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.