24.6.11

Zakaria and Political Reality

I missed a post yesterday, so two posts today. First, a brief comment on Zakarias' article "How Conservatism Has Lost Touch with Reality. A friend has a rather scathing response to Zakarias over at his blog, arguing that Zakarias is practicing a kind of revisionist history, devoid of spirituality, and is hiding behind as ideological fantasy. I don't agree.

First, I think Zakarias' history shows something I've pointed to a number of times on this blog. Tax rates on the wealthy have never been lower than they are today. The current economic crisis is in large part connected to globalization of labor such that trickle-down profits, taxed less than any other point in industrial American history, are no longer fed into strictly an American system; as Casey notes--this makes labor a global rather than local issue, and makes any attempt to address inequality even harder. But that does not mean we should just throw are hands up and do nothing. Yes, the global median income is $9000, and the average American earns significantly more than that. Throwing contextualization issues aside (factors such as cost of living etc), this tells us that, even as we argue for increased taxation on the domestic scene, we keep remain open to global factors. We live in the meantime. One of my favorite aspects of sophistic rhetoric is that it is the art of the mean(ness) of time (and existence), addressing how we dwell with each other everyday, haunted by Idealism's search for absolute foundations, plagued by the problems that call us to be.

Second, spirituality is a complex matter. I think there is a rising "leftist" spirituality--the ecological turn I'll call it. It is a fundamental recognition that every entity on the planet comes into existence through infinite relations with other entities, nothing is born whole, autonomous, or ex nihilio. Of course, this dove tails with my work with Levinas. Such as metaphysical understanding of our Being does, I believe, generate ethical principles, even if the academic left has been slow to articulate them. But I don't think many of us are "postmodern" in the "classic" sense anymore. There's new problems and agendas. One of which, following Latour, is to move beyond critical thinking and critique (debunking, etc) and toward collecting problems (as Dr. Rivers puts it). As Gregory Ulmer puts it: "problems B us"; by articulating the problem, we kairotically emerge inhabiting the problem that infects/affects us. Any attempt to articulate a problem is always an act of self-fashioning. We are the people our problems make us. This, I believe is a thoroughly spiritual orientation, even if it suspends the issue of transcendence. One can be spiritual without a beyond. In fact, I would argue that assuring the presence of a beyond (whether it is God, Truth, Love, etc) reduces the infinity of the beyond to a known object. But that's a Levinasian argument, and a whole post itself.

Third, I think Zakarias is trying to collect such a problem, and the actants that form it. As I indicated in #1 above, I think Zakarias "collects a reality," Zakaria is referring to the increasingly cumulating statistics documenting 1) the rise of unemployment alongside increasing trickle-down economic and 2) the increasingly economic divide between classes. I don't think there is a "Utopian" vision underlying this problem--there is no suggestion that the solution to this problem lies in any kind of communist re-organization of capital. In fact, I think Zakarias' article implicitly calls for a moderate response to the problem he articulates: a better balancing of centralist infrastructure and free market investment and innovation similar to that operating during America's economic boom in the 1950's and 1960's.

1 comment:

Casey said...

The reality of income inequality.

What I was trying to suggest is that today's "Left," insofar as that's a signifying term, seems largely ignorant of the fact that everything you're suggesting was not only considered, but actually put into place by LBJ in the 1960s and again Nixon and again by Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. And each time, the results got worse -- to the point that we needed to develop a new terminology ("stagflation") to deal with what was happening. I'm not arguing that you are out of touch with existing reality so much, but that your solutions are all-too-familiar to serious historians. They don't work, Marc. They really don't work. You must know that under Carter, that legendary economic miracle worker, top marginal income tax rates were 70% (83% in England). The result was gas lines, food shortages, and systemic inefficiency. That's really reality, man.

What I am trying to point out is that you are ignoring the data. You are ignoring the fact that Reagan and Thatcher cut those rates by half and ushered in 20 years of growth which was not interrupted even by moderate Leftist Bill Clinton. Hell, it's almost like you've never even seen PBS's Commanding Heights