The Presidential Election of 2016 has been quite a spectacle. If we can look past the theatrical antics, what you will really see is a country entering a very serious phase in its young lifespan. Its identity in the form of both micro (the American people) and macro (projection of power) underpins the current political mood swing.
Globalization caught the average American off-guard. Changing demographics due to immigration and a lack of skills for the jobs of the future has left most Americans feeling left behind. Under the Obama Administration, power had to be calculated more astutely in order to make sure America could keep hold of its global hegemony. In the era after Obama, America will still be a superpower, albeit in a changing world. One of the most important realities for the next American president will be how to wield influence as a hegemon competing against old empires rising as regional powers.
Unfortunately, mainstream news outlets have reduced important debates we should be having to that of ideological conquests. A Republican voter is likely to view those on the Left as wanting to dismantle American capitalism while ushering in a dependent welfare state while the Left views itself as wanting to build a movement to help thwart bad loopholes in what is seen as an extreme form of free-market capitalism.
A Democrat would typically view the Right as supporting a dog-eat-dog free-market economy that restricts upward mobility to those in the lower socio-economic class while the Right views unbridled capitalism as the cornerstone of traditional American values.
Behind the noisy campaign fight lies the competition of two categorically distinct ideas; economic liberalism vs economic socialism.
Let’s break it down.
– Market theory is driven by socio-political interpretations of an environment that vary according to perceptions on the essence of human nature and how it affects the mode of production. This variance leads to a split in rationalist approaches in defining economic models to prove their philosophy as emancipating society from the shackles of unrepresentative production. These approaches also work to provide an overarching beneficial effect on the wealth of both the state and its people. This briefing will compare and contrast economic liberalism and economic socialism.
– Both economic liberalism and socialism contend that pursuing one’s interests promotes those of society. Deep seated in their philosophies is the notion that if man works for his own self-interest it can benefit others by either allowing for material benefit or emotional happiness of those within the community. They both see the preservation of the self as a primary principle in retaining the greatest amount of positive economic impact that either trickles down by market forces (liberalism) or is distributed by state institutions (socialism) to allow for more sustained growth at both the politico-strategic and individual level.
– In contrast, economic liberalism builds esteem for defining what factors contribute to magnifying human productivity, where as economic socialism seeks to restrain the mode of production from taking hold over the working class. Proponents of economic liberalism theorize that a division of labor can best build a strong market and retain humanistic pleasure by allowing a variation of foreign goods to pass on to the domestic market which can reward both the strengths and weaknesses of a country’s trade market. If valuable foreign products are available on the market they deem this a positive effect of their economic philosophy and propose that this material provides for the equality among the masses.
– Economic socialism sees this as an inversion of what truly provides for the greatness happiness principle in society. For example, Robert Owen ( 19th Century Utopian Socialist) contends that a healthy state economy derives from a populace that is taught to directly manifest the innate goodness of their being. He deems human nature as essentially homogenous in its positive inclination to allow self-benefit to lead to community cohesion.
– Furthermore, economic liberalism believes that economic prosperity can be retained by decentralizing and/or limiting the role government plays in monitoring the activities of market forces. The invisible hand of the market is seen as a natural monitoring agent of monetary and production activity. Economic socialism sees this idea as adding instability and inequality in who reaps the benefits of the natural sway of the market. It proposes a centralized method for distributing the economic prosperity gained from a more controlled market.
– In light of the above there is a similarity between the two theories in the basis for individual gain to reflect collective prosperity. The contrasts between them override their principle exteriors by substantiating different economic mechanisms for the greatest consecration of wealth. The way wealth is defined differs within each economic model where one uses a humanistic philosophy as a driving force for healthy modes of production (socialism) and the other puts greater emphasis on the health of the market over the inherent rights of the individual (liberalism).
As we debate how to construct the perimeters of economic reform due to a surge in populism on both the Left and Right, the 2016 American Presidential election will symbolically shape the country’s social character, political ethos, and international standing for the next half of this century. The American people are currently struggling with how to define its ever-evolving socio-political identity in the face of rapid economic and societal changes. The jobs of the future are descending on a population under-educated on how to obtain the skills needed for the new economy that is developing. This has left the traditional majority (white working-class voters) feeling frustrated, as they perceive a loss of their comfortable jobs as a sign of a diminishing political status in American society.
The onslaught of globalization has shaken up the levers of institutional power that made life easy for those operating by the old rules of society. No more are a high school education and a will to work the requirements necessary to have access to a comfortable middle class life. A competitive job market and a need for highly skilled workers has muddled up what used to be a straight road towards a good job, affordable homeownership and a decent life.
Enter the reactionary politicians in the Republican party (i.e. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio) who use the Constitution as a political tool to construct the narrative that it is an absolute doctrine and interpreting it by any degree other than a strict literal reading would mean a true loss of ownership over societal rules and norms that have propped up Americans for decades. What is obvious in the current presidential election cycle is that many white Americans feel they are engaged in a battle over the nature of the American Constitution as either absolute or obsolete. Instead of assessing on how to integrate in a globalized economy, most Americans find it easier to blind themselves of the changes that have occurred since the Great Recession of 2008. This is proving to be a dangerous form of self-preservation.
Donald Trump understands the confusion and fear pulsating within the traditional majority of this country and is shrewdly provoking a wave of nativist anger. He has hijacked the right-wing populism that evolved out of the Tea Party and is turning it into deeply dangerous staging of uncivilized tantrums. His win in the New Hampshire GOP primary may prove the undoing not just of establishment politicians but also of American political culture.
Bernie Sanders’ win in the New Hampshire Democrat primary showcases that there is anger on the Left towards income equality and a rigged economy that favors the wealthy. The frustration felt on the Left is actually not so different than that felt on the Right (as defined by the original grassroots Tea Party). Both sides are irate at the same problems, but it is the politicians who craft language that drive a wedge between the populist factions on the Left and Right. They fear if true populism (and a merging of Left-Right economic platforms) is to naturally grow within our tightly controlled democracy, people may become powerful enough to expose the actors who are responsible for the corruption that affects all Americans. It is going to be difficult for Americans to get their politicians to craft reforms to bridge the increasing wealth gap when they are forcing us to point our fingers at either the greedy capitalists or evil commies.