I responded to Joseph Stiglitz’s article at the NYTimes, on progressivism, then posted further response, re: one of several replies to me (bottom of that). I sought to respond to another replier (joseph parmetler), but the “Comments” feature closed before I could post it. So, that’s below (with formatting additions not available at the NYTimes):
The issues are complex. I’m sure—I know—that Mr. Stiglitz’s position is more sophisticated than an article can convey—and far beyond my layman’s sense of economics.But my critical attitude is not a general objection to Mr. Stiglitz’s thinking (he being a Nobel Laureate, after all). I meant to be usefully thoughtful. Stiglitz has a complex approach to “creating the learning society” that I admire (and whose macro-mathematical sophistication is inaccessible to me).
Fair tax policy surely should “support education, health care...,” but there are approaches to government which are about more than support. They enable: Policy needs to be creative, progressive, not just fair and equitable—but that too! Democracy is a way of building futures. Progressive politics is about conserving cherished values by advancing them.
But the ethos of regulation is nebulous: Is it seeking homeostasis (stable market, which business likes)? Stiglitz wouldn’t basically advocate that. But why focus on “regulation”?
Is regulation to become “Commanding Heights,” which has been the legacy of Keynesian policy (creeping into statist paternalism which suppresses innovation)?
Teaching provides a good metaphor: Remediating someone is not yet educating them. (It’s creating educability.) Instructing (directing) someone is not enabling.
Enabling, facilitating, is truly educating. Master teachers know this. Leading minds in business regard leadership as an educational mission. Congresspersons should need to be educators of their constituents (about complexity, prudence, the long view, etc.), not just be service providers (and necessary advocates for justice).
A conception of enabling society can be about a progressive pragmatism—which also embodies our most cherished values.
In his NYTimes article (and earlier discussion this week with Andrew Sorkin), he’s briefly helping recent Democratic talk about “socialist” ideas gain a sense that’s fair, both to their progressivism (without falling back into antedated notions of socialism) and fair to his upcoming book on “progressive capitalism.” However, I found that his way of distinguishing present times from past was largely viewed from the past; so, he seemed to undermine his good intentions.
I have a detailed notion of enablative society to share—thanks to the work of others (to be duly credited)—but which lacks the complementary economic sophistication that Stiglitz exemplifies. It also is not premised on the neo-Neoliberal, neo-welfarist notion of “enabling state.” My project involves:
- an ethic of care, engaged with enabling and remediating;
- an approach to how persons who highly value enhancing humanity may come to identify with that engagement;
- a conception of concerted cultivation, from parenting through educational excellence to highly humanistic cultural thinking; and
- a conception of enablative leadership in progressive politics.
I don’t understand notions of enabling primarily as governmental, rather as cultural. A provisional model of societal cultivation of humanity (containing enablative political notions) might be what emerged from the 1990s quality-of-life research of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum that became the capabilist approach to human development, broadly conceived.