TRENDS. Without sucking up to the new boss too much, let me highly recommend this Harold Meyerson piece responding to Kos's Libertarian Democrats manifesto. I recommend it despite finding it an enormously frustrating piece of work -- I have, after all, spent the last few months of blogging and my September feature story trying to say what Harold does in these three paragraphs:
there are some basic Democratic principles that are not libertarian, and that even Markos� Mountain State mavericks still affirm. None of them have called for privatizing Social Security. None of them have called for abolishing Medicare. They may be civil libertarians and to some degree social libertarians, but they�re not economic libertarians. And for good reason: Economic libertarianism has never been more preposterous.
For the dominant social fact in America today is this: The corporate safety net is fast disappearing. Risk has been transferred to the individual -- a decision in which individuals, as such, haven�t had a say (though their apprehensions about privatizing Social Security did nip that idea in the bud). Corporate pensions are vanishing and 401(k)s don�t provide equivalent retirement security. Fewer and fewer companies are offering medical benefits, even though corporate profits are at a 50-year high as a percentage of GDP. Companies that persist in offering such benefits are placed at a disadvantage when their competitors don�t. And consumers clearly can�t afford those benefits, either. As some recent surveys have made clear, precious few Americans can afford to buy medical insurance on their own or to utilize the Health Savings Accounts that the president is peddling.
In short, as the balance of forces in capitalism shifts entirely towards investors and executives and away from employees, the need for a state that takes the burden of economic and health security off employers who won�t pick it up and employees who can�t pick it up is increasingly urgent. It�s hard to predict what exactly the tipping point will be as our private-sector welfare state continues to contract. But at some point, the Democrats will embrace a decisively larger role for the state in these matters because the public will demand it -- not because the public will suddenly identify itself as liberal, but because there will be nowhere else to turn.
Quite so. It's not that the rhetorical cover of libertarianism isn't a clever or useful one, or that the American people will suddenly turn against the concepts of individualism and autonomy. It's simply that the trends will obviate all that. As wages stagnate, the corporate welfare state contracts, health costs go up, economic insecurity increases, inequality accelerates, and worker power continues to decline before globalizations, something will have to be done. Folks will demand it. And cute as it is that large swaths of the conservative movement are convincing themselves that Americans will respond to excess risk and financial exposure by demanding more risk and financial exposure, I'm just not seeing it.
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