Why UBI and Medicare For All are Still Struggling: A New View
Today, I’m going to talk about why things like a UBI, better health care, and climate action across the Western world, have had relatively little success, compared to opinion polls which show their policies to be popular in theory. I’m also going to offer a new way forward, one that is still not talked about much by many champions of these policies.
Much has been said about why, some European countries, particularly the Scandinavian countries, can have such a strong social safety net, while countries like America, and to a lesser extent the UK and Australia, cannot. Some commentators on the Right have pointed to the cultural homogeneity of Scandinavia, but I don’t think that’s the reason. Rather, we should take a look at history. The social safety nets of European countries were generally established in the decades following World War II. Political circumstances around that time meant that Europe, particularly Scandinavia, made the most progress during that era, America made relatively little progress beyond the New Deal, and the UK, Canada and Australia were somewhere in between. After around 1980, however, basically no Western country made any further great progress in terms of strengthening the social safety net, and most have even seen backsliding. Therefore, if European progressives were championing universal health care in 1950, they were much more likely to get it compared with American progressives who are championing it today.
So what caused that change? I think we need to look at the one or two decades leading up to 1980. It was the time of the Vietnam War, the student protests, and most importantly, the rise of the Theory Left, as I illustrated in previous episodes. The Theory Left represents a significant chunk of the Left that has broken away from the workers and the unions, and re-orientated towards the intellectuals, with a new cultural orientation replacing the previous economic orientation. The problem with the Theory Left is that, their whole worldview is rooted in a suite of critical theories, which see the world primarily in terms of power dynamics between oppressor vs oppressed groups. Furthermore, the Theory Left see the existing social institutions, like marriage, family, even morality and science in the more extreme cases, as social constructs designed to keep the oppressed down. Hence, they tend to hold a negative view towards all these pillars of the social fabric. The result of all this is five decades of both conscious and unconscious attempts to weaken the social fabric, with multiple deleterious social consequences.
The rise of the New Left was associated with widespread social upheaval in the 1960s and 70s. Although the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement were noble, there was also much that was, objectively speaking, highly damaging to the social fabric. In the wake of the cultural changes, the number of broken families skyrocketed. Repeated industrial action that was designed by the radical Left to ‘bring capitalism to its knees’ instead resulted in workers being out of work everywhere, effectively putting an end to the post-war guarantee of a living wage for all. Society became quite dysfunctional in general. As all this was happening, some in the Theory Left turned to their theory again, and found justification for their actions in the idea that this chaos had to come before their ‘new world’ could be born. Theory had not only gravely harmed society, it also blinded its adherents to this fact, thus preventing a much needed correction. Thus the erosion of the social fabric continued to some extent throughout the 1980s, 90s and beyond.
Anyway, the point is, people need to believe in the society around them, to be passionate about social and economic reforms. They need to know that the system is working, they need to know that their efforts will actually go towards making life better for their fellow humans, before they can embrace new reforms. The social dysfunction brought on by the Theory Left has prevented this from happening ever since the 1970s. Therefore, to strengthen the social safety net, to deal with the coming challenge of automation, to create the consensus to end racism and bigotry, and to adequately deal with larger problems like climate change, we first need to heal society. We need to undo the injuries of the past five decades, and make people believe that their society can work well once again. Without fulfilling this fundamental requirement, any policy for major reform would remain no more than a pipe dream.
TaraElla is a singer-songwriter and author, who recently published her autobiography The TaraElla Story, in which she described the events that inspired her writing.
She is also the author of the Moral Libertarian Horizon books, which argue that liberalism is still the most moral and effective value system for Western democracies in the 21st century.