Wednesday, March 30, 2011

all hail the chief

I'll commemorate the 30th anniversary of the attempted assassination of President Reagan with this thought:

It’s not very (small-d) democratic for our president to enjoy the elaborate security web that we’ve developed over the last half century.   If one citizen is thousands of times (millions?) more important to protect than another something is wrong with how we’re running things.  And if an entire metropolis grinds to a crawl when the president drives through town, we have at least the trappings of a monarchy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I, for one, do not welcome our new (non-computer) overlords

We're so afraid of class warfare here in the US.  In fact, the phrase is pretty much used only perjoratively these days.  But I'm quite happy to see the anger in Wisconsin and other places, in which ordinary people are finally starting to catch fire, like damper, flame-retardant versions of Mohamed Bouazizi.  I'm happy to see sparks of class struggle.

Will the (unsuccessful) fight put up by the public sector unions in Madison signal the beginning of a broader fight?  A fight to reclaim our society from the decades long trends of (i) scandalous wealth concentration, (ii) hatred of the public sector and of government, (iii) the nearly complete take-over of our governments by the wealthy and powerful?  Robert Reich argues the salient point: It's not just unfair that the wealthy have gained control over so much, well, wealth, but rather that all the concentration of wealth is corrosive to democracy.  All that wealth and power corrupts our political institutions, pays for our political system, maintains an infrastructure of lobbyists, captures our regulatory machinery, controls much of our political speech and media, etc.  The wealthy, the powerful and the G.O.P. would have us believe - DO have many of us believing - that our problems are due to government, unions, "special interests", the elite, liberals, etc.  Those arguments are smokescreens, distractions, herrings.  Our real trouble is unprecedented concentration of wealth in our society.

I had thought that a civic realization of the nature of the problem would be the first step in the restoration of a healthy, equitable and democratic American society.  But maybe not.  Maybe it's a raw rising up, Madison-style that is the first step, with the intellectual arguments coming into focus only after we start to really fight.