The Bane of Bain

Back in 2012, Barack Obama made so much hay out of Mitt Romney’s connection to Bain Capital that a distraught Cory Booker was inspired to cry out, “Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.” Booker called Obama’s attacks “nauseating” and “ridiculous,” which earned him a supportive tweet from John McCain.

Fast-forward to 2017. The Obama people are now pushing hard for Deval Patrick, the former two-term governor of Massachusetts, to run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Guess what Patrick has been doing since he left the governor’s mansion? Working at Bain Capital.

It’s something. The combined forces of Wall Street and the Hamptons—sorry, Clinton and Obama—are pushing hard, variously, for Joe Biden (who’s making strong noises that he’ll be running in 2020), Kamala Harris, and Deval Patrick.

What do these three people have in common? None of them is the most popular politician in the United States.



  1. Chris Morlock August 1, 2017 at 3:38 pm | #

    Amen, Harris was vetted at a party in the Hamptons I heard. Corporate Dems ready to do the exact same thing as always: sell out and stare blank faced at those who actually advocate for the working class.

    No worries, just look at the polls. I am confident this time around they will fail, again. “Better Deal” is DOA.

  2. halginsberg1963 August 1, 2017 at 3:51 pm | #

    Nauseating stuff for sure. Let’s hope the American people have finally figured it out.

  3. Foppe August 1, 2017 at 4:42 pm | #

    “What do these three people have in common? None of them is the most popular politician in the United States.”

    But doesn’t that mean that they need all the help they can get, because they’re at a disadvantage?

    More seriously, expecting the professional class to change (or even to understand politics) seems to me something that the US tried more than twice already, most recently with 44. It didn’t end well, and I don’t see how it ever will, except in times of plenty (when the country is sufficiently robust to weather the damage inflicted by them).

  4. LFC August 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm | #

    I wrote a few-paragraphs-long comment that didn’t post, for some reason.

    Shorter version: I asked myself on reading this whether Deval Patrick really wants to be President, and then I clicked through to the Politico story which, based on the subheading, apparently raises the same question.

  5. Thomas Rossetti August 1, 2017 at 7:31 pm | #

    Seems as though Corey Robin has joined the silly season. It is August. What does the Hamptons have to do with someone’s politics. Are the people who hang at Marthas Vineyard less corrupted?
    Since it is silly season let me ask LFC where he came up with the notion that using initials on a blog or pen names is not hiding in anonymity? Why have a name if you are not willing to put it to what you believe.
    Finally I want to explain my vehemence in response to Corey Robin’s new edition of The Reactionary Mind. I was a student of David Spitz. Like a Jesuit he demanded that you present the case you are against better than its proponents before you critique that position. The honor of serious scholarship!

    • s.wallerstein August 1, 2017 at 7:59 pm | #

      As for LFC, I “know” him (or maybe her) from another blog (which you can find with a bit of detective work), where he or she has little by little revealed enough personal information and academic background that if you want to do the detective work, you can find his or her identity. So he or she is not really hiding much. By the way, his or her political positions are consistent from blog to blog and it is obvious that he or she is not a troll from the alt right.

      • LFC August 1, 2017 at 10:19 pm | #

        Thank you, s. wallerstein.

        I don’t have time right now to explain fully to Thomas Rossetti why I use my initials for most of my activity in the blogosphere. (I have written a few things online under my full name, but in most venues and circumstances pertaining to blogs I use my initials.)

        However, as s. wallerstein mentions, if someone wants to — and I’m not entirely sure why someone would want to — put in the time and ‘detective work’, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to discover my full name.

        I comment semi-regularly, i.e. from time to time, on a few blogs, always under the same initials, which are my real initials. I do not consider this to be leaving “anonymous comments”. Mr. Rossetti and I will have to agree to disagree on this point.

        P.s. For some years I had my own blog, and I allowed anonymous comments — I mean actual anonymous comments, i.e. from people using the name “anonymous.” There’s nothing wrong w anonymity like this per se, as long as the comments do not violate comment policies that are in effect at the venue in question.

  6. Debra Cooper August 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm | #

    Bernie Sanders will be 78 in Sept. 2020

    Joe Biden will be 77 in the Nov of 2020

    The crucial pick for the supposed most popular politican would be the VP candidate it would see.

