Sunday, June 03, 2007

'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Over'...

...So said the title of a January 2001 'Onion' article. It was prescient.

Some people would like to keep that 'nightmare' a mere memory.

As anyone who's taken an introduction to anthropology class in college knows, there are two types of societies in the world... the individualistic and the collective. The individualistic, of course, place more emphasis on the individual and an 'every man for himself' worldview. The collective is more group-based and places emphasis on shared accomplishments and goals. The degrees of these vary by society, and there's always an ebb and flow.

This worldview divide is, of course, one of the more basic things separating conservatives and liberals in America. The latter leans toward the collective while the former embraces individualism. Historically, the lines were much closer than are now (we went from the post-war "Ask not what your country can do for you" climate to the Reagan-ruled "Me Decade" in just 20 action-packed years). The right has been taking their position to extremes in recent decades-- with everything that seems to threaten corporate control individualism written off as "socialism" (*)-- while the left is just grabbing onto the center, hoping not to be swallowed up.

It's in this environment that Matt Drudge recently posted this 'scandalous' headline (red font = BAD NEWS!!)... a quote from Senator Clinton, who by historical standards is to the right of Richard Nixon.

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The linked-to article states-
The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an ownership society really is an "on your own" society that has widened the gap between rich and poor...

..."There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed," she said. "Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies."...

...Beyond education, Clinton said she would reduce special breaks for corporations, eliminate tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas and open up CEO pay to greater public scrutiny.

Clinton also said she would help people save more money by expanding and simplifying the earned income tax credit; create new jobs by pursuing energy independence; and ensure that every American has affordable health insurance...

..."It's not as if America hasn't been successful these last six years, but the measure of success does not relate to what's happening in households across our country," she said. "It's like trickle down economics, without the trickle."...

While I am generally not the biggest fan of the Senator, I should note that it was the Clinton-esque approach to politics-- old-school Democratic compassion and populism mixed with an individual entrepreneurial spirit-- that gave us those 8 years of (relative) peace and prosperity.

So I see stuff like the Drudge headline and I shake my head. To me, the idea that Sen. Clinton is expressing there is basic common sense... societies function better when people work together (and sacrifice) for shared goals, rather than living for themselves. But in America, in 2007, it is considered a controversial, a partisan statement.

It is for that reason that, while the conservatives propose the craziest things with a straight face (ie. privatizing the still-functioning Social Security system), liberals have to hem and haw their way around positions that are actually very well supported by the general public (ie. watering down 'universal' health care proposals). None of the legislative/issue-based problems that we face in America today will be solved until this stigma is destroyed. Until then, we will continue to put band-aids on shotgun wounds, because the real solutions remain politically controversial.

Some balance in these worldviews is fine, but we can't keep going over the edge.

[*Just to prove I'm not exaggerating... I literally found this as I was preparing this post.]

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