Writing Contest Winner
We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s eighth annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to answer this question in 800 words: It’s clear that the political system in the US isn’t working for many. If you had to pick one root cause underlying our broken politics, what would it be and why? We received close to 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Jim Nichols (no relation to The Nation’s John Nichols), an undergraduate at Georgia State University; and Julia DI, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Darnestown, Maryland, and Bryn Grunwald, a recent graduate of the Peak to Peak Charter in Boulder, Colorado, who were co-winners in the high school category. The three winners receive cash awards of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays here. —The Editors
John Maynard Keynes noted that the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. I would argue that Keynes’s words are as relevant as ever before as we seek a culprit to the political dysfunction facing our nation. Looking around I see direct links to the rise and dominance of market liberalism, an agenda which Keynes battled in his own time. In my own day-to-day life, in both the workplace and political arena, I have witnessed the predominance of market liberalism. I am sure that you too, dear Nation reader, have witnessed this encroachment as well.
The past three decades of market liberalism’s predominance has had a devastating impact on civil society. The transition and return to a more feudal arrangement that Hayek and others of a libertarian ilk have aspired to over the past seventy years is nearing completion. The strains of market liberalism—a utopian project from its very origins, as was noted long ago by Karl Polanyi—have eroded the fabric of civil society. We face a moment in history that calls for us to reflect and revisit fundamental social questions unaddressed by adherents of this ideology, an ideology which commodifies everything into market arrangements to be priced.
From the dramatic rise of food insecurity to the rapid decline of well-paid jobs, from the massive incarceration rate to the student debt crisis, economic and cultural tensions of our times are reaching a point of fracture. The passionate pursuit of deregulation, liberalization and privatization from both sides of the aisles of government and across the boardrooms of corporate America did not just create a cadre of Occupy activists but a much deeper malaise and discontent across our nation that transcends age, race, class and political affiliation.