    I am not fond of Patrick or Booker either.

    But it’s not an either or choice.

  7. Thomas Rossetti August 1, 2017 at 8:02 pm | #

    I find Corey Robbins attempt to make a straw man of his enemies in the Democratic Party as neoliberals is as noxious a doctrine as any on the Right. Neoliberliam is a myth. A fake political ideology. Since it has no proponents and no defenders it is fake! Allow me to quote Professor Spitz “Liberals, acutely aware of the social origins of rights…have no faith in the resurrection of the invisible hand that will arrange individual actions so that they produce justice. But possibilities for democratic control of the beast make liberals into socialists of varying degree.” “A conviction that people, unlike crabs, ought not to crawl backward, is irrepressible.” Hard thought, not sloganeering against a non existent strawmen. If you share my belief that libertarians deserve recognition as village idiots great. But the builders of the great liberal legacy don’t your scorn and particularly the harm you do to your students!

    • Katsue August 2, 2017 at 9:13 am | #

      I can see you’ve never heard of the Adam Smith Institute.

    • Camembert August 2, 2017 at 1:03 pm | #

      I’ve never understood this meme. Neoliberalism is such an established movement that the article in Wikipedia is essentially accurate. That’s how old and straightforwardly defined it is.

    • James Levy August 4, 2017 at 7:29 am | #

      Philip Mirowski of Notre Dame has shown in mind-numbing detail what neoliberalism is and what it advocates. To claim that it doesn’t exist denotes either an unwillingness to read up on a well-established academic subject or willful ignorance of fact.

  8. Thomas Rossetti August 1, 2017 at 8:17 pm | #

    Correction: after don’t -deserve or need-

  9. Chris Morlock August 1, 2017 at 8:47 pm | #

    Tom, have you read “Listen Liberal” yet? Telling us Neo Liberalism doesn’t exist, it’s hilarious. Everything you seem to state is a “fake political ideology”. Are you some kind of MSNBC bot?

    Become a Republican and set yourself free.

    And stop it with Spitz, you get him about as much as Chlesea got Arendt.

  10. glinka21 August 1, 2017 at 9:51 pm | #

    I guess what I considered a thoughtful examination of the neoliberal label, including those who embraced it for themselves, were just making it up:

    • Thomas Rossetti August 1, 2017 at 11:19 pm | #

      My major response to piece in the Atlantic is sophistry. Does anyone seriously propose that Walter Lippman’s ghost brought the neoliberal decline of the west. General Pinochet at least deserves a bow in this dishonest farce. What about just imagining the unholy truth that a lot of disaffected thinkers of the left so frustrated by the real outcomes of political life decided to blame liberals for Thatcher and Reagan kind of like Fritz Thalman’s blaming he rise of Hitler on the goddam Social Democrats (fasicts, he called them). The job of liberals is to combat this travesty of propaganda passing as disinterested scholarship. Goebells believed if you tell a lie long enough people will believe it. Neoliberalism is a lie! That Milton Friedman lived I don’t deny. But the use of neoliberalism to represent the failed aspirations of liberals in the years since Thatcher and Reagan is a lie!

      • lazycat1984 August 2, 2017 at 10:20 pm | #

        Alright, don’t get excited. By neoliberal we mean New Liberals. Not Hubert Humphrey, but Gladstone. It’s the ideology of letting business do what it wants without state interference. I know Americans have a tough time with any kind of history that doesn’t involve the US Marine Corps but figure it out. The Third Way, the DNC, the Clinton political machine. These are all vehicles for big business and Wall Street hustlers.

      • James Levy August 4, 2017 at 7:34 am | #

        Neoliberalism refers to Liberalism, in the European sense, as an ideology that promotes personal autonomy, rights (especially political and property rights), and market capitalism. As Nancy Pelosi pointed out, Democrats are a capitalist party, and when the rubber hits the road they are more interested in “market solutions” and the right to private property than they are to equality or fraternity. They want Jews, blacks, and gays to have all the access to the slippery pole as white guys once did, but they completely accept the competitive, winner-take-all ethos of capitalism.

