25 February 2006

HERE'S AN AMUSING LA TIMES EDITORIAL

America: Utopia Lost. What happened to optimism? It was handcuffed to capitalism, which jumped off a neoliberal bridge. If we want optimism back, we will have to take off the handcuffs.



I presume Yarrow's book is a history of the loss of optimism between the fifties and now. In that regard, I hope that, at least in a footnote, readers will see mention of Samuel Huntington's 1975 essay "Chapter III: The United States" in the anthology The Crisis of Democracy, written for the Trilateral Commission, as being a pivotal work in ending the optimism inherent in American democracy.

In this essential work, Huntington proclaims the United States as suffering from too much democracy, and so America must be cooled out. The summary suggests, among other things, that "Discouragement and apathy are, for Huntington, desirable, since they facilitate smoother system management," and that for Huntington the "danger posed by democratic renewal" is "a legitimation and governability crisis stemming from a loss of trust in government and in major nongovernmental institutions." Of course, Huntington got his wish, and we now have a government which functions smoothly because, even though there's a fairly severe legitimation crisis, discouragement and apathy keep the people from getting in the way of their illegitimate government.

You can see the logic at work here. If government is functioning poorly, blame the people for being too democratic.

Now, it's hard to say how much say-so Huntington's essay had in deciding the elite consensus, and it's hard to say to what extent the Trilateral Commission is a group of elites that decides how the world should go. But the history books will record a "revolt of the elites" as occurring around the time the Trilateral Commission was created in the early 1970s, and marking the beginning of the era of neoliberalism. We are all much less optimistic about the future of capitalism for it.

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