Neoliberalism is a word that can be used a little sloppily, and sometimes as a general cuss-word for policies or practices that are disliked, especially by those on the Left. But just because it is not always used rigorously does not mean it doesn’t exist.
Milton Friedman himself used the word neoliberalism, in a 1951 essay called ‘Neoliberalism and Its Prospects’. In that essay, Friedman argued that it takes twenty years for there to be “a change in the underlying current of opinion and the resultant alteration in public policy.” Friedman claimed that while elections could create a “difference of degree” and an “opportunity to begin a drift in a new direction”, “the direction this drift takes will be determined not by the day-to-day shifts in political power or the slogans of the parties or even their platforms but by the underlying current of opinion which may be already … determining a new direction for the future.” Friedman noted that he sensed the start of a move away from collectivism in 1951. “The stage is set for the growth of a new current of opinion to replace the old,” wrote Friedman, “to provide the philosophy that will guide the legislators of the next generation even though it can hardly affect those of this one.” Friedman said the problem with collectivism was its means, not its ends; in particular, its belief “in the ability of direct action by the state to remedy all evils”. He talked of the need for “a new faith”, which would put “a severe limitation on the power of the state to interfere” with individuals (while recognizing that the State can do some things well).