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Utopia Nation

by on June 7, 2011

Sometimes I think the song of the Republican Party – one that they would no doubt play without consent – is Cherokee Nation.

They took the whole Cherokee nation
And put us on this reservation
They took away our ways of life…

‘They’ to the Republicans would be anyone who don’t vote their way.  The ‘reservation’ they live in fear of, in the same way they fear their ‘way of life’ is disappearing.  Their utopia is a land where those-who-do-not-agree live on a reservation; meanwhile, the Republican feels like he/she/it is on a reservation because of ‘taxes’.

In Pakistan, 2% of the population pays taxes.  Republicans want to emulate this.  In Pakistan, there is little regulation of the economy.  Republicans want to emulate this.  In Pakistan, there is a traditional religious influence in government, and school prayers.  Republicans want to emulate this.  In Pakistan, same-sex marriage is unthinkable.  Republicans want to emulate this.  In Pakistan, the military comes first, and politicians defer to generals.  Republicans want to emulate this.

Nicholas Kristof writes for the New York Times:

I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They’re typically characterized by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?

In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar? And the upshot is societies that are quasi-feudal, stratified by social class, held back by a limited sense of common purpose.

In fairness to Pakistan and Congo, wealthy people in such countries manage to live surprisingly comfortably. Instead of financing education with taxes, these feudal elites send their children to elite private schools. Instead of financing a reliable police force, they hire bodyguards. Instead of supporting a modern health care system for their nation, they fly to hospitals in London.

You can tell the extreme cases by the hum of diesel generators at night. Instead of paying taxes for a reliable electrical grid, each wealthy family installs its own powerful generator to run the lights and air-conditioning. It’s noisy and stinks, but at least you don’t have to pay for the poor.

I’ve always made fun of these countries, but now I see echoes of that pattern of privatization of public services in America. Police budgets are being cut, but the wealthy take refuge in gated communities with private security guards. Their children are spared the impact of budget cuts at public schools and state universities because they attend private institutions.

Is this our Utopia Nation?

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