Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Rational State

Bruce Wilder makes some more great comments in the blog on Ferguson at Crooked Timber.

As several commenters have noted, racism has a history. Indeed, it does. Turning racism into a political taboo marks one of the great triumphs of political liberalism in its long fight for the dignity and autonomy of the individual and to transform the state into a rationally administered instrument for a shared, public good.
The series of historic triumphs for political liberalism over racial oppression marked out a series of historic defeats for reactionary and authoritarian conservatism if “conservatism” is the label we care to attach to whatever apology in whatever era has been offered for complacency and indifference, regarding conventional acceptance of cruelty and vicious, amoral selfishness.
It doesn’t seem to me that one can really argue effectively with cruelty and vicious, amoral selfishness; in democratic politics, we’re always arguing with complacency and indifference regarding moral conventions.
It’s a measure of that remarkable series of triumphs of liberal politics against racism that “racist” is a such a powerful pejorative in conventional moral terms.
I love the phrase, "transform the state into a rationally administered instrument for a shared, public good."

Make it so is what we must do, not, for the foreseeable future, imagine we can work positively toward eliminating the existence of states.

Even though the history of states is precisely the opposite, or a kind of Pareto opposite, primarily to maintain the private good of the most elite and powerful within the society, with some good trickling down to some others.  But many reforms, and especially the civil rights reforms of the 20th century, and social democratic reforms like the New Deal, have broadened the beneficiaries of state's existence somewhat.  That program, of broadening the public good, was basically working until it was dismantled in the 1970's by concerted effort of plutocrats and oligarchs.

Then Bruce takes a turn toward saying this should not be turned into partisan bumper stickers and t-shirts.  Well I agree in a limited sense.  But this brings up the area where, I believe, Bruce and I differ.

I believe in voting for Democrats not as our saviors, but as simply being the better choice.  So hold your nose and vote.  But then move on, and practice actual reform politics in other ways.  It's a pity the electoral system has not only not been made better, but has become even more money oriented in the past few decades.  That will need to be changed…but it cannot be changed by tiny numbers of people voting for purity parties.

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