Carl Luna PhdD, professor of Political Science at San Diego Mesa College, managed to give our Club a history lesson and definitive explanation of U.S. politics through the ages in one breathless hour that left us all wanting more. He began with the statement, “The most important thing is community.” The Greek root “poli,” means: many individuals; out of many, one. It’s even written on our money. Politics in the Greek tradition was considered the most honorable of professions. Today few people would agree. Forty years ago in the post rational age, our Congress was much more integrated and tolerant of variant ideas than we are now. We have the greatest polarization since reconstruction and coming together any time soon doesn’t appear likely.
There are those who say government is best which governs least but what is left out of that quotation is “…most effectively.” And yet our taxes are lower than most countries in the industrialized nations and are the lowest tax ratio to our GDP. He explained that those who consider laissez-faire to mean “leaving things alone” are inaccurate. In our country it has always meant to protect capitalism.
Those who believe in active government point to the age of realizing the American dream following World War II. After the war the standard of living doubled, thanks to public policies that enabled veterans to get a higher education, raising taxes on the wealthy, and encouraging production that helped create a strong middle class. Opposing this effort to lift all people was Ayn Rand whose philosophy was no one was more important than “you.” She believed in a society of makers who were entitled to rule vs. takers who were worthless people taking up space. She wasn’t a real conservative and William Buckley threw her out of the conservative movement.
The belief in a shared prosperity started changing around 1968 – 69 when Americans began to buy more from outside the States than what we made inside the country. Factories closed and jobs became more scarce, particularly for the white working class. They felt left out of the American dream as the middle class eroded in the 70’s and 80’s. Often the advancement of Black Americans was blamed for taking away “their” jobs when it was due more to debt, the world economy, companies moving offshore to find cheaper labor, as well as a conservative backlash that believed if one wasn’t succeeding, it was their own fault.
In the 18th century we had an agrarian culture making most people equal and middle class. In the Industrial Revolution 19th century, a new middle class was created. In the 80’s, there was another transition to a high tech or “post industrial” society. This age has yet to be named. Luna then discussed the great inequality of wages currently, and described demand side vs. supply side economics and the global economy.
He concluded by recommending a book, “Why Nations Fail – the Self-Descruction of the One Percent,” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. He announced that Friday, March 21, 2014, from 8AM to Noon, the third Conference to Promote Civility in Civic Dialogue will be held in the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, located at the University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala Park, in San Diego. One can register on line. The conference is presented by the organization with the same title as the conference, based in Washington, DC. Dr. Luna will moderate.