“Liberalism doesn’t carry the critique of capitalism that progressivism does”

I’ve been fascinated lately with the meaning of the terms “liberal” and “progressive.” It’s clear that what we now call “liberalism” is really a variant, a side branch of the real thing, and should be more properly named “FDR liberalism” or “social liberalism.” Today’s “liberalism” — FDR-liberalism — is an offshoot of pre-FDR liberalism that diverges from its original meaning in a rather important way, by including a role for government. Prior to FDR, “liberalism” just meant basic free-market capitalism.

That’s why so-called modern (Clintonian) “neoliberals” are so different from FDR liberals, and why they’re so similar to Milton Friedman free-market conservatives. “Classic liberalism” — the pre-FDR version — is best defined below (my paragraphing):

Classical liberalism is a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets.[1]

Classical liberalism developed in the nineteenth century in Western Europe, and the Americas. Although classical liberalism built on ideas that had already developed by the end of the eighteenth century, it advocated a specific kind of society, government and public policy required as a result of the Industrial Revolution and urbanization.[2]

Notable individuals who have contributed to classical liberalism include Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo.[3] It drew on the economics of Adam Smith, a psychological understanding of individual liberty, natural law and utilitarianism, and a belief in progress.

Classical liberals established political parties that were called “liberal”, although in the United States classical liberalism came to dominate both existing major political parties.[1] There was a revival of interest in classical liberalism in the twentieth century led by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.[4]

Note the following:

First, the united concepts of “limited government” and “liberty of individuals.” This is the essence of classic liberalism, pre-FDR. Get government off your person; get government out of markets. It’s two parts of one 18th century idea — and I would argue two parts that are in total contradiction to each other, held together only by the arrogance of late-stage (18th century) Calvinism, but that’s for later. (Hint: Read Erich Fromm’s classic Escape from Freedom to see why.)

Second, that those twin concepts are the essence of modern “libertarianism” as well. The labels are similar for a reason.

Third, “classic liberalism” was born in the 18th century with writings by Adam Smith and others, and developed fully in the 19th century, the time of the conversion of farmers, sheep herders and users of “the commons” into property-less, poverty-wage, factory slaves during the first great era of predatory capitalism (ours being the second). Classic liberalism supported those policies and changes.

Fourth, did you see at the end of the quote, the inclusion of the “classic liberal” Hayek and Milton Friedman as brothers-in-thought? They are. When Democrats in the 1930s diverged from “classic liberalism” by admitting a central role for government after all, instead of a limited role — and when this modified “social liberalism” became simply “liberalism” in common parlance — Hayek free-marketeers needed a different name, and post-war Milton Friedman gave them one — “free-market conservatives.”

Fifth, the “neoliberalism” of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and others (including Hosni Mubarak, by the way) is only “neo” relative to FDR-liberalism. It’s actually a return to pre-FDR liberalism — free markets for all (who can afford to dominate them), and lose those government regulations, please. As the writer says, “in the United States classical liberalism came to dominate both existing major political parties” — but under different labels.

Finally, as many have noted, FDR didn’t have a critique of capitalism. His “liberalism” was a compromise that averted a potential revolution, and preserved capitalism by adding a regulatory regime. (He also added a tax regime aimed at reducing extreme wealth, something modern neoliberals and Friedman free-marketeers alike are dismantling.)

With this in mind, listen to this short excerpt from a recent Virtually Speaking podcast. The historian Kevin C. Murphy discusses his view of the differences between what modern “progressives” believe and what most modern “liberals” believe. The first voice is Murphy; the second is the host, Stuart Zechman. (The full interview is here, and it’s fascinating. Both Murphy and Zechman are good.)

Murphy:

“Liberalism doesn’t carry in its DNA the critique of capitalism that progressivism does.”

And at the close of the clip, Murphy again:

[Near the end of the New Deal era] People who have views about how to change the relationship between government and the economy come to the Keynesian consensus, where instead of trying to change how the pie is divided, they … want to grow the pie.

Which explains why the tax part of the FDR program was the first to be attacked and scuttled.

Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

Zechman disagrees with the first statement above, and they come to a meaning for “liberalism” that satisfies both. But for me, Murphy hits the nail on the head. Liberalism, as vague as the term now is, implies a modified capitalism that reigns in its excesses while accepting its premises.

That’s a compromise, one that some say just doesn’t work. In my view, it’s OK to prefer the compromise; that’s not the issue here. It’s important, however, to recognize that compromise, at least regarding “liberalism” as most people understand it.

Murphy knows his stuff, by the way. He’s the author of a terrific book: Uphill All the Way: The Fortunes of Progressivism 1919-1929. Click and read; it’s nicely chunked out at the link. You can easily hop around as you like.

Side note — Murphy mentions in passing Obama’s recent “income inequality” speech. My thoughts here.

(Updated slightly for clarity.)

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • http://cheapcarinsuranceinohio.us/ cheap car insurance in ohio

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
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  • barada

    OK, GP, I guess I’m a Progressive, and that’s that.

  • RWG

    Arguably, the Secretary of State of Delaware could be one of most powerful persons in the country, with the ability to deny or dissolve corporate charters for many of the largest companies in the world. The power should be exercised occasionally, just to remind the corporations that they are not inherently immortal and can be dissolved when the good of the people requires it. I’m all for a Constitutional Amendment restricting the rights of corporations to something far, far less than that of living human beings and citizens.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    For you to keep your head. We could end up in the same tumbril.

  • pappyvet

    Let me throw out an analogy that I’ve used before and see what you think Jay.

    The Liberals and Conservative are like the Tigers and Yankees before the big game. If you put a camera on a Yankee he will tell you that the Tigers are crazy because the Yankees have the big bats and the coaching. Put the camera on a Tiger and he will say the Yankees cant win because the Tigers have the pitching and gameplan. But , get them both in the backroom where the money is discussed and they are best friends.
    I wonder if too much time is spent on labels.

  • QAdams

    Another good article, Gaius, and I especially want to thank you for bringing up Erich Fromm. His writings are indeed classic, and should be required reading for anyone trying to develop an effective critique of capitalism.

  • Nathanael

    Yeah, because Hitler only maintained soft power within Germany (autobahns! subways! patriotic speeches!), while attacking everyone else simultaneously. That doesn’t work either.

  • Nathanael

    Well, what can I say? I don’t want my head lopped off by the angry populace any more than Earl Grey did. That doesn’t seem very special to me. I got lucky and I have money. This is due to luck. With liberalism, I may have to give up money — whereas if the people get angry, I may have to give up my head. Which would you prefer?

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Well, I can’t take credit for it, I’m only an occasional contributor and supporter, and don’t own it. I only put it as “my” web site because I occasionally scribble things down that people are presumed to read, and have become pretty well acquainted with the people who hang out there.

    It came to be when a few people met on the old “AfterElton” site, which later became “The Backlot”. We missed the former emphasis that AfterElton had, and wanted to support a newer idea for a site. Plus there was a social component that went away when the AE to TBL changeover took place. The first article was a mini-debate that the site owner (Dennis) and I had about the term “post gay”, what it means, and if we’re there yet. That was the outgrowth of a bit of debate that Dennis and I had on AfterElton in the comments section of an article posted there.

    But I’m glad you visited it and liked it! It’s got a different emphasis than a lot of gay-oriented sites, and there are some cool people that hang there. We try to be kind and respectful, so far we haven’t had a troll problem (knock on wood).

    But that reminds me, I gotta get some writing done instead of smarting off here all the time :) Oh, and sorry for the off-topic diversion.

  • JayAckroyd

    In some ways this interview is the fruition of a years long conversation I’ve been having with Stuart about the use of labels and the meaning of words like “moderate” “centrist” and “progressive.”

    I summarized some of what I learned from this long conversation with Stuart here:

    http://www.eschatonblog.com/2011/10/centrists.html

    I dislike the “neo-liberal” label.Kevin’s work has helped lead me to the conclusion that “progressive” is a fair characterization for the anti-populist, anti-democracy technocrats that have been running the democratic party for the last couple of decades. I like Stuart’s movement liberal label, understandingGaius’ historical objection.

    But I DO believe liberals are capitalists,that they are grounded in Smith,and see the government’s role as adversarial, in opposition to those would undermine the invisible hand through the use of monopoly and monopsony.

