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Disowning the Ownership Society Naomi Klein / The Nation Remember the "ownership society, order no rx hydrea" fixture of major George W. Order no rx hydrea Bush addresses for the first four years of his presidency? "We're creating...an ownership society in this country, order no rx hydrea where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, order no rx hydrea welcome to my house, order no rx hydrea welcome to my piece of property, order no rx hydrea" Bush said in October 2004. Order no rx hydrea Washington think-tanker Grover Norquist predicted that the ownership society would be Bush's greatest legacy, order no rx hydrea remembered "long after people can no longer pronounce or spell Fallujah." Yet in Bush's final State of the Union address, order no rx hydrea the once-ubiquitous phrase was conspicuously absent. Order no rx hydrea And little wonder: rather than its proud father, order no rx hydrea Bush has turned out to be the ownership society's undertaker. Well before the ownership society had a neat label, order no rx hydrea its creation was central to the success of the right-wing economic revolution around the world. Order no rx hydrea The idea was simple: if working-class people owned a small piece of the market--a home mortgage, order no rx hydrea a stock portfolio, order no rx hydrea a private pension--they would cease to identify as workers and start to see themselves as owners, order no rx hydrea with the same interests as their bosses. Order no rx hydrea That meant they could vote for politicians promising to improve stock performance rather than job conditions. Order no rx hydrea Class consciousness would be a relic. It was always tempting to dismiss the ownership society as an empty slogan--"hokum" as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put it. Order no rx hydrea But the ownership society was quite real. Order no rx hydrea It was the answer to a roadblock long faced by politicians favoring policies to benefit the wealthy. Order no rx hydrea The problem boiled down to this: people tend to vote their economic interests. Order no rx hydrea Even in the wealthy United States, order no rx hydrea most people earn less than the average income. Order no rx hydrea That means it is in the interest of the majority to vote for politicians promising to redistribute wealth from the top down. Order no rx hydrea So what to do? It was Margaret Thatcher who pioneered a solution. Order no rx hydrea The effort centered on Britain's public housing, order no rx hydrea or council estates, order no rx hydrea which were filled with die-hard Labour Party supporters. Order no rx hydrea In a bold move, order no rx hydrea Thatcher offered strong incentives to residents to buy their council estate flats at reduced rates (much as Bush did decades later by promoting subprime mortgages). Order no rx hydrea Those who could afford it became homeowners while those who couldn't faced rents almost twice as high as before, order no rx hydrea leading to an explosion of homelessness.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, order no rx hydrea No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). Order no rx hydreahttp://www.thenation.com/doc/20080218/klein