The Society of the Owned

Terrance Heath

Part One of a series.

When George W. Bush first spoke of “the ownership society,” he led most Americans to believe, and many did believe, that he was talking about them. Now, four years later, it’s easy to conclude that the president, his party and conservatism itself has failed to deliver the ownership society.

But the very crises now described and decried in both the new media and the old can actually be taken as signs of conservatism’s success, depending on one thing: identifying who really belongs to the ownership society. Conservatism, depending on how you look at it, has successfully built the ownership society — a very small, narrowly defined one — and strengthened it by building or expanding its essential support: the society of the owned.

The term “owned” has its origins in the realms of hacking and gaming, but I’m only partly borrowing the slang definitions — “To dominate another person or thing so completely as to humiliate them” and “To be made a fool of; To make a fool of” — here.

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