This Is the Way
February 28, 2021 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Interview: Saikat Chakrabarti, creator of the Green New Deal - "He also discovered AOC, served as her chief of staff, and co-founded the Justice Democrats."
...I do hope there is a more powerful “democratic industrialist” movement, and that is what I've been working on. This “democratic industrialism” must have some core, non-negotiable values. It should stand for democracy, first and foremost. It should believe in a fair, multi-racial society and strive to create better lives for all in America, regardless of race, gender, or anything else. It should believe in welcoming immigrants to come join us in this great American project--especially because there will be so much work to do. And it should believe in solving problems at a scale where the vast majority of Americans’ lives will be improved, rather than just the lives of a wealthy few. This last part means that our industrialism is combined with investing in social programs. We should use part of the wealth we create by upgrading our economy to build the best universal healthcare system in the world, the best public education system in the world, and end problems like poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Democracy and inclusiveness are important not just on principle but also out of practicality: we live in a democracy, so if we want to see this happen, the people will need to support it. The way to win their support is to pitch them on a plan that benefits everyone.

The same way FDR was one of the few figures in the early 20th century to push back the international wave of fascism, which was the right-wing version of industrialism, we need a “democratic industrialist” movement to do the same today. The right-wing authoritarian wave today is also international. We see it with figures like Bolsanaro in Brazil, Modi in India, and Orbán in Hungary. And it’s not going to go away on its own with just a return to “normal.”[1]

What we see over and over, though, is that the right-wing industrialists are all talk and no action when it comes to actually investing in industry. They win their votes with racism and xenophobia, because that’s easier than rebuilding an economy. Their “industrial policy” tends to just be corruption and giant handouts to the wealthy who don’t use it to build anything new. Trump felt he could get away with just building a wall, and only a few parts of it. He didn’t need to build those factories he promised during his campaign. The only way democratic industrialists can win majorities and keep them is by actually building a better life for people.
Interview: Liam Kofi Bright - "The decorated philosopher offers his philosophy of...well, a lot of things."
Without really being able to claim this is in any objective sense the most important issue that philosophers should be tackling, I am personally worried about the state of democratic institutions and culture.

Even profoundly anti-democratic movements tend to declare themselves for rule by the people. As mentioned, the Q conspiracy theories in the United States, for instance, seem to involve de facto persuading people that an election that does not go their way cannot have been fairly carried out. It thus gives people who are objectively acting to thwart the results of the electoral process the assurance that they are really on the side of true democracy. But such assurances evidently cannot always be trusted. After all, even setting aside these conspiracies, there are countries in the world wherein there is a sort of smoke-and-mirrors democracy - every now and again one may go through the motions of marking an X next to a candidate of your preference, but the relationship between this social ritual and what actually happens is opaque at best.

Thinking about how to identify instances of sham democracy, get out of that state once one is it, and avoid getting there if it is still avoidable, seem to me very important things for social theorists to be engaged in. Doing better will involve knowing about democratic theory, so as to think about the various institutional designs and voting mechanisms that might best guard against pseudo-democracy. And it will also involve being able to understand and see through the propaganda and ideology that can serve to mask or conceal non-democracy behind an illusion of formal democracy. Philosophers should hence be part of that conversation

But, in addition to these external sociological matters, there is something like an underlying spiritual malaise that must be addressed. The worry is not just that we risk slipping into, or retranching, such pseudo-democratic states. And my worry goes beyond the fact that people are deceived by aspects of their social environment that appear to empower them without actually rendering them able to affect the course of things. Worse, I think, is that a great many don't care, or at least have passed a point of cynicism wherein they do not really think things can be otherwise.

I am worried people do not recognise their disempowerment for what it is; harmful and contingent, capable of amelioration. Of all modes of government democracy is, on pain of self-contradiction, most dependent on the population actively buying in. This lack of investment in self rule, and lack of a nourishing democratic culture, must be understood, theorised, and ultimately combatted. We must work towards a renewed faith in the importance and possibility of genuine self-governance. This will be a task for ethics, cultural theory, and, in some sense, existential phenomenology.

I think democracy is of intrinsic worth, as democratic institutions embody and constitute our collective self-determination. I also think democracy has instrumental value, as a means of protecting ourselves against domination and abuse, and also securing peace abroad. These are very great goods, and I do not want the possibility of realising them to slip away from us.
also btw...
  • Video interview: David Shor, political data scientist - "The whiz-kid political analyst explains why Democrats need to talk about bread-and-butter issues." (58m52s: "It's very hard for politicians to do the right thing now under our current electoral system."[2])
  • Freedom from the Market - "By drawing on what has happened in American history, Konczal makes it easier for Americans to understand that things they might not believe are possible in America must be, because they have been. He rescues moments such as the WWII government run daycare centers that allowed women to work, or the use of the power of the federal state to force through the integration of Southern hospitals, from the enormous condescension of posterity. Notably, although he doesn't dwell on this point, many of these changes began at moments that seem shittier and more despairing than our own."
  • Seeing Like a Pro-Family State - "Addressing our fertility and family-formation crises will require us to push the boundaries of family policy and embrace a whole-of-society approach."[3,4]
posted by kliuless (19 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
That David Shor interview was long, but interesting. Thanks for posting.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:09 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]

So much to study! I'm halfway through the first link and strongly recommend.
posted by mumimor at 1:36 PM on February 28

Our ecosocialist Green New Deal encompasses two major programs, an Economic Bill of Rights and a Green Economy Reconstruction Program.

