Friday, October 14, 2005

Paglia on Frank

Robert Birnbaum interviewed Camille Paglia in The Morning News and here's what she had to say about the notion that people voted against their best economic interests in the last presidential election:

RB: I take it you agree with Thomas Frank’s [What’s the Matter With Kansas] notion of what he calls an “age of derangement,” that working people are voting against their interests?

CP: I totally reject that formulation.

RB: Really?

CP: The idea that working people are voting against their interests seems to me—I’m sorry, I find that to be one of the most condescending, twisted things that has now taken root. It’s now in the media everywhere. That is twisted.


CP: The people are voting against their interests? Who knows that? Tom Frank knows that? Tom Frank knows what is in the people’s best interest? It’s an outrage.

RB: Yes, he gets to say that. If people need health care and jobs and housing and he points out that in specific circumstances, such as in Topeka where the Republican administration granted huge concessions to Boeing and Boeing pulled out when they thought they had a better deal elsewhere, costing 4,000 jobs, that’s clearly not in the interest of working people.

CP: You can find a lot of local stories of misery—the mill towns outside of Boston and everywhere. But Frank’s animus is against capitalism. OK? And here’s my point—you can’t just go around—and I could make the same point about upstate New York, which has been declining. Carrier, IBM, the shoe factories that my family came to work in, closing. GE, all kinds of stories, but the point is the people are not voting against their interest. Their interest is capitalism. This is my objection. In my view, comparing the evidence of the 20th century, that socialism in a nation ultimately does lead to economic stagnation and eventually of the creative impulse, in terms of new technology and other things. And that capitalism, despite all its failures, despite the fact that it’s Darwinian, has indeed produced a high standard of living. And, here’s the big one for me, as a feminist: It is capitalism that has enabled the emergence of the modern independent woman, for the first time free from fathers and brothers and husbands—a woman who can be self-sustaining. Now, I do believe—I am a Democrat, I am not a Republican, I do believe that because capitalism is Darwinian that it requires a strong safety net, that the government needs to provide certain things... So what I am saying is, how dare Thomas Frank decide what is—the people who are voting Republican believe that capitalism, despite the misery of individual places, they still believe that capitalism provides the best chance for small entrepreneurs to have an idea, put it into motion and eventually make a killing. Even if you are not rich you see other people getting rich and you want a system that can produce rich people.

RB: Sure, but it’s a chimera. They have been sold that bill of goods. They believe they can do that but they can’t—

CP: But—

RB: Hold on a second. Your point that a significant social security, as the consensus has produced in Europe and Scandinavia, leads to stagnation—

CP: Forty percent of a paycheck over there is taken by the government. The government does everything. People rely on the government to do everything. And I do believe there is a slow decline in creativity that is observable in Europe over the last 40 years.

Until the Democrats realize that Americans by and large really do believe in capitalism, and that their party is perceived as being too closely tied to groups who use special interests issues like environmentalism and anti-globalization as cover for anti-capitalist sentiments, they will have a lot of difficulty getting credibility in Kansas.


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