Have Polemic, Will Travel.
It's an interesting post, Pooh- pretty high level and abstract, so Whelan leaves himself lots of running room (think Tarkington). The abstractions become more concrete as to his analysis of the Bush Administration, which he assumes harbors Reaganesque desires to turn the clock back to 1900. I disagree with that assertion. Randian rhetoric to the contrary, the Bushies have hardly turned the clock back on the size and growth of government. (Clinton, by comparison, was much more Reaganesque.) The new drug program is an example of this quasi-socialist impulse. Ayn would be nonplussed. What the Right hates to admit is that FDR won and Barry Goldwater lost- liberalism carried the 20th century. On that point, Whelan #5 is spot on. We expect a certain level of government intervention in our lives to cushion against the impact of capitalism's inherent Social Darwinism. But Reagan and his ideological descendants haven't laid a hand on huge social programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Goldwater failed in his attempt to dismantle Social Security. There hasn't been a serious effort to do so since.My sense is that modern conservatives have reluctantly accepted Whelan #5- that a monster federal government is part of the political landscape. The liberal-conservative debate picks at the edges of the monolith. There's no serious debate to dismantle it, not because there's not a desire to, but because it's political suicide to do otherwise. Right-wing rhetoric positing otherwise is mere window-dressing. So I disagree with Whelan #6. The GOP agenda isn't to turn the clock back to 1900. They tried in 1964 and failed. Even their defeat of national health insurance in 1994 was followed by Kennedy-Kassebaum, an incremental move toward it.
Kreiz, I loved your comment over at Amba's place. (The comment here repeats a good deal of it.)So far the best rhetorical take-down of Whelan's suggestion that Bush & Reps in general want to turn back the clock is this bit from Callimachus on the Donklephant posting:I don’t recall Reagan trying to smash such New Deal cornerstones as federal assistance to first-time home-buyers, or the FDIC, or drug regulation, or unemployment insurance. To call the Medicaid Prescription bill a return to the 19th century is nonsense. Pray, what sort of prescription plan did Tiny Tim have?And so far, Whelan has not said anything bad aboyut governmental power per se, and will only grudgingly admit that all rich people aren't as bad has Gheghis Khan. (See comments at Amba.)
Hey, Pick- I figured Whelan would do some open field running, just didn't know where he was headed. I don't doubt that there are some Reaganites who would love to deconstruct FDR. But Whelan's premise is a mere abstraction, not a reality (certainly not a political reality). Bush Social Security reform was DOA, as an example. Anyway, about midway through the Amba thread, he shifts to the ever-popular "the rich are greedy and get everything" meme. I've never heard this novel argument before; it's so intriguing.I still think that the great unspoken truth of our times is that we're all FDR's descendants, Dem and Rep. Politicians argue on the periphery while omitting The Great Truth: for better or worse, most of the gargantuan federal gov't remains untouched. Anyway, enjoyed your comments at amba. Later, dude.
I should add that our bloated federal government joyride must someday come to an end. But I don't see it slowing down until there's a crash.
I think you guys are misreading Whelan in a slightly ungenerous fashion - I don't think he's arguing "rich people = greedy = bad" he's arguing everybody = greedy, but rich people have more power (because people are greedy so will do things for money, and rich people have more money, so they can get people to do things...you see where I'm going) and at some point that power distorts the 'social contract' giving us a populist face on corporatism.Now, I'll fully acknowledge that populism run amok can prove just as tyranical, so absolutes are to be avoided. But, to my (and Whelan's) set of preferences I would rather err on the side of over egalitarian then under, largely because I feel we are closer to the tyranny of the economic elites than of tyranny of the majority, if that makes sense.
And I suppose my 'political realism' analysis reaches the opposite conclusion, Pooh; that is, that it's populism's love of large social programs that has entrenched the federal monolith as a permanent part of the political landscape. Votes, man, votes. If it were otherwise, the Reaganistas and 'large greedy corporations' would've moved us back to Social Darwinism decades ago.
I still think that the great unspoken truth of our times is that we're all FDR's descendants, Dem and Rep.Once again, you've said something I agree with completely. Damn, you're brilliant!Pooh, Whelan lumping Wal-Marts executives in with Gheghis Khan, Hitler and Saddam Hussien was pretty egregious.
That is a bit strong, and I wouldn't go that far...
I think you guys are misreading Whelan in a slightly ungenerous fashion - I don't think he's arguing "rich people = greedy = bad" he's arguing everybody = greedy, but rich people have more power (because people are greedy so will do things for money, and rich people have more money, so they can get people to do things...you see where I'm going) and at some point that power distorts the 'social contract' giving us a populist face on corporatism.I addressed this over at Amba's. (And what a bitch it's been having that essay posted at three sites. It has become impossible to follow all the comments.)What I don't understand is why you guys think that people in positions of power in the government won't abuse that power. Especially since both of you seem highly excercised at some of the current administrations actions. It doesn't require a President to abuse governmental authority either. If you'd ever had your ass kicked by a local policeman for no reason at all you'd know this.
Oh, and I replied to your comment over at DWM about Iraq, Kerry, etc. It's down the page now, so I just wanted to alert you that THE MULTI-FRONT WAR CONTINUES! BWA HA HA HAAAAAA!Uh, or something.....
What I don't understand is why you guys think that people in positions of power in the government won't abuse that power. I think one of the Donklephant commenters touched on this, but as between corporate overlords and the government, I have some degree of hope of a popular check on government. Lesser of two evils, etc. Yes, yes coercive power and all that, but A) what ensures the state monopoly on said power and B) corporate co-opting of the arms of government could = roughly the same thing anyway. And I think we're better trained to scrutinize the governmet.
