Monday, March 28, 2011

Did I Win the Race or Was It Just a False Start?

Namit Arora:

In Rawlsian terms, the problem in America is not that a minority has grown super rich, but that for decades now, it has done so to the detriment of the lower social classes. The big question is: why does the majority in a seemingly free society tolerate this, and even happily vote against its own economic interests? A plausible answer is that it is under a self-destructive meritocratic spell that sees social outcomes as moral desert—a spell at least as old as the American frontier but long since repurposed by the corporate control of public institutions and the media: news, film, TV, publishing, etc. Rather than move towards greater fairness and egalitarianism, it promotes a libertarian gospel of the free market with minimal regulation, taxation, and public safety nets. [10] What would it take to break this spell?

I was just commiserating with a friend over this last week. It's really astonishing how many people have become firmly convinced that if we abolished the vast majority of government and apparently let corporations dictate social policy, not only would we have a more just and equitable society all around, but they themselves would be one of the .0001% of Randroid producer-heroes who prospered in such an environment, regardless of how little they've achieved so far in their lives in a society far more tolerant of failings.

I grew up hearing anti-government stemwinders and always assumed they made perfect sense, but I remember reading Noam Chomsky saying, in effect, that while government certainly has plenty of things wrong with it, its worst fault, in the eyes of those with the levels of power and wealth that give them such a vested interest in reducing its regulatory power, is that it is at least in theory responsive to public pressure. No such restraint exists on corporate power. But so many of my fellow Myrrhkins apparently yearn for a return to the Gilded Age.

I am firmly convinced that there is no idea so abysmally stupid or morally abhorrent that it can't come back into vogue within a few generations.