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September 13, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-13

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I

OPINION

Page 4

Thursday, September 13, 1984

The Michigan Daily

That malaise called conservatism

By Brian Leiter
At a certain point, political ideology
becomes diseased. Conservatism, un-
der its latest guise, Reaganism, has
clearly passed this point.
What is pathological about this
ideology is its frightening departure
from reality (the "norm ")-more
specifically, it embodies a sim-
plisticviciousand shameless distor-
tion of the reality of our moment in
history. To believe that political
ideologies can be "pathological", one
needn't believe that "reality" is simple,
fix'ed, and unchanging. All one need
believe is that, at any given time, some
descriptions are more useful and
pertinent than some others. That one
can discern between the somewhat-
moderately-credible and the ridiculous.
The most obvious manifestation of
this illness of distortion is the grossly
uneven dichotomy between those who
are right (or "in the right") and those
who are wrong, which conservatism im-
plies. Among the "wrong" are
homosexuals, communists, liberals,
women, blacks, the poor, pacifists,
recipients of student aid, and workers
in other words the overwhelming
majority of the earth's population. Op-
posed toa them are those who are
"right": rich, white Christian men and
any successful imitators of the same.
THE DICHOTOMY is not new. It was
the underlying one of feudalism and of
most other Western aristocracies,
which brings me to my second claim:
namely that conservatism, and
especially Reaganism is the ideology of
a new elite, - the free-market
aristocracy.
I refer here to the one percent of the
population that owns 26 percent of the
wealth, or the 5 percent who (in a 1972
study, one only a few years distant from
the redistributive effects of the Great
Society) own 94 percent of all state and
local bonds, 67 percent of all corporate
stock, and 30 percent of all real estate.

But because this group is so small and its
interests so at odds with those of the
rest of the population, conservatives
must undertake a pathological reor-
dering of how we view reality in order
to generate a political climate suited to
the interests of the free-market
aristocracy. They achieve this through
the creation. of a mythology of "ab-
solute property rights", "personal
freedom", and "individual initiative"
which serves as the rationale for the ex-
tremes of wealth and poverty, unem-
ployment, and other gross abuses of
human resources and talents that result
from the operation of a free-market
economy.
By calling this a "mythology", what I
mean to claim is that the moralized
usage given these terms is never com-
mensurate with their real intent and
manifestation.
"Personal freedom is used by con-
servatives as an objection to big gover-
nment but invariably what is being ob-
jected to is the right of government to
tax and regulate big businesses. So, in
reality, "personal freedom" amounts
to nothing more than the "freedom of
some individuals to control large
amounts of wealth and property"-a
freedom with considerably less moral
import than the sweeping category of
"personal freedom."
I SHOULD note here that I am not at-
tacking the conservative instinct itself,
but rather the implicit dishonesty of
conservative ideology. At least the elite
of the fifteenth century had
the decency not to moral-
ize about what they were doing.
By contrast, the contemporary elite,
who are essentially engaging in ver-
sions of the same activity (i.e., ac-
cumulating wealth at the expense of the
majority) insist constantly on
producing self-righteous
rationalizations for what is no more
than material greed and exploitation.
What is really pathological about this
ideology, then, is its gross dishonesty. I

Sinclair

THEY CALL problems with in-
stitutional dimensions and societal
import (such as unemployment, pover-
ty and discrimination in hiring),
"problems that can be solved by in-
dividual initiative." Conservatives
seem oblivious to the advent of
technology, industry, corporate
monopoly, and the twentieth century.
Some might wonder how a Ronald
Reagan could ever get elected if my
characterization of conservatism is ac-
curate. But for this to be a problem
presupposes that the electorate could
be fooled into embracing an ideology
counter to their interests. In point of
fact, this does not seem to me to be a
mysterious occurrence at all.
In 1980, only about .20 percent of the
people who voted for Reagan knew
what his position on taxes was before
the election-that does not give eviden-
ce of much voter awareness.
Or consider: there are more fun-
ctional illiterates in the United States
than there are people who voted for
Reagan in '80. It should be no surprise if
functional illiterates lack the ability
and resources for a critical understan4
ding of political policies.
ADD TO these facts the presence of
an unabashedly pro-free-market
national media-which, not sur-
prisingly, is all owned at some level by
those I am calling the free-market
aristocracy-and it would indeed be
mysterious if Ronald Reagan were not
embraced for any of the reasons set forth
here. #
Reality, especially during the up-
swings in the free-market businessE
cycle, is almost totally irrelevant to the
viability of political ideology. If myths
are repeated long enough and forcefully
enough, they will stick. These two
propositionsaare at the base of conser-
vatism as a popular political world-
view.
Leiter is a graduate student in law
and philosophy.

know of few conservative claims which
can be supported by any existing
sociological, historical, demographic,
or labor data (which, of course, is why
so few scholars attempt to adhere to a
conservative ideology).
Conservatives call trickle-down

theory, "supply-side economics." They
call union busting, "defending the right
to work." They call tax breaks for the
wealthy, the abolition of safety stan-
dards in the work place, and the can-
celling of school lunch programs, "get-
ting government out of our lives."

