Neoliberalism and OWS

by John Holbo on October 22, 2011

This comment by Yglesias is on target: “the TNR staff editorial on the subject [of OWS] feels distinctly like an op-ed penned eleven years ago about anti-globalization protestors, put on ice, and then re-animated with a hasty rewrite that fails to consider the actual political and economic circumstances.”

The staff editorial itself is not so important. What’s important is that, once upon a time, there were debates about trade ‘liberalization’ – globalization – that used to divide neoliberals and liberals and progressives. Basically, the neoliberals were gung-ho for trade on the grounds that the alternative was protectionism that amounted to shooting your own foot, and didn’t do any good for the poor in the Third World. And the progressives saw jobs being outsourced, labor unions weakening. Liberals were those caught in the squishy middle, per usual. We’ve had some debates on Crooked Timber of late about what ‘neoliberalism’ means. I’ve not participated because, honestly, term’s more trouble than it’s worth, worrying what it means. (I have other terms that are more trouble than they’re worth to worry about that I worry about. As a philosopher, I need to limit the number of such that infest my mental life.) The thing is: in the current situation, there is not – and should not be – anything analogous to the neoliberal side of the trade debate. No one sane thinks that this whole 99/1 business might be like NAFTA, i.e. something we have to go for, in an end-justifies-the-means spirit.

This is Matt’s point. He considers himself a neoliberal and sees, correctly, I think, that anyone committed to that market-oriented outlook is more or less committed to sympathy for the core grievances expressed by the OWS protesters. Neoliberalism was always in favor of markets as means, not ends. Neoliberalism was never – or was never supposed to be – the view that being in favor of trade liberalizaton means market fundamentalism in everything. Neoliberalism says market liberalization should go hand in hand with progressive taxation and appropriate regulation so the pains that buy the gains are mitigated and borne equitably. Spread the gain, to spread the pain. If liberalization means making the 1% richer and everyone else poorer, you shouldn’t take the deal. Only (some) conservatives and (some) libertarians should be willing to take that deal.

We can now, if we like, refight old battles. Were neoliberals wrong all along, or is it the case that, like ‘pure’ communism, neoliberalism has never really been tried? (We never tried to conjoin market liberalization with appropriately fair and equitable taxation and regulation schemes, so we don’t know that it wouldn’t work.) Were progressives right to try to draw lines in the sand against liberalization, or was that picking the wrong fight, strategically or philosophically or for whatever reason? And that’s why they lost? Whatever the answers to these and other questions, here and now it’s obviously the case that everyone from a compulsively Clintonian neoliberal triangulator to an unreconstructed communist ought to agree, at least, that ‘we are the 99%’ has both its heart and its head in approximately the right place. The protesters say there is unjust inequality, and they are right. Only (some) conservatives and (some) libertarians could deny it.

{ 335 comments }

1

Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 9:05 am

On the TNR editorial, this video is on-topic:

2

Tim Worstall 10.22.11 at 9:50 am

Standard whine: neoliberal seems to have two different current meanings.

Hayek/Friedman etc style and Yglesias/DeLong style. The latter seemingly being a recent and American neologism.

/whine.

“Were neoliberals wrong all along, or is it the case that, like ‘pure’ communism, neoliberalism has never really been tried? (We never tried to conjoin market liberalization with appropriately fair and equitable taxation and regulation schemes, so we don’t know that it wouldn’t work.)”

Using the US meaning of neoliberalism a good argument could be made that the Nordics are doing just that. Seems to work out OK. A reasonable description of what they’re doing is classical liberalism (ie, UK style neoliberal) with a decent dose of govt spending on top.

As Lane Kenworthy has pointed out, the Swedish tax system is less progressive than the US (or UK) one. For it raises a lot through a regressive VAT, but that’s what raises the cash to do all the spending.

And as Scott Sumner delights in pointing out, underneath the tax system (and even including parts of the tax system, like the taxation of corporates and capital) the Nordics are generally more neoliberal (classically so, UK style neoliberal) than the US.

3

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.22.11 at 10:15 am

Neoliberalism is not just some idea; it’s an idea that clearly and directly benefits the establishment. And so one shouldn’t take think~tank~invented/useful~idiot~amplified ‘sure, there will be winners and losers, but don’t worry: the losers will be well~compensated’ bullshit seriously.

4

John Quiggin 10.22.11 at 10:18 am

Promise this is the last time on terminology: “Liberal” has different meanings in US and elsewhere, and differences in “neoliberal” follow from this. As long as we understand which is meant, no problem.

Coming to the bigger issue, the “correct line” coming out of the globalization debates was, something “For progressive globalization, against neoliberal (non-US sense) globalization”. That meant switching the focus from old-style protectionism to a bunch of measures that aimed to challenge the global dominance of capital, which is very much what #OWS is about. Examples
* “No Logo” style pressure on corporations like Nike and Apple regarding working conditions, including those of their subcontractors
* Inclusion of labor conditions in trade negotiations (the point being to demand some form of “best practice”, including things like union rights, not to exclude imports from low-wage countries)
* Restrictions on global capital, of which the Tobin tax is at least symbolically, the number one demand

I also don’t want to restart previous threads, but clearly #OWS has learned a tactical (or maybe strategic, I’m never sure about this distinction either) lesson from the anti-globalization protests of the last decade – smashing windows is fun, and gets quick headlines, but marginalizes you in the long run.

5

wilfred 10.22.11 at 10:31 am

“We never tried to conjoin market liberalization with appropriately fair and equitable taxation and regulation schemes, so we don’t know that it wouldn’t work.”

It’s interesting that this is placed parenthetically, as if the thought had not entered into anyone’s mind at the time.

Does this means that we still don’t know if it wouldn’t work. What does ‘work’ even mean in this context. Clearly the previous situation worked quite well for a small group of people and practically obliterated a large group of people. The political fact is that neoliberalism was pitched as the next great thing in political economy.

Well, here we are.

6

bert 10.22.11 at 10:41 am

JQ is right to point out some common threads between the two. But there’s a fundamentally different focus. Antiglobalisation focused on trade. OWS focuses on income inequality. To restate JH’s point, that changes the politics. Put that alongside the difference in protest tactics (compare Genoa 2001, for instance) and I think the continuities between then and now are far less striking, and deserve less attention.
This is something new, with a much wider resonance. Look at the GOP response. The initial line was to talk about mobs and class war. But once he had a chance to run some focus groups, Mitt Romney announced he’s with the 99%.

7

Olov 10.22.11 at 11:07 am

I was just going to say that we tried doing the neoliberal thing in Sweden, and it’s been working out for us. Then I saw someone had already made that point, so now I’m not going to. Then I was going to ask what people mean by neo-liberal, but alas! that question had been raised as well.

Thank you for your time.

8

Barry 10.22.11 at 11:28 am

Wilfred is right – and I add that I never noticed any of the neoliberals even trying; they consigned it to the ‘far future, when the state withers away, and True Communism emerges’.

John, the entire right-wing movement (including movement libertarianism) makes much much more sense when viewed through the paradigm of ‘redistribute wealth upwards’. And we’ve seen what the GOP does when stripped of the usual luxuries, and put backwards onto their core – they went for removing as much money from the 90-odd percent as possible, while happily subsidizing the top 1%. And over the decades, the right has eagerly and successfully attacked entitlements, while keeping and extending crony capitalism. When they start acting like people who actually believe their propaganda, I’ll believe it. Until then, their propaganda is just designed to set up the victims, and to salve the conscience of those ‘useful idiot’ liberals who look upon evil works, and come up with bullsh*t to cover for those works.

You put out a sweet review of Frum’s ‘Dead Right’ several years ago, and have now seen those views put into actual operation. You and he both figured that those views were not politically achievable – yet the right has achieved most of them.

Are you willing to accept the evidence in front of you?

I’m getting a bit personal, John, but this has become your trademark, coming up with reasons to not accept the evidence of evil.

9

Tim Worstall 10.22.11 at 12:19 pm

“Antiglobalisation focused on trade. OWS focuses on income inequality.”

Which brings up another line entirely. Which income inequality? In country or global? Trade, the globalisation thing, has been doing pretty well at reducing global inequality even if it could (and people better at all this than I argue that it does) increase in country inequality.

10

Rich Puchalsky 10.22.11 at 1:02 pm

“clearly #OWS has learned a tactical (or maybe strategic, I’m never sure about this distinction either) lesson from the anti-globalization protests of the last decade – smashing windows is fun, and gets quick headlines, but marginalizes you in the long run.”

A minor clarification, here: I’m not aware of any theorist or leader whose idea was “it’s a good thing to smash windows at a Starbucks”. As far as I know, one window was smashed in Seattle, by person or persons unknown, and somehow this was treated as a tactic of the movement. It’s window-smashing as Some Guy With a Sign, basically.

As for Genoa 2001, Italy clearly has a different protest culture than the U.S., as seen by Rome October 15 2011. I’ll let Italians speak for Italians.

I don’t think that the change to #OWS is any kind of turn-against-violence — people were nonviolent before, and they still are. If we’re talking about the level of tactics rather than the level of a focus on income rather than trade, I think it’s a change from marching to occupying. They are perceived in very different ways, and there’s an elemental aspect of kinetic energy in a march that makes it more likely for incidents to happen.

11

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.22.11 at 1:28 pm

I seem to remember reading on these pages recently (in a discussion also started by Yglesias) that smashing windows is a net~positive activity. I’m now convinced that those who refuse to smash windows are saboteurs and enemies of the people.

12

Cranky Observer 10.22.11 at 1:28 pm

> This is [A-list political analyst]‘s point. He considers himself a neoliberal
> and sees, correctly, I think, that anyone committed to that market-oriented
> outlook is more or less committed to sympathy for the core grievances
> expressed by the OWS protesters. Neoliberalism was always in favor of
> markets as means, not ends. Neoliberalism was never – or was never
> supposed to be – the view that being in favor of trade liberalizaton
> means market fundamentalism in everything. Neoliberalism says market
> liberalization should go hand in hand with progressive taxation and
> appropriate regulation so the pains that buy the gains are mitigated
> and borne equitably.

As far as those who are not [Charles Peters-type] neoliberals can see, the neoliberal manifesto consisted of these steps:

1) Cave in to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party on taxes, regulations, tariffs, privatization, and worship markets as a god
2) Beat down liberals and “the left” on behalf of Republicans, big business, and big money and reorient the Democratic Party to the service of those groups
3) Talk a lot about the possibility of redistributing from winners to losers and a big progressive tax rate system
4) ????
5) Pie paradise on Earth!

The problem is that the modern neoliberals, particularly the 2nd generation who are a large percentage of today’s A-list bloggers, simply refuse to discuss the little problems that have occurred in steps 3 and 4 in their program. And they absolutely refuse to acknowledge that if steps 3 and 4 are politically impossible that maybe, just maybe, starting with steps 1 and 2 was not and is not today a good idea.

Cranky

13

tomslee 10.22.11 at 1:31 pm

I agree with half of Rich Puchalsky’s kinetic theory of movements.

The idea that the pronouncements of (armchair?) theorists are more representative of a movement than the actions of people actually moving (involved in demonstrations) seems very odd. And more than one window has been broken.

But the difference between static occupations and kinetic marches makes sense to me. Plus, police with video footage can more easily track down static occupiers than they can marchers who have long-since travelled back to where they came from.

14

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 2:04 pm

We’ve had some debates on Crooked Timber of late about what ‘neoliberalism’ means. I’ve not participated because, honestly, term’s more trouble than it’s worth, worrying what it means.

Nobody should claim to understand neoliberalism or claim that neoliberalism is impossible to understand without first reading Mirowski (ed.) The Road From Mont Pelerin.

We can now, if we like, refight old battles. Were neoliberals wrong all along, or is it the case that, like ‘pure’ communism, neoliberalism has never really been tried?

Can we at least note that the non-conservative neo-liberals, like the liberal neocons, were useful idiots who have now ceased to exist since there’s really nothing for them to do any more? They got the conservative part of what they were trying for and the liberal part of what they were trying for has been a dead letter since as early as NAFTA. The new-liberals’ left opposition has been defeated, destroyed, and humiliated, and if the neoliberals aren’t feeling so good themselves either, why should anyone care?

Maybe Yglesias has finally decided that drum circles and giant puppets aren’t absolutely the most horrible thing in the world, after all, but his work is done and he’s of no further importance. He never knew what his job was, but he did it. The reality that his efforts contributed to producing has little resemblance to the one he claimed he was aiming for, but that’s the way it goes with emergence.

It’s time to say that the dog is dead.

15

David Kaib 10.22.11 at 2:08 pm

For the record, I think a lot of the globalization critics did not describe themselves as either anti-globalization or anti-trade. They described themselves (accurately, in my opinion) as supporting global justice. They critiqued trade polices they argued were destructive to the earth as well as to the bulk of the people in both the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ worlds. They argued that these polices were being developed in secret in the interests of the already too powerful. Isolationism and protectionism are largely epithets hurled at those who question the orthodoxy, rather than useful description of actual political positions.

Also, ditto what Rich said about window smashing. This is not an unimportant point. The idea that these protestors were violent and engaged in routine property destruction was the main justification for the army of police in riot gear that was assembled in response to these protests. Of course, it was the idea that regular people were trying to have a say in some of the more important aspects of how they were governed that scared the governors back then (which has obvious parallels to today).

16

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 2:16 pm

Standard whine: neoliberal seems to have two different current meanings.

Hayek/Friedman etc style and Yglesias/DeLong style. The latter seemingly being a recent and American neologism.

Mirowski et al describe the real, Hayek Friedman neoliberals. American liberal neoliberals were a transient phenomenon which no longer has any meaning to exist.

The neoliberals believed that Greenspan, the Randian, was a neutral technocrat who could be trusted to use his unchecked, accountability-free power for the good. After the disaster he had contributed to head taken place, he said the equivalent of “Oh, gee, I guess I should have done a few things differently” and went on to enjoy his retirement and cheerlead the Republican dismantlers of the welfare state. So economically, in some sense, he lost, but politically he won. And according to Mirowski, the original, real neoliberals were primarily a political group, promoting “market liberalism” by any means necessary.

17

stubydoo 10.22.11 at 2:18 pm

“Both its heart and its head in approximately the right place”

Unless we’re using a really expansive interpretation on the word “approximately”, then this is a really big claim, and the case for it isn’t really made here. Just because the (liberal) argument against the movement isn’t precisely the same as the one against the anti-Globalization crowd, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

18

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 2:29 pm

Non-violence is not a moral good or an obligation. No one is saying that the police or the military or the Israelis should be non-violent. It’s a tactic imposed on weak and unpopular political groups which are basically begging for mercy.

Martin Luther King and Gandhi were fine, but they didn’t change the world, delegitimize all violence everywhere forever, and bring us to a world where all disputes are settled within the law by peaceful discussion. They just dealt with the situations they found themselves in.

Breaking windows is a bad tactic these days, and not the transformational revolutionary act people wish it was, but it’s not wrong because the world has renounced violence. It’s just a tactic that the weak and unpopular are barred from using. Police on drug raids break lots of windows.

A different question: OWS is actually popular, but in most of the US you couldn’t tell that from what you see and hear out in public. The center right and right domination of the mass media means that majorities think that they’re minorities.

19

William Timberman 10.22.11 at 2:31 pm

My problem with the Yglesias/Delong tendency — I refuse to call such a graceless socio-economic collage a style — is that it literally has no sense of how the other half lives, and not much interest in whether it does or doesn’t. Being very smart fellows, of course, they’ll never, ever wind up walking behind a plough, although you may find them reading Greek to the idiot sons of the plutocracy from time to time.

20

Cahal 10.22.11 at 2:33 pm

‘Which brings up another line entirely. Which income inequality? In country or global? Trade, the globalisation thing, has been doing pretty well at reducing global inequality even if it could (and people better at all this than I argue that it does) increase in country inequality.’

Slow down! Poverty in the developing world, outside of China (who are incredibly protectionist) has increased over the past few decades, particularly in Africa:

http://www.stwr.org/globalization/world-bank-poverty-figures-what-do-they-mean.html

21

Gene O'Grady 10.22.11 at 2:39 pm

Mr. Timberman is basically correct (although unlike Duncan Foley neither DeLong nor Yglesias know Greek), but the problem is not so much their not knowing how the other half (or 99%) live as their not respecting the work the 99% (or the other half) do. Which gets to the original point that redistribution to people whose world of work has been destroyed is pointless, insulting, and will never happen.

22

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 2:45 pm

Violence did eventually help delegitimize white supremacy, but the violence in question was hundred and hundreds of murders and a few towns burned to the ground, and it took 50-100 years before anyone noticed. In the same way, one broken window delegitimized a left movement overnight.

Of course, about a third of the US Senate supported the murders, so it wan’t exactly real “violence” violence, if you know what I mean.

23

Watson Ladd 10.22.11 at 2:49 pm

Gene: shouldn’t we ask what we can do now that we are freed from drudgery instead of asking to work some more?

24

Mitchell Freedman 10.22.11 at 2:52 pm

Neo-liberals were always wrong, and their grand bargain never occurs. There are no higher taxes on the wealthy. There is no regulation that mean any real help to consumers or God forbid, workers. And let’s face it. The neo-libs hate unions almost as much as Sam Walton did.

The economic lefties who said, essentially, we need to make what we buy and buy what we make, were and are spot on. And let’s not fall for the canard that we are hurting Third World folks with a protectionist policy. The way for the US to start not hurting Third World people is not bombing them. And the next step would be to support policies in those nations which are in regions where all are exploited. The idea would be for those nations to band together economically where their people can build what they buy and buy what they build where people are on the same economic plane.

It has never made sense to me why we keep pushing down the income and stability of our workers. This current economic mess is a result of the Reagan-Bush I-Clinton-Bush II consistency in attacking the middle class with their neo-liberal and conservative economic policies. And as Dean Baker notes, there is no “free” trade. The trade deals protect patents, which is a rent inuring to the top 10%. And they protect us lawyers, doctors, etc. from having to compete with people from foreign lands who will work cheaper than we are working.

The thing that also amazes me is how most Americans consistently poll against these trade deals, which codified the very trends that have undermined the middle class in the US, and beggar peasants in Third World nations. Yet, the monied interests prevail…and John says, “Oh, can’t we all get along?” with “we” meaning the neo-libs like Obama, Clinton, Biden, Pelosi, Reid, et al. and folks like me. In case John hasn’t noticed, Obama has ignored even semi-trade agreement supporters like Reich and Krugman, let alone Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, who Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Biden and Clinton simply hate. Really, John, they hate folks like them, and they really hate folks like me. That’s what David Frum was saying when he said the Democratic Party leaders hate their base.

And yet you ask “Why can’t we get along?” Sorry, John. Maybe you can sneak into a cocktail party in DC and ask those tone deaf political leaders who do the bidding of corporate and financier America why they hate us. They hate us, of course, because, like John, the evidence shows they were wrong and we were correct.

25

Harold 10.22.11 at 2:59 pm

14 “The idea that these protestors were violent and engaged in routine property destruction was the main justification for the army of police in riot gear that was assembled in response to these protests. Of course, it was the idea that regular people were trying to have a say in some of the more important aspects of how they were governed that scared the governors back then (which has obvious parallels to today).”

Don’t forget that riot gear , surveillance equipment, security consulting domestically and abroad, etc., etc., are boom-time make-work industries for the crony capitalists, revolving door military, mercenaries, and 1% wannabes. It’s perhaps the most prosperous going, right now. Any excuse for grabbing those big security bucks.

26

Rich Puchalsky 10.22.11 at 2:59 pm

If neo-liberal bloggers want to say that they supported the 99% all along, that’s fine with me. I’m more than willing to ignore what they in the past in exchange for whatever rhetorical support they can provide now in shifting the Overton window.

27

John 10.22.11 at 3:02 pm

I just read your review of Frums “Dead Right”, Mr Holbo. Very funny stuff indeed. I know these are more serious times but any chance anyone might critique Mark Steyns new production with the same rigour?
I really dont want to read it myself, (it appears the US is doomed as too many people are going to Harvard, joining NGOs/dreaming up ways of regulating capitalism to death, starting work to late in life, 35 apparently, and retiring to early, 44, and not doing enough amateur carpentry in their spare time. Of course all of this would be bad enough without an unstoppable Muslim takeover that political correctness prevents us from tackling)
The mans clearly insane

28

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 3:08 pm

“They hate us, of course, because, like John, the evidence shows they were wrong and we were correct.”

Mostly they hated us because we’re their defeated victims but aren’t completely dead yet.

29

Marc 10.22.11 at 3:10 pm

@18: as opposed, perhaps, to the position that both state violence against protesters and vandalism are both wrong? If you’re advocating violence as a tactic, against whom and on what moral grounds? Your statements would read oddly, if we substituted murder for violence, for example – we don’t only condemn murder (on moral grounds) when it is performed by the weak.

30

Meredith 10.22.11 at 3:27 pm

What’s wrong with knowing Greek? (I assume ancient Greek is what is meant.) Many of the people I am acquainted with professionally who know ancient Greek, and most whom I know personally, are distinctly left, as it happens. (Victor Hanson has long been very unhappy with his former colleagues in Classics.) Since academic departments where Greek is taught are hardly awhirl in institutional support even when their enrollments are high: Would people here mind using a different icon of snotty elites?

31

Robert 10.22.11 at 3:30 pm

I think the point was that not only is Duncan Foley a better economist than Brad DeLong, he is also better on classical Greece.

32

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 3:31 pm

Marc, very few of us are absolute pacifists. (My argument with them is a different one.) Most of us support police violence, military violence, and violence in self-defense, up to and including homicide in all three cases. Homicide, not murder. We do not condemn homicide by the legitimate authorities.

Pretty much any insurgent movement (good or bad) that’s ever come along, including the successful ones that eventually became legitimate, has used homicide at some point. That’s a normal part of history. There’s a transition when murder and other illegitimate revolutionary violence, if successful, are reclassified as legitimate violence. Ireland and Israel are cases in point, as well as most Latin American regimes and most third world regimes.

The argument isn’t about violence but legitimacy and about prudence.

Whenever this kind of thing comes up, a lot of people briefly adopt absolute pacifism, the way you put on a disposable raincoat during a sudden shower. Then they return to normality, which is 5% of the GDP spent on death-dealing.

I agree that weak movements should avoid violence. I agree that in Heaven there will be no violence. I just disagree with the way non-violence raincoat is briefly put on whenever a dissident movement arises, and with the way broken windows are conflated with murder.

