Friday, September 5, 2008

You Can't Have it Both Ways

Over on his blog, Dan posits:
You cannot have a socially conservative society with a highly liberalised economy. This fundamental incoherence is what does the social conservatives in every time. They want it both ways and are frustrated by the consequences.

Go read the whole thing in The power of the market. It's OK, we'll wait.

Now discuss...

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not as sanguine as dan toujours that the social conservative side has lost. In the arc of history, they may eventually lose, but as long as the capitalist elite finds them useful, they will have influence.

In the battle over gay rights, in the casual racism that they fling at Obama's campaign, in the ingrained sexism, the fights over Darwin and Harry Potter, all those old codes are still working in their favor.

We now have an election in which a fundamentalist Christianist (who speaks of the Iraq war as "God's work) is unabashedly a candidate for VP and likely P, at least by default. Doesn't sound like the social conservative side going down in flames just yet.

What may go down in flames is any semblance of a Constitutional Democracy if that woman's views are merged with the awesome power of teh vice presidency as practised by Dark Lord Cheney.

IT

toujoursdan said...

I wouldn't disagree with you IT. I think people have a capacity to hold contradictory thoughts in their head. The US is a country where a high percentage of people still believe that God created everything in Disneyesque style 6,000 years ago.

But I think that the capitalist elite is slowly finding the social conservatives to be more of a burden than a blessing. More and more corporations are protecting gay workers in the US.

Even at this Republican convention, a surprising percentage of delegates were in favour of civil unions. I will have to look for the article.

It could be my neo-Marxist bias at work, but I have always believed that economics ultimately drives social values. As our economy transitioned to a knowledge based economy, being gay became much less detrimental than it was in labour intensive agricultural and heavy industrial economies. The social values are following this.

Anonymous said...

well, toujours dan, it's a long birth process, then.

Yes, for those of us working in the "knowledge economy", being gay is no longer a disadvantage. And there was a study a few years back that showed that cities that welcomed gays had strong creative economies.

but the last time I traveled abroad with my partner, we were treated like scum from the INS officer when we returned to the US. While it may be safe in my job to be out, we are really, really careful about even holding hands "in public".

Doesn't feel to me like the social conservatives have breathed their last.

At some level, it doesn't help me if eventually society accepts us. What good does it do me if acceptance occurs after I'm dead?

IT

toujoursdan said...

The ranks of the unchurched are growing in the US and younger people are much more comfortable with gay people and female leadership than previous generations.

In no way am I suggesting that we should just sit back and wait for things to change, rather suggesting that fundamentals of the economy and of history suggest that the kind of social conservatism we see now will eventually evolve into something quite different.

Fred Schwartz said...

I read the article and I remain unconvinced. The number of people that truly control the economy is so small that they can hide under a rock and never be found. They are also smart enough to use almost any front. And, I also remain unconvinced on the premise. If you are positing that the US economy is highly liberalized I would like to see a coherent demonstration of the facts that prove that.

toujoursdan said...
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toujoursdan said...
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toujoursdan said...

Try this again:

Whether the US economy is truly liberalised is questionable. I was addressing the agenda of social conservatives which is the establishment of a liberalised, economy.

Ostensibly, they want a liberalised economy without the social consequences such an economy produces.

rick allen said...

"It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the State had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the State and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual.

"Here we find a new limit on the market: there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought or sold. Certainly the mechanisms of the market offer secure advantages: they help to utilize resources better; they promote the exchange of products; above all they give central place to the person's desires and preferences, which, in a contract, meet the desires and preferences of another person. Nevertheless, these mechanisms carry the risk of an "idolatry" of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities."

--John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

Марко said...

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that legalizing gay marriage would actually benefit the American economy: http://tinyurl.com/5gfwbf
You'd think the GOP would support pro-business legislation instead of opposing it.

Fred Schwartz said...