Instead the Democrats have taken the Green Party’s Green New Deal slogan, divested it of real content, and finally abandoned it altogether in the 2020 Democratic platform. Much of the climate justice movement is settling for these non-solutions as the “lesser evil.” It is now obvious that the Democrats are not going to enact a Green New Deal. Donald Trump may call climate change a hoax, but the Democrats are acting as if its a hoax.
posted by lathrop at 3:54 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]

It's not going to happen. I like Saikat and think he's a very intelligent person, but all of this is at the level of fan fiction in my opinion. I couldn't even get through his interview because of that fact.

Biden, Pelosi, and the rest of the Democrats' leadership have decided that keeping their rich campaign contributors and pals happy is preferable to stopping global warming, or even mitigating it in any meaningful way. The future is homeless camps everywhere, but with more flooding.
posted by wuwei at 3:58 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]

abandoned it altogether in the 2020 Democratic platform

The Democratic platform on COMBATING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND PURSUING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: "Climate change is a global emergency." Followed by extensive policy proposals.

The Republican platform: "The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution." (From the 2016 Platform, which was also adopted as the 2020 platform.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:07 AM on March 1 [5 favorites]

Imagine if the United States government used its powers to write laws, print money and kill people to fight climate change with the same glee and fervor it uses them to keep the people causing climate change safe and rich.
posted by Reyturner at 9:06 AM on March 1 [5 favorites]

kill people to fight climate change
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 12:05 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]

I'm not Reyturner but I favorited their post. From my perspective, the government's ability to kill people is what supports the value of the currency (e.g. ability to print money), from a neochartalist perspective.
posted by wuwei at 2:40 PM on March 1

If the issuer's social licence to kill people were vital to supporting the value of a currency, Bitcoin would never have been used to pay for drugs on Silk Road and the Stellar Lumens I bought last year for ten cents would not now be trading for fifty. So you might want to shift that perspective a smidge.

I also note in passing that none of the central banks are, in fact, legally permitted to kill people. At least not on purpose.
posted by flabdablet at 2:50 PM on March 1

007 is actually his account number.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:06 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]

I was imagining Reyturner's comment to propose unleashing the awesome might of America's misused, murderous military on, e.g., ExxonMobil executives.
posted by TheProfessor at 3:18 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]

Thanks! Bonus points for being the first (sidebarred) US politics thread not about Trump since the Great Back to Brunchening.
posted by Beardman at 7:36 PM on March 1

Now I feel like I just lost The Game.
posted by flabdablet at 7:40 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]

If the issuer's social licence to kill people were vital to supporting the value of a currency, Bitcoin would never have been used to pay for drugs on Silk Road and the Stellar Lumens I bought last year for ten cents would not now be trading for fifty. So you might want to shift that perspective a smidge.

Bitcoin, much like the US dollar itself, is only worth something due to the absolute military hegemony of the US empire. Who wants to threaten that empire after the genocides in Iraq and Yemen, which the US completely got away with?

Sadder still is that those genocides only happened due to the desire to control and profit from the very thing that will kill all of us.

So much for perspective shifts.
posted by Ouverture at 9:04 AM on March 2

Bitcoin, much like the US dollar itself, is only worth something due to the absolute military hegemony of the US empire.

I'm not seeing the line between those dots. Care to fill in a few more?

Near as I can tell, Bitcoin is worth something pretty much solely because a whole lot of people believe it will soon be worth more; and it wouldn't ever have been worth anything at all if it didn't start out having some utility, however flawed and awful, as a medium of exchange. I can't see how the absolute military hegemony of the US empire relates to any of that.
posted by flabdablet at 3:12 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]

Read Kim Stanley Robinson's latest, The Ministry for the Future, for imagining how the ability to kill people might figure into fighting climate change. He doesn't exactly cheerlead for it, but it is presented as something of an inevitability.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:44 AM on March 5

Since the 1600s, when increasingly globalized capitalism comes into conflict with political movements that try to interfere with it, capitalism has invariably ground out a win. The US "defeating" the USSR, or China "defeating" the US: empires changing places are races to the bottom, Pyrrhic victories that eke out a slightly higher return for investors, rather than simple ideological wins in an abstract marketplace of ideas.

I don't know what the solutions are to climate change, but I suspect that capital will dictate them, however fair, unfair, cruel, or kind they may turn out to be. To succeed, aspects of a Green New Deal will have to be compatible with money funneling upwards, to some degree, and I think their proponents are smart to push those aspects that make private investors money, such as making value-added, technologically-focused products that provide good, high-paying jobs.

I can't see how the absolute military hegemony of the US empire relates to any of that.

The US gets 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels. In the bigger picture, the world generates 65% of total electricity from fossil fuels. To the extent that Bitcoin burns through electricity generated mostly with oil, natural gas, and coal, cryptokens would not exist in their current form without empires securing and protecting sources of cheap, plentiful, and dirty energy.

The US military protects the use of US dollars as a global energy currency — and effectively subsidizes the cost of fossil fuels, by doing so. Any pyramid scheme has no ability to enrich participants without a legitimate currency to prop it up at the base. At the end of the day, these cryptokens literally have no value, without US dollars or other "empire-" or state-backed currencies to exchange for them, the value of which is protected by that state's military.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:58 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]

That's not really Bitcoin being worth something due to the absolute military hegemony of the US, though; that's Bitcoin being worth something due to the absolute economic hegemony of a structural minority of ultra-wealthy capitalists, a proposition that of course I have no trouble whatsoever agreeing with.

The fact that more of these people are currently citizens of the US than of other countries is probably an argument for the current military hegemony of the US being another effect of their absolute economic hegemony rather than anything like a root cause of it.
posted by flabdablet at 8:28 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]

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