Like Pick, I thought RIA's thread-closing bomb at Donklephant pretty much said it all on that issue. There's no doubt in my mind that the power of government dwarfs the supposed power of corporations. Try litigating against a public entity- their deep pockets alone are dauntaing.
Unfortunately, I see no evidence of these high-minded progressive ideals in the Democratic Party. I've had it with them. Where was this anti-corporate meme represented when it came to the bankruptcy bill? How many so-called progressives are "free-traders" who support the expansion of multinationals and preach the wonders of globalization? The body Democrat will not back Murtha because they fundamentally believe in the type of (top-down)nation building that is occurring in Iraq. Face facts: Republican is Democrat and Big Business is Big Government. There is no practical distinction.Like icepick said on one of the threads, Whelan is typical of American politics in that he wants everything both ways. Man will abuse power because he can; man is inherently good.Just Karl
Like icepick said on one of the threads, Whelan is typical of American politics in that he wants everything both ways. Man will abuse power because he can; man is inherently good.Did I say that?
It's true that the potential power of government dwarfs that of corporations . However, I think this view is short-sighted, for a few reasons.1) Government, being a relatively huge entity, tends to be divided into many camps (not unlike our total society). In our current system, this means elements of government are always working against each other. While corporations may compete with each other up to a point, they have also shown increasingly cooperative tendencies over time, hence the rise of multinational conglomerates. Each corporation also has a vested interest in promoting unity among its stakeholders, and tend to do better than government at achieving it. Government also has this interest, but the nature of our two-party system casts a check on its ability to achieve it.2) Just because government is more potentially powerful than corporations doesn't mean that it's less accountable than corporations. Actually, I'd say this is the big distinction between "progressive" and "libertarian" worldviews - the first thinks government is more accountable, the other thinks the market is more accountable. 3) In any case, both government and large corporations are very powerful, and can influence our individual lives to a tremendous degree. Does it make sense, then, that we citizens should do whatever we can to prevent them from aligning with each other?
Well, you've started by stacking the deck in your favor. You get to be a conservative AND a progressive, both in the most favorable light possible, and everyone else gets to be a Jacobin militarist looking to enslave everyone around them. That's a neat trick.You allowed yourself the luxury of redefining the labels, while leaving everyone else stuck with the label they came in with.Was this you? Maybe I've misunderstood your point.Just Karl
Sorry, Just Karl. I've written so much on those posts I'm starting to forget what I've written.
I'm not sure where the heck to respond in comments sections on this topic!So, Pooh, just so you know, I'll probably "cross-post" this comment at DWM, edited if necessary for clarity (as in, this sentence).Tom:I don't believe I addressed the issue of accountability, either way, with regard to government OR corporations. The truth is that I don't fall neatly into either camp that you reference here. "Market forces" are not God to me, and I'm skeptical of claims that there's some sort of Natural Law Of Markets that will eventually correct all abuses and protect us all from business excesses. Or innoculate us from overreaching.(Somewhat tangentially, it seems to me that Amba's parenthetical comment on DWM is also appropos, with regard to potential dangers of unfettered big-biz power. That always has been the danger, and as such is nothing new, though no in need of vigilance by virtue of that.)On the other hand, the accountability of government across its diffuse entities and expressions is also problematic. I'm thinking aloud a bit here, so please take that into account: These are strictly evolving ruminations on my part, not to be taken as a final evaluation or set position.Of course I agree with you, Tom, that our layers of government, and its expression in localities and states across the land, diffuses power in the sense of a unified monolith. Our ability, at least theoretically, to have more access to and therefore power over government the "closer" it is to us is one reason why I'm sympathetic to federalism (though equally skeptical of its abuses, actual and potential, in certain key areas) and prefer a much smaller role for NATIONAL government in most areas.Still, even the smallest of governments have tremendous power over how we live our daily lives, and that can be abused. Further, much of that "power" isn't really particularly accountable via the ballot box, in a practical sense.This is because so much of the government "involvement" in our lives resides in the bureaucracies built up over time, the permanent public-sector workers who are stable across election cycles, and the body of codes, regulations and so forth that are likewise, for the most part, equally static regardless of which elected officials come and go. We cannot "opt out" of those restrictions, codes and regs--or avoid the consequences of violating them--in the way that most of us, most of the time, can "opt out" of engagement with individual businesses, large or small. By definition, government has the power and right to "co-opt" us in myriad ways. Business really doesn't, not in a direct sense, much less a legal one.I know I haven't put that as well as I might, but I would still invite you all to think about that, and the implications.Remember, elected officials come and go: They always have and (God willing) they always will. And, certainly we have seen, are seeing, and will continue to see abuses by individuals.But regardless of who's in office and in what capacity, we will always be subject to the cop up the block. The courthouse on the hill. The zoning inspector around the corner. The fees and taxes assessed by whatever, wherever. The decisions and judgments--good, bad or indifferent; full of sense or simply nonsense; whether made by the competent and humble or the corrupt and self-serving-- made by thousands of public employees across this land, as they go about their jobs as patchily designed over time through a gazillion separate "actions" in the evolution of our public sector.This is why, ultimately, government power--and the danger of its overreach--is in my estimation the more threatening of the two types of power under discussion in ye, these many threads. It's reach into and deeply embedded methods of control over the teeniest details of our personal lives simply trumps the (admittedly considerable) power of business.Wow, what a mouthful!Again, I apologize for the slightly incoherent way that I have framed and written these thoughts. I'm trying to grab the scattered threads of thoughts as they cross my mind, and that's not always so pretty, I know.But I would welcome reaction and discussion that would help me weave them together into a more useful "whole."Thanks for reading!
Dude, solving the world's problems is good and all, but where's the B-Ball blogging?
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