  11. Thomas Rossetti August 1, 2017 at 9:59 pm | #

    Alas. the village idiot! Corey Robin’s disciple. If you would like to hear a great teacher Samuel Dubois Cook talk about his beloved teacher David Spitz it is on You Tube. Cook said that Spitz didn’t believe in God, but that was okay with him because he knew Spitz was god.
    Sam Cook was MLK’s roomate at Morehouse and John Lewis teacher at Atlanta University. The first black PHD at Ohio State and first African American tenured at a university in the South. Duke. In 1953 Spitz wrote” Democracy and the Problem of Civil Disobedience” which was one of the seminal works for the Civil rights movement. Like Cook I never experienced so great a teacher. When he read Thrasymachus words he became the angry beast bursting forth.. His lessons have stuck with me for a life time.

  12. LFC August 1, 2017 at 10:51 pm | #

    There are connections between the liberal tradition and the socialist tradition (to use broad oversimplifying phrases), and there is a position that might be labeled liberal socialism (or the noun and adjective can be reversed if one wants). To judge from one of the quotes above, that was Spitz’s position.

    As for neoliberalism being a “fake political ideology,” no. This has been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere, but the term, while often not used w much precision, does designate something or rather somethings. There’s room for debate about definitions, contexts, etc etc., but I see no grounds for the flat assertion that it’s a “fake ideology.”

  13. WLGR August 2, 2017 at 9:39 am | #

    Thomas Rossetti, if you want some perspective on how comprehensively wrong you are about neoliberalism, the best scholar for you to read in my opinion would be Philip Mirowski:

    People think the label “Neoliberalism” is an awful neologism because the neoliberals have been so good at covering their tracks, obscuring what they stand for, and denying the level of coherence which they have achieved in their long march to legitimacy. Back when they were just a gleam in Hayek’s eye, they did explicitly use the term “Neoliberalism” when discussing the project that back then did not yet exist — even Milton Friedman used it in print! But once their program looked like it would start to gel, and subsequently start reshaping both the state and the market more to their liking, they abruptly abjured any reference to that label, and sometime in the later 1950s, following the lead of Hayek, they began to call themselves “classical liberals”. But this attempt at rebranding was an utter travesty, because as the [Mont Pèlerin Society] moved from reconceptualization of one area of human experience to another, the resulting doctrines contradicted classical liberalism point by point, and term by term. It might be worthwhile for us who come after to insist upon the relevance of things that put the “neo-” in Neoliberalism.

    In a nutshell, classical liberalism imagined a night watchman state that would set the boundaries for the natural growth of the market, like a shepherd tending his flock. Markets were born, not made. The principles of good governance and liberty would be dictated by natural rights of individual humans, or perhaps by the prudent accretion of tradition. People needed to be nurtured to first find themselves, in order to act as legitimate citizens in liberal society. Society would be protected from the disruptive character of the market by something like John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle”: colloquially, the freedom of my fist stops at the freedom of your face. The Neoliberals were having none of that, and explicitly said so.

    Far from trying to preserve society against the unintended consequences of the operations of markets, as democratic liberalism sought to do, neoliberal doctrine instead set out actively to dismantle those aspects of society which might resist the purported inexorable logic of the catallaxy, and to reshape it in the market’s image. For neoliberals, freedom and the market would be treated as identical. Their rallying cry was to remove the foundation of liberty from natural rights or tradition, and reposition it upon an entirely novel theory concerning what a market was, or should be. They could not acknowledge individual natural rights, because they sought to tutor the masses to become the agent the market would be most likely to deem to succeed. The market no longer gave you what you wanted; you had to capitulate to what the Market wanted. All areas of life could be better configured to behave as if they were more market-like. … So no wonder outsiders are dazed and confused! The neoliberal revolutionaries contemptuous of tradition sought to conjure a fake tradition to mask their true intentions.

    • SpringTexan August 2, 2017 at 1:01 pm | #

      Excellent! Yes, neoliberalism is all about the worship of markets in ALL contexts, sometimes called “market fundamentalism”.

  14. Steve August 2, 2017 at 12:17 pm | #

    seems like someone has targeted this blog for troll attacks (Thomas)

    • LFC August 3, 2017 at 12:57 pm | #

      No, not really. He’s expressing strong opinions in disagreement w most posters here and in sometimes less-than-polite language.

