The US on suicide watch: Death by ‘moderation’
How rational problem-solving has ceased to be “serious” among US elites.
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2013 09:18
The United States is on the verge of committing suicide. Slow suicide, perhaps, which may take decades to fully play out, but suicide nonetheless. The proximate event is the sequester – deep across-the-board cuts to military and discretionary domestic spending, originally conceived as a Sword of Damocles, but which Tea Party-dominated Republicans now see as just the perfect budget axe. And that’s just one of several successive and mostly recurring crisis points at which Republicans are obstinantly demanding deep budget cuts that will inevitably slow, if not cripple the already weak economy – as well as debilitating or destroying vital government functions in the long run.
This comes at a time when there’s actually a staggering need to vastly expand the scope of government action to deal with multiple looming threats of environmental catastrophe – not to mention previously intolerable levels of unemployment, and a crumbling infrastructure. Climate change is just the most prominent of such environmental threats – not just to the United States, but to the continued existence of advanced industrial civilisation as a whole – which the US can’t even begin to rationally grapple with as long as anti-government ideology blocks even the most common sense actions on well-understood problems. A super-power whose highways are cracking and bridges are falling down, and which then responds by slashing spending cannot be long for this world. If it staggers on for a few more decades, that’s nothing compared to the centuries that the Roman Empire endured, much less the millenia of dynastic Egypt’s glory.
If markets actually worked in practice the way that they do in the simplest of textbook examples, GOP plans to radically slash government spending might not be so problematic. But realworld markets not only go into crippling crises, like the Great Depression or its still-enduring younger brother, they also fail to meet important human needs. Indeed, as conservative German economist Adolph Wagner noted in the late 19th century, the wealthier a nation becomes, the more it turns to non-market governmnet spending to meet needs that markets simply fail to meet. This observation was made well before the widespread rise of mass democratic government in the 20th century which underlay the rise of the modern welfare throuhgout the Western world. Thus, the practice of state spending to enhance the general welfare has deep historical and empirical foundations, and the sort of endless cutting that GOP now demands is nothing short of a suicidal policy for any would-be modern nation-state. The US already spends far less in the way of government social spending than most other advanced industrial nations – 16 percent of GDP compared to 20 percent for Norway, Britain and the Netherlands, 25 percent for Germany and Finland, 26 percent for Austria, Belgium and Denmark, 27 percent for Sweden and 28 percent for France, according to the OECD – and GOP plans would slash current spending significantly below where we are today.
Serious and viable
Let’s begin by noting that what he’s described is a form of fallacious reasoning, specifically, the fallacy of equivocation, in which one word is used with two different meanings. In its most basic form, one meaning is replaced by another: “Feathers are light; black is dark; therefore no feathers are black”. Or “Nothing is better than eternal salvation. A ham sandwich is better than nothing. Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than eternal salvation”. You don’t have to observe a dietary law against eating pork to see something fishy about such “logic”. But what Yglesias is describing is a less patently ridiculous form, in which the two different meanings are essentially welded together – without, of course, acknowledging what has been done.
Yet, the fundamental fact remains: the basis of what’s going on here is a commonplace logical fallacy. That alone is reason enough to reject it out of hand – but not to understand how and why it works. And so we continue with three more points teased out from Yglesias’s insight:
…when it comes to money and what governments do to their countries and citizens and populations, i have not come to a complete understanding or argumentation agreement…!
…what are they doing? is the real question! and do they realize it? THE REFERENCE DECLARES THEM A COMPLETE LOGICAL FALLACY OF “Equivocation”…!