40,000 angry protestors flocked to the Wisconsin capital yesterday
Walter Russell Mead explains the nature of the struggle currently underway in Wisconsin, and predicts that however this particular battle goes, a necessary revolution is underway, a war has begun which the left is certain to lose.
[I]tâ€™s just possible that the disturbances in Madison, Wisconsin mark what will ultimately prove to be a bigger turning point in world history.
In the heart of Blue State America, we are seeing a challenge to some of the fundamental assumptions behind the progressive state, and we could conceivably be watching both the birth pangs of a new social model and the first big step in Americaâ€™s transformation into a true 21st century economy. …
The problem is that the way we do government in this country has to change â€” and it will have to change in ways that put the interests of those who donâ€™t have government jobs ahead of those who do. The number of people employed by government is going to have to shrink; much more work will have to be done by many fewer hands â€” and many tasks historically done in government bureaucracies by life-tenured employees will be done by private sector workers employed by outside contractors. Nor can government workers enjoy pension plans and health benefits better than those widely available in the private sector; the days of defined benefit pensions for government workers are drawing rapidly to a close.
The Battle of Madison is part of a national struggle over the future of American society. The public sector unions and their allies believe in what Iâ€™ve called liberalism 4.0, the twentieth centuryâ€™s dominant set of progressive ideas. It was the ideology of a society made up of big unions, big corporations and big government. The Big Three car companies, Big Three networks and the Big One phone company (back when AT&T had a legal monopoly on providing telephone service) were held in check by government regulation and union power rather than by free competition.
Technological change, global competition, and the rise of a more dynamic economy have wrecked the old social model, but old institutions, old habits of mind and old interest groups donâ€™t disappear overnight. In many ways, public sector unions and government employees are the last great citadel of the Blue Social Model and what we see in Madison (as well as Ohio and Tennessee) is a way of life fighting for survival in the last ditch. We should not be surprised that the battle is fierce, the tactics ruthless, the polarization intense: this is not just a struggle between interest groups, it is a conflict over basic ideas about how the world does or should work.
Regardless of what happens in Madison this week, it is a hopeless battle. 4.0 liberalism and the Blue Social Model arenâ€™t immoral and they helped many Americans enjoy roughly two generations of unprecedented prosperity â€” but they are unworkable in the contemporary world. States that donâ€™t make the kind of changes that Wisconsin seeks will face the problems that loyally blue Illinois does now: staggering pension bills that undermine the stateâ€™s credit and cripple its ability to attract and hold business. An article in the New York Times, that bastion of blue thinking, mocks Illinoisâ€™ latest plan to pay its current pension bill with a $3.7 billion bond issue. Note reporters Mary Williams Walsh and Michael Cooper, Illinois â€œis essentially paying a single yearâ€™s bill by adding to its already heavy debt load. That short-term thinking is not unlike Americans taking out home equity loans to pay for cars and vacations before the housing bust.â€
However much money the public sector unions fling into the maw of Democratic party politics, the old system is going down.
Hat tip to Bird Dog.