Thursday, October 16, 2008

OK to be Liberal Again

Joe Klein at Swampland:
We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class. The wealth has been "spread" upward. The era when Democrats could only elect Presidents from the south, who essentially promised to take the harsh edge off of conservatism, is over. Barack Obama is the most unapologetic advocate of government activism since Lyndon Johnson--which is not to say that his brand of activism will be the same as Johnson's (we've learned a lot about the perils of bureacracy and the value of market incentives since then)--and he seems to be giving the public exactly what it wants this year. Who knows? Maybe even the word "liberal" can now be uttered in mixed company again.
What is happening on the world economic front is almost like a Nixon going-to-China moment. If a Democrat were in the White House while this economic tsunami was washing over us and he or she responded by bailing out corporations and nationalizing banks with enormous infusions of government money, conservatives would be apoplectic talking about socialism and communism. But it is a Republican administration that has taken us down this game-changing road. Which is fitting because it is conservative laissez-faire economic policies that has brought on this mess. The problem, to be clear, isn't capitalism, it's un-regulated capitalism.

In any case, the game has changed. It is plain for all the world to see that the government has an essential role to play in the economic marketplace. It is plain to see that big government is necessary. And we are likely to see more government "intrusion" in the markets and on mainstreet during the next decade, much as we saw during the Great Depression when government spending ramped up significantly and government regulation of the markets increased greatly.

It is going to be much less difficult to make the argument that some kind of government-backed form of universal healthcare is the best solution to the healthcare mess. It is going to be much easier to say "in mixed company" I Am A Liberal.

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