Bernie, The Pope, And A Moral Dilemma

Bernie Sanders, who gets my praise for being a secular guy, got lots of press and pundit praise over the weekend for going to Vatican City for a too-obscure conference “on social, economic and environmental issues hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.” He also got a quick meeting with Pope Francis. Good for Bernie.

But let’s look at Bernie’s speech to the conference and compare it to what he, and to be fair, what Hillary Clinton have been saying on the campaign trail. And I will compare it to what a lot of Americans in both parties believe. First, here is the title of Bernie’s speech:

The Urgency of a Moral Economy: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Centesimus Annus

“Centesimus annus” refers to an encyclical offered by Pope John Paul II in 1991, which was essentially an update of a prior pope’s encyclical, in 1891, on how the Church views the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor.” Most people consider that 1891 encyclical by Pope Leo XIII to be, as Georgetown’s Berkley Center put it,

a foundational text in the history of Catholic social thought, establishing the position of the Church on issues pertaining to the proper relationship between capital and labor. The vision expounded by the encyclical emphasizes the duties and obligations that bind owners of capital and workers to each other.

So, that encyclical, and those related to it that have followed, are big deals, in terms of how Catholic doctrine addresses the way the world’s economy ought to work. As Bernie Sanders acknowledged and emphasized, these are “moral” issues, and he lauded Pope Leo XIII for highlighting “the enormous wealth of a few as opposed to the poverty of the many.” All of this makes sense for Bernie, obviously, since income and wealth inequality is one of the big themes of his presidential campaign. But let’s keep in mind a very important distinction here. The Popes, when addressing social and economic issues, are talking about the entire world. Bernie iBernie Sanders meets Pope Francis during visit to Vatican Citys talking almost exclusively about the United States. And, as we will see, there is a conflict between what the Catholic Church says it stands for and what both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton—not to mention Drumpf, in his own weird way—are advocating as presidential candidates.

Since Bernie is the one who spoke at the conference at Vatican City, and since he got his five minutes with the Pope, I will mostly use Bernie’s positions to draw a contrast between Catholic social teaching and what has become the standard position for many Democrats, and, increasingly, many Republicans. First, though, at the heart of the Church’s social teaching on economics is the following, from  a section in the 1991 encyclical that Bernie quoted in his speech:

The essential wisdom of Centesimus Annus is this: A market economy is beneficial for productivity and economic freedom. But if we let the quest for profits dominate society; if workers become disposable cogs of the financial system; if vast inequalities of power and wealth lead to marginalization of the poor and the powerless; then the common good is squandered and the market economy fails us. Pope John Paul II puts it this way: profit that is the result of “illicit exploitation, speculation, or the breaking of solidarity among working people . . . has not justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man.”

Again, remember that this laudable statement of the Church’s position regarding how market economies ought to work is not limited to one country. It is a statement applicable to all countries, to “the common good.” I want you to notice something from that last line:

Pope John Paul II puts it this way: profit that is the result of “illicit exploitation, speculation, or the breaking of solidarity among working people . . . has not justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man.”

FILE - Apple CEO Steve Jobs smiles with a new iPhone at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. In the white-hot competition for tech talent, some workers are alleging Silicon Valley's top companies conspired to keep employees from switching teams, June 7, 2010.The breaking of solidarity among working people…has not justification…” Think about that for a moment. That solidarity, as far as the Church is concerned, extends across national boundaries. It crosses oceans and deserts and leaps over mountains. In the Church’s eyes, that solidarity ought to include workers in Malaysia and Michigan, Vietnam and Vermont. It ought to include garment workers in Bangladesh and flat-screen factory workers in Mexico. It ought to include Apple iPhone assemblers in Zhengzhou, China, and autoworkers in Warren, Ohio. But let’s look at something Bernie Sanders said recently and examine it in light of what the Catholic Church teaches.

Bernie’s now infamous interview with the New York Daily News featured an attack on General Motors. Here is what he said:

General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is shutting down of many major plants in this country. Sending jobs to low-wage countries. And General Electric, doing a very good job avoiding the taxes. In fact, in a given year, they pay nothing in taxes. That’s greed. That is greed and that’s selfishness. That is lack of respect for the people of this country.

