Friday, June 17, 2011

To be Fair

The right wing outlook on life doesn’t often get the respect it deserves. For example, the Conservative answer to the current economic situation is not so crazy as it sounds. If the ability of working people to resist lower wages were decisively broken, supply and demand would indeed raise the employment rate—for a couple of hundred a month, who wouldn’t hire more servants? We simply have to stop thinking of great disparities of wealth and income as an exceptional condition. Of course reestablishing the proper social order of things will require some political changes to prevent any effective popular protest, ergo the current campaign of reinstituting Jim Crow laws to prevent the wrong kind of people from voting and the continuing effort to make it effectively illegal or at least extremely dangerous for working people to organize. There is surely no moral objection to this program: if you’ve been told that capitalism turns private greed into public good, its natural to draw the conclusion that one should therefore be as greedy as possible, not just in the grand fashion of business moguls, some of whom, after all, really do build useful things but in the somewhat less glamorous fashion of grasping old farts. This does not mean that conservatives cannot be charitable, of course. Charity is one of the cardinal privileges of wealth and ostentatious demonstrations of compassion by professional golfers and oil billionaires are praiseworthy so long as they don’t threaten to actually relieve human suffering or create confusion as to who is in charge. What did Jesus say? “The poor should always be with us.” Close enough. And it would be utterly unjust to object to modern conservatism as elitist. Humility, no doubt, is a virtue; and vulgarity is the right-wing version of humility, a philistine populism that brags about its ignorance and love of violence. What we have here is a large number of people who have decided that civilization was a mistake all along. Who’s to say they’re wrong?