“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, October 13, 2006

goodbye to my boogie liberalism

LI started out as a standard issue lefty, but somewhere along the way we realized that we were really a postwar, bourgeois liberal. Unfortunately, there is no father of postwar bourgeois liberalism, and this has made it easier, in these dark times of white magic, to forget what it was about in the first place. So today, if someone presents a liberal vs. conservative dialogue, or a liberal vs. libertarian one, they are apt to base it on something like: government vs. the private sphere.

This is so sad. The versus is so bogus. The b. liberal insight was, is, to dispute the compartmentalization of public/private in this way in the first place. In other words, the theoretical distinction between private enterprise, which works within the free market, and government simply is not the two oppose each other, or that we need fundamentally different models to talk about the two. There's a hoary old fable, retold with chuckles by your Republican uncle, about how if somehow, sonny, ever'body had an equal share of things, why, gracious, you know in a week or a year somebody would have more and somebody less. Knees are slapped, beer is drunk, and the great point is made: which is egalitarianism discounts other social factors. Well, the same is true for the conservative and libertarian myth that the government exists in a different compartment than the private sector, or that the market in commodities is oh so much different than the market in power. Democracy is, in fact, all about the interdependence and interpenetration of private and public power. Legislation is a biddable service. This isn't a pejorative description - it is simply the inevitable result of democratic governance and a profit driven market system. To creat a real compartmentalization between the two would require destroying democracy - but even then, that would, in turn, lead inevitably to the well known path of rent seeking. There is a reason that the Marxists thought capitalism leads to fascism -- in fact, without any other factors getting in the way, it does, as the owning class seeks to seal off other bidders in the power market. But fascism then saps capitalism, as power players become market makers in the 'private' sphere.

While this sounds theoretical, it is actually quite practical. Take the conservative fixation on flat taxes. Now, in reality, flat taxes are logically equivalent to freezing wages and prices. Sometimes such freezes work, but the time is limited. Eventually, as we all know, such freezes generate black markets. In the same way, the flat tax creates a perverse market in tax breaks. Simply put, much of the purpose of government is to supplement private power in one way or another, and one of the great ways of doing this is to take costs off business by the seemingly neutral method of giving businesses tax breaks. In reality, this fastens higher costs on some third party -- which is why it is great. After all, businesses compete, and they use the auction system of democracy to compete as well. Thus, they bid for legislators who then ceaselessly find ways to lower the costs of business. The flat tax would simply hide the regressive movement in the tax system -- and it would aggravate it insofar as that regressive movement is a constant, and can only be countered by occassional progressive gestures.

Liberalism's postwar triumph was not to use the government more, but to enroll the government, ocassionally, on the side of labor, on the side of oppressed racial and ethnic minorities, on the side of women, etc. However, the main business of government even during the heyday of liberalism was always to curry to the rich. Conservatives have so succeeded in creating a wholly false image of government -- as some sort of friend of the poor and the working man -- that rightwingers themselves are surprised that every time they get in power, the size of government balloons. There's nothing surprising in this - the predominance of conservatives means a shift in power to the wealthy, who have one loyalty only : to get wealthier. Government spending has always been the path to that. No surprise that after the stock market shock of 2001-2, in which trillions were lost by companies and investors, that the government ruled by and for companies and investors went into the red like nobody had ever seen before.

So much of the talk about what is liberal and what is conservative, nowadays, is complete nonsense. The scale of government (lets shrink the government!) or the public vs. private argument are as bogus as so many wooden nickles. The question is always about who is using the state.

And such is democracy. There aren't, by the way, any neutral positions here.

So: I thought I'd write this out as a mark, a little sign, like the kidnap victim leaves for the trackers. All of this is eminently rational, but we have been saying goodbye to all that. Since LI was visited with the vision of the war culture, since we saw that the state is subordinate to war, to the secret system, to the world structure of it, we can't really make this cohere with our boogie liberalism. In fact, the Martian system is sheer lunacy, and I am convinced that it rules us with an iron hand. Which sort of makes me -- feel like turning to Satanic historiography.

3 comments:

new york pervert said...

roger--that is a beautiful hoary fable, motherfucker! Made me want to go out and rake leaves, but all that's back there is retarring a garage roof. Happy autumn!

roger said...

Mr. NYP, you are on a roll, what with the motherfucker and all. I tell you, before I'm done with you, you will be snappin' your fingers to L'il Kim' Shut up Bitch!

new york pervert said...

I know it, and she can give us some of that delectable Popcorn Cake for when Ms. Handke realizes the time is right to rehabilitate Harriet Miers, that hard-workin' woman, so that she can take over Joycelyn Elders's old job. Seriously, I couldn't believe at the time, how gross the mainstream liberals were about firing of Ms. Elders, who was a truly wonderful lady and just too goddam sincere and good for anything in Washington. And when pressed later, she was never anything but totally gracious. Deserves the Nobel Prize for Narcotic Science as per post even more recent than this one! (I think Mr. Scruggs may approve of my desire to thwart Ms. Handke's efforts in favour of Ms. Miers, and put her in charge of the Junior Pyerion Club, where her Divinity Candy will be nibbled in that dumb way that the beauty contest runner-ups eat it.)