Notice what Bernie said: General Electric is greedy and selfish because it is guilty of “Sending jobs to low-wage countries.” A lot of Democrats have said similar things. I have myself. As Bloomberg pointed out last month, “Hillary Clinton proposed rescinding tax relief and other incentives retroactively for U.S. companies that move jobs and operations overseas.” Here is what she said in a speech delivered at an automotive supplier in Detroit:

If a company like Nabisco outsources and ships jobs overseas, we’ll make you give back the tax breaks you receive here in America. If you’re not going to invest in us, why should taxpayers invest in you. Let’s take that money and put it to work in the communities that are being left behind.

Such expressions of exasperation with American corporations aren’t hard to find. We all know what a ruckus Donald Drumpf has started among Republicans over outsourcing and trade issues, to the point that he is even attracting some support among working-class Democrats. Bernie Sanders, raising a ruckus himself, has said that General Electric and companies who behave similarly are “destroying the moral fabric of this country.” Again, he puts it in a moral context, just like, he admits, the Church does. But clearly the Church wouldn’t agree with what Bernie told the Daily News when someone suggested he sounded like Drumpf:

Well, if he thinks they’re bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you’re in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I’m not going to have American workers “competing” against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.

There is no equivocation here from Bernie. He sides with American workers. There is no talk of “the urgency of a moral economy” when it comes to Americans having to compete against low-wage workers elsewhere. He doesn’t mention, as John Paul II did, “solidarity among working people.” He does talk of a low minimum wage in Vietnam and “indentured servants” and “slave-like conditions” in Malaysia. But those things could be fixed without bringing those jobs back to the United States. The issue with Bernie is what’s best for Americans, not the Vietnamese or Malaysians. The “Feel The Bern” website puts it succinctly:

American trade policy should place the needs of American workers and small businesses first.

Maybe it should. But is that moral? And is it moral in the sense that the Catholic Church and the current Pope criticize unfettered capitalism? Let’s go back to that passage from Bernie’s speech at the Vatican where he quoted the 1991 encyclical:

The essential wisdom of Centesimus Annus is this: A market economy is beneficial for productivity and economic freedom. But if we let the quest for profits dominate society; if workers become disposable cogs of the financial system; if vast inequalities of power and wealth lead to marginalization of the poor and the powerless; then the common good is squandered and the market economy fails us.

Aren’t Bernie and Hillary and me and other Democrats—and now Drumpf Republicans—simply defending, in another form, what the Church is condemning? When we make statements like Bernie makes on his website—“If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries”—aren’t we guilty of letting “the quest for profits dominate society”? Aren’t we guilty of making foreign workers “become disposable cogs of the financial system”? Aren’t we guilty of allowing our own “power and wealth” as Americans to “lead to marginalization of the poor and the powerless” and squandering “the common good”?

When I first heard that Bernie Sanders was going to speak at that conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, I wondered what he might say. I have often thought about how selfish we Americans—who live in the wealthiest nation on earth—sound to the rest of the world when we talk about jobs and trade. You can read Bernie’s entire speech yourself, but I especially noticed this:

The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time. It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world.

It’s hard to see how an American, especially one who is adamantly opposed to spreading American wealth to “low-wage countries”—let’s face it, people, that’s what this is all about when it comes down to it—can confront “the great moral issue of our time” by demanding that American companies make all their products here. Nor can an American confront that great moral issue by saying that “fair trade” means only trading with countries that have standards that are “roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.” As we have already seen, Sanders made that statement in his Daily News interview, and as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp (formerly at ThinkProgress) pointed out about Bernie’s impossible-to-meet standard:

But there’s one big problem, according to development economists I spoke to: Limiting trade with low-wage countries as severely as Sanders wants to would hurt the very poorest people on Earth. A lot.

Free trade is one of the best tools we have for fighting extreme poverty. If Sanders wins, and is serious about implementing his trade agenda as outlined in the NYDN interview and elsewhere, he will impoverish millions of already-poor people.

I don’t want to just pick on Bernie Sanders over this issue. All of us who worry about outsourcing—which is not done for altruistic reasons but does bring some benefits to the world’s most vulnerable people—and who also worry about world poverty have to confront the moral dilemma involved. Bernie said at the conference:

Pope Francis has given the most powerful name to the predicament of modern society: the Globalization of Indifference. “Almost without being aware of it,” he noted, “we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

Pope Francis is right, of course. And Bernie was right to cite him. But Bernie did not, perhaps because he can not, tell us why his own nationalist position on trade—a position he shares with a large majority of Americans—is nothing if not a perfect example of what the Pope means by “the Globalization of Indifference.”