      That’s not trolling, as I understand the word. The main aim of a troll is to get a rise out of people and sow discord. T. Rossetti, by contrast, seems genuinely exercised by what he takes to be misguided views being embraced here. I’m not saying I agree w/ him — indeed, I mostly do not. But trolling is not the apt word, imo.

  15. Thomas Rossetti August 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm | #

    A very thin wedge of truth on neo liberalism that I accept, but I hardly covers up the philosophical atrocities fanned out by Professor Robin in smearing Bill Clinton, Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton and just about every center left politician in America as the betrayers of liberalism and that to label such is to end all discussion. Microphone dropped! Read Mr. Chris Morlock, on this blog, for an example the pernicious consequences of such teaching. On the basis of some self labeling og The New Republic in the age of Fred Barnes Corey Robbins want back up a Brinks truck and loot liberalism of all its value! I say that is just Goebells like propaganda. A small wedge of fact blown into a massive lie, repeated over and over. Lets be clear of how the term neoliberal is really used. You want call out General Pinochet. I am with you. But the rest is total bullshit!

    • Camembert August 2, 2017 at 1:04 pm | #

      That’s pretty much a Godwin right there.

    • WLGR August 2, 2017 at 1:27 pm | #

      Thomas Rossetti, if you’re ready to give an inch to Mirowski, I hope you’re ready to give a mile, because he explains exactly where the agendas of politicians like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton fit into the overall neoliberal project:

      One of the great weaknesses of the Left is that the neoliberals have a far more elaborate political program which can co-opt people on the Left in a way that the Left doesn’t have at all. I argue that the neoliberals have shown in the crisis—and with regard to climate change—that they have a full-spectrum politics, and it isn’t about deregulation at all; it’s much more elaborate than that. They have separate policies that they put into play for the short term, for the medium term, and for the long term. Let me say what they are and then give you examples of them.

      In the short term, they create a fog of doubt. The short term, for them, is denialism. It happened in the economic crisis; initially what they said is, no, no, don’t do anything, it’ll just fix itself. That’s a kind of denialism. And we’re all familiar with global warming denialism. What I think people on the Left don’t understand is that the neoliberals don’t actually think they’re going to change the science or the economics. They’re not stupid. Short term denialism is a way of buying time for their other policies, for the medium term and long term policies.

      Their medium term policy is not to deregulate, but rather for any problem that markets throw up to institute more (and, from their point of view, better) markets that supposedly address the problem. The way this showed up in the financial crisis was market-based bank rescue, market-based financial innovation. Their argument would be—as a matter of fact this is Robert Shiller’s line—if we just had more markets and financial instruments, that would have fixed the problem in the first place. That’s the medium term fix.

      With global warming, the medium term fix is trading carbon permits. Which, by the way, the New York Times had a huge big wet kiss for yesterday. That is a neoliberal project, too.

      But what’s interesting is that even in the medium term, they don’t believe that will necessarily fix all of these problems either. That’s why they’re so much smarter than the Left. The reason they like these medium-term things is they can co-opt the Left to support them. People on the Left feel that they have to support trading carbon permits because ‘that’s the only thing that could get passed in the Congress.’ So the Left gets sucked into these neoliberal projects. Or think about Obamacare: it’s the same thing.

      And then they have the long term, and this is why they win. Their long term politics is a politics of utopia. It’s a politics of everything being wonderful. And the way this is going to happen is that entrepreneurs will develop outside-the-box wild ideas which the market will then decide are the right solutions to the grand problems of humanity.

      The solutions in the case of global warming are geo-engineering: things like space mirrors, or pumping sulfur dioxide up into the troposphere to block out the sun, and so forth. The important point to make here is that this will be done not by governments but by entrepreneurs. And the same thing goes for the global financial crisis. In the crisis there was this idea that if we just let entrepreneurs invent even new and better ways to both financialize the economy and to deal with various kinds of debt and so forth, what will happen is that we will, in the long term, get out of the crisis.

