If the country is trending leftward — as evidenced by all the demands for equality and redistribution coming out of the Democratic camp, and seconded by the media — the question arises: Why is the country trending leftward?
To put it another way, does Hillary Clinton think she’s going to become president by sounding as though she just got off the phone with Bernie Sanders? Likelier, her acute political nose senses Change; and being a Clinton, she proposes leading us in the indicated direction.
To return to the original question, has she got us right? That, fed up with banks, public religiosity, and the cry of the hungry, we’re set to junk the legacy of Ronald Reagan?
Oh, I don’t know. I doubt it, actually. I think we’re living through another of the political cycles every country experiences, when dissatisfactions of one kind or another breed the desire to escape. Escape to liberalism — excuse me, “progressivism,” the media have schooled us in saying — is an odd program for recovering national prosperity and self-confidence.
“Progressivism” (where exactly is the “progress” in it, would someone tell me?) feeds steadily on the growing conviction, handed around by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, that rich people are too rich. How much too rich? We never hear. We never hear either how redistributing their excess wealth is going to 1) build and 2) maintain for any length of time a society of equality in means and enjoyments.
“We do have to raise the minimum wage and implement President Obama’s new rules on overtime, and then we have to go further,” Mrs. Clinton says.
Yes. Well. What happens when the minimum wage gets raised and employers who can’t afford the new rate start laying off employees? It is much the same with the Obama overtime rules. At what level of overtime compensation does overtime compensation become unduly expensive from the employer’s standpoint? And still we “go further”? How much, and why?
Economic regulation seems to require prophetic properties of which politicians are devoid. The political answer to that deficiency is just to prophesy and see what happens. You can always blame opponents and try something different, expecting the media to fuzz up recollections of how we were told by responsible parties on the other side that this neat little idea or that one won’t work.
What works, in theory, is the language, and not just in a purely political context. We have Pope Francis, for example, denouncing “an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profits.” There is — I started to write, “something in the water,” but that sounds needlessly dismissive. There is perhaps something in the air — that dissatisfaction to which I alluded, having to do with unequal outcomes in present-day economic life.
We can’t exactly say that Bill Gates owes every American, say, $27.11, and would he please pay up? But a skilled political operator — no one ever accused Hillary Clinton of political naïveté — can speak in broad, unspecific terms better calibrated to rouse indignation than to actually make anything better. The truth is that government attempts at overriding the marketplace’s determinations of fairness and wisdom achieve mainly the gratitude of short-term, often very short-term, beneficiaries.
Well! What a week for Hillary and the Pope to come down (splat!) on the marketplace: the week the Greeks finally had to recognize in principle and application the folly of spending other people’s money until, suddenly, the money runs out.
There seems no chance of America’s ever turning into modern Greece, but so-called populist demagoguery (good Greek word that it is) seems to enjoy a permanent home in our fallen world. What’s “progressive” (i.e., progress-linked) about government attempts to manipulate economic outcomes, I am sure I couldn’t say. Maybe Mrs. Clinton will explain it all, in the course of a campaign with more than 15 months to run. We must give her every chance to explain. And when she doesn’t, or can’t? That’s where a truly rich symbol of equality comes into play: the free ballot box.
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