The Failure of the Liberal Establishment

Death of the Liberal Class, Chris Hedges, Nation Books.

“Liberal institutions were created to make the world a better place. Throughout their history, they have promised to protect the common good, educate, and fight injustice. These institutions, when they function, keep alive qualities that defy the raw greed of unchecked capitalism,” offers Chris Hedges, midway through Death of the Liberal Class. The problem, according to the author, is that the liberal class—which includes universities, labor movements, portions of the press, the Democratic Party, and liberal religious groups—has been corrupted by corporate entities, to the point where the American citizenry’s protection against the corporate state has disappeared.

What happened to the liberal institutions that are so vital to our democracy? Hedges traces their decline back to the eve of World War I, the first time there was a conscious understanding that what moved people was not fact or reason, but the manipulation of emotion. “WWI saw the birth of a system of mass propaganda, which ever since has saturated our culture with lies,” he writes. And since that so-called war to end all wars, the United States has devoted an ungodly amount of money and resources to battling its enemies, to the point where we now live in a state of permanent war. Meanwhile, we’ve witnessed a slow-motion coup détat by big corporations, which now effectively control politics, education, labor, and the financial system (among other things).

According to Hedges, recent political developments indicate that things are about to get a lot worse. The tragedy of Barack Obama—if tragedy is the right word—is that he made a Faustian bargain with corporate interests, he says. But he believes the rise of the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party is particularly ominous, suggestive of the fact that anger at the liberal establishment has opened the door to dangerously misguided demagogues, who seek to mobilize hatred and foment revolt.

“We stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history,” concludes Hedges, predicting that we will soon experience economic collapse. “Massive bailouts, stimulus packages, giveaways, and short-term borrowing, along with imperial wars we can no longer afford, will leave the United States struggling with trillions in debt,” he writes. Ultimately, China and the other oil-rich states will walk away from that debt, interest rates will skyrocket, and inflation (or hyperinflation) will set in.

Hedges likens today’s unrest and discontent among the American people to other eras of bankrupt liberalism in Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Tsarist Russia, not to mention the former Yugoslavia, suggesting that we will probably evolve into a system that closely resembles classical totalitarianism. “The thing that will be different this time around is that thanks to our global interconnectedness, we will collapse together,” he says. “The ten-thousand-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt.”