Notes on the Atrocities
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Wednesday, April 14, 2004  

The New Liberal Vision - Introduction

At the turn of the last century (100 years ago), progressives were battling the gilded age. They wanted simple rights we take for granted--to have jobs that weren't lethal, to earn enough money to eat, to vote (if they were the wrong half of the population). They considered solutions as radical as communism and anarchism. Thirty years later, liberals were fighting again, this time for jobs and housing. The solution wasn't communism, but it was big government--huge programs like the WPA that put people on the government payroll. Along with depression-era jobs came a social safety net. Another thirty years, and liberals were fighting again. In turns, each great liberal era of the century had increased equality and liberty for a segment of the population. In the 1960s, liberals worked to complete their efforts to extend basic civil rights to all Americans.

The next generation belonged to conservatives. Alarmed by the size of liberal government and a "moral decay" they blamed on the civil rights movement, they organized around a big vision and systmatically took control of government. Since Reagan was elected, they've been steadily rolling back many of the gains liberals made over the century. Grover Norquist delights in saying he wants to shrink government until it's small enough to drown in a bathtub (a lie, but a good soundbite). At the turn of the 20th Century, Emma Goldman agitated for people to throw off the shackles of a corrupt government and adopt anarchism. A hundred years later, the Republicans are using the same kind of rhetoric to maintain control while cynically rebuilding a gilded age like the one Goldman despised.

The Republicans have clearly overplayed their hands. While Bush may survive the November election, his policies don't have much of a shelf life. It's close to time for liberals to step in and clean up the mess left by our corrupt leadership. But what does "cleaning up the mess" look like? A return to Goldman's anarchist utopia? A cradle-to-grave social safety net envisioned at mid-century? Or some kind of new vision for the 21st Century?

If the left is going to seize back the hearts of Americans and rebuild government, we're going to need a plan. Today a group of bloggers are offering white papers on liberalism--rough drafts about what such a vision might look like. Others are going to take a look and chime in with critiques and further suggestions. I'm hoping you take a look at them and join in. The ideas about where we're headed must come from somewhere. Why not the blogosphere?

Susan Madrak, Suburban Guerrilla, essay here.
Lawrence Krubner, Less is More, essay here.
Elayne Riggs, Pen-Elayne, essay here.
Max Sawicky, MaxSpeak, essay here.
Jesse Taylor, Pandagon, essay not yet live.
Anne Zook of Peevish, was going to post, but life interrupted essay here.

And of course, see below for my thoughts. Over the course of the day, I'll be linking updates and links to responses on this page, so check back. I encourage you to comment and join in the discussion. This is a bit of a trial balloon, and no next step is planned, so offer suggestion on that front as well.

[Update (1:41 pm PDT): Jesse has posted this at his site, so there's some chance life has interrupted him as well. "And I have this blog thing I do. And I haven't started the eassy due at 5:30 today nor the statistics due at 1 tomorrow. And I have nothing good to eat in the house. And my throat hurts." Updates as they become available....]

[Update (3:53 pm PDT): Max is live. Good? Here's a hint; it begins with this preamble: "Jeff of Notes on the Atrocities hornswoggled me in a moment of weakness, along with a group of liberal blog-luminaries, into preparing a comprehensive statement of my liberal view of politics leading to the good society. As I am more busy than usual, plus I haven't finished my taxes yet, this is going to be quick and dirty. And it isn't going to be liberal."]

[Update (4:44 pm PDT): Anne Zook, despite her busy-ness, managed to shoehorn in a post. Go read it.]

[Update (8:19 pm PDT): Jonathan Dresner has joined the rountable. Read his new vision here.]

[Update (8:33 pm PDT): And the ex-lion tamer, R@d@r, also joins the discussion. ]

posted by Jeff | 9:00 AM |
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