“A New Story for America”

Read “A New Story for America” by Bill Moyers in a recent Nation magazine. I read the print version. I see that online it is retitled “For America’s Sake.” I think the first title is better because it is actually what he is writing about.

I use this metaphor myself quite a bit. What stories do we tell each other and ourselves? That woman is bully. That president is stupid. My parents hate me. Stuff like that. Stories help me but they also need to be examined.

Moyer’s point is if Democrats (or anyone else for that matter) are to do some good in leading this country they need to recapture the story that is actually a bit more historically American. The relatively new story that needs to be examined, challenged and replaced is the one of capitalism and economic free market and profit margins ( this story covertly seems to think that “greed is good” and so is commodification. It reminds me of the quote I read once from an advertising executive: “People like advertising.” This is so not true for me. Heh.)

Moyer believes the more historical and essentially redeemable American story is one of equal power. It is that the promise of America leaves no one out.

Some things that jumped out at me in Moyer’s article:

Economic growth… by its very nature is valueless.

Reagan’s story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons. It is posed abstractly as the freedom of the individual from government control–a Jeffersonian ideal at the root of our Bill of Rights, to be sure. But what it meant in politics a century later, and still means today, is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities and the license to buy the political system right out from under everyone else, so that democracy no longer has the ability to hold capitalism accountable for the good of the whole.
(emphasis added)

Freedom… is “considerably more than a private value.” It is essentially a social idea, which explains why the worship of the free market “fails as a compelling idea in terms of the moral reasoning of freedom itself.”
(here Moyers is quoting from John Schwartz’s book, Freedom Reclaimed: Rediscovering the American Vision)

He also mentions two other books that he says that in a just world would be on every desk in the House and Senate. Freedom’s Power: The True Force of Liberalism by Paul Starr and The American Dream vs. the Gospel of Wealth by Norton Garfinkle.

My local library system doesn’t own any of these. But GVSU owns one and is processing another of them. So maybe I can get a gander at them that way.

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