Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Branko Milanovic offers his take on how the U.S.' version of liberalism paved the way for Donald Trump and his ilk both by buying into corporatist assumptions about success, and by treating electoralism as the basis for political organization:
In economics, liberalism espoused “neo-liberalism” which was the replacement economic ideology for social-democracy. It championed, especially under the Clinton-Blair duo, financial liberalization, much smaller welfare state, and so-called “meritocracy” which essentially meant the ability of the rich to place their kids into the best schools out of which 90% would graduate and thus “meritocratically” claim later in life huge wage premiums. Free trade agreement privileged, as Dean Baker has written, the interests of the rich in advanced economies through protection of patents and intellectual property rights and with scant or no attention to labor rights.
Corruption.  A corollary of this hyper-economicism in ordinary life was the corruption of the elites who espoused the same yardstick of success as everybody else: enrichment by all means. Avner Offer documents this shift in his analysis of where social-democracy went astray with “New Labor” and “New Democrats”. The corruption of the political class, not only in the West but in the entire world, had a deeply corrosive and demoralizing effect on the electorates everywhere.  Being politician became increasingly seen as a way to acquire personal riches, a career like any other, divorced from any real desire either to do “public service” or to try to promote own values and provide leadership. “Electoralism”, that is doing anything to be elected, was liberalism’s political credo. In that it presaged the populists.
Pensée unique. Liberalism introduced a dogmatic set of principles, “the only politically correct way of thinking” characterized by identity politics and “horizontal equality” (no differences, on average, in wages between men and women, different races or religions) which left actual inequality go unchecked. A tacit hierarchy was introduced, where the acceptance of these watered-down principles of equality combined with economic success, was the requirement to be “non-deplorable”. Others, those who did not do well economically or did not adhere to all the tenets of the mainstream thinking, were not only failures but morally inferior.
- John Cavanagh points out that free trade negotiations ultimately have far less to do with the relative bargaining power of the countries at the table, than with generally stacking the deck for businesses against people in all jurisdictions involved.

- Sarah Kendzior discusses the fallout of Trump's election, with even employees within the national park service being turned into enemies of the state for failing to devote themselves solely to the promotion of the president.

- Dylan Matthews writes about the cruelty which forms the animating principle behind Trump's refugee ban, while Benjamin Wittes is struck by the combination of malevolence and incompetence.  And Stephen Smith reports on a call for Canada to do the least it ought to - which is to end an agreement which bars refugees merely because they've set foot in what's supposed to be the safe haven of the U.S.

- And finally, George Lakoff offers one example as to how to start reframing the choices we face: rather than accepting a corporate-focused assumption that regulations represent "red tape" to be trashed at the first opportunity, we should treat them as essential protections from corporate misdeeds.

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