Monday, March 23, 2009

Class warfare?

The rising economic inequality of the last few decades has been raising alarms in some quarters for quite some time, but a number of factors disguised it until recently.

Perhaps one of the most important was the entry of women into the workforce, which allowed most middle-class families to maintain a middle-class standard of living even though it took more hours of labor to do so. Women derived some benefits in self-actualization and independence from this trend, so it was not entirely unwelcome. But there was a natural limit on how far this could go.

A second factor disguising the inequality was the rise of Wal-Mart and other discounters and the ability to keep costs down by inports from China and other low-labor cost countries. It became possible to maintain the essentials of life at a lower cost.

A third factor was the rise in home values and the stock market rise, both of which made it seem as if people were building wealth (in home equity and 401k balances) even as they tapped out their savings and credit limits to maintain the middle class lifestyle they aspired to.

Not the fact that all this was built on sand and could not be sustained was recognized by some. There have been no shortages of Cassandras. But it was politically expedient to dismiss them and the rich and powerful could marshal a lot of resources to marginalize those voices.

But the market will, as it always will, eventually rule. And despite the fact that the rich and powerful pay lip service to the "Market" they don't really want the market to freely operate. What, after all, is the use of riches and power if it can't protect you from bad things?

Unfortunately one of the major parties lost sight of its responsibility to all the citizens and one of the major intellectual movements was hijacked by powerful interests to the point that timeless conservative principles such as rule of law and limited government were completely perverted to the point where "conservatives" would seriously argue for unlimited executive powers including the ability to disappear people, engage in torture and simply ignore Congress when the executive decided it was proper, and all of this without judicial review.

Well, it may very well be that the worm has turned.

There are people screaming that AIG's contracts are sacrosanct and that the government has no power to void them. Well, folks, if the government has the power to arrest you without charges, torture you to madness and detain you as long as it wants without trial, what chance do your little pieces of paper stand?


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