      What’s interesting is that each of these three kinds of policies can usually be found coming out of different parts of the neoliberal thought collective. And that’s why I use the terminology ‘thought collective.’ No one person advocates all three of these all together. They tend to come out of think tanks. For example, for global warming you can get a denialist argument coming out of one part of a think tank, and a carbon permit trading argument coming out of another part of the same think tank. And those would seem to be contradictory. But what the Left doesn’t understand is that this is part of a much larger project to occupy the entire space of understanding.

      So yes, absolutely we can seriously dispute that “neoliberal” is just a dirty name that leftists [sic] call people they don’t like. Can you seriously dispute our disputation without putting your fingers in your ears and shouting “la la la I’m not listening”?

      • jonnybutter August 2, 2017 at 5:44 pm | #

        hey WLGR, thanks!

  16. Thomas Rossetti August 2, 2017 at 1:11 pm | #

    Can anybody on this blog seriously dispute that neoliberal is just a dirty name that leftist call people they don’t like? Notably those whose politics share many of the same ends. All I have to say is Trump is burning the house down and this is post holocaust politics, so no illusions are warrented for the would be Ernst Thalmans of this also unhappy time!

  17. Thomas Rossetti August 2, 2017 at 1:58 pm | #

    I am not that interested in getting into your policy weeds. If you want talk let’s begin by not assuming that what is at issue even exists outside your fantasy Name the specific liberal, center left political figures who purport the imaginary politics you claim. When Bill Clinton raised taxes on rich in the 1990’s was that neoliberalism? If you think so I say bullshit. When Barack Obama passed tax increases on the rich to finance Obamacare was that neoliberalism? If you think so, I say bullshit. Deal with the fundemental lie! There are disapointments in life for anyone who has ever sought change. But that doesn’t justify the need to to engage in distortion of political terms as signifiers of value! This is like a three card monte game where Hayek and Friedman are under every hat. Bullshit!, as George Carlin would say.

    • WLGR August 2, 2017 at 2:03 pm | #

      Roger that, Tango Romeo… Operation Putting-Your-Fingers-In-Your-Ears-And-Shouting-“La-La-La-I’m-Not-Listening” is a go, I repeat, Operation Putting-Your-Fingers-In-Your-Ears-And-Shouting-“La-La-La-I’m-Not-Listening” is a go

    • s.wallerstein August 2, 2017 at 3:23 pm | #

      I think that they’re comparing the Clinton/Obama liberalism with the classic new deal liberalism of FDR or LBJ (and of Sanders today). When you compare Clinton/Obama liberalism with that of FDR, you tend to see in the neoliberal tradition of Reagan and Thatcher. Obviously, if you compare them with Hayek and Friedman, you tend to see them as welfare state progressives.

    • Chris Morlock August 2, 2017 at 5:12 pm | #

      Tom, you’ve turned into a caricature. The old 60’s Hippie defending Clinton and Obama to the end. You don’t see a problem because you are a boomer and grew up when some level of the New Deal was still intact, and you can’t abide by the Millennials “complaining” and throwing Liberalism under the bus.

      Are you in educational debt? No. Do you have plenty of healthcare? Yes. Was your wealth set up by the remnants of the social system before the people you defend dismantled it? Yes. No amount of droning on about this Liberal philosopher and that old way of thinking can hide who you are.

      Your these people in this Corbyn Video:

    • Mark Johnson August 2, 2017 at 9:51 pm | #

      While Obama did stop single payer from entering the debate over healthcare in order to pass the Republican version of private insurance reform. In terms of tax policy he is best remembered as the man who extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and super-wealthy as you might recall from the Sanders filibuster.

  18. Roquentin August 3, 2017 at 1:05 am | #

    I’ve pretty much given up on the Democrats. I put my time and energy into the DSA instead. The Democrats are not a left wing party, not even a social democratic party, and they quite simply aren’t going to be. There will always be plenty of people like Thomas Rossetti to carry water for them, to excuse every failing no mater how great in magnitude. I did plenty of that nonsense myself for many years. Not anymore. I’m through carrying water for shitty bourgeois liberalism.