33

bob mcmanus 10.22.11 at 3:36 pm

26: They’re desperate, either to get Obama re-elected or to make a feint to the left so they can blame the Left for Obama’s loss in 2012.

They will betray us. This is about the only truth.

34

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 3:36 pm

Many of the people I am acquainted with professionally who know ancient Greek, and most whom I know personally, are distinctly left, as it happens.

Classical education was supposed to breed conservative Christian humanist gentlemen, but in the places where it’s been tried it hasnb’t worked very well. The Straussians are the conservative success story, but I’m not sure how many real classicists there are among them. (I’ve seen suggestions that Greek should be deemphasized and Latin made more central. It’s hard to get anything radical out of Cicero et all, I’ve heard).

Call me a bigot, but in my experience few conservatives like to read and study, especially given the paltry salaries they’re likely to get that way.

35

William Timberman 10.22.11 at 3:51 pm

Meredith @ 30

For the record: In my opinion, there is nothing whatever wrong with knowing Greek, ancient or modern. I was alluding to the practice in Roman times of assigning the duties of a slave according to his qualifications. (There is a banquet scene in Fellini’s Satyricon which makes the same allusion — I love to hear the sound of Greek while I’m eating.) Watching that scene should disabuse anyone of the silly notion that a good education will automatically admit him to membership in the upper classes.

36

Cahal 10.22.11 at 3:58 pm

‘And as Scott Sumner delights in pointing out, underneath the tax system (and even including parts of the tax system, like the taxation of corporates and capital) the Nordics are generally more neoliberal (classically so, UK style neoliberal) than the US.’

This is a massive myth. The UK and US are the least regulated countries in the developed world, and the Nordic ones are somewhere in the middle:

http://flipchartfairytales.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/oecd-regulation-index.png?w=640&h=352

Heritage simply bias their results so the countries with the highest ‘economic freedom’ indexes also have the highest growth.

Corporate tax is also slightly higher in most Scandinavian countries (and effective tax rates will be even lower in the UK/US due tax havens).

37

elm 10.22.11 at 4:02 pm

Here’s the meaningful part of Yglesias’s comment:

some of the solutions offered by some protestors are unsound. This is all the more reason that liberals with confidence in liberal solutions should show up and try to persuade people to champion a more sustainable set of economic policies.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors must be co-opted and serious people (like, for example, Matt Yglesias) should be put in charge of implementing their own solutions.

38

Rich Puchalsky 10.22.11 at 4:11 pm

“The Occupy Wall Street protestors must be co-opted and serious people (like, for example, Matt Yglesias) should be put in charge of implementing their own solutions.”

To be fair, that’s pretty much the position of every existing tendency with regard to OWS. My blog post plus comments here has a good sample.

Everyone who is actually going to try to do this is in OWS or one of its regional groups already, so that kind of “we should show up and educate them” thing is becoming more and more dated.

39

David Kaib 10.22.11 at 4:44 pm

Harold @25,

A very good point. The uses of military hardware for domestic purposes, for responding to protestors, immigrants / borders, urban drug use, etc., is big business.

40

shah8 10.22.11 at 4:47 pm

The OWS movement is inherently incapable of offering any sort of sustainable policies. I find it weird to expect sustainable policies, and I certainly would not “advise” such a movement about potentially better policy goals.

It’s just a phenomenon. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t important things underlying it, or that it can’t be important in its own fashion. However, it’s a signal/symbol and not an action per se, and its importance has to do with that.

41

Charles Wheeler 10.22.11 at 5:10 pm

“Neoliberalism was never – or was never supposed to be – the view that being in favor of trade liberalizaton means market fundamentalism in everything. Neoliberalism says market liberalization should go hand in hand with progressive taxation and appropriate regulation so the pains that buy the gains are mitigated and borne equitably.”

Well, they’ve certainly had me fooled all this time. There was I thinking ‘neoliberalism’ meant privatisation, small government, more regressive taxation to float all the boats, slashing state spending on healthcare, education and pensions, increased inequality, lower social mobility, sink or swim economics.

How silly.

42

bob mcmanus 10.22.11 at 5:23 pm

40: Yeah, they will make good martyrs, if the pigs and banksters can help us out. “Baptized in the blood of the Zuccotti 100″ or something.

It is also useful to gather and eliminate all the non-violents early, so that later they don’t get between us and the Bastille.

43

bert 10.22.11 at 5:33 pm

Tim @ #9:
In country. That’s the political sweet spot.
To take another example, the Indignados are all about 46% youth unemployment. If you want to discuss third world sweatshops you’ll have to bring the subject up yourself.

44

john c. halasz 10.22.11 at 6:24 pm

@9:

“In country” inequality has been rising “globally”.

45

geo 10.22.11 at 6:27 pm

Yglesias has (quite rightly) taken a lot of criticism in this and previous CT threads, but my hat’s off to him for his TNR symposium comment. Though their presence and influence is now fortunately on the wane, those smug bastards at the New Republic have done considerable damage over the years, and it’s nice to have someone they respect tell them so, however politely.

46

bert 10.22.11 at 6:40 pm

Talking of broad appeal, it’s not just Mitt Romney making nice:

bq. Kozlowski says he shares the outrage over corporate greed expressed by the Occupy Wall Street protesters, many of whom wonder why the recent financial crisis didn’t send as many executives to prison as the scandals of a decade ago. “I understand their frustration,” Mr. Kozlowski said in an interview in a visitors’ room here at the Mid-State Correctional Facility.

http://dealbreaker.com/2011/10/guy-who-used-company-funds-to-throw-wife-birthday-party-featuring-vodka-pissing-ice-sculptures-morally-offended-by-corporate-greed/

47

Salient 10.22.11 at 6:46 pm

Were progressives right to try to draw lines in the sand against liberalization, or was that picking the wrong fight, strategically or philosophically or for whatever reason?

Big business wanted to help the working and sustenance classes less.

Let’s say we measure help in dollars. Paying some American workers money to do stuff is helping them by providing some money to them, hundreds of dollars per week per person. Paying some workers in Thailand to do stuff is helping those workers by providing some money to them, hundreds of pennies per week per person. In both cases, we can consider the business to be improving the welfare of workers at a measurable expense.

Big business gets away with losing fewer dollars in the latter scenario. The dollars that are saved and not lost do not get spent on improving human welfare; they are factored into the profit of the company. So in the latter case big business is doing less for human welfare. How this is humanist is hard to perceive.

I refuse to buy into anti-protectionist globalization in the absence of a legal system that ensures the business cannot possibly get away with spending less workers of the world than it spends on workers locally (and ensures that this wage is fair, as measured by a very tight labor market).

I am inclined to support protectionism because I care about workers the whole world over, and I care about holding business accountable for a reasonable contribution to human welfare. Otherwise why should we allow them to exist? We don’t allow business to exist because it turns a profit for its owners, we allow business to exist because it contributes to the welfare of workers and (hopefully) of human beings generally.

If business decides to respond by protectionist policies and never ever move outside the U.S., fine. That’s not a problem at all. We can tax the businesses more steeply and spend more on foreign aid and hire nonprofits to do it.

A business has no inherent right to exist, to act, to interact, to operate, or to sell. We’ve let business get by with abominably low (and lowering) demands on them to demonstrate they are improving human welfare steadily and satisfactorily, and the 99% / Occupy movement is increasingly looking like the best opportunity to demand better. “We are the 99%. We demand better.”

We have no reason and no responsibility to say any more than that until the topic of conversation becomes “Okay, how can we coerce business to do a better job improving human welfare?”

48

Bruce Wilder 10.22.11 at 7:01 pm

john c. halasz @44 : “In country” inequality has been rising “globally”.

That was a remarkable clarification for me. Thank you.

49

Salient 10.22.11 at 7:06 pm

The argument isn’t about violence but legitimacy efficiency and about prudence.

Trust me, that works better. At this time, breaking a window is a very inefficient and somewhat imprudent tactic for disrupting business affairs. We should deploy effective tactics. If others among us employ other tactics, including violent tactics, we should respond to calls for us to denounce them as nonsensical: “give me an hour’s prime airtime to express the damage the banks are doing, and I’ll happily give you a ten-second quote that expresses my commitment to nonviolence. Tit for tat. ‘Til then, no comment. I don’t bother to speak to journalists who can’t be bothered to figure out what the real story is here.”

This Occupy thing is, as I think you’d agree, an emerging opportunity to form a coordinated assault on the perpetrators of profitable injustice. Here in [city redacted] we’re doing teach-ins every week, have a crowd of regulars already, and also new people who are somewhere between ‘fed up’ and ‘curious.’ We’ve got people who never attended a protest before helping us coordinate sit-in raids on bank headquarters within driving distance. We’re ramping up, and holy crap, people are following. We speak openly of evolving plans to disrupt a bank’s administrative headquarters to make loudspeaker announcements of that bank’s specific contributions to the disastrous economic situation that we and the majority of the whole world find ourselves in. People who I never would have expected to get involved are talking about doing things I never could have plausibly expected them to consider doing, a mere year ago. I am reminded nearly every day of Harry’s story of a gentleman who, contrary to appearance and initial dismissiveness, unexpectedly expressed strong sympathy with the miners’ strike and donated money to them.

50

Colin Danby 10.22.11 at 7:54 pm

One of OWS’ strongest insights is that finance is not played by neoliberal rules: losses are nationalized. And this pattern is not unrelated to a rising Gini coefficient, because the part of wealth that is thereby protected is relatively concentrated. This connection has been made by none other than Tyler Cowen: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=907 (start at about the middle).

Krugman has also recently restated an obvious point: financial institutions that are likely to need bailouts in bad times should be regulated in good times — and this means regulation covering the whole balance sheet, not just fine-tuning capital requirements. One of the many meanings/uses of “neoliberal” was in the push for financial liberalization in the 80s and 90s: both domestic deregulation and lifting of restrictions on cross-border finance. Larger financial mkts would better allocate finance. Of course this meant comprehensively forgetting the politics of bailouts. For me the canonical critique is Carlos Diaz Alejandro’s 1985 paper: http://www.econ.uchile.cl/uploads/documento/27d99b44b4a2c5d46679ee694d81b18a2289a728.pdf

In any case the questions in the final paragraph of the initial post seem to me rather too broad. I would rather think through different kinds of markets than have to opt for one or another fundamentalism re “markets.”

51

Brad DeLong 10.22.11 at 9:01 pm

Tim Worstall whines: “Standard whine: neoliberal seems to have two different current meanings. Hayek/Friedman etc style and Yglesias/DeLong style. The latter seemingly being a recent and American neologism. /whine.”

Manfred Steger and Ravi Roy’s “Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction” calls Bill Clinton and Tony Blair “second wave neoliberals”. David Harvey’s “Brief History of Neoliberalism” is, if I recall correctly, rather strident in its claims that their ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between Reagan and Thatcher on the one hand and Clinton and Blair on the other.

It’s not an American neologism. It’s not recent either–people have been calling me a “neoliberal” since at least 1993…

Brad DeLong

52

Ben Alpers 10.22.11 at 9:29 pm

@51: The U.S. neologism is indeed not very new (it’s from the early 1980s), but it has a distinctly different meaning from Steger, Roy, and Harvey’s usage. As someone pointed out upthread, the core difference is that while the early 1980s U.S. “neoliberalism” was proposed as a variation on what Americans mean by liberalism (i.e. the mildly social democratic legacy of the New Deal and Great Society), “neoliberalism” in the sense that nearly everyone else uses it is a variation of liberalism in the European sense.

Things are further complicated by the following factors:

1) Neoliberals (in the American sense) sought to move the Democratic Party to the right, especially on economic issues. Though they adopted the self-descriptor “neoliberal” as a parallel construction to “neoconservative,” the policies they proposed were also often neoliberal in the more usual, international sense (which is, incidentally, largely used as a pejorative, unlike the U.S. term in its heyday).

2) The U.S. term “neoliberal” had virtually disappeared from public discourse by the early 1990s. It was replaced by terms like “third way” (another term with competing meanings) and “New Democrat.”

3) Meanwhile, the more internationally usual usage of “neoliberal” began to enter U.S. public discourse in the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, in the US context, “neoliberal” in the international sense was most effectively applied polemically against people who, a decade earlier, would have called themselves “neoliberal” in the U.S. sense, as these were actors who nominally presented themselves as being on the left, but in fact were not. Though the vast majority of American conservatives are as neoliberal (in the international sense) as, e.g. Bill Clinton, saying so is less polemically interesting.

53

Ben Alpers 10.22.11 at 9:34 pm

Just to clarify my last point: calling political actors who present themselves as liberals (in the American sense) “neoliberal” (in the international sense) is, in effect, denying that they are liberals in the U.S. sense at all. The folks who coined the American term “neoliberal” in the 1980s (and a much smaller and more recent group of people like Matt Yglesias who seem to be trying to revive the term to describe themselves), on the other hand, use it precisely in order to continue to lay claim to the legacy of American liberalism, while largely embracing the policies associated with liberalism in the European sense.

54

Watson Ladd 10.22.11 at 9:41 pm

Salient, the proof that a business benefits society is its customers and its employees. You aren’t proposing a world in which human efforts meet human needs as part of a global division, but a return to the 1950′s.

55

Mandos 10.22.11 at 9:59 pm

I would like to second, third, and nth Mitchell Freedman at 24. That is the key point about this situation. Economists of a “utilitarian consequentialist” bent of mind would like us to treat the outcomes/allocation of resources as the moral object, and the means of distribution (trade, prices) as morally neutral.

Then they can propose astonishingly absurd things like “the winners can compensate the losers”.

This—promising post hoc rectification of unsustainable situations—is the overall pattern of prescriptions from mainstream economics, and the only real response is to demand prior restraints on inequality: by restraining trade, capital flows, etc.

56

bianca steele 10.22.11 at 10:22 pm

Ben Alpers is obviously the expert on how “neoliberal” has been used. Personally, I think it is a good word to have around for Democrats who, for example, think Gertrude Himmelfarb is right on basically all policy questions (and who clearly aren’t neoconservative on any other issues, only things like welfare, education, and for lack of a better word, the libertarian/communitarian split). It means someone who does still want forward progress, but not too fast. that doesn’t seem to match how the word is used in England, France, or Germany (and I’m not clear on how forward progress can be sped along on a plan of “(1) use other countries’ words; (2) ?????,” if that was on the table, which I suppose it probably isn’t).

57

Barry 10.22.11 at 10:27 pm

“It’s not an American neologism. It’s not recent either—people have been calling me a “neoliberal” since at least 1993…”

Brad DeLong

IIRC, you’ve been calling yourself that for a while, to the point of having a blog post where you marked your neliberal beliefs to market.

58

John Quiggin 10.22.11 at 11:03 pm

I agree with Rich that the window-smashing was in reality Some Guy with a Sign. I also think OWS has done a much better job getting that point across than was done 10 years ago. Of course, people like Patrick Howley have helped in that task – the presumption now is that it’s not even Some Guy with a Sign but a conscious agent provocateur.

59

bob mcmanus 10.22.11 at 11:07 pm

Whatevah, alpers

David Atkins at Digby’s place has a great history of the fight between assets and wages since the 70s. “It has to do with a battle between the forces trying to raise wages, and the forces trying to raise assets. ” Keys off Schumer’s terrific plan to offer visas to foreigners who buy the foreclosed houses of the outsourced and downsized Americans, who can then just die.

Assets vs. wages. Capital vs labor. Which side are you on. This is not complicated.

I’m wise to the lies of the company spies.

60

bob mcmanus 10.22.11 at 11:20 pm

halasz at 37 in the “Wealth and Recession” thread also does the asset-inflation class war thing. I know which side he is on. I know which side his opponents are on,

“…and we get in the main the contradictory policy response of attempting to restore the status quo ante, through reflating asset prices with extraordinary monetary policy, while imposing fiscal austerity.” …jch

NGDP targetting has pretty much outed itself over at Nick Rowe’s place this week. I knew from day one that Sumner was about asset inflation at the expense of wages, employment, and gov’t services. I just didn’t have the cops to explain it. Rowe actually came out with the accusation of “envy” to anyone who would stand in the way of Chuck Norris.

MSM economists haven’t given a damn about wages and human beings for thirty years, and they aren’t starting now.

61

Antonio Conselheiro 10.22.11 at 11:48 pm

49: Efficiency is an aspect of prudence. The main but but seldom-expressed objection to violence at demonstrations is not “Violence Is Wrong” but the recognition of the state monopoly of legitimate violence. If a cop shoots a demonstrator it’s unfortunate but he gets the benefit of the doubt, but if a demonstrator shoots a cop it’s monstrous. And this can be reasonable, though your attitude toward police violence is an index of your authoritarianism. And as the state’s legitimacy becomes more doubtful, the demonstrators’ violence becomes more legitimate.

The momentary devotion to Gandhi of loyal citizens facing violent demonstrations is at best the commonsense acceptance of the status quo monopoly of violence, if it isn’t a concern troll attempt to delegitimize the demonstration.

I’m sure that scholastic casuists had an explanation of why government violence is OK, while the same act by a private citizen would be immoral and wrong, but non-violence should be left out of it.

Another index of authoritarianism is the degree to which the heinousness of small violent acts is multiplied when it’s perceived that they are directed against the state power. Small-time vandalism isn’t even a felony in most places, but many feel that one demonstrator’s (or provocateur’s) vandalism can delegitimize a whole movement. But that’s just an index of authoritarianism again, and a litmus test for your relative acceptance of the status quo.

People should prepare their response to the first violence, because it will come sooner or later. My own opinion is that we’ve entered the zone where delegitimization starts to become reasonable, but few agree with me on this or anything else. Sometime things do change, though.

62

SamChevre 10.23.11 at 12:26 am

“In country” inequality has been rising “globally”.

Correct; however, note also that between-country inequality has been falling.

63

mpowell 10.23.11 at 12:52 am


NGDP targetting has pretty much outed itself over at Nick Rowe’s place this week. I knew from day one that Sumner was about asset inflation at the expense of wages, employment, and gov’t services. I just didn’t have the cops to explain it. Rowe actually came out with the accusation of “envy” to anyone who would stand in the way of Chuck Norris.

Not that your opinion really matters Bob, but if this is the kind of attitude you’re going to bring to the subject the only way you are going to help shift the status quo to the left is if there is an opportunity for violent revolution. Maybe this is what you’re hoping for, but there are an awful lot of problems with that outlook. In the meanwhile, I’m not going to confuse people like Sumner for what they are. And that is someone who is unlikely to be a big supporter of the 99%, but is an advocate for sane monetary management in a legitimate effort to improve economic growth on behalf of everyone. I don’t know what you think you’ve discovered about him recently but bringing down unemployment is almost certainly a necessary precondition to improving worker incomes.

I also find it quite remarkable that Yglesias comes in for so much criticism regarding the neoliberal agenda. Liberalism lost control of the Democratic party at least before Yglesias was in college. I don’t see how he’s responsible for it. Regarding actual policy proposals on the table in the United States, I don’t remember him taking the ‘wrong’ view except on Iraq and ed reform. The former I’d ascribe to naivete and the latter pigheadedness. The folks at TNR will not waste any time undermining a legitimate effort to recapture the Democratic party or the national discourse for the left, but I don’t have any reason to believe Yglesias would join them, this article being exhibit A.

64

John Holbo 10.23.11 at 1:57 am

Refighting the battles of the past it is then!

Most critics of neoliberalism think it is fundamentally a dishonest economic philosophy – a mask. It’s just apologetics for malefactors of great wealth that dare not speak its apologies. This is a really really important concern. If you have a philosophy that lots of people will pretend to espouse, for strategic and merely rhetorical purposes, then it’s a bit hard to believe that philosophy when anyone espouses it. The bad drives out the good. Nevertheless, it’s mistaken (I think so) to explain, for example, Matt Y’s or Brad DeLong’s neoliberalism as cunning or even just knee-jerk defense of the interests of the 1%, wrapped up in faux concern for the 99%. Nor is it the case that they are just Gertrude Himmelfarb-lite, or any of that.

The hermeneutics of suspicion is an important tool, and it is unquestionably your best entertainment value. Even so …

OWS might be regarded as a kind of litmus test, then. Not definitive or anything. My point was that neoliberal, as it has been espoused over the years, ought to be sympathetic to the grievances of OWS. If neoliberals at TNR aren’t sympathetic to those grievances, I would conclude that, for them, neoliberalism was a mask something more like market fundamentalism. And if neoliberals like Matt Y and Brad DeLong are sympathetic, that just goes to show that they actually believe in neoliberalism, in the sense that they are sincerely committed to its stated normative goals.

All this is consistent with saying that neoliberalism is still a strategic catastrophe, because you always get the liberalism first – that is, the market stuff – and then you never get the ‘neo’. Because the process of getting the liberalization stuff erodes the progressive base that could demand the ‘neo’. And the paranoid point applies here, too: if neoliberalism requires sincere neoliberals, in positions of power, to implement it, and – in the nature of things – most neoliberals are really just apologists for malefactors of great wealth, wearing a mask (or holding a copy of TNR in front of their faces) then you’ve got a problem. I’m increasingly sympathetic to that point of view. But again, this is Matt’s point, too.

65

John Quiggin 10.23.11 at 2:15 am

“If a cop shoots a demonstrator it’s unfortunate but he gets the benefit of the doubt, but if a demonstrator shoots a cop it’s monstrous. “

Right now, I think Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna is wishing that rule still applied the way it usually does. For that matter, I don’t think there is likely to be a Bull Connor Memorial in the Mall any time soon.

But your point about the presumption is valid. If a demonstrator throws a punch, and a cop uses a baton and pepper spray, it won’t matter who hit who first – the cop will, as you say, get the benefit of the doubt. The tactical implications are pretty obvious.

66

jjllss33 10.23.11 at 2:17 am

We are rapidly approaching, for obvious reasons, the point at which fifty percent of the work force (including foreign workers) will be able to produce all that society can reasonably consume. The inevitable result is high unemployment forever, Is there an obvious and easy solution? No. Perhaps some form of job sharing (see the German Kurzarbeit program) can contribute to a solution. But we need to prepare now for this scary but inevitable future.