And although it was Bernie who got to meet Pope Francis, it is up to all of us—all of us who believe the common good should extend beyond our borders—to face the moral dilemma created by such seeming indifference.

 

 

[Photos: Bernie at St. Peter’s Basilica: AP; Steve Jobs: Reuters; Outsourcing protest: DaytonOS; Pope Francis: Luca Zennaro/EPA-Pool]

 

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19 Comments

  1. King Beauregard

     /  April 18, 2016

    Here’s my periodic reminder that the TPP fights against involuntary servitude and child labor, requires minimum wages, and legalizes labor unions. Apparently, Bernie is against all that, because he’s done everything in his power to make people sour on the TPP.

    Meanwhile, I learned something the other month: in 2015, for the first time, 90% of the world had been elevated out of grinding poverty, with 10% more to go. When I was a kid in the 70s, those numbers were roughly reversed. We have globalization to thank for that in large measure, not because multinationals are necessarily generous, but because trickle down does actually happen. It’s something like how Henry Ford made sure his workers made enough to buy his product, not because he was anything close to generous, but because he knew he needed customers to thrive. Would I like to see multinationals do more? Sure (and the TPP will help). But even as things are, things are getting better for most of the world’s people. In Bernie’s perfect world, those people would receive no help.

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    • I regret what has happened over TPP. The whole thing has been so entangled in politics, on both sides now, that one is hard-pressed to find the facts, facts one can trust, to make an informed decision as to whether it is actually superior to older agreements. And the truth is that Bernie’s Manichean politics essentially forced Hillary Clinton to abandon her prior support for the deal.

      You make a good case for TPP, by the way. No one should ignore the fact that, if we press our case after the agreement is signed, that things will improve for a lot of impoverished people. Of course, though, it will both hurt and help working folks here. Making sure there is plenty of dough around to take care of and re-train the folks who are hurt is crucial, of course. And it’s the part I worry most about. The right-wingers can always cut off the money tomorrow that they promise today. And it looks like, since Bernie apparently isn’t prepared to spend any time or effort to help elect Democratic candidates for Congress, that those right-wingers may stay in control, certainly of the House and, if we don’t get our shit together, possibly the Senate, too.

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      • King Beauregard

         /  April 19, 2016

        I”ve posted this before, but here’s the friendly folks at Vox trying to analyze the TPP, and not finding any great themes to it, just a bunch of little things it does:

        http://www.vox.com/2016/2/26/11116100/weeds-tpp-nevada-abortion-clinics

        Foes of the TPP claim it’s going to cost jobs, well I ask, which jobs are those? Didn’t we send those jobs away 20 years ago? And the sad truth is, due to automation, a great many of those jobs don’t even exist any longer.

        As dire as that sounds, I am optimistic that automation in one field means the creation of new fields, because that’s how it’s always been. Automation in agriculture led to farmers moving to cities to work in textile factories. Automation in textile factories led to workers shifting to car plants. And hopefully that’s an ongoing process, with the newer jobs generally being more comfortable in the process by the way. I hope.

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        • Vox is fast becoming one of my favorite places to visit, especially the card stacks.

          One particular topic I found enlightening was regarding the investor-state dispute settlement process that has bothered people I respect, like Elizabeth Warren. She and others are concerned that this particular process, which involves for-hire arbitrators rather than judges, will lead to onerous rulings that could weaken things like environmental and banking regulations, and so on. That seems like a reasonable thing to be worried about, but the Obama folks say that the process is fairly well-used around the world and that we have never lost one of the relatively few cases that have been brought under the ISDS process.

          As for things like the enhancement of labor protections and other things the administration says have much merit, I don’t know. A lot does depend on who is around to enforce the thing. I do think, though, that there should be something like an ISDS process that workers and activists can use to bring suit against foreign governments who don’t live up to the terms of the agreement, who don’t actually oversee an improvement in working and environmental conditions, for instance. 
          Will the TPP ultimately be a big deal one way or the other? Probably not. At least for us. What it might mean to people in places like Vietnam or Malaysia is a different matter.

          I, too, hope automation will continue to improve our lives, add to our economy and our well-being, rather than eventually become something that leaves us short of good-paying jobs. But as we all know, just because something has happened, doesn’t mean it will continue to happen. Much depends on whose hands are on the wheel of government.

