Sunday, November 16, 2008


All of this has left us in a precarious place. With the Obama win, the technical experts will resume the roles they have traditionally held in the American executive branch since WWII, just as they occupy the executive positions of most contemporary US institutions. Under conditions of popular democracy, such expertise could be put in the service of addressing popular concerns: How do we make health care efficient and universal? How do we make schools safe and productive? How do we retool our energy infrastructure over the long-term to produce energy, not poison? How do we produce the things we need without becoming slaves to the process of producing things? How do we reasonably integrate raising children into the work/life balance? How do we take the deteriorating conditions of our communities, on the one hand, and the thousands of people without reliable work, on the other, and sensibly put the two together to create a common solution? How do we stop putting vast amounts of our national wealth into war projects that empirically make us less safe?

We do not live, day to day, under conditions of popular democracy; we live under the conditions set for us by the investor and managerial classes, whose legally sanctioned object is to do what is best for themselves, regardless of what it does for anybody else. What it does for others is incidental. The "economy" is the name they give to themselves. When the economy is doing well, it does not mean you have a job; it means profit and market share have grown for investors, bonuses have increased for executives. Sometimes this happens by depriving you of work, sometimes not; either way, you are not in charge. The experts who monopolize wealth -- they are in charge. They offer you a dream, an American dream: one day you will be like them, giving orders, doing to others what has been done to you for so long.

Even when we elect a man -- so far, a man -- to the nation's "highest office" who is modestly committed to social justice, he is constrained by the economic straitjacket of private monopoly control. Any public project which takes from investors their daily bread, or from managers their just reward or total autonomy, without their consent, is an attack on the rights of the "individual" -- which is to say, that minority of individuals who have assumed the right to infringe on most basic requirements of all others. Insofar as this class owns the newspapers, the cable news networks, and employs the radio personalities, analysts, and entertainers; their grievances will clamor louder than every empty stomach in America. They will make the unreasonableness of a "populist" president the headline of every printed page in the republic.

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