Aug 18th 2016

What a Party of the Working Class Looks Like

by Charles J. Reid, Jr.

Charles J. Reid, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he majored in Latin, Classics, and History, and also did substantial coursework in classical Greek and modern European languages. It was during his undergraduate days that he developed an interest in canon law, doing a year of directed research in Roman and canon law under the supervision of James Brundage. Reid then attended the Catholic University of America, where he earned J.D. and J.C.L. (license in canon law) degrees. During his time at Catholic University, he organized a series of symposia on the bishops' pastoral letter on nuclear arms. The proceedings of these symposia were published under Reid's editorship as "Peace in a Nuclear Age: The Bishops' Pastoral Letter in Perspective" (Catholic University of America Press, 1986). This book was called by the New York Times "among the most scholarly and unsettling of responses" to the pastoral letter (December 28, 1986).Reid then attended Cornell University, where he earned a Ph.D. in the history of medieval law under the supervision of Brian Tierney. His thesis at Cornell was on the Christian, medieval origins of the western concept of individual rights. Over the last ten years, he has published a number of articles on the history of western rights thought, and is currently completing work on a book manuscript addressing this question.In 1991, Reid was appointed research associate in law and history at the Emory University School of Law, where he has worked closely with Harold Berman on the history of western law. He collaborated with Professor Berman on articles on the Lutheran legal science of the sixteenth century, the English legal science of the seventeenth century, and the flawed premises of Max Weber's legal historiography.While at Emory, Reid has also pursued a research agenda involving scholarship on the history of western notions of individual rights; the history of liberty of conscience in America; and the natural-law foundations of the jurisprudence of Judge John Noonan. He has also published articles on various aspects of the history of the English common law. He has had the chance to apply legal history in a forensic setting, serving as an expert witness in litigation involving the religious significance of Christian burial. Additionally, Reid has taught a seminar on the contribution of medieval canon law to the shaping of western constitutionalism.  Recently, Reid has become a featured blogger at the Huffington Post on current issues where religion, law and politics intersect.

There has been talk, in the pages of the New York Times and elsewhere, that the two political parties may be in the process of reversing their traditional demographics. The Republican Party, it is said, may become the party of the working class, while the Democratic Party may become the party of the college educated and the coastal elites.

Frankly, I don’t believe it. Not that the Democratic Party has done a great job representing the working class in recent elections. Aside from Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of the Party, the Democrats have more often thrown in with the interests of moneyed elites than with their traditional constituencies, especially labor.

But I simply cannot see how the Republican Party fills that vacuum. Some conservative writers — I am thinking of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam — have suggested that the Republican Party appeal to the working class through adjustments to the tax code to allow for greater take-home pay, or guaranteeing, in a convincing way, that conservative efforts to “reform” Social Security will not harm their interests.

These are welcome steps, but they amount to little more than very modest tinkering. So, what does a party of the working class look like?

It would begin with the premise that the interests of capital can no longer reign supreme. This does not mean, of course, that the state must own the means of production. That would be ridiculous. State socialism is a proven failure.

What it does mean is a return to the kind of coexistence among the interests of capital, labor, and humanity that occurred in the New Deal settlement of the 1930’s. What the architects of the New Deal inherited from Herbert Hoover was an economy in collapse. Unrestrained capitalism had failed catastrophically, and there were even calls in some quarters to junk it altogether.

The New Dealers wisely resisted this temptation and instead put in place a regulatory and welfare state meant to keep capitalism from consuming itself and to protect the nation as a whole from the negative effects of economic upheaval.

The last three and a half decades have seen a steady erosion of the terms of this settlement. A real party of the working class would aim to restore and update the protections of the New Deal. It would ask whether deregulation and privatization have gone too far. It would impose sensible regulations on industries whose failure would pose grave risks of injuring the nation’s vital economic interests. And it would seek to tax activities that have little social utility, such as high-frequency trading. It would protect the real human interests that the economy is meant to serve — ensuring a living wage, time away from work, family leave, and an opportunity for every person to thrive.

A real party of the working class would acknowledge as a second premise the urgency of balancing bargaining power most especially between capital and labor. Most contracts are the result of unequal bargaining power. And most of the time it does not greatly matter.

Still, every contract that is the product of an unequal exchange has inherent within it at least the possibility, quite often remote, sometimes very real, of oppressiveness. And this is frequently true in the labor setting. A large business enterprise views workers as fungible. The business is motivated, indeed, it is incentivized by market forces, to drive as hard a bargain as possible with its employees.

A party of the working class would demand that this situation be corrected. Such a party would seek to give teeth to labor laws. It would aim to make it easier for workers to organize labor unions and to protect workers in the event of job actions. It would aim to revitalize the labor movement by seeking to organize the many temporary and part-time workers of the so-called “gig” economy. Properly nurtured, the labor movement would enjoy a renaissance. And a party of the working class could lead that revival.

