Post-Growth Politicization

The rapid expansion of the politicization of markets and cultures has been noticed by even the most asleep Americans. Everything becomes an opportunity for ingroup/outgroup splitting and signaling. There are some that think this comes from the growing belief that we are in a post-growth era for our economy. By post-growth, I mean an economy where, sorry, there is not much growth and the pie has frozen or growth has become stagnant. This is not quite true but does dictate our current discourse.

If one were to believe in a no or slow growth economy, it would look the same as Democratic economic policy in recent iterations on the campaign trail. The pie has done growing and now the experts must split it up appropriately. This is a common left wing cry. It is the end of history, now the current experts will guide policy. The consensus is global warming, now the current climate scientists will guide policy! Same with economics. The left declares this because they are currently in control *and* they are in control of credentialing the current and future experts.

This is why Democrats have pushed redistribution so hard. It fits with their economic policy embrace after they shanked manufacturing labor. Redistributing from the middle or rich to the poor vote banks they rely on makes sense when you look at education, health care, real estate and finance. These sectors are the pillars of the blue state model. They are all transfers of wealth: uneducated to educated, sick to healthy, renters to homeowners, and finance in our current form is quite bubble related. The steady increase of debt is what lubes this machine.

One could argue that this is an outgrowth of the comparison of Anglo capitalism (shareholder financed) versus German based capitalism (specific bank financed). These systems were rivals over 100 years ago, with many marveling at how fast German industry had grown yet they had a weak banking system and odd structure opposed to the Anglo system. The German system did pose some positives the Anglo system did not with coordination between management, labor interests, etc. who all had a stake in the development of a firm, versus the Anglo system that just needed shareholder returns that the market demanded. As a slightly more socially aware capitalism, the German model might have appealed to other nations compared to Anglo capitalism. Maybe a couple wars should be fought to kill it.

The dangerous point that the system has reached now in America is that enough of the right hand side has caught onto the zero sum game that the left believes is how an economy operates and also wants to fight back. This was implicit in the Tea Party message, which started out as anti-bank bailout and grew to not blowing trillions on the wasteful stimulus that stimulated nothing. They have not only caught on but believe the no growth or post-growth circumstance. This is after generations now seeing no wage gains while specific needs have skyrocketed in price, so the message is an easy one to believe. The gains in GDP go to who exactly? More and more little people on the right have absorbed the 1% meme correctly that growth is scooped by the well positioned insiders in a winner take all fight.

Whereas the former right wing base would believe in growing the economy (muh GDP or muh Big Line) the newer right sees things in the allocation mindset of the left. This is why identity politics does work as nearly all fights now are using tribal markers to take control and distribute the spoils. MAGA Trump, grifter or just ur-Boomer, talks about bringing jobs back, with some success in Appalachia related to resource extraction. The explicit statement is to help American workers. The implicit message is helping people who want to work, which are you good folks, not the left’s base which just wants a hand out. These right wing voters are the descendants of those men in the banner seeking a decent job, unlike the left’s foot soldiers who just want more programs.

The great conundrum or puzzle becomes, why does not a single Democrat open his or herself to the idea of re-industrialization, environmentally friendly resource extraction or even nuclear power for cheap energy generation? They cannot. Consider deep blue states like Illinois or Massachusetts. They both have resorted to casinos as their means of job creation. The states are entering deals with these developers for a cut of the earnings, which makes them a mafia that runs really big dice games.

Could they not also enter deals and foster basic industry? Of course they could. Everyone hears about globalization’s labor cost arbitrage, but if labor only makes up 10% of the cost Nike shoe production, the real arbitrage being played is American environmental rules versus foreign nations. Ideology kills any left move here because enviro optics. Every industry the left supports uses energy, creates waste, and eats up the environment (metro sprawl), but it is not like smokestack visuals on television. From a sales perspective, this becomes a major problem. The left is too environmentally pure and environmentally ignorant to understand that they are just exporting pollution and leaving businesses completely unregulated by manufacturing offshore.

The deeper problem would be rejecting the very structure of power that allows them to be in place. Rival economic centers would spring up within the states. These powers would be different from the current economic centers for activity. The struggle for preeminence in policy would take place, therefore the administrators and politicians bought by the current interests would be subject to rivals bought and paid for by the new centers of activity. As private industry, they would be far different than the government subsidized or mandated education and health sectors. Many states have budgets that are primarily the education racket and medicaid. This is also why once the left wing takes power in a state they go after manufacturing and resource extraction. Consider towns with quarries, oil and gas, timber or a manufacturing plant. A town has that industry as its base and then the service sector forms around it (education, health, white collar service). Use environmental regulations or taxation to kill off the resource and manufacturing base and that town dies. This has been reproduced across America and Western Europe.

The problem now is that the other side’s base has caught on and expects results. This is a further, deeper danger to the coming majority minority America. If the formerly free trade, free market, and go go go economic loving right wing turns into another advocacy group, each election will see actors behaving as if the pie just needs to be recut, not made bigger. This is terrible timing. Medicare hits a wall in the mid-’20s, Social Security sees it’s automatic reduction date in the late-’20s, and this is all before we factor in any new recession.

In the beginning of his long presidential reign, Franklin Roosevelt was scared to fail. He desperately wanted to succeed, and often spoke of the cost of failure would be the yearning for a strongman to set things right. Both the left and the right have threads of this, which are growing. The question is if this can be fixed by an elite recognizing they have to change course or extracting what they can before it falls. FDR worried Huey Long would capitalize from the left or Douglas MacArthur would capitalize from the right. There are no manifestations yet of how this could happen, but the pools of restless citizens wait their arrival. The system playing up politics in each and every facet of life are only building the numbers waiting.

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