For once The New Yorker is worth reading this week — it’s not one of the ninety-seven “Style Issue” editions that they put out each year to appease their advertisers or yet another “Fiction Issue” or “Humor Issue” or what have you. Instead of giving us too much of something, this week’s issue actually gives the standard blend of these things its known for: unfunny cartoons, wry front-of-the-book observational pieces, a good feature story (about advertising history, admittedly a hobby-horse of mine), a think-piece profile (on Antonin Scalia) and reviews by their A-listers — Menand, Updike and Anthony Lane (not the increasingly annoying David Denby). No Adam Gopnik in sight, thank God. The only thing to make it better would be a column from the ocnsistently excellent Peter Schendjahl to round things out.
Anyway, enough New Yorker dorkery. I brought it up only because Hertzberg made the point I was trying to make (in regard to electricity deregulation) about social saftey nets much more concisely:
Social Security — like the public-school system, the progressive income tax, the neighborhood public library, the subways and buses, food stamps, and a host of other socialistic schemes — runs counter to the narrow economic interests of the rich, because they generally have to put more money into it than they get out. It does benefit them as citizens, however, assuming that they prefer to live in a society of civic peace, civic order, and civic decency — a society of trust. It is not helpful to them, or anyone else in the country or on the planet, when the President announces, “There is no trust.”
The president is not especially interested in decency or order, other than the orderly dismantling of government. Disorder and confusion, in the short term, seem to provide the maximum profit to those already vested with power and capital, as the chaos creates a plentitude of fear, anxiety, and haplessness from which to harvest speedy profits. But the windfall profits Bush and his clueless ilk are trying to seize in their brief window of opportunity, with their dubious and contemptible “political capital” earned through gay-baiting, bigotry, nationalism, the exploitation of terrorists, and the declaration of unnecessary wars, are not renewable resources anymore than the oil reserves of Arabia are. Windfall profit is based on the premise that you bankrupt the future — you don’t acknowledge its existance, and you don’t concenr yourself with how the society in which you live reproduces itself for a new generation. You essentially declare that you don’t care what the society of the future looks like as long as you can live like a pasha now. This masquerades as conservativism but it is really its opposite. It is destroying the possibility of the way of life we know now, the life we would want to “conserve,” surviving into the future.