23 February 2011

Do Unto Others

Krugman today on Wisconsin:

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

This is true to a degree but very weakly put. Even Krugman doesn't seem to have a voice these days and he's a Nobel Laureate. Money is the only VOTE unless the underclasses vote by demonstration. Finally, Wisconsin's people are voting with their physical presence. It's unclear whether it will make a difference. The only way an oligarchy is "checked" is, as Krugman points out, by Institutions that serve as counterweights to the "corporation". Liberal Institutions used to balance out Conservative Corporations. Now our institutions (like Universities--hell, even churches) are only commodities and our society is out of balance with Power being served by all parties. The real trouble comes when our national government enacts laws that hinder us further but are deemed constitutional by that third corrupt branch, the judiciary. Money has power in all places.

But why do these things happen? Why is the Republican/Conservative mentality so intractable.

Here's a clue from George Lakoff at Huffpost:

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don't have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, "Let the market decide" assumes the market itself is The Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values. Thus the government can spend money to protect the market and promote market values, but should not rule over it either through (1) regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The market has service industries for that. Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks, and so on. The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don't deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.

This ultimately blends everything into Might Makes Right. Who's the most powerful? The Father (God?); The Market. Notice how we can be absolved of all responsibility? Let go, Let God; Let go, Let Greed. (In the market greed is supposed to be balanced by something...I forget what--more greed?)

All else is human (liberal) meddling. This is finally where I stand. To be human is to be liberal, open, caring, giving, sharing, hoping. To be anything else is less than human.

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