Recently, a discussion has been taking place, mostly on the libertarian margins of the right, which has attracted attention of centrist liberals like Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein; in itself notable, because their establishment gatekeeper status tasking them to promote the mythical Democrat(ic) party as representative of working class populism, is being encroached upon from the putative libertarian right.
In response to several articles propounding the idea of libertarian populism Jonathan Chait asks the question: Can Republicans Be Economic Populists? The framing alone is a straw man, since neither of the two, right wing, corporate-corporatist, parties have any inclinations to represent populist aspirations or respond to public “demands.” Keeping the public divided is a full time job, and incursions of broad, anti-establishment, populist sentiments need to be quickly nipped in the bud, especially by Dem party sycophants.
Those like Tim Carney, Nick Gillespie, Ben Domenech, Jesse Walker , Rand Paul, et alia, in tying their populist exhortations to the Republican party alone, are revealing a goodly dose of partisanship driven, cognitive disconnect, from the implications embedded in the partisan transcendent term “Populism.” Left-wing economic populism grafted to the New Deal Dem party has peaked 40 years ago, morphed, flipped, and finally delivered the current neoliberal, New Dem party, whose voter base, having been made to quaff psychedelia spiked kool-aid — ever since Clinton kicked “welfare liberalism” to the curb — and learned to like it; all the while sewing off their extremities as sacrificial pledges of loyalty to the wishy-washy memory of its “founder,” FDR.
While a growing public awakening presents both concerns and opportunities to the charlatan guardians of the duopoly, their recognition of a shift in public sentiments is, nevertheless, meaningful.
Critiques from the “libertarian” right, casting the New Dem party as “…the party of entrenched interests and crony capitalism,” or public reminders that: “The origins of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement really had some commonality, and that commonality was that government shouldn’t bail out Big Business. It has been a part of the early message of the Tea Party, but the Republican Party hasn’t captured that message. The average guy who’s working class is not real excited about paying taxes and sending it out to bail out a guy who makes $100m a year” – Rand Paul, may take root in the subconscious of the American working-class, increasingly weary of the Congress’ corporatist work product which, invariably, continues to transfer wealth to the 1%, in more direct and indirect ways than the public can even begin to grasp.
AS definitions and iterations of “populism” abound — pitfalls and all — Paul Rand’s allusion invites comparisons to Latin America’s experience of IMF/WTO blessed, and imposed, crony capitalism. Brazil, and the recent protests sparked by a small hike in public transportation fees, are not so much representative of anti-capitalist sentiments per se., but (unfortunately) merely a public clamor for greater inclusiveness. Venezuela’s, Bolivia’s and, to a lesser degree, Ecuador’s populist inclinations, OTOH, are tending towards populist socialism.
When one takes account of capitalism’s demand for perpetual and politically stabilizing 3% – consumer driven – GDP growth, and pits it against the reality of a finite world of extractable recourses, the socialist model seems to present a more sustainable path, although, unless we seriously re-evaluate what makes us happy and gives us deeper meaning, both models fall short of sustainability. Imagine that every private, publicly traded, Trans National corporation becomes “Mondragonized,” and that more “happy” people now have greater financial means to consume increasing amounts of co-op produced crap — how does that solve the problems of sustainability? But I’m digressing…
Were “libertarian” to be rebranded without its right wing economic connotations and redefined to recapture its more originalist meaning: the primacy of individual liberty, political freedom, and voluntary association, while intently focusing on systemic and structural government favoritism, clientelism and a culture of decriminalized corruption within the near monopolistic FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) big AG, Pharma, Medical, and the MIC sectors of the economy, as core, trans-partisan evils, it would deserve to annex the term “Populism.” As it stands right now, “libertarianism” in America not only resides on the right, but aspires to become a fixture in a historically pro corporate-welfare, “job creators” favoring, duopoly occupying Republican party.
And it’s too bad, because right-libertarianism, by definition, makes room for individual liberty to express itself in voluntary associations, and voluntary associations are the backbone of unions and co-ops, often born of grass-root localism. And localism undergirds direct democracy, local stewardship of natural resources and, where enlightenment flourishes, greater economic sustainability. Which, in turn, ads another taboo issue: federalism(states rights,) especially to the progressive supplicants and champions of big, benevolent, central government/state. Given endemic and institutionalized corruption, power and absolute power…, progressives seem to nurture deeply conservative conceits about the legitimacy of big government, in spite of its documented and increasingly obvious, deleterious economic, ecological, and socio-political stewardship.