          Duane

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          • King Beauregard

             /  April 22, 2016

            About the ISDS controversy, ultimately I think that’s just another iteration of the same discussion that always comes up with only the details changed: we must decide on an ultimate authority for things, but can we trust them? Democracy tries to solve that by making the will of the people the final arbiter, but since not all people can be experts on all things, at a certain point we’re left putting people in charge who will hopefully use their powers for good and not for ill.

            Like in my various Internet arguings, I talk about the TPP and how it is designed to do good for workers, but one of the objections that comes up is that corrupt governments can twist, circumvent, or flout the rules altogether. Well the answer to that is simple; I remind them that all we have to do is conquer every Pacific rim nation and then they will have no choice but to obey. That’s how to definitively solve the problem of other countries having ultimate authority over themselves, if you’re genuinely that bugged about it. But, if you consider that an unacceptable solution, good-faith efforts at cooperation are the best we can hope for.

            Elsewhere you were talking about being happier as a liberal, and I think you have a point that you don’t have to fear the future — liberalism is based upon an attitude of “we can make things even better”, and your flavor of it is seasoned with “… and here’s how we do it”. Too many on the Left, unfortunately, take that second part and replace it with “… but nobody in power will ever try to make things better”. To be sure, there’s a certain joy in perpetual indignant anger, but it’s the kind that wears ya down, and it doesn’t get things done. It’s crab mentality applied to optimism rather than material goods. It also tends to make you a little desperate, as you put your faith in one Our Only Hope after another. Guys, if you’d just vote in the midterms consistently, things would get better almost immediately, and the only thing it would cost you is your delight in despair.

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            • Your point about eventually having to trust the people we put in charge (as long as we are the “we” who put them in charge!) is unassailable. The modern world is too complex for any of us to master all the issues, including the president, who has to trust others as well. And that is why the effort by Republicans, especially since the election of Reagan in 1980, to undermine the trust people have in our governmental institutions, and then to exploit that lack of trust to achieve power, is so goddamned insidious. A natural skepticism of authority is warranted, obviously. But what we have today is a cynicism that, I hate to sound melodramatic, threatens the stability of our democracy (thus the rise of a Drumpf). 

              And to be fair, and to follow your suggestion, it has not only been right-wingers who have helped create an atmosphere of cynicism and then tried to exploit it. I think of Glenn Greenwald today, but of Ralph Nader and others before him. We have to, eventually, trust our institutions to work for us or they will, eventually, stop working altogether. Then the experiment will be over.

              Duane

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  2. Duane, I don’t really have anything to add but such a well written and though out post at least deserves a “well said sir, well said”. And for a fellow that’s not Catholic you sure do a nice job dealing with intricacies of Catholic Social Teaching. You certainly seem to understand it far better than most Catholics as exemplified by our current Speaker of the House. Solidarity among working people wherever located is part of the antidote to the “race to the bottom”.

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    • Thanks very much. I really appreciate the kind words. I know that in this day of tweeting, writing 2000-word essays isn’t for everyone. But sometimes you have to lay it out in some detail to make the connections. By the way, I used to study theology of all kinds fairly deeply, for an amateur. Even though I’ve moved on from evangelicalism, I still like to read about theology, and, these days, watch a lot of “god” debates on YouTube. Love me some Bart Ehrman!

      In any case, trade policy is a tough issue. As a union guy, I have been taught to think in terms of “America first” and all that. But that leaves a whole lot of people out of the picture, especially a lot of working poor people around the world. What I don’t like about Bernie’s stance is the black-and-white nature of it. For him to say that countries we trade with ought to have roughly the same labor and environmental standards as we do or else, makes it impossible to trade with the developing world. That position seems morally problematic to me, especially for someone who frames the issue in terms of morality like he does. 

      Again, thanks for the good words. It helps when I sit down for what I know will be a long writing session! Oh, I almost forgot. I love your gravatar. My mom and dad were Humphrey Democrats and I have a few memories of him from that tumultuous 1968 election year, even though I was only 10. What a guy he was and what a mess that year was for Democrats.

      Duane

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  3. Here is a great quote from Colin Gordon that I think is very much consistent with where you went in your piece:

    “More to the point, all countries face the forces and consequences of globalization, and yet wage and income inequality is starker in the United States than in most other settings. Indeed, the United States is less exposed to trade than any of its OECD peers, and yet more unequal than almost all of them It is not globalization (as an abstract and inevitable force) that generates or explains inequality, but the political response to globalization in particular countries.
    It is not trade that generates inequality, but its political terms “.