  • pappyvet

    visited your website, very cool !

  • http://poodyheads.wordpress.com/ zorbear

    Ab-so-lute-ly!

  • Bill_Perdue

    I don’t agree. Workers in collision with bosses are a global phenomenon, as are workers parties and unions.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I would also add an amendment putting term limits on the Supreme Court of ten years and instituting that at least two of the judges be selected by national election, plus mandatory retirement at age 80.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “Even Hitler was very adept at building and maintaining soft power.” The 1000 year Reich only lasted a few decades.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “As one of the elite in some ways, I am firmly in favor of liberalism.” Isn’t that special.

  • http://poodyheads.wordpress.com/ zorbear

    And he wrote that in the mid-50s when being “liberal” was starting to be equated with being “communist”…

  • nicho

    Yes, we need to go back to what corporations originally were. They need to be for a limited life. They need to be for a specific purpose — no corporations, for example, should be able to own other corporations, nor engage in any business other than their original purpose. And that purpose needs to be for the public good. They need to be periodically reviewed to ensure that they are still meeting the public good.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Clinton and Obama are total liberals and that’s what will doom the Democrat party.

  • Nathanael

    The correct way to do it actually has to be a lot harsher. You have to strip the presumption that a corporation or business entity has the right to exist — every company should be required to prove that it serves the public good, and if one judge rules that it doesn’t, it should be stripped of the powers which the government gives it by charter (limited liability, etc.)

  • Nathanael

    I can’t even count Clinton and Obama as liberals. Their approach would have been rejected by the British Whigs of the 19th Century (the original “Liberal Party”) as unsound.

  • Nathanael

    The funny thing is that this attempt at global violent domination will fail quite dramatically. The tighter you clutch your fist, Tarkin,….

    “Soft power” is the only form of real power and they are burning their soft power. Even Hitler was very adept at building and maintaining soft power.

  • Nathanael

    Here’s a fairly out-there take. Ignore the economics for a moment.

    “Liberalism”, politically, is the opposite of “authoritarianism”. It was developed in response to the French Revolution, basically. Liberalism is a philosophy *for* the elite, under which the elite *keep the people happy*, respond to their needs and wants, etc., so that the elite can maintain (most of) their position.

    Authoritarianism, by contrast, attempts to simply beat and torture the proles. This *does not work* in the long run.

    As one of the elite in some ways, I am firmly in favor of liberalism. The alternative is bloody revolution, which sucks bigtime for the elite. Unfortunately, we have had authoritarians in power for *decades*, with the inevitable deleterious effects.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.” Answer: American neo-liberal fascist Capitalism.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Excellent and perceptive Bill, but a new Marxist paradigm must be formed (I mentioned the Mondragon Group above). Workers, workers parties, and antiquated concepts of workers unions have been co-opted by predatory capitalism and shipped over to slave states like China. I’ve been a union worker for over thirty years and have nothing but contempt for the hot air of suits and broken promises.

  • arcadesproject

    I’ve always associated ‘liberalism’ with civil liberties and the idea that the rule of law is the foundation of civil society. I thought of myself as a liberal and was proud to say so. But I’m also a progressive, which means that, in my view, people have economic rights as well as civil rights. So I’m a progressive liberal, I guess, or a liberal progressive. Which is to say, the dirtiest of dirty fucking hippies. And proud to own it.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not
    behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone
    who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing,
    their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil
    liberties – someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and
    suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad; if that is what they
    mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
    - John F. Kennedy

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “Liberalism, as vague as the term now is, implies a modified capitalism that reigns in its excesses while accepting its premises.” A perfect example might be the Mondragon Group, whose collective ownership by workers and management has been very successful in the past.

  • Bill_Perdue

    It not just surveillance, although that’sa big part of it.

    It also includes the militarization of the police, the creation of the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), a Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. military tasked with providing military support for civil authorities in the U.S., and protecting the territory and national interests of the United States within the contiguous United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico (and the air, land and sea approaches to these areas) (Wiki) nd of Obama’s declaration that he can kill American citizens at will.

