I was saddened to read of historian Tony Judt's death at too early an age. He was the type of historian we need to hear more from. He confronted the myths on which governments and their people build lives, myths that need to be confronted so the people can be uplifted and their necessities met "not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves."
I recently read Tony Judt's last book, Ill Fare's the Land. His important premise was that we need to develop a new language that builds on the success of social democracy programs (in the U.S. those would be New Deal and Great Society programs) combined with putting forward a new vision for an economy that works for more than the top .5%. His views re-enforced the work we are developing at ProsperityAgenda.US describing and advocating for a new economy in language that people can understand post-capitalism, post-socialism, a new democratic economy.
He brought a broad review of the trends of history to analysis of current politics: How lassez-faire economics lost out in the middle of the last century and social democratic programs were put in place that created a growing middle class and a relatively consistently growing economy. Then the last thirty years, from the Reagan Revolution and through to President Obama (with President Clinton creating the neo-liberal version of Reaganism), has been undoing the most successful programs of the last century. Obama is poised to do some real damage to Social Security and Medicare through his deficit commission -- that is the next big battle in which we are currently engaged.
Judt rings true when he writes "To abandon the labors of a century is to betray those who came before us as well as the generations yet to come." It is that big picture approach that is needed to re-ignite the sense of community that is essential to keeping the fibers of community woven together rather than unraveling as they are now.
We are at a critical crossroads in history when many tens of millions see the corruption and unfairness of the current economy but do not know what to do about it and do not see an alternative economy. There is a real opportunity for change because of combined crisis in economy, environment and energy. It is a great time for Americans who want a new economy to create mass support for change. If the people do so, we will, no doubt, be building a monument to the next FDR who takes our work and runs with it. We will be aided in our efforts by the hubris and greed of concentrated corporate power which seems all to willing to go too far.
Unfortunately, right now the direction the leaders of both parties are taking the economy further into the economic ditch rather than out of it. The exaggerated fear of debt, rather than seeing that the economy is stalled on a fundamentally flawed foundation dominates political discourse. The Obama deficit commission is one example among many.
Judt asks and answers the critical question in Ill Fares the Land: "Why, for the past three decades, has it been so easy for those in power . . .?" "Because there has been no coherent alternative to offer." His answer is partly correct. Alternatives have been offered, they are just not heard because concentrated corporate ownership of the media shuts out those views and advocates of fundamental change do not have the resources to breakthrough that barrier.
Judt's goes on to explain: "To convince others that
something is right or wrong we need a language of ends, not means. We
don't have to believe that our objectives are poised to succeed. But we
do need to be able to believe in them." ProsperityAgenda.US and
others working for re-making of the economy recognizes we are not poised for
immediate success but we do present an "end" that, as Judt
says can "re-open a different sort of conversation."
Judt points to two starting points: