Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

Read Orrin's interview with Steven Malanga

When I consider the weakness, the folly, the Pride, the Vanity, the Selfishness, the Artifice, the low craft and meaning cunning, the want of Principle, the Avarice the unbounded Ambition, the unfeeling Cruelty of a majority of those (in all Nations) who are allowed an aristocratical influence; and on the other hand, the Stupidity with which the more numerous multitude, not only become their Dupes, but even love to be Taken in by their Tricks: I feel a stronger disposition to weep at their destiny, than to laugh at their Folly. [...]

If a descent from, pious, virtuous, wealthy litterary or scientific Ancestors is a letter of recommendation, or introduction in a Mans his favour, and enables him to influence only one vote in Addition to his own, he is an Aristocrat, for a democrat can have but one Vote.
    -LETTER: John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (15 Nov. 1813)

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were too wise to believe that by banishing artificial Aristocracy they'd gotten rid of the Natural variant too. But surely they'd weep at the rise of the artificial aristocracy that plagues us now, those who have used the growth of the welfare state to create a dependent class of what Steven Malanga calls "tax eaters," by which he means "those who benefit from an expanding government, including public-sector employees, workers at organizations that survive off government money, and those who receive government benefits." They may not have planned it that way from the start, but what the statists on the Left have done is crafted an ingenious system whereby more and more people depend for their livelihoods on checks from the government, thereby guaranteeing high levels of support from this class of voters for expanding that government and maintaining or increasing spending, the bill for which is footed by "taxpayers." In essence, the Left takes money from the taxpayers and trades it to the tax eaters for their votes, which are then used to tax more money and make more tax eaters so that the public sector is permanently expanding. In this collection of his very fine essays, Mr. Malanga traces the outlines of this infernal contraption that the New New Left has erected, looks at the ill effects it has had, especially on our cities, and warns us of its future plans.

The basic case Mr. Malanga has to make is quite compelling, as in the essay The Real Engine of Blue America, which forms the basis for his Introduction to the book:
This increasingly powerful public-sector movement results from the merging of two originally distinct forces. First are the government-employee unions, born in the 1950s and nowadays the 800-pound gorillas of policy debates in many statehouses and city councils. Today, public unions don’t merely use their power to win contract concessions for their members. They help elect sympathetic legislators and defeat proponents of smaller government; they lobby for higher taxes, especially on the rich and on businesses; and they oppose legislative efforts, such as privatization initiatives, aimed at making government smaller and more efficient. [...]

In retrospect, most of the warnings voiced in those tumultuous years proved accurate. Political leaders and labor experts predicted that government-employee unions would use their monopoly power over public services to win contracts with work rules far more generous and undemanding than in the private sector, and that without the restraints on salaries and benefits that the free marketplace imposes on private firms, unions would win increasingly meaty compensation and pension packages that would be impossible to roll back once enacted.

But what critics did not anticipate was how far public-employee unions would move beyond collective bargaining and inject themselves into the electoral and legislative processes. [...]

Reinforcing the public-employee unions in the powerful new coalition of tax eaters are the social-services groups spawned by the War on Poverty. Nominally private, they are sustained by and organized around public funding.

Almost from the War on Poverty’s inception, these social-services employees and their clients began to show themselves a powerful political force, as when New York welfare workers, for example, mobilized recipients in the early 1970s to storm government offices demanding higher benefits. Some social-services agencies organized their employees and clients into grassroots political operations, parlaying their huge empires built on government and foundation money into political power. The gradual government takeover of health care—a process still continuing—has transformed the industry’s institutions, executives, and workers into lobbyists for ever-greater public monies and expanding programs, and tireless foes of efforts to restrain costs. Hospitals and health-care unions were the chief opponents of the Gingrich Congress’s efforts to balance the federal budget in the mid-1990s in part by cutting the growth of Medicaid and Medicare, and these special interests successfully derailed some of the steepest proposed cuts. At the state and local levels, especially in cities where the industry heavily depends on Medicaid and Medicare, hospitals and hospital workers have become two of the most influential power blocs.

