I’ve never paid any attention to Mark Bittman–not out of hostility, just that I don’t normally read about food. But I couldn’t help noticing his op-ed in today’s NY Times, and I was impressed. I especially want to point to one passage that does a great job of summarizing, simply and concisely, progressive political thinking:
Increasingly, it’s corporations and not governments that are determining how the world works. As unrepresentative as government might seem right now, there is at least a chance of improving it, whereas corporations will always act in their own interests.
Bittman’s choice of language is significant. Conservatives generally would have no problem with the first sentence above if Bittman replaced the word “corporations” with the word “markets.” And, while conceding that corporations generally act in in their own interests, they argue that that is a good thing, since corporations must act through markets, and the magic of the market can be relied upon to produce outcomes that serve the common good. Progressives don’t believe in magic. They understand that capitalism left to its own devices is unstable (e.g., the 2008 financial crisis), destructive of broadly shared values (e.g., the environment) and unjust in awarding a small minority a vastly disproportionate share of national wealth.
Since markets cannot be relied upon to serve public purposes we must look to government. And, while government does indeed too often serve special interests, there is, as Bittman says, at least a chance of improving it—a chance of enlarging the sphere of government action for public purposes and reducing government servitude to corporate self-interest.
I also liked another, earlier passage in Bittman’s op-ed.
No one seriously believes that Hillary Clinton will ever put the interests of Main Street before those of her donors from Wall Street, do they? At least not unless she’s pushed, and hard.
Of course, it’s not just Hillary: almost any serious candidate for the presidency is going to rely on hefty donations from Wall Street as well as other special interests–a hard fact that helps explain why it’s corporations and not governments that are determining how the world works. But Hillary right now is our best chance of changing that reality at least a bit, so let’s do push her hard.