A party of the working class would also update and re-conceptualize our understanding of economic freedom. Economic freedom, after all, is nothing but a cruel hoax where one is vulnerable to being wiped out by an unexpected crisis. Economic freedom in today’s world, in other words, is only truly possible where one is given an assurance of a basic level of protection from market forces.

Consider health care. Even with the Affordable Health Care Act, health costs remain a leading cause of personal bankruptcy. That is an outrageous circumstance, given that health care is a basic human right and a right that is zealously defended in the rest of the developed world.

Single-payer health coverage would be an important step in protecting economic freedom, properly understood. After all, consumers who are not bankrupted by unexpected crises, can continue to do the things they were doing to keep the economy thriving — like putting gas in the car, shopping at the mall, doing home renovation. Other nations take all this for granted. Single-payer health coverage might even unleash a wave of entrepreneurship, since individuals might be more willing to start their own businesses if they didn’t have to worry about health insurance.

A party that truly protected this essential human right would not only enjoy political success. It would guarantee a stronger measure of economic security and freedom for everyone, and contribute significantly to keeping the economy on a sound footing.

Finally, a party of the working class must ensure opportunity for all. This means many things. Comprehensive immigration reform is mandatory. Undocumented aliens and their families must be put on a path to citizenship as swiftly as possible. We would thereby help to move millions of people away from the shadow economy and allow them to fulfill the American dream.

Our inner cities must be rebuilt. Millions of men and women languish in these urban centers, victims of inadequately funded public schools and decades of official neglect. The so-called “school-to-prison” pipeline must be broken.

And access to affordable college must be guaranteed to all Americans. A half-century ago, some of America’s great university systems — the University of Wisconsin system, the University of California, and other colleges and universities — offered students free or nearly-free higher education. Equal opportunity can only be made a reality when all Americans have the chance to participate in the American dream.

Which party will become the party of the working class? I cannot imagine the Republican Party embracing these ideals. The Democrats, for their part, have been pretty halfhearted. Still, Bernie Sanders enjoyed the kind of success he had for a reason. And the Democratic platform upon which Hillary Clinton is running is the right kind of platform and offers great future promise.

While the Democratic Party is far from perfect, it represents the only viable vehicle by which to pursue these reforms. And while many Democrats may not yet appreciate it, the more fully they vocalize this set of ideas, the greater their chance of electoral success, not only this fall, but in years to come.




A, somewhat, related article:


