Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Post-Cold War, Bizarro Version

For some truly depressing reading, see this Guardian editorial, entitled, “The Progressive Moment.” The authors argue that Gordon Brown should–deep, deep breath–follow America down its new socialist pathway:

The financial crisis sealed the election for Barack Obama. Immediately before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in mid-September he was, if anything, slightly adrift in the polls. But watching Washington administer socialist solutions to protect Wall Street bankers, an anxious nation rallied to Mr Obama’s redistributive tax plans and his rejection of the “old theory that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.” If the mass market press is gauging the mood of its readers correctly, opinion in Britain is running the same way. “Now pass it on, you bankers,” screamed the Sun after last week’s bumper interest rate cut. Wealthy financiers are suddenly attracting the sort of rage more often directed at asylum seekers and workless benefit claimants. Can Gordon Brown respond to that change and seize the progressive moment?

Certainly he has the opportunity.

The funny thing about opportunity is the way it shrinks for citizens as it grows for governments. There are no progressive moments–only progressive spirals, progressive unravelings, progressive declines. No leader can reward a weary population with a temporary respite from self-reliance. A state cannot experiment with entitlements and play it by ear. When citizens get goodies, they hang on to them.

There was a time when America knew this, and other Western countries suspected it and sought our guidance in creating more free markets and less entitled citizens. Now, with Obama at the helm, we’re apparently leading the charge in the other direction. The authors of the piece advise Gordon Brown “to take to heart Mr Obama’s progressive three-word mantra. Yes, we can.” Indeed, they can. If it can happen here . . .