Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The Conscience of a Liberal" Reviewed

I just completed reading Paul Krugman's book, "The Conscience of a Liberal".

Why did I decide to read a book by Paul Krugman?

Before I answer this question let me say a few things. I don't understand why anyone would be a liberal. I don't understand the appeal of liberalism. Every liberal idea I've ever heard of really seems so incredibly silly to me that it is beyond me how anyone other than a child could believe in liberalism.

Although everything I know about liberalism seems silly to me I am not so presumptuous to think I know everything about liberalism. In fact, when I thought about it I realized I've never really heard a serious defense of liberalism. In other words, I have never heard a serious explanation of the principles of liberalism and why it is a superior political philosophy - but I want to hear it - I need to hear it. Who knows - maybe I've missed something - maybe I'm really a liberal who has been brainwashed by the vast right wing conspiracy. Yeah...I know...that's silly too...but you never know...it could happen...

So why did I pick Paul Krugman's book? Mainly because he won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics and he is a flaming liberal. But also because his opinions are consistently used by liberals and the media to support liberal economic policies. In short, he is the poster child of a main stream liberal - the perfect person to explain why liberalism is superior to other philosophies - particularly free market philosophies (like the ones I subscribe to).

According to Michael Tomasky (New York Review of Books) [Krugman is] "The most consistent and courageous - and unapologetic - liberal partisan in American journalism."

Since Krugman seemed to be the best person to explain liberalism to me...I bought his book, "The Conscience of a Liberal" and I read it on vacation.

So what did I find?

First of all, I found his book to be very poorly written. He had a lot of interesting points but they were very disjointed and they lacked coherence. Between book covers there was a making of an interesting book but it's almost as if he wrote the book and dropped it on the floor...spilling all the words to the ground...and instead of putting the words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters back together in their proper order he just threw them back on the pages randomly. I am very serious about this point - if he wanted this book to be readable he needed a good editor to go back through his points and put them in logical order - because they were not properly organized.

Having said this, when I read the book I took copious notes and I reorganized them in order to understand the main points of his book.

Primary Points:

1. Inequality is a problem in the U.S.
2. The gilded age was characterized by significant inequality. The gilded age, according to Krugman is prior to FDR, i.e., earlier than 1932. During this time Republicans were in power and they favored the rich at the expense of the poor.
3. FDR's New Deal greatly reduced inequality and created, yes HE created, a golden age in the U.S.
4. Conservatives, who help the rich at the expense of the poor, increased inequality when Ronald Reagan came to power.
5. Ronald Reagan came to power because of veiled racism to white voters.
6. The US would support liberalism/Democrats and reject conservatism/Republicans if white Americans weren't racists.
7. The U.S. is controlled by a vast right wing conspiracy who are racists.
8. The fact that all white people don't vote for politicians who promise to tax the rich to give benefits to the poor and middle class proves many white people are racists.
9. The U.S. would have Universal Health care if white Americans weren't racists.

Note: Krugman's obsession with racism permeates his book. I don't make this point lightly - I mention it over and over again above because he makes this point over and over and over again in his book.

If you are a normal, reasonably intelligent person you should conclude from the points I note above that I am biased and that I am not giving a fair representation of Krugman's book. You should conclude this but I dare you to read his book if you think I didn't summarize it correctly.

If "The Conscience of a Liberal" is the best defense of liberalism available then liberalism is what I've always believed liberalism is - it's a tool for condescending elitist control freaks to use the lazy, stupid, unproductive people in society to vote for them so they can control the lives of these stupid people while at the same time controlling the lives of the middle class - i.e. - YOU AND ME!

Here are some of the most interesting quotes from "The Conscience of a Liberal":

"One key message of this book...is that race is at the heart of what has happened to the country I grew up in. The legacy of slavery, America's original sin, is the reason we're the only advanced economy that doesn't guarantee health care to our citizens."

Voter Suppression:
"...problem of disenfranchisement has returned in contemporary America....continuing low voting participation of blacks..."

Movement conservatism:
"...today's disciplined movement conservative forces...mafia-like in their demand for loyalty...and intimidate the press and any dissenters..."

What happened to the rich during FDR's administration?:
"Basically the New Deal taxed away much, perhaps most, of their income."

How did New Deal make people more equal?:
"...the New Deal imposed a heavy tax burden on corporation and the wealthy; fostered the growth of unions, and oversaw a narrowing in the income inequality that included a substantial fall in after-tax incomes at the top."

Race again:
"...Poole...and...Rosenthall...identified a second dimension of politics - race - which has been crucial in the rise of movement conservatism."

Race again:
"...Republicans learned how to exploit white backlash against the civil rights movement..."

I could go on and on and on on and on with these quotes...but you get the point.

If this is the best the liberals have to defend their views then liberalism is bankrupt...maybe it never had any money to begin with...