Meg Greenfield, the late Washington Post editorial page editor, counseled against writing in “High C” all the time. By this she meant that an editorialist or columnist who expressed equally noisy levels of indignation about everything would lack credibility when something truly outrageous came along that merited a well-crafted high-pitched scream.
We now seem to be living in the Age of High C, a period when every fight is Armageddon, every foe is a monster, and every issue is either the key to national survival or the doorway to ruin.
This habit seems especially pronounced in the way President Obama’s adversaries treat him. It’s odd that so many continue to see Obama as a radical and a socialist even as the Dow hits record levels and the wealthy continue to do very nicely. If he is a socialist, he is surely the most incompetent practitioner in the history of Marxism.
The reaction to Obama is part of a larger difficulty that involves pretending we are philosophically far more divided than we are. In all of the well-off democracies, even people who actually call themselves socialists no longer claim to have an alternative to the market as the primary creator and distributor of goods and services. The boundaries on the left end of what’s permissible in the public debate have been pushed well toward the center. This makes the hysteria and hyperbole all the more incomprehensible.
But let’s dream a little and assume that the American left signed on to the proposals put forward by Lane Kenworthy of the University of California-San Diego in his challenging (and, by the way, very pro-market) book “Social Democratic America,” published earlier this year. Kenworthy’s argument is that we can “successfully embrace both flexibility and security, both competition and social justice.”
His wish list is a straightforward set of progressive initiatives. A few of them: universal health insurance and early education, extensive new help on job searches and training, a year of paid parental leave, an increased minimum wage indexed to prices,…..