Monday, October 31, 2011
Crooked Timber on neo-liberalism:
An interesting post
This comment by Yglesias is on target: “the TNR staff editorial on the subject [of OWS] feels distinctly like an op-ed penned eleven years ago about anti-globalization protestors, put on ice, and then re-animated with a hasty rewrite that fails to consider the actual political and economic circumstances.”
The staff editorial itself is not so important. What’s important is that, once upon a time, there were debates about trade ‘liberalization’ – globalization – that used to divide neoliberals and liberals and progressives. Basically, the neoliberals were gung-ho for trade on the grounds that the alternative was protectionism that amounted to shooting your own foot, and didn’t do any good for the poor in the Third World. And the progressives saw jobs being outsourced, labor unions weakening. Liberals were those caught in the squishy middle, per usual. ...
[Yglesias] considers himself a neoliberal and sees, correctly, I think, that anyone committed to that market-oriented outlook is more or less committed to sympathy for the core grievances expressed by the OWS protesters. Neoliberalism was always in favor of markets as means, not ends. Neoliberalism was never – or was never supposed to be – the view that being in favor of trade liberalizaton means market fundamentalism in everything. Neoliberalism says market liberalization should go hand in hand with progressive taxation and appropriate regulation so the pains that buy the gains are mitigated and borne equitably. Spread the gain, to spread the pain. If liberalization means making the 1% richer and everyone else poorer, you shouldn’t take the deal. Only (some) conservatives and (some) libertarians should be willing to take that deal. ...
"Neoliberalism says market liberalization should go hand in hand with progressive taxation and appropriate regulation so the pains that buy the gains are mitigated and borne equitably."
That never happened. Instead, we got globalization and no relief
. This is something neo-liberals still fail to comprehend. What they did do, is orient towards "pity charity" as Freddie deBoer points out
: (emp add)
There’s a troubling form of liberalism that is increasingly found in the wonky, think-tank-and-establishment-media blogosphere that is so influential these days. I’ve called it, in the past, globalize/grow/give progressivism. Mike Konczal of Rortybomb has referred to it as pity charity liberalism. ... Whatever you want to call it, this vision of the liberal project defines itself through the social safety net. Its orientation is towards expanding and protecting a redistributive social welfare system. Meanwhile, it is at best uninterested in (and often downright hostile towards) worker organization, unions, regulation, and other attempts to empower workers in relation to capital and poor people in relation to the rich. The idea is that, if you get the economy going well enough, you can redistribute enough money to the poor that they’ll be alright, even while you’ve undermined their ability to collectively bargain, raise the value of their labor, and exercise power. ...Kevin Drum
The first problem with pity charity liberalism is that the people advocating it tend to be far more optimistic about getting the social welfare state they want than they should be. I’ve been using the example of health care reform: a decent health care system has to be a part of a minimally fair social welfare system. We had a president with a serious mandate who campaigned explicitly on health care reform, majorities in both houses of congress, a uniquely favorable political moment, and an objective that broad majorities of Americans have supported for years. We just barely got a compromised bill through, and it is under perpetual legal and political threat. If those are the conditions that we’re going to have to defend the welfare state under, I don’t see how anyone can be confident in purely redistributive liberalism.
Contrast that with the history of the American labor movement. Check the record: on every issue of worker rights and protections, workers went first. They didn’t ask politicians to give them safer conditions, cleaner conditions, higher wages, shorter hours, more bargaining power, and a better system to redress their grievances. They demanded those things from the bosses, and they did so with the threat of shutting the whole operation down. Only after they had won those things did they eventually become codified in law. (It’s for this reason that May Day—a joke here, I’m afraid, but celebrated passionately in much of Europe and South America—is specifically a celebration of Haymarket square and American unions.) If we’ve lost those gains since, it’s been because of a very well-funded, coordinated and consistent effort by people in power to undermine unions and refuse to enforce existing labor law.
Even if you could guarantee a certain minimal welfare state, the idea of poor and working people depending on the largesse of the rich and powerful is obscene. Sometimes, people have to live under the charity of others. But nobody wants to in perpetuity, because they then are not in control of their own lives, and because having to do so leaves many feeling robbed of personal dignity. As long as economic security is a gift of those at the top, it can be taken away. And if the last several decades have shown us anything, it’s that for the richest, what they already have will never be enough. No matter how income inequality spirals out of control, no matter how absurd the gap between those on top and everybody else grows, they’ll look to take more. And the more that you make the people on the bottom dependent on charity, the less they’re able to protect their own interests.
has thoughts along those lines:
The problem is that a system that generates enormous income inequality also generates enormous power inequality — and if corporations and the rich are allowed to amass huge amounts of economic power, they'll always use that power to keep their own tax rates low. It's nearly impossible to create a high-tax/high-service state if your starting point is a near oligarchy where the rich control the levers of political power.
Which is pretty much where we are today.
Even if you could guarantee a certain minimal welfare state, the idea of poor and working people depending on the largesse of the rich and powerful is obscene.
You mean like 40% of Americans paying no income taxes while the other 60% support them through government programs?
Sometimes, people have to live under the charity of others. But nobody wants to in perpetuity, because they then are not in control of their own lives, and because having to do so leaves many feeling robbed of personal dignity. As long as economic security is a gift of those at the top, it can be taken away.
You mean like welfare? food stamps? The earned income tax credit? Those are certainly "gifts" from "those at the top", and there's a distinct lack of dignity amongst crowds of people standing around demanding the protection of their entitlements.
the more that you make the people on the bottom dependent on charity, the less they’re able to protect their own interests.
And that's exactly the situation we find ourselves in after decades of government "charity." I put charity in scare quotes because, of course, if it's not your money, it's not charity.
It's really the strategy of the Democratic party. Get the entire country on government food stamps, government welfare, government 99 week unemployment, government housing loans, government student loans, government Social Security, government Medicare/Medicaid and the newest jewel in the crown, government socialized health care, and the people will *have* to support the Democrats. Because having been stripped of the ability to protect their own interests, they'll starve to death if they wander off the Democratic Federal plantation that's been so generously set up for them.
jms' "intellect" is demonstrated by the closing paragraph of his comment. (I put "intellect" in scare quotes because, of course, it's two days after Halloween, and he is totally "sugared.")
This is a second article in a row with the same questionable philosophy:
Dependency on private welfare: Bad
Dependency on public welfare: Good
I suppose that a lot of this has to do with the left's worship of the state as a religion, but this philosophy fails on purely practical grounds. If a private charity ceases operations, there are thousands of other private charities that can pick up the slack. If you are denied aid by one private charity, you can go to others looking for aid.
If a single, monolithic government welfare system that has replaced private charity fails, or decides to cut benefits or cease operations, everyone loses their welfare at once and there is nowhere else to go. If you are denied government benefits, you can't go to a different government office looking for the same benefits. Government welfare is a single point of failure on both individual and societal levels. Isn't that reason enough to replace it with a more robust system of private charity?
"Isn't that reason enough to replace it with a more robust system of private charity?"
is a great idea. Let's convince GOP-ers in Congress to require a "more robust system of private charity."
When a scientist wants infinite power we call it mad.
When a dictator wants infinite might we call it evil.
When a Koch wants infinite property we call it liberty.