    I actually had to leave New York too. By happenstance I worked for one of the biggest publishers in the magazine industry during the election who shall remain namelss. It fucked me up. They were true believers in Hillary and the Democrats. Not the “lesser of two evils,” trying to make the best of a shitty situation crowd, but genuine believers in the greatness of the party and Hillary as a candidate. I don’t know if my lack of enthusiasm for that and the alienation which sprang from it were decisive in being let go, but man…..

    To make matters worse, my boss would routinely talk about people from middle America as cretins. During meetings. Donald Trump is 100% pure New York City. As in second generation, born and raised in Queens. The boundless vanity of people on the coasts, I just don’t have the stomach for it any more. These people, they couldn’t even stop sneering long enough to figure out why no one was supporting them politically.

    • Dean August 3, 2017 at 11:45 am | #

      “I’m through carrying water for shitty bourgeois liberalism.”

      I *so* want a t-shirt emblazoned with that slogan, except that t-shirts emblazoned with incisive slogans are, precisely, expressions of shitty bourgeois liberalism.

    • WLGR August 4, 2017 at 9:52 am | #

      “Donald Trump is 100% pure New York City. As in second generation, born and raised in Queens. The boundless vanity of people on the coasts, I just don’t have the stomach for it any more. These people, they couldn’t even stop sneering long enough to figure out why no one was supporting them politically.”

      Few things are woven deeper into the cultural fabric of these people’s enlightened liberal enclaves than ignoring the inequality, discrimination, and exploitation that sustains them — from the slave trade on which the merchant wealth of the Northeast was originally built, to the genocidal ethnic cleansing that created an “empty” continent to be parceled out to the potentially rebellious white underclasses, to the industrial exploitation of the Gilded Age, to the outsourced oppression of “progressive” era imperialism, to the discriminatory implementation of the New Deal social- democratic American Dream, to the gentrification and mass incarceration  that shield their sophisticated little bubbles from too much direct contact with widening inequality in our present age of neoliberalism. All their vaunted enlightenment has never been about actually confronting human misery and oppression, it’s always been about finding new ways to shift misery and oppression out of sight and out of mind, then acting smugly superior toward anybody too uncouth to properly distance themselves from it.

      • LFC August 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm | #

        On the other hand, a substantial number of American abolitionists came from the E. Coast, many from Boston and environs alone, iirc. To take one of doubtless many possible examples, Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister who opposed the Fugitive Slave law and financially backed John Brown as a member of ‘the Secret Six’.

  19. Thomas Rossetti August 3, 2017 at 1:50 pm | #

    At this point I feel burdened by the politics of ad hominem , but isn’t where we came in? Professor Popkin protecting the Republic from Chelsie Clinton’s inadequate understanding of Hannah Arent, and by the did you know she has 15 million dollars? If we select our leader on Popkin-Robbins criteria I guess Stalin and Hitler both would be best qualified or at least, least objectionable, as they both had nothing when they started.
    I was bothered as a follower of Popkin Robin’s as he seemed an emperor with no clothes. A teacher who habitually engages in slurs, and smears. I followed the recomendation of Rick Pearlstein to Corey Robin as good forhis analysis of the Political Right. Sadly what I discover is his distortion of the left and in particular of liberalism. Sometimes I feel writing on this blog like I am Gulliver among the Liliputions as everthing must be spelled out carefully and in detail since there is little shared common knowledge today of the literature.

  20. Thomas Rossetti August 3, 2017 at 2:12 pm | #

    I am old enough that like Confucius I study the past so that I may be useful in the present. I have not forgotten the landslide of attacks directed at the word liberal to the point that Leonard Bernstein took to pages of the New York Time with his a affirmation ” I am proud to be a liberal.” It is clearly a word that as a political label has been worth fighting over. Do I need to name names. Mill, Russell, Laski. Isaiah Berlin, Barker, Mac Iver, Hobhouse, T.H. Green.Morris R. Cohen. These men were not water carriers for the ruling class! Distinctive to every liberal is the overarching comittment to the political aims of the many as opposed to the few. This is elementry.

    • s.wallerstein August 3, 2017 at 3:36 pm | #

      Russell wasn’t a liberal. He was a self-declared “democratic socialist”.

