Friday, March 25, 2005

American fundamentalists

from Informed Comment
The cynical use by the US Republican Party of the Terri Schiavo case repeats, whether deliberately or accidentally, the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and theocrats in places like Egypt and Pakistan. These tactics involve a disturbing tendency to make private, intimate decisions matters of public interest and then to bring the courts and the legislature to bear on them. President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders like Tom Delay have taken us one step closer to theocracy on the Muslim Brotherhood model.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The "Ownership" Swindle

from The Nation
There is a long tradition of American capitalists not only mobilizing small-business and professional support for the elite, but also shifting working-class aspirations to undermine the potential of radical labor and political movements. Instead of delivering on the promise of upward mobility, American capitalism in the late nineteenth century delivered home ownership as a substitute for owning one's land or tools. After the elites forcibly smashed working-class organizations, like the Knights of Labor and anarchists, that demanded an end to wage slavery during the post-Civil War industrialization, the workers' movement increasingly turned toward securing an American, or living, wage instead of demanding control over industry. In the early twentieth century, after Populists and Progressives raised public awareness about the corrupting power of big corporations, there was a wave of interest in industrial democracy as a necessary complement to political democracy. During the 1920s, America began to develop consumer capitalism and a democracy of shoppers alongside a brief infatuation with stock markets.
Democracy in Iraq

As Tom Friedman strangely points out, what the Bush administration intended for Iraq (US-written constitution, caucuses, etc.) has been thwarted every step of the way by Iraqis, whose organized demands for free-elections--including the non-violent resistance of which Sistani has been the symbol--eventually compelled the US/UK to allow them to happen.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Examining the Right--and wrong

The contemporary right likes to focus on concentrated power in government--a legitimate concern which I share, for obvious reasons. The contemporary dishonest right (typically those in power) focus exclusively on the power of government because they advocate a different kind of concentrated power--private control over the economy in the form of corporations--and because they recognize a flaw in government not present in corporate institutions: government is potentially democratic. Corporations, if you bother to look at their internal distribution of power, are not. Well, the reason why traditional conservatives were so concerned with government is because concentrated power is dangerous no matter where you find it. At the same time, they recognized that government had the potential not to be totalitarian, which is why they championed its democratic forms. How we judge government, economic institutions, or anything else should be on the basis of whether they are democratic or not. That's the only thing that gives them any legitimacy; I don't care what you're talking about. If they're not democratic, then they're one or another form of tyranny--as any classical Enlightenment figure (for instance Adam Smith, who had quite a bit to say about this) would readily tell you--and deserve to be dismantled, thus diffusing power and widening the scope of human liberty, in the classical conception.

Beware the conservative who blames everything on government without taking into account other forms of concentrated power in society. What these powerful interests advocate is not getting rid of all forms of illegitimate authority (see libertarian socialism, a branch of anarchism), but simply replacing one for another--and, in this case, eliminating the potential for democratic rule by the citizenry in the process. Private management of the economy combined with the attenuation of democratic federal structures is fascism.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The World Bank

from The Angry Arab News Service
PAUL WOLFOWITZ to head the World Bank. Will he promise to bomb all poor countries to end poverty? Will he promise that the Iraq war will eventually spread prosperity on earth? Will he demand that poor countries praise Israeli oppression of the Palestinians in return for aid? Next appointment: Bush to head the Physics Department at MIT. And Ashcroft to head the National Organization for Women. Rumsfeld will head Greenpeace.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

White House to Launch Push for Pro-Business Regulation

from The Wall Street Journal
The Bush administration is expected to launch a push for business-friendly regulation, possibly including streamlined and more flexible pollution standards, chemical-handling rules, and workers' medical-leave protections.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Consumerism is not democracy

In response to the assertion that consumer choice is "democracy in economics"...

Our relationship to corporations as consumers is only one among many. Yes, we can exercise consumer freedom. Is that the same as political liberty? If I lock you in a mansion with every distraction and amusement as your disposal, does your freedom to choose among limitless options make you free? Political freedom implies the power to influence the outcome of end choices. Maybe people would prefer a version of Windows that doesn't suck for 3 years before Microsoft bothers to work out the bugs. That seems reasonable. Not much anyone can do about it since Microsoft is the industry standard, and what people want is irrelevant since they all (by necessity) want Microsoft, at least if they work in most business environments. Or maybe skilled machinists in the 80's would have preferred technology which put more power into their hands during the production process, not undermine it so that their jobs could become the mundane drudgery it is for their unskilled replacements who barely make a livable wage. But that's another type of relationship we have with corporations: as employees. How much of a "vote" do we have in this capacity? None, unless it's imposed by other means. I suggest we not weaken this means.