Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, March 19, 2015

(Trickle-)Down and (Middle-)Out in US Bourgeois Political Economy

For anyone who really cares about either justice or prosperity, trickle down is a lie, middle-out is a fudge, and bottom up is an imperative. While it is undeniably true that neoliberal policies anchored by trickle-down pieties has presided over two generations of wealth concentration, plutocratic consolidation, burgeoning precarization, unsustainable exploitation it is never right to lionize the two generations of mid-century post-war American economic expansion in framing an alternative to neoliberalism given that epoch's structural exclusion and exploitation of Black Americans and immigrant labor and also given the undeniable unsustainability of its wasteful, polluting, demoralizing motor of mass consumption driven by the suffusion of public life with deceptive, hyperbolic, denialist marketing norms and forms.

"Bottom Up" political economy, to the contrary, must be grounded in the public investment for the provision of basic income, healthcare, education, and equal recourse to law and government which secure a legible scene of informed, nonduressed consent to the terms of everyday commerce as well as for the accountable administration of the commonwealth of public goods and common resources. When equity-in-diversity (of which sustainabillity is an indispensable part, since the costs and risks of unsustainable formations are always disproportionately borne by the marginalized and the poor) are secured via steeply progressive taxation and public investment -- via tax revenue, bond issues, countercyclical deficit spending, and so on -- a democratic bottom-up political economy of ramifying creative expressivity, civic participation, shared problem-solving, personal volunteerism, social services, organized labor, local entrepreneurship without fetishized mass consumption and plutocratic celebrities has a chance to emerge.

Only a bottom-up political economy is compatible with nonviolence (for those on the right who would howl about the "violence" of taxation, recall that all fortune is a collective accomplishment, that the progressive re-distribution of wealth by the state via taxation compensates a regressive pre-distribution of wealth by the state via legal/infrastructural affordances, and that from those to whom much is given much is rightly expected), and that only a system committed to nonviolence is compatible with democracy and universal law, even as interminable aspirational projects.

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