If I had to sum up the alt to a neolib K in a way that makes sense in the context of the pure economic theory you're asking for, protectionism is the word I'd use. That probably isn't what most teams are advocating for, but it's the closest we're gonna get.
This card is a solid advocate of that, and sums up fairly well the basic logic of things like Cubanalismo: Trade liberalization with Cuba â€œkicks away the ladderâ€ to prevent successful Cuban development â€“ their claims about free trade are historical myths that ignore the success of protectionism in promoting growth and quality of lifeFanelli 8
(Carlo, SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University, He received his PhD from the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Carleton University, â€œâ€˜Cubanalismoâ€™: The Cuban Alternative to Neoliberalismâ€, New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry Vol.2, No. 1 (November 2008) pgs. 7-16)
A closer look at the history of capitalism, however, reveals a much different story than the one being championed by supporters of neoliberalism (Chang 2003). For instance, the majority of todayâ€™s advanced industrialized countries of the Global North that are actively championing neoliberalism did not themselves in their early history practice free trade, the removal of tariffs and subsidies, or the retrenchment of the state in order to protect the private interests of capital. Instead, the US and UK, for instance, promoted their national industries through tariffs, subsidies, and an active and intervening role of the state into capitalist ventures (Chang 2003). â€œThese two countries were, in fact, often the pioneers and frequently the most ardent users of interventionalist trade and industrial policy measures in their early stages of developmentâ€ (Chang 2003:1). One potential explanation for this may be, as the nineteenth century German economist Friedrich List suggests: It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him. Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions of navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development that no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare the penitent tones that she has hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth. [cited in Chang, 2003:5] If this is the case, as Chang (2003) proposes more than a century later, the historical evidence suggests that advocates of neoliberalism are indeed â€œkicking away the ladderâ€ that they used to achieve their current level of development so that a very limited and chosen number of nations may reach relative parity. Debunking the neoliberal myth of free trade from the historical perspective demonstrates the paradox faced by neoliberal economists since the majority of underdeveloped nations in the Global South grew much faster when they used active interventionalist policies from 1960 to 1980, than when they did during the following two decades (Chang 2003). Given the history of capitalist development and the substantial differences that exist between what is preached and what is actually practiced, Cuba has chosen to follow its own path to development based not on free trade and laissez-faire economics, but on one centered on a state-led model of growth that emphasis the social and human responsibilities of economic relations. The three pillars of the Cuban economy are, first, state-led economic development; second, a high concentration of public sector employment; and third, a high degree of tariffs and subsidies in order to promote domestic production and consumption. Much like the early history of their neighbours to the north, Cubanalismo attempts to maintain high and stable trade barriers while protecting their infant industries in order to encourage domestic innovation and a strong industrial sector so as to be self-sufficient and shield the Cuban economy from whirlwind international markets. For the most part, Cuban economists and policy makers oversee the majority of economic activities and decisions. This allows the Cuban economy to remain flexible enough so as to adjust to international fluctuations and changing economic uncertainties both domestically and abroad. As Cuban manufacturing industries gained strength and self-dependence, Cuban officials gradually increased FDI throughout the 199 0s. What separates Cubanalismo from neoliberalism in this respect, is that Cuban officials allowed greater levels of FDI only after Cuban industries had become selfreliant so that they could â€œstand on their own feetâ€ once productivity levels, efficiency, and quality had been more or less achieved.
That said, most of the alts won't use the rhetoric of protectionism or answer to that name. They will, however, be about encouraging the growth and development of local, often underserved, economies. (this is the harder policy based alternatives, not the ones that work on a theoretical, pedagogical, and discursive level that Aubtin outlined above. I think also that your attempt to tie down the alts to a hard "sliding scale" is not gonna work. Debate, especially K debate, reflects academia to a large extent. So yeah, you can dismiss academics as "ivory tower" or "naive and unrealistic," but their arguments are still gonna be read and probably should be heard and considered.