Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

All Your Prosperity Are Belong to Us

Via Tristero, here's a great letter in response to The New Yorker's portrait of Paul Krugman. The letter describes the different approaches of liberals and conservatives very sharply:

Larissa MacFarquhar’s Profile of Paul Krugman suggests that the economists with whom Krugman does battle could use a little history of political philosophy mixed in with their economic prophesying (“The Deflationist,” March 1st). The main political issue of our time isn’t whether markets are always right but whether they are always good. Adam Smith, in “The Wealth of Nations,” advocated free trade based on his theory that the market’s invisible hand would provide for the greater wealth of nations across the social spectrum. This moral vision was long ago abandoned by free marketeers in favor of another theory from the founding era: the inviolability of property rights. But we know that capitalism has historically followed a pattern of boom and bust, a cycle whose impact has been mitigated—in the spirit of Smith’s moral philosophy, and for economic conditions he could not have foreseen—by civic intervention, otherwise called government regulation and progressive taxation. This is the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats tend to believe that, in the light of our long experience with boom and bust, fiscal policy should provide social and economic equity for the American people. Republicans seem to believe that fiscal policy should protect the acquisition of wealth, however skewed the distribution of wealth may become and however small the number of citizens protected. The difference is abundantly apparent in California today, where the Democratic legacy of equitable distribution of wealth, through public education especially, but also in many other areas, was long ago sacrificed on the altar of property rights in Proposition 13.

Dee E. Andrews
Professor of History
California State University, East Bay
San Francisco, Calif.

Race and gender are important issues in America, but class and power are often much more important, and the key dynamic underneath other struggles. As Warren Buffet once stated, "There’s class warfare, all right - but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Paul Krugman's great 2006 article "The Great Wealth Transfer" explains much more, and this study gives an important look at how lopsided wealth is in America:

(Click for a larger view.)

The country as a whole does better when prosperity is more shared and less concentrated; "trickle up" works much better than "trickle down" has ever done (to the degree "trickle down" has ever done any good). Unfortunately, we have one party dedicated to transfering more money and power to those who already have the most - and too many in the other party have decided to pursue a piece of that action. The health care reform bill, while flawed, is an important step in the right direction, but now it's time to take on Wall Street, and also make our tax system much more progressive again.


Noni Mausa said...

"...Race and gender are important issues in America, but class and power are often much more important..."

I am convinced that the war on race and gender rights is not separate from the class war, but is fundamental to that war.

You cannot build a pyramid without lots of blocks beneath the capstone, and those blocks need to be shaped so they will stay in place and not shift around.

This means that part of the class war requires some groups will be identified as lower-class, or subordinate, and pushed into lower class slots willy nilly, regardless of their skills or opinion in the matter. The more identifiable these groups, the easier to keep them in place. Blacks and women are very easily identifiable, so they tend to stay put.

This accounts for a very odd dichotomy of opinion among the upper class opinion crafters. On the one hand, birth control and abortion are painted as evils for the poor, the coloured, and for women.

On the other hand, the health, education and even survival of individuals in these groups is treated as unimportant. If 1,000,000 Africans die of AIDS, or dozens of Canadian aboriginal women go missing, presumed murdered, or black youth aren't finishing school, it's no big deal.

The difference is, it doesn't matter which blocks fill the lower levels of pyramid blocks, it only matter that there are lots of them.

This also explains why "uppitiness" is a capital crime in this structure. You can't have the blocks getting up and moving around, or even convincing the other blocks to wander off and form their own pyramids. That would endanger the whole structure.

Cirze said...

And to bring a little more "fairness" and "balance" to the system, let me suggest that we make a list of these benefactors and publicize it widely.

Let's see how long this class warfare continues under the wrong definition then.


Unfortunately, we have one party dedicated to transfering more money and power to those who already have the most - and too many in the other party have decided to pursue a piece of that action.

Batocchio said...

Noni, I agree, and don't think I was particularly clear. I think generally, racial issues track class issues. With gender, it's a bit more complicated, and you point to some good examples. But in most cases, you can talk about power, and the abuse of it. The essence of conservatism is what you describe - keeping people in their supposed place. That's why we're seeing bricks through windows now - conservatives' perceived social order, with themselves on top, getting their way, has been disrupted. "All men and women are created equal" is awfully uppity!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I think generally, racial issues track class issues.

As has been pointed out by many others, the essence of right-wing "populism" is convincing working-class and middle-class whites that their race resentments trump their class resentments. This is what enables right-wing bajillionaires like Beck and O'Reilly and Palin and McCain and all the rest to credibly rally middle-class and working-class whites against a "socialist" takeover of the US: "socialist" is code for "poor niggers and spics getting shit they don't deserve".

Batocchio said...

Definitely, Comrade PhysioProf - it's the conservative shell game perfected by Buckley and Nixon, although Howard Zinn describes it being played long before that. Spite is key. A lot of the tea party crowd are far more incensed by the idea of minorities getting anything - after all, they're supposed to below the tea partiers! - than they are incensed about getting screwed over themselves - by their own party leaders. Susie Madrak wrote a while back that for the teabaggers and FOX News crowd, "ACORN" is code word for "nigger," and you're dead on about "socialism."

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Yep. Thinking about this a little further, it is clear that SEIU is also a racist code word, just like ACORN.