Free market fundamentalism

To follow up on my point about national security, here’s a start at economic policy and the cult of free market fundamentalism.

P.S.

As an FYI, here’s an organization called the Longview Institute. My understanding is that they are some folks that used to be at the Rockridge Institute with George Lakoff. They have an entire project area dedicated to developing a moral economy. Something to keep an eye on.

Tackling national security (and everything else)

Kind of expanding upon my last post, in which I made the point that liberals should be talking up and demonstrating liberal values, here is a great post about liberalism and national security.

The author, Rand Beers, is dead right when he makes that point that liberals need to figure out what they stand for, then present it in a clear, simple (without being simplistic), compelling, and morally satisfying way.

His focus is on national security – which of course, is a huge problem for liberals. That’s why the liberal and progressive community has responded so strongly to the whole “appeasement” thing. But this needs to be done with all of the major issues.

I’m not calling for some sort of radical conservative misinformation campaign. We’ve all had enough of that. I’m simply saying that we have to put our best arguments forward in the best way possible. That’s certainly something that, in my opinion, liberals have failed to do for decades.

Get it together

I don’t like to write specifically about political parties on this blog. I prefer to stick to exploring liberalism vs. conservatism. But I just have to say what a huge disappointment the Illinois Democratic party has been for me.

What, again with trouble getting it together on the budget? Never mind Blagojevich and all of his troubles.

As I think I’ve written before, we moved back to the Peoria area just six months ago. We lived a little over a year in Naperville, but for several years before that, we lived in Michigan.

When we lived there, Michigan had a divided government – Democratic governor, Republican legislature. (Now the Democrats have the House, too.) I don’t know if it was this divided power that did it, but it always seemed to me that the disputes between the two parties highlighted their ideological differences. Policy and budget issues helped people understand who and what each party stood for.

In Illinois, the Democrats have it all. When we moved here, I thought it would be great to see what an all-“Blue” state would be like.

It turns out that single-party rule leads to all of them chewing at one another’s ankles.

Very disappointing.

P.S.

I’m not a political scientist, and I don’t have a deep historical understanding of Illinois politics. There might be other reasons for all of the trouble with the Democratic leadership in Illinois than single- vs. two-party rule. All I can say – returning to what I hope is the emphasis of this blog – is that I don’t hear Democratic leaders talking up the general liberal worldview as they smack one another around. Nor do they help forward what I see as a liberal value – fiscal prudence – with all of the budget games.

Fear of a different kind

Following up – in a sense – on my last post, fear is not just for militaristic right-wingers.

This article by Bill McKibben is pretty scary. It’s about the need to get serious about climate change in just the next few years or the world as we know it – that set the stage for modern human civilization – will be up-ended.

Personally, I feel a bit powerless in the face of what he’s written. He’s trying to get a global, grassroots organization going to confront governments and powerful economic actors to address climate change. I just don’t know if that’s going to work. Something has to, clearly.

Anyway, back to fear. To my mind, environmentalists have been playing the fear card for decades. Some sort of catastrophe was soon to come unless we repented. (Some even wished for it. See this article in Slate. Reminds me of apocalyptic Christians.)

Here’s the thing – it hasn’t worked. Fear as a tool for ginning up a population to fight something like climate change seems to be a dismal failure, whereas using fear to gin up a population to fight wars seems to work like a charm.

I’m wondering if it’s time for a different approach by liberal and progressive politicians and leaders. Although it has been open sporting season on mentions of “hope,” it strikes me that it might be a better message for environmental matters than fear, doom, gloom. I don’t have any language to suggest right away. I’ll think about it some more, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially as a the election season and a new U.S. presidency are headed our way.

P.S.

Just a bit more on the end of civilization mentioned in that McKibben article. He makes it clear that humanity will likely survive climate change, but our current human civilization likely will not.

Makes me think about who the winners and losers might be.

Check out this article about the earthquake in China in today’s Wall Street Journal. It lays out how poorer areas have suffered more than richer areas.

Natural disasters do not affect everyone the same way.

Hear any similarities?

Fresh Air from NPR has this interview with an author who has written a biography of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

What struck me at first was how similar a description of a right-wing government in Iran and a right-wing government in the U.S. can be. Substitute Bush and his hard-line buddies for every mention of Amadinejad and his crew in the first 15 minutes or so of this interview, and you’ll see what I mean. These war-making, fear mongers were made for each other. It’s up to the sane people in both countries to vote them out of power.

Of course, that being said, the comparison isn’t perfect. Listen on. Iran in no way has free and open elections like we enjoy in the U.S. So much for Iranians voting their problem children out of power. And how can we forget Ahamdinejad’s holocaust denial antics. What a wacko.

The important thing to keep in mind is fear is powerful, and it can lead nations and people down awfully dark paths. The world has suffered through seven long years of fear and war. It’s time to try something different.

Conservatives ain’t “conservative”

This article from the Atlantic does a good job of covering something that’s been on my mind as I try to puzzle through liberalism. The basic idea is that the modern “conservative” movement is not really conservative at all. Instead it is a radical movement, looking to overturn long-held beliefs and policies.

A couple of quick thoughts on this.

First, I’ve written before about how the policies and ideological obsessions of the modern conservative movement drove me in the last couple of years to become more political than I ever had been. I’ve begun to understand that what has motivated me isn’t some reaction to all things traditionally conservative, but a reaction to the dangerous, radical policies of these “conservatives.”

Second, what’s interesting about these modern “conservatives” is that they are essentially utopians. They believe there is some magical world out there, where all markets are free, where all taxes are flat, where all government has been eliminated except for the military, and where all people are Christians. Traditional conservatism has always been leery of utopian dreams. In fact, I think this is the single greatest contribution from the conservative tradition – a suspicion of human nature and human institutions and the ability of people to make the world “perfect”.

P.S.

On that Christian thing, the conservative movement’s variation of “identity politics” continues to bedevil the Republican candidate.