      • Thomas Rossetti August 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm | #

        Russell was the godson of J..Stuart Mill, and proclaimed himself, early on, and his entire life, as in complete agreement with Mill’ s liberal values. Read his “Proposed Roads To Freedom.” . He had just returned from Moscow and he said the future doesn’t work. His problem was precisely David Spitz’s. How to achieve socialist goals and not unleash the beast. In” Portraits From Memory” Russell affirms his abiding commitment to liberalism. His Grandmother’s favorite bible verse was “follow not a multitude unto evil”. More likely today to be criticized for his Anarchistic tendencies. . I want to express to s wallersein my thanks for your thoughtful comments. FDR was not a liberal collossis overnight. The first passage of social security was a pretty skimpy thing. But the point for FDR was to get it going. He was an incrementalist! Liberal’s may have upopias but they know the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Russell and certainly myself, included, love Kropotkin’s vision in Mutual Aid.

        • s.wallerstein August 3, 2017 at 5:30 pm | #

          We’re going to have to clarify the term “liberal”.

          This conversation started out with Professor’s Robin’s criticism of those who are called “liberals” today in the U.S.: center-left democrats, people like Obama and the Clintons.

          I would imagine that almost everyone who comments here, including myself, could be seen as a “liberal” in the sense that Russell is: someone who sees freedom as an important or the most important variable in determining political welfare. I have on my bookshelf, Russell’s Theory and Practice of Bolshevism, and if you insist, I can get up and find the page where Russell, although very critical of the authoritarian tendencies in the Soviet Union (pre-Stalin), declares himself in favor of democratic socialism. In fact, Chomsky, a libertarian socialist or anarchist, is an admirer of Russell’s political thought. You yourself point out the anarchist strain in Russell. Chomsky can hardly be called a “liberal” in the sense that the word is currently used in U.S. political discourse, yet in philosophical terms, he shares Russell’s emphasis on freedom as an important or the most important variable in determining political welfare.

          So most of us leftists are liberals in the sense that Chomsky and Russell are, but we are not liberals in the sense that the Clintons are. I doubt that many of us are in favor of a single-party communist state like the Soviet Union or even Cuba.

  21. Thomas Rossetti August 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm | #

    Now I am accusing Corey Robin of having backed up a Brinks to the liberal vault of meaning and looting the term liberal of all value. His thought is congenial to the hyde park slurs of “shity bourgious liberal ” and the smear of neoliberal. And I have seen no real case by anyone on this blog for the use of neoliberal when they mean libertarian or neoconservative or just plain convervative. Pat Buchannan and Steve Bannon must get a hearty laugh at the dumbells on the left doing their work for them. Aside from Trump’s Bannon written Inagural address I have not read anything quite as dark as Popkin-Robbin’s screed cum death wish for the Democratic Party. So enough! Defend your self. And please forget about how much money I have. When I lived on the streets of Toronto in my years of exile there a panhandler guy who pretended to be blind. I always would say to him lets empty our pockets and whoever has most gives to the other. He would never accept the deal.

  22. Corey Robin August 3, 2017 at 6:15 pm | #

    Thomas Rossetti: Enough. This is my blog, not a place for you to share your misspellings and typos and accusations of me peddling “smears and slurs.” Forsake the nasty statements about me, the name-calling, and attacks on my character. And either stick to solid argument with evidence or consider yourself banned. This is the only warning you’ll get.

  23. Oma August 4, 2017 at 11:27 pm | #

    I think it all can be simplified.

    One issue is that inequality is growing, and there are various perils that we face as a result.

    This should be an issue that liberals and leftists address together. Two things are very relevant issues for both liberals and the left (1) climate change and (2) the runaway trend of extreme economic inequality. There is no basis for saying these are only issues for the left.

    Liberals don’t want to tackle them because they are under the sway of a delusion about what is truly happening. In theory, liberals should be just as up in arms about them as leftists. Liberals do not want an economic aristocracy or an oligarchy. These are contrary to liberal values.

    It’s not an issue liberals and leftists work on together, if you are talking about those who are powerful in the Democratic Party or their candidates. The best we get from them is one of those teeny tiny bandaids-the ones so small you don’t know what they’d be for except shaving cuts.

    It’s painfully obvious they don’t care about fighting the causes of inequality or climate change, because they don’t want to piss off the corporations whose profit would be disrupted by changes in the status quo.

