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View Diary: Newt Gingrich: Child labor laws are 'truly stupid' (182 comments)

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  •  Here's the problem (10+ / 0-)

    Beginning during the New Deal, we rejected the idea that markets were a natural, pre-poliitcal order, and that government action "intervened" into that market thereby threatening the natural order.  Instead, the basic idea behind the New Deal was the the economy has a human-made institution that was inevitably structured by government.  So while a particular rule might be oppressive, rules in general were not.  

    In addition, the New Deal rejected the idea that oppression from private (i.e. non-governmental) sources posed no threat to freedom.  So leaving a corporation free to push your wages down, maintain an unsafe workplace, etc., did not increase human freedom.  Instead, corporations and the well-to-do enjoyed the protections of law, and human beings ought to as well. This was the context in which something like child labor laws made perfect sense.

    This idea (along with broadening idea of who should enjoy such protections and a less narrow view of what sorts of protections were needed) was a central part of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Rights Movement, the consumer protection and environmental movements, etc.  

    But over the last 30-40 years, we've seen a shift.  Republicans adopted a pre-New Deal market fundamentalist approach, which put a target on this basic New Deal idea.  And increasingly, elite level Democrats came to embrace neoliberalism, which also sees markets as natural, and efforts to "interfere" in markets as misguided.  Even as neoliberals offer to work towards liberal ends, they try to use market based means (cap and trade, health care exchanges, etc.).  

    What does this have to do with Gingrich and child labor laws?  These days, no one at the elite level (since the media does not venture beyond the dominate positions in the two parties) is making the case for government as a protector of rights.  Government makes war, surveils us, polices the streets (but not Wall Street or the boardrooms) and imprisons people.  It might address efficiencies of some sort (most of the health care debate, for example, revolved around using government to create markets mechanisms that could reduce costs). Things like child labor law, health and safety laws, the minimum wage - these are all policies from an earlier era. They enjoy public support, but they clash with our political discourse.  

    So the answer is not to condemn Gingrich or other conservatives for taking such a stance as outrageous.  It is to begin to recapture the idea that talk of markets is often more mystification than useful analysis.  That the law (as the Fourteenth Amendment implies) protects us - it is not solely a limit on government, which is not the sole threat to our freedom.  We need to go beyond rear guard actions in favor of specific policies to articulating new policies that build on existing ones to address the risks we face today.  

    Because the problem with Newt Gingrich is not that he is cold hearted (although that is true). The problem is that his philosophy of governance serves predation by the 1% at the expense of everyone else, while ours aspires to ensure opportunity and security for all.  This is not about bad people, it's about different views of what sort of world we want to live in. And ours is better and more popular.  

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

    by David Kaib on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 02:16:56 PM PST

    •  Too Darwinisitic....unless you carry it to the (0+ / 0-)

      extreme.  When the laws protect a class, the remainder are left with a more violent form of redress.

      Newt's an historian.  He should know better.

      The Dude abides, now get off my lawn.

      by Boris49 on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 04:55:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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