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Ailments such as those evidenced in the above two examples are no accident or mere coincidence.Their causes may be concealed but they still bear witness to deep contradictions in democratic life and practice.When the minority tries to resist lifting the debt ceiling to fund such new entitlements, the Federal Government is able to bring public opinion on its side by showing that new debt is needed to cover ordinary expenses such as military pensions or civil servants salaries: the world turned upside down.
How acute can be gauged by the general denial of the positive effects of globalization on poverty.
The commonplace assertion is that the expansion of capitalism is making the poor poorer and the rich richer all around the world. If poverty is defined in absolute terms as the state of people living below a certain threshold of consumption, then the story of globalization in the last thirty years is astoundingly positive.
For many years they were content to sell their birthright for a mess of potage but suddenly now they fear they will go hungry: their pensions are being cut, the queues before the hospitals grow longer, and an increasing number of their young go uneducated. In the United States, public opinion is divided regarding the unstoppable growth of Government debt.
The need to reduce the deficit of the Federal Treasury is widely acknowledged, though there is disagreement about the speed of the consolidation.
And all around the world the sudden check in growth has revived the self-destructive hostility towards globalization.
These are muddy and perhaps dangerous waters to explore, but let me take the plunge.
Despite these observable facts, intellectual opinion and political belief go the other way.
Religious leaders, intellectual elites and ordinary people ceaselessly denounce the worsening state of the poor and root for political intervention to control the free market, precisely the institution that makes for the reduction of poverty and the increase in wellbeing.
There is even a plan in the United States to extend entitlements along the lines of the failed European experiment.
This does not stop a majority from wanting to put new debt-financed programs in train, be they as expensive as so-called Obamacare.