    I take this to mean,and I believe, then that its not free trade that is the problem, but our failure to respond politically in ways that redress the just grievances of our fellow citizens who are disproportionately bearing the burden of the downside of open markets that is the problem. And if our Unions had the same clout that they had a generation ago this would be what we would do I suspect. I hope and pray they regain that strong voice. But I think this is the responsible position on trade for Democrats and reasonable Republicans going forward. Bernie and Trump however will likely continue to choose to channel William McKinley.

    Thanks for the props about the Happy Warrior gravatar. One of the reasons I am so happy that I found your blog is the commonality of our journey. My parents were strong Democrats and the first election I remember was that of 1968. I was devastated when my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Coleman, who I still have a bit of a crush on to this day, came to school wearing a “Nixon’s the One” button.
    When I began my long journey out of the Dark Side, where I had spent decades, I decided to begin at the beginning by immersing myself in reading about my first political heroes. FDR and Hubert. I didn’t need to go any further. Reading about those men had helped me to regain my footing. I remembered what I was. I am now, and hope I go to the grave an unreconstructed, New Dealer. Gary Hart be damned.
    And I am going to strive to be as happy about my politics as HHH was about his. Something I never was when I was on the Right, I was miserable and made people around me that way. Was a yucky place to be at the end. I am sure you remember.
    And now, while not quite feeling like Old Scrooge on Christmas morning, but pretty darn close!

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    • You are right about the role of government in responding to the failures of capitalism to lift all boats. It is imperative that we have people in office whose sympathies are with the workers, who don’t see them as cogs in a machine. Unions did play a major role in balancing out the power relationships in capitalism. But the Republican Party, for a generation or more now, have done a damned good job of demonizing unions and our membership is not only declining, but I meet ordinary working people who absolutely think unions are the worst thing that could happen to them in the workplace. It really is amazing how successful the GOP has been, working on behalf of business interests and ignoring the plight of labor.

      As for our similar journeys, man, oh, man. I like to meet people who have gone all the way from one side to the other. Most folks tend not to do that. They either stay put or just hang out in the muddled middle. But I want to tell you something. Your point about being much happier now than when you were on the right is one I never thought of in that way. But it is so damned true. When I was a Limbaugh dittohead who read William F. Buckley’s stuff like it was scripture, I wasn’t nearly as happy as I am now as a liberal Democrat. I can’t exactly say why, but it is true. Maybe it has something to do with the nature of the message: the right is always looking back and yearning and is doubtful about the future. We look back and learn and can’t wait to apply what we have learned to make the future better. That, it seems to me, is what should make us happy warriors!

      Duane

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      • melk39

         /  April 22, 2016

        If you like stories of folks emerging from the darkness I am in the middle of a pretty good book right now. Its called “Wrapped in the Flag” and its the story of a woman growing up in the 50’s in a family where her parents became fervent members of the John Birch Society. One of the saddest things is the way the hatred within that ideology warped her otherwise decent father into, well an SOB. She tells the story of when she was younger her Dad told her the straight facts about the holocaust that every GI knew. Later under the influence of the Birchers he became a stark raving anti-semite and a denier. He also went from a doting dad to a rigid, violent nut job that she was afraid of. All, she believes, because of his immersion in the politics of hate preached by the Birchers and their fellow travelers (including Buckley). Very sad story but illustrative and cautionary of the addicting power of hate and how it can twist otherwise regular people into becoming something almost evil. Or in the case of Rush- Just Plain Evil.

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        • Interesting about the Birchers and their insidious influence. I have two sons who are being influenced by right-wing talk radio heads. They will not discuss politics beyond simple statements with me.

          My parents were apolitical. I never heard politics discussed when I was growing up. During my political career I gravitated toward conservatism and libertarianism, pretty much equating those views with a skewed sense of patriotism. That changed when I retired from my second career and I took the time to read and think. And you and Duane are right about being happier for the liberal view. I am too.

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        • Thanks for the suggestion. That is a sad story. Ideology can be and often is a dangerous thing, especially mixed with the wrong kind of brain chemistry. I will, though, give Buckley some credit for booting, or trying to boot, the Birchers out of the conservative movement. I think Glenn Beck has ushered them back in to stay, however. 

