One of those counterfactuals...
I wish I knew what conservatives believed would happen if liberals had their way--and I would be most grateful if someone would tell me. In fairness, I should give an account of what I think would happen if conservatives were able to push through their agenda.
Suppose that conservatives had a free hand and reorganized things in the US so that there would be less bureaucracy and regulation, lower taxes and less support for public services, and much of what government delivers in other affluent countries would be the responsibility of individuals, families, churches and other private organizations.
Life would be much, much riskier: the kinds of lives we lived would depend far more on dumb luck. The luck of the draw--whether we were born rich or poor, black or white, male or female, smart or dumb, able or disabled--would play a greater role in determining our lot in life and at every stage of our lives we would be vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Those of us who could afford it would be able to save or to buy into insurance schemes to protect ourselves, but the ability to afford these hedges would itself be a matter of dumb luck.
If conservatives have their way, most of us will be more dependent on the good will of others. Workers will depend on the good will of employers for reasonable wages and decent working conditions, and employers who are morally committed to treating their employees decently will find it hard to compete: nice guys will finish last, and the Walmart model will triumph. The elderly will depend on their children for housing and financial support and the poor will depend on the voluntary contributions and support of those who are better off.
Public facilities will become a last resort for the poor. Outside of wealthy suburbs, where very few of us can afford to live, public schools will become charity institutions for the destitute and near-destitute. As middle class parents opt out of the system, public schools will increasingly become holding tanks for the "unsalvageable."
Society will become increasingly fragmented and tribal. The rich will live in gated communities patrolled by private security guards, send their children to private schools, generate their own electricity and drink bottled water as they do in other Third World countries. The white working class, attracted by affordable, segregated housing will increasingly migrate to exurban boom towns floating on a low-wage, low-skilled service economy (like Surprise, Arizona). Urban areas will become the exclusive property of the very rich and the very poor--the urban elite, gay and straight, who neither marry nor are given in marriage, living and working in glitzy high-rises, in a world without children, surrounded by squalid slums where the non-white underclass, new immigrants, and all the disabled, chronically ill and elderly who have no families to look after them, live in fear of violence and crime.
As opportunities and support services for women diminish, educated women married to high-earning upper middle class men, who can afford to stay home, will drop out of the labor force. At the same time, as wages and benefits for working class males decline, more working class women will be squeezed out of the home and forced into dead-end pink collar shit work in the expanding service sector. More women on net will enter the labor force but sex-segregation and the wage gap will increase as women become a permanent class of drudge workers.
On the bright side, as we become poorer, less educated and willing to accept less desirable work at lower wages, off-shoring and out-sourcing will decline. Firms, both domestic and foreign, will increasingly exploit cheap, largely female labor to do tedious tasks for low pay. Maquilladoras will move across the border to the US, sweatshops will flourish and Indian firms will contract work to American call centers. The declining dollar and exports of sweatshop products will diminish our trade deficit and, as we take our place in the Third World, people in other poor countries may resent us less and even forgive us.