The relevant historical period for what we are entering now is the 1930s and the Great Depression. In that period, like ours, the political establishment was increasingly corrupt, incompetent and incapable of addressing the core problems. This generated strong movements across the world to address the problems. On the left were calls for socialism or the New Deal in the United States. This meant the government would aggressively tax or borrow unused capital and throw it into production thereby creating jobs and raising wages. This then stimulated the economy and gave businesses a reason to invest, while making the societies more democratic and egalitarian. The high point of this approach came in postwar Scandinavian social democracies, but we certainly felt it here as well.
The other approach was the emergence of fascism, which was then and now very much a response to mass unemployment, corruption and economic stagnation. The fascist solution to mass unemployment and stagnation was militarism -- that allowed irrational fear and jingoism to become the civic religion and terminate democracy and liberty, while employing the one form of government spending that did not threaten the dominance of the wealthy.…
President Franklin D. Roosevelt characterized World War II as a war against fascism and he was obsessed with seeing that it never return to the world after it was defeated. His concern was not simply for Germany or Japan, but for the United States as well. He understood that fascism was the product of mass unemployment, an economy dominated by monopolies, and a governing system that was corrupt and deemed ineffectual. And it invariably generates militarism, because that provided the fear that kept people in line.…
In 1944, FDR gave arguably one of the most important speeches of his life in his State of the Union address. He said to prevent fascism in the United States and to put democracy on solid footing it was necessary to add a "second bill of rights" to the US Constitution, also called an economic bill of rights. This included the right to a job at a living wage, the right to health care, the right to housing, the right to food, the right to education, the right to not have monopolistic firms dominate the economy, and so on.
If we had a society where these rights were guaranteed, the nation would never need to fear the threat of fascism; it would be able to solve any problem before it.…
Now FDR died shortly thereafter, and the political climate of the Cold War terminated the most progressive thrusts of the New Deal, so these proposals never got very far. But they did become the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Freedom Budget proposed by Martin Luther King Jr. and A. Philip Randolph in the 1960s. And Bernie Sanders identified FDR's 1944 speech as the foundation of his vision of democratic socialism in his speech at Georgetown in November 2015, on that subject.
John and I believe this is a very good foundation for what we should be fighting for today. We would add some other rights, like the right to vote in fair elections, the right to a sustainable environment for life and a right to free broadband, but for the most part this gets us to the point where we have a democratic infrastructure that makes credible self-government not only possible, but a very likely outcome. For young workers today in the most precarious of situations, imagine what having these rights guaranteed would mean – everything.
For society as a whole it would mean that as automation proceeds, the benefits could be shared. Instead of some enjoying all the benefits while most struggled, all would be guaranteed some of the benefits, and working hours could be cut across the board as technology revolutionized the economy. We as citizens would control the process. That has to be the goal, because all other courses lead to dead-end streets.Truthout
Robert McChesney: Capitalism Is a Bad Fit for a Technological Revolution