They call the accumulation of
wealth and property, "the exercise of
personal-freedom.,
They call attempts to alleviate
hunger and illness through
redistributive taxation, "a violation of
individual rights."

II

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XVC, No. 7

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, Ml 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Listeni ng inon the lnes

S MEWHERE ALONG THE TRANS-
ata phone lines a message (of hope)
was transmitted that went something
like this: "Well, Hey there Andrei, this
is Ron. Ron Reagan, you know the
president of the United States. Yes,
you've probably seen some of my
movies and heard some of my comedy
routines. Well, I just heard that you're
going to be in the area. How'd you like
to drop by my place while you're
here?"
A voice with a Russian accent is
heard responding: "Why how thought-
ful of you President Reagan, thinking
that I could-how do you say it in
America-kill two birds with one stone
by attending the United Nations
General Assembly meeting and paying
a visit to you. I accept."
Reagan sets the date for September
28 and the Russian marks his calen-
dar-38 days before the 1984 U.S.
presidential elections. The Russian
quickly asks the U.S. president if he
might not be too busy to meet, con-
sidering that the American is running
a campaign for reelection. The
president tells the Russian, Soviet
Foreign Minister Gromyko, there will
be no problem because the polls show
him far ahead of his Democratic
challenger-though Reagan says for
some reason a few people still view
him as a warmonger. The receivers go
click and the conversation ends.
Earlier in the year the U.S. president
had said he wouldn't approve of having

regular summit meetings with the
Soviet Union because such face-to-face
confrontations have to be well
prepared and need a reasonable chan-
ce of success, hinting that if the
Russians and Americans met on such
informal circumstances nothing sub-
stantial would be accomplished.
In a couple of weeks the president
will release a study which charges the
Soviets with multiple violations of
previous arms control agreements.
Last January Reagan sent a similar
secret report to Congress on nine cases
of possible Soviet noncompliance with
arms control pacts.
After nearly four years of high-
powered anti-Soviet rhetoric-no
meetings between the leaders of the
two most powerful and potentially
destructive nations in theworld-and a
Republican Party convention which
heaped every imaginable insult upon
the Soviet Union, President Reagan
announces he will meet with a top
Soviet official. Reagan says at a news
conference his highest priority is "fin-
ding ways to reduce the levels of arms,
and to improve our working relation-
ship with the Soviet Union." His goal?
"A safer world," of course.
Upon hearing his comments in living
rooms across the country the citizens
say "thanks." But in the back of their
minds is the sinking suspicion that the
president's remarks were only another
sick joke-a microphone check
perhaps.

