“Less Government” is the central defining right-wing slogan. And yes, it’s all about “cheap labor”.
Included within the slogan “less government” is the whole conservative set of assumptions about the nature of the “free market” and government’s role in that market.. In fact, the whole “public sector/private sector” distinction is an invention of the cheap-labor conservatives. They say that the “private sector” exists outside and independently of the “public sector”. The public sector, according to cheap-labor ideology, can only “interfere” with the “private sector”, and that such “interference” is “inefficient” and “unprincipled”
Using this ideology, the cheap-labor ideologue paints himself as a defender of freedom against “big government tyranny”. In fact, the whole idea that the private sector is independent of the public sector is totally bogus. In fact, “the market” is created by public laws, public institutions and public infrastructure.
But the cheap-labor conservative isn’t really interested in freedom. What the he wants is the privatized tyranny of industrial serfdom, the main characteristic of which is – you guessed it – “cheap labor”.
For proof, you need only look at exactly what constitutes “big government tyranny” and what doesn’t. It turns out that cheap-labor conservatives are BIG supporters of the most oppressive and heavy handed actions the government takes.
- Cheap-labor conservatives are consistent supporters of the generous use of capital punishment. They say that “government can’t do anything right” – except apparently, kill people. Indeed, they exhibit classic conservative unconcern for the very possibility that the government might make a mistake and execute the wrong man.
- Cheap-labor conservatives complain about the “Warren Court” “handcuffing the police” and giving “rights to criminals”. It never occurs to them, that our criminal justice system is set up to protect innocent citizens from abuses or just plain mistakes by government officials – you know, the one’s who can’t do anything right.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support the “get tough” and “lock ‘em up” approach to virtually every social problem in the spectrum. In fact, it’s the only approach they support. As for the 2,000,000 people we have in jail today – a higher percentage of our population than any other nation on earth – they say our justice system is “too lenient”.
- Cheap-labor conservative – you know, the ones who believe in “freedom” – say our crime problem is because – get this – we’re too “permissive”. How exactly do you set up a “free” society that isn’t “permissive”?
- Cheap-labor conservatives want all the military force we can stand to pay for and never saw a weapons system they didn’t like.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support every right-wing authoritarian hoodlum in the third world.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support foreign assassinations, covert intervention in foreign countries, and every other “black bag” operation the CIA can dream up, even against constitutional governments, elected by the people of those countries.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support “domestic surveillance” against “subversives” – where “subversive” means “everybody but them”.
- Cheap-labor believers in “freedom” think it’s the government’s business if you smoke a joint or sleep with somebody of your own gender.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support our new concentration camp down at Guantanamo Bay. They also support these “secret tribunals” with “secret evidence” and virtually no judicial review of the trials and sentences. Then they say that liberals are “Stalinists”.
- And let’s not forget this perennial item on the agenda. Cheap-labor conservatives want to “protect our national symbol” from “desecration”. They also support legislation to make the Pledge of Allegiance required by law. Of course, it is they who desecrate the flag every time they wave it to support their cheap-labor agenda. [Ouch! That was one of those “hits” you can hear up in the “nosebleed” seats.]
Sounds to me like the cheap-labor conservatives have a peculiar definition of “freedom”. I mean, just what do these guys consider to be “tyranny”.
That’s easy. Take a look.
- “Social spending” otherwise known as “redistribution”. While they don’t mind tax dollars being used for killing people, using their taxes to feed people is “stealing”.
- Minimum wage laws.
- Every piece of legislation ever proposed to improve working conditions, including the eight hour day, OSHA regulations, and even Child Labor laws.
- Labor unions, who “extort” employers by collectively bargaining.
- Environmental regulations and the EPA.
- Federal support and federal standards for public education.
- Civil rights legislation. There are still cheap-labor conservatives today, who were staunch defenders of “Jim Crow” – including conspicuously Buckley’s “National Review”. Apparently, federal laws ending segregation were “tyranny”, but segregation itself was not.
- Public broadcasting – which is virtually the only source for classical music, opera, traditional theatre, traditional American music, oh yes, and Buckley’s “Firing Line”. This from the people constantly braying about the decay of “the culture”. The average cost of Public Television for each American is a whopping one dollar a year. “Its tyranny I tell you. Enough’s enough!”
See the pattern? Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it “tyranny” if government does something for you – using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites. Consider the following expenditures:
- 150 billion dollars a year for corporate subsidies.
- 300 billion dollars a year for interest payments on the national debt – payments that are a direct transfer to wealthy bond holders, and buy us absolutely nothing.
- Who knows how many billions will be paid to American companies to rebuild Iraq – which didn’t need rebuilding three months ago.
- That’s all in addition to the Defense budget – large chunks of which go to corporate defense contractors.
Is the pattern becoming clearer? These cheap-labor Republicans have no problem at all opening the public purse for corporate interests. It’s “social spending” on people who actually need assistance that they just “can’t tolerate”.
And now you know why. Destitute people work cheaper, while a harsh police state keeps them suitably terrorized.
For a short primer on the importance of a strong public sector, see: The Public Sector and Private Fortunes.