July 08, 2004

Materialism

George Will experiences a paroxysm of projection as he accuses liberals of materialism for suggesting that people should look to their economic interests. What would you prefer we do, George? Offer them pie in the sky when they die... no wait, conservatives beat us to that shtick. This bit was beautiful, and by beautiful, I mean something so boneheaded that I can't believe it was meant in earnest (emphasis mine):

...The economic problem, as understood during two centuries of industrialization, has been solved. We can reliably produce economic growth and have moderated business cycles. Hence many people, emancipated from material concerns, can pour political passions into other -- some would say higher -- concerns. These include the condition of the culture, as measured by such indexes as the content of popular culture, the agendas of public education and the prevalence of abortion. ...

"Emancipated from material concerns." Yep, I did just read that. This is Will's perception of the average conservative voter? There are barely enough people in this country who've been emancipated from material concerns to populate a small state, and there sure aren't nearly 50 million of them.

Will suggests in this silly piece of work that politics has never been about a ruthless calculation of economic interests. But he's wrong, as is his characterization in the article about Thomas Frank's new book, What's The Matter With Kansas. Salon reviewed it here, and included an interview with the author where he discussed people voting their pocketbooks:

...David Brooks says affluent suburbs everywhere voted for Al Gore, and it's just not the case. There are affluent areas that voted for Gore -- we all know that's true. But not all, and probably not even half, although I don't know how you would measure that. Even the examples that he gives are wrong, like the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. The really affluent suburbs went for Bush, voted Republican, like they always do.

And then there's the grain of truth: There is a dramatic reversal that we need to talk about. If you compare it to the electoral map of 1896, when you had a genuine liberal Democrat, William Jennings Bryan, against somebody who openly was the voice of industry and the voice of the capitalist class, William McKinley, the picture was reversed. The heartland, the Midwestern states, went for Bryan en masse, and so did the South. Today these self-same places have switched sides. ...

So, yeah George, no one ever votes their pocketbook. Just like I'm sure these people didn't:

...Enron was the peerless darling of the all those who believed that free markets were the acme of existence. Its wreckage is as good a place as any to sit down and take stock of the deregulated, privatized state into which we've been so rudely hustled over the last decade. And here is what it looks like: Top management walking off with hundreds of millions of dollars while employees lose their jobs, investors lose millions and customers get to look forward to more rolling blackouts. Profiteering. Bought politicians. Stock market bubbles that inevitably burst. Workers thrown out on the streets. Left to its own devices, this is what the free market does. ...

Because it's just so darn spiritual and elevating to be above the petty concerns of massive fraud, people falling into poverty, distrust of the stock market, rising unemployment, and wealthy people robbing whole state economies blind. I'm sure this guy would have something to say about that:

34: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37: Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38: When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39: Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Bloody materialists, judging people on the silly basis of economic justice.

Posted by natasha at July 8, 2004 07:50 PM | Media | Technorati links |
Comments

There is plenty of materialism to go around. In Will's defense, struggling to buy an SUV is not exactly the same as starving in the Depression. Europeans seem to have freed themselves pretty well, with health care and six week vacations etc. Americans will get there too, if we don't turn this country into Brazil with our open border.

Posted by: John Doe at July 10, 2004 04:44 AM