67

john c. halasz 10.23.11 at 3:21 am

@62:

I’m not denying that, say, Red China, is on average much better off with rising inequality, but also a large growth rate, vs. earlier when things were far more equal, but everyone was dirt-poor, obviously. (Red China’s Gini is now around 47, just a hair more than the U.S. at 46.7). And some countries, such as Brazil, have seen declining inequality, with its Gini falling from 62 to 56, real “progress”, which was no doubt felt by the popular classes, which is why Lulu retired from office with an 80% approval rating, though it’s still a very high level of inequality. However, the U.S. and the E.U. together are 50% of world output, at least measured in $ terms, with Japan maybe another 5-6%, etc., so rising inequality in developed countries/economies plays a large role in the overall picture, whereas the only thing that is required for “between-country” inequality to diminish is that growth rates in “developing” countries/economies exceed those of developed ones, which is easily the case, since the latter are starting from a much lower level, playing catch-up, and are not at the technical production possibility frontier. So it’s not prima facie clear how much the declining “global” inter-country inequality really counter-balances the “global” rise in intra-country inequality, as a justification, nor an explanation. What does seem clear is that the old “Kuznets curve”, whereby developing nations experience rising inequality, as developing, modernizing sectors race ahead of traditional sectors, whereas, as development/modernization takes hold across sectors, inequality should decline, is holding up. Which should be cause for some re-thinking of both theory and evidence.

68

Billikin 10.23.11 at 3:22 am

John Quiggin: “Promise this is the last time on terminology: “Liberal” has different meanings in US and elsewhere, and differences in “neoliberal” follow from this. As long as we understand which is meant, no problem.”

Sorry, but I do not know what “liberal” or “conservative” means in the U. S. I am from the Deep South, and was raised by conservatives who were in favor of conservation. The DW-Nominate people say that there is a Left-Right axis in U. S. politics, but they never explain what it means, nor do they claim that the meaning has remained constant over time. No comprende, sennor.

69

elm 10.23.11 at 3:24 am

JQ@65

Even Tony Baloney was only punished because he was caught red-handed on video and he’s hardly getting harsh punishment (losing vacation time isn’t nothing, but it’s nothing compared to the punishment a civilian would get for doing the same to police).

70

john c. halasz 10.23.11 at 3:41 am

@66:
Errata: “is *not* holding up”.

71

William Timberman 10.23.11 at 4:23 am

JH @ 64

From where I stand on the left, the difficulty with both the angelic and demonic strains of neoliberalism is only incidental, and only incidentally a matter of economics. Both strains define what’s gone wrong with modernity as a management problem. Concerning our present crisis, DeLong freely admits that we thought we had it under control, and I was surprised to find that we didn’t. Sometimes he feels a little bolder and goes so far as to claim that we know what to do, but not how to make anybody do it. Implicitly in such statements, and more explicitly in others, he advances the two-part thesis that a) once we figure out the politics, we’ll be home free, and b) we don’t need any help doing that from people who are both too stupid and too ignorant to run the machinery of the economy, and by extension the machinery of civilization itself. That, in case anyone fails to get it, means most of us. Democracy, in other words, is not only not indispensable, it’s mostly a pain in the ass.

To which I reply, even if it’s all true what you say, Matt and Brad, it’s deeply unsatisfying. If what we’ve got is the best you technocrats can do, we don’t really care whether you want our help or not, you’re going to get it. We suppose we should be sorry for the inconvenience, but maybe we’ll wait to apologize until we see how well we do.

72

Meredith 10.23.11 at 5:03 am

While I learn from Matt Y. and Brad DeLong on many things (and am grateful), still: What William Timberman said.

73

Brad DeLong 10.23.11 at 5:07 am

RE: “William Timberman 10.22.11 at 2:31 pm: My problem with the Yglesias/Delong tendency—I refuse to call such a graceless socio-economic collage a style—is that it literally has no sense of how the other half lives, and not much interest in whether it does or doesn’t.”

Would you mind defecating less and thinking more? For all of our sakes, it would be a mitzvah.

Brad DeLong

74

john c. halasz 10.23.11 at 5:22 am

@72:

Wow! Res ipsa loquitur.

75

Brad DeLong 10.23.11 at 5:32 am

John Holbo writes: “All this is consistent with saying that neoliberalism is still a strategic catastrophe, because you always get the liberalism first – that is, the market stuff – and then you never get the ‘neo’. Because the process of getting the liberalization stuff erodes the progressive base that could demand the ‘neo’. And the paranoid point applies here, too: if neoliberalism requires sincere neoliberals, in positions of power, to implement it, and – in the nature of things – most neoliberals are really just apologists for malefactors of great wealth, wearing a mask (or holding a copy of TNR in front of their faces) then you’ve got a problem.”

We neoliberals-in-power got an awful lot of real wage gains and considerable gains in employment back in the 1990s. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, that was pretty tasty “neo”, IMHO at least…

And we neoliberal types all worked like dogs to elect Al Gore and continue the pattern–which at least some non-neoliberal types did not. We all remember Ralph Nader and his supporters in 2000, don’t we?

“When asked if someone put a gun to his head and told him to vote for either Gore or Bush, which he would choose, Nader answered without hesitation: ‘Bush.’ Not that he actually thinks the man he calls ‘Bush Inc.’ deserves to be elected: ‘He’ll do whatever industry wants done.’ The rumpled crusader clearly prefers to sink his righteous teeth into Al Gore, however: ‘He’s totally betrayed his 1992 book,’ Nader says. ‘It’s all rhetoric.’ Gore ‘groveled openly’ to automakers, charges Nader, who concludes with the sotto voce realpolitik of a ward heeler: ‘If you want the parties to diverge from one another, have Bush win…’

You can criticize us neoliberals for not being strong enough to win elections and continue our policies with the 4% Nader albatross hanging around our necks. But the charge of bait-and-switch seems to me to be ill-founded.

Now if you want to (metaphorically) hang the miserable Nick Clegg higher than Haman, I will happily bring the (metaphorical) rope…

Brad DeLong

76

Meredith 10.23.11 at 5:44 am

(I bow out of a battle I know not whereof.)

77

William Timberman 10.23.11 at 6:01 am

Brad DeLong @ 72

From each according to his need, to each according to his ability. Or something like that, right? As Meredith says, we’ve learned a lot from you, some of which you’re aware of, and some of which you’re not. No need to be concerned about which is which.

78

Dr. Hilarius 10.23.11 at 6:04 am

David Kaib @ 15 makes an important point. The portrayal of anti-WTO activists by the MSM as isolationist cranks was completely wrong while being very effective in marginalizing WTO critics. In Seattle, a few broken windows and one (and only one) fire in a dumpster was all it took for shift the focus off of economic and environmental violence worldwide. This was, in turn, a repeat of the vilification of anti-Vietnam protests: “don’t you people know that violence never solved anything?” The OWS people must be violent, otherwise why so many cops around them?

Contrast the above with the Tea Party folks showing up at Obama events with open-carry firearms. No response from the cops, Secret Service or right-wing lawn order types other than tepid recitations about 2nd Amendment rights. And this was in an atmosphere of public jokes about killing Obama. This old leftist was actually surprised, recalling acquaintances getting Secret Service visits for clearly farcical statements. The Panthers public displays of arms was all it took to get them killed in their beds.

Liberals, neo, neo-classical, or otherwise, have become little more than token opposition to the the 1%, a fig leaf on naked economic exploitation.

79

Meredith 10.23.11 at 6:25 am

How about some Pascal here? “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.” I take this statement as expressing the perfect intersection of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. With a lean toward R, at least at moments when E is overwhelming all else. Listen to Dr. Hilarius. (Btw, the whole modernism/post-modernism drama is really the same old same old.)

80

Meredith 10.23.11 at 6:48 am

And in gratitude to Brad DeLong, his post on Joe Nocera’s outrageous column in today’s NYT (a column that must have been *dream of vindication for Bob Somerby). BDL’s interest in history…. Some things happened, some things didn’t, even before we get down to the why’s, though the why’s are a lot easier to discern when you pay attention to what did happen and what didn’t.

81

Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 6:58 am

Here’s that Saez graph set for the real income gains of the 1990s:

http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/pages/interactive#/?start=1990&end=2000

82

Sandwichman 10.23.11 at 7:37 am

OWS has already changed the conversation. The cat is out of the bag. As my articulate new friend, Jay Smooth, says in his fantastic video, “I looove the way OWS manipulates the news media cornballs into outing themselves as cornballs.”

http://youtu.be/i9zkQcLi4Yo

That’s the dynamic now. Does something have something to say for themselves or are they another cornball competing in the news media game show to see who can build the biggest straw man?

Everyone knows the Wall Street/Washington three-card monte game is rigged. Why does anyone want to waste my time telling me OWS should do this or it should be like that or it won’t be effective unless it… OWS has already changed the conversation. The cat is out of the bag. End of story.

83

Sandwichman 10.23.11 at 7:56 am

So from 1993 to 2001, the richest 10% got 63% of the growth in real income.

84

Mandos 10.23.11 at 8:30 am

But the point, Brad, is that neoliberal policies (in the sense of what was wrought under Clinton) are self-undermining, even when they “succeed,” leaving aside rather quaint arguments about Nader.

85

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.23.11 at 9:07 am

Yeah, if only Gore got elected, the top 1% would’ve been in trouble now. And the 99% swum in luxury. Lol. So, it is the case of “neoliberalism has never really been tried”. Really, there are only two possibilities here: utterly idiotic or outright disingenuous.

86

Tim Worstall 10.23.11 at 10:33 am

@ 44 ““In country” inequality has been rising “globally”.”

Indeed it has all while, according to Milanovic, (and Sala i Martin and others) global inequality has been falling.

Given that we’ve two global phenomena going on here, it seems a little odd to blame either of them on domestic policies in any one country.

As to the meaning of neoliberal, in UK English it means someone like me (that is, where it’s not just a synonym for “things I don’t like”), in US English Brad DeLong.

There’s more than just the physical ocean between the two positions.

87

Harold 10.23.11 at 12:56 pm

Clinton and Gore, with their policies of demonizing welfare and the federal workforce, represent neo-liberalism par excellence. They threw the poor under the bus. They did some good — I’m not sure what.

88

john c. halasz 10.23.11 at 1:12 pm

@86:

“Given that we’ve two global phenomena going on here, it seems a little odd to blame either of them on domestic policies in any one country.”

A fine piece of sophistry, directed at what no one claimed. There are not two entirely separate “global” phenomena, but rather an overall pattern of global income distribution in which an analytic distinction was made, which, after all, suggests some connection between the two. And no one is blaming them on “domestic policies in any one country”, since they are correlated with MNC and Wall St. Hi-Fi sponsored globalization and financialization, which, by definition, span the globe and influence domestic policies and international co-ordinations across numerous countries. Though some countries are more equal than others, in being associated with the promotion of these globe-spanning organizations.

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 1:25 pm

“@ 44 ““In country” inequality has been rising “globally”.”

Well it has certainly risen sharply in some countries, such as the United States and UK. Other countries such as France, Denmark and the Netherlands not so, or not so much (depending on how you measure).

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john c. halasz 10.23.11 at 1:54 pm

@89:

Yes, there are various data sources with differing measures and Gini estimates alone can vary widely. I did recently eyeball a chart,- (sorry, no link),- listing Ginis for a large number of countries and their 20-year change, and Ginis declined for just a very few countries and rose for the large majority, sometimes modestly, sometime by a lot. As to those Nordic Ginis, pre-tax they are actually quite high and are sharply reduced after-tax. I’d suspect that some of that pre-tax income leaks out through, er, international trade exposure and shows up elsewhere.

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Peter Dorman 10.23.11 at 2:52 pm

Back to the original post — although the thread has been fascinating.

Here is my take on neoliberalism: In the parts of the world (just about all of it except the US) where liberalism meant support for limited government, civil liberties, cosmopolitanism, anti-militarism and free markets, neoliberalism means support for free markets, period. A neoliberal is willing to use repression and war to impose free markets on the unwilling. This would horrify traditional liberals.

In the US, where liberalism refers to activist government in the tradition of FDR and Dewey, neoliberalism refers to a reformulation that embraces markets and rejects the ethical critique of profit-seeking. US neoliberals want free trade, outsourcing of government functions (e.g. charter schools or even vouchers), market-friendly environmental policies, etc. On the financial crisis front, a neoliberal like Geithner probably stays awake at night thinking of new ways the government can make financial stability profitable.

I am not casting judgment here, just describing. For what it’s worth, over the years I have moved a bit toward some aspects of neoliberalism, but mostly not.

The alter-globalization movement definitely had the “wrong” issue at the wrong time. Trade liberalization was a core commitment of US neoliberals, and they were armed with a theory that said that (a) unrestricted trade is in the collective interest of every society, (b) nevertheless some interest groups would lose out, and therefore (c) those who understand (a) and (b) must either defeat the “losers”, buy them out or both. Most economists to this day think that (a) has the status of a mathematical truth, even though this is not at all the case.

On top of this, the liberalization of developing countries in the 80s as a condition of life support in the post 1982 period and the entry of the ex-Communist world into the capitalist world market in the 1990s dramatically raised the stakes for trade and capital liberalization. The purpose of trade and investment treaties like NAFTA was to make as permanent as possible the liberalization temporarily achieved through pressure. Backsliding would have severely restricted profit-making opportunities. Between the intellectual and political-economic arguments, there was no space at all for opposition to the trade agenda short of outright rebellion.

The OWS situation is similar and different. Impinging on the freedom of investors to pursue the highest returns possible under the broadest public guarantees possible is also very dicey from a political-economic standpoint. The 1% has a lot of money and a lot of power. OTOH, the intellectual argument is clearly not there in this case. The global justice crowd could be attacked as “protectionists” (which some of them were), and it was difficult to explain why that was misleading, but the corresponding epithet, “populists”, is not very epithetical (to coin a word), nor does it point to a ready-made frame in the sense of the free-trade-versus-protectionism trope.

On top of which, the views of elites of all sorts have been called into question by the economic morass, even to the extent of engendering some self-doubt at the very top of the economic pyramid.

It’s a more favorable moment.

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Sandwichman 10.23.11 at 4:27 pm

Brad DeLong @ 75:

We neoliberals-in-power got an awful lot of real wage gains and considerable gains in employment back in the 1990s. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, that was pretty tasty “neo”, IMHO at least…

And here is what that pudding looks like (drumroll): http://anticap.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/top.jpg

Will there be cake with that pudding or just pie-in-the-sky?

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Sandwichman 10.23.11 at 4:56 pm

On the neologism. “neoliberalism”: J. M. Keynes was the prototypical neoliberal. He explicitly rejected the laissez-faire policy as an artifact of an “incomplete hypothesis introduced for the sake of simplicity” that “depends on a variety of unreal assumptions.”

Today’s neoliberals (both kinds) should really be called neo-neoliberals, although such a neo-neologism would be uglyugly. The two kinds of neo-neos are the Keynesians-on-steroids and the 19th-century-Viennaphiles. The former variety suffers from what Freud described as “the neurotic’s family romance” whereby they fantasize Walras as the true fountainhead of their general equilibrium wet dreams.

“paternity is always uncertain, maternity is most certain.”

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geo 10.23.11 at 5:12 pm

Brad De Long @75: Yes, Nader was wrong say what you’ve quoted. Whether that comment, or Nader’s campaign as a whole, caused more damage to Gore than Gore’s own incompetent campaign and general mediocrity is debatable. In any case, it is a bit ungracious, not to mention intellectually dishonest, of Nader’s vilifiers not to mention his actual platform, which was orders of magnitude more enlightened and sensible than Gore’s even (I daresay) by your own lights. There is also the matter of the Democratic Party’s determined attempt to torpedo Nader’s efforts to run either as a Democratic primary candidate or as a Green Party candidate: viz, endless frivolous legal challenges to Nader’s getting on state ballots and resolute refusal to include Nader in candidate debates. This vile, cowardly, undemocratic behavior is a reflection of the official Democratic Party’s preference for remaining even a permanent junior partner in a two-party system over opening up the electoral system to fundamental reform. How many of Nader’s prominent, tenured vilifiers have devoted equivalent energy to supporting proportional representation, automatic voter registration, abolition of the Electoral College, and other elementary concessions to fairness and good sense? Have you?

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Sandwichman 10.23.11 at 5:31 pm

Perhaps someone can explain to a puzzled Sandwichman how blaming Nader for Gore’s defeat in ’00 differs from blaming Republican poisonous partisanship on the Democratic Senate rejection of Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987?

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Tom Bach 10.23.11 at 5:43 pm

Yes, we forgive De Long and Ygelsias, et al their many sins because even though their actions aided the creation of the current mess, their hearts were in the right place.

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.23.11 at 5:58 pm

A big part of the problem with the neoliberals is political tone-deafness, but this is not accidental. A primary neoliberal principle is that you can’t pander to your base. Republicans can, but not Democrats. Both parties ended up agreeing that the great unwashed, labor and the unemployed and the poor, were a threat to good governance and that their influence and the influence of populist, left, and majoritarian movements should be minimized. Unfortunately, this works differently for Democrats and Republicans, since the Democratic base includes the very people who can’t be pandered to. Thus, “The Democratic Party hates its base”.

Lincoln was able to do what he did because he was pushed by people on his left who often hated him. Same for FDR. But since 1948 Democrats have successfully destroyed their entire left: militant unions, communists, radicals, populists, progressives, every independent force. So now THEY are the left.

And it’s their turn to be destroyed.

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Barry 10.23.11 at 6:23 pm

To Brad – the best, the absolute best, that a subset of neo-liberals attained was the late 1990′s. Which was founded on what is now clearly on a long-term bubble – financialization of the economy, unsustainably rising housing prices, putting both spouse in the labor market, etc.

John Holbo: “And if neoliberals like Matt Y and Brad DeLong are sympathetic, that just goes to show that they actually believe in neoliberalism, in the sense that they are sincerely committed to its stated normative goals.”

After dismal failure, those who keep on dreaming the dream are suspect.

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Salient 10.23.11 at 6:58 pm

Salient, the proof that a business benefits society is its customers and its employees.

The compensation that employees receive is a factor when determining how beneficial a business is, but as for customers, absolutely not — access to customers is the core privilege that a justified business is permitted. This is why the disruptive tactic of sit-ins makes philosophical as well as strategic sense: if a company has behaved abominably, a sit-in raises awareness of that behavior, but the more important aspect is that it significantly reduces their ability to access customers–sit-ins are a concrete attempt to at least partially revoke that privilege.

As for what is a privilege afforded to business and what is a measure of their benefit to society, in general, you can split stuff into “things that justify the business” from “things that the business must justify” by splitting “things a rational profit-maximizing business would rather not do if it could get away with it consequence-free” from “things a rational profit-maximizing business actually does want to do or would love to do.”

Businesses want to sell things to customers, providing those customers with a product that is worth less to the business than the thing sold (the discrepancy in value is profit). This desire holds regardless of how happy and grateful (or frustrated and ungrateful) the business’s customers feel about the opportunity to provide that profit. To justify firms’ right to access customers and earn profit (and also to justify the negative externalities they produce), they must demonstrate the benefits they provide to society ‘outweigh’ the profits they extract from society. This is not at all an impossible thing to do, and we can be accommodating in our judgment (taking long-term customer satisfaction into account seems fair). Nonetheless, I see no compelling reason to give businesses a free pass by default.

100

Alex 10.23.11 at 7:00 pm

I think we can skip this debate if the self-identifying neoliberals just consider Occupy as a movement to demand the second half of the DeLong Creed (“First we get rid of the tariffs, then we redistribute the gains”) actually gets implemented. Everyone else can consider it to be a movement to demand redistribution, and once we get it, look at whether tariffs are a good idea.

JMK, in my view, believed that the problem with protectionism is that it was an intervention in the wrong market. Trying to adjust the market for goods ran into all the problems of the calculation debate. Trying to adjust the market for money (which really is a one-good market!) or labour was a much simpler proposition. I am sympathetic to this, although I don’t consider myself a neoliberal or an anything liberal.

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ckc (not kc) 10.23.11 at 7:12 pm

…the proof that a business benefits society is its customers and its employees

viz prostitution and drug addiction

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SamChevre 10.23.11 at 7:13 pm

We are rapidly approaching, for obvious reasons, the point at which fifty percent of the work force (including foreign workers) will be able to produce all that society can reasonably consume. The inevitable result is high unemployment forever, Is there an obvious and easy solution?

Yes.

So far as I can tell, the formally employed didn’t pass 50% of the population between 18 and 65 until the 70′s. Get society back to where one income can support a family, and provide enough income to live in a school district where most children live with both parents, and I think that a large portion of the population would be quite happy in a 50% employed scenario.

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Brad DeLong 10.23.11 at 7:37 pm

Mandos wrote: “But the point, Brad, is that neoliberal policies (in the sense of what was wrought under Clinton) are self-undermining, even when they “succeed,” leaving aside rather quaint arguments about Nader.”

Hmmm…

First, it is not clear to me in what sense Nader is “quaint”–he comes around Berkeley occasionally, and is still very proud of how he managed to keep Gore from becoming President and thus revealed the violence inherent in the system.

Second, I agree that our policies were undermined. It’s not clear to me that they were “self undermining”. Politics matters. Elections matter. Administrations matter. ClintonWorld was a very different place from GHWBushWorld and DoleWorld. GoreWorld was a very different place from GWBushWorld. (It is not clear yet whether ObamaWorld is a very different place from McCainWorld: it depends on whether the ACA is implemented or not. I do think that HRCWorld is a very different place from McCainWorld and from ObamaWorld: I cannot conceive of HRC having the deference to Bernanke-Geithner and the lack of concern about the long-term economic, social, and political consequences of >9% unemployment that we appear to see in Obama and McCain.)

And you need to be *very* careful about who you trust for your analyses: the ignorant and the dishonest claim that Clinton-era policies were ineffective at reducing inequality, and then point to estimates of the pre-tax and pre-transfer distribution of income. Here in the real world, Clinton’s expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, marginal rate increase on high-income tax payers, and uncapping of HI collectively made up the largest progressive redistribution of income in America since Roosevelt. It’s a bad thing to try to erase the historical memory of that and take that away from him–and from us who worked for him.

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William Timberman 10.23.11 at 8:35 pm

As for being very careful about who we trust for our analysis:

We did what real-world politics asked of us; we elected Barack Obama, and what did we get? GWB’s foreign policy, Jamie Dimon’s economic policy, Mitt Romney’s health care policy, Ronald Reagan’s labor policy, Joe Arpaio’s immigration policy, and Torquemada’s defense of civil liberties. And in the light of Hillary R-Clinton’s pronunciamentos on Honduras or Colombia or Palestine or Iran, is there anyone anywhere not on drugs who believes that she would have made a principled alternative to Obama in the Presidency or anywhere else?

