Hail the long-delayed return of the pro-governmental sentiment
Government bashing has been an international standard for decades. To a point where most developed countries today fit into one of two categories: worn-out democracies where no one trusts or even approves the functioning of their system anymore, and authoritarian regimes where defiance against the government isn’t even an option. Rocks and hard places.
The simple idea that an organized and complex society requires some form of government to function seems to have disappeared from the basic, universally accepted notions in our societies. Radical anti-government sentiments such as those expressed by Ayn Rand were not so well received back in the 1950s, but they’ve somehow crept up to become the norm.
Blame the vicious wave of hardcore economic liberalism unleashed upon the West in the 1980s by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Today many people (even economists) agree that the aggressive tax cutting and public spending axing policies applied by their governments in the UK and the US (and copied more or less directly in the whole world) didn’t work in the interest of the masses. But those policies infiltrated our collective minds so deeply that we don’t even realize their toxicity anymore.
The Earth is round. Very cold water becomes ice. Capitalism makes everyone’s life better — and governments should therefore do nothing more than support it. Say you believe otherwise and the elites of the world will deem you just as credible as Flat Earthers.
The problem is, yes the Earth is round but no, unchecked capitalism doesn’t generate wealth for everyone. Without sufficient governmental intervention, it just lets the poor get poorer while the rich get richer: the mechanism started in the 1970s and has only been accelerating since. And after decades of this regime, with shrinking support from a shrinking middle class and growing discontent among the lower classes, governments naturally start looking like the enemy to more and more people. Governments appear to have checked out, leaving an increasing proportion of the population out in the cold, and it’s starting to show.
Which leads us to the early 21st century, with its string of populist/ultra-right wing/demagogical/reactionary governments progressively taking over the Western world (and beyond), all beating the same “the system works against you!” drum, while promoting a government-slashing ideology that works against the people just as much, if not more.
The full circle of irony is complete: working classes are getting coaxed into supporting policies that go against their own interests, all because they were angry with the consequences of policies that went against their interests to begin with.
In reality, laws and regulations that favor the common good, i.e. strong and well-meaning government, are the only way to counter the injustice generated by capitalism and avoid mass poverty, anger and ultimately the advent of fascism. In other words, the only way to get us out of the current downward spiral Western democracies are getting sucked into.
The good news is: when you hit rock bottom, you finally realize you’ve been falling. The French gilets jaunes’ original anti-tax stance mutated into the realization that taxes aren’t the problem, fiscal injustice is — and who can fix fiscal injustice? The government. Similarly, partially paralyzing American public services leads to the realization that they are not just wasted taxpayers’ money, but truly necessary to people’s daily lives. Yes people, you do need your government to work for you.
Anti-government deregulators always say there just isn’t enough money, that spending has to stop. But the real problem isn’t that there isn’t enough money, it’s that the money is being systematically poured into the wrong pockets. Yet another thing people are starting to realize, if only partially. This realization manifests itself in various ways, from protest movements against corporations like Amazon that don’t pay their fair share of taxes to French protesters asking President Macron to re-institute the wealth tax he abolished.
Conversely, left wing parties and movements are typically derided for their outdated pro-government stances. But now, the middle class is struggling in most Western economies, and though the anti-government deregulation movement has been slow and progressive, with small enough steps not to shock people (cutting down on public services here, privatizing a government monopoly there), when things start getting really bad, people take notice. Maybe those pro-government policies aren’t that ridiculous after all.
And climate change awareness piles on top of that. It’s now become obvious to large chunks of the population that capitalism is the culprit when it comes to ruining our planet for the sake of profit and illusory growth. Who can you turn to when if want something done about that? Again, the government.
In an unexpected turn of events, due in no small part to the freak election of 2016, bold political propositions are emerging from the USA these days, namely from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to counter the noxious effects of capitalism, which contains new and ambitious ideas like generic drugs manufactured by the government in lieu of greedy pharmaceutical companies. It’s bound to be deemed unrealistic and laughed at by the usual crowds, but, slowly but surely, the notion that it’s time for the government to kick in and promote social justice is picking up steam. Even in the United States.
To me, this is only the beginning. Four decades of anti-government propaganda are coming to a grinding halt due to the crumbling down of a capitalist system gone wild that has been breeding nothing more than economic injustice and environmental disaster. When shit hits the fan, you realize you really need the cavalry. Cries for governmental action to come to the rescue are set to become increasingly common, and it’s about time.