Wednesday, August 10, 2011


The mood became grim as the dismal recall results percolated into downtown Madison last night.  As the Ed Schultz radio show packed up to leave, the recorded verses of "Solidarity Forever" drifted softly into the air, and a few tired voices joined in.

And yet the absence of Solidarity in Wisconsin is all too evident in the language we most often use to express our material support for one-another - i.e. in how we spend our money.  Our stores overflow, but not with goods made by American workers.  Our real solidarity - teachers and firemen included - lies with cheap labor in China...and with a vast, steadily-increasing workforce of powerful automatic machines.  We tell ourselves the prices are irresistable.  We do not say we do not want to resist them.

As I rode home my mind spun with the pedals.  I believe I may have put my finger on the knot at the center of it all - not just the political turmoil in Wisconsin, but the driving force behind the Growth Imperative.  It is this:

If the consumer has not the will to make common cause with the worker – specifically, the willingness to spend more in acquiring less when such transactions are necessary to ensure that the worker is able to earn sufficient wages to provide for his family – then no other force on Earth can protect labor.  A poverty of self-governance is no foundation for a popularly-elected government to build the onerous restrictions on business and trade that would be needed. 
Is there any delusion so cruel as imagining that reform of democracy – or worse, revolution – could compensate for so basic a failure of brotherhood?  Perhaps yes: the belief that free markets among selfish men might yield a condition of virtue.

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