    Why the heck does it matter whether we call people ‘neoliberals’ if they are dodging these problems, or enhancing them? The problem here is as clear as day.

    We need to get rid of any politician who isn’t addressing these issues head-on, in a way that bothers the people who are benefitting from (a) tax policy enhancing/adding inequality (b) labor policy enhancing/adding to inequality (c) education policy enhancing/adding to inequality (d) policies that do not directly take on the fossil fuel industry. If a politician is not bailing out this sinking ship we are on, then screw them.

    None of these people should be supported by those of us who are concerned about the welfare of most people in the USA, and the world. They don’t deserve our support.

    We are in a crisis. These problems require innovation to fix but there are many proposals that innovations that could address them. Very few in the Democratic establishment are willing to do any of this. They imperil all of us by their failure to push back against the interests benefiting from these trends.

    What liberals tend to do lately–instead of reject the basic ideas–is simply pretend that the crisis we’re in is not a crisis. They acknowledge a bit of trouble–then promise piecemeal reforms, of precisely the same character that allowed the crisis to being, spread, and become nearly unmanageable. I can never tell if this is a lie or a sincerely held delusion but that doesn’t matter. The facts do tell, and the facts are biting us in the ass right now.

    Bill Clinton ushered in an era of much more dramatic inequality. You can measure his failure very easily in charts and graphs.

    It’s very clear when politicians do or do not advocate for the policies that address these issues directly and head on. This isn’t some leftist purity test we’re talking about. Plenty of non-leftists have common sense about these issues–but they are usually not in politics.

    Likely they will lie to us about their intensions but feet need to be held to the fire by voters. The problem is that the two parties will do a dance where each pretends to do better than the other. That’s not an easy problem to solve but I think it is better to ask these people what they will do than worry about where they work. Maybe the jury is still out on whether any of these prospective candidates will support the solutions we the people need. I don’t want to judge them without more evidence. However, if they did support the necessary policies, they’d be infuriating their own social milieu. My guess is that few have the guts to do that kind of thing.

    There’s plenty of time to find out though.

  24. Thomas Rossetti August 5, 2017 at 10:38 am | #

    There is much here that find my self in agreement, certainly the aspect of the context of a useful and positive discussion. I would say the over all liberals and socialist of varying degrees are in agreement that Power and Justice are major determinants of political theory. Have you ever seen even one case from any writer on the left,in the entire spectrim who supports more concentration of media in fewer hands as a good? No, of course not. That is problem that demands a solution. One solution may begin with a focus social ownership of at some, if not all of the media. And this takes yo yhe point that all liberal and socialist must contend in the realm of ideas without smears and slurs those who come up with different proposals. Bertrand Russell was a liberal and a socialist.

  25. Thomas Rossetti August 5, 2017 at 11:10 am | #

    He saw that private ownership of any sort could lead to private tyranny. But he also saw the market and property as a check on state power. In some total sense it may be fair to say that those who begin to think about a liberal theory of start with a more central concern to prevent tyranny. Historicaly that has been the case. The first and foremost quality of a good life is to be left alone to make the choices that make up a human existence. Clearly you can see where this is heading. The modern state os mixed economy and pluralism.
    But this blog is specifically about the ethics of political debate on the left as exampled by the behavior and claims of Corey Robin. I think Jonathon Chait puts it pretty well when he states it is a case of trying to win an argument by an epithet.

  26. Thomas Rossetti August 5, 2017 at 11:40 am | #

    I said the unholy truth that neoliberalism is a term leftist use to call someone they don’t like a dirty name. I think that holds as ageneral description of the truth on matters ‘left’. What I also want to emphasize is the the Right are not passive spectators of this ugly scene on the left. They are positively gleeful. And when you throw in all the maggots coming out from under the lids of think tank institutes bought and paid for by the obscenely rich who garble politics with some bastardized economic history that rips politics out context. Why not give the biologist there say. Of course. But like a lot poorly educated economists who don’t know the literature or history of political thought they are poor teachers to seek wisdom from. A really bright economist is one that know what he doesn’t know. That is why I respect Paul Krugman. On a personal note I am sorry for the typos. I am struggling with glaucoma.

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