Samstag, 22. Oktober 2011

The Opportunity State

The primary achievment of postwar social democracy (and to a lesser extent American liberalism) was the creation of the mixed economy and a strong welfare state to help harness the best aspects of capitalism and protect people from the worst aspects. The combination of sustained economic grwoth, full-employment policies, industrial planning and social provisions generated unprecedented prosperity, peace, and rising living standards for millions of people.
Bonds of work, religion, and class matter far less to people these days, and as we are seeing with the fierce immigration battles across our nations, the humanitarian and multicultural impulse underlying our progressivism is not easily extended to outsiders. The traditional working class base of support is both shrinking and increasingly being seduced by a new politics of identity driven by cultural insecurities rather than by economic arguments. 
These developments can be addressed but it will require a radically different notion of solidarity - one that helps people understand the collective eonomic need for breaking down barriers to individual achievement and the moral basis for helping others reach their highest potential academically, professionally, and culturally. This is a strong form of solidarity, but one that recognizes the importance of individual and localized lives. It is deeply progressive in its commitment to human dignity and equality, but it is less class bound and more open to people of different walks of life.
This new vision of solidarity must embrace rather than reject the progressive commitment to diversity and individual freedom that are mainstays of the worldview of younger generations. Solidarity, as reconceived for a new eara, will focus more on mutal responsibility and the need to foster individual achievement and community stability in an era of scarce resources and a rapidly shifting global economy.
Progressive forces will always focus on the mixed economy, social protections, and full employment policies. But we must do more to show the voters of our new coalition how progressive state action can enhance their individual life opportunities, high-wage, high-skilled economies, the transformation of infrastructure and cities, clean energy, a more modern tax and labour market system, new international leadership, and the creation of a global middle class and new export markets. In short, we need a vision of an opportunity state that combines traditional security measures with new efforts to support greater social mobility and reduce social inequality.
A new era of opportunity will require a much stronger state role in making our economies more competitive with other nations through long-term investments in education, energy infrastructure and transportation, and the creation of high-wage jobs. Individuals alone cannot contend with the forces shaping the global economy; and social democracy, among the array of progressive parties, are particularly well placed to argue for the importance of serious public investment and strategic planning.
This will also require sustained intellectual and policy attacs on the underpinings of conservative economics - the efficient markets hypothesis, deregulation, privatizatoin, and supply-side tax policy - that contribute so much to instability and inequality in the world economy today. Just to be clear, our suggested focus of the opportunity state is not designed to replace traditional social democratic policies or to push neoliberal theory, privatization, and deregulation. We are advocating a strong theory of the state with a new dimension.
It is our belief that we should show voters how the state can both protect people from the failures of markets (the welfare state) and provide a platform and set of tools for people to make the most of market opportunities and to help solve collective problems (the opportunity state).

The Demographic Change and Progressive Political Strategy Series, Center for American Progress
From Welfare State to Opportunity State, by Matt Browne, John Halpin, and Ruy Teixeira
Entrevista a Matt Browne, You Tube

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