Friday, October 1, 2010

Tide going out?

It's looking that way -- the tide of statism, that is. There are signs that it may have reached its high-water mark sometime in the 70's of the last century, and has been slowly receding since -- lower marginal tax rates, privatization initiatives, deregulation, etc. And, of course, the momentous collapse of "actually existing" socialism in the early 90's. In the midst of history, as we always are, it can be difficult to see real turning points, and there have certainly been some big waves washing in to obscure the trend. But as we now watch even the welfare states of Europe begin to step back from the path they'd been following, as though from an abyss (to mix metaphors a little), it's increasingly difficult to avoid seeing what's before us. The latest example may be that Nanny State bellwether, Sweden, as an article by Duncan Currie, "Sweden's Quiet Revolution", indicates:
The broader story of the 2010 election is the collapse of Sweden’s old political order, which was dominated by the Social Democrats (who held power for all but nine years and a few months between September 1932 and October 2006). “There is a general change in Swedish society,” Stockholm University political scientist Jenny Madestam told the New York Times prior to the vote. “Social-democratic ideas are losing their grip on Sweden, and we are getting more and more individualistic.” Indeed, the country is a far more market-friendly place today than it was 20 years ago, thanks in part to reforms implemented by the Social Democrats themselves. Over the past two decades, it has been one of Western Europe’s most energetic liberalizers — cutting taxes, loosening regulatory shackles, and increasing competition.
This is what gives the left -- liberal, green, anti-capitalist, or "progressive" -- such willies. For some time now they've had to pin their dwindling hopes not on their ideas, which even they recognize as a bit old and stale, if not sclerotic, but on things like demographics -- more immigration! -- or, or, maybe a great big capitalist crisis! And so, when a great big capitalist crisis (GBCC) came along, as they routinely do, imagine the relief and even exhilaration of the left -- especially as, in the US, it coincided with not just the first black president but with the first black "progressive" President!

Little wonder, then, at their confusion, consternation, and bitterness now, when they see that even a GBCC doesn't seem to be able to turn the tide.

P.S.: here's an earlier take on the bellwether.

UPDATE: Oh, and for a little more on the greens (green being the new red for many old lefties who can't quite bring themselves to say the word "socialism" anymore), here's a piece by Johnathan Adler, "The Sorry Green Giant", showing how much of the politicized environmental movement has been taken over by an ideological rump of displaced anti-capitalists, with the result that that movement too is experiencing the ebbing of trust and interest we see in projects to expand the state everywhere:
The environmentalist love affair with big government leads to counterproductive policies and alienates large portions of the electorate. Americans may support environmental protection, but they don’t support a massive, overweening regulatory state. If the only Green answer to ecological concerns is yet more government control of private economic activity, many Americans will turn away.
This year the environmental movement suffered a tremendous political defeat — some would even call it a reckoning.


  1. You routinely assert that regulations and govt. intervention of any type are radical innovations and "leftist". A few cursory glances at US history would serve to disprove your assertions. Early on--like George Washington early--American politicians argued for various regulatory measures--such as tariffs (also in Europe/England for centuries). Income taxes preceded the civil war. Regulations were in effect against the railroad companies from the start--with some reason. With no regulations the entire West would have been gobbled up by Union/Southern Pac and Huntington, Crocker, etc (most of it was anyway)

    Protectionism of various sorts was known in England and Europe, probably since like the arrival of the Normans. Even the Roman empire had taxes and tariffs.

    It's the supporters of pure laissez-faire who are the radicals, the upstarts and the...rebels (not to say railroad barons)

  2. It's the supporters of pure laissez-faire who are the radicals, the upstarts and the...rebels (not to say railroad barons)

    Quite right, if by "radicals", "upstarts", "rebels", etc., you mean the real progressives who have advanced the cause of free trade and the free individual for some centuries now. Government intervention is old, much older than Rome. It goes back to the Egyptians and Mesopotamians and before -- it was the rule, until about 17th century in Europe. But, as I've shown, with the rise of capitalism came wealth on a scale that had never been seen before in human history. But there also came a loss of security and certainty that the old feudal order had at least provided, and so there arose a reaction to capitalism through the 19th century. The 20th century saw that reaction reach its climax and then collapse, first with fascism, then with socialism, and now, hopefully, with the slow retreat of the swollen welfare state.

    You're entirely correct, in other words, to point out that the left is hardly innovative in any meaningful sense -- the problem is just the opposite, that its fondness for the state, for the collective over the individual, or for racialized, group-identity politics is reactionary and atavistic, wanting to take us back to a time in which everybody had their place and was required to keep to their place. See this for a fuller elaboration.

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  4. green being the new red

    Nearly worthy of Limbaughzo. Is someone paying you, m? Oil or coal lobbyists, automotive, tobacco, booze, casinos??. You fancy yourself as engaging in "ethics" once in a while--perhaps you should, to be ethical, therefore disclose any financial contributions, like stipends from Exxon or BP, etc. As should your pals at Reason (Im quite sure they're being paid by tobacco, casino, booze shekels--and probably PornCo as well)

    """If the only Green answer to ecological concerns is yet more government control of private economic activity, many Americans will turn away."""

    Many might. That doesn't mean they know anything about the issues. By the way, the EPA was a Nixon deal--a point some of the anti-environmentalist rightists forget. Not perfect. Either way I doubt people in the rust belt would want to return to pre-EPA industrial pollution.

  5. Is someone paying you, m?

    Would that they were.

    But you make a good exemplar of the modern-day lefty, J -- spooked by Mormons, Baptists, and WASPs, credulous of every Big Gov initiative to come along, and unable even to imagine the possibility of a non-lefty opinion that wasn't paid for by sinful "interests".

  6. That's called opposing theocracy. As did those "lefties" Jefferson and Madison, et al (besides you're the atheist. My views on religion are closer to skepticism of traditional monotheism. Not the same as the A-word). I'm not always down with Big Govt. either--as with say the bloated DoD.

    Any semi-rational human should at least question the DoD budget--why, even yr occasional guru Miss Rand did at times (this Nam thing, Henry, dar-leenk--it's costing us an arm and a leg.)

  7. Digression: where are the movie reviews?

  8. Hey we don't have movie reviews, we have movies. See this and this and this and.... Okay, they're videos.

    Confession: haven't been able to work in much cultcha to this point but may get around to it. In the meantime, here are some movie reviews, and here's more. (The Social Network's looking pretty solid, huh?)

  9. Hey, right back atcha’.

    Middling movie reviews I can find all day long. For example:

    I was just looking for the Morf's.

    After all it's part, however small, of fractal change and the The emergent individual: a neo-progressive narrative.

  10. p.s. Illiterate that I am, how does a guy hyperlink to something in these comments?

  11. You have to put some html around the link text -- like this:
    <a href="some URL">link text</a>
    you can use the Preview to see if it works or not.

  12. Didn't they make a flick about Ayn Rand a few seasons back? Or was it movie of the week. Prime morf-material

  13. Admit it, J, you're fascinated by Rand, aren't you? Obsessed, even?

  14. In the sense that one might be fascinated about the Manson girls, perhaps, or any psychopath.

    Miss Rand sort of symbolizes sleazy, greedy capitalism of the American sort--tho' admittedly AR outdid the likes of Sarah Palin or an e-Meg by a few IQ points (I wager e-Meg has some Ayn-books in her study .. )


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