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Attacks onfr
prejudice has declined
To the Dail and that governmen
A new term starts and so comes tion into the mark
the predictable, unsupportable, creased since then,
and irrational plethora of collec- cording to Leiter, bla
tivist attacks on the free market, be better off now th
In Brian Leiter's article Why then has the b
"Another not-so-funny unemployment rate
joke"(Daily, Sept. 8) he fires the from 9.4 to 37.7 in 198
first round but like all of the white youths it has gon
others through history, he is then (note that it was I
firing blanks. for blacks) to 18.5 per
To start Leiter states that Shouldn't blacks be
capitalism, left to its own because of the attitud
devices, is a social and economic the decrease of capita]
disaster." Where is his proof? One explanation for
One cannot make such vague and fered by economist
sweeping generalizations without Sowell and Walter Will
backing them up. I submit that of whom are black
he cannot have any proof, since a suggest that this is ma
free market has never existed in the "government in
this country or anywhere else. If especially in the
he is referring to the minimum wage and lie
"capitalism" of the 1920's, then the minimum wage ri
he needs to be set straight. of hiring increases.I
' There was no free market in this employers will t
this country ever. By the mid the'cost of finding e
1920's, we had the Federal'One way is to judge o
ReserveSystem and other an- tainable information
market activities, many of which skin color or languagi
were started by Herbert Hoover. ployer cannot afford t
The Fed was responsible for the time to look deepl
depression by overextending wagestalone are so h
credit, and then for failing to market wage were
discharge its responsibility to would be able to spend
clean up its own mess. Also by do so.
then we had a personal income Licensing hurts in tm
tax and other regulations that the case of taxicabs in
helped prolong the depression. City, it costs $60,000 to
If he is referring to the late given medallion. Thi
nineteenth century, he should be the reach of most p
reading some economic history. who probably do hav
At that time, people like Car- needed to drive a cab
negie, Getty, and Morgan had afford that much.
amassed large, mostly efficient, market was free, sta
corporations in a fairly free would be affordable,,
market. They were providing car and a meter. In
good service at an acceptable creatinga great num
price. As 1900 rolled around they ployment opportuniti
were becoming less efficient and poor, it would lower ca
were charging higher prices, make cab service
Smaller and more efficient firms cessible to the poor.
were eating into their profits, and While I am at it, let'
the big guns did not like it.h couple of other prob
The market was working to the Marxist connection of
extent it could, by decentralizing and militarism is false
economic power and lowering defender of the free m
prices. The Carnegie-types appalled by military
decided that the best way to hold intervention as by ec
their wealth was to insist on in- tervention. Reagan
dustry regulation. These
regulations would hurt smaller BLOOM C
firms who could not affordits BLOOM" C
higher costs and would drive i% 1/j'

d since 1948
t interven-
et has in-
then ac-
acks should
an before.
lack youth,
increased
0, while for
ne from 10.2'
higher than
rcnet now?
better off
e shift and
lism?
this is of-
s Thomas
iams (both
k). They
ainly due to
tervention;
areas of
censing. As
ses, the cost
Because of
try to lower
mployees.
n easily ob-
, such as
e. The em-
o spend the
l, because
sigh. If the
lower, she
d the time to
wo ways. In
n New York
0 own a city
s is beyond
poor people
e the skills
but cannot
If the cab
art-up costs
just a used
addition to
nber of em-
Les for the
ab fares and
more ac-
s clear up a
lems. The
fcapitalism
e. Any true
larket is as
and social
conomic in-
's military
AUNTY

budget and policies are obscene
and immoral and so is the social
agenda of the religious Right.
They are not the true defenders of
freedom.
Another rap against the market
is the big corporations. Cor-
porations are creatures of the
state, formed by state charter
and protected by state ensured
limited liability. In a free
market, limited liability would be
by contract with customer and
creditors and large corporations
would be more difficult to form
and grow. Also, in a truly free

market, worker-owned or
worker-controlled factories and
firms would be allowed and
might even by very successful.
This explains my hesitancy to
call the free market capitalism
If Leiter, and those like him,
wish to continue their diatribes, I
suggest that they get some facts
straight first.: It is not the defen-
ders of freedom who have things
"ass-backwards" it is freedom's
enemies.
Steve Horwitz
September 10

Nee market incorrect

Football spectator squeezed

To the Daily:
I don't think that too many of
the students at the University
would argue that the football
games are an exciting and fun
way for all the students to unite
for a common goal. As an avid
football fan, I have not missed a
single home game since the 1981
season. . . until last week's Miami
game.
Although I got 'to the game 45
minutes before kickoff, an hour
later I was still trying in vain to
get into gate 28 where my seat
was located. People were packed
so tightly into the gate entrance
that a woman who felt ill could
not even get back out. All the
ushers had left and the ushers at
other gates (37 and the usher
supervisor at the entrance by the
student sections) refused to help
because they couldn't leave their
stations. Because of rules regar-
ding gate entrances, I was not
allowed to enter another gate to

get to my seat. Needless to say,
this situation has upset me ,a
great deal, and I know that other
students have experienced
problems with.their seats.
I called the ticket office to
discuss this problem with them
and to get reimbursement for the
game that I missed. I was told
that this is not possible. Over-
crowded, oversold games seems
to be the basic problem here.
When I asked the ticket office
how 105,000 people fit into a
stadium that holds 101,701 people,
the woman promptly informed
me that those extra people were
hired to work at the game.' I
asked if she honestly expected
me to believe that there are 4,004
people working at the game. She
said yes.
Its time for the students paying
for season tickets to get what
they paid for.
Michele Tokai
September 12

Letters and columns represent the opinions
of the individual author(s) and do not
necessarily reflect the attitudes or beliefs of the
Daily.

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