Friday, August 23, 2013
Robert Reich offers column on "Inequality for All", echoing Noam Chomsky in saying that it is getting just plain dangerous
Robert Reich, narrator of the film “Inequality for All” (Movies blog, June 24, 2013), gives upper class America a pen lashing today in a syndicated column in the Nevada Daily, “The notion of public good has faded”, link here.
Earlier today, Toshiba’s own news feed for Internet Explorer on its machines passed a headline that “rich people think the US economy is on the way to collapse”, with Reich’s name. But later I couldn’t find it.
I’m reminded of how former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum talked about the public good in his book “It Takes a Family” (Books blog, March 5, 2012). You can get the drift. “Common good” does have a lot to do with how “big institutions” (like corporations, partisan governments, and organized lobbying) behave, but it also maps to how individuals set their own priorities, with (or without) respect to the needs of others in their immediate local personal neighborhoods.
It’s quite striking to me, how I grew up, in the 50s, believing that some people “make it” and some people “don’t make it”, and how I internalized the idea that such outcomes track to individual moral worthiness. Life, of course, isn’t fair. At a certain level, people have to lean that helping one another is as important, sometimes at least, as succeeding just with their own talents. That means stepping up to risk for others sometimes. (That sounds a lot like Rick Warren's "It's not about you.") A lot of the idea of family – the ability to develop relationships that factor in real need, and then learning to provide for others (and maybe to “provide others”) follows from this process. It doesn’t happen the way it used to, although in the past “family values” were often overshadowed to deep institutional differences between classes and, yes, races. But when it doesn’t happen enough, a lot of people get left out, and society becomes unstable, dangerous, and perhaps unsustainable. Noam Chomsky may be right (and so may be Michael Moore), that “class struggle” comes back and becomes a new kind of war, with a vengeance.
Reich, of course, is right to point to big problems at the policy level, leading to economic macro cycles that drive the middle class down, as he explained so well in his film. But there is even more to the story.