Yes, the Republicans presidential candidates are all psychopaths, except the one who’s only pretending to be a psychopath until next June, but to claim that the Democrats have anything more to offer us except a guaranteed bleacher seat at the apocalypse is to strain the credulity of all but the most credulous. Trust, but verify, turns out not to have been half so bad a motto as its source might otherwise indicate.

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Sandwichman 10.23.11 at 8:52 pm

I refuse to believe that Herman Cain is a psychopath!

http://p.castfire.com/D8aEY/video/750957/750957_2011-10-10-182057.1323.m4v

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nick 10.23.11 at 8:55 pm

Brad DeLong: “I cannot conceive of HRC having the….lack of concern about the long-term economic, social, and political consequences of >9% unemployment that we appear to see in Obama and McCain.”

well, but …. at the time when making distinctions between the economic beliefs of these three individuals was rather more important than it is now, were you so certain of HRC’s superiority?

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Watson Ladd 10.23.11 at 9:03 pm

Salient, you seem to think that people buy from business are not preferring the goods they get to the money they payed for the good. There is no society to be harmed by transactions: only actions can do harm.

Sam, making women dependent on their husbands as the source of income is very regressive. Work is participation in society the way we have society today. Its just wrong to say that making one half dependent on the other is a good idea.

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Brad DeLong 10.23.11 at 9:04 pm

nick wrote: “Brad DeLong: “I cannot conceive of HRC having the….lack of concern about the long-term economic, social, and political consequences of >9% unemployment that we appear to see in Obama and McCain.” well, but …. at the time when making distinctions between the economic beliefs of these three individuals was rather more important than it is now, were you so certain of HRC’s superiority?”

Indeed not. I am not at all surprised at who McCain has turned out to be. But I am absolutely and completely astonished and gobsmacked by Obama’s–and Bernanke’s, and Geithner’s–belief that >9% unemployment is something to be tolerated rather than something to be changed as fast as possible.

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Salient 10.23.11 at 9:14 pm

Salient, you seem to think that people buy from business are not preferring the goods they get to the money they payed for the good.

That is, and must be, completely irrelevant to the justification for the business, (especially if we assume that, were we to dissolve the business as an entity, there exist people, namely former employees and managers of the business, who could construct a similar business providing similar goods). If I am starving, I’ll ‘prefer’ your single slice of bread to my $20.

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Meredith 10.23.11 at 9:21 pm

Kind of combining Salient and SamChevre: how about we think in terms of jobs as something more than a way of providing income? Or is that only a luxury of academics and a few others? How about thinking not simply about jobs but about work, about the value and dignity of work? (And I’m not referring to a US neoliberal approach to welfare here.) If it now takes fewer hours to produce what people need (however needs are calculated — and I always wonder if the long-term costs of industrialized agriculture, among other things have been factored in here — oh well, another topic), how about shorter work weeks and more employed people? (See Juliet Schor.)

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Salient 10.23.11 at 9:34 pm

Seriously, the biggest mistake that anyone attempting to proffer justification of a business’s existence could make, is to give the business any credit whatsoever for finding a way to profit off other people. I get that every business would like to count “but our products make people oh so happy!” as the chief justification for existence (this is especially hilarious if attempted by a bank), but recognizing this particular attempt to self-justify as absurd and unacceptable is necessarily the first step to constructing a moral theory of institutions that makes a damn bit of sense.

To spell it out, pretty much any given business could be nationalized, transferring ownership to the state while keeping all employees in their current capacity. The nationalized business could continue to provide its existing products at existing prices without much trouble. As we assess the legitimacy of a business, the main operational question is: Does this business have a strong and coherent argument against its nationalization? It’s the responsibility of the business to convince us that we as a society have sufficient reason to not do this.

Most small firms clear this bar with ease (it’s a three-step argument: first they point to meager profits, and relatively small amount of negative externalities that can be directly attributed to them, as evidence that they don’t have a whole lot of bad to justify in the first place; second, they point to how little of that could be plausibly changed for the better by government ownership; finally they argue that the additional bureaucratic overhead that would be generated by nationalization outweighs those little changes for the better, and the net result is less beneficial to society than the tax on profits that the business is currently paying).

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Bruce Webb 10.23.11 at 9:53 pm

Oy to paraphrase Churchill: “Two (or perhaps four) peoples separated by a common language-and a divergent history”
The problem is not explicitly terminological, in my view much stems from the fact that classical liberalism in its British sense was historically anterior to and at best ambivalent to the “greatest good” Pragmatism and even more so the Universal Democracy that is embedded at least as an ideal in the American Liberal project. I mean de Toqueville didn’t write “Democracy in Britain”. The result was that the kind of political and economic Liberalism characteristic of Britain’s Liberal Party and successors and it’s reflection/source in classical economics may well be sympathetic to Reform while at basis fundamentally hostile to say Jacksonian Democracy.

It could hardly be different considering Liberalism was built around a philosophy of maximizing self-interest, even if at times tempered by “doing well to do good”. But Pragmatism instead draws its political roots from the Radicals and Levellers of the English Revolution which instead would substitute broader measures of ‘self-interest’ that as the name Levellers suggests directly militates against simple individual self-interest.

American Neoliberals in trying to negotiate a Third Way have instead fallen between two stools. You just can’t reconcile unfettered markets based on maximizing individual self-interest and unfettered democracy which will naturally trend to greatest good solutions.

I put this basic question to Mark Thoma some years ago only to have him inform me with cler regret on his part: “Economics does not do equity well”. Which I put down to the fact that liberal economics grew to philosophical maturity in a time and place, 19th c Britain, that didn’t valorize Democracy as such. After all Britain did not obtain even universal manhood suffrage until WWI more or less forced it to adopt the Representation of the People Act of 1918 which finally broke the bond of electoral franchise to property.

And we see this basic tension today between the 99%ers and the 53%. Things would be that much simpler for the Third Way liberals if it were not for their theoretical commitment to the principles of universal democracy that at the same time sabotages their economic theory. Why shouldn’t democratic majorities vote for leveling outcomes? A question that couldn’t even be posed in Britain before even the modest expansion of the franchise with the Representation of the People Act of 1880, still less the 1918 Act.

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Mandos 10.23.11 at 9:56 pm

First, it is not clear to me in what sense Nader is “quaint”—he comes around Berkeley occasionally, and is still very proud of how he managed to keep Gore from becoming President and thus revealed the violence inherent in the system.

Nader is not quaint. The argument is. Which is what I said.

Second, I agree that our policies were undermined. It’s not clear to me that they were “self undermining”.

The fact that you, one of the best-intentioned of the mainstream bloggy economists, can’t see this is one of the biggest problems here. I daresay it might actually be the issue at stake. In the pursuit of a fleeting mathematical prosperity, the kinds of social supports and guarantees that hold a society together (protecting jobs, a generous welfare state, limits on financial shenanigans) were undermined—and, arguably worse, nothing of the intellectual detritus of the Reagan period was really overturned.

It has brought us to this moment, that electing Obama meant only a 2% change of course from Bush. It brought us the Tea Party and a slew of disastrous state legislatures. And if it didn’t bring them, it didn’t do anything to keep them away.

So, blame Nader if you want. The handful of votes in Florida—it should never have been that close—would have brought us to this moment one way or another, because the neoliberals in power spent too much time intellectually peeing on the Seattle protesters and finding increasingly clever ways to hold the left hostage.

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Lee A. Arnold 10.23.11 at 10:03 pm

John #64: “Because the process of getting the liberalization stuff erodes the progressive base that could demand the ‘neo’.”

Find agreement.

As I recall, U.S. neoliberals were in support of the effort to privatize U.S. Social Security because, on a blackboard, if you force people to pay attention to a market, it is good for them: it will change their psychology: it will give them a more realistic purchase on the future: it will increase productivity to cover those costs of retirement. This is a sort of intellectual bubble, perhaps like a housing bubble. It is an academic point of view, grown into a monster. We are to forget all notions of the savings of nonmonetized social costs; the cognitive-psychological benefits of social capital; the severe time-limitations in the attention span of any individual; the 5-yr. frequency of financial crises; the apparent condition of the elderly, nor any lessons from history. We are called upon to forget it all.

Yet instead, in the U.S., no matter who wins the presidency, we are going to fight hard for Social Security and Medicare. We are going to fight for environmental protection. It is not going to stop. And it is to be paid for out of the US$80 trillion of hot money that sloshes round the globe instantaneously. And every other country should do the same.

The way forward is to fight mightily for what people really NEED, regardless of any theories thereof. Arguments about “capitalism vs. socialism” are a sideshow. Agreement is the only important thing. Agreement is all it will take. Which was always the case, despite a century of economics. This is because “preferences” are “exogenous” to much of the “modeling”, anyway. Therefore, change the preferences, and the neoliberals and the rest of the economists will follow.

The “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” contains around two dozen items, ranging from animal rights to privacy issues to stopping torture to allowing generic drugs. (It does not focus merely on income inequality). Only an intellectual monster would find it diffuse. In fact its prose is a nicely standardized set of grievances, and understandable to anyone. See if one of your kids agrees. It is exactly the right approach, and the very next step is, for everybody else to go down to the street corner, and yell, Yes.

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 10:05 pm

_After all Britain did not obtain even universal manhood suffrage until WWI more or less forced it to adopt the Representation of the People Act of 1918 which finally broke the bond of electoral franchise to property._

Arguably, the United States didn’t catch up until the 1960s given the propensity of many states to disenfranchise blacks.

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Bruce Webb 10.23.11 at 10:30 pm

A question perhaps for Quiggin.

I think I have a reasonable grasp of the difference between British and American Liberalism and a dim understanding that Canadian and Australian versions are orthogonal to both but is there a commonality between the latter two? They seem similar but like almost all Americans and I daresay most Brits I suspect my understanding of either is pretty damn asymmetrical

117

Meredith 10.23.11 at 10:43 pm

Totally parenthetical, in a way. Some thoughts on Nader. I’m tempted to think of him as a vain man who is also principled. In other words, not so different from many others (of us, included).
But then, I really know nothing of Nader’s personal psychology, so my calling him vain is groundless. But maybe I can legitimately note his lack of institutional connections, lack of embeddedness. His strength but also his weakness.
The embeddedness question may be key. Into which bed does each of us climb? Toward which people do we extend our imaginations? So, not so parenthetical: into whose beds are (US, okay, okay) neoliberals make the effort of imagining themselves climbing? (Maybe that varies, btw.)

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Bruce Webb 10.23.11 at 10:44 pm

Bertram I threw in plenty of qualifications to cover that.

First of all Jim Crow wasn’t everywhere and not universally effective where it was in place. And Britain did not even PRETEND to have the equivalent of the 14th Amendment.

If you drill right down the historical records of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson and even my personal hero Franklin Delano Roosevelt show some gaping holes. Then again Gandhi, MLK, and Mother Theresa have similar flaws. World historical figures and forces for good all seven.

Intentions and aspirations matter. And for the most part Britain before Lloyd George didn’t much even pretend to care about big D Democracy.

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geo 10.23.11 at 11:40 pm

From 94: This vile, cowardly, undemocratic behavior is a reflection of the official Democratic Party’s preference for remaining even a permanent junior partner in a two-party system over opening up the electoral system to fundamental reform. How many of Nader’s prominent, tenured vilifiers have devoted equivalent energy to supporting proportional representation, automatic voter registration, abolition of the Electoral College, and other elementary concessions to fairness and good sense?

Brad, no comment on this aspect of the 2000 election? Nader’s egomania and the frivolousness of the left are the only lessons you draw from that episode?

120

Watson Ladd 10.23.11 at 11:43 pm

Lee A. Arnold, what people want is a secure retirement, and Social Security has been cut so much its not that. There are very good arguments for boosting the returns on Social Securities security holdings and letting people inherit unused balances based in arguments against upwards redistribution.

Salient, nationalization doesn’t mean changing the way the business operates in your post, so what is it going to do other then make the state a universal capitalist? Nationalizing the banks so they can continue to give us the old one-two is utterly worthless. You’re arguing against capitalism now, instead of against particular businesses, but doing so on the basis that profit is a rent.

Mandos, those supports were the things that made Jim Crow possible. I cannot support a deal between the rulers of white america and the poor whites to keep jobs from the blacks, which is what the welfare state in many ways was.

121

politicalfootball 10.24.11 at 12:16 am

But I am absolutely and completely astonished and gobsmacked by Obama’s—and Bernanke’s, and Geithner’s—belief that >9% unemployment is something to be tolerated rather than something to be changed as fast as possible.

Given your astonishment at the behavior of that crew, what makes you suppose you wouldn’t also be “astonished” had HRC been president?

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Lee A. Arnold 10.24.11 at 12:21 am

Watson Ladd #120: “what people want is a secure retirement, and Social Security has been cut so much its not that. There are very good arguments for boosting the returns on Social Securities security holdings and letting people inherit unused balances based in arguments against upwards redistribution.”

Define “secure retirement”. Social Security is just the safety net. It was never calculated to let you do everything you want.

Social Security is just a political promise to repay your contribution at the approximate rate of Treasuries.

Tell us where to park trillions more in a global savings glut. Come up with a good scheme for boosting the returns without having to bail it out every five years with the rest of the financial markets. Include how you will continue to forbid people from withdrawing it ahead of schedule, such as in the current recession. Describe the remaining politics of transfer — and the bureaucratic burden for the half of retirees who end up below the poverty line in every generation (more than half, at the present, of course).

Cost all of these, against the returns you hope to boost.

123

SamChevre 10.24.11 at 12:24 am

Yet instead, in the U.S., no matter who wins the presidency, we are going to fight hard for Social Security and Medicare.
Because their current benefits can’t be paid for by their current revenues.

We are going to fight for environmental protection. Because the cost of environmental regulation continues to rise relative to median income.

124

Antonio Conselheiro 10.24.11 at 12:39 am

This is piling on, but the biggest beef I have with Brad is the faith he had in Greenspan. As far as I can tell Greenspan was a Randian ideologue, not a neutral technocrat. I’m not at all confident that our present crisis isn’t part of shock treatment ((c) Naomi Klein), or that Greenspan isn’t OK with the way things are going.

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Lee A. Arnold 10.24.11 at 12:45 am

SamChevre #123 “Because their current benefits can’t be paid for by their current revenues.”

If we are going to consider it as a separate account, as you do here, then it has been prepaid and has full solvency until around the year 2035.

“Because the cost of environmental regulation continues to rise relative to median income.”

A lot of things are rising relative to net income, a condition which helped to trigger the Occupation. But I rather doubt it, about this one. Are you cost-benefitting the entire ecological effects of such regulations? Because surely the net is benefit, not cost. This was even the conclusion drawn by George W. Bush’s administration, as I recall.

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Watson Ladd 10.24.11 at 1:02 am

At 12% of income it certainly should be an adequate savings for retirement! This is a very expensive safety net that isn’t working for anyone who dies young.

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Dr. Hilarius 10.24.11 at 1:03 am

SamChevere@123 While I’m curious about the claim that “the cost of environmental regulation continues to rise relative to median income” (even if true, is it due to a drop in median income), environmental protection should be in a category separate from other expenditures.

Environmental benefits don’t have a time horizon. They last for the future for as long as a future exists. A livable and enjoyable environment is fundamental to everything, it is a tangible reality quite different from “economic health”. As for the cost of maintaining a healthy environment, preventing damage will always be cheaper than repair or mitigation as long as the second law of thermodynamics remains valid.

128

Lee A. Arnold 10.24.11 at 1:14 am

Watson Ladd #126: “At 12% of income it certainly should be an adequate savings for retirement! This is a very expensive safety net that isn’t working for anyone who dies young.”

Then please answer the questions. Where do you put trillions more in a global savings glut? Does it make sense to bail it out every five years with the rest of the financial markets? How will you forbid workers from withdrawing their account ahead of schedule, in severe need, such as in the current recession? What is the political and bureaucratic response that will covers all those who have lost in the markets, in every generation? (and more than usual at the present, of course?).

129

elm 10.24.11 at 1:46 am

Brad Delong @ 103

And you need to be very careful about who you trust for your analyses: the ignorant and the dishonest claim that Clinton-era policies were ineffective at reducing inequality, and then point to estimates of the pre-tax and pre-transfer distribution of income. Here in the real world, Clinton’s expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, marginal rate increase on high-income tax payers, and uncapping of HI collectively made up the largest progressive redistribution of income in America since Roosevelt. It’s a bad thing to try to erase the historical memory of that and take that away from him—and from us who worked for him.

Can you link to time-series data showing post-tax & transfer income distributions over a reasonable time period surrounding the Clinton presidency? I’ve been unable to find this data myself.

On the specific subject of the EITC, Rothstein notes that:

In all of the scenarios that I consider, a substantial portion of the intended transfer to low income single mothers is captured by employers through reduced wages. The transfer to employers is borne in part by low skill workers who are not themselves eligible for the EITC and are therefore made strictly worse off by its existence.

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SamChevre 10.24.11 at 1:50 am

If we are going to consider [Social Security and Medicare] as a separate account, as you do here, then it has been prepaid and has full solvency until around the year 2035.

Social Security is pre-funded to some extent; Medicare is not so far as I know.

131

elm 10.24.11 at 1:57 am

Ten seconds after I posted that, I found some vague figures at OECD.org.

It shows Gini coefficients (post tax & transfer) for time periods labeled “Mid-70s” through “Mid-2000s”. The U.S. shows a rise from 0.32 (in the Mid-70s) to to 0.38 (in the Mid-2o00s). There may or may not be a brief pause in the increase from the “Mid-90s” to “Around 2000″ period (both are reported as 0.36).

That data doesn’t support the claim that Clinton’s policies reduced inequality, though perhaps less-crude statistics would show that. At best, you could argue that it would have increased faster under some different set of policies.

132

Salient 10.24.11 at 2:13 am

Salient, nationalization doesn’t mean changing the way the business operates in your post, so what is it going to do other then make the state a universal capitalist?

My post outlines a theoretical framework, proposed as a way to let us evaluate how legitimate a given business is. We are not committing ourselves to a policy of mass nationalization even if we completely adopt this framework. You’re taking it much too literally, and that’s leading you to completely miss the point (and misunderstand the value). Which you’re welcome to do, but it’d make further discussion kind of pointless.

It is true (but not relevant to my proposed framework) that the point of actually nationalizing a company would be to re-engineer how it operates–instead of trying to maximize profit, try to provide equivalent services with fewer negative externalities and/or provide better compensation for employees. But I’m not talking about actually committing to taking action that drastic, or even committing to any action at all. Just because we deem a company is illegitimate (or of at-best-questionable legitimacy) doesn’t mean that nationalizing is the best approach to dealing with the problem. (Example, if there’s a negative externality that many firms are producing, adopting and enforcing some regulation almost surely makes more sense than nationalization. Or we might decide there’s no good solution in the short term, or that there are more pressing matters that should receive higher priority.)

Consider, we can talk about dictators being illegitimate by discussing possible alternative forms of governance without committing ourselves to deposing them. We might come up with a way of measuring legitimacy that compares the dictator’s rule to a hypothetical constitutional democracy emerging from their deposition, but that wouldn’t commit us to concrete action, and even if we decided to take action, we might decide that, I don’t know, rescinding a trade agreement or something is more effective and sane than supporting a deposition. (Or we might decide we’re powerless to make matters better, or that we don’t have the right to risk destabilization, etc, etc.)

133

Sandwichman 10.24.11 at 3:07 am

Bruce Webb quoted Mark Thoma as saying (some years ago) “Economics does not do equity well”.

I like Mark Thoma (after all, he links to Ecologicalheadstand) but my response is: the economics that doesn’t do equity well doesn’t do economics well. The old equity/efficient tradeoff canard (Okun) is 100% hokum. Okun’s hokum. It is unmitigated nonsense on stilts. This solemn cornball comes up with the notion that “dammit, there should be a tradeoff between equity and efficiency” and ever after the timid economists’ chorus sings the refrain that there IS a tradeoff. Give me a break. Give me an effing break. There is no such thing. It is a figment of the economists’ imagination. And they dutifully pass it down, teacher to student, like holy lump-of-labor relic. It is horse cock.

134

Sandwichman 10.24.11 at 3:09 am

Excuse the tirade. But if one will simply INVESTIGATE the notion, one will find that there is no there there.

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Sandwichman 10.24.11 at 3:17 am

“a dim understanding that Canadian and Australian versions are orthogonal to both but is there a commonality between the latter two?”

Canadians and Aussies are identical, with the exception we wrestle with beaver instead of crocodile, eh?

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chris 10.24.11 at 3:31 am

But I am absolutely and completely astonished and gobsmacked by Obama’s—and Bernanke’s, and Geithner’s—belief that >9% unemployment is something to be tolerated rather than something to be changed as fast as possible.

Wait, what? Obama wanted a bigger stimulus. It was chiseled down in Congress. He wanted a second stimulus. It was rejected by Congress. He recently and with much fanfare proposed yet another jobs initiative which is being strangled in Congress right now. (And neatly eviscerating people who would like to pretend that the parties are not so different, all of those votes were almost pure party line.)

I’m astonished and gobsmacked at all the apparently sophisticated observers who refuse to see that CONGRESS MATTERS. A lot. Probably even more than the President does. In fact, there’s a good deal of evidence that the Framers intended all along for Congress to be in the driver’s seat. Assuming that “the outcome is X, therefore Obama wanted X all along” is either stupid or dishonest, and I’m about tired enough of it to stop trying to figure out which category any individual instance belongs to.

The President is a convenient target for rhetorical slings and arrows, but if you want to put blame where blame is due, that would be Congressional Republicans. Without them, neoliberals wouldn’t be anywhere near the balance of power, or able to demand a pound of flesh, or whatever metaphor you prefer.

So can we please stop imitating the People’s Front of Judea and take aim, together, at the 1% and their lackeys? (Figuratively speaking, at least.)

137

SB 10.24.11 at 3:42 am

Perhaps DeLong, Yglesias, et al. are consistent in their thinking but this doesn’t make neo-liberalism in practice any less of a horrific disaster for millions of people or an ideological shell game.

They want it to be less of a disaster, and that’s nice and all. It made me safer, knowing the wages were higher and unemployment was low in the US even though I didn’t get much in the way of wages (I was a student). But the ’90s was a disaster for Latin America. Clearly, we’re in the throes of a worse disaster now.

I don’t know if it means all that much to credit neo-liberalism for these nice things that it might have wrought when you think about how much better it could have gone, for so many more people.

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SB 10.24.11 at 3:44 am

Oops. I think my previous comment is fighting old battles. (This isn’t sarcasm–but I guess I was commenting in the spirit of the thread and my comment confirms that is the spirit of the thread.)

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Salient 10.24.11 at 3:58 am

Yeah, mostly what I hold Obama accountable for is his continuation and even extension of the Bush-era assassination, surveillance, war-augmented-by-private-mercenaries-unaccountable-to-any-law ‘security’ state, all of which has been executed through the executive branch. (I gather we’re converting our entire military force in Iraq to private contractors and mercenaries by the end of this year. Yay?) He can have a pass on not getting additional domestic stimulus measures through a hostile Congress.

But Obama probably shouldn’t get a pass on nominating Ben Bernanke for a second term, and more importantly, Ben Bernanke shouldn’t get a pass for being Ben Bernanke for a second term. And Obama definitely shouldn’t get a pass for sitting on TARP as though its hundreds of billions of dollars were meant to protect Treasury undersecretary backsides from park grass stains; neither should Geithner. Neither the BB nomination nor the disuse of TARP money was the responsibility of a hostile Congress.

But I’m only niggling because my mugshot appears in Fronts of People in Judea; carry on.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.24.11 at 4:52 am

Salient is right at comment #139, especially about all the things he’s done worse than Bush with executive power. But I’d add that Obama just completely sucks as a political leader. And he’s bad in the exact same way as neo-liberals are commonly taken to be bad: technocratic solutions and contempt for the base of people who actually need to be motivated to pull from the left to make even a technocratic solution work.

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Sebastian 10.24.11 at 7:53 am

Weirdly, I’m ok with some of Salient’s conclusions, but the premises seem crazy:

“Paying some American workers money to do stuff is helping them by providing some money to them, hundreds of dollars per week per person. Paying some workers in Thailand to do stuff is helping those workers by providing some money to them, hundreds of pennies per week per person. In both cases, we can consider the business to be improving the welfare of workers at a measurable expense.

Big business gets away with losing fewer dollars in the latter scenario. The dollars that are saved and not lost do not get spent on improving human welfare; they are factored into the profit of the company. So in the latter case big business is doing less for human welfare. How this is humanist is hard to perceive.”

How is it that here, on crookedtimber, not a single person notices that this is the very marginal utility theory of money argument which is used to support progressive taxation? Pair it with the immigration discussion from a few threads down and we can easily see that redistribution from the American worker to the Thai worker is justified because the marginal difference in money utility between the American worker and the Thai worker is enormous, and that we shouldn’t worry about borders when analyzing the justice claim. You really can’t have it all.

But on the other claims Salient is more right: having an ethos where profit is the only motive, like practically any idea where you let one part of a social balance overthrow all the other parts, is really bad. Good societies have a good balance of competing interests, and we’ve let the balance get way out of control in the favor of a pure profit focus. And this isn’t a government-only problem. This is a societal culture problem reflected in how governments operate. The problem with neo-liberalism is that it largely accepts the profit-only frame. Because it accepts the profit-only frame, it has trouble dealing with the other values which have gotten out of balance in favor of profits because it doesn’t fit them into a framework where they are an important driver of anything.

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Sebastian 10.24.11 at 7:55 am

Hmmmm I can’t edit it, but I suspect that while the first 3 paragraphs are correct, they aren’t productive (think of it as window-smashing). So to whatever extent anyone wants to respond–I would have deleted everything but the last paragraph, which I still think is important.

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Chris Bertram 10.24.11 at 8:52 am

Brad DeLong writes at 103:

bq. Here in the real world, Clinton’s expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, marginal rate increase on high-income tax payers, and uncapping of HI collectively made up the largest progressive redistribution of income in America since Roosevelt. It’s a bad thing to try to erase the historical memory of that and take that away from him—and from us who worked for him.

Like some others above, I’d like to see some figures on this. But those I’ve managed to find suggest that there were real benefits to people lower down the scale under Clinton, even if those at the top continued to do better. Since, given real-world constraints, it is very hard for policy-makers to change things – and especially in the US – I can see that those in government who put their shoulders to the wheel might reasonably feel aggrieved when they don’t get the credit they deserve for what they did manage to do (I suspect that an identification with counterparts in the UK may also lie behind DeLong’s willingness to defend New Labour’s record again sniping lefties like me too).

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Robert 10.24.11 at 9:03 am

Is replacing the IMF, World Bank, and WTO with some sort of new Bretton Woods system – maybe with bancor – on the agenda? Shouldn’t it be?

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Bruce Webb 10.24.11 at 9:13 am

More Oy.

elm at 129. Who gives a crap whether Clinton reduced income inequality. Did employment rates increase to levels not anticipated under standard NAIRU theory? Yes. Did workers experience stronger than normal Real Wage increases than that NAIRU theory that guided Fed policy through the 60s through 80s suggested would happen? Yes. Do I give a crap that my contemporary Bill Gates earned billions while all I got was a solid middle class lifestyle? Hell no. Particularly since I no longer have it.

Pragmatism and “greatest good” is not strictly equivalent or even approximate to equal outcomes. The fact that that are fabulously wealthy people in Social Democracies like Finland and Sweden is not a bug. The proof of the Clinton years is in the pudding. As in I had some then and don’t now.

Contrary to certain wingnut belief structures New Deal Liberalism wasn’t about redistribution for its own sake, “greatest goods” doesn’t necessarily imply equal goods. Oddly the key question for New Dealers was posed by the poster person of the anti-New Deal, one Ronald Reagan: “Are you better off now than four years ago?” a version of which carried Bill Clinton to his second term. Liberals unlike classical Socialists don’t demand that we measure pie slices comparatively with micrometers. We just want enough pie to get by and see our kids do better than we did. That Bill and Melinda’s two kids might inherit billions not being a problem

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Tim Worstall 10.24.11 at 9:43 am

“To spell it out, pretty much any given business could be nationalized, transferring ownership to the state while keeping all employees in their current capacity. The nationalized business could continue to provide its existing products at existing prices without much trouble. As we assess the legitimacy of a business, the main operational question is: Does this business have a strong and coherent argument against its nationalization?”

Most extant businesses, perhaps not. But then that’s not what we should be concerned with anyway. What we really want to know is what system produces the creative destruction (to quote someone or other) that gives us the 1-2% continual rise in living standards. The answer there seeming to be not nationalisation.

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John Quiggin 10.24.11 at 10:36 am

@116 The main Australian conservative party is called the Liberal Party, a name chosen with reference to the European version of liberalism, and to the English Liberal party, and by contrast with the (then reasonably serious) socialism of the Labor Party. This was in the 1940s – the party had previously gone under various names, most commonly Nationalist. Very occasionally, people in that party try to claim allegiance to liberalism in a philosophical sense, but mostly this party (along with the rural-based National Party) are referred to as “conservatives”.

In normal Australian usage “liberal” (spelled out as “small-l liberal” if needed to avoid confusion) is commonly taken to refer to the civil liberties/social component of liberalism, something to which most large-L Liberals aren’t particularly friendly.

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Salient 10.24.11 at 11:50 am

It’s ok, Sebastian, edits not necessary; I don’t mind engaging to answer.

How is it that here, on crookedtimber, not a single person notices that this is the very marginal utility theory of money argument which is used to support progressive taxation?

Well, it could be that CTers are used to me being crazy by now and inured to my nonsense proposals. :) But the main conceit I am trying to promote is “we should assume by default that when a company wants to do something and not because it is being coerced by the state, that means the company has found a way to extract profit from human welfare, and we should not trust any claim of ‘commitment to improving human welfare’ they use to justify this.’

“We pay our employees less per employee than we used to, but are doing so in a place where people are so desperate this paltry pay is actually an improvement over their existing alternatives” is exactly the kind of misuse of marginal utility theory that we lefties need to combat with strident enthusiasm. Treating people like crap is not justified by pointing out they are treated like worse crap, or have a crappier life, in your absence. This is easier to see if we generalize far enough: for example, a wife-beater who pays the bills could point to the wife’s financial insolvency and lack of employment prospects, argue that she has a better life with him than she would on her own, and demand immunity from state punishment for his wife-beating actions on the grounds that on balance he’s improving her welfare.

Businesses don’t move overseas to do good for the world, and they shouldn’t be treated like they do. If we want to eradicate poverty, letting businesses exploit the marginal utility of money is a grave and counterproductive sin, selling out on sustainable solutions for a partial quick fix: better to institute a protectionist tax and use that money to fund nonprofit anti-poverty initiatives. Let’s ensure workers locally receive a fair living wage, tax profits, puts penalizing tariffs on imports each time a company moves a factory overseas to clarify to them that we’re not going to let that be profitable, and use some of the additional money extracted from the economy by these taxes and tariffs to contribute to existing anti-poverty initiatives that are way more cost-efficient than Nike has ever tried to be.

If a company gets smacked with a reactive tariff and decides it doesn’t want access to our hundreds of millions of potential customers, let ‘em go. (It’s very important to make the tariff system work as a penalty system. Clarify to businesses that we will respond to their exploiting cheaper labor by punishing them. They can produce locally and contribute to a high tax that helps pay for overseas anti-poverty initiatives, or they can produce overseas and contribute to a higher tariff that helps pay for domestic and overseas anti-poverty initiatives. If the marginal utility of one dollar per day is much higher for the Thai worker–and nobody’s disputing that that’s true–then any poverty-stricken community receiving a grant from the U.S. that spends at least $365/person/year is a better deal than receiving a dollar-a-day job from Nike.)

For-profit poverty eradication makes very little sense, and it makes even less sense when that’s not the stated business of the business: the company benefits from an excessively slack labor market and excessively desperate worker population, that’s the whole entire reason why they moved overseas in the first place, so presumably they’d like for things to be as awful as possible for their workforce and local labor market. We should support or encourage this why?

A business will always, always, always make sure that there is a surplus of poverty-stricken desperate people available locally that vastly outnumbers the quantity of employees they hire, unless circumstances prevent them from doing so or make it economically infeasible. If a food production campaign were started in a community from which Nike hires, the profit-maximizing thing to do would be to sabotage the campaign.

So yeah. The dollar per day is worth more to the Thai worker in distress than it is to the American worker in distress.

But the medium-to-long-term damage that is caused by letting that dollar-per-pay company get away with dollar-per-day compensation to extract more profit vastly outweighs the short-term benefits a few Thai employees will receive. This is in large part due to the fact that so few people will be receiving that dollar per day relative to the total local population, and it is in the business’ interest to keep it that way.

So let’s tax the businesses who want to sell things to us an extra $1.01 per Thai person per day and give the money to Oxfam or the UN, whoever is demonstrating they do an awesome job eradicating poverty. (Extend this in the obvious way to the general case, I don’t mean to be making a statement about Thailand specifically.)

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Alex 10.24.11 at 1:14 pm

It is far from obvious that nationalisation or privatisation had any impact on the UK’s real-terms GDP per capita whatsoever.

150

Steve LaBonne 10.24.11 at 1:23 pm

That Bill and Melinda’s two kids might inherit billions not being a problem.

The equivalent may not be a problem in Sweden, but it is in the US, given a political system in which money translates very directly into power. You will find that you’re never allowed to have pie for long.

151

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.24.11 at 1:44 pm

That Bill and Melinda’s two kids might inherit billions not being a problem

I can never understand this logic.

You work, produce something. I work, produce something. We trade, we’re both better off. That’s the idea. Now, Bill Gates built a house for himself, worth $150 million. Or, rather, some people, thousands of them probably, built the house for him. All that they produced at that time, it all went to Bill Gates, because he has these billions. And you and I had to work more to produce stuff for the people who were working for Bill Gates, and give it to them, without getting anything in return. You bet it’s a problem.

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elm 10.24.11 at 2:02 pm

Bruce Webb @ 145

Who gives a crap whether Clinton reduced income inequality.

Brad Delong apparently cares, and I was replying to him.

And you need to be very careful about who you trust for your analyses: the ignorant and the dishonest claim that Clinton-era policies were ineffective at reducing inequality

Bruce Webb:

That Bill and Melinda’s two kids might inherit billions not being a problem

If they use their fortunes to advocate upward-redistribution in the manner of Fred and Mary Koch’s kids (David and Charles), then I think it’s a problem.

Shares of income and distribution of income matters. When the top 1% of households take 25% of income, they can dominate politics and policy-making and exert an influence over society far out of proportion to their numbers.

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soullite 10.24.11 at 2:04 pm

Why would anyone think that neoliberalism is an honest belief system – or, more accurately, if they did, why would they take it seriously.

This is a group of people who have advocated using market means to attain social justice for over 30 years now. During that time, this group, due largely to the corrupt nature of American elections, has managed to ‘win’ every debate (not among the voting public, but by buying votes of both parties in a system where third parties are all but impossible). We no see the results of those wins today: massive income inequality, government for, of and by Goldman Sachs, few jobs and fewer well paying ones. This is really undeniable at this point, which is a big part of why OWS goes over so much better than Seattle did (people on here talk about vandalism, but the truth was that back in 2000, people were still relatively fat and happy).

Given that, it is still possible to conclude that self-described liberals are ‘honest’ about the ‘rising tide lifting all boats’ BS, but even if you do conclude that, it is still impossible to conclude that these are people who’s observations we should give any credence to. If they are incapable of seeing what their own policies have wrought and changing their tune, then they are either dishonest or complete morons.

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K. Williams 10.24.11 at 2:25 pm

“But the medium-to-long-term damage that is caused by letting that dollar-per-pay company get away with dollar-per-day compensation to extract more profit vastly outweighs the short-term benefits a few Thai employees will receive. This is in large part due to the fact that so few people will be receiving that dollar per day relative to the total local population, and it is in the business’ interest to keep it that way.”

Your entire view of the world seems bizarrely indifferent to — or ignorant of — the fact that the countries in history where the vast majority of people have been able to enjoy sustained levels of prosperity are countries whose economies have been dominated by private enterprise. What’s the explanation for this, if businesses are so invested in — as you would have it — in maintaining people in a state of immiseration?

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elm 10.24.11 at 2:35 pm

K. Williams @ 154

the fact that the countries in history where the vast majority of people have been able to enjoy sustained levels of prosperity are countries whose economies have been dominated by private enterprise. What’s the explanation for this, if businesses are so invested in—as you would have it—in maintaining people in a state of immiseration?

Presumably it’s explained by the fact that you only want to talk about countries with “sustained levels of prosperity”. When you restrict discussion to only prosperous countries, it’s not surprising to find that they’re prosperous.

Furthermore, those countries with sustained prosperity achieved relative prosperity often employed a variety of protectionist measures which inhibited trade and limited the ability of the capitalist class to export capital and jobs.

156

Steve LaBonne 10.24.11 at 2:36 pm

Your entire view of the world seems bizarrely indifferent to—or ignorant of—the fact that the countries in history where the vast majority of people have been able to enjoy sustained levels of prosperity are countries whose economies have been dominated by private enterprise.

Nonsense. They’re countries with mixed economies in which government plays a strong role in making sure the economic gains produced by private business are widely shared. Countries “dominated” by private enterprise look like Victorian Britain, with a minority enjoying unprecedented prosperity but with a large proportion of the population living in abject misery.

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Steve LaBonne 10.24.11 at 2:40 pm

Which entails, of course, that the existence of countries in which the vast majority of people enjoy sustained prosperity is a very recent and quite possibly temporary phenomenon. In both the US and Europe we are heading back to the 19th Century, for which this is most definitely not an honest description of the state of play in ANY country.

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William Timberman 10.24.11 at 3:03 pm

@ Steve LaBonne

Yes, this is the core disagreement that many leftists have with neoliberals. According to their analysis, this so-called crisis is only a momentary stumble. If we — our governments, that is — will just do what the neoliberals tell them, by-and-by we’ll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back into the game. Our analysis tells us that the instabilities inherent in capitalism not only will remain with us, but as capitalism matures, they can potentially reach beyond our ability to cope with them. We also hold that the politics involved are as unstable, and as potentially unmanageable, as the economics per se.

We’d like to see a fundamental re-thinking, and flirt with revolutionary methods — intellectually revolutionary, at any rate — in an effort to stimulate such a re-thinking. They wish that we’d just leave them alone to do their jobs.

What comes of all this is anybody’s guess at the moment, but I’d be willing to wager that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet, Brad and Matt to the contrary notwithstanding.

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casino implosion 10.24.11 at 3:11 pm

I understand “neoliberal” to mean original Washington Consensus.

160

mpowell 10.24.11 at 3:35 pm

If Brad is still around, I hope he reads this observation: if the impact of your policies will be entirely reversed by the next Republican administration, you need to think really carefully about the efficacy of those policies. Because it’s very unrealistic to expect to win all, or even a significant majority of presidential elections.

I think people are going off the tracks with their criticisms, but there is something they are getting at when they talk about pissing off the base. Well-fare programs can always be cut. Marginal tax rates readjusted at the stroke of a pen. But it is much harder to crush powerful unions in a single administration. You might be able to pull it off, but as we have seen recently it is very difficult to do politically. It generally takes a broad political consensus to achieve this and that’s where I really feel the politics of the 90s let us down. Unions have their problems, but when we all agreed at the end of the 70s that things had to change they were changed in a way that left us very vulnerable to Republican redistribution politics. Clinton did nothing to reverse this trend. And Gore/Nader aside, Republicans are going to win elections eventually.

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Steve LaBonne 10.24.11 at 3:35 pm

William- indeed. So far the historical situation appears to be that true mass prosperity is a brief post-WWII parenthesis- that currently seems on the way to being closed- in the history of capitalism. On current evidence it would be unwise to place our bets on the side of those who want to believe that it’s the “crisis”, not the good stuff that preceded it, that’s temporary.

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.24.11 at 5:54 pm

Chester Bowles was a post WWII Democratic intellectual and part of the Kennedy team. Sometime before the election he put out an argument, complete with pie graphs (possibly the FIRST “grow the pie” graphs ever) showing that if the economy grows enough, equality can increase while everyone becomes better off. The poor would just become better off faster.

The counterargument here uses the same pie graphs with different numbers. If you grow the economy, the rich can get much, much richer while everyone else gets slightly richer. I’m not sure that this is even true for the bottom 40% or so, but anyway, we should note that today’s Democrats have inverted the original argument.

The argument depended on the rich being stupid, incurious, and not greedy, but most rich people nowadays are pretty astute about money. You can’t fool them by saying “You never had that money, so how could you have lost it?” Rich people care a LOT about money they might be able to get and are angry about many they could have gotten but didn’t.

Win-win strategies are nice when you can get them, but you can’t rely on them entirely. For a long time the technocratic Democratic magicians were able to slip things cleverly past the voters, but that time is past. If we’re going to have any egalitarianism at all from here on out, we will need an egalitarian popular movement, and this movement will only be able to win if it defeats the anti-egalitarian opposition in a zero-sum game.

Bowles also proved that the Democrats would soon be almost unbeatable due to the demographics of the US. within less than ten years two major demographics had switched, wholly or in part. Democrats today are making the same mistake, extrapolating the demographics of presently Democratic groups. Democrats seem to have a weakness for crude social science.

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ragweed 10.24.11 at 6:27 pm

May I make one correction to the issue of window-breaking at the WTO? It was more than a single guy with a sign, or a single Starbucks.

There was a core group of about 20-40 “black-block” anarchists who were actively involved in targetted breaking of windows throughout the downtown retail core where the WTO protests took place (and it should be noted that there were many other anarchists at the protest who were not part of it). It was very deliberate and very targetted – I was quite impressed, when walking around in the days afterward, how carefully they managed to break the windows of major trade-implicated chain stores like Gap and Starbucks while leaving the small sandwich shops and independent stores next door unscathed.

The “black bloc” that engaged in the window breaking did so in direct violation of the non-violence principles agreed upon by the vast majority of the civil-disobediance protestors (who opposed vandalism for the tactical reason that it would divert attention from the political issues of the protest, not out of some deep respect for corporate property). The “black bloc” protestors were openly opposed to the non-violence principles and had previously stated they were going to engage in property destruction (for reasons which have been well chewed over in the anarchist press). People I knew who were involved in the non-violent blockade were generally disgusted by the property damage.

There was also a mini-looting in a Starbucks late in the day on N30 that from what I saw was fairly spontanious and not connected to the organized vandalism.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that a few acts of window-breaking was used to justify a totally inappropriate police response, or that the media used the incidents to deamonize protestors. However, we do a disservice to both the protestors who opposed the damage and those who perpetrated it (for deliberate political reasons, however much I may personally disagree with them) to downplay it as a single spontanious event.

John

164

CharleyCarp 10.24.11 at 8:43 pm

It’s a simple truth that the 90s were a creation of the 80s, 80s a creation of the 70s, 70s a creation of the 60s, etc. People talk about Dems walking away from unions/working class white men in the 1990s, without looking at what happened in the 80s and before. I’m not saying we should blame the victims. I am saying the Clinton correctly identified a sweet spot on the electoral spectrum where he could win (and without Perot it wasn’t exactly close). And more or less governed as he ran, although he may have been a little more naive about the range of options he really had on the economy when he came in.

I see these debates often enough, and I never seem to see the Left acknowledging that working class whites fled them, in droves, in the late sixties and beyond. ‘Hippie punching’ isn’t just about approval of the Village — there’s a substantial demographic out there who wants and agrees with this sort of thing.

Now the Right has done a better job than ever before of sucking that up, and it’s promises are so plainly false, maybe the OWS generation can succeed in breaking the cycle. That remains to be seen. They do seem to have learned the lesson of Seattle, which is that the direct action people were poor tacticians for the reality most Americans inhabit (or thought they inhabited).

165

CharleyCarp 10.24.11 at 8:44 pm

wasn’t exactly = was pretty

166

Rich Puchalsky 10.24.11 at 10:32 pm

“May I make one correction to the issue of window-breaking at the WTO? It was more than a single guy with a sign, or a single Starbucks.”

Yes, correction taken. I looked in to this some more, and yes, it wasn’t a single incident — I think I was mixing up the mini-looting (which as you write, seemed spontaneous) with the window breaking.

