Tuesday, February 22, 2011

what I want

From an email, reprinted with permission:
I'm a fan of yours but I'm disturbed your recent zealotry. I agree that the stakes are high right now and I also think you are right to identify in Wisconsin a key moment for the future of working people. But I am afraid you are flirting with being unreasonably caught up in this particular fight, and I think you should be a bit more subdued in how you talk about it. I also would like a statement about what would satisfy you from conservatives and libertarians. Thanks.
First of all, I should point out that when I said that I am sorry for personal conflict that may perhaps arise from these conflicts, it's true; I am sorry about that. But if it's inevitable, it's also necessary. I don't think people understand just how much the tendency to ask for comity, "reason," and seriousness redounds to the benefit of establishment power. What is defined as neighborly or respectful discourse on the Internet is never just about form, but about content, and the assumption is always that what is to the benefit of the ruling class is somehow the position of the more reasonable man. And the constant social pressure to be a member in good standing of the Village Social Club or the Cool Kid Crew or however you want to define it is one of the central, immutable realities of the blogosphere.

I believe that we are facing transformational times in this country; I believe that the present order is incredibly unjust; and in that context I can neither be polite nor circumspect. Many disagree with me about the stakes. To assume my position away through some strangled definition of the rational position is to give the game away. For those who are new here, please understand that I am indeed an extremist and that if it bothers you, you might consider reading elsewhere, though I'm always happy to host disagreement in the comments section.

As far as what I want, it's simple: I want a economic and political policy regime that promotes the consistent improvement in the material conditions of the lives of the working class, as a class and in mass, and further that provides for the self-determination and power of the lower classes. Pity charity liberalism might provide the former but it will never provide for the latter. Conservatives and libertarians have systematically dismantled the mechanisms in our country that provided for mass improvements for the lower classes relative to those at the top. In their place, we are left only with the economics of the lottery ticket; if you are lucky enough, you might become absurdly wealthy. But you will always be doing so in the context of leaving vast swaths of humanity behind. The neoliberal policy platform has resulted in the capture of more and more resources for those at the top, and I believe that the time when decent people can let that go unchallenged is past.

To paraphrase Eugene Debs, I don't want to rise up from the ranks. I want to rise up with the ranks. Nothing else will satisfy me.

11 comments:

Michael said...

What is this person talking about? People get involved and/or passionate moreso about some things than others. What is he complaining about, unless he is from Wisconsin (like me), in which case I suppose a "No one can have any interest in my state but my fellow Wisconsinites!" view is at least a kind of principle. But what kind? Should no one outside Libya care that their being rained bombs upon by their leaders?

Please give this epochal fight in my state all the time and passion you see fit, my friend. And thank you for it.

Michael said...

they're being, durnit.

Elia Isquire said...

By the standards of the media debate in this country, I suppose you're an extremist.

But by any other metric, not at all.

paul h. said...

But what ARE you actually recommending? Socialism (whether Fourier, Debs, Marx) doesn't actually work in practice and will never happen in America (let's be serious) ... and then I don't understand why you're nostalgic for workers' unions (they have obviously atrophied into something other than their original reason for existing). Are you just saying the usual liberal argument that we should take more money from the rich and give it to the poor? So like increasing the marginal tax rate on the top 1%, taxing capital gains as regular income, etc? Or what exactly are you saying? All I'm really seeing is simplistic romantic/emotional nostalgia and holier-than-thou-ness directed at McArdle and Sullivan, which is really neither here nor there. Though I do agree, obviously, that the income disparity in this country is depressing, and should go back to something like the 1940s-50s (yet how, is the question)

Freddie said...

On this issue, at this moment, I think it's clear what I'm advocating: stop the assault on workers' rights in general and specifically on Wisconsin's public sector employees.

paul h. said...

Sorry, I was unclear; I definitely see that you're taking a specific position in this one instance, but I was talking more about the far more general theoretical claims you're making on the basis of Wisconsin (or even going back to your critique of neoliberalism back in January); what exactly do you suggest as a replacement? Yglesias/Klein style liberalism clearly isn't enough ... so then Debs? But how? As that 'Handle' guy has been asking, are you looking for an entirely new system, or not, or ...? This is why I can't help but see this as romantic and stirring but fatally vague. It isn't just as simple as giving more rights to union workers, right?

ovaut said...

Conservatives believe in the inherent justice of the prevailing order, and in the virtue of the transiently strong, as items of ideology.

Conservatives, as an item of ideology, believe too in the profit motive as the best and soundest engine of human effort.

But there need be no explanation for this grander than that they are bad people.

They become pernicious when, acting as though it were true because they depend on its so being and need that, they inflict their ideology on a world whose calm intractability confounds it.

paul h. said...

This article seems relevant ...

http://motherjones.com/print/98546

Afshin said...

On your more general front, I'm curious as to how you have reconciled your previous "big tent" position. Do you consider that that idea of including everyone from the likes of Dino's like Mickey Kaus into the Democratic Party as an ineffective strategy in achieving the principles you are aspiring with your work, namely that the working class be given the opportunity to choose their own welfare?

Adam Ozimek said...

Freddie,

It must hearten you to see the degree to which liberal bloggers are supporting Wisconsin public sector unions, no? I would think that cuts against your accusation that "what is to the benefit of the ruling class is somehow the position of the more reasonable man".

LeisureGuy said...

I'm not really persuaded that rude behavior will convince people. Of course, if reason and courtesy must be abandoned because otherwise we support the Establishment, I suppose I am willing to try stupidity and rudeness, but I think you should make the case for your alternative approach more carefully. Until then, I think I'll stick with reason and courtesy.