Because I gotz THE POWER, I’m creating a separate post on my responses to some of the excellent issues raised in the thread to my narratives in retreat post below.
djf, the vast expansion of the welfare state you fear is pretty unlikely. As Yuval has pointed out, the expansion of taxation would have to be pretty flippin’ vast to make a significant difference in terms of coming up for the cash required to pay for it. That huge tax increase, of course, would undermine productivity in a way that would cause it to generate much less than the expected (and needed) revenue.
Meanwhile, our neo-progressives would really be going against the grain on govt. downsizing in much of Europe, even among the formerly socialist Swedes. (Don’t get me started on the Italians, but they’ll straighten up soon enough.) So it’s the Democrats who the “stupid” in the sense of “reactionary” party now, and they even know that their historical mission for now is to defend entitlements against real downsizing. The Republicans are stupid in sense of being the opposite of smart.
I didn’t see that the libertarian change I see as likely is actually all good, and so I’m not an optimist.
We also have to attend to OJ’s genuine pessimism (which has SOME empirical backing, at least) about a permanent decline in employment rates and the value of labor. All future recoveries, I can exaggerate for clarity, might be jobless. Then what?
Tocqueville’s uncaring techno-industrial aristocracy based on a combination of real productivity through “mental labor” and clever crony capitalism might continue to be separate itself intellectually and emotionally from the gradually drowning–increasingly vulnerable and clueless–middle/lower middle class in a way that might be exploited by some populist of the future (NOT Obama–who’s OWNED by the techno-elite or techno-oligarchy, in my opinion). There’s something (although not as much as he thinks there is) to Dr. Pat Deneen’s Marxism.
I agree with Caleb on the libertarians being the greater danger to higher education. Libertarian economist and world-class foodie Tyler Cowen has a good article in the NYT on the egalitarianism of economics. The good news is that everyone is treated as an individual–and so not as a member of class, race, gender, or religion.
The bad (well, Tyler forgot to cover the bad) is the new individualistic meritocracy is defined by productivity alone, and so the new inegalitarianism–which is not political but economic–is particularly heartless or lacking in relational responsibility. We rarely see Atticus Finches or even Calvin Coolidges emerging these days.
Education worth big money is about acquiring the skills required to be productive. So, as Tocqueville pointed out, it’s not higher education. Everything else, for the libertarian economist, is a “preference” or hobby. Arguably libertarians disagree with Marx on the end of history only in one way: It turns out everyone will still have to work. And only those who work effectively will get to eat in classy restaurants. They rest of will be serving them, hoping against hope that libertarians somehow find it in their self-interest to tip.
So our libertarians don’t see that education of the soul–STOIC EDUCATION or CHRISTIAN EDUCATION–is indispensable for learning how to show the CLASS–or generosity, charity, and so forth–that makes having a lot of money worthwhile. I know, of course, that there are libertarian exceptions, and the idea of BEING LIBERTARIAN admits of more than one definition.