A shrewd colleague at another institution recently offered, via Facebook (hence I’m not naming names), this concise definition of the way supposedly democratic governments work today (with a nod to the policies that pointed the way back in 1980):
“Reaganomics: spend the country into a deficit then slash social programs to ‘cut’ the very deficit you just artificially created in order to suit your ideological belief that ordinary people deserve nothing in the way of health care, education or other services.”
It’s useful to have critical definitions like this on hand, for teaching situations; put this way, such a definition captures not only the context but the contradiction of late capital. A similarly concise and incisive comment on a governance ethos that is close but not identical to Reaganomic social conservatism – libertarianism – occurs in an article on distance postsecondary education by UK researcher Greville Rumble (who in turn is summarizing the arguments of Ted Honderich):
The problem with the libertarian argument is that it allows for a perfectly just society within which there are people who have no food, no healthcare and no education (Honderich, 2002, pp. 43–44). So ‘in this [formulation of a] perfectly just society [there are people who] have no claim to food, no moral right to it. No one and nothing does wrong in letting them starve to death’ (Honderich, 2002, p. 44). ‘This’, says Honderich, ‘is vicious’ (2002, p. 44). (171)
For the full discussion – which is excellent and worthwhile whether or not you’re interested in distance PSE – see:
Rumble, Greville. “Social Justice, Economics and Distance Education.” Open Learning 22.2 (2007): 167-76. Web.