The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

Our friend Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research has a new book out with the provocative title The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.

You can download the book for free HERE. You can also listen to an online discussion of the book this Sunday from 5-7 pm by clicking HERE (You will have to register with firedoglake to participate in the discussion). Let us know what you think of the discussion by writing a comment on this blog post.

And read on to learn the core argument of Dean’s book and why we at the Keystone Research Center are NOT loser liberals.

In Dean’s own words, the core argument of his book is that:

Progressives need a fundamentally new approach to politics. They have been losing not just because conservatives have so much more money and power, but also because they have accepted the conservatives’ framing of political debates. They have accepted a framing where conservatives want market outcomes whereas liberals want the government to intervene to bring about outcomes that they consider fair.

This is not true. Conservatives rely on the government all the time, most importantly in structuring the market in ways that ensure that income flows upwards. The framing that conservatives like the market while liberals like the government puts liberals in the position of seeming to want to tax the winners to help the losers.

This ‘loser liberalism’ is bad policy and horrible politics. Progressives would be better off fighting battles over the structure of markets so that they don’t redistribute income upward. This book describes some of the key areas where progressives can focus their efforts in restructuring market so that more income flows to the bulk of the working population rather than just a small elite.

Dean’s argument lines up with the Keystone Research Center’s view that the issue is not market vs. government, but how policies and institutions shape marketplace competition and its outcomes (this overlap is why we’re NOT loser liberals — phew!).

  • Will we have constructive competition (based on innovation, increasing productivity, and rising living and environmental standards) or destructive competition that lowers wages and despoils the planet?
  • Will we structure markets so that companies take the “high road” to profitability or the “low road”?
  • Will we build a “moral economy” with marketplace competition that supports American values or an economy which destroys the American Dream of upward mobility? (For a recent policy discussion on how to make markets progressive, see the end of The State of Working Pennsylvania 2011.)

Go online Sunday and let us know what you think. And start experimenting with Dean’s reframing in your own communications.