I'd like to follow up on ambivalent_maybe's insightful post a few days ago on this blog about the recent (divergent) histories of U.S. worker wages and productivity. It turns out that one of my favorite political-economic writers, William Greider, has a new essay up on the Nation's website. In this essay, ("The Future Is Now") Greider argues that we are either on the cusp or already in the midst of a major shift in American public policy and political culture. After 30+ years of worship at the alter of market fundamentalism, Greider argues, the U.S.'s economic fundamentals are in terrible shape. This stuff isn't really new for Greider--as before, he is concerned especially with rising consumer debt and government fiscal debt--but this essay is a nice overview of the general problem and a primer on what a more progressive future might hold.
Greider's manifesto is certainly more plausible to me than the recent call by the usually sensible blog-chief at dailykos for a Democratic rapprochement with libertarians by giving more support to market solutions over government. (Excuse me? Haven't we been doing that the past three decades already?) I'm perfectly happy to work with libertarians on social issues and foreign policy, but I am not about to surrender the progressive movement to the same tired old 80s-90s mantra of "markets good, government bad." (Greider's essay provides a thumbnail sketch of where that philosophy has gotten us...) The DLC has argued that line--let their ship sink with it, but for goodness sake let's not jump on board. Moreover, has anyone ever noticed that such calls for a libertarian shift have almost always come from members of the tiny, well-educated elite of socially liberal, economically moderate professionals and business people? If we want to craft a progressive movement that appeals to the much larger mass population of working-class people, we're going to have to be more populist and less economically libertarian. As Greider points out, survey research shows broad public support for proposals that are anathema to hard-core libertarians, such as guaranteed health care and raising the minimum wage. I agree with Greider: our better future (perhaps our only future, if he is correct?) lies in economic populism. It is the right thing to do for the sake of justice, plus (if Greider is correct) it is also the politically savvy move at this moment in American history.