Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Colin Gordon discusses how contempt for democracy is one of the uniting principles of the right around the globe while reviewing Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains:
At the intersection of Buchanan’s market fundamentalism and his embrace of Jim Crow lies a fundamental reservation — nakedly evident on today’s radical right — about equal political citizenship and majority rule. This stemmed in part, from Calhoun onward, from a conviction that the polity could be cleft between “makers and takers,” and that it was the “takers” who, by employing state power to tax wealth and income, were doing the exploiting.

Buchanan’s “public choice” economics dressed this up as an iron law of both human nature and democratic rule (“a cynicism so toxic,” MacLean suggests, “that, if widely believed, it would eat like acid at the foundations of civic life”). Politically, Buchanan and his allies looked to gird the advantage enjoyed by the makers (by removing the last constraints on campaign finance, for example) while muffling the votes and the voices of the rest of us.

The combination, of course, is the hallmark of neoliberalism, whose interest is not in rolling back the state but in employing state power toward particular ends, including the protection of wealth and property and the suppression and surveillance of the poor. For all its thin distaste of “big government,” Buchanan’s radical right betrays a healthy appetite for repression.
Over time, Buchanan and his allies tacitly admitted that they had no popular constituency; that the voting public — even those who had supported Reagan and cheered the congressional “Contract with America” — hesitated “when they learned that freed markets would leave them with sole responsibility for their fates.” The solution, first floated in the early debates over Social Security privatization and starkly evident in tortuous repeal of the Affordable Care Act, is to “crab-walk” around the issues, to claim that frontal assaults on popular social insurance programs are efforts to “shore them up” rather than destroy them.

The second, and more chilling, solution is to junk the rules entirely; to tilt an already unlevel playing field decisively and irrevocably against the popular will.
- Marius Busemeyer and Erik Neimanns explore how beneficiaries of social programs tend to reject government involvement in areas other than the ones which support them personally - making benefits vulnerable to politicians who are able to play one group against another (even while intending to leave them all worse off).

- Owen Jones takes note of the fact that the same UK Conservative government which has proclaimed a lack of money to help people has been able to find plenty to buy off the DUP in order to stay in power. And Rob Shaw points out the similar turnaround from Christy Clark's B.C. Libs as they try to cling to power.

- Patrica Thille discusses how obesity is primarily the result of political choices.

- Finally, Claire Provost examines how the Trudeau Libs are choosing to do little to end Canada's persistent gender inequality.

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