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- Published on Amazon.com
In this densely factual and amply documented explication of the conservative counterrevolution in the U.S. over the past quarter century, Godfrey Hodgson demonstrates how this brew of Christian cowboy populism and free market absolutism has undermined the United States' historically tolerant, egalitarian culture, installing in its place an unnatural system where the measure of every person, every motive and every institution is the dollar almighty.
Full of counterexamples to the works of conservative think tanks, Hodgson deftly explodes the many myths manufactured by this melange of Ayn Rand "objectivists,' neo-liberal economists and reactionary sociologists. He shows, for example, how these apparatchiki provide the justifications and tools to blame and marginalize the poor for their poverty and non-whites for their non-whiteness. He also shows how as part of these efforts the think tankerites have used the 'objectivity' credo of journalism to insert erroneous, vicious "facts" into the so-called marketplace of ideas, e.g., that the U.S. is much "freer" in terms of economic mobility between the classes, a mobility created and supported by free-market capitalism. Hodgson shows this story, often used to justify the global spread of American capitalism is a patent falsehood.
Citing a study of the top 16 industrialized nations, including, of course, Rumsfeld's "Old Europe," he notes the U.S. ranks dead last in this regard. All the right wing rhetoric is revealed as mere assertion. Hodgson shows how since mid-century the conservative ideology has replaced the liberal consensus and turned the U.S. into an increasingly brittle oligarchy whose citizens are now more polarized and class-bound than citizens in those countries America rebuilt after WWII. As Hodgson notes toward the end of MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: "Over the twelve years of Republican occupancy of the White House, from 1981 to 1993, the median American wage earner's income fell by 5 percent in real terms. The income of the top 5 percent of taxpayers rose by 30 percent, while the income of the top 1 percent rose by 78 percent. Inequality reigned" (page 291). Hodgson further contends the polarization is evident in a two party system that once sought consensus but is divided with one party now clearly aligned with the haves against the have-nots.
Again, in Hodgson's words: "The politics of the past quarter century have been dominated by the reaction against the idea of a Great Society. There has been a racial dimension to this shift. There have been other dimensions, too: anger at American humiliations abroad; disgust at perceived moral decline, especially in sexual behavior and in the family: resentment of taxation, inflation, and economic change generally. All of this added up, a little perversely, to a rejection of government as the instrument of democracy and the elevation of unregulated free-market capitalism to share democracy's throne at the apex of the American system of belief. (Perversely, because if government failed to win all of its battles against communism in the Third World, free markets were hardly likely to have proved more successful; neither the Coca-Cola Corporation nor Disney was equipped to have won the battle of Ap Bac [in Vietnam] or rescue the Tehran hostages. Perversely, too, because the "social issues" were scarcely the fault of government: if anything, they should be blamed on the market capitalism in the shape of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the entertainment industry" (pg. 291).
Hodgson is clearly upset at what has happened over the past few decades in the U.S. A transplanted Englishman who has spent a good deal of his life in the States, he asks us to recall the real American virtues: a relatively classless society, an optimistic and charitable national spirit. To his mind, the racialized rhetoric of the deserving and the undeserving has no place in this shining city upon the hill. In the past, he notes, the wealthy may have "dined on gold plates" and collected priceless artworks, but they also kept quiet about their luxurious lives, observing of the egalitarian credo that to do otherwise would be to ape the behavior of the royalist or aristocrat. Now millionaire populism has swept over the land and the true republican American value of classless civil interaction has been turned on its head -- quoting Rush Limbaugh in this regard: "Do you realize that if wealthy people are not secure in the enjoyment of their property rights, no one is?" (From Limbaugh's "See, I Told You So," pg. 314). Hodgson would argue that the security of a wealthy elite has been the driving force of this anti-American counterrevolution, a movement which has sought to force-feed contingency and insecurity to those citizens not fortunate enough to have been born or to have otherwise become (a rare phenomenon according to Hodgson) a member of the new ruling class.