What sort of need for deliberation does our current economic crisis create?
Well, for one thing, what sort of economic crisis are we currently in? The idea that we are in a crisis would be news to many Americans. Yet it is a fact, in many ways.
The nature of the problem
Basically, the nature of this crisis is this: we currently have a record trade deficit, and a record budget deficit.
Either one of these problems by itself might be more manageable. The combination of the two is a matter for great concern.
Because of the budget deficit, we need some source for massive amounts of dollars to finance that deficit. Because of the trade deficit, our own dollars go overseas to pay for foreign imports. Little of our capital stays here.
For this reason, there is only one main way for us to finance our budget deficit; through massive US bond purchases by foreign central banks, mainly Asian.
What this means is that we have no real control over our own economic conditions. And it is a result of our own actions. What is important is for us to choose an active policy, and to do the things which will enable us to either finance the deficit ourselves, or to eliminate the deficit completely, either by cutting spending, or by raising more revenue for the government.
The nature of our political response so far
There are several existing political responses to this. Some right-wingers continually call for tax cuts. They claim this will cause large economic growth, which will generate greater revenue, thus eliminating the deficit without any need for higher taxes.
The left-wing response calls for greater economic responsibility, yet does not (currently) actively seek to refute the right-wing viewpoint. The left calls for the budget to be balanced, but also says tax cuts are possible. Their main argument seems to be that we can cut taxes for the middle class, but we must repeal tax cuts for the wealthy. This is a fair point, but does not entail any new approach.
The nature of our political dysfunction
Why is it so hard to get politicians to talk honestly about the real problems facing us. There are many possible reasons. However, one seems particularly relevant.
Our politics are still stuck in a mode which they first entered in the Sixties. This mode can be described as politics as cultural warfare. What this means is that instead of talking constructively about the problems facing us, or about broad societal methods to handle them, politicians would rather harp on a few small issues which divide us. By doing this, they can insure that we remain ideologically divided, thus providing them a base to win votes.
This is why we see them being utterly silent on broad huge issues, which affect all of us. This include left-wingers as well as right-wingers. This is why there is mostly utter silence on issues like American industry, rising deficits, etc.
This is also why we hear them continually harping on marginal cultural and lifestyle issues; or, even when they do deal with real issues, they deal with small ones, leaving the major ones untouched. This is why we hear them arguing over cultural things like the Pledge of Allegiance, or art in schools.
This is also why, during the election, the Democrats completely ignored issues like the economy which were their opening, and instead focused on things like whether Saddam Hussein bought uranium in Africa. The two parties wish only to preserve the view of politics as two completely opposed world-views. They can thus insure their own appeal to their party base. They have no desire to promote a view of politics as a societal effort to solve common problems.
To address this, we need a process which restores an awareness of our common ideals, and our common goals. We need to strengthen the process, methods, and usage of deliberation. Yopu can read more about this at OurPoliticalFunctionality
The nature of a possible economic response
Regarding the economy, we believe there is a third way. There is no viewpoint which can be called the "official" deliberative point of view. Yet to the extent that one can, we believe this view would be as follows.
What is need to truly address this issue, is an active, collaborative societal response. it is not enough to say that raising taxes would pay for the deficit. Nor it is valid to say that cutting taxes would end the deficit (this is obviously not supported by facts).
What is actually needed is a broad societal discussion on how to build our economy, how to restore our industry, and how to preserve our fiscal soundness. This can be attained through three basic goals:
1. Reduce consumption of foreign goods, at least while the payment of our deficit remains an issues.
2. Increase production of American goods.
3. Create a specific response to the deficit, both by increasing national revenue, and actively deciding how to better spend on national priorities.
In other words, a protectionist policy is obviously called for by our current situation. Some may object to this, viewing it as a partisan agenda.
Yet "protectionism" simply means being aware of the strength of our native industry, and protecting it. It is true that globalization and free trade can be a good thing. Yet its good mainly consists of how much it is able to promote more competition and innovation. If it leads simply to the breakdown of our domestic industry, then it is not good.
Basic economic goals
I know this sounds like a partisan agenda, in the guise of an economic analysis. Yet it is not. There are some things which are simple fact, and which are simply the basic rules and parameters of how you run a country.
One of these is that it is the duty of a country to provide viable industries capable of employing all classes.
Another is that if that country is trying to finance massive amounts of unsustainable debt, it is incumbent on that country to create the conditions with which it can pay the debt. That is a simple fact.
There are some who say it is valid to depend on foreign central banks to finance our debt. This is untrue. It is not a valid policy. It is simply a rationalization of the economic stopgap measures we are compelled to rely on.
Currently, the only reason for foreign banks to finance our debt is the belief that they need to sustain our economy so that we will buy their countries' exports. In other words, the only function of our economy is to consume. This view does not even claim that it is our productivity which will sustain us. They claim our consumption is a valid support for economy, and the world's.
The problem with this is that we live in a complex world. If we are depending on foreigners to finance our debt, then apart from the moral objections to this, another problem is that we are leaving ourselves subject to whatever problems they may encounter.
Yes, they may choose to finance our debt, for now. But if they meet with any economic difficulties of their own, they may not be able to or be willing to finance our debt. We can utilize their financing, but we must not leave ourselves dependent on it.
The nature of a possible deliberative response
This lack of economic policy is not a peripheral issue. It is the result of the utter breakdown of political discourse in our country. it is the result of an utter breakdown of our ability to discuss or even identify the problems now facing us.
This is precisely the area addressed by deliberation. And it is precisely for this reason that this issue has created such a need for deliberative politics.
Some deliberative activists assert a huge need for deliberation. Yet they shy away from precisely the issues which are creating that need.
For deliberation to be viable, we must respond to precisely the concrete issues which are most creating a vital need for deliberation in our society. This is especially so when the issues themselves really are vital.
For example, if our society was fiscally sound, but there was an inequity in wealth distribution, that would create a need for deliberation, but it would not be vital to the society's health itself.
Yet this sort of issue would probably be more acceptable to most deliberationists than the entire economic health of our whole society.
It is precisely this ideological undertone which is preventing deliberation its true potential as a means of economic governance for our society. We need to lose the hesitancy to declare ourselves as part and parcel of the central process to actually help to govern, as opposed to serving as social critics or gadflies.
Imagine the alternative scenario. Currently, there is almost no debate in the public sector over how to actually strengthen our economy. There is only ideological wrangling, as each party seeks to score points, either by scaring the American people with the specter of "higher taxes" or "lower ___ benefits."
Imagine the alternative. Imagine a process of governance which emerged organically from the very structure of American communities. Imagine a structure which harnessed the power and the genius of American citizens, and their groups.
Imagine a process which emerged from the welter of current political dysfunction, to assert a true American commonality. One which asserted the true shape of our common goals, and which began to assert and construct a common effort, and a common set of resources and ideas to strengthen and rebuild our economy.
That idea can happen. Deliberation can be one of the means.
One last note; our current society is currently one which has lost much of the strength of community bonds. Many of the traditional modes of community interaction. It is technology and the internet which made this happen. It is technology which has created many of the distractions and diversions which divert people away from the tasks of building our nation and our economy. It is the internet which has provided illusory communities to the detriment of our true and real communities.
Imagine if it was the internet which could reverse this. Imagine if it was the internet which could create a true community of ideas. Imagine if it was the internet which could create a true awareness of the state of the American economy and the nation. And it was the internet which could create a new consensus to address this, and channel that consensus by providing the means for it to function. That could be something which would accomplish much.
The strengthening of our economy is the goal which can unite us and can guide us. Deliberation is the means for this to happen. We invite you to join this process. Thank you.
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