How work can lead to suicide in a globalised economy

by Sarah Waters and Jenny Chan

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Jun 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "Confronting our complex history and ultimately embracing a more equitable, balanced, and humble culture may be a tall order in these fractious times. But that makes it even more imperative that we fully reckon with who we are and who we are capable of becoming."
Jun 11th 2021
EXTARCT: "A further health benefit of hiking is that it’s classed as “green exercise”. This refers to the added health benefit that doing physical activity in nature has on us. Research shows that not only can green exercise decrease blood pressure, it also benefits mental wellbeing by improving mood and reducing depression to a greater extent than exercising indoors can."
Jun 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress,” Mahatma Gandhi said, “can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If we apply that test to the world as a whole, how much moral progress have we made over the past two millennia? ...... That question is suggested by The Golden Ass, arguably the world’s earliest surviving novel, written around 170 CE, when Emperor Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire. Apuleius, the author, was an African philosopher and writer, born in what is now the Algerian city of M’Daourouch."
Jun 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Research we’ve done, which looked at 37 adults with type 2 diabetes, found that over two weeks, prolonged sitting was associated with high blood sugar levels. But we also found that when people stood up or walked around between periods of sitting, they had lower blood sugar levels. Other studies have also had similar results."
May 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Paul Van Doren's legacy lies in a famous company, and in his advice to young entrepreneurs to get their hands dirty, and to know what goes into making what they are selling."
May 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "May 7th marked three hundred and ten years since the philosopher David Hume was born. He is chiefly remembered as the most original and destructive of the early modern empiricists, following John Locke and George Berkeley." .... " Shocking as it may (and should) sound, Hume is implying nothing less than that the next time you turn the key in your car ignition, you are as justified to expect the engine will start as you are in believing it will turn into a pumpkin. For there is a radical contingency that pervades all our experience. We could wake up tomorrow to a world that looks and behaves very differently to the one we are in now. Matters of fact are dependent on experience and can never be known a priori — they are purely contingent, and could always turn out different than what we expect."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: " The sad reality is that the Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent) were discriminated against from the day of Israel’s inception, whose Ashkenazi (European Jewish) leaders viewed them as intellectually inferior, “backward,” and “too Arab,” and treated them as such, largely because the Ashkenazim agenda was to maintain their upper-class status while controlling the levers of power, which remain prevalent to this day." ..... " The greatest heartbreaking outcome is that for yet another generation of Israelis, growing up in these debilitating conditions has a direct effect on their cognitive development. A 2015 study published in Nature Neuroscience found that “family income is significantly correlated with children’s brain size…increases in income were associated with the greatest increases in brain surface area among the poorest children.” "
Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "We all owe Farah Nabulsi an enormous debt of gratitude. In a short 24-minute film, The Present, she has exposed the oppressive indecency of the Israeli occupation while telling the deeply moving story of a Palestinian family. What is especially exciting is that after winning awards at a number of international film festivals​, Ms. Nabulsi has been nominated for an Academy Award for this remarkable work of art. " 
Apr 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "When I crashed to the floor of my home in Bordeaux recently after two months of Covid-19 dizziness, I was annoyed. The next day I collapsed again. Now I was worried. What I didn’t know was that my brain was sloshing around inside my skull, causing a mild concussion. Nor did I know that I was in for a whole new world of weird and wonderful hallucinations."
Apr 13th 2021
EXTRACT: "Overall, our review has found that there isn’t evidence to back up the claims that veganism is good for your heart. But that is partly because there are few studies ....... But veganism may have other health benefits. Vegans have been found to have a healthier weight and lower blood glucose levels than those who consume meat and dairy. They are also less likely to develop cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. "
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Pollock’s universe, the universe of Mural, cannot be said to be a rational universe. Nor is it simply devoid of all sense. It is not a purely imaginary world, although in it everything is in a constant state of flux. Mural invokes one of the oldest questions of philosophy, a question going back to the Pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus – namely, whether the nature of Reality constitutes unchanging permanence or constant movement and flux. For Pollock, the only thing that is truly unchanging is change itself. The only certainty is that all is uncertain."
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many present day politicians appear to have psychopathic and narcissistic traits too. It’s easy to spot such leaders, because they are always authoritarian, following hardline policies. They try to subvert democracy, to reduce the freedom of the press and clamp down on dissent. They are obsessed with national prestige, and often persecute minority groups. And they are always corrupt and lacking in moral principles."
Apr 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "This has led some to claim that not just half, but perhaps nearly all advertising money is wasted, at least online. There are similar results outside of commerce. One review of field experiments in political campaigning argued “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero”. Zero!"
Mar 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Father is an extraordinary film, from Florian Zeller’s 2012 play entitled Le Père and directed by Zeller. I’m here to tell you why it is a ‘must see’." EDITOR'S NOTE: The official trailer is attached to the review.
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Picasso was 26 in 1907, when he completed the Demoiselles; de Kooning was 48 in 1952, when he finished Woman I.  The difference in their ages was not an accident, for studies of hundreds of painters have revealed a striking regularity - the conceptual painters who preconceive their paintings, from Raphael to Warhol, consistently make their greatest contributions earlier in their careers than experimental painters, from Rembrandt to Pollock, who paint directly, without preparatory studies."
Mar 26th 2021
EXTRACT: "Mental toughness levels are influenced by many different factors. While genetics are partly responsible, a person’s environment is also relevant. For example, both positive experiences while you’re young and mental toughness training programmes have been found to make people mentally tougher."
Mar 20th 2021

The city of Homs has been ravaged by war, leaving millions of people homeless an

Mar 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "There are two main rival models of ethics: one is based on rights, the other on duties. The rights-based model, which traces its philosophical origins to the work of John Locke in the 17th century, starts from the assumption that individuals have rights ....... According to this approach, duties are related to rights, but only in a subordinate role. My right to health implies a duty on my country to provide some healthcare services, to the best of its abilities. This is arguably the dominant interpretation when philosophers talk about rights, including human rights." ........ "Your right to get sick, or to risk getting sick, could imply a duty on others to look after you during your illness." ..... "The pre-eminence of rights in our moral compass has vindicated unacceptable levels of selfishness. It is imperative to undertake a fundamental duty not to get sick, and to do everything in our means to avoid causing others to get sick. Morally speaking, duties should come first and should not be subordinated to rights." ..... "Putting duties before rights is not a new, revolutionary idea. In fact it is one of the oldest rules in the book of ethics. Primum non nocere, or first do no harm, is the core principle in the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by doctors, widely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates. It is also a fundamental principle in the moral philosophy of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, who in De Officiis (On Duties) argues that the first task of justice is to prevent men and women from causing harm to others."
Mar 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Several studies have recently compared the difference between antibodies produced straight after a coronavirus infection and those that can be detected six months later. The findings have been both impressive and reassuring. Although there are fewer coronavirus-specific antibodies detectable in the blood six months after infection, the antibodies that remain have undergone significant changes. …….. the “mature” antibodies were better at recognising the variants."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Like Shakespeare, Goya sees evil as something existing in itself – indeed, the horror of evil arises precisely from its excess. It overflows and refuses to be contained by or integrated into our categories of reason or comprehension. By its very nature, evil refuses to remain within prescribed bounds – to remain fixed, say, within an economy where evil is counterbalanced by good. Evil is always excess of evil." ....... "Nowhere is this more evident than in war. Goya offers us a profound and sustained meditation on the nature of war ........ The image of a Napoleonic soldier gazing indifferently on a man who has been summarily hanged, probably by his own belt, expresses the tragedy of war – its dehumanization of both war’s victims and victors."