The Moustache has a point…but only up to a point:
LONDON burns. The Arab Spring triggers popular rebellions against autocrats across the Arab world. The Israeli Summer brings 250,000 Israelis into the streets, protesting the lack of affordable housing and the way their country is now dominated by an oligopoly of crony capitalists. From Athens to Barcelona, European town squares are being taken over by young people railing against unemployment and the injustice of yawning income gaps, while the angry Tea Party emerges from nowhere and sets American politics on its head.
We are increasingly taking easy credit, routine work and government jobs and entitlements away from the middle class — at a time when it takes more skill to get and hold a decent job, at a time when citizens have more access to media to organize, protest and challenge authority and at a time when this same merger of globalization and I.T. is creating huge wages for people with global skills (or for those who learn to game the system and get access to money, monopolies or government contracts by being close to those in power) — thus widening income gaps and fueling resentments even more.
Put it all together and you have today’s front-page news
(And what better way to soothe populist anger and frustration than by putting a hedge-fund backed Galtian in charge fo everything!)
Yes, it’s true that the middle-class is getting squeezed by huge global phenomena. Despite Friedman’s caveats about access, he sees most of them as essentially positive and inevitable — the world is flat, you know the drill.
The truth is, though, that people are rioting and such in the west because of the current economic crisis, and not much of the current crisis in the west was caused by globalization, except insofar as one considers the creation of the Euro a form of globalization. The United States is in a crisis caused by the collapse of the real estate market and certain segments of the financial world, combined with an ineffectual neo-Hooverist response to these collapses. The European is in a crisis having the same origins, only with an even more Hooverist response and a poorly-conceived currency system on top of it.
This isn’t the ignorant luddite protectionists battling enlightened elites; no, political elites fucked up and people are mad as a result. These fuck ups are not the inevitable result of neoliberal economic policies. You can support free trade without being a Hooverist, without thinking that American real estate prices would never fall.
This is why I can’t get that into the neo-liberals versus social democrats thing. I mean, yes, Matt Yglesias is a smug, entitled, objectively pro-McSuderman fuck, who wanks too much about barber’s licenses, but he’s never advocated Hooverism and he never insisted that American real estate prices would go up forever.
This is also why I think all the “is Obama a real liberal or not” stuff is dumb. Who cares? Liberal or not, the ACA is projected to save a lot of money and give a lot more people access to health care. Liberal or not, the stimulus wasn’t big enough to kick start the economy (EDIT: I supported the stimulus and think it did some good, my criticism is that it was too small and included too many tax cuts). That’s what matters.