By now, everyone should be aware of growing indications of the collapse of the rightwing governing coalition. From wholesale corruption, to the quagmire in Iraq, to the sham "war on terror," to the bankruptcy of the federal government, to the Katrina debacle, one things is becoming painfully clear. Cheap labor Republicans and their fundamentalist allies, simply can’t govern. Polls indicate that a majority of the American people are figuring this out, leading to a legitimacy crisis for America’s rightwing corporate regime.
The only real question is whether these corporate fascists will head off to the ash heap of history with a bang, or with a wimper. Abundant indications are available to suggest that they have the infrastructure to behave really badly, before they are finally defeated. Of course, saner elements of this right-wing coalition — and there are some, believe it or not — could see the writing on the wall. We’ll see — noting that in the end, it won’t matter. Die hard or die gently, the far right is through.
The question is what will replace it. I have written much on the benefits and virtues of New Deal liberalism. I have not written this because I advocate going back to some "golden age" — though the high water mark of New Deal liberalism in the early sixties just prior to the Vietnam debacle, could fairly be characterized as America’s golden age. That golden age was very much a product of corporate capitalism — leavened by a healthy dose of social democratic reformism. It worked for a time, when oil was plentiful and cheap, and building a prosperous "consumption society" appeared to be a good idea. Oil depletion and the wars it portunes, along with global warming and over development, all indicate that such an industrial "consumption society" may not be a recipe for a sustainable future. All of which raises a tricky problem for us progressives. A strong argument can be made that industrial production is necessary to a measure of social justice, even if the forces of industrial capitalism seem to work against it.
This is the underlying political reality of the present Democratic opposition — such as it is. The halcyon days of the New Deal and Great Society are past, and nobody really knows what will replace it as an alternative to corporate feudalism. This is the principle reason for the apparent incoherence of the Democrats and the left, in general. Markos over at Daily Kos eschews any progressive ideology, preferring to run on the nuts and bolts failures of the right, and the superior competence of Democrats — as evidenced by President Clinton’s largely successful administration. This is a perfectly viable short term strategy — focusing on winning the next election, which is always an important consideration. I mean, if we have learned nothing else for the last six years, it is that winning elections matters.
So I will leave short term efforts focused on the next election to Kos and his crew and various associates. He’s obviously got a lot more on the ground than we do. Instead, I have decided that while we mobilize and educate voters, and build local activist organization, at some point we need to start thinking about the big picture. The fact is that the conservatives have succeeded to the extent they have on the basis of that thing we call "vision." Much of their internal "vision" — their esoteric views, as the Straussians would put it — is dark, and specifically conceives of such things as permanent oligarchy and permanent war. Obviously, their public vision — the esoteric vision — puts a happy face on the awful reality their worldview would visit on us. But of course, people are starting to see through that.
Meanwhile, the urgent business for progessives is to offer an alternative vision. This is something many progressives talk about. Indeed, there are a fair number of manifestoes floating around, none of which have really gained very much traction. Because I believe that such a project is needed, and furthermore, because hey, I’m just a visionary kind of guy, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my own version. In fact, for the last six months I have been thinking about how to go about it.
Then realized something. I already wrote it — four years ago, when I launched my first site. It went nowhere, of course, and I took that as some evidence that maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Meanwhile, current events have moved along creating a world that is not quite what it was in the summer of 2002, when I was writing this essay. In those days, you could find gas for very close to a dollar a gallon. "Peak oil" had yet to become a phrase heard outside of a small number advocates. George Bush was still riding a wave of popularity behind the 9/11 attacks, and the present mess in Iraq was another 9 months away from even starting. Renewable energy is the central idea on my "vision piece." I suggest that it is a strategically critical issue for an re-energized progressive movement. In the summer of 2002, nobody much gave a damn about renewable energy. Obviously, that has changed — as indeed, has the entire political environment. Markets for my putative progressive vision have opened, that didn’t even exist in those days.
For all of you aspiring writers, there is a simple test of how good your writing is. Lay it aside for a month. Then go back and read it again. If it’s still good, it’s good. I’ve written lots of stuff, that a month after I wrote it, just plain sucked. Well I re-read my four year old vision piece, and it’s still good. Today, events may at last have caught up with it. So I am re-publishing it, right here.
The name of the essay is "Laissez-Faire Socialism." I have wondered for a long time whether I should rename it. My original notion was that the title would attract curiousity as to just the what the hell I mean by that. I didn’t count on how many incurious — if not downright fearful — souls are out there. But of course, that was 2002, and the urgency for some new thinking about old problems wasn’t yet apparent. Also, my own thinking regarding to art of forging into new conceptual territory, has also made me decide to keep the name, take the heat, and see if what sounds bizarre today, might not sound increasingly sensible, as people get used to it.
Interestingly, all of the elements I have written about since then are there. Many of those ideas have been subsequently developed, more fully. But my basic worldview and approach to political and economic theory are all there. So instead of “reinventing the wheel” with a new vision piece, I think I’ll stick with the first one I wrote. You will find it below in four parts.