The Disappointment of a Liberal

| 11/16/2007 4:56:41 PM

The Conscience of a LiberalPaul Krugman is optimistic. “So optimistic,” he says, “that friends have been asking me if I’m feeling alright.” The New York Times columnist and liberal savior has a gleam of excitement in his eyes as he holds forth before a packed, silver-haired audience at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. While America is in a crisis now, he says, “the possibilities for change are once again very great.”

Krugman was in town recently to tout his latest book, The Conscience of a Liberal (Norton). His central point is this: So-called movement conservatives have been winning elections by exploiting Southern whites’ racism. Since grabbing power, they’ve pushed an agenda that promotes economic inequality, helping the mega-rich get mega-richer.

Krugman’s good news is that the times of darkness shall soon draw to an end, and we may see a glorious realignment in the U.S. political system. That is, if a true liberal takes hold of the offices of government. Responsible policy-making could reverse the country’s decline by pushing ambitious social policies that drastically reverse inequality.

Pundits have parsed Krugman’s points and exchanged heated parlays about his prose. The book’s been pretty much reviewed to death, so I’ll spare you any more diluted  Krugman-summary in lieu of a few quick thoughts about what’s missing from Krugman’s analysis.

Krugman seems to be talking about a purely political change, not a social change. He looks at the cogs and gears of democracy—who’s in power and what they do with their power. He doesn’t imagine this new glorious revolution as arising, Athena-like, from the split skulls of the citizenry’s discontent. No. He imagines a purely political solution to a purely political problem that just happens to have social side-effects.

So what’s left for citizens to do? Hope. Hope that the Democrats’ presidential nominee is a good one. Hope that the Democratic presidential nominee wins. Hope that the next president does all the great things we hope that he or she will do, like reform the health care system.

Tod Colby
11/30/2007 4:25:13 PM

"Meet the new boss... Same as the old boss..." -Townsend

Ben Weyl_2
11/19/2007 11:18:30 PM

I think your call for a civic re-engagement is exactly right. But I think you're wrong to think all citizens can do is "hope that the Democrats' nominee is a good one. Hope that..." A re-engaged citizenry will ACT to pick a good nominee, will ACT to ensure he or she is elected, will ACT to ensure the president does those great things that are so necessary. A re-engaged citizenry means real accountability for our leaders. In any event, I think there's one candidacy that takes your concerns most seriously, that at least might serve as a vehicle for a renewed sense of citizenship, a reborn republic. And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I'm ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you. Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.

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