Okay, it took me a while to wrap my head around what you were saying. May I paraphrase? By liberalised you mean unfettered, no restraints, wide open anything can and does go? Yes, we are knee-deep in a capitalist economy run completely amuck. We have not had any kind of an anti-trust suit since Bobby Kennedy. We are indeed headed to a monolithic multi-national group that will rule. The interesting thing, at least one of them, is that no one has stepped up -- Oh, sure, Enron got caught and somebody had to pay but that was clearly a mistake and if you watch closely these companies learn from their mistakes, rarely do they make the same one twice. I am not even sure that Obama and Biden see the inherent danger in this. And, remember, when GWB took office he simply said enough times that we had a recession and presto -- we had one. Actually, would love to do an in-depth post on this -- maybe will.

JCF said...

At some level, it doesn't help me if eventually society accepts us. What good does it do me if acceptance occurs after I'm dead?

I think you've put your finger on a Basic Worldview difference, IT. ;-/

[Not that I am in any way accepting of anything OTHER than (in the old Civil Rights phrase) "Freedom Now!]

***

Dan: I, too, am uncomfortable w/ the phrase "highly liberalised economy", using "liberal" in the (older) sense you mean it. Laissez faire is the better descriptor, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Yup, JCF, at some level I don't care what happens when I'm gone, because, well, once I'm dead none of it matters.
I've told you before my worldview is rather bleak.

IT

JCF said...

Thing is, IT, I don't really believe you: I know that you, shaking off this mortal coil, do want puppies to wag their tails, and flowers to open to the sun---maybe even a (great)grandchild or 3? Of course, most of all, should you outlive her, you want BP to live long and well and happily.

The stuggle for Ever More FREEDOM for ALL---today, tomorrow, FOREVER---is just part of this.

You know that schlocky saying? "I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow"? Our whole lives are like this---and then so our deaths, too. On the day I die---regardless of what, if anything Happens Next---I want there to be More Freedom, More Peace, More Wholeness that day, than the day before. But less than on the day AFTER I kick! ;-/

[I wouldn't mind my last couple of thoughts being "Hell of a Nawlin's style funeral for me comin' up" and "Ah the things that will grow, from my composted remains". Oh, and then: "Jesus, come take to the even BETTER PARTAY on yonder! ;-D]

Counterlight said...

Never underestimate the power of resentment in American politics. McCarthy and Nixon built whole careers on it. Right wing ideology is built entirely on spite. Palin's speech came straight out of the formula first introduced with great success by Joe McCarthy. She played those resentments like a violin with the skill and artistry of joshua Bell. It would be a grave mistake to underestimate her and her appeal.

The American working class regularly votes, and votes happily, for the very people who exploit and disenfranchise them. I doubt this year will be any different. Sure, they're bamboozled, by why does that bamboozlement work so reliably? I think we've all been sold a bill of goods that says that whenever someone else gets something (civil rights for example), we have to give something up (our money in new taxes, and maybe our jobs, for example); and to people who don't have much to begin with, this is a powerful threat. All of this plays straight into that racial drama that always dominates life in this country and trumps all reason and good sense.
By all reason and sanity poor blacks and whites should have made common cause together in our history. They had far more common economic and social interests than separate ones. But it didn't happen. Those issues of identity and tribal passion will trump rational economic self-interest every time. That's what gives the Right its lingering power over the electorate. They've sold us on the notion that the whole business of rights and fairness is a zero-sum game. Whenever someone else gets something, it means we've lost something else.

toujoursdan said...
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toujoursdan said...

Dan: I, too, am uncomfortable w/ the phrase "highly liberalised economy", using "liberal" in the (older) sense you mean it. Laissez faire is the better descriptor, IMO.

JCF: By liberalised I mean laissez-faire or close to it, as it is used in most of the English speaking world. Perhaps it means something different in the US. I am not sure.

Fred: Again, I was addressing what so-cons advocate (ostensibly), not whether the U.S. actually has a liberalised economy. They advocate as much of an unregulated economy as possible while decrying the social consequences of such an economy. Whether the U.S. actually has a liberalised economy isn't relevant to my point. I would agree with your point in that I don't believe liberalised economies stay liberalised very long. They inevitably evolve into entrenched oligopolies that do what they can to retain power, and these interests soon become the enemy of free markets. That is already a problem in the US, Canada and elsewhere. But I am a socialist and believe that free market economies generally implode when resources become scarce and levels of consumption can't be maintained. I think we will see this in the next decade or so in most of the western world.

