Sunday, April 08, 2012

The choice between two illusions (Obama v. Romney: The philosopher candidates)

At, Linda Hirshman contrasts the ideologies of Obama and Romney, rejoicing in the fact that this election finally gives the American people a clear ideological choice. Unfortunately, this is a choice between two illusions.

On the Democratic side, there is the illusion that the state can act as a guarantor of an inclusive, caring political economy. Yet among all of our institutions, the state is among the most exclusive, hierarchical, and violent. If you want to see cut-throat competition driven by a winner-take-all outcome, look no further than our elections.

On the Republican side, there is the illusion that the American system allows space for anyone and everyone to thrive. Reality quickly casts doubt on this faith, and the arguments marshaled by conservatives are blatant bullshit.

Blinded by partisan rhetoric, Hirshman fails to identify the important aspects of a truly fair society where widespread prosperity and freedom are possible. By interperting "competition" as winner-take-all competition, she says that we either accept it (and the human wreckage of the losers) or we reject it in favor of an ever expansive welfare state. She ignores the mundane role of low-scale competition in aligning economic incentives across individuals and preventing monopolists from gaining outsized rewards for their efforts. This omission is bizarre, given the central role of this "perfect market" model in economics. It's time to drop our obsession with political illusions and power struggles, and get real about the day-to-day forces that drive our behavior.

p.s. The Salon comment system is a pain to use. I blew 20 minutes trying to leave a comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would dispute the "illusion" part. It's more akin to comical propaganda. There is not a shred of illusion here regarding the differences between these two candidates and their respective parties. Of course, this silly propaganda piece wasn't penned by some dupe at DailyKos; rather, it was authored by former philosophy professor. Unless we are to assume that the University of Chicago awards PhDs to incompetent crackpots(and Brandeis University followed a policy of employing incompetent crackpots) that piece of drivel is simpy intentional propaganda.