The Public Good

Want to get depressed? Read Chris Hedges' piece over at TruthDig entitled “The Idiots Who Rule America.” His article resonates with me in part because of my interest in what Jürgen Habermas calls “the public sphere” (hell, my most recent book, Blogging America: The New Public Sphere even cites him in the title). Hedges writes:

Our elites—the ones in Congress, the ones on Wall Street and the ones being produced at prestigious universities and business schools—do not have the capacity to fix our financial mess. Indeed, they will make it worse. They have no concept, thanks to the educations they have received, of the common good.

The course of education in America laid out by John Dewey, in other words, has been sidetracked into an elitist shaping ground.

One of the things that long ago led me to dismiss a great deal of what passes for economics is the concept of the “rational consumer,” the idea that people will ultimately act in their own best interest. History shows, over and over again, that this is nonsense. But it certainly is useful when one desires to ignore (or forget) the needs, desire, or input of T.C. Mits (The Celebrated Man In The Streets—thanks, Lillian Rosanoff Lieber): if people do ultimately act in their own best interest, there’s no need, really, to bother with them.

The result?

We may elect representatives to Congress to end the war in Iraq, but the war goes on. We may plead with these representatives to halt Bush’s illegal wiretapping but the telecommunications lobbyists make sure it remains in place. We may beg them not to pass the bailout but 850 billion taxpayer dollars are funneled upward to the elites on Wall Street. We may want single-payer, not-for-profit health care but it is not even discussed as a possibility in presidential debates. We, as individuals in this system, are irrelevant.

According to Habermas, the public sphere, where real debate takes place and people (not elites) contribute, was squeezed nearly out of existence by corporate forces in the nineteenth century. My argument, in both my last book and my earlier The Rise of the Blogosphere, is that we now have a chance for it to come back, thanks to the Internet and unfettered access to it. The reactions against the blogs, I think, are reactions against the people, against the idea that we can decide for ourselves, without gatekeepers, without elites telling us what to do.

Hedges takes what is essentially the Habermas concept in a different direction, writing of “the public good,” a necessary corollary to “the public sphere.” He says, and I agree:

We will either recover the concept of the public good, and this means a revolt against our bankrupt elite and the dynamiting of the corporatist structure, or we will extinguish our democracy.

Democracy, after all, is by the people, not simply for the people. Unless we regain sight of that, the divide between the elite and the rest of us will only continue to grow—and our country continue to weaken.

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When the Democratics in the House and Senate did not act on the mandate to stop the war in Iraq, after the 2006 election, it was disheartening I agree. There were a whole load of compromises including the extension of FISA. But events took a different turn.

In my opinion this election has a real possibility of being transformative. Look at the huge number of new voters and the impressive turnout in the primaries. We are in the midst of an economic meltdown which has shaken people up. Everything seems up for grabs, your home, your job, your access to credit and your retirement account--not to forget the escalating costs of health care and its unavailbility to more and more people.

I am convinced that whatever happens after the election it will not be business as usual with the myths of the "good life" and the supremacy of the almighty dollar.

What if Obama proves to be a massive disappointment, which I do not believe will be the case. But what if.... All of us who are DEMANDING A CHANGE are not going to shut up and slink away with our tails between our legs. I don't believe that can or will happen. Things may be ugly but I cannot see how we can go back to "business as usual."

If McCain wins then it is scary because I don't think that either he or Governor Palin are competent to run the country.

I get very tired of hearing hipocrites recite Martin Luther Kings "I have a dream" speech, but it is a beautiful testament to what he accomplished and his confidence that we would continue the fight. We haven't won yet, but we've made a massive leap ahead to have Barack Obama as the presumptive next president of the United States.

He will have to navigate carefully and he may lose his way at times, and we need to be their to push him forward, but I think that we have good reason to be optimistic.

carol

There's a post over at Firedoglake today that I think is relevant to your post.

Not-Joe The Not-Plumber: More Representative Than We Think By Eli at Firedoglake.

Not-Joe is the archetype for millions of other middle-class, blue-collar and low-income Republicans out there harboring the Ralph Kramden dream that they're one big score away from the big time, or even that they're already there. They're all voting their aspirations, not their situations, and they want keep their future money.

More...

killed this morning here(just awful) there was a website posted in the comments:

What has this nation become that people would kill an animal as a political statement? The horrible tone of this campaign continues to amaze me and the obvious hatred that it has engendered in people that would take this kind of action and worse is incomprhensible. This nation was born out of tolerance and freedom; hopefully, we can return to our roots.
In light of this latest travesty and all the hate mongering that has come out in this campaign, you might want to be a very scary story that has an even scarier scenario. Check out "When the Dow Breaks" at www.walkaboutjones.com
An interesting site and a very interesting story.
Let's get rid of the anger and violence...It has no place,

So I went into the walkaboutjones website and read the article.... For too long I have refused to think seriously about the undercurrent... I know it is always there..just not my world. I guess it must be the two America thing Edwards' spoke about...I just don't know anymore.

Via Dani Rodrick's economic blog:

The economics of civil strife

The empirical analysis by Dube and Vargas shows that exactly this pattern holds. When world prices for coffee and oil rise, there is less violence in the country's coffee regions and more violence in oil regions. This is a very neat piece of work that greatly enhances our understanding of the economics of conflict.

It shouldn't be too hard to extrapolate that here in the US, when income settles into the hands of the few rather than the many, civil unrest goes up.

Follow the links...fascinating read.

feels stolen again. Especially now the way people's emotions have been churned up by McCain. Let us not forget that the powers that be seem to insist that everyone owns a gun...and maybe an assault weapon or two.

I remember too well the civil unrest in the 60's and early 70's as I worked in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Things are just so much more sophisticated today....we are not in Kansas anymore.

of the bear has been driving me crazy all day (I know -- it doesn't take much). Found this followup article ... and it makes sense. Sometimes a dead bear is just ... a dead bear.

Police said the students used the Obama posters to try to stop the blood from making a mess. The students said the signs were the only things around.

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ePMedia ... get the scoop with us!
If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little. ~ George Carlin

I sometimes marvel at the ignorance or lack of common sense of youth...college students are old enough to have a clue!

If the bear was still bleeding then I would think it to be a fresh kill.... Something still doesn't sound right to me. There also must have been a bunch of blood all over their vehicle..truck, whatever....as I wouldn't think they physically carried the cub bear to the site but transported it.............sickening.

Officers said a total of seven students were involved. They told police they found the bear already dead on the side of the road and dumped it on the center of campus as a joke.

Police said the students used the Obama posters to try to stop the blood from making a mess. The students said the signs were the only things around.

and some enterprising Joe's are tearing down our Obama signs. My neighbor had her sign stolen and she chased the car down the road but couldn't catch the license number. It happened at midnight.

But I'm going to post two videos that show interesting things in Joe country. Some rotten bigots taken on at a McCain/Palin rally by other McCain supporters. I think that the Republican party is beginning to fracture. Least ways I HOPE so.

Try this link first and then move on to the You Tube. from Huff post.

This is video is from CNN.

carol