We need a coherent, muscular liberal narrative. The Occupy Wall Street movement, quickly spreading globally and heroically taking on all challenges, has lit the match. Now it’s time for the rest of us to stand together. We have to stitch together the disparate movements and rumblings: Fighting to defend teachers, cops and other public sector workers; battles in Wisconsin and Ohio; organized movements like Rebuild the Dream and Tavis Smiley’s Poverty Tour.
People say, what’s wrong with President Obama? Why isn’t he standing up for the progressives? (Of course, people have been saying that since he was President-elect.) In the 11/7/11 issue of The Nation, Benjamin R. Barber builds his Fighting Liberal theory in a concrete foundation:
We need to recall what FDR said to A. Philip Randolph when the Pullman Porters Union president complained bitterly about how Roosevelt wasn’t backing the union’s struggles. “Make me do it!” said Roosevelt. Liberals need to stop blaming Obama and make him do it.
The Zuccotti Park (Liberty Plaza) congregation fights for liberty as a public good. Humans live in social relationships. They are citizens, not consumers, and in a democracy citizens are the government:
Taxation, far from being a bureaucratic scam to steal our hard-won earnings by some alien “them” or “it”, is the way citizens pool resources to do public things together they can’t do alone. Attacking the power to tax is attacking the power of the people to spend their money in concert to achieve important public goals, whether national defense, public education or social justice. The anti-tax ideologues pretend to protect us, but in truth they disempower us.
If you don’t think we’re the tail wagging the dog of technology, chew on this bone:
A Chinese company that partners with Apple plans to replace thousands of its Chinese Foxconn workers with up to a million robots.
Foxconn workers, eh? Sigh. All those suicides and deprivations gone with the wind.
A fighting Liberal Narrative must oppose radical marketization—the predatory capitalism that increases productivity and profits without creating jobs.
There has to be a new metric, a new blasphemous paradigm along the lines of the sun as the center of the universe around which the earth rotates as opposed to the centuries-old belief that the earth was the center of the universe. Get rid of the politicized, shopworn accounting tricks calculating the GNP:
The social dimensions of employment maybe be an externality [an externality is something apart from an agreement yet derives from it], but it is crucial as to why work matters and should be at the center of a fighting liberal vision. It also explains why liberals should propose a new metrics that includes indicators of social goods and human happiness when we measure, for example, GNP.
Why are the creative contributions of artists, teachers and scientists not part of national product? Why aren’t environmental costs a debit? The current system in effect socializes the invisible public costs of capitalism, spreading them across the backs of taxpayers while privatizing the visible profits. This is not capitalism but corporate welfare—socializing risk for the rich and powerful while leaving the poor to the social Darwinism of a pitiless marketplace.
We liberals want to rebuild the dream and the Occupy Wall Streeters are marching for it. Freedom is public—a shared product of strong democracy. More money is not one man, one vote. It’s Orwell’s Animal Farm, “Some are more equal than others.”