Dani Rodrk has some stern words for today's left who, he believes, are being outplayed by the right and--at least until recently--haven't seemed like much of an alternative. I agree. It's time to put a real alternative in play, rather than simply try to soften the edges of today's under-performing, highly unequal economic model.
"The main political beneficiaries of the social and economic fractures wrought by globalization and technological change, it is fair to say, have so far been right-wing populists....
The left and progressive groups have been largely missing in action. The left’s relative weakness partly reflects the decline of unions and organized labor groups, which have historically formed the backbone of leftist and socialist movements. But ideological abdication has also played an important role. As parties of the left became more dependent on educated elites instead of the working class, their policy ideas aligned more closely with financial and corporate interests.
The remedies on offer from mainstream leftist parties remained correspondingly limited: more spending on education, improved social-welfare policies, a bit more progressivity in taxation, and little else. The left’s program was more about sugarcoating the prevailing system than addressing the fundamental sources of economic, social, and political inequities.
There is now growing recognition that tax-and-transfer policies can go only so far. While there is much room for improving social insurance and tax regimes, especially in the US, deeper reforms are needed to help level playing fields in favor of ordinary workers and families across a broad range of domains. That means focusing on product, labor, and financial markets, on technology policies, and on the rules of the political game.
Inclusive prosperity cannot be achieved by simply redistributing income from the rich to the poor, or from the most productive parts of the economy to less productive sectors. It requires less-skilled workers, smaller firms, and lagging regions to be more fully integrated with the most advanced parts of the economy."
After describing what a more robust left approach might consist of, he concludes:
"The Democratic Party will face a critical test in the next US presidential election, less than two years away. In the meantime, it has a choice to make. Will it remain the party of merely adding sweeteners to an unjust economic system? Or does it have the courage to address unfair inequality by attacking it at its roots?"
We shall see. Stay tuned for 2020!