All about ideas…

Time For a New Progressive Era

with 8 comments

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours working on a new blog post. But in reading it over, much it was just a rant. A rant against the wealthy…and their boy Mitt Romney. Admittedly, I’m very angry with the very wealthy in this country. Not because they are wealthy but because they’ve allowed their egos to supercede the needs and welfare of the nation.

Henry George 19th C. Political Economist This morning, though, I read something that caused me to think about a different post. Chrystia Freeland, in her article, discusses the influence of a highly prominent US economist, Henry George, whose name has been mostly lost to history.

During the Industrial Revolution, millions were thrown out of work and lost everything while a few make vast fortunes, not just in America but all over Europe as well. That vast income inequality sparked a variety of consequences: the Russian Revolution; the rise of unions, socialism, and communism; Karl Marx’s call to end private property (industry); riots in many cities.

Yet, no one wanted to turn back the clock to pre-industrial revolutionary days. So, society had to figure out ways to deal with the vast upheavals that the industrial revolution caused. In the US, George, and his younger political colleague Teddy Roosevelt, responded to the upheaval and economic inequity with new progressive ideas and programs to ameliorate the negative but natural effects of the Industrial Revolution. The Republican Party not only championed those ideas, they made progressivism a norm in political discourse and policies all the way through the 1940s.

George’s diagnosis was beguilingly simple — the fruits of innovation weren’t widely shared because they were going to the landlords. This was a very American indictment of industrial capitalism: at a time when Marx was responding to Europe’s version of progress and poverty with a wholesale denunciation of private property, George was an enthusiastic supporter of industry, free trade and a limited role for government. His culprits were the rentier rich, the landowners who profited hugely from industrialization and urbanization, but did not contribute to it.

George had such tremendous popular appeal because he addressed the obvious inequity of 19th century American capitalism without disavowing capitalism itself. George wasn’t trying to build a communist utopia. His campaign promise was to rescue America from the clutches of the robber barons and to return it to “the democracy of Thomas Jefferson.” That ideal — as much Tea Party as Occupy Wall Street — won support not only among working class voters and their leaders, like Samuel Gompers, but also resonated with many small businessmen. Robert Ingersoll, a Republican orator, attorney and intellectual, was a George supporter. He urged his fellow Republicans to back his man and thereby “show that their sympathies are not given to bankers, corporations and millionaires.”

The world is going through another upheaval, just as enormous in scope and change as the Industrial Revolution, caused by technological innovations and globalization. Those innovations and globalization are good things. They’ve made workers more productive and reduced hard labor. Globalization has brought many millions out of poverty worldwide. And in many ways, ushered in more democratic states.

America today urgently needs a 21st century Henry George — a thinker who embraces the wealth-creating power of capitalism, but squarely faces the inequity of its current manifestation. That kind of thinking is missing on the right, which is still relying on Reagan-era trickle-down economics and hopes complaints about income inequality can be silenced with accusations of class war. But the left isn’t doing much better either, preferring nostalgia for the high-wage, medium-skill manufacturing jobs of the post-war era and China-bashing to a serious and original effort to figure out how to make 21st century capitalism work for the middle class.

Globalization and the technology revolution aren’t going away — and thank goodness for that. Industrialization didn’t go away either. But between 1886, when George lost the mayoral race, and the presidency of FDR, American progressives invented, fought for and implemented a broad range of new social and political institutions to make capitalism serve the whole of society — ranging from trust-busting, to the income tax, to the welfare state.

We are living in an era of comparably tumultuous economic change. The great challenge of our time is to devise the new social and political institutions we need to make the new economy work for everyone. So far, that is a historic task neither party is taking on with enough energy, honesty or originality.

It’s becoming more and more clear that Republicans will not lead the way towards another progressive era that ameliorates the vast distortions and upheaval caused by this second industrial revolution. So, progressives must. But just tweaking around the edges and calling for more taxation of the wealthy won’t work. As Freeland writes, we need new social and political institutions. We need new ideas but ideas that don’t disavow capitalism or attempt to destroy it.

So, here’s the question: Where are those new ideas? And who is talking about them?


Written by Valerie Curl

October 22, 2012 at 1:54 PM

8 Responses

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  1. The Supreme Courtroom of Canada has opened the door to enabling international multinational corporations to dodge their Canadian tax liabilities by siding with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in its 20-year tax struggle with all the federal govt.

    The great courtroom endorsed an appeals courtroom ruling about “transfer pricing,” which will allow buy cheap fioricet multinationals to charge their subsidiaries high selling prices for ingredient charges in an effort to minimize Canadian profits.

    The Section of Countrywide Earnings had challenged Glaxo Canada’s use of a licence agreement that allowed it to pay for Glaxo Swiss subsidiary Adechsa concerning $1,512 and $1,651 per kilogram for your choose of ranitidine, the productive ingredient on the anti-ulcer drug Zantac.

    Glaxo also compensated mother or father firm Glaxo Team a six for each cent royalty on net income of Zantac.

    The value of ranitidine exceeded the $194 to $304 for each kilogram billed to Canadian generic pharmaceutical services Apotex Inc. and Novopharm Inc. by arm’s-length suppliers.

    The federal government efficiently argued in Tax Court that implementing the “reasonable” charges to Glaxo Canada would have heightened the subsidiary’s net earnings for 1990 to 1993 by $51 million. http://headachetreatment.net Even so the Federal Courtroom of Attractiveness in July 2010 overturned the Tax Court’s final decision and rejected the department’s argument that good marketplace value paid by generics was the suitable measure. It sent the calculation back to the Tax Courtroom for your redetermination.

    Creating for the Supreme Courtroom, Justice Marshall Rothstein mentioned inside a ruling introduced Thursday the Tax Courtroom “erred in refusing to acquire account for the licence agreement.”

    “The generic comparators do not ever reflect the economic system and opportunity truth of Glaxo Canada and, no less than without the need of adjustment, do no indicate the price that may be decent while in the circumstance, experienced Glaxo Canada and Adechsa been dealing at arm’s duration.”

    Queen’s College tax law skilled Artwork Cockfield claimed the ruling really is a win for Glaxo and fioricet could prompt many others to adopt complex cross-border tax structures to shift gains to low-tax jurisdictions.

    “There’s gigantic flows likely back again and forth and institutions have an incentive to recreation the product by shifting income nearly always to the lowest-tax region,” he said. “It’s bad for Canada basically because it supports aggressive worldwide tax preparation that sends revenues outdoors from the place.”

    Canada’s cheaper corporate tax charge compared to U.S. could, in spite of this, insulate it from like financial gain shifts concerning service providers with functions on either side in the border, Cockfield extra.


    October 22, 2012 at 3:03 PM

  2. george isn’t wholly forgotten. i just completed an introductory course in his proposals at the Henry George School. http://www.henrygeorgeschool.org/
    full disclosure: i’m not connected with it, just linking for the sake of the information.


    October 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    • I hope you learn a great deal about why he became a progressive.

      Valerie Curl

      October 27, 2012 at 9:34 PM

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