    The world according to the Pentagon:

  • Ford Prefect

    I wouldn’t say they’re “doing nothing.” They’re in bed with the wingnuts, except marginally on abortion. They’re actively a part of the problem, not mere bystanders. In exhorting the House Dem Caucus to vote for the Murray-Ryan “budget deal,” Nancy Pelosi told them to “embrace the suck.” Nice choice of words, that.

    So another two million people will be thrown under the bus and denied UE benefits. Federal workers will get a pay cut. DOD gets a big raise. A huge chunk of the Gulf of Mexico will be opened up for more drilling. I’m sure there’s lots of other goodies in there as well. How will people see all this going forward? I’m guessing they won’t like it one bit. Not out of ideological concerns, so much as an economy they see slowly crumbling into banana republic territory.

    Tone-deaf is almost inadequate as a descriptor now. Dems voted to cut SNAP. Now they’re cutting UE. The WH didn’t threaten a veto over any of it. So it’s fair to say they know what they want as well. The only difference is they have an audience that requires a great deal more bamboozling to sell it.

  • pappyvet

    The truth is even worse than that Ford , they’ve been listening for years but doing nothing. Meanwhile , the wingnuts know exactly what they want to do.

  • Indigo

    Oh, right. I was thinking Clockwork Orange-style. Mum’s the word. ;-)

  • Ford Prefect

    Yes, of course! The worst of it is we’re “getting it” from BOTH parties!

    But maybe that’s a good thing over the longer term. Let them both go the way of the Whigs. Elsewhere, things are happening. Seattleites just dumped a long-term Dem and replaced him with a socialist. In OH, a city council was just taken over by a Labor Council contingent, dumping almost all the Dems in the process. Why? Because the Dems weren’t listening to labor’s constituencies.

  • Ford Prefect

    Thanks. Methinks a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster is in order, being Friday.

    More seriously, I don’t think “ideological rigidity” is an actual problem. The original progs were pragmatic people and current ones are too, for the most part. Where stubbornness comes in is when policies are being made that are demonstrably Wrong. TPP will be a disaster in terms of inequality (and all that goes with it), yet certain faux-gressives are predictably touting it in defense of the White House. (See: Krugman, Paul)

    We reached the point some time ago where the obvious Wrongness of certain things is so readily apparent, rigidity in rejecting those policies is perfectly pragmatic, if that makes sense. If Progressives are serious about their “brand,” they shouldn’t let poseurs tarnish it with a bunch of Orwellian gobbledy gook. We can at least demand policies and politics that rise to the level of “good enough.” But at this point, that’s not really happening very much. This of course, is why I appreciate GP’s posts on such matters.

  • pappyvet

    But ideologically rigid and territorial about our beliefs is where we are. Many poor citizens would readily vote for measures that would cut their own throats because not to do so would be seen as tantamount to treason. Progressives did think long and hard about unchecked corporate power and many want it both ways. The problem is that tightrope is fiction.” We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” I believe that when Justice Louis D. Brandeis said that he was stating a truism.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    No, they call it a “Protective Security System.” Surveillance is a dirty word, it implies that you’re watching people. Which is of course, what they’re doing. But Ssshhh! We don’t want to let the cat out of the bag.

  • pappyvet

    “So much is lumped into the right or left stations that it seems impossible for some to separate lest they be seen as being on the “other side.” This force field of party membership I believe makes it very difficult for a particular item to be dealt with solely on it’s own.”

    “By making everything about base tribalism instead of a discussion of issues, the details are lost in the fog of partisan poo flinging.”
    Same , same my friend. And if you and I were to become too noticed , if say a viable number of people were to agree no matter what our cause, the Milo Blooms of the world would label it , stamp it and gnaw upon it. Why? Simply because it did not come from their tribe. It is difficult to get someone to cross over and support a good days wage for a good days work if they believe you are of Satan and want to take their guns away.

  • http://ghostinthemachine.net/ Kevin Murphy

    Thanks, Pappy, I don’t really know where the future is going to take us — history is better at being descriptive than prescriptive. But, as the saying goes, if you don’t know *where* you want to go, any road can get you there.

