Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The limits to liberalism

The Big Money:

During the credit boom, an unquenchable need for short-term success, combined with a lack of empathy for those who didn't share in the economic windfalls, was a byproduct of a society trying desperately to survive beyond its means. We both empowered the most ruthlessly self-aggrandizing among us and succumbed to the erosion of any authority that might have contained the overweening. We lost any independent measure of the American dream.

Liberalism often reduces to gobbledygook in the face of hard economic questions, including one of my personal favorites: "Just what the fuck is going on around here, anyway?" This is because liberalism is faithful to the same economic premise as conservatism: the unequal relationship between owners, their institutions, and everybody else.

The significance of such inequality is not conceded in capitalism, however; the state is advanced as a neutral party which impartially enforces whatever is on paper, as recorded by the people's representatives. In reality, "equality under the law" is subject to the same bane of power and influence as any other relationship.

Insofar as liberalism asserts a public role in economic affairs through the political process, it ignores the fact that "the public" are by and large preoccupied with their own survival, while corporations and investors deploy their lobbyists full-time. Under such a scenario, it is only a matter of time before the advantaged groups get what they want, even if it is the repeal of sensible post-Depression era legislation designed to forestall crisis in the future. Clinton gave this to Wall Street in the aptly named Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, helping along the glorious meltdown which we presently enjoy.

In short, economic advantages beget political advantages. Our system just happens to be constructed on one giant economic partition, a fact which liberalism resorts to all manner of nonsense to avoid.

1 comment:

Montag said...

thanks for this. been trying to find a way to say this as concisely. good post.