If LI is anything, we are that crash dummy that is continually being tossed around Lefty sites, the liberal. The sissified liberal, unable to put our shoulder to the wheel and overthrow the capitalist system in one giant revolutionary push. This is true. Our negative reason for this balky liberalism is that we don’t think the revolution would do anything but continue the treadmill of production in place. We don’t think it would take apart the war culture, but simply embody it again, another of the endless avatars. On the positive side, we think the liberal notion of encouraging a profit system, while at the same time putting two loaded pistols to its head at all time – militant labor, and a state that can exert some countervailing pressure to lessen the grosser features of the profit system in spite of its natural inclination to support capital – is the best of all methods to produce affluence. It is the Misfit method – named after the character in the Flannery O’Connor story – and if we were going to slap a little label on our politics, it would certainly be misfit liberalism.
Because it is a system of checks and balances, however, liberalism can’t really operate by the blind application of abstract principles. It can and should encourage that degree of equality, for instance, which forestalls and –hopefully – extinguishes the billionaire, while at the same time not aiming for an absolute equality that would abolish the profit motive.
Misfit liberalism, like all liberalisms, does suffer from a penchant to systems blindness. It is why Marx is still indispensable to the liberal – Marx did see systematically and whole. Unfortunately, in the Reagan era (which we still live in), liberalism went whoring after strange gods – an insane faith in the marketplace, for example, an inability to understand the crucial role of organized labor, and an inability to defend, on political grounds, common sense things, like – a really trivial point - encouraging the state to expropriate a lion’s share of the enormous surplus of wealth seized by the top one percent of the population. Alas, these common sense notions – known even to the well known, muscular liberal, girl scout cookie seller cannibal Harry Truman – are now heresies even among media liberals, a group who operate, generally, to pimp for the biases of the governing class. They are the too fit liberals.
But – to get to the nubby little point of this post – one of the root perversions of Reaganism is the infusion of methodological individualism into every good soul. The bias here is subtle. I thought about this reading a very good post written by Ezra Klein today about the brilliant NYT Magazine piece by Michael Pollan – and knowing my readers, they have already scarfed down the Pollan essay and gone, God fucking damn, I wish I had written that!
Klein draws on Pollan’s book to make several astute remarks. But we detect, here, a bit of that old systems blindness. About which we will comment in our next post.