Friday, December 31, 2004

I don't do a lot of commentary on the Boy King's Social Security deform program except to point out Bush's evil Iraq-like strategy to destroy it, how borrowing $2 trillion to do so might have some nasty effects on the US economy, and throw in a couple of "you go, girl" lines behind other quite excellent analyses.

If you're looking for good hard-nosed analysis, I've found Max Sawicky, Bob Somerby and Paul Krugman to be excellent. Most recently, Angry Bear has penned a very nice piece, too, on Social Security as insurance.

What prompts this posting, however, is the overly critical and/or economistic tone of these writers. The critical posts which have real passion rain fire and brimstone down on Bush's head. The analytic posts which take apart the numbers are often highly clinical and even economistic. Angry Bear's otherwise good post is a particularly bloodless example.

What I haven't seen yet is a strong moral argument for Social Security. Not an argument about minimizing individual risk. Not on argument about efficiency. I want an argument about the moral virtue of solidarity which Social Security embodies. I want to see something like this applied directly to this most weighty issue of our day.
we live in a world that doesn�t seem arranged for human convenience. It�s a world in which human happiness is not the overriding goal, and our plans go awry, and there are terrible limitations on what we can know and understand and control. And in any case our lives are very short. The fact of death is always there, haunting our imagination. . . .

Hope is the primary disposition of the �democratic realist�: we share innumerable miseries together in the saeculum, with little expectation that we can exert control over the existence of sorrow and suffering�yet we hope, in the light of God�s grace, for relief and final joy. Because of our shared condition of suffering, dependency, and weakness, democracy is the form of government most fully in accord with our condition. Democracy, so understood, arises out of mutual need, and finally points to the overarching necessity of a shared sense of democratic caritas, or charity.

Lasch�s argument was counterintuitive by the standards of contemporary political discourse, in which �liberals� are more attendant to the sufferings of the weak, and �conservatives� are more likely to call for self-reliance and rugged individualism. Lasch embraced classically �conservative� arguments, with their stress on human limitation and their profound mistrust of the optimistic belief in progress, but he did so in order to ground securely a �liberal� sympathy for those most apt to be abandoned or overlooked. �Limits and hope��this combination of concepts points to our condition of frailty and imperfection, and thereby exhorts us to be keenly attentive to the suffering and alienation all of us confront. Such attentiveness impels us to acts of generosity and charity. This �spiritual discipline against resentment� chastens our impatience with injustice precisely by emphasizing the necessity for love. This emphasis upon mercy was, Lasch concluded, perhaps the most difficult virtue for humans generally, and modern man especially, to sustain. And yet, he concluded, it was a message needing repetition and renewal, even in the face of likely failure. Hope demands nothing less.
In the wake of the November 2 debacle, Democrats seemed to finally figure out that their politics requires a moral dimension which must be placed front and center. The voluntarism, individualism and flat-out selfish pride lying at the root of Social Security privatization needs to be exposed for what it is, and combatted forcefully with the givenness of our condition, with community, humility before God/nature -- and with hope.


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