Beyond the free market

The 99 Percent Plan is a joint Roosevelt Institute-Salon series that explores how progressives can shape a new vision for the economy. This is the fifth and final essay in the series.

The 2012 presidential campaign is shaping up into a clash of economic visions. In response to the escalating GOP criticisms of his fiscal policies, Barack Obama has recently dialed up his own rhetoric, defending programs from financial reform to the auto bailout and the stimulus, and castigating conservatives for their “you’re-on-your-own” economics. In this conservative vision, markets are seen as the best guarantors of freedom, and the most effective means of organizing society.  State interference is deemed corrupt, ineffective and a threat to personal freedom. This framework has driven successive conservative attacks on financial reform, workers’ rights and efforts to expand the social safety net.

But as the earlier essays in this series have shown, this right-wing view has also influenced progressive policies.  In recent years, progressives have been more inclined to support privatization of state functions like prison management, to view equal opportunity in terms of a market-competition for increasingly scarce jobs, underinvesting in worker rights, and using a rhetoricoverly friendly to financial interests. If progressives want to affect substantive change these areas, they need to do more than come up with policy ideas. They need to reclaim the language of freedom. 

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