Who Will Tell the People? (Hint: It Won’t be William Greider)

Marxists are full of visions. Marxism is more poetry, in fact, than it is politics. Marxists have a tendency to wax on endlessly about the transformation of the human condition as they expound on one revolutionary idea after another. Marxists offer up fantasies, daydreams, wishful thinking, social causes, the fulfillment of human aspirations, and other poetic advice that turns up the emotional burner but offers no substance whatsoever. One only needs to turn to the pages of The Nation to catch a glimpse of the cutting edge in visionary fluff.

William Greider, author of Who Will tell the People?, has affirmed the magazine’s totalitarian agenda in a recent article for The Nation called “The Future of the American Dream.” In this article, Greider outlined a plan for a form of centrally planned “soft” tyranny that he refers to as the right to “engage more expansively the elemental possibilities of human existence.” If you are concerned that you don’t quite understand what that means, worry not, because collectivist agitprop cannot ever be translated into sentences that can be defined. Greider’s soft tyranny, in this case, means that the government is not to overtly plan and direct the economy, but instead it shall “provide platforms” (I smell a decree) and “encourage change” (assure people that force is for the social good and thus is a net positive). However, in the end, anyone with half their brain tied behind their back (sorry, Rush) can clearly see that Greider’s recommendations require the full force of government jack boots in order to bring forth his vision of the “American Dream.”

Greider sets an amazing course, here, by claiming that people need to be set free to make choices and innovate, and then he proceeds to outline a program for government intervention to force choices and lifestyles that are politically correct and socially responsible. Now for some further deconstruction of some preposterous Greiderisms.

Greider claims to favor “the right of all citizens to larger lives.” In typical Marxist terminology, he refers to this as his “grand vision.” What does that mean? Is a life quantitatively measurable in size and scope? He explains that his “large life” means “not to get richer than the next guy or necessarily to accumulate more and more stuff but the right to live life more fully and engage more expansively the elemental possibilities of human existence.” He goes on to say that people are pushed aside by an oppressive economic system built on a model of profit and loss, thus “our common moral verities have been trashed in the name of greater returns. The softer aspects of mortal experience are diminished because life itself is not tabulated in the economic system’s accounting.”

Not only is such gibberish deliberately incomprehensible, but in Greiderian terms, this means that a greater, all-knowing force should decide each individual’s course in life by re-directing the economy so that the larger needs of the nation’s collective citizenry – or sacrificial lambs – can be properly satisfied by The Deciders, for only they can define and shape this “larger life.” People who seek to alleviate their individual uncertainties and obtain goods and services they deem desirable are living small lives by comparison.

Greider also refers to “the dignity of self-directed lives.” He says, “At work, at home and in the public sphere, most people lack the right to exercise much of a voice in the decisions governing their daily lives. Most people (not all) are subject to a system of command and control over their destinies. They know the risks of ignoring the orders from above.” He then poses the feel-good question, of the day: “Can we imagine an economic system that is not organized on the principle of command and control, on the few giving orders to the many?” Command and control, then, is his dismissive label for the inherently oppressive nature of a free market economy that allows individuals the freedom to pursue the objects of their desire. But I thought that Greider purports to support individuals shaping their own lives with their own decisions? Actually, Greider doesn’t think much of a market economy that offers abundance and choice because he doesn’t believe that mere humans have the ability to think for themselves and know what they want or what they should want. Their decisions, as individuals, are only legitimate when made within a precise set of parameters determined by public policy. He then proceeds to advocate his prescription for a collective spiritual renovation that amounts to an entire program for totalitarian government programs through intervention and massive redistribution.

This statement on his part is an indication of his intentions: “What’s needed in American life is a redefinition of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”… With a little help and less interference from Washington, Americans can similarly reinvent the society.”

Marxists like Greider have no problem being forthcoming about the need to redefine, revamp, or redistribute in order to accomplish their agenda of redistribution and equality of outcome. Human lives are never individual – they should be collectively assembled and shaped into some form that best suits the grandiose ideals of the visionary Philosopher Kings. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are individual pursuits, which is why Greider points to the need for redefining such an outdated concept. He wants more help from Washington (meaning intervention), yet in the same breath he calls for less interference (meaning intervention). He says that government should “provide platforms” and encourage change. He states, “One important condition government can provide is the platform of “essential needs” that will give everyone more security and therefore more confidence to explore new and different choices,” and follows that with, “Can we imagine, for instance, a country that is virtually without poor children?” This means: Imagine a country where individuals do not get to keep the fruits of their labor, but rather, it gets redistributed to the do-nots by the welfare mobocracy. But it’s in the name of “the children.” That makes theft sappy and warm, and thus it is acceptable.