    The reason I think articulating what these different strands of lefty thinking really mean, and how they differ, is so that we have a better road map in our political debates. Progressives thought long and hard about why unchecked corporate power is bad for the country, and I really think we’d be better off in our current debates on these issues if we could more readily plug into that philosophy once again.

    Not to say that we should all become ideologically rigid and territorial about our beliefs. But I do think we would be more persuasive more often if we could both ground our arguments in first principles and weave them into a coherent story be it progressivism or liberalism, something the right is much better at these days than we are.

    Ford, I sass you, hoopy. You seem to be a frood who really knows where his towel is.

  • cole3244

    those that call themselves progressives are cowards and have sighed on to the notion that being liberal is bad in america when the truth is just the opposite.

    we are in the shape we are in now because there are few liberals in wash and the progressives are traitors to the liberal movement and work in concert with the cons in dismantling the american safety net and the american dream.

    the true left were the best thing that happened to the 99% and the faux dems have deserted that agenda in favor of a right of center politics that is destroying the middle class and turning america into a third world society.

  • Indigo

    “a newly completed police state apparatus.” The entire surveillance satellite system is not fully in place but yes, that’s what’s happening. I expect the authorities will prefer to call it a “comprehensive surveillance system.” “Police state apparatus” isn’t in the glossary they’re using.

  • http://ghostinthemachine.net/ Kevin Murphy

    I definitely agree that corporatism and corporate power are the real problems. The point I was trying to get at is that, at its heart, progressivism, whatever its other faults as a guiding philosophy, is better at responding to the vicissitudes of corporatism than contemporary liberalism is — after all, progressivism began as a response to the power of corporations and trusts in the Gilded Age.

    I wrote this a long time ago (2000), so it may be a bit dated now, but it talks about the difference in how progressives and liberals conceptualize corporate power. It makes more sense if you read the whole thing, but in a nutshell: “While liberalism as a philosophy is value-neutral with respect to corporate power (they serve the needs of consumer-Americans), progressives want to know how this corporate power adversely affects citizenship.” http://www.smallrrepublic.com/index.html#corporate

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Bingo.

    In truth, if there is a single Constitutional Amendment I would pass if given the power to do so, right here and now, and which I feel 100% would be totally positive in its effects, it would be to strip the presumption of personhood from any corporation, partnership, or business concern.

  • Indigo

    Similar reasoning led to adopting the word “queer” rather than “gay” now that “gay” seems to work smoothly as an economic statement embellished with a sexual orientation. There’s a certain validity to that but it is confusing, whether liberal/progressive or gay/queer. I’ve long said I must be queer because I can’t afford the media verson of the gay way of living fabulously.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Elections are rigged in the US, which is no more than a very large and formerly very prosperous banana republic with a newly completed police state apparatus.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    In today’s politics it’s easier if you just shift the meaning of things around, liberal = conservative, progressive = ashamed to be called liberal due to neoliberals coopting the term, libertarian = fascist, conservative = crazy. Or, if you’re a Republican, liberal = Hitler. Progressive = Hitler. Democrat = Hitler. Conservative = all the white people who think just like me, until they don’t think like me, then they’re nasty liberals, or Marxists, or socialists. (See John Cornyn’s senate primary challenger.)

    All the definitions of our political labels have been dragged to the right, like our parties and entire discourse has. The definitions have been so muddied that most have no meaning whatsoever anymore. A perfect example is the word socialist. Republicans have often taken it to mean Stalin-era Soviet Communism (I mean, the second S in USSR is socialist, amiright!?!?), and the only guy we have in our politics who actively calls himself a socialist votes in lock step with the neoliberal corporatist policies of the Democrats over 90% of the time. The end result: the word means absolutely nothing anymore. It’s lobbed around like body parts you don’t want to see jiggling at a nudist colony.

    As much as we want to debate over the reasons for this intentional muddying of our political discourse, it is always going to come back around to corporate money, which is destroying the very fabric of anything resembling democracy.

