Balancing Power

You will be regarded as insane, if you suggest that the federal government has a constructive role to play in remedying the corrosive societal effects of excessive income inequality. It has become accepted wisdom that government is almost always the problem, and is almost never the solution.

One enticing argument for this view, is the argument from nostalgia: once upon a time, Americans were self-reliant, hard-working, and thrifty. Government programs, by fostering dependence, make (a certain segment of) Americans irresponsible, lazy, and profligate. Therefore, to restore America, we should pursue policies of “tough love” that continue  to dismantle social programs, and force people to become self-reliant and hard-working again.

The problem with this argument from nostalgia is that today is not yesterday. Opportunity inequality in American society is now entrenched, and constructing ramparts. It’s only human nature for winners to make rules to protect their status as winners. Social stratification is hardening; the possibilities for economic mobility are  evaporating like thin puddles in the desert.

Governmental power is the only power strong enough to address opportunity inequality in American society today. The pendulum will be swinging back from its currently extreme anti-government position; our unquestioned acceptance of the notion that “government is the problem” will be exposed for the shibboleth that it is.

Looking at the current state of our politics does not induce optimism. Still, we don’t live in 1840 anymore. The deleterious effects of modern global capitalism need buffered by effective government power.

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