GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

March 3, 2011

Madison, not Cairo

Filed under: GA — adam @ 6:49 pm

I’m much more interested in what is going on in Wisconsin than in the Middle East. The Middle East is the business of Middle Easterners now—America gave up its pretentions as a superpower, or leader of the Free World, or hegemon, or whatever, with the election of Barack Obama. Who knows—maybe it’s for the best. If we get serious at some point and start electing real rather than vanity presidents we’ll have to start from scratch in designating allies and enemies, and maybe we’ll be less bogged down by whatever balancing act the State Department thinks they’ve been performing for the past few decades. Either some unstable, very flawed, but perhaps workable Islamic Republics (with the emphasis probably swinging back and forth between noun and adjective); or straight out Islamic (or, much less likely, secular) totalitarian regimes; or failed states with genocidal militias settling scores. Totalitarian regimes can stagger along for a couple of decades and sooner or later the scores get settled and everyone gets tired, and things revert back to Islamic Republic or Islamic Republic. In the meantime, it’s likely that the empowered elements in the region will be less capable of waging serious war, certainly against us but even against Israel—although Israel certainly needs to be ready to go it alone, and to drop the rules imposed by the international media/human rights community, or the continuous simulated Nuremberg Trial directed at Israel. They’ll probably need to sell us oil anyway, and if they want to throw acid on their own faces to spite the Great Satan, maybe it will shock us into seriousness, i.e., drilling and building nuclear power plants.

Wisconsin, though—the fate of Western society is at stake there. Public employee unions have the government extract dues from their members; they use those dues to fund Democratic Party politicians who “negotiate” fat benefit packages with those same unions which promise future bankruptcy but long after the politicians who gave away the store can be made accountable for it. Even more, in its most advanced form, public employee unionism creates little one-party states where, even if you elect budget-cutting, tax-cutting Republicans, the public employees have already been given the store, and can shut down the entire government in response to any attempt at breaking those promises. So, it’s better to keep electing Democrats, who at least might spread the largesse around. Even more: public employee unions have a monopoly within a monopoly—not only is there no competition for government provided services, not only does the government not have to worry about making a profit, but now the government can’t even exercise its power as monopolist to impose reasonable terms upon its workforce. And there’s even more… But you get the point.

Now, though, after the disappointing collapse of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship at the first serious battle with those same public employee unions, a series of Republican governors have emerged who do seem serious: Chris Christie in New Jersey, John Kasich in Ohio, somewhat more equivocally, Mitch Daniels in Indiana—and, of course, most prominently right now, Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Walker in particular is getting at the heart of the problem, and is not only negotiating the benefits themselves but the conditions that make it possible for the public employees to hold their “employers” hostage. His bill is every bit as radical as his enemies say—it seems to me that it would have been enough to simply make the payment of union dues optional: that in itself would collapse the racket, and the Democrats’ money laundering scheme. And he could have presented such a plan as a pure defense of the right of individual union members, without mentioning collective bargaining at all. But I’m sure he and his fellow Republicans have their reasons for attacking the problem comprehensively, and it does allow for an all-out fight with everyone fully aware of the consequences.

The Left certainly understands the consequences, and they are enraged and desperate. If the Left can indeed be defeated decisively, even destroyed as a force in modern society, the path lies through Wisconsin. Take away public employee unions and you see a drastic decline in Democrat and left money more generally; you will see far more sparsely populated Leftist demonstrations; you will no longer see the intimidating enforcers at so many demonstrations of both the Left and Right; the Democrats start losing elections regularly, and then who gives them money or votes for them since all their support is predicated upon them being in power and able to give some people other people’s (or imaginary) money. The outcome, in Wisconsin, let alone the rest of the country, is still in doubt—we are at the beginning of the beginning. But the survival of the market economy and its political order right now depends upon what happens in Madison at lot more than on what happens in Cairo.

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