Saturday, April 04, 2009

2. Democrats as "managers"

In contrast to the "self-made" mythology of the entrepreneur, liberalism emphasizes educational advancement and compliance with professional standards as the most practical path toward success. In this respect, liberals in the Democratic mold are at ease with the technocratic aspects of both business and government: given the right knowledge and credentials, is there any realm of human affairs liberalism would not surrender to the prevailing "experts"?

The question is salient in the wake of the global meltdown in financial markets, in which the most respected economists, business journalists, credit ratings agencies, industry regulators, and risk-management professionals consolidated their authority essentially by being "wrong" on behalf of the "right" interests. But this is hardly the first example of a liberal failure to ask the obvious questions -- e.g., the Iraq war; and now the Afghanistan escalation -- in exchange for the rewards of power.

This is also notable in popular culture, where expert tutelage seems an increasingly popular substitute for the independent thought and action of individuals -- especially among the wealthy and well-educated. This extends to areas of life where one might not previously think an "expert" possible, as in the case of "life coaching," which judges all human activity by the same authoritarian assumptions of the management structures from which it springs: it cultivates that which can be rendered useful to power at any given moment, thus maximizing potential "benefits" for the client.

As an ethos, liberalism amounts to little more than technical expertise in the service of power, and the deference to professional authority which this implies. Higher education -- liberalism's house of worship -- is dedicated to producing knowledge workers who will prove useful to power, with greater compensation awarded to those who are deemed most useful -- indeed, the way it works in any system. This is holds true whatever we think of the relationships.

The Democratic Party appeals primarily to the educated middle and upper classes. As a group, managers and other professionals, because of their educational background, tend to skew liberal, especially on social issues. This is due to their status as wage-workers, rather than "owners" or majority shareholders: white collar workers want successful careers, but are wary about selling their "soul" to employers in order to do it. Subsequently, they see a legitimate role for government in advancing worker's rights generally, and those pertaining to their professional class specifically. They also view government as a career track for knowledge workers who are willing to exchange potentially higher compensation in the private sector for a "public service" mission.

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