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  4. I ended of my series on Human Rights (see https://theabsurdityindex.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/28/) with the following, which seems pertinent to this discussion:

    “Since World War II, the advance of the industrial/communications/technology revolution and the concomitant rise of Capitalism has captured the entire planet. Free, democratic countries like Japan, and even not-so free countries like Iran, are all part of the bandwagon called Globalization. The shared ethic is wealth; its accumulation and its growth. Human Rights are tolerated only if they be used in the service of those aims.

    I don’t think I can say it any better than Dr Samir Naim-Ahmed in his April 21, 2007, essay, “Human Rights And Globalization,” that appears on Countercurrents.org

    “[With globalization] Everything has to be dealt with as a market commodity judged by its economic value rather than its social value.

    “So governments find themselves in a very paradoxical situation. If they try to abide by UN human rights agreements which they signed, they would be violating the globalization agreements, which they also signed! and they would be criticized or even penalized for this violation ( by cutting the aids offered to them by international institutions ), and if they try to abide by globalization agreements they would be necessarily violating the human rights agreements and would be criticized for that in the human right reports and the UN statistics on human development would show them lagging behind in indices of human development!!

    “Transnational corporations which are steering the economic globalization are not at all directed by ethical or humanitarian principles . The maximization of profit is the major if not the only driving force for all their activities .

    “[Therefore, what is needed is]a government which is capable of making economy in the service of man instead of making man a victim and a slave for the market economy.”

    To the extent Capitalism dominates economic globalization, then the objective of profit maximization means that workers are disposable, natural resources are expendable, individual liberties are compromised, accountability and responsibility are diminished, and authoritarianism and imperialism breach the social contract and eat away at democracy.”

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    • Excellent summation of the problem. Which is why I’m a liberal. Because liberals, as I define them anyway, have a solution to the problem: Don’t throw away capitalism. Just shape the way it operates by forcing it to serve us, rather than us serve it. 

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  5. Great discussion, thanks to all. My thoughts and notes:

    Globalization has momentum, it is not reversible.
    The U.S. ought not be policeman of the world but economic czar of the world. It is cheaper and costs fewer lives.
    Automation is ongoing and inevitable. Logical end: a world of machines and computers with jobs only for the select few. Why isn’t government working on this problem? Corporations aren’t going to because they have no soul.
    A possible (distant) future: 95% work for the government, with emphasis on environment, health and science.

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    • No, globalization isn’t reversible, Jim. And that’s what makes all the campaign talk about trade, talk on both sides, a little surreal. 

      Your gaze into the future is fascinating. I hope it is also accurate. Wish I could be around when that day comes, if it ever does. It sure looks a long way off right now, though.

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  6. henrygmorgan

     /  April 25, 2016

    Duane: In 1968, I was teaching at Western Carolina University, and a group of us Democrats met Hube at a. campaign stop at the airport in nearby Asheville. In the middle of his stump speech, a. jet landing interrupted his presentation. Undaunted, he said, “When I heard that characteristic whine, I rhought a Republcan had invaded us.” The crowd response of laughter, cheers, and whistles
    drowned out the jet noise. I have wistfully thought in the nearly 50 years since what the world would be like if Humphrey, or even Bobby. Kennedy or Gene McCarthy, had won the election that year, saving us from the disastrous, failed Nixon administration and the sight of the first American President forced to resign. Oh what might have have been! Bud

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    • Great story, Bud. And characteristically Humphrey.

      On the “what might have been” front, I wonder what might have been if Humphrey had not tied himself to LBJ in 1964. It was not a good fit for him and I’m not sure why he wanted to be his VP so badly (it was not the job then it is today), other than to have a place to launch a presidential campaign someday. But that relationship cost him, a little bit in terms of his personal integrity, and a lot in terms of positioning himself on the war. He had to pretty much defend Johnson’s position and lost a lot of general election support from the McCarthy anti-war wing, McCarthy himself not exactly going out of his way to offer a resounding endorsement of the man who had beat him in the primary (sound familiar?).

      And speaking of that ’68 Democratic primary process, it had effects on the primary race we see today, between Hillary and Bernie. The delegate allocation in ’68 was a mess—Humphrey never won a caucus or primary but got the nomination!—and as a result of fighting between the “establishment” and the “insurgents,” formal rules were adopted (oddly, it was McGovern who led the reform committee) to make the process more democratic, including the elimination of “winner take all” allocation of delegates. How strange is it that because the delegates today are allocated proportionally on the Democratic side, that Bernie the insurgent has almost no chance of catching the establishment Hillary? Funny how things work out.

      Duane

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