A New Political Dawn

Tired of single-issue crusades, citizens acknowledge we’re all in this together

| September-October 2010

  • A New Political Dawn Image

    James Yang / www.jamesyang.com

  • A New Political Dawn Image

This article is part of a series of articles on the commons. For more, read The Case for Commons and The Science of Cooperation . For more writing on the commons from the alternative press, visit utne.com/Commons .

Social change is not easily diagrammed on a chart. Sweeping transformations that rearrange the workings of an entire culture begin imperceptibly, quietly but steadily entering people’s minds until one day the ideas seem to have been there all along. Even in our age of instantaneous information—when a scrap of information can zoom around the globe in mere seconds—people’s worldviews still evolve gradually.

This is exactly how the paradigm of corporate power came to rule the world. First articulated in large part by an obscure circle of Austrian economists, it surfaced in the United States during the 1950s as a curious political sideshow promoted by figures like novelist Ayn Rand and her protégé Alan Greenspan.

The notion of the market as the bedrock of all social policy entered mainstream debate during the Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, which appeared to mark both its debut and its demise. Despite Republicans’ spectacular defeat in elections that fall—which extended from the White House all the way to local races—small bands of pro-market partisans refused to accept the unpopularity of their theories. Instead, they boldly launched a new movement that would eventually turn American life upside down.



Bankrolled by wealthy backers who understood that modern politics is a battle of ideas, market champions shed their image as fusty reactionaries swimming against the tide of progress and gradually refashioned themselves as visionaries charting a bold course for the future.

Their ranks swelled throughout the late 1970s as an unlikely combination of libertarian dreamers, big-business opportunists, and anxious defenders of traditional values signed up for the cause. The successive elections of Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Reagan in the United States, and François Mitterrand in France confirmed market fundamentalists’ global ascendancy. Thatcher and Reagan, each in a distinct way, became effective advocates for the idea that the market should be the chief organizing principle of human endeavor. Mitterrand, on the other hand, was a dedicated socialist but soon discovered that the growing influence of international capital rendered him powerless to carry out promises of his 1981 election campaign. This was final confirmation that we had entered a new age of corporate domination.

Occum
10/14/2010 3:02:08 PM

Shirley, I agree with your point and although this will be redundant I refer to George Carlins take on who owns the world (reference video on You Tube). I am also astounded at how the rightfullness of this dynamic has slipped into our culture like the frog being boiled in water scenario. As an example to my previous post I will site this example. I grew up in a Republican Conservative environment (everyone voted row whatever down the line.) Over the years I started examining the issues and became an Independent. However, when any of my views don't correlate with Repulican Conservative views I am called (with disgust) a Liberal. Now, my understanding of Liberal is that it is a derivative of the French word Liber, meaning freedom. Which I translate to an autonomous culture where more government control (important but missed point here) is desired. That does not mean LESS government. It, in my opinion, means necessary control over select institutions. I would go on but I am running out of space. Your input please.


Shirley Hodge
10/14/2010 12:27:00 PM

For a long time I have stated that unregulated capitalism scares the s_ _ _ out of me only to be met with blank stares as to what I was talking about or being admonished for not believing in the holy grail of profit and the power that results from it. From the robber barons of the 1800's to the gambling antics of unregulated banks, market traders and multi-national corporations of today the advocates of unregulated and unlimited growth of wealth by any means that enter their crazy heads has become the status quo and as long as they allowed enough to filter down to build and maintain a quiet accepting middle class the thing seemed to work only the s_ _ _ finally hit the fan and their antics have come out all covered with brown excrement for all the world to see. Not sure if this will make any difference though as human greed at all levels of society is a powerful and ongoing force and in all probablility will continue to feed our economies. Real solution is greatly reduced populations and enforced equality of wealth to become a human right as much as free speech and freedom or religion et al.


Shirley Hodge
10/14/2010 12:26:56 PM

For a long time I have stated that unregulated capitalism scares the s_ _ _ out of me only to be met with blank stares as to what I was talking about or being admonished for not believing in the holy grail of profit and the power that results from it. From the robber barons of the 1800's to the gambling antics of unregulated banks, market traders and multi-national corporations of today the advocates of unregulated and unlimited growth of wealth by any means that enter their crazy heads has become the status quo and as long as they allowed enough to filter down to build and maintain a quiet accepting middle class the thing seemed to work only the s_ _ _ finally hit the fan and their antics have come out all covered with brown excrement for all the world to see. Not sure if this will make any difference though as human greed at all levels of society is a powerful and ongoing force and in all probablility will continue to feed our economies. Real solution is greatly reduced populations and enforced equality of wealth to become a human right as much as free speech and freedom or religion et al.