GUEST OPINION: Repair the System

By on January 12, 2016

Americans are demanding a political system that represents the people and Jackson is poised to follow suit.

“The most effective way to cope with change is to create it.” – L.W. Lynett

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator.” – Francis Bacon

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

160113GuestOpinionJackson, WY – 2016 is shaping up to be an interesting year–a year in which I suspect we’ll want to keep these quotes in mind. Jackson Hole is approaching a fork in the road, and our country is as well. And if there is one theme that is emerging, it’s a rejection of the policies and politics of the past.

This might be the first presidential election cycle in which a generation that doesn’t really watch TV is eligible to vote, and in which millions more have begun getting their political news from sources other than cable news channels, which, on behalf of their corporate owners, have defined the boundaries of acceptable political action for decades.

To add to that dynamic, we are now far enough removed from the financial crisis of 2007-08 that people are no longer willing to allow establishment politicians to blame the failure of the economic system on crisis. They see quite clearly that the increasing insecurity of low- and middle-income people is not a bug, but rather a feature of our economic system.

They realize that while unfettered market capitalism works for a few, it doesn’t work for them. They realize that if they don’t start questioning the conventional economic wisdom handed down from up high they will quickly run out of options. They know they must innovate or die.

If that line reads like it was ripped from a business management book, that’s because it was. And the introductory quotes are from an entrepreneurial website. Yet today they seem equally applicable to politics.

One of the more interesting things I encounter when writing about positive political action is the constant sniping from people who believe they have a monopoly on economic literacy and the politics of power. These are the same folks who dismiss people that use government to advance their goals. This may be effective as a means of propping up one’s self esteem, but it’s a poor analysis of reality.

Unlike those whose knee-jerk response to government action is “you can’t do that,” progressives and others on the left are the real innovators. We question the conventional wisdom. We’ve learned from those in power that you use the tools that are available to you. And in an economic system that has stripped us of capital, we’ve learned that collective action, often through government, is really the only tool we have left.

We’ve watched as the wealthy and politically powerful preach about the evils of government while stacking governments with their cronies, and making sure that no public decision that affects them is ever made without their voice being heard. We’ve learned that they really mean that government by us is evil.
We’ve learned too that what’s keeping us from creating the change we need are the quasi-religious beliefs handed down to us from the establishment through their economists, who – in their roles as high priests of theory – hypnotize us with demonstrably false myths such as the efficient market hypothesis and frighten us with impossible scenarios of national bankruptcy.

We’ve been told for decades now that we have to accept the fate the market delivers us, and that any attempt to reject the god of the market will result in economic calamity.

But for many younger voters, free-market capitalism isn’t some unfinished project that will somehow lead us to utopia in the long run. They realize that in the long run we are all dead.  They don’t know any other system, and its clear record of failure for them is blindingly obvious. There is a whole generation of voters who look at democratic socialism in Canada and Europe and many other parts of the world, and who not only ask why it can’t work here, but refuse to accept the answers supplied by those who do little more than babble religious/economic dogma back at them.

It’s difficult, for example, to maintain the illusion that tax rates in the U.S. are too high when people can google historical tax rates and see that some of our nation’s highest growth rates came at a time when our top marginal income tax rate was over 90 percent. And it’s clear that calling someone a socialist is no longer an insult when examples of socialist countries that put the U.S. to shame are a web search away. There is a reason Bernie Sanders is surging nationally despite being ignored by the establishment media. In the age of social media and constant branding, people are becoming acutely aware of when they’re being patronized and pandered to. More and more voters care less and less about being made to feel good; they want someone who will tell it to them like it is, and who will ignore the naysayers and go out and get the job done.

I believe this political shift will greatly affect our local politics. Voters are realizing that the future of our community is in their hands, and that they aren’t bound by past policies that have proven unsuccessful. Establishment politicians and voices are no longer being given the benefit of the doubt.

The real question in this year’s election is whether we will take responsibility for our own fate, trust our own judgment, and reject the idea that nothing can be done because that’s the way it’s always been.  I’d like to think I know the answer to that question, but maybe I should leave you with this quote instead: “Only a fool would make predictions—especially about the future” – Samuel Goldwyn. PJH

About Pete Muldoon

You must be logged in to post a comment Login