Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Working Class and the Credibility of Liberal Economists

Economist Jared Bernstein complains at the Washington Post "The problem isn’t that the facts aren’t out there; it’s that they don’t seem to be gaining much traction." Yet one cannot credibly argue one is for the downtrodden when one has spent that last 25 years compromising with the people treading on them. People eventually see through you, and then there is nothing left to be said.

Justice has to be seen to be done, as well as done. If the Dems and the policy liberals like Bernstein want the respect of the masses, you have to be for the masses and be seen to be for the masses. Otherwise, why should the masses believe you?

Which also seems to explain the results of the recent election. Obama was for the bankers first. Everyone could see it. Why should he or his party be trusted? And, conversely, he clearly was for women and people of color. Of course the white masses resented being left behind. And why not?

As Bernie Sanders knows, but seems not to have said, policy cannot address social equity without also addressing economic equity: the masses will invariably regard both policies as coming from the same sources.

I have a friend who comments that the young white men she went to high school with felt entitled to decent jobs with decent pay without educational effort. She is contemptuous of them. But aren't decent jobs with decent pay a reasonable expectation? Isn't that what we ought to be aiming at for everyone who is willing and able to work? There will always be some people who feel they need someone to be above, and an egalitarian society cannot grant that; privilege must be earned, and cannot be permanent. That group will necessarily be resentful in an equal society. But if the majority loses ground they have common cause with that resentful faction.

The whole idea of "socially liberal and economically conservative” was, in the past few decades, translated to "raise up women and people of color, while doing nothing to maintain the lot of white men as their jobs and security were taken away." How could this fail to provoke resentment? If we are serious about egalitarianism, "everyone or no-one," how can we not, in our policy-making, consider moderating inequities of wealth and making sure that social gains in wealth are shared?

This is going to have to be thought on. I'm sure it can be attacked as a defense of white privilege. I would say, though, that rather than taking privilege away from white men, we ought instead to extend it to women and people of color. We cannot have an upper class without also having a lower class, and that must be forbidden, but we can see that everyone is fed, housed, and clothed, and that everyone has the freedom to live a full life.

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

Thank you. Excellent observations. "decent jobs with decent pay without educational effort" is pretty much the iron rice bowl or the 0 unemployment situation in the Soviet Union. Someone should hand them their future. Decent jobs with decent pay however IS or ought to be the goal of any well run free world economy. Hard to do that with the GOP blocking anything and everything. Now they want compromise?