Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Another Good Read

Eschaton: "Quango Tango

Alternate Title: Democratic consultants want to party like it's 1994!
Kenneth Baer, muses about prior TPM substitute co-host's question about why New Labour doesn't get much respect from the American Left.

He writes:

The thing to remember is that the main dividing line between New Labour and New Democrats and the more recalcitrant portions of their respective parties is a realization that the industrial age has come and gone and that we now live in a interdependent world which demands different policy responses in order to live up to the values of fairness, equality, opportunity, etc. that progressives cherish. If you drill down past the name-calling and the various issue positions, at the root of the divide is that New Labour and New Democrats are people on the left who have come to terms with -? and even embraced -- the market.

I've never heard of Baer before, but given that he's described as a 'a Democratic strategist and the founder of Baer communications' I assume he's someone foolish candidates pay to tell them how to lose elections. The idea this has anything to do with serious contemporary policy debates is ludicrous.

Baer's comments seem to have a lot to do with a misunderstanding about the modern relationship between government and the private sector. While it's true that New Labour broke from its 'nationalize everything' past, its flaws have little to do with its embrace of 'the market,' and good Democrats whether Right, Center, and Left, would do well to get their heads out of their 1994 assses and come to terms with what has happened here and in the UK over the past decade or so.

Labour gets more fire from the American left for the same reason that Democrats who support the bankruptcy bill get a lot of fire - they're sellouts. Blair's and Labour's problems aren't to a great degree about their heresy against the (non-existent) Marxist orthodoxy of the left, it's about their embrace of corporate Whoreness.

The 90s in Britain in particular saw the rise of wonderful things referred to as 'private-public partnerships' and 'quasi-non-governmental organizations,' or 'Quangos.' This trend didn't start under Blair, but it sure proliferated. Essentially it was a way to move expenditures off-budget, along with accountability, and hand off government functions to regulated monopolies with highly paid favored executives. The most notorious and disastrous example of this type of arrangement was Railtrack, the company tasked with maintaining the rail infrastructure in Britain. Railtrack was a 'private company' which operated in 'the market' in theory, but in practice it lived off of government subsidies and government-mandated payments from the rail systems whose track it was supposed to maintain/improve. Of course, it had absolutely no incentive to actually improve the rail infrastructure - their primary money making route involved begging for more money from the government corporate dole. Eventually it was, in fact, re-nationalized, after its executives got rich fleecing the taxpayers.

This 'market'/'non-market' distinction is so 1994. Anyone who is trotting it out as a meaningful 'New Democrat' manifesto is a silly person who is going to lose us more and more elections, especially from someone posting on 'the net' who pre-empts criticism by making snide remarks about netroots.

(all this ignores the obvious wee little Iraq issue of course)

And, what's with this 'I know just about nothing about Social Security' crap. How is it possible that someone getting money to be a Dem consultant appears to be proud of this fact? I didn't know much about Social Security until a few months ago when it became the central domestic policy issue of this president, and I learned a few things.
-Atrios 5:48 PM

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