Apr 22, 2021
Influential conservatives have capitalized on a wave of cultural nostalgia after the turbulent 1960s to turn our economy into a version of extreme capitalism. Economists like Milton Friedman, politicians like Ronald Reagan and Mitch McConnell, and CEOs like the Koch Brothers have used money, policy, secrecy, and cultural movements to demonize the federal government and rig our economy for the rich. Together with neoliberalism from the left, the New Deal was replaced by the raw deal.
The US government is responsible for many of the greatest inventions of the last century, but does not capitalize on these discoveries. If the government acted like a private enterprise, it would have more money to invest in communities as well as support innovation. In Republican-led, individualist Alaska, royalties earned from natural gas and oil drillers is distributed to all Alaskans every year. The program is a form of socialism, a universal basic income. The government could use the Alaska model to reap the benefits of its assets, like charging industry for air pollution.
Continuous civic engagement is the way to undo decades of economic and civic destruction. Showing up to vote once every two or four years is not enough. Doing the steady work of championing good candidates who believe in the big ideas, and discussing the issues in a non-binary way are key to achieving basic fairness. Engagement looks different around the US, and what works in Queens, New York, will not work in Colorado or Nebraska.
Kurt Andersen is a writer. He spent his first 20 years in Nebraska, and most of the rest in New York City. His most recent book is Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History, a companion volume to Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, both of which were New York Times bestsellers.
He was the host and co-creator of Studio 360, the cultural magazine show produced by Public Radio International from 2000 to 2020. It was broadcast on 250 stations and distributed by podcast to almost 1 million listeners each week. Andersen was honored twice by New York State Associated Press for the best radio interview of the year, and the program won Peabody Awards twice.
As an editor, Kurt co-founded the transformative satirical magazine Spy and served as editor-in-chief of New York. He also co-founded Inside, a digital and print publication covering the media and entertainment industries, oversaw a relaunch of Colors magazine, co-founded the online newsletter Very Short List, and served as editor-at-large for Random House.
He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt Institute, and taught at the Art Center College of Design (where he was "Visionary in Residence") and the School of Visual Arts. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Anne Kreamer.
You can follow him on Twitter @kbandersen.