ever more desperate and the bandwagon i've been waiting for...,
| Main |
"phantom aid", or, "I want to be an international consultant when I grow up"...,
'how extraordinarily wealthy people created philanthropies to promote the welfare of extraordinarily wealthy people':
This little polemic on the history of political philanthropies should probably be tossed out summarily just for the reference to the "prosperity of the past few decades". Should one ignore the polemic there's a basic narrative that's otherwise pretty readable:
... the liberal foundations formed an integral part of the era's liberal establishment, a circumstance for which they were roundly criticized (to little effect) by both conservatives and left-wing radicals. ...
A strategy designed to bring about large change by circumventing the electoral process was well suited to philanthropic institutions with links to experts and advocates. ...
Reinforcing this trend was the fact that, simultaneously, the Democratic Party was beginning to alter itself along parallel lines. Following the tumult at their 1968 convention in Chicago, the Democrats established a commission, chaired by Sen. George McGovern, whose mandate was to make the nominating process more representative. Quickly captured by liberal activists, the commission pushed through new delegate-selection rules requiring the representation of women, blacks and young people in line with their respective proportions in the population.
The effect was to displace the elected officeholders, party officials and union leaders who had controlled Democratic conventions in the past and to replace them with activists speaking for designated groups. Under this approach, the groups that now found a home in the party began to look very much like the ones Bundy had tried to organize through the Ford Foundation. In many cases, they were the same groups.
It's not something I've read much of anything about. The argument seems plausible that identity politics after 1968 replaced the New Deal coalition and the semblance of a broad, unifying ideology, leaving seperate interest groups competing for their piece of the pie, with sundry technocrats in charge of economic and foreign policy, where previously there had been a bare toleration of union activity and, already long past, the 'good neighbor'.
The role of major corporate interests in this transition and the absence of any anti-corporate, pro-labour institutions - economic, cultural, or otherwise - falling from of any of said corporatation-founded philanthropies is what's most plausible about it, and the resulting absence of a working class politics left in the wake. It's exactly the sort of thing that would lead someone to seriously discuss the "prosperity of the past few decades", because the statement is only remotely true in the sense that if you say it often enough people might start believing it.
But OK, take that, and then jump back a bit into polemic:
Addressing the rise of conservatism, the left resorts to explanations that stress manipulation and trickery, with corporate payoffs to politicians looming large in the story. Conservative ideas play but a minor role in the account, and are themselves generally characterized as mere stalking horses for corporate interests.
We're never given a reason not to treat these things as stalking horses for corporate interests, and, given the list of capitalists that had a direct stake in the corporate-state system that created said philanthropies, plenty of reasons to treat them as such. Leaving us with this depiction, on the other side of the coin, of the abandonment of classical liberalism (to the extent it was still around - its mantle, if there is one, rests on a small handful of non-vulgar libertarians) and rise of the reactionary statism of the right, as compared to the progressive statism of the left that's now over a century old and shows it:
It began to take shape in the mid-1970s through the work of a handful of donors, especially the John M. Olin and Smith Richardson foundations and, later, the Bradley Foundation. The Scaife Trusts of Pittsburgh were also involved to a certain degree.
These funders were more self-consciously conservative than libertarian. While sympathetic to the writings of Hayek and the ideals of classical liberalism, they adopted a broader intellectual framework encompassing fields beyond economics: preeminently religion, foreign policy and the traditional humanities. In contrast to Hayek and his followers, they were also prepared to engage the world of politics and policy and to wage the war of ideas in a direct and aggressive style.
I miss populism.