Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"Two Competing Core Values" or "Dramatically Politicized Class Conflict"

In a recent post, I argued that ...
What is going on in the United States politics is a dramatically politicized class conflict. The GOP is the party of the economically powerful and they want to use the government to protect and advance their interests.  Insurgent forces find themselves fighting back in the workplaces, in the streets, in the state legislatures and county boards, and at the ballot box. 

Fausto in response disputes that analysis and argues instead that

There may be an element of class conflict occurring, but what is really going on is much more subtle and complicated. It it might be summarized as a conflict between two American core values -- collectivism and individualism -- against a backdrop of the nation's gradual and inexorable decline as a political and economic world hegemon as foreign peoples rise out of their ignorance and poverty.
The discussion I am trying to start on this blog is (1) what's going on and (2) what is required of us in response, as heirs to the values and traditions of liberal religion.

Fausto says that what is going on is the "subtle and complicated"interplay of "collectivism and individualism."  This makes no sense to me.   It is a common theme among libertarians and objectivists and dates, I think, from the Cold War.  Values and "isms" don't contend, except as they are adopted by people. Ideas don't struggle for power; people do.

The people who control the financial industry in the United States hold vast wealth in their hands.  It is the collective wealth of the nation; the money in our 401K's, IOUs against the taxes collected by the government, our credit card accounts.  They determine how that wealth is to be deployed and they do it for the narrowest of individual self-interest.  We collectively live with the consequences.  And they resist every effort to put any of that wealth or activity under progressive taxation, or regulation for the public safety.  And they have turned to the Republican Party to advance and protect their interests.  Fausto may see the subtle interplay of core values in that situation, but what I see is much more simple: a dramatically politicized class conflict.  

I don't think that our religious heritage asks of us to be the pundits of the 21st century, teasing out of the events of the day, a narrative of contending philosophies, especially when we end up straddling them. (Really now, an attempt to analyze a historical situation by setting up an opposition (collectivism vs individualism) and then concluding that both are right and both are wrong isn't really very helpful.)

The one legacy of our tradition that Fausto draws upon is the history of freedom of conscience in matters of doctrine.  In a backhanded way, he seems to think that connects to the "individualist" side of the dichotomy he (and the libertarians and objectivists) have constructed.  I think that there is a difference between "individualism" and "self-possession".

If Fausto, or anyone else, wants to argue that the essential value of Unitarianism is individualism, and that is best expressed today as libertarianism, they are welcome to make that argument.  It's the kind of argument I am trying to provoke here.

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