has been exacerbated since. The rise of an ideology and policy framework that places blame on the individual while adding a dollar value to each of their lives has created large corporate monsters from tobacco, fossil fuel, and the opioid industry. Only a neoliberal system which produces actors built on competition, individualism, and monetization will create an outcome where corporations wield the power and the will to kill.
 Keith Wailoo, Pain: A Political History (John Hopkins University Press: John Hopkins, 2014),
 Robert N. Proctor, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll,” Tobacco Control, no. 21 (2012): 90, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050338.
 Patrick R. Keefe, “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain,” The New Yorker, October 30, 2017.
 Wailoo, Pain, 210.
Patrick R. Keefe, “Empire of Pain,” October 30, 2017.
 Robert N. Proctor, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link,” no. 21 (2012): 90.
 Keefe, “Empire of Pain,” 35.