"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thomas Frank on Industry Conservatism

This clip is from the August Harper's Magazine, which carried this spot-on essay adapted from Thomas Frank's new book, The Wrecking Crew, which documents the rise of the profiteers who now control Washington:
. . . Fantastic mis-government is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, what follows from that: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we've come to expect from Washington.

The correct diagnosis is the "bad apple" thesis turned upside down. There are plenty of good conservative individuals, honorable folks who would never participate in the sort of corruption we have watched unfold over the past years. Hang around with grassroots conservtives in Kansas, and in the main you will find them to be honest, hardworking people.

But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities--priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism. The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree ith them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action. . . .

. . . . Like Bush and Reagan before him, John McCain is a self-proclaimed outsider, buth shoud he win in November he will merely bring us more of the same: an executive branch fed by, if not actually made up of, lobbyists and other angry, righteous profiteers. Washington itself will remain what it has been--not a Babylon that corrupts our pure-hearted right-wingers but the very seat of their Industry Conservatism, constantly seething and effervescing, with tens of thousands of individuals coming and going, each avidly piling up his own tidy pile but between them engaged in an awesome common project.

Take a step, reader, and see what they have wrought.
There is much more in the Harper's piece, which, by the way, is one of the best subscription deals around today. And they did not give me a subscription for that endorsement.

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