To go back to the original, though, I still don’t think there was a “turn against violence”. The large majority of protestors then had decided on nonviolence, and insofar as what happened then is an influence on what’s happening now, they still do. I don’t know whether there is really any increased ability to bring everyone along with that idea, or whether the current movement is just luckier.

167

bob mcmanus 10.24.11 at 10:53 pm

…and I never seem to see the Left acknowledging that working class whites fled them, in droves, in the late sixties and beyond.

Because it isn’t true. In 1968, Humphrey got the same proportion of union and blue-collar ethnic (Poles, Italians, etc) votes that LBJ got in 1964. What broke Republican in 1968 were the urban upper-middle-class and educated elite classes, and that was mostly fear of the black nation, not hatred of hippies. This class then moved to the suburbs.

We hippies always, always knew we had more to fear and hate from the “Clean for Gene” types than from Merle Haggard, and fifty years has absolutely proven us right. Merle is still toking up and hating war and bankers. How about Yglesias?

168

Ben Alpers 10.25.11 at 12:57 am

@167: Union and blue-collar ethnics did, indeed, turn out for Humphrey in ’68. Organized labor was virtually the only part of the traditional Democratic coalition that strongly backed Humphrey, both because Nixon had a viciously anti-union record and because, unlike many other Democratic constituencies, the unions were still pro-war.

Four years later, however, working class ethnic whites and the unions that represented them abandoned McGovern and the Democrats. The AFL-CIO officially endorsed nobody; unofficially they endorsed Nixon.

Jefferson Cowie’s terrific Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class does an excellent job covering what happened to unions and working-class voters in both these elections.

169

Cranky Observer 10.25.11 at 1:17 am

> Four years later, however, working class ethnic whites and the unions that
> represented them abandoned McGovern and the Democrats. The AFL-CIO
> officially endorsed nobody; unofficially they endorsed Nixon.

I’m not sure that that’s true, but assuming that it is: how’d that work out for them?

Cranky

“Them”, in this case, including “us”, meaning two generations of my family and young Semi-Cranky, who were deeply invested in the demographic you describe.

170

bob mcmanus 10.25.11 at 1:32 am

168: The introduction to Cowie’s book is immediately available at Amazon. I loved it.

171

Bruce Webb 10.25.11 at 1:35 am

Elm at 152

I take Pragmatism seriously. Does the existence of Bill and Melinda Gate’s ACTUAL fortune and it’s allocation to Greatest Good ends outweigh the byproduct that their children like Bill Gate’s himself (the child of extreme privilege, his parents were and are Seattle royalty prior to an apart from Junior) will inherit at minimum hundreds of millions of dollars, that is a fraction of their parents’s wealth?

Why Yes. Andrew Carnegie like Joseph Kennedy Sr. like God Help Us JD Rockefeller may have been bastards in their own ways but I am not weeping because the fourth generations of Kennedy’s and Rockefellers all have more than comfortable lives. With exceptions here and there both the patriarchs and progeny delivered and continue to deliver much more pragmatic good than harm. The Koch Brothers not so much. But redistribution for the sake of it quite detached to utility leaves me a little cold. Then again mostly we can’t separate it from utility.

172

js. 10.25.11 at 1:43 am

Ben @168.

I suppose this is right (I trust you know a lot more about this than I do), but do you then endorse the argument @164?

It seems to me there’s a danger of letting Clinton/the DLC/”Third Way” types, etc. off the hook way too easily here. I mean even if symbolic hippie-bashing was necessary or prudent (something I’m far from convinced of), there wasn’t exactly a popular constituency for repeal of Glass-Steagall, was there?

Also: cheers for #52 up above. That was remarkably helpful.

173

CharleyCarp 10.25.11 at 1:48 am

Bob, you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone back to 68 — although I wonder who, exactly, voted for Wallace in California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and other states where they more than made the difference between Nixon and Humphrey. I shouldn’t have gone back that far because 80 and especially 84 tell the tale. At least the tale relevant to looking at the electoral space embraced by Clinton.

I wish we didn’t live in a country — a world — where George Wallace could swing victory to Richard Nixon, or Ralph Nader to George W. Bush. We live in that world.

174

bob mcmanus 10.25.11 at 1:48 am

169: Like I said, the intro to Cowie at Amazon is dead on and compassionate.

The stereotypical Detroit dude detailed in the intro was a Wallace supporter, and after the shooting, voted for McGovern. He did eventually in “despondency” vote for Reagan, but regretted it. I liked the line about the “Chrysler assembly line by 1973 looked like Woodstock” Real hippies were always pretty country.

Populism versus progressivism really. The progressives won, and here we are.

175

Bruce Webb 10.25.11 at 1:54 am

Steve at 150.

JD Rockefeller, in some ways the biggest bastard that ever lived, asked his scientific philanthropic advisors if there was some debilative disease that his money all by itself and given the science of the time could eradicate. And they thought hard and said ‘Hookworm’. A parasitic disease no one thinks about anymore because sonof a bitch JDR Jr put up the money to eliminate it and succeeded. Similarly Bill and Melinda Gates are just this close to eliminating malaria in their own lifetimes, news just this week is incredibly exciting, and we are talking about a disease that has probably irradiated tens to hundreds of millions of lives over the last couple centuries. And I am supposed to get exercised because Bill spent a few million bucks building a house cum conference center cum fundraising venue on Mercer Island across I-90 from Seattle?

Are you high? If not keep your focus. The tax system pre-Reagan was deliberately designed to produce this kind of voluntary redistribution. And while we could argue about the relative utility of the Getty Museum against the Rockefellers donation of the land on which UN Headquarters sit we should admit that not all Malefactors of Great Wealth are created equal. After all both Roosevelt’s and all Kennedy’s fall into that general category. At least in origin.

176

Bruce Webb 10.25.11 at 2:05 am

‘eradicated’ not ‘irradiated’.

Still who in their right mind would resent the children of the people who eliminated malaria for enjoying a more than comfortable life. Now personally I am willing to endorse the idea that my contemporary Bill Gates Jr is Emperor of the Evil Empire that is Microsoft, but you would have a difficult case to convert that to saying he isn’t achieving certain external greatest good pragmatic outcomes. Malaria ain’t no joke. Even if Windows 7 sucked.

That Bill and Melinda’s kids have the same opportunity to drop out of Harvard that he did won’t cause me to lose any sleep.

177

Steve LaBonne 10.25.11 at 2:13 am

Two comments, Bruce and still not the beginning of a response to what I actually said @150? It’s not about “resentment”, and if you think it is, you’re a fool.

178

js. 10.25.11 at 2:39 am

Bruce Webb @ 175, etc:

Would you also support enlightened despotism given the assumption that the despot were truly enlightened? After all, such a head of state might be able to genuinely improve the lives of his or her subjects. And given these tangible benefits, what need to worry about any power imbalances that might exist?

179

Sandwichman 10.25.11 at 2:53 am

Cranky @ 169: “I’m not sure that that’s true, but assuming that it is: how’d that work out for them?”

1. It was true. 2. Not good.

180

darren 10.25.11 at 3:38 am

I take Pragmatism seriously.

Evidently not.

But redistribution for the sake of it quite detached to utility leaves me a little cold.

I have no idea what that means. But whatever it means, no one here his defending it. What several people have tried to explain is that redistribution of wealth in highly unequal societies with notoriously ineffective firewalls between wealth and political power is important to avoid allowing political capture by a tiny proportion of the population, whose interests become further detached from the public interest the greater inequality gets. This isn’t a terribly complicated or sophisticated point, and it should be fairly clear that’s what we’ve got here. Read Hacker and Pierson if you need some non-hippie hand-holding.

181

CharleyCarp 10.25.11 at 4:25 am

I’d forgotten until reading the Cowrie excerpts that PATCO had endorsed Reagan against Carter.

182

ragweed 10.25.11 at 5:16 am

Bill Gates work to eradicate malaria is to be commended, though it is somewhat overly focused on a silver-bullet solution that may or may not ultimately prove successful (malaria, like HIV, is a brutally difficult pathogen to target, and I will wait to see how the vaccine works at scale before declaring victory). I will give BMG credit for focusing the worlds attention on a disease that has been ignored because it mainly kills poor people.

But otherwise, the Gates foundation has not been so beneficial. Their approach to addressing hunger is to help Monsanto force its way into the African market. Their approach to education reform in the US has been characterized by throwing lots of money behind arbitrary and untested solutions (“small schools”, teacher accountability, Common Core curriculum, etc. ). And because they have so much money to dispense, they hold enormous influence on the field.

The problem with this sort of philanthrocapitalism is it puts the decision-making for billions of dollars of funding in the hand of a few wealthy individuals who are more accustomed to imposing executive decisions than to listening to grass-roots organizations, and whose social circles and circles of influence tends to consist of other highly wealthy and influential people. Thus the former CEO of microsoft turns to the CEO of Monsanto, who has some great ideas for how Monsanto products can be used to solve hunger. Occassionally, they do champion great ideas like the work on Malaria (though, there again much of the focus is on a pharmecutical-based solution, which may or may not be the allocation of resources that will save the most lives), and we would rather that money go to charity than not, but it is still a tiny wealthy elite calling the shots.

John

183

ragweed 10.25.11 at 5:22 am

Not to continue the diversion, but this blog post from Maxine Udall, Girl Economist also hits some of the issues with philanthrocapitalism:

http://www.maxineudall.com/2011/01/philanthrocapitalism-or-paternalism.html

John

184

john c. halasz 10.25.11 at 5:48 am

Meredith @ 76:
Sorry about that, but I don’t know what happened, since @77 makes the same mistake. @ 74 was obviously directed at @ 73, and not at any of your unknown sins.

185

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.25.11 at 6:11 am

Bruce, Bill Gates will not have eradicated malaria. If it happens, it’ll be done by other people, people who work for a living. Bill Gates is just a guy who stole a lot of money from you and me.

186

Antonio Conselheiro 10.25.11 at 11:15 am

While we’re at it, Junior Mayor Daley is big on the Obama team. We shouldn’t be surprised at the hippie bashing. You can’t exactly call it the Return of Mayor Daley because it’s a different Mayor Daley, Richard M. instead of Richard R.

On Gates, disease is a category of evil which has no friends. There are other evils that have powerful friends. If you make your money partly through the controversial evils (sweatshops and pollution and monopolism and copyright abuse and booby-trapped software) you look around for some poor helpless disease to attack. Not fair.

187

Guido Nius 10.25.11 at 11:47 am

I like 160 & I like 185. Somehow this discussion is about Clinton, Bush, Clinton & Obama, whereas there were a billion or so others steering the decisions of the last decades. There is a lot to be said for that billion being misinformed by a few but then the action is to get a bit better information out there – e.g. on how it was possible for a majority out of a billion people bying into the misinformation.

At some point in time somebody needs to admit that all of the woes of today originate in a default acceptance of Reaganomics (full employment and hence no need for social security) combined with a gradual inescapability of Thatcherite deregulation (because of the organization of global competition without global market regulation). Some may have tried to challenge that status quo but nobody succeeded until such time when this crazy system drove itself into a crash taking everybody with it.

Some modesty – certainly from commenters in the US and the UK – might actually lead to the realization that defending actions of the past is not very helpful for the future.

188

Earwig 10.25.11 at 6:13 pm

Gore done in by Nader? What a lot of crap.

Have we really forgotten how Gore was a serial liar? It was THE theme of mainstream coverage of the campaign. Gore invented the internet. Gore needed a women to tell him how to be a man. Gore lied about the union label. Gore lied about the doggy pills. Gore would lick the floor to be president. Gore grew up in a fancy hotel room. That stuff Gore said about hard farm work is, like everything he says, a pack of lies. Gore discovered Love Canal. Gore thinks “Love Story” is about him. Gore sighs too much. Gore thinks he deserves the presidency.

Nader offed Gore? Seriously? Taking that seriously for a minute marks one as an idiot. Hoping, as DeLong appears to, that others will take it seriously is the mark of a fraud.

189

Barry 10.25.11 at 6:34 pm

bob mcmanus 10.25.11 at 1:32 am

” 168: The introduction to Cowie’s book is immediately available at Amazon. I loved it.”

Could you please link? I couldn’t find it.

thanks!

190

Barry 10.25.11 at 6:36 pm

And of course two seconds later I found the button.

191

Antonio Conselheiro 10.25.11 at 6:39 pm

Earwig, all that stuff you cited was unadulterated crap, a mixture of untruths, half-truths, and goofy impressionism. If you still believe it 10 years later you’re an ignorant moron. I voted for Nader and never have liked Gore much, but the media coverage of the Bush-Gore campaign was a disaster.

192

Barry 10.25.11 at 6:39 pm

Earwig, go read ‘The Daily Howler’, and find some truth.

193

Dr. Hilarius 10.25.11 at 6:56 pm

I’m always puzzled about discussions of the Left in American politics in the 1970s. Who? What? The unions were defending individual contracts and the specific interests of their members. Workers outside of already unionized manufacturing sectors were ignored. Unionizing low-wage service workers was viewed as not being cost-effective. The ideological left (distinct from anti-war protesters, who were all over the political spectrum, but mostly focused on the war itself without much theoretical underpinning) was little more than isolated, inbred sects of Trotskyites, socialists and geriatric CPUSA members.

I’ll have to read the Cowrie piece. The remark @173 bears on the confusion between “hippies” (creatures akin to unicorns in numbers) and shaggy, dope-smoking members of the working class. Hunter Thompson in Hell’s Angels notes an Angels’ employment on a GM assembly line to be a “tribute to whatever flexibility remains at the shop level in the American labor movement” given that Terry the Tramp had a “full beard, shoulder-length black hair and a wild, jabbering demeanor” along with a multitude of arrests for narcotics, theft, rape and public cunnilingus. Hell’s Angels at 7. Now that’s full employment.

194

elm 10.25.11 at 7:01 pm

Antonio, Barry @191, 192:

It looks like Earwig’s second paragraph was mocking biased media coverage of Gore in 2000 and lies spread by the establishment media about Gore.

It looks like Earwig’s point is that it’s ridiculous to blame Nader for Gore’s loss when the media did far more to damage Gore’s campaign.

195

Earwig 10.25.11 at 7:10 pm

Barry, Antonio,

It’s not that I believe it — it’s that it happened. Those statements about Gore constituted the overarching frame of the campaign. They were mainstream. Those beliefs, trumpeted by the press, undoubtedly cost Gore far more than Nader did — and that’s understating it.

The electoral impact of Nader was but a rounding error compared to the press attack on Gore.

Frankly Antonio, your views (along with Timberman’s and some others as well) in your several comments here come fairly close to expressing my own feelings about the subjects under discussion.

The comments on Nader from DeLong and some others, however are nauseating in their refusal to engage the reality of that election campaign (really, their attempt to tell a preferred story that elides the truth of the trashing of Gore and its impact as compared to that of Nader, who serves in this case as a hippie-punching stand-in).

I regret and apologize for any confusion arising from the lack of sarcasm markers in my original @188.

196

Antonio Conselheiro 10.25.11 at 7:17 pm

Irony is lost on the internet, Earwig, because there’s nothing so stupid that no one will say it. I’ve tried to out-crazy the crazies, on their home turf, and it’s impossible.

197

Harold 10.25.11 at 7:37 pm

“The comments on Nader from DeLong and some others, however are nauseating in their refusal to engage the reality of that election campaign (really, their attempt to tell a preferred story that elides the truth of the trashing of Gore and its impact as compared to that of Nader, who serves in this case as a hippie-punching stand-in).”

So true. It seems demented but I guess the press can retaliate and Nader can’t, so have at him.

198

CharleyCarp 10.25.11 at 10:09 pm

I have never heard anyone who blames Nader for Gore’s loss claim (a) that the press coverage was even remotely fair to Gore; (b) that Bush (and his people) was anything but a weasel before and during the election aftermath; (c) that Gore might not have run a better campaign. The fact, though, is that these causes would have melted away to nothing had not Nader set out to defeat Gore, and accomplished that feat. Beating Gore wasn’t collateral damage: it was central to his demonstration that the Dem party could not and should not take his voters for granted. One can look all over the internet, and find people, many are the same people, hoping that Obama learns exactly the same “lesson” Gore should have learned, and in exactly the same way.

Shorter: 100,000 people in Florida didn’t vote for Naomi Klein (although her writings can’t have helped).

I don’t understand why people who wanted to beat Gore, and did beat Gore, have spent a decade denying that they beat Gore. I used to think that it’s because they’d learned the folly of the strategy: giving electoral legitimacy to Republicanism doesn’t advance any Left agenda at all. And yet, here we are again, with the same strategy: beat Obama, and make way for the new Left dawn.

(This may or may not apply to anyone who has commented above).

199

CharleyCarp 10.25.11 at 10:10 pm

Wolf.

Dammit.

200

Substance McGravitas 10.25.11 at 10:38 pm

The fact, though, is that these causes would have melted away to nothing had not Nader set out to defeat Gore, and accomplished that feat.

Also there was something good on television that night.

201

Ben Alpers 10.25.11 at 10:53 pm

Not to dive into the Nader in Y2K fray again, but it bears repeating that…

1) A case can be made that Nader’s personal goal was to defeat Gore. But Nader failed to do so. Gore almost certainly got more votes in Florida than Bush. If you want to identify a culprit here, it’s neither Nader, nor the media, nor Gore himself, but the Supreme Court who was at fault.

2) While a case can be made that Nader himself set out to defeat Gore, that was not the goal of all or even most of Nader’s supporters. To the extent that Nader’s supporters (of which I was one, in the overwhelmingly red state of Oklahoma) had an electoral goal it was to get 5% of the vote and qualify the Green Party for federal funds. This is why there was so much talk of vote trading between battleground states and safe states in the run-up to the election. And we fell well short of achieving this goal. Indeed, Nader totally underperformed his poll numbers, presumably because many Nader supporters, especially in swing states, actually saw Gore as a lesser evil.

3) If you actually believe that Nader’s supporters wanted to defeat–and succeeded in defeating–Gore, why do you think they would have voted for Gore if Nader hadn’t run?

4) And yet, here we are again, with the same strategy: beat Obama, and make way for the new Left dawn. Who exactly is this aimed at? Nobody in this thread has demanded that Obama must be defeated. Obama is facing no serious primary challenges. There are no serious left-wing third party challenges planned for next year.

202

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.25.11 at 10:55 pm

Well, “the worse the better” definitely started as a leftist strategy, even if everybody here (except bob mcmanus, of course) disagrees with it.

And now your turn: what Left agenda would’ve been served by electing a couple of DLC boys, Gore and Lieberman? For one thing, I reckon Iran would’ve been already a radioactive desert by now.

203

djw 10.25.11 at 11:25 pm

When evaluating the claim “Nader cost Gore the 2000 election”, why do so many people insist on pretending they have no understanding of the concept of ceteris parabus?

204

Bruce Wilder 10.25.11 at 11:38 pm

Why do so many people confuse counterfactual speculation, expressing a point of view, with an objective fact, as in the “The fact, though, is that these causes would have melted away to nothing had not Nader set out to defeat Gore, and accomplished that feat.”?

205

Ben Alpers 10.25.11 at 11:52 pm

When evaluating the claim “Nader cost Gore the 2000 election”, why do so many people insist on pretending they have no understanding of the concept of ceteris parabus?

Well, all else being equal, Nader not running doesn’t change things.

The only way Nader not running changes things is if you assume that all else wouldn’t have been equal, i.e. that a significant number of people who didn’t vote for Gore in 2000 would have done so had Nader not run.

This latter assumption is, needless to say, rather difficult to maintain if you believe, as CharleyCarp apparently does, that Nader’s voters wanted Gore to lose.

206

bob mcmanus 10.26.11 at 12:06 am

Naomi Klein (although her writings can’t have helped).

Good grief

Nobody in this thread has demanded that Obama must be defeated.

To whom should I send this demand?

I voted for Gore and don’t regret it.

But Romney is no George W Bush, and Obama is way far from being Al Gore. There is a vote I regret, and I won’t make the same mistake again.

207

bob mcmanus 10.26.11 at 12:09 am

uh, not that I would ever vote for a Republican. Never have yet, even for dogcatcher.

But I won’t feel ashamed of voting for Jill Stein.

208

bob mcmanus 10.26.11 at 12:11 am

How far down do we go, Charley?

How much must we debase ourselves to keep the Republicans out? Have you no limit?

209

Rich Puchalsky 10.26.11 at 12:14 am

One more Nader-v-Gore discussion? Really? I understand that you were baited, but still.

“And yet, here we are again, with the same strategy: beat Obama [...]“

That is annoying too, because of the above-mentioned complete lack of a Democratic primary challenger or major third party attempt. But it has a certain — well, not truth — a certain something to it. Why do people think that OWS has emerged now? It would never have emerged in this form if the people in it hadn’t give up on Obama and the political system as presently constituted. They aren’t going to try to beat Obama, but they certainly aren’t going to help him win.

210

djw 10.26.11 at 12:33 am

Well, all else being equal, Nader not running doesn’t change things.

The only way Nader not running changes things is if you assume that all else wouldn’t have been equal, i.e. that a significant number of people who didn’t vote for Gore in 2000 would have done so had Nader not run.

“Significant”? No. Only a trivial number of them needed to vote for Gore in Florida for Gore to win–technically about 3% but let’s say 10% of them to take it out of recount-shenanigans-cheating range. The sensible thing to do would be to turn to the voting behavior literature to think through what Nader voters in Florida would have done in the no-Nader counterfactual. Obviously, we can’t say anything with absolute certainty, but it flies in the face of what we know (and what the polls of Nader voters actually said) to suggest that so few of them would have voted for Gore that they wouldn’t have made a difference. Even if we assume 70% stay home or vote for another 3rd party candidate, 20% voted for Gore, and 10% voted for Bush, Gore wins easily.

When polls asked Nader voters (nationally) about their second choices, they preferred Gore to Bush by a 2-1 margin. 70% 3rd party/non-voting is as high as you can possibly go without completely ignoring the evidence, and a 70/20/10 split gives Gore his margin. That’s about the least favorable breakdown that makes any attempt to extrapolate from the theory and evidence available.

The models that actual scholars actually built? Magee says Gore gets 31-40% from Nader, Bush gets 14-17%. That’s quite similar to the VNS exit polls, which suggested 47% and 21% for Gore and Bush respectively, had Nader not been on the ballot.

