Monday, October 13, 2008

Regan Redux

Here is a snippet from a NY Times op-ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman:
...Ronald Reagan’s favorite laugh line was telling audiences that: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ”

Hah, hah, hah.

Are you still laughing? If it weren’t for the government bailing out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and A.I.G., and rescuing people from Hurricane Ike and pumping tons of liquidity into the banking system, our economy would be a shambles. How would you like to hear the line today: “I’m from the government, and I can’t do a darn thing for you.”

The current financial collapse should put the nail in the coffin of the radical right and its snake oil of "government is the problem, not the solution". But it won't. Ideologues don't wake up one day and decide that they have been wrong all their life and change their viewpoint. No. They die out and a new generation replaces them.

The 1930s gave birth to Keynsianism and FDRs fumbling attempts to bring government to the rescue of a beleaguered public beaten down by the Great Depression. The 1950s gave birth to a smug conformity (fought by the Beat Generation) that came from material affluence and fear of an external enemy (the Communists). The 1960s tried to give birth to a more liberal society with its civil rights struggles and the birth of the feminist movement and the gay movement. The 1970s turned inward into self-help nostrums (Human Potential Movement, EST, Rolfing, etc.) as people saw their government and economy fail them. The 1980s was "morning in America" as the rampant Right sold Americans on the notion that "greed is good" and that "government is the enemy". The 1990s was the optimistic decade of the Internet, the Web, and the bubble. The 2000s have turned into a bleak era of bubbles and busts as the promises of the Right have turned to ashes amidst the rogue capitalists and their frauds and the fraudlent government of Bush and his ideological pals.

What will the 2010s bring? I'm betting it will be a resurgence of the Left and a period where social conscience is reborn and the joys of civil society are rediscovered.

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