Your inquisitive Squire visited the Leftward end of the political spectrum this weekend on his quest to determine what the Left thinks and, more importantly, how they think.
The first ever "Democracy Convention" has attracted 1,000 Lefties, said organizer Ben Manski, who could choose among over 100 forums over its four days at various downtown venues, including such compelling topics as "Voter I.D. and Felon Re-Enfranchisement" (the Left worries incessantly that criminals can't vote until they've served their sentence), "Immigrant Voting Rights" (they mean illegal immigrants), and "Queer People of Color in the Movement." (The Left is obsessed with identity politics.) Here's the full schedule.
So far as we know, no conservatives tried to shout down the proceedings, which ran through Sunday.
This aging white man stopped by Grace Episcopal Church on the west side of Madison's Capitol Square to experience "Reform or Revolution: Which Way Forward?"Outside the Carroll Street entrance to the venerable church, host to many a Prog-Lib event over its many years, the Socialist Workers Party was hawking its wares.
From the sacristy, a bald-headed woman sang some well received folk songs while your correspondent scanned the nearly full church. I can't resist observing that Lefties look like their stereotype. I'm not trying to be mean (perhaps it comes naturally) but the people here were overwhelmingly thin with ample facial hair, more old than young, many tying their graying hair back into a pony tail and these are the men. Most dressed in T-shirts festooned with buttons bearing slogans like "Challenge Corporate Power." Eyeglasses tend to be Trotsky wire rims.
On the other hand, your Squire's personal appearance is not that dissimilar, except for the thin part. (Scott Walker looks like a Republican, Blaska does not.) No judgment here, just observation.
From the snatches of conversation I heard, these people scorn the Democrat(ic) Party and, if they ever bought into Hope and Change, feel betrayed by Barack Obama now. We can expect a third-party challenge from the Left.
One of the four panelists, a young lady named Ashley Sanders, related, with indignance, her journey to Madison. Seems the trip involved driving on concrete highways through "sprawl" to the airport where she was frisked by "non-union employees" and seated next to -- hide the children -- an investment broker. I wanted to ask if her passenger jetliner was solar-powered.
They said they want a revolution
Long story short, three panelists chose "revolution" rather than reform, to great cheering from the audience. The lone holdout seemed to be University of Maryland professor Gar Alperovitz, although he didn't risk the wrath of the crowd by actually saying so. Instead, he suggested that the Movement (it is always capitalized) go "beyond slogans. If we want a new economic system," he queried, "what would it look like?"
That seemed quite reasonable to this observer, given that socialism, where it has been practiced on a large scale, works with the heavy hand of state coercion to accomplish heavy doses of redistribution. (Perhaps that is what the forum "Democratizing Money" was all about. Sounds like "liberating money," which is another word for theft.)
A baleful Ms. Sanders described walking around the Capitol Square and seeing homeless people amid empty office space, apartments and condos. In fact, the roofless ones were queued up for Grace Episcopal's nightly shelter as she spoke -- -- right here in Madison, where progressivism rules! This, she stated assuredly, was not economic justice. Food and shelter, she declaimed, is a human right.
The former Nader operative never diagrammed how she would match homeless with condo. The Republican in me wondered who would decide who gets the balcony and who gets the parking lot view? Or why, if something is free, would anyone work for it? Or appreciate having been given it?
Steve Jobs, that capitalist swine
Jerome Scott, the fourth speaker, was a Detroit auto worker in the 1970s who founded the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, an entity that had escaped my attention until this day. Mr. Scott recounted visiting his old plant where once 2,000 workers toiled. Today, only 200 labor there; worse, they produce many more automobiles than before. Although he did not mention the fact, those workers are still unionized, which begs several questions that will occur to the thoughtful reader.
Mr. Scott blamed capitalism for the phenomenon. On full consideration, I find I must agree. Capitalism rewards hard work, innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk taking. If Henry Ford had not invented the manufacturing assembly line, someone else would have. Otherwise, the automobile would remain the plaything of the wealthy. In which case, our young people could look forward to a career as farriers or stable hands.
Is it realistic to expect that manufacturing processes should be frozen in the amber of 1911? Or even 1970? Is that even desirable? As Alperovitz might ask, what would that look like today?
No computerization? No info-tech brought to bear on the world's problems?
One might say, Ford democratized the automobile and made life's load a little lighter for all. (You want pollution? Think what a million horses could do to the streets of New York.) So have people like Steven Jobs in bringing computing power to the masses, allowing them to bypass the mass media barons.
Both were risk-taking capitalists who brought change -- revolutionary change.
I'm kinda Fonda Peter
Tom Hayden, the aging founder of SDS, was the Democracy Convention's keynote speaker. Saturday's Wall Street Journal tells the story that when Hayden was married to Jane Fonda in the early 1970s they lived in a rundown part of Santa Monica "draining her fortune to bankroll his Indochina Peace Campaign while Mr. Hayden and his acolytes sat around talking about the Vietnam War."
Her brother, Peter Fonda, would zoom up to the house on his motorcycle and shout: "Hayden, get a job!"
A make-work parable
Visiting a Third World nation, Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman was shown an internal improvement project employing a hundred men with shovels. Why are there no earth-moving machines, he asked.
"You don't understand," the government official explained. "This is a jobs project."
"I see!" Prof. Friedman exclaimed. "Then why don't you issue these men spoons instead of shovels?"