September 2, 2012


Liberal Values in the Age of Interdependence (Benjamin Barber, Spring/Summer, 2012, Logos Journal)

In taking up issues facing liberalism today, we need not focus on liberal values, because they haven't changed. They are still defined by equality, social and economic justice, democracy and democratic participation and engaged citizenship, which has been true since the inception of liberal democracy in the age of democratic revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries. And as the name suggests, as liberals we continue to cherish liberty; we know however that sustaining liberty require citizenship, equal access to political power and a democratic political community - call it public liberty.

Nor need we divert ourselves with nomenclature. In speaking of liberals, I mean progressives, leftists, small-d democrats, those willing to advocate change on behalf of improving the world and who work on behalf of equality, justice and democracy. It saddens me that so many liberals are reluctant to be called liberal when the term should be a banner for effective political struggle and a fighting liberal creed.

We do need to address our altered realities, however. For liberals seem to have taken too little account of changes in capitalism, technology and the global order that impact how liberal values must be framed to be relevant to today's political struggles. Where capitalism and its political allies acknowledge automation, globalization and the new information economy (if only in order to exploit to further their political and economic interests), liberalism has remained stationery, failing to take the measure of such changes. As a consequence, a politically costly asymmetry has emerged between conservative political thinking and liberal political thinking. Liberals too often act as if we still live and organize and vote in a 19th century society of manufacturing jobs, bi-polar class struggle and independent and sovereign nation states; and in a political arena where the goal is to maintain the power of national syndicalism and enlarge the social-state and improve the conditions of our American working class without thinking about the consequence for workers elsewhere in the world.

Capitalism, and particularly the predatory elements that support a brute version of unregulated capitalism, have taken the measure of change and developed an approach to privatization, markets and the flow of labor and capital that take advantage of new conditions and thus privilege neo-liberal ideology, however unjust, as relevant and effective. The liberal reaction to globalization has been parochial, to oppose or overcome it. The neo-liberal and conservative reaction has been cosmopolitan, to embrace it.

And what was the result of liberal conservatism routing the progressives? Well, in addition to liberating the Communist world and the Middle East, Dire Poverty Falls Despite Global Slump, Report Finds (ANNIE LOWREY, March 6, 2012, CS Monitor)

A World Bank report shows a broad reduction in extreme poverty -- and indicates that the global recession, contrary to economists' expectations, did not increase poverty in the developing world.

The report shows that for the first time the proportion of people living in extreme poverty -- on less than $1.25 a day -- fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008. And the biggest recession since the Great Depression seems not to have thrown that trend off course, preliminary data from 2010 indicate.

The progress is so drastic that the world has met the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half five years before its 2015 deadline.

And what does the future hold if the triumph of conservative values endures?:  Global poverty to be virtually wiped out by 2030, claims top U.S. think tank (DAILY MAIL, 29 July 2012)
Poverty across the planet will be virtually eliminated by 2030, with a rising middle class of some two billion people pushing for more rights and demanding more resources, the chief of the top U.S. intelligence analysis shop said on Saturday.

If current trends continue, the 1 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day now will drop to half that number in roughly two decades, Christoper Kojm said.

'We see the rise of the global middle class going from one to two billion,' Kojm said, in a preview of the National Intelligence Council's global forecast offered at the Aspen Security Forum in 
Colorado. [...]

The rising middle class will have little tolerance of authoritarian regimes, combined with the economic resources and education needed to challenge them.

That Mr. Barber is right is a damning refutation of him and his ilk.

Posted by at September 2, 2012 8:03 AM

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