16 April 2009

How to Address the U.S. Economic Crisis: "break the oligarchy"

"Of course, the U.S. is unique. And just as we have the world’s most advanced economy, military, and technology, we also have its most advanced oligarchy." ~Simon Johnson

When, a decade ago, Richard Rorty railed against the bosses and oligarchies who play an increasingly malign role in American politics, it sounded like old fashioned leftist rhetoric. And it seemed naive too, since real oligarchies existed only in faraway places like, say, Russia. But in this piece from The Atlantic Monthly economist Simon Johnson (himself former Chief Economist at the IMF, so, familiar with oligarchies and their dire effects and, of course, no relation of mine) uses the same language as did Rorty to describe the current political economic predicament in the U.S.; hence his advice, which I quote in the title to the post. Johnson rightly points out that all our recent and current political-economic policies - regardless of whether they've been peddled by the Bush or Obama administrations - leave the oligarchy intact. And he rightly points out that that is big mistake. The problem, of course, is a political one and a serious analysis must ask what would happen if someone seriously proposed dismantling or subverting our oligarchy in even the relatively technocratic ways Johnson suggests. It is hard to imagine a frontal political challenge to our oligarchs that did not generate a furious backlash.

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