So it seems that the Republicans, squeezed by neoliberal Democrats coziness with Wall Street, whose pursuit of “free market” globalization on behalf of major corporate profit motivated interests, and deferential to its X-tian wingnut base, have painted themselves into the farthest right-wing corner, from which the only escape is to jump leftward over the Democrats and pick up the promise which the Dem party has abandoned: to work on behalf of the working-class…
A short excerpt from the Austrian school, Mises steeped, libertarian, anti-state, anti-war, pro-market, LewRockwell.com site, Rothbard and the Libertarian Populists:
Recent weeks have seen much speculation by pundits about the nature of “libertarian populism.” For those who regard all of libertarianism as an ideological whitewash for plutocracy, libertarian populism is clearly a matter of pulling the wool over the eyes of the common man. To those on the other side of the debate, who are no less chronically obsessed with electoral politics, libertarian populism is the GOP’s pathway back to relevance and viability…
The pivot point of libertarian populism is its hostility toward the cronyism that presently characterizes the political economy of the United States. Relationships between powerful elites in government and industry have, libertarian populists argue, cemented into an immovable and perennial force that creates privilege for the few at the expense of the many — hence, libertarian populism addresses itself to everything from lobbyists to bailouts and to the Federal Reserve System. In point of fact, the “End the Fed” movement, the germ of which was Ron Paul’s stout emphasis on the issue, was arguably among the prime movers and mainsprings of the particular moment of libertarian populism that we’re witnessing right now. Those influenced by the Austrian School and Rothbardian libertarians, contrary to the empty jeremiads of our critics, have always called attention to the often-incestuous relationships between all things big, irrespective of whether they are found in the “public” or the “private” sector. We have been on the forefront of demonstrating the causal link that connects misallocation to corporate welfare in all of its myriad embodiments that show why government intervention in the economic sphere is profoundly harmful, particularly for ordinary working people. The seeming fixation on the Federal Reserve then, is not a randomly chosen fetish of libertarians, but a recognition of the sweeping, harmful implications of Fed policy. Were more Americans to understand the Fed’s role in, for instance, American wars and economic instability, they might see that real libertarian populism is anything but a calculated political rebranding. Rather, libertarian populism simply is genuine, radical libertarianism, the kind that takes the state for what it is — a small criminal class that has successfully institutionalized economic spoliation.
If the power of the central government (think European Union, and the growing populist backlash against EU’s version of Washington, Brussels, as a teaching moment) were to be drastically curtailed or swept away, yielding a libertarian clean slate, then at least the left, envisioning a more cooperative society could pit it’s socio-economic model against that of the independent, libertarian “lone wolf,” “job creating,” profit and rent seekers. So unless the left is willing to “man up” and put up, its ideological convictions will remain, big government abused, hollow sounding and immobilizing, left wing pipe dreams.
What is Libertarian Populism? – Reason.com (video discussion)
The global, political quandray, from a slightly different angle: The Divide in Politics is not Left or Right, but For or Against Globalization. The Case of Italy
The parties supporting the two last governments, regardless of their ideological affiliation, are all parties that share an overall pro-globalization attitude. With minor differences, they all agree that is imperative to comply with the international and European standards of good governance, even if this means ceding part of the national sovereignty and paying high social costs. Political and economic integration is considered a default position, which promises widespread benefits in the mid/long-term.
On the contrary, the parties that are at the opposition to these governments are all “localist”. While having very different ideological orientations, they share the view according to which the local/regional context needs to be prioritized. They share a suspicion of any process that dismantles this rooted, participatory context in the name of supranationalism. Political and economic integration is here considered an elite-driven project that ultimately benefits the transnational centers of power by making the local contexts weaker and poorer. Especially serious is the progressive deprivation of political resources that is associated to the process of supranational integration. From this perspective, the more you delegate power higher and further, the less you are able to democratically control it.
The transformations taking place in Italy are also occurring in other European countries. This way, the politics of crisis is revealing the inner nature of the political cleavage underpinning many contemporary western political systems. In normal times, such fundamental cleavage may be more difficult to be seen because it is taken for granted and rarely discussed: politics usually plays on a more superficial playing field. It is especially in times of deep crisis, however, that the fundamental cleavage emerges. It is in these times that we can better understand the contours of the political framework of many political systems and understand what is really at stake in our polities.