We saw the reemergence of broad and disruptive anti-austerity protests in Greece and Spain this week. Although the causes of fiscal crisis and dramatically increased borrowing costs in the two countries, the proposed remedy from Europe was the same: strict
austerity, based on downsizing spending and government. There’s doubt whether this strategy will preserve the Euro, in Greece particularly, but everyone seems certain that it will mean harsh declines in the standard of living for most people living through it, and no one suggests this that austerity will mean even a relatively quick correction. The Spanish and Greek governments are bracing for years of cutbacks.
Every time a new round of reforms is announced, people take to the streets. Although most people seem to want to save the Euro, most people also seem to think that protecting the people is even more important the defending the currency. In Greece, activists staged a general strike, and some took to the streets of Athens throwing petrol bombs. It’s hard to imagine that governments can continue to tighten fiscal constraints further, step by step, and not provoke even more disruptive protests. Importantly, these actions are not spontaneous, but are organized by groups with broad bases of support and particular interests and constituencies to defend. The unions are critical here.
In Spain, thousands of protesters tried to surround the parliament in opposition to austerity policies, and the Catalonian independence movement reemerged. Policy makers are caught between domestic democratic pressures and the demands of mostly German bankers. There’s not an obvious or easy solution for governments. The protests are raising the costs of austerity; presently, most elected officials don’t see viable alternatives. Meanwhile, riot police are defending the parliament with force, including rubber bullets, and activists are streaming video of their efforts (http://www.livestream.com/ICBcn?t=782341).
Activists elsewhere have seized upon the reemergence of broad public protests against austerity to try to restart their own campaigns. Occupy Wall Street has posted a call for a global “surround the Congress” campaign, announcing protests in major cities around the world today. And Adbusters has announced a Halloween Party in Washington, DC (October 31).
Days before a presidential election in the United States, it’s hard for me to imagine a huge turnout in DC. Even if Adbusters describes the election as a choice between Coke and Pepsi, most activists are going to see more substantial differences between administrations headed by Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. But in European countries embracing austerity, where elections have generated broad coalitions or caretaker technocratic governments, it’s easier to imagine that frustrated people will see no more promising approach than street protest.
A Progressive Obsession
The most interesting feature to emerge from the Great Economic Collapse of 2008 is not how this event forced people to realize what truly takes precedence in their lives, but more importantly, how the common man and woman have been hoodwinked and lied to by the progressive, manipulated into believing political ideas and slogans that turned out to be false, presented with solutions to today’s problems that have more to do with undercutting the “enlightened freedoms” guaranteed by the American Constitution than moving America toward a tomorrow of prosperity.
From the ever-evolving issues of climate change (raising taxes on carbon to lower the temperature of the planet), unemployment (lifetime public service jobs and wage increases guaranteed by union muscle), the cost of health care (Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in U.S. history) to the stimulation of a recessionary economy (placing capital in federal government coffers instead of using it as a multiplier in the private sector for the creation of products and goods)—at their core, all bracketed solutions of social(ist) justice—most people are beginning to see that this so-called “progress” offers nothing more than simplistic canards in response to today’s most pressing problems.
These obfuscations and non sequiturs also reveal a fundamental paradox in the progressives’ relationship with one particular concept that also drives their rivals’ policies—money. This contradiction reveals a disconcerting emphasis on other people’s money. Even the capitalist instinctively knows money is merely a means to an end. But the progressive mind seems to see it as an end in itself. Pleonexia is the philosophical term for this obsession for things that rightfully belong to others.
In further examining their arguments through the microscope of pleonexia, the depth of their obsession is revealed. Endless examples abound of progressive attempts at trying to control the amount of money in politics: limiting the tone, tenor and substance of political debate, and the passing of legislation that intrudes upon states’ rights or curtails the right of business from choosing their own destiny.
Of course, the progressives won’t admit to such devious behaviour in public; politicians dismiss criticisms as simple misunderstandings of their egalitarianism; left-leaning media acolytes make personal attacks on opponents, hoping it distracts from this fetish, and the progressive academic is always on hand to provide the latest research that shows more control of what others have is to be a priority in the engineering of a prosperous and fair society. But despite their best effort, since 2008, those who put forth the progressive platform have been unable to successfully hide their abnormal fixation from public view.
To see the end result and damning consequences of progressive policies, one only need look at Europe and the ever-growing power found in the institutions of the European Union as leaders try to grapple with the demise of the progressive welfare state. The sovereignty of nation states and the future well-being of the individuals who make up the European Union are being sacrificed in favour of an Old World belief in the ideal of unionism, solidarity and an all-powerful, governing central authority.
Let not history nor the American public forget the outrageous treatment of the sick, the poor, the unemployed, the middle class and the elderly pensioner in the PIIGS countries at the hands of the European progressives—these could easily become Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia and South Dakota if progressive policies and ideology are ingrained in a U.S. federal government that is allowed to grow beyond its constitutional limits.
In the opinion of this writer, the Great Economic Collapse has not only washed away all the lies and false facades of the progressive argument here in the United States, but it has also pulled back the shadowy curtain that shielded the eyes of those in Europe from seeing the truth of their own society: credit does not buy happiness, big government does not bring prosperity in life, and partial democratic accountability does not guarantee liberty for the individual.
It is this reality that confronts the people of the United States as the campaigns for the presidency, U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives begins in earnest. Despite all the talk of social justice and fairness, progressives are perched atop an ideological mountain built upon false promises, failed policies and incongruous solutions that are finally tipping them over the edge onto the wrong side of history.
The salvation of the American people is not to be found in the progressive wing of the Democrats.
J.R. Werbics is a Canadian writer and philosopher.
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Copyright 2012. J.R.Werbics