It comes down to this: if you believe Nader didn’t cost Gore the election, ceteris paribus, then you must believe one of two things: Scholarship on voting behavior and exit polls are completely worthless, or Florida Nader voters were radically and completely different than Nader voters nationally. The next person who identifies a persuasive reason to believe either of those things are true will be the first.

211

djw 10.26.11 at 12:36 am

Gah, second para is also Ben Alpers and should be italics.

212

djw 10.26.11 at 12:45 am

Also note that even the party that nominated Nader isn’t willing to torture the data to deny the obvious:

http://www.greens.org/s-r/25/25-04.html

213

Harold 10.26.11 at 1:05 am

Well my in-laws in Colorado, lifelong dems from dem families, expressed their displeasure with how things were going by voting for Dole and then Bush. So not everyone who was dissatisfied voted for Nader.

214

Antonio Conselheiro 10.26.11 at 1:13 am

How far down do we go, Charley?

I don’t spend much time any more thinking about the 2012 election. I don’t see any good options. I mostly think about how to live in a declining, increasingly mean country without any good options, and hoping that no once close to me gets hurt too badly (though my 63 year old sister has already lost about 75 % of her net worth). And I ask which places in the world have better prospects, and who will keep the memory of what might have been alive.

Electing Obama means 4 years more of hippie-baiting, plus a hippie-baiting Democratic candidate in 2016. If the Democratic left is weak now, it will be weaker then — Obama and Daley work toward that goal. In 2016 we’ll either get 4-8 years more of the same or 4-8 years of worse. At that point I’m 87 and 10 to 1 I’m dead.

Patience is not an option, I’ve tried patience off and on for 43 years.

215

Ben Alpers 10.26.11 at 1:14 am

@djw:

My comments were much more aimed at the ridiculous notion that Nader voters wanted Gore to lose. The perfectly reasonable assumptions you make entail rejecting that ridiculous belief.

Yes, it is trivially the case that had Nader not run, Gore would probably have won. It is also true that had Gore had a significant campaign presence in NH he would have won. If the Supreme Court had slightly different membership he would have won. If Palm Beach had a different ballot design, he would have won. It was an extraordinarily close election; many things would have plausibly changed the outcome.

(Incidentally, had Pat Buchanan not run, Gore might have lost NM.)

216

djw 10.26.11 at 1:18 am

Right. Nader himself was pretty clear about wanting Gore to lose, but his voters were a mixed bag, and most of them probably didn’t, although they generally didn’t care much either.

Yes, it is trivially the case that had Nader not run, Gore would probably have won.

One needn’t view Clinton-land with Delong-tinted glasses to find this particular use of the word “trivial” puzzling.

217

Bruce Wilder 10.26.11 at 1:22 am

Clinton impeachment after seven years of the Whitewater “scandal”, all bought and paid for by one billionaire

Systematic Media hostility

Jeb Bush and voter suppression

Butterfly ballot

Supreme Court

Counting overvotes give Gore election

Etc., Etc.

The problem with ceteris paribus, applied to such a singular de minimis is that it leads you to lose the forest for a tree — no, not a tree, a dwarf mulberry bush.

This is not a case of losing the kingdom, for want of a horseshoe nail, though the kingdom has been lost.

Democracy, itself, has been under assault for a long time in the United States, with the entire political system becoming less and less responsive to the concerns and interests of the 99%, and in the 2000 Presidential election, it was pretty much lost completely, to an assault on many, many fronts — an assault, which has continued in unrelenting fashion.

I get why people don’t want to face the reality that Obama is evil, and they have little or no power to influence, let alone replace, him. They will say, “vote for the lesser evil”, but they think it’s a wry joke. I get why people puzzle over politics in Washington becoming such a farcical horror show, and real solutions to real problems are never available, and elite wrongdoers rarely go to jail. And, I get why neoliberals want me to vote for their version of corporate fascism, instead of the neocon-libertarian version of corporate fascism.

ceteris paribus I don’t get, even with four years of Latin.

218

Ben Alpers 10.26.11 at 1:23 am

@ Antonio Conselheiro

Electing Obama means 4 years more of hippie-baiting, plus a hippie-baiting Democratic candidate in 2016. If the Democratic left is weak now, it will be weaker then—Obama and Daley work toward that goal.

The notion that Obama losing will help move the Democratic Party leftward is ridiculous. Gore’s loss, widely blamed on Nader, did nothing to move the party to the left. Why should Obama’s loss do so?

I share your frustration with electoral politics. What’s so hopeful about OWS is precisely that it is a non-electoral movement. In the electoral realm, for the foreseeable future, we will have a choice between bad and worse. Electing worse won’t give us a choice between bad and good in the future. In all likelihood it would just make the choices even less good the next time around.

So (to answer Rich Puchalsky above) I am going to vote for Obama in 2012. And the existence of OWS, while it certainly gives me more political hope than I’d otherwise have, is not going to make me work either more or less hard for Obama next year. I am quite capable of walking (supporting a non-electoral leftwing political movement) and chewing gum (voting for the lesser evil) at the same time.

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Substance McGravitas 10.26.11 at 1:29 am

One needn’t view Clinton-land with Delong-tinted glasses to find this particular use of the word “trivial” puzzling.

Shouldn’t it also be trivially the case that if Al Gore was better at getting asses into the voting booth he might have won? It’s not like participation in presidential elections in Florida has decreased since the dragon slew mighty Al. So yes, if we take all those numbers as they are and remove Nader (and fuck him anyway) Gore wins, but that Gore didn’t draw the votes can only be Gore’s fault.

It comes down to this: if you believe Nader didn’t cost Gore the election, ceteris paribus, then you must believe one of two things

I think I can believe that Gore cost Gore the election with or without Latin involved and, with luck, not contradict the scholarship.

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Bruce Wilder 10.26.11 at 1:31 am

“The notion that Obama losing will help move the Democratic Party leftward is ridiculous.”

So is the notion that Obama winning will help to move the Democratic Party, or the country, leftward.

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djw 10.26.11 at 1:34 am

The problem with ceteris paribus, applied to such a singular de minimis is that it leads you to lose the forest for a tree—no, not a tree, a dwarf mulberry bush.

No, it doesn’t. When dealing in a large country that ends in a tie (more or less), it should be obvious that many different changes to the process would probably have effected the outcome, just as if you fail an exam by one question, you can dwell on every missed question as a chance you might have had to pass the exam.

The difference in a presidential race, however, is that many of the possible changes that would have changed the outcome lie in the hands of many different people. Some of the plausible differences that might have changed the outcome fall in Gore’s lap, but others (ballot design) fall in the hands of hapless functionaries. One of them–exactly one of them and only one of them–was in Ralph Nader’s hands. That’s what the ceteris paribus helps clarify.

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.26.11 at 1:38 am

Ben, you totally missed the point. What I said is that I don’t see any good options during my lifetime and that I don’t think about the upcoming election much. What I think about is how to cope with the reality I see coming. What I see coming is a declining economy, a shrinking public sector, various sorts of increasing public meanness, and several members of my family seeing hard times.

Politically, 5-13 years of hippie bashing while the Obama wing consolidates its control of the Democratic Party is the best-case scenario. The Obama-Emmanuel-Daley ferocity in that regard surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn’t have.

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Harold 10.26.11 at 1:38 am

Gore didn’t even bother to campaign in NY. They wrote us off.

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Ben Alpers 10.26.11 at 2:05 am

So is the notion that Obama winning will help to move the Democratic Party, or the country, leftward.

Totally agree. Whatever the outcome of the next presidential election, it will have next to no effect on the tiny chance that the Democratic Party will move leftward anytime in the foreseeable future.

So one should vote on the merits (or rather on the relative demerits). And on the margin, an Obama victory would cause less suffering than the victory of any of his possible Republican opponents.

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Ben Alpers 10.26.11 at 2:08 am

And I basically agree with you, Antonio, about the reality that is coming. That said, I do think there’s a difference between the two major parties and their candidates, which is why I think it’s worth voting for the one that is marginally less bad, even though I have no illusions that either our situation or the Democratic Party will get any better as a result of their winning.

But I’m also significantly younger than you and can (foolishly or not) continue to hope that sometime in the relatively far future things might actually get better

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Harold 10.26.11 at 2:35 am

And furthermore, Nader would not have invaded Iraq — whereas some neo-lib democrats — including Matthew Yglesias and Hilary Clinton – to name a few – not to mention the New Republic – jumped on the war in Iraq bandwagon.

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CharleyCarp 10.26.11 at 2:53 am

Nader voters wanted Gore to win so badly, they voted for . . . Nader. Seriously, they didn’t think Gore was good enough, or that he had earned their votes. Maybe they’re right. Actually, of course they’re right. It doesn’t matter, it’s a two man race, and if you don’t vote for one, you’re as good as voting for the other.

Of course Gore didn’t campaign much in NY. Jesus, a candidate’s time and money is limited. They have to focus on states in play.

Bob, neither your vote nor mine will make any difference in the 2012 race, because the Republican candidate is going to win both our states. We have a luxury of voting however we want without responsibility for the outcome.

OK, I’m boring myself.

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Lee A. Arnold 10.26.11 at 3:00 am

Actually you don’t know that Nader wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Maybe they are all the same. Politics is fun as a horse race, but don’t lose sight of the basic strategy: No matter who gets elected, fight to continue the welfare state by whatever tactic is momentarily at hand.* Everything else follows from that.

*Just as the plutocracy fights.

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Bruce Baugh 10.26.11 at 3:45 am

In addition to the “Nader cost Gore the election” and “Gore cost Gore the election”, I’d like to see more people giving attention to the option that in the absence of Nader’s campaign, the Republicans of 2000 would have found more ways to steal enough votes to get them either a plausible victory outside the Supreme Court or Bush v. Gore pretty much as was. We know, after all, that the Republicans are really serious about both suppressing Democratic and independent votes and stealing votes for themselves any way they can – there are all too many examples in the decade since.

Say that in the spring or summer of 2000, Nader calls off his campaign, for any reason you care to pick, and no comparably engaging substitute emerges. The race is Bush versus Gore with only the usual third parties. Is it really that hard to figure that someone in Republican campaign planning would say “Well, would have been nice to have the spoiler, but…what else can we ratchet up to throw things our way?”? Doesn’t seem so to me, and has the merit of being consistent with observed Republican behavior in all the elections since.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.26.11 at 3:55 am

“And on the margin, an Obama victory would cause less suffering than the victory of any of his possible Republican opponents.”

I’m not actually sure that this is true. An Obama loss might make future Democratic politicians pay more attention to the left. And I don’t know whether Romney has asserted that the President has the right to assassinate people. Romney also got me the only state-supported health care that I can actually use, and I assume that while he’s willing to say anything to placate the right during the primary, that is no guide to what he’ll do. And Obama has done zip except for what people have forced him to do. So what would we lose, actually?

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Rich Puchalsky 10.26.11 at 3:58 am

Oh, and a Romney victory might conceivably defang the radical right to some extent. That would be useful too.

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Lee A. Arnold 10.26.11 at 4:16 am

If Romney is president, then we will have another Obama: another welfare state liberal hoping to appease the plutocracy. Note that Rick Perry has just made new purchases in the campaign strategist department, and if they can figure out a way for Perry to avoid speaking whole sentences in public, then Romney may still have a nomination fight on his hands.

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djw 10.26.11 at 4:19 am

On the “Gore cost Gore the election” argument: some versions of this aren’t very plausible (criticizing him for losing his home state is my favorite idiotic one ), but some are probably correct. But in any presidential election in which a candidate loses by a few hundred votes in one state, “Candidate cost candidate the election” will necessarily be true in a number of ways. Candidates make mistakes. Some of were legitimate tough calls, others, arguably, may be lain at the feet of an over-reliance on a pathologically worthless class of permanent ‘consultants’. We don’t have politicians–on either side of the aisle–who are capable of perfect campaigns. If Gore had won NH but not Florida, it would probably be accurate to say Buchanan spoiled the election for Bush by costing him NM. We could then construct a number of narratives, with various plausibility, about missteps in the Bush campaign that cost him the election, and many of them might well be accurate. In *any* election that close “losing candidate cost losing candidate the election is necessarily true and utterly banal. Raising this point, banal truth that it is, takes absolutely nothing away from fundamental soundness of the claim that Nader’s presence in the race tilted the outcome.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.26.11 at 4:31 am

“If Romney is president, then we will have another Obama”

But a less harmful one, possibly, because the right wing of his party would hate him, and the people who like Obama because he’s a Democrat would switch back to opposing human rights violations again.

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geo 10.26.11 at 4:42 am

djw: Under your carefully hedged qualifications, you’ve established the “fundamental soundness of the claim that Nader’s presence in the race tilted the outcome.” What follows from this? That third-party candidates should never run? Should run only after an elaborate (and probably impossible ) calculation that the chances of their helping elect the worse major-party candidate outweigh the chances of their actually getting across some good ideas to the electorate that neither party has ever or will ever embrace? That attempts to break the stifling, anti-democratic dominance of the two major parties are hopeless? That attempts to bring a modicum of rationality and fairness to the American electoral system are hopeless? When will you and Brad De Long and everyone else who seems intent on blaming Nader supporters for the last twelve years begin to address the important, permanent questions, rather than rattling on about whether or not Nader behaved spitefully in 2000?

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djw 10.26.11 at 5:12 am

geo: to be clear, my central purpose is to attempt to kill a zombie lie about the 2000 election. It’s a hobbyhorse of mine. I didn’t set out to advance a position on the bigger picture elements of this discussion–my intervention stemmed from my obsessive, quixotic need to the record straight on a factual question.

I don’t pretend to offer some sort of unified theory of 3rd party presidential runs in the United States. The parties are only going to get unpopular, I suspect, as lost decade #2 (this time with fewer jobs!) progresses, so there may emerge a situation in which a third candidate might be viable. That’s a horse of a different color, obviously. Pessimist that I am, I find a horrifying viable 3rd party candidate more plausible than an appealing one.

But as long as the two major parties seem to be a lock to keep their collective share of the vote at least in the 75-80% and up range, I think it remains extremely likely that a third party run that attracts non-trivial support is much more likely to do more harm than good on the issues it cares most about, and that the political energy that went into the run wouldn’t have been more productively devoted to some other aspect of politics.

So what a potential 3rd party candidate “should” do depends in large part on their goals. If their goal is to seek attention for themselves rather than build a movement, or ‘punish’ a particular politician or party for some past failure by causing them to lose, a 3rd party run makes a lot of sense. In that light, Perot and Nader’s runs made good sense in light of at least some of their stated goals. On the other hand, if your goal is to actually advance the causes and political positions you’d be running on, a third party run seems like it’s very likely to be a mistake.

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Michael Harris 10.26.11 at 9:48 am

We are the world, we are the children?

Apart from a few Gini coefficients and some talk of tariffs and “we need to make what we buy and buy what we make” (who’s “we” in this scenario? people in my household? city? state? country? what arbitrary line am I drawing?), it’s as though the only country with any significence is the US, and the only lessons we can learn about left/leftist/leftish politics boils down to observing a sequence of US presidential elections and its impacts.

Bully for pretty much all of you, I guess. Carry on, have at it.

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Barry 10.26.11 at 12:59 pm

10.26.11 at 4:31 am

“If Romney is president, then we will have another Obama”

Rich Puchalsky: ” But a less harmful one, possibly, because the right wing of his party would hate him, and the people who like Obama because he’s a Democrat would switch back to opposing human rights violations again.”

Oh, bull. We heard that back in 2000, when Dubya was a ‘compassionate conservative’, surrounded by ‘wise men’.

If a GOP president takes office in 2013, he will almost certainly keep a GOP House, and a GOP Senate. The Blue Dogs, of course, will STFU like the bought-and-paid-for curs that they are, and will fillibuster precisely nothing. The GOP will ram through as much as they can, and Romney will quite happily sign everything.

Rich, we saw (2000-08) and are seeing again that the GOP, when taking power, doesn’t moderate, but doubles down on the insanity.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 1:08 pm

geo: to be clear, my central purpose is to attempt to kill a zombie lie about the 2000 election. It’s a hobbyhorse of mine. I didn’t set out to advance a position on the bigger picture elements of this discussion—my intervention stemmed from my obsessive, quixotic need to the record straight on a factual question

Sigh. You really don’t do yourself any favors by assuming your conclusion. Needless to say, I find those sorts of rhetorical tactics deeply offensive. Particularly since Gore actually did receive more legal votes than Bush in Florida.

So your hobby horse is now “Gore won in Florida, but Nader still cost him the election because he didn’t win by enough votes to prevent the matter from going all the way to the Supreme court.”

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Rich Puchalsky 10.26.11 at 1:16 pm

Barry, “compassionate conservatism” was propaganda designed to make Bush sound better to the center. But he was liked by the right wing. I don’t think it’s propaganda that Romney is disliked by the right.

Also, I don’t really care about Blue Dogs. The people who I referred to with “people who like Obama because he’s a Democrat would switch back to opposing human rights violations again” are ordinary left-liberals. Look at what happened here, right on this blog, when a nice lawyer told us all that the intervention in Libya was a humanitarian intervention, and was for the purpose of protecting people rather than for the purpose of changing the government.

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Jim Demintia 10.26.11 at 2:08 pm

I’m not actually sure that this is true. An Obama loss might make future Democratic politicians pay more attention to the left.

I really wish I could believe that were true. But that was also the lesson I hoped they’d draw from the midterm elections, when it was clear that Democratic losses had at least something to do with depressed enthusiasm and turnout of their base, only to see Obama and co. tack further to the right in search of the mythical swing-voters who reward “sensible centrism” with magical victories. That told me that it doesn’t matter how angry their base becomes with them, and how many victories that costs them. High-level Democratic politicians like Obama will always frame those losses in terms of the swing-voter/triangulation fairy tale, because it provides the most convenient rationalization for doing what they want to do anyway: please the money-men. I don’t know what kind of event could dislodge this particular form of DLC magical thinking, but I can’t imagine it will happen at the ballot-box anytime soon.

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Earwig 10.26.11 at 2:11 pm

It really is amazing to me, the bafflegab over this.

The mainstream press — the national news media — cost Gore the 2000 election.

If a guy loses by one vote _after_ becoming a punching bag for the press over a period of months, to the point where most voters believe any number of damning falsehoods about the candidate, is it really fair to say that one vote is what beat him?

Is it really sensible to spend much energy discussing the impact of the candidate who drew that one vote (Nader) , or the organizations that stole two votes (GOP, SCOTUS) — worrying ourselves over the margins — and less energy on the real elephant in the room, the fact that a huge number of people voted under misconceptions promulgated continuously in our most-read newspapers and most-watched TV news?

“Should 3rd party candidates run?” is not a serious question until you address the impact of the national press corp on the election.

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Earwig 10.26.11 at 2:19 pm

It’s like watching a well-known gang steal your car and push it to the edge of a cliff, leaving it teetering there. As it sways there, a butterfly lands on the hood and your ride topples into the canyon.

You guys then all run to get butterfly nets.

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Walt 10.26.11 at 2:20 pm

I don’t think that an Obama loss would move the party left because both the party leaders and the centrist part of the base are preprogrammed to blame the left. The fact that we’re still arguing about Nader 11 years later demonstrates it. I don’t know why this is.

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.26.11 at 2:24 pm

With ~9% unemployment Obama is very likely to lose anyway. If someone who’s opposed to much of what Obama does votes for him as a lesser evil and then he loses anyway, that’s REALLY a vote thrown away. You end up seeming to support someone you oppose, and then he loses anyway and you have NOTHING to show for your vote, and your worst enemires within the Democratic Party retain firm control.

One of the creepy things about all this is that a lot of what we’re hearing is pre-emptive blame-shifting and excuse-making by people who know that their candidate is weak and extremely vulnerable.

I also have to wonder about the political tactic of insulting voters in order to persuade them to support your candidate. Obama seems to have turned into a pure technocrat who resents having to campaign. (He wasn’t like that before 2009). I thought that one of the rules of politics is that SOMEONE has to like you, but Obama has spent 2 1/2 years sucking up to people who still hate him with the heat of 1000 suns.

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djw 10.26.11 at 2:27 pm

You really don’t do yourself any favors by assuming your conclusion. Needless to say, I find those sorts of rhetorical tactics deeply offensive.

I didn’t assume the conclusion. I looked at evidence from various polls of Nader supporters, exit polls, and the existing state of knowledge in scholarship on voting behavior, both of which robustly point to the conclusion that without Nader in the Race, Gore would have won Florida, on the initial count, by at least 10,000 votes. I walked you through it above. I’ll bury you with cites from empirical studies published in peer reviewed journals if you’d like. If you think looking at existing evidence systematically and dispassionately is “deeply offensive” I simply don’t know what to say.

So your hobby horse is now “Gore won in Florida, but Nader still cost him the election because he didn’t win by enough votes to prevent the matter from going all the way to the Supreme court.”

Yes. This isn’t remotely controversial. The closer an election is, the more likely it is that the candidate who received fewer votes will end up winning. Our system isn’t perfect, and people cheat, but usually only in ways that could sway a very close election. Do you deny that?

The mainstream press—the national news media—cost Gore the 2000 election.

National elections with extremely close outcomes have multiple ceteris paribus outcomes. Nothing in the argument I’ve presented denies the position you take on the media; they are by no means mutually exclusive. One of them is not more “real” than another–that makes no sense. Both factors–the bizarrely awful treatment of Gore by the media and Nader’s presence in the race are both entirely sufficient to cause Gore to lose. Reasonable people can certainly disagree about which of these causes demands greater outrage, more strenuous criticism, or whatever–I take no position on that.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.26.11 at 3:01 pm

“I don’t think that an Obama loss would move the party left because both the party leaders and the centrist part of the base are preprogrammed to blame the left.”

Yes, that’s unfortunately true. I went through a sort of flow chart back when Obama made his comment about the sanctimonious purists he had to put up with:

1. No primary, Obama loses. Everyone blames the left.
2. No primary, Obama wins. Everyone ignores the left because you don’t need them.
3. Primary, Obama wins. He hates us more than he already did. But really no primary.
4. Primary, Obama loses. Not going to happen.

So we’re in a no-win situation no matter what. That’s the short-term implicit reason for OWS (the long-term reason being the whole 99% thing.) If Obama was a leader, we wouldn’t need a leaderless movement.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 4:29 pm

I don’t think that an Obama loss would move the party left because both the party leaders and the centrist part of the base are preprogrammed to blame the left. The fact that we’re still arguing about Nader 11 years later demonstrates it. I don’t know why this is.