  • Monoceros Forth

    I have to admit: despite knowing that “progressive” is a political term with its own history, a tradition redolent of the days of Bob La Follette and Hiram Johnson and “the Little Flower”, I’ve never liked how it got adopted as a kind of shamefaced synonym for “liberal” in recent years. I remember where I first encountered the idea of reclaiming the label “progressive”: it was in a book called Why They Call It Politics by a fellow named Robert Sherrill, a book I read back in high school in maybe 1991. It was Sherrill’s contention that George Bush Sr. had been too successful at using “liberal” as a slur back in 1988 so maybe it was time to switch to a different label.

  • Bill_Perdue

    From the point of view of socialists any level of conditional support for capitalist governments and capitalist parties like the the Democrats (and Republicans) is just as wrong headed and, in the real world, as right wing as full support.

    Large numbers of people who continue to accept the politically disastrous idea that they can ‘reform’ the Democrats (or Republicans). They can’t. They don’t have the money to match the rich and they don’t have the votes. Every election about half of eligible voters refuse to vote or register and large numbers of registered voters stay home. The vote count in the last election showed that around 40% of those eligible to vote sat it out and didn’t vote. That’s that’s a clear repudiation of the lesser evil ‘theory’. That trend has been increasing because of the vast radicalization caused by Clinton’s Depression.

    “A report estimating the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in Tuesday’s election shows the rate was lower than in the past two presidential contests, though it surpassed the rate from 2000.

    Thursday’s report, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004.” http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/national/election-results-2012-voter-turnout-lower-than-2008-and-2004-report-says

    The real dichotomy on the left is not between liberals, who under Carter, the Clintons and Obama have moved far to the right. It’s between liberals and socialists, even though that’s barely clear looking at vote tallies. As a strategy the idea of remaining in either of the two capitalist parties – Democrat or Republican – is a dead end. Everyone serious about change will bolt those parties and create left alternatives and everyone serious about fundamental change will turn towards the only real alternative to rule by the rich, which is rule by workers operating in workers parties and in a workers state.

  • Indigo

    The times, they are a-changing . . . and our vocabulary is changing with them.

  • UncleBucky

    I have always been, I am and I always will be a PROGRESSIVE.

  • Ford Prefect

    Tis a feature, not a bug:

    So much is lumped into the right or left stations that it seems impossible for some to separate lest they be seen as being on the “other side.” This force field of party membership I believe makes it very difficult for a particular item to be dealt with solely on it’s own.

    By making everything about base tribalism instead of a discussion of issues, the details are lost in the fog of partisan poo flinging. This makes it impossible for the audience to think rationally about any of it, since there’s really no room to critique the institutional partners. On the pseudo-left side, MSNBC’s job is to muddy up the waters and make sure the Democrats’ bad behaviors are simply blamed on the GOP. So the fact that only 32 Dems (compared with 64 GOPers) voted against the atrocious budget “deal” can be ignored, lest people understand the intentions of their own party.

    FOX does the same thing, but in a different way.

  • pappyvet

    Thank you Kevin . I understand the need for labels in order to get a handle on subject matter. What I will never understand is our inability to gauge topic by topic whether it is right for humanity or wrong. So much is lumped into the right or left stations that it seems impossible for some to separate lest they be seen as being on the “other side.” This force field of party membership I believe makes it very difficult for a particular item to be dealt with solely on it’s own. So it moves , it slides. Lincoln had a hell of a time with what then was the Democratic party. Today those people would not find a comfortable chair on that side of the isle.
    I would be very interested to hear where you think all of this will lead to in the next century.

  • http://ghostinthemachine.net/ Kevin Murphy

    Thanks much for the shout-out. As I tried to convey in the interview, the argument I’m making here about the shift in liberalism in the latter stages of the New Deal is based on the work of Alan Brinkley. If you’re interested in this issue, I’d definitely pick up THE END OF REFORM: NEW DEAL LIBERALISM IN RECESSION AND WAR. (Full disclosure: He’s my dissertation advisor — I wanted to work with him after reading this book!) http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/reviews_in_american_history/summary/v023/23.4brock.html

  • nicho

    But it all misses the point that our problem is corporatism, in which fictitious “persons” have the same rights — actually more — as natural persons. Non-human entities now have control of our government, our means of communications, etc. Many of them consume vast amounts of resources, pay little or nothing in taxes — in fact some pay negative taxes — and they now control nearly every aspect of our lives.

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