I also agree that so-cons are able to tap into emotional arguments in an attempt to maintain their power, but over time, even this starts to lose power. I believe that the reason the Moral Majority and other groups arose in the 1980s and not the 1960s is because a tipping point had been reached where population ceased to believe in "traditional values" and coalitions were needed to reassert their agenda. You'll see weaker and weaker waves of this until it burns itself out.

toujoursdan said...

And while I am addressing terminology I wish you Americans would get the red and blue stuff right.

Red is supposed to be the party on the left, and Blue is supposed to designate the party on the right.

Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

We don't havve true-blue Tories here, toujours Dan. We have raving republicans seeing red.

And corrupt tribalists who believe in power above all. And idiot electorates who have no problem paying an athlete $4million a year, but who believe that having an ill-educated common man as president is preferable to one who is educated.

This flabbergasts me. Would they rather have a surgeon with whom they want to have a beer who barely graduated from a low-end school, or a top-educated surgeon with the best techniques from teh toughest medical college?

IT

toujoursdan said...

You touch on another issue that I think will be our undoing. By insisting on "cutting taxes" (which both candidates and the Conservative Party of Canada endorse) we are making university education unaffordable for more and more Americans.

I am all for cutting government waste (though I think most US government waste is with the military), but the insistence of ignoring the social good for a few extra dollars in our pockets is going to lead to mass poverty for everyone. Why people can't make the connection is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

A sterling example of that is the complete dysfunction of the CA state legislature. In the throes of a budget crisis, the Repubs in the legislature will not ote for ANYTHING that includes taxes, they would rather cut education and everything else out entirely. Ahnold the Gubernator even disagrees with them (he's been surprisingly practical in Sacramento) but the "no tax" mantra is burned into their tiny little reptilian brains!

IT

JCF said...

Over on another board (can't recall which one), someone praised Palin (over Obama), in exactly those "common man (woman)" terms you describe, IT.

The thing they then said: "my kids aren't poor enough, black enough or smart enough to go to college". [Emph. added]

Leave aside the obvious racism of (so-called) "reverse racism" (the whole "Damn Affirmative Action! Damn Welfare Queens!" canard, which has been oh-so-tired for 20+ years now >:-/).

"Smart enough"???

Now, we're supposed to LOOK DOWN on someone (someone named Barack Obama) for being smart?!

Why the f*ck wouldn't we want our President to be smart?! [Look as the converse, the past 8 years!]

Now probably like a lot of people, I consider myself to be one of the smartest people on the face of the planet (;-p) ...

...yet I fully concede that I think Barack Obama is almost certainly smarter than me---and that's a GOOD thing! (and I don't mean either "head-in-the-sky-absent-minded-professor" smart, NOR "evil genius" smart, either). I think Barack Obama's intellect is truly a gift from God, and that he's humble enough to KNOW it's a gift from God, also. He knows he's been blessed with mental faculties, and the opportunities to nurture/utilize those faculties to the highest degree. He just wants to give everyone else the same chance to use their (varying) gifts, too.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why we as a society accept that some people are gifted athletes able to outrun mere mortals (or outswim....!), and we don't cavil that (some of) these athletes will earn $$$$.

but we become fiercely angry at the idea that some people are smarter than others, intellectually gifted, and better at doing some jobs.

Damn' right I want a VERY smart person in the white house. We've tried the opposite and it's a disaster.

Incidentally I also hiring people smarter than me to work for me.

IT

Counterlight said...

I think our country has gone completely verkakte with the culture wars, our own particular cultural revolution (which like the Chinese one, focuses popular resentments onto designated "elites"; "designated by who?" the question remains; and the answer is probably "by the people who own and run the country who need something to distract the mob"; which is exactly what Mao needed after the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the catastrophic famine that followed). The reaction against the Civil Rights movement is not yet finished. Add to that the trivialization of the whole political process into a glorified version of American Idol where we are supposed to pick who we "like" the most and want to see on TeeVeee for the next 4 years and there's not much room for optimism.

It always amazes me that while the Left puts great emphasis on social structure and on the relation between privilege and disadvantage, it's the Right that has so successfully exploited class resentments. Stalin would be proud.

While always hopeful, I'm not optimistic about the outcome of this year's election. I think it will take decades to work this poison out of our politics.