The electoral activism of this New New Left coalition—public-employee unions, hospitals and health-care worker unions, and social-services agencies—has reshaped the politics of many cities. As the country’s national political scene has edged rightward, thwarting their ambitions in Washington, these groups have turned their attention to urban America, where they still have the power to influence public policy.
And in the chapters that follow he looks at how academia has been co-opted by the New New Left -- in the form of university Labor Studies departments -- at its attempts to impose a "living wage" on the private sector, to adopt Richard Florida's ideas about making cities magnets for the "creative" class, and to "reform" elections and at its attack on Wal-Mart. While the public-sector movement always at least lurks in the background and the separate pieces are each quite good, they are cobbled together somewhat awkwardly and because of the nature of his original audience -- most of the essays appeared first in places like City Journal and the New York Sun -- Mr. Malanga's attention shifts quite specifically to New York City by the end of the book. The biggest disappointment though is the lack of a strong concluding chapter with some proposals for how to fight the New New Left. Several remedial steps would seem obvious and the Bush administration is already working to implement some of them: Civil Service reform, outsourcing jobs, linking pay to performance, making it easier to fire people, etc.; voucherizing education; breaking the grip of social-service groups as the Faith-Based Initiative seeks to do; and privatizing social welfare programs, through things like personal Social Security accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and the like. Indeed, these seemingly disparate Bush policies cohere into a unified program when we look at them through the lens Mr. Malanga provides. Each can be seen to be an assault upon the New New Left and on its aristocratic ability to control those voters it has made dependent on government money. Adams and Jefferson would quickly grasp how such compassionate conservatism is quintessentially democratic.

At any rate, this is an ongoing story and we look forward to reading along as Mr. Malanga continues to track the doings of the New New Left and those who oppose them. This book, though incomplete, offers a good introduction to the struggle.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Steven Malanga Links:

    -Manhattan Institute Scholar | Steven Malanga
    -BOOK SITE: THE NEW NEW LEFT: How American Politics Works Today by Steven Malanga (Manhattan Institute)
    -BOOK SITE: The New New Left (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher)
    -ARCHIVES: Steven Malanga (City Journal)
    -ARCHIVES: "Steven Malanga" (Find Articles)
    -ESSAY: The Real Engine of Blue America: There are no Blue states—only Blue cities, where tax eaters rule. (Steven Malanga, Winter 2005, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Let Them Eat Minimum Wage: How a group of Gotham business leaders plans to help the poor. (Steven Malanga, 16 July 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: What Does the War on Wal-Mart Mean?: Reactionary unions and their allies seek to deny consumers the bounty of America’s dazzling productivity revolution. (Steven Malanga, Spring 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Union U (Steven Malanga, July 23, 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: How the “Living Wage” Sneaks Socialism into Cities: The living-wage campaign is not just a modest effort to help low-wage workers but a major push to impose a left-wing economic agenda on cities. And it is succeeding. (Steven Malanga, Winter 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Curse of the Creative Class: Richard Florida’s theories are all the rage worldwide. Trouble is, they’re plain wrong. (Steven Malanga, Winter 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: What's the Matter With Kansas?: Not a thing, it turns out (STEVEN MALANGA, December 6, 2004, Opinion Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Curse of the Creative Class: A New Age theory of urban development amounts to economic snake oil (STEVEN MALANGA, January 19, 2004 Opinion Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Left’s New Urban Agenda: Frustrated in Washington, leftist advocacy groups are using cities to push their program. Their latest target: the War on Terror. (Steven Malanga, 9 January 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Class Warfare (David Bacon, 12/24/03, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of The New New Left by Steven Malanga (Christopher Hayes, New Republic)
Book-related and General Links:
-ESSAY: Urban Archipelago (John Nichols, 6/20/05, The Nation)