Free Markets, Besieged Citizens | Robert Kuttner | The New York Review of Books

Corporations, though creations of the democratic state, are said by neoliberal theorists to have no reciprocal responsibility to communities or employees, only to shareholders. Public education is not a public good but another marketplace with mechanisms such as vouchers, which give families money toward tuition at the school of their choice. In health care, cost disciplines are deemed to operate best with the use of market incentives and for-profit vendors. Retirement income is better served by private accounts rather than by public social security. Environmental goals are to be achieved with marketlike measures, such as auctioning the right to pollute, not “command and control” regulation. Taxation rates should be low and consistent across all income levels, rather than redistributive. Antitrust enforcement is gratuitous and even perverse, because markets police themselves through supply and demand. Government’s role should be largely reduced to maintaining physical security and protecting markets from state interference—the “night-watchman state.”

“As economic policy, neoliberalism largely failed to improve economic performance. Growth rates were far higher between the 1940s and early 1970s, when the economy was governed by principles of managed capitalism. However, neoliberal policies did drastically increase income inequality, with virtually all economic growth benefiting the top few percent, while earnings and job security for most people stagnated or declined.

With concentrated wealth came concentrated political power to promote even more neoliberalism, as countervailing institutions such as labor unions were weakened and direct public programs like Medicare were partly privatized.

Notwithstanding the ubiquity of computers during the neoliberal era, productivity growth has been no better than it was in the postwar period. Health insurance became more costly and less reliable as both insurance companies and hospitals were increasingly transformed into for-profit institutions, avoiding unprofitable patients. Retirement security was weakened, as guaranteed pensions were shed by corporations in favor of marketized 401(k) accounts that shifted all the risk and most of the cost to workers. The deregulation of financial markets led to innovations, but they mainly served speculation by insiders and resulted in the financial collapse of 2008.”
— Read on www.nybooks.com/articles/2022/07/21/free-markets-besieged-citizens-gerstle-kuttner/

Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries?

In a seminal 2001 paper, the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote tried to answer this very question: Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries, progressively taxing those with the most wealth to redistribute resources to those with the least? Economic differences, they concluded, don’t explain it. But they did find that “racial fragmentation” has played a “major role” in keeping us from these policies in a way it hasn’t elsewhere. They also find that while Europeans see the poor as members of their own group who are merely unfortunate, Americans see them as lazy “others.” American voters are less likely to demand that their leaders pass policies that help the least well off. “Racial animosity in the U.S. makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately Black, unappealing to many voters,” they conclude.

Paul Matzko

…an evangelical historian named Mark Noll…critique was was this simultaneous… That evangelical circles in America tend to have this simultaneous fascination with and yearning for intellectual respectability, but then also revulsion and distaste towards it. They both desire it and fear it, and you kinda get that in here. Their idea of what those people out there, those dangerous secularists and Congress people and whatnot, that to them, all that matters is intellectual respectability, chairs of this and smart people that arguments from authority. But they think that… Again, this is all generated in the evangelical imagination. They think that because at their core, they worry that they don’t have that thing. They don’t have that respectability so…

…that sense of there’s this vaguely defined sinister other that’s oppressing us, the persecution complex. Is that… Yeah, it doesn’t really matter. All these different government entities are all part of this inchoate, ill‐defined oppressive mass that are coming down on Christians. And so there is this vague sense… They didn’t even have to bother tying things together. It’s just the Family Court judge, the state level bureaucrat from child protective services, the congressional… The congressional hearing is… It’s all just kinda one big mass out to get us. So it kind of feeds into that persecution complex.

Paul Matzko and Aaron Powell help us parse out fact, fiction, fear, and faith in the God’s Not Dead film series.

Aaron Powell:

Much of American conservatism is essentially a victimhood or a persecution movement. It is… I think there’s a kind of person… It’s a personality trait that is, you’re really averse to change and you’re really comfortable in the familiar, and any change is disorienting or scary to you. But the way that that gets spun out in the political arena is change is seen not as just societies change, tastes change, preferences, beliefs and all that, but that it’s a taking, that if things change from what you were used to, it was because someone was trying to take that away from you. You’re a victim of a concerted effort to destroy the familiar. And that motivates a lot of conservative politics.

…in Congress, there is one person who, both in the House and the Senate, one person who identifies as religiously unaffiliated, not atheist, and 88% of Congress is Christian. So about 20 points higher than in the general population. Our government is drenched in Christian imagery, God Bless America is said at the end of every single speech…

But there’s this authoritarian undertone that comes out of this [movie], which is, if the government is corrupt and has been taken over by these progressives, who by definition, because they are atheists, cannot be moral…and we as this persecuted minority Christian community are the only people with access to absolute truth, then we can assert ourselves and should assert ourselves through the state. If we can take it over through… Whatever it takes, because it’s us against an evil world. And that is just a recipe for, in this case, a nationalist, because it’s also clear the only good foreigners in these movies are the ones who give up their foreign‐ness, who give up their culture, who give up their religion, who become obsessive about the American founding and so on. And so it’s this nationalist authoritarian world view that is also… Can’t be reconciled in a liberal way. You can’t have a pluralism with it because, unless you accept these fundamental metaphysical beliefs, you can’t be a good person.

The people who opposed gay marriage and gay relationships didn’t say, “I think we should make this illegal, or we shouldn’t give this this legal stamp of approval because gay marriages are yucky. I find them yucky.” They couldn’t say that. They couldn’t do the emotivist thing. And so instead, they started digging up all this “evidence” about the effects of gay… Same‐sex parents on children and all this other… They turned it looking for evidence to support the underlying this is yucky claim. We get the same thing now with transgender stuff. The people I who oppose a rise of transgender rights are like, “Oh, it’s dangerous for children,” or, “They’re in the bathrooms” or all that, and that evidence doesn’t hold up at all. In fact, it turns out most of the violence is directed at transgender people by non‐transgender people…

Paul Matzko and Aaron Powell help us parse out fact, fiction, fear, and faith in the God’s Not Dead film series.