Charbonneau: America's Liberal class betrayed

David Charbonneau / Kamloops Daily News
February 27, 2013 01:00 AM

We should worry about the health of the American liberal class. We were the beneficiaries U.S. liberalism when idealistic war-resisters came to Canada in the 1960s. They were young, educated and well-suited to our progressive culture.

Some took up professional positions and others started up businesses. As is often the case with immigrants, they saw in Canada the qualities that Canadians take for granted: a country based on fairness, the rule of law, universal health care; a people who wanted nothing to do with the Vietnam War.

Those Americans are still here in Kamloops: teachers, defenders of our health-care system, professionals. To be clear, by liberals I don't mean members of the Liberal party. I mean progressives in all parties.

Liberals do more than promote fair and progressive legislation, says Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class. They legitimize the corporate capitalist state. Liberalism imparts moral authority to governments.

They inspire citizens to higher goals in a way that consumerism cannot.

"The liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality.

It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue," explains Hedges.

The balance between the corporate state and progressive state is a delicate one. To the detriment of society, the liberal class has become complacent. Power has tipped toward the corporate state and governments have lost their ability to inspire hope.

In the U.S., it started with the Clinton administration that betrayed the working class with the implementation of NAFTA, destroyed the welfare system and deregulated banks. Betrayal of the liberal class continued under Barack Obama.

The comfortable liberal class has become disposable and ineffectual. Their fall from influence leaves an ideological vacuum.

Nature and politics abhor a vacuum. Hedges worries that the next revolution will not draw inspiration from the liberal values. In fact, those liberal values are hated by fundamentalist governments. The Arab Spring in Egypt resulted in an oppressive government. The U.S. Tea Party despises liberal values, which it sees as permissive and contrary to the individualism they say made America great.

The prime recruits for the new revolution will be the underclass, who have been victimized by the corporate state and abandoned by the welfare state.

Unlike the 1960s, the mood of the newly homeless and disenfranchised victims of financial roulette is sour.

The latest imported U.S. ideology wishes to erase accomplishments of progressive governments. It's the Straussian libertarianism that Prime Minister Stephen Harper learned at the University of Calgary. Leo Strauss, who was a professor at the University of Chicago, believed that Western liberal democracies had degenerated into an aimlessness and "permissive egalitarianism."

Harper freely admits his libertarian roots. He told the Toronto Star that his Conservatives will work to dismantle the remaining elements of the interventionist state and move toward "a market society for the 21st century (April 6, 1997)."

David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor.

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