The Fight Between Freedom and Equality


What Paul addresses this week is one of the oldest conundrums of American politics and political economy: the divide between working class whites and the wealthier white minority–and why this working class has always aligned itself with its wealthy antithesis, even as the performance of politicians set the interests of the two groups diametrically apart. A reliable staple of our politics, it has confounded everyone from early radical organizers of farm workers (by real socialists and communists like Big Bill Haywood in the 1920/30s!) to Southern Democrats, but it has provided aid and comfort to ensure identify politics (scaling from white supremacy to racism!) of one party would hold a voting majority.

The answer to why is disguised by its asymmetry: it pits government vs. freedom, and freedom against equality! Besides Reagan, return to Justice Taney in Dred Scott; he declares the government cannot create equality, to do so would give a group power not original and curtail the rights of others! In this view, equality/opportunity are code words for restricting freedom, not expanding it! Each expansion of rights is denounced as the reduction of others choices. New liberties are the abominable proliferation of government control.

In this view, the whole pie doesn’t grow (growth is singular, not organic!). Instead, as more pies are made, they are taken away (subtracted!) by unfair edicts of government and given to others. Life is always win-lose, never win-win.


Many think that democracy and capitalism stand for fair play and mutual benefits, but America’s political economy has many non-mutual deals with special interests dictating the terms of exchange.
Social actions were carried out (riots, house burnings, lynchings) and cultural ideas spread (myths of black inferiority/incompetency) to thwart equality. New forms of intimidation emerged. (The symbolical lynching of empty chairs in President Obama’s 2012 election run.)

Do these “differences” in voter attitudes, echoing the long journey of settlers from Europe with oppression and seeing new oppression in American regulation, belong in a capitalist society?

Chief Justice Taney outlines the asymmetrical unbalance of democracy, equality, and freedom in his decision (a majority opinion!) about the freedom of Dred Scott. He laid out the idea that equality clearly curtails freedom if applied to race. Hidden in the resonance of history, it expanded beyond race and drives American attitudes today.

Reagan popularized Taney’s theory! He added personal virtues (divided as good and bad) and social justice to the conservative social order that rejected government and investments in equality. He implored the power of balance sheets and freed hate to underpin social policy. Trump embraces both. He has found the right use of government, to finish the Reagan agenda: protecting freedom, curtailing equality–with wealth as its evidence of success! Workers draw upon its cult comfort. So do spree killers.

Empowering the Ugliness – The New York Times http://nyti.ms/1Y5hRpH

AarnDouglas

 

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