He also establishes that every American has the right to a job: “First, every American who is willing and able ought to have the right to a job that pays a livable wage. If the private sector will not provide these jobs, then the public sector should be the employer of last resort.” He says this would be “enormously expensive,” but hey, it sounds good, and big tyranny starts with small steps.

Additionally, Greider is adamant that government should “redistribute the costs of recession so that all taxpayers would share the burden as a public obligation.” Is that the new dignity for self-directed lives that he spoke of earlier? Who gets to choose who is burdened unfairly, who is not, and what will equalize the suffering?

Perhaps Greider’s most remarkable vision is his desire to use government to re-make the nature of corporate ownership. He suggests a government-employee takeover of corporate organization so that “innovation” can be directed toward that which our Senior Planners deem to be innovative and necessary, as opposed to the free market economy innovating that which consumers demand and therefore purchase. Greider says, “When most people go to work, they submit to a master-servant relationship in which a few people determine everyone else’s behavior and most employees are denied a voice in the matter and have no right to object or criticize.” While I think that many managers are morons, and they get there for all the wrong reasons, Greider is whining about the structure of authority and therefore demands that absolute equality be forced in the workplace. There should be no private businesses with a voluntary and appointed managerial hierarchy. He wants that system to be replaced by a workplace democracy where every idiot – no matter what his or her ability – has a politically enabled right to contribute to the running of the business organization.

Specifically, he calls for what he terms the “social corporation.” This type of organization will “lead the way for social values” and will displace “old-line corporations adhering to their narrower values that enforce the supremacy of profit over society. The social corporations could be chartered by government and given certain benefits. To pursue a different set of values, they may need some protections in their infancy and perhaps modest start-up subsidies, and exemptions from the usual rules, but most of them would be independent and privately owned.”

Oh – fascism! A government-private, involuntary partnership where businesses are “privately-owned” but chartered, regulated, directed, and run by government diktat. He tells us that the purpose of the government’s social corporations “is not to replace orthodox companies but to put real market pressures [read: coercion via decree] on them to change. Creating social enterprises, including nonprofit cooperatives, can liberate us from the political vetoes business interests exert over promising new ideas.” Thus we’ll replace the political vetoes of the corporate state – where business is empowered by government in exchange for money and favors – with the political vetoes of the purely political state.

And then there’s the Wal-mart law: “Another crucial objective is to limit the size of business organizations, including social corporations, in line with E.F. Schumacher’s famous dictum “Small is beautiful.” The bloated scale of America’s leading corporations has become a major impediment to innovation and experimental reforms [read: a government-led social laboratory], not to mention a corrupting influence in politics.” Of course, to Greider, Wal-Mart’s inventory system and pricing policies are not innovative, nor do they provide Americans with social benefits such as jobs and goods they want and need. But entrepreneurial innovation is not what Marxists like Greider care about – he ultimately wants government to develop and direct social policy that will legislate individual lives toward the fulfillment of the goals of the equalitarian prophets.

In fact, Greider’s use of the term “limit the size” smells like another decree to me. Another intervention in the name of “less interference from government.” Greider doesn’t disappoint: “Revived antitrust laws could simply prohibit the concentration of economic power as a threat to social values as well as to healthy competition.” And I never thought we needed to revive them because we had let them die. Antitrust laws are alive and well, Mr. Greider.

A last Marxist pitch from Greider before he puts down his crack pipe: “We need many more financial intermediaries to allocate capital and credit and demonstrate more respect for society’s needs. … It means supporting and protecting the small and adventurous financial firms founded on commitments to social responsibility.”

A financial intermediary means a central planner running a social laboratory – Greider thinks this system can more appropriately allocate capital and credit, especially since the social intermediaries will define what it is that people need, should have, and must do. So the social intermediaries direct the financial intermediaries based on their consensus decisions about how the little peon peoples shall lead a socially responsible and politically correct life that conforms to the decided-upon spiritual ideal. Capital and credit, then, would be redistributed from unapproved businesses and businessmen to “socially responsible” businesses and political cronies.

Some people think it is fun to plan out other peoples’ lives like they are part of a Fisher-Price farm play set. Predictably, Greider calls all of his visions for a neatly planned American order “daydreams.” Dreams maybe, but they’re wet ones. Greider is a one-option pony who props up the omnipotent state as our spiritual leader, with a whole host of committees, approvers, correctors, and planners playing the part of alter boys.

So therein lays Greider’s “larger life.” We need smaller corporations to produce goods and services that people don’t want, and a larger government to plan, direct, rule, deny, approve, decide, deride, and force. This will allow people the dignity of self-directed lives, it will free them from a command-and-control life, and it will spiritually enable them to live lives that they really want to live, but have been too stupid to figure it out without the spiritual guidance of a select group of self-aggrandizing, empowered, elitist, nepotistic, imperious government planners.

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