Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bill Moyers on Steroids

The writings of Bill Moyers is a great source. full of things to think about, mull over, and then repeat... repeat often because they seem to fit so many situations. So it is with his recent essay on the Mitchel Report on the use of steroids in baseball.
There was a lesson in George Mitchell's report that I'm not sure even he recognized. The day Americans don't feel strongly enough about the need for level playing fields to fight for them -- the day when cutting corners and seeking an edge become the national pastime -- is the day democracy will be lucky even to find a seat in the bleachers.
I think that the term "level playing field" was chosen with great care. You find it often in the rhetoric of George W. Bush. It forms the basis of almost all discussions of Thomas Friedman's book, "The World if Flat". In the linked Harvard Business Review article, James Heskett asks a number of questions that we need to answer.
Who benefits most from a level playing field? A developing economy achieving productivity gains with volume increases achieved through low factor costs of production? Or a developed economy realizing productivity gains in totally different ways, for example, by leveraging already high factor costs through technology and the education and communication required to use the technology more effectively? Are these two types of economies even competing on the same playing field?
This goes beyond just an knee jerk anti-corporate reaction that I sometimes hear from Greens. I am not sure if that comes from a Marxist or an anarchist perspective and I doubt whether the protesters even know themselves.

If we want to make a serious run for national political prominence, we have start taking the answer to Heskett's question and translate that into specific policies. What do we do about NAFTA? Renegotiate, unilaterally withdraw from the agreement? Gleaned from the comments of those who responded to Heskett on the HBR web site:
Radhika Unni: That doesn't mean I feel that governments should stop the natural market dynamics, but at the same time it doesn't mean that countries should use the term "level playing field" as an excuse for exploitation.
Maybe it is time to re-examine the Platform of the Green Party, especially those section which deal with economic realities.

The Green world view, growing out of the vision of people grounded in the Deep Ecology of Arne Naess, recognizes the interconnectedness of things in the world of social / economic interactions just as much as we do in the world of nature. Not all Greens do. We can not deal with immigration and trade as separate issues. The roots are so intertwined that separation could be fatal to both causes. Does our platform call for a 30 hr. work week when most middle class families have to hold down three jobs just to maintain their standard of living and all the consumerism that this implies.

Moyers has a unique ability to cut through to the soul of this country, to understand and communicate those elements of our makeup that have mythic connotation. The American sense of fair play that Moyers fears we are losing has no better expression than the 10 key values of this party. If we want to move not to the right, nor the left, but forward to a new future, we had better figure out how to tap into these sensibilities.

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