Humanity learned at least one important lesson from the Second World War: that the seminal act for creating an earthly Hell is the debasement of human beings, turning them into things. The Nazis had no empathy for any of their concentration camp victims, or the population of the nations they had conquered, or even the German people themselves. Hitler and his followers had only one consideration: "How can I use the faceless masses to increase my power and prestige?"
The dehumanization of one group of human beings by another to justify acts of degradation and oppression is as old as humankind itself. Together with the closely related act of putting things ahead of people, it is the first step towards evil. Murder, theft, perjury, rape: all of these involve either the mental transformation of the victim into a thing in the mind of the perpetrator, or the decision that a thing is more important than the human being who possesses it. The latter decision on the part of the perpetrator involves believing, unconsciously perhaps, that a human being is only a concept, and not a reality, without understanding that a concept is a thing! An everyday example of this is drunk driving, when the drunk decides that his drink is more important than the conceptual people he might kill or injure when driving drunk.
Unfortunately for our nation, the "cheap labor conservatives" of the Radical Right are demonstrating these malicious and unprincipled patterns of behavior.
The essential belief of the Radical Right is that wealth, its acquisition, and its protection once acquired, are God given rights, and the only reasons for the existence of government. The rest of humanity and its future well-being matters to the Radical Right only as far as they can exploit these "lesser" human beings in order to procure ever greater wealth for themselves. For the "cheap labor conservatives," the rest of humankind's rights and liberties end where the Radical Right's quest for wealth begins.
The essential difference between the world-views of conservatives and those of progressives is that the conservatives believe that humankind in general--and conservatives in particular--are best served by an established and carefully delineated, primarily hereditary, social and economic hierarchy. The elite at the top of the hierarchy (the aristocrats) are the only ones capable of making rational decisions for the rest of humankind (the peasants).
Progressives believe that they, and the rest of humankind, are best served by the disestablishment of the social and economic hierarchy as the source of authority. The progressive advocates the establishment of a system where, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--." For the progressive, the Declaration of Independence is the apotheosis of the idea of the innate value of every human being espoused centuries before by Jesus and Buddha, brought to post-enlightenment fruition by Jefferson.
The 2003 article "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin, provides a stunning insight into the Radical Right's preference for a hierarchical paradigm, rather than the more modern paradigm of equality.
The first pillar underlying the conservative world view, is the intolerance of ambiguity and the avoidance of uncertainty that all conservatives seek. Uncertainty of your position in, and your relationship with, the rest of society was the order of the day in our society's evolving system of equality and community beginning with FDR's New Deal. Not knowing where you stand at any given time with respect to the rest of humanity is a daunting type of existence. A conservative hates and fears the continuous change inherent in such a system, preferring the easy, certain comfort of the status quo.
Even more than change, conservatives dislike ambiguity, moral and otherwise, and a lack of resolution or finality when dealing with problems. This conservative attitude leads to the stereotyping of both individuals and circumstances, and a preference for expedient, simplistic solutions for even the most complex of problems.
The second pillar of the conservative position, is the conservatives' fear and their concomitant reaction of aggression towards outsiders. These cognitive emotions define another aspect of the conservative world-view, which is a high-level of tolerance for inequality. Progressives cannot understand why anyone would consent to inequality, as it is contrary to the principles upon which they base their idea of justice. This near-embracing of inequality by conservatives is also the underlying basis for the "social Darwinism" that many of them exhibit. From their tolerance of inequality arises the "cheap labor conservatives'" idea of meritocracy (where the imposed hierarchy of cheap labor conservatives, no matter how arbitrary, decides your relative merit), and the fiction of personal responsibility for your own wage level. This in turn leads to the belief that the minimum wage is unnecessary, and the worker is to blame for low wages, because he is "worthy" of nothing better.
Progressives, on the other hand, evidence far less fear of the different and new, and welcome the challenge inherent in fashioning a better world for everyone, both individually and collectively. In terms of political philosophy, the only thing a progressive wants to exploit is the highest potential of every citizen, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, for the greatest good for all concerned. Progressives are revolted by the institutionalized dehumanization that exists in the hierarchical world of the corporation, where employees are little more than interchangeable parts. The progressive wants to give everyone an equal opportunity in their "pursuit of happiness."
Unfortunately, the elitist attitude of the Radical Right, and their desire to establish what amounts to a system of corporate feudalism, is not limited to the United States. If you examine the programs of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization, and their requirements for the extension of credit to Third World nations, it is obvious that this program of corporate feudalism is spreading its unholy tentacles of hierarchical dominance throughout the world.
Among the requirements of these financial organizations for providing aid is the privatization of state-owned enterprises, union busting, and reductions in spending for social programs, including public education. In so doing, the nation carrying out these requirements does nothing to help the economic plight of the majority of their populations. In fact, these actions have the tendency to effectively disenfranchise the majority of a nation's population. Additionally, the majority of a country's population are rarely in any position to take advantage of privatization of state-owned enterprises, because of their lack of immediately exploitable capital. (See Hernando De Soto's book The Mystery of Capital, for more on this phenomenon.)
Due to this lack of immediately exploitable capital by the majority of citizens, foreign investors and the wealthy elite of that nation are almost invariably the only ones in a position to benefit from this dispersal of the target government's assets. The sale of these assets (often at fire sale prices) leaves the government hamstrung by its loss of revenue, and unable to exercise any restraint on the new owners of the assets. The process leaves the nation more dependent than ever on the IMF, WTO, and World Bank for financial support.
Former Chief Economist for the World Bank, Joseph E. Stiglitz, in his book Globalization and Its Discontents, categorically states that most nations are worse off after intervention by these three entities than they were before. For example, when Ecuador, which is a natural gas exporter, was forced to increase what it charged for cooking gas by 60% because of its economic assistance agreement with the World Bank, there were riots against the increase. What is even more telling is that, according to Dr. Stiglitz, economic growth in the nations that have submitted to this extra-national financial services trio has declined, or even reversed itself. Once again, this demonstrates how the conservative mindset (and I don't think that anyone believes that the majority of bankers are anything but conservative), and its desire for simple one-size-fits-all solutions, can be extraordinarily harmful when applied in the Real World.
In the deplorable control that is being inflicted on less-developed nations by these three institutions--including the circumventing of democratic ideas and institutions--there are important lessons that all Americans need to learn.
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