That’s easy – because we haven’t got rid of more of those party leaders. Look on the Republican side and see how many “moderates” are left.

Weird, but appropriate: this is like an exercise in classroom management. The dynamic we’ve got with the Democratic party is the dynamic of a teacher who wants to treat her students in a “mature, respectful fashion”, and as a consequence of their reluctance to take disciplinary action, has a completely out of control class before Thanksgiving rolls around.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 4:38 pm

With ~9% unemployment Obama is very likely to lose anyway. If someone who’s opposed to much of what Obama does votes for him as a lesser evil and then he loses anyway, that’s REALLY a vote thrown away. You end up seeming to support someone you oppose, and then he loses anyway and you have NOTHING to show for your vote, and your worst enemires within the Democratic Party retain firm control.

You’ve got to remember that most voters are “quid pro quo” voters – they’re going to vote on the basis of what a candidate promises to deliver (though admittedly expecting politicians to deliver on those promises, no matter how explicit they may be, is coming to be seen as rather quaint). And since there’s way more of them than there are of you, your strategic vote strategy won’t count for much.

One of the creepy things about all this is that a lot of what we’re hearing is pre-emptive blame-shifting and excuse-making by people who know that their candidate is weak and extremely vulnerable.

The flip side of the quid pro quo voting numbers is that a candidate who is perceived to be a welsher – someone who made some rather big promises that he can’t weasel out of but who nevertheless fails to fulfill them – won’t get a lot of sympathy next time their number comes up at the polls. Bust the deal, face the wheel.

And Obama has been one of the biggest welshers we’ve seen in, well, decades.

So yeah, all that’s exactly what all this talk is – creepy pre-emptive blame shifting by Obama partisans.

Did I mention that it was creepy?

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Harold 10.26.11 at 4:46 pm

The DNC will never live down its vile behavior to Nader during the 2000 campaign, and Professor Brad de Long’s disgusting vulgarity will never change that. Clinton’s sexual behavior, NAFTA, privatization of government, welfare “reform,” and deregulation were bad enough. Not to mention Hillary’s riding roughshod over the wishes of 99.9 percent of her constituents as a senator. They have a lot to answer for. It’s no wonder they are defensive. They mistook their enemy (as always).

I don’t blame Nader one bit for going off the rails at the end and campaigning to win in Florida. Nevertheless, Gore won anyway, but the supreme court, whose corrupt members he had voted to confirm as a senator, handed the presidency to the Bush.

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Earwig 10.26.11 at 4:56 pm

“Both factors—the bizarrely awful treatment of Gore by the media and Nader’s presence in the race are both entirely sufficient to cause Gore to lose.”

No. Nader alone is insufficient. He can’t get the car to the cliff. But your butterfly hunt is amusing if one actually doesn’t care about outcomes.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 4:58 pm

You really don’t do yourself any favors by assuming your conclusion. Needless to say, I find those sorts of rhetorical tactics deeply offensive.

I didn’t assume the conclusion.

Really? Because let me quote you again:

geo: to be clear, my central purpose is to attempt to kill a zombie lie about the 2000 election.

Now, at this point, you’ve got two options: you can immediately kowtow, tell me most humbly that you were wrong and that yes, you did assume your conclusion. And you need to do this with no waffling whatsoever, just a straight-up “you’re dead right, and I was wrong to say this.” No, don’t try tell me that what you wrote and what I quoted again isn’t assuming your conclusion. Any sort of equivocation will cause me to instantly dismiss you as a nutbar not worth wasting any more time on.

Or you can saddle up and ride “There’s no way I’m going to admit I’m wrong” right over the cliff for all I care. Which is the option I suspect you’ll take despite your wanting to “convince” other people (why people think the line “If you don’t agree with me you’re either a lying partisan POS or stupid” is a viable strategy for convincing a skeptic is beyond me).

Notice, btw, that I could care bupkis about trying to convince you of anything – nor will I try.

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djw 10.26.11 at 5:12 pm

ScentofViolets,

I typed this:
to be clear, my central purpose is to attempt to kill a zombie lie about the 2000 election.

Only after after I wrote a long post discussing voting behavior, exit polls, models and so on in comment #210. Perhaps you missed it. Perhaps you spotted a fatal flaw in my reasoning but it forgot to point it out. At any rate, if your point is that the quoted statement assumes the conclusion as a matter of formal logic, you are correct and i concede the point. But I assume the conclusion because I’ve already given the empirical demonstration that the conclusion is correct. I expect I’ll have to do that many more times in the future, but I thought it would be rather tiresome to repeat in in each and every comment.

Nader alone is insufficient. He can’t get the car to the cliff. But your butterfly hunt is amusing if one actually doesn’t care about outcomes.

Once again, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the concept of ceteris paribus.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 5:32 pm

Not good enough. Not nearly good enough. And when you were explicitly told what the requirements were too! I guess that immediately and unreservedly admitting you were wrong with no face-saving caveats like “technically” was just too high a price to pay, despite your avowed desire to “convince” people . . .

Right up there with Obama partisans trying to convince those whose support of the man i s – shall we say – tepid at best by telling them they’re stupid to think there’s “no difference” between Obama and the alternative, or they’re “throwing their vote away” if they vote for anyone but their guy, etc.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but guys, if you want to convince someone of the point you’re advancing, you’ve got to above all, be persuasive. Even used car salesmen know this!

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Sebastian 10.26.11 at 6:05 pm

ScentOfViolets, he didn’t assume the conclusion. He made his conclusion after presenting his evidence. Which was pretty comprehensive and explanatory about his position. “Evidence that did not personally convince ScentOfViolets” does not equal “assuming the conclusion”.

“Now, at this point, you’ve got two options: you can immediately kowtow, tell me most humbly that you were wrong and that yes, you did assume your conclusion. And you need to do this with no waffling whatsoever, just a straight-up “you’re dead right, and I was wrong to say this.” “

The weird thing is that here YOU are the one who is totally wrong. You’re being abusive, obnoxious, and wrong all at the same time. No one has any responsibility to kowtow to your basic misunderstandings of logic.

“I shouldn’t have to say it, but guys, if you want to convince someone of the point you’re advancing, you’ve got to above all, be persuasive. “

Quite. I wonder if you ever listen to yourself?

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.26.11 at 6:22 pm

And since there’s way more of them than there are of you, your strategic vote strategy won’t count for much.

It will probably have no political effect, but at least you don’t end up campaigning for and supporting someone you despise, and at no cost if he was going to lose anyway.

The number of people dissatisfied with Obama is huge, even within the non-right-wing, but the number who strategize like I do is few.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 6:42 pm

“I shouldn’t have to say it, but guys, if you want to convince someone of the point you’re advancing, you’ve got to above all, be persuasive. ”

Quite. I wonder if you ever listen to yourself?

WHOOOOSH!!!

And on a separate point, Seb my boy, why don’t you tell me just I’m trying to sell so other people here, what I’m trying to get them to accept as factually true that requires me to be persuasive as opposed to my usual skeptical self?

What’s that you say? Nothing? Give the man a cee-gar.

I’ve been very blessed to have people like Sebastian for enemies ;-)

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 6:53 pm

And since there’s way more of them than there are of you, your strategic vote strategy won’t count for much.

It will probably have no political effect, but at least you don’t end up campaigning for and supporting someone you despise, and at no cost if he was going to lose anyway.

The number of people dissatisfied with Obama is huge, even within the non-right-wing, but the number who strategize like I do is few.

The nice thing here is that vote tallies take no account of motivation; as I’ve noted repeatedly, there are lots of people who voted for Obama the first time around on the strength of what he promised and who won’t be making the same mistake again. Simply because they’re quid pro quo voters and nothing strategic about it.

Obama apologists loathe the quid pro quo voter because a) they’re the ones who’s vote count by virtue of their numbers, and b) apologetics to the effect that not voting for Obama is cutting off your nose to spite your face, that you need to vote the lesser of two evils, etc., are decidedly ineffective with that crowd.

No, after all is said and done, it turns out that Obama apologists love people like you, what with your intellectual strategerizing – you make it sooooo easy for them to blame somebody who isn’t Obama for his mistakes.

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Earwig 10.26.11 at 6:57 pm

Ok, then, I can accept: All other things equal, Nader’s running is sufficient to cause Gore to lose. That of course means one of those equal things is the universal media trashing of Gore.

So we’re arguing past each other. You want an irrelevant focus on third party candidates, who can materially affect the outcome if and only if the media destroy the Dem candidate — a huge factor, quite likely to change outcomes even in the absence of a Nader.

Groovy. You’ve decided to waste everyone’s time.

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MPAVictoria 10.26.11 at 7:09 pm

“Groovy. You’ve decided to waste everyone’s time.”

Hey now we are arguing on the internet for God’s sake! Wasting peoples’ time is mandatory.

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MPAVictoria 10.26.11 at 7:13 pm

“Seb my boy, why don’t you tell me just I’m trying to sell so other people here, what I’m trying to get them to accept as factually true that requires me to be persuasive as opposed to my usual skeptical self?”

Not to get involved in another pointless argument SoV but I think what you are trying to persuade people of, or perhaps just djw, is that he assumed his conclusion. The fact that he laid out his reasons for supporting his conclusion doesn’t seem to matter I guess.

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.26.11 at 7:17 pm

No, after all is said and done, it turns out that Obama apologists love people like you, what with your intellectual strategerizing – you make it sooooo easy for them to blame somebody who isn’t Obama for his mistakes.

Lost me there. what I’m proposing is not voting for Obama, maybe for a third party candidate, under certain conditions which I think will be met. Is that what they love about me? Or is it that I am willing to vote for a lesser evil under certain conditions? Probably the latter, I suppose.

Most people to the left of Baucus feel pretty defeated at this point, which if course makes them/us easy prey for the lesser-evil argument. I’m not sure we’d be less defeated if we voted quid pro quo.

Staying home was the choice of 44% of the voters in 2008 and even more in 2010 of course. that doesn’t work either, of course.

My fundamental position is still #214, defeatism.

263

James 10.26.11 at 7:49 pm

From the outside, it looks like the shift to the right of the Democratic Party has more to do with the conservative leaning of the largest growing segment of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is picking up large segments of the Latino vote which also tends be also be conservative Catholic on social issues such as abortion, marriage, etc. The African-American vote also tends to be conservative on these issues.

264

James 10.26.11 at 7:51 pm

Ben Aplers 215: “If the Supreme Court had slightly different membership he”(Gore)” would have won”.
This is simply not true. Gore went to the Supreme Court and asked for a very specific set of rules and locations for the recount. Under the recount process specified by the Gore legal team, Gore still loses. Gore absolutely needed the over votes recounted to win Florida and His legal team and campaign specificly excluded them from the recount request.

“But he could not have won, it turns out, if the U.S. Supreme Court had said OK to the hand recount of 43,000 so-called undervotes, the ones with the hanging or dimpled chads.
By the researchers’ calculations, Gore would have lost that recount, too – by between 400 and 500 votes.”
http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1115-01.htm

“The media recount study found that under the system of limited recounts in selected counties as was requested by the Gore campaign, the only way that Gore would have won was by using counting methods that were never requested by any party, including “overvotes” — ballots containing more than one vote for an office”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_election_recount

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Substance McGravitas 10.26.11 at 7:52 pm

The Democratic Party is picking up large segments of the Latino vote which also tends be also be conservative Catholic on social issues such as abortion, marriage, etc. The African-American vote also tends to be conservative on these issues.

That doesn’t speak to the zombie economics that have turned out to be the larger problem.

266

Steve LaBonne 10.26.11 at 7:52 pm

James, how does that explain the party’s attachment to right-wing economics, which is certainly not popular among those voters?

267

Substance McGravitas 10.26.11 at 7:53 pm

That THAT, LaBonne!

268

Steve LaBonne 10.26.11 at 7:55 pm

Great minds think alike!

269

Sebastian 10.26.11 at 8:07 pm

“And on a separate point, Seb my boy, why don’t you tell me just I’m trying to sell so other people here, what I’m trying to get them to accept as factually true that requires me to be persuasive as opposed to my usual skeptical self?”

I don’t think I’m your boy, do you use racially charged asshole language which was routinely employed to demean black people on purpose?

You are attempting to sell the accusation that djw assumed the conclusion of his argument, when in actual fact he laid out the reasoning behind his argument. He therefore did not assume the conclusion of his argument.

You are wrong in that, and while being wrong you you employ a vicious game of demanding apologies and cranking up the rhetorical heat even when you are the one who is wrong.

You are further attempting to sell the idea that you are a logical person when in actuality you regularly employ hyper-emotional use of the language of logic classes as a bludgeon when you won’t’ engage rationally in the conversation at hand.

It is unlikely that anyone other than yourself is convinced by either sale.

270

William Timberman 10.26.11 at 8:47 pm

Since all of this depends on whose Gore was oxed — so to speak — and since for the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would have wanted either Nader OR Gore in the Presidency, I should stay out of this.

Since that’s obviously a forlorn hope, maybe I should stick to saying what I always say when this gets up a full head of steam: The cure for what ails us is never going to be discovered by Electoral College haruspicators, or the passionate advocates of either Tweedledee or Tweedledum. We need to delve more deeply, all of us.

271

MPAVictoria 10.26.11 at 8:51 pm

“I can’t figure out why anyone would have wanted either Nader OR Gore in the Presidency, I should stay out of this.”

I don’t know… I like to think that Gore would have made a decent technocratic president. Certainly better than the stumblebum that ended up with the job.

272

William Timberman 10.26.11 at 9:01 pm

But…but…we’ve got a decent technocratic president now, haven’t we? I was under the impression that most of us still aren’t happy — and for damned good reasons, I should add.

273

MPAVictoria 10.26.11 at 9:05 pm

“But…but…we’ve got a decent technocratic president now, haven’t we? I was under the impression that most of us still aren’t happy—and for damned good reasons, I should add.”

Oh agreed, but I am not sure that Obama isn’t to the right of Gore and given the mess Bush made can you blame me for wondering what could have been?

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William Timberman 10.26.11 at 9:10 pm

In a word, no.

275

Cthuhlu 2012 10.26.11 at 9:24 pm

The choice between trade and protectionism is a false dilemma.

What we should have done–and should still do–is tie access to our developed, civilized market to human rights standards and environmental standards.

This is quite different from closing off access to our market to protect it from competition–it is, rather, using our market as a carrot to expand global trade based on *natural* advantages, as opposed to trade based on exploitation-derived advantage.

Sadly, the Republicans would rather increase our competitiveness by increasing the pollution in our air and water.

This, of course, is in line with their refusal to extend unemployment benefits on the profound theoretical grounds that apparently-cyclical economic downturns, apparently aggravated by charlatan financiers, are actually the fault of lazy workers.

All this connects to the fact that the debt is what it is. If we hadn’t been moving our economy to the third world in the cyclical upswing, we’d have a much smaller debt, and running the deficits we need to run to deflect another Great Depression wouldn’t be so horrifying.

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elm 10.26.11 at 9:38 pm

Cthulu 2012:

Sadly, the Republicans would rather increase our competitiveness by increasing the pollution in our air and water.

Pollution is such an ugly word. Let us call it what it is: filth, poison, and disease.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 10:05 pm

No, after all is said and done, it turns out that Obama apologists love people like you, what with your intellectual strategerizing – you make it sooooo easy for them to blame somebody who isn’t Obama for his mistakes.

Lost me there. what I’m proposing is not voting for Obama, maybe for a third party candidate, under certain conditions which I think will be met. Is that what they love about me? Or is it that I am willing to vote for a lesser evil under certain conditions? Probably the latter, I suppose.

All I mean to say is that if Obama should lose in 2012, these apologists won’t have to face the fact that they backed a really lousy candidate; instead, they’ll insist that you and the 3/4% of the population who voted “stratergerically” were the ones who were really responsible for the ll-dimensional chess player going down in flames.

278

James 10.26.11 at 10:11 pm

Steve LaBonne @267 “James, how does that explain the party’s attachment to right-wing economics, which is certainly not popular among those voters?”

Elections are regional. The right leaning Democrat candidate is often the only candidate the Democratic Party can get elected for a region that is socially conservative or contains large numbers of voters who work in any field that has unpaid environmental costs (mining, power production, lumber, farming, auto, manufacture, oil & gas, etc.). So you end up with a choice between a Republican who supports right-wing economics and a Democrat who also supports right-wing economics.

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ScentOfViolets 10.26.11 at 10:14 pm

“And on a separate point, Seb my boy, why don’t you tell me just I’m trying to sell so other people here, what I’m trying to get them to accept as factually true that requires me to be persuasive as opposed to my usual skeptical self?”

I don’t think I’m your boy, do you use racially charged asshole language which was routinely employed to demean black people on purpose?

Yawn. So, saying “Seb my boy”, or “Mike, me lad” or some other similar appellation is now “racially charged”? First I’ve ever heard of that.

You owe me an apology ;-)

Next time, read what I write, and read the responses carefully before you go on about ratcheting up the rhetoric. Going off half-cocked like you have been just makes you look ridiculous.

Uh-oh. Now the boy is going to accusing of making sly innuendos about the small size of his penis. Of course Seby, that’s exactly what I was doing, sigh.

280

Antonio Conselheiro 10.26.11 at 10:57 pm

If I voted FOR Obama that would be strategic. If I voted AGAINST Obama it would be because I didn’t like him AND because he’d already lost.

If the Republicans nominate a minimally plausible candidate I don’t see how Obama could win.

Quid pro quo voting works best on issues which are either nonpartisan or weakly partisan and which both parties can conceivably support. Since Reagan the environment, gay rights, and women’s rights have done relatively well because they’ve been able to wedge off some Republican votes, though that’s changing. On issues where your own party is meeting the other party half way (stands between you and something even worse) the threat not very effective.

The single-issue quid pro quo voters were also only effective because they managed to keep their Democratic supporters while betraying all the other Democrats — NARAL was supporting Republicans over Democrats only 3 or 4 years ago.

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MPAVictoria 10.26.11 at 11:05 pm

“Uh-oh. Now the boy is going to accusing of making sly innuendos about the small size of his penis. Of course Seby, that’s exactly what I was doing, sigh.”

SoV the term “boy” when used to refer to an adult male is degrading. It was used extensively over the last 100 years in the South by white people to degrade a black man. A simple google search may help you realize why it is inappropriate to call an adult male, particularly one who may be black, boy.

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Harold 10.26.11 at 11:26 pm

How do you know he is male? Or even grown up?

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MPAVictoria 10.26.11 at 11:35 pm

“How do you know he is male? Or even grown up?”

I don’t but Sebastian seemed to take offence at the term and a reasonable person would ratchet back as opposed to doubling down.

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ScentOfViolets 10.27.11 at 12:03 am

SoV the term “boy” when used to refer to an adult male is degrading. It was used extensively over the last 100 years in the South by white people to degrade a black man.

Uh huh. And if I say “Megan my girl” or “Jill my lass” the same thing applies, right? Your red reflexive partisanship is showing. In fact “my boy” or “my girl” is rather common parlance; I’ve had men twice my age call me that routinely back in my twenties.

so extensively used in fact, that the term has been used in an old Star Trek episode, the gangster episode.

Son, being against something just because I’m for it, or for something just because I’m against it isn’t a particularly good strategy. Particularly when you’re backing a weak reed like Sebastian.

Just drop your servile, sniveling apology through the slot in the door please ;-)

285

Sebastian 10.27.11 at 12:12 am

I believe my point about SoV employing faux logic and retreating to demands for apologies as a retreat from the particulars in a discussion is now adequately demonstrated.

I have to admit it is quite an effective well-poisoning tactic for him. We aren’t even talking about how wrong he was when he was shrilly demanding an apology over his incorrect assertion (that means “statement logically contrary to evidence”, SoV) that djw was assuming the conclusion.

And please. First time you’ve ever heard of “boy” being used in that manner? I’m pretty sure no one is going to fall for that. You could have claimed that you didn’t *mean* it in a racial dog-whistley way. But to pretend you’ve never even heard of it? Whatever.

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ScentOfViolets 10.27.11 at 12:34 am

And please. First time you’ve ever heard of “boy” being used in that manner? I’m pretty sure no one is going to fall for that. You could have claimed that you didn’t mean it in a racial dog-whistley way. But to pretend you’ve never even heard of it? Whatever.

Back at ya, boyo: Please, do you really expect anyone to believe you’ve never heard of the sobriquet “my boy” or “my lad” or “my lass” or “my girl” as anything but a racist form of address? Or even a predominantly racist one?[1]

That’s some stack of apologies you be owing me now ;-)

[1]Since you’re making such a big fuss here, are you even black? I think you owe everyone a forthright and explicit response now.

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MPAVictoria 10.27.11 at 1:07 am

SoV I agree with you whenI think you are right and I disagree with you when I think you are wrong. You seem to have developed a persecution complex to go with your already lovely personality.

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ScentOfViolets 10.27.11 at 1:25 am

SoV I agree with you whenI think you are right and I disagree with you when I think you are wrong. You seem to have developed a persecution complex to go with your already lovely personality.

Sad thing is, I believe you ;-) Hence my advice concerning Sebastian.

Care to speculate on whether or not he’s black, btw?

289

MPAVictoria 10.27.11 at 1:39 am

“Care to speculate on whether or not he’s black, btw?”

Nope. You keep right on digging though.

290

geo 10.27.11 at 2:21 am

William @271: since for the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would have wanted either Nader OR Gore in the Presidency

William, I’m shocked … shocked! Surely you agree that Nader is God’s gift to American civic life? Wouldn’t you like to see this platform elected (and after all, we should elect policies, not candidates): http://www.votenader.org/issues/?

291

William Timberman 10.27.11 at 2:53 am

Geo, please…. The opacity of the Internet being what it is, how do you expect me, trained in Italy, and unable to see your hands, to respond to this juicy morsel being trolled ahead of me. But okay, if I must: If Nader is the messenger, I feel justified in shooting him, for reasons which are far too subtle to trot past the rational guardians of CT. (And since the Internet is indeed opaque, let everyone rest assured that I mean this expression of anti-Naderian hostility solely in the metaphorical sense.)

292

geo 10.27.11 at 3:08 am

Well, I’ll be damned and blasted. I really didn’t think there was anyone to the left of the New Republic — and certainly not a respected commenter on Crooked Timber — who wouldn’t agree that Nader deserved to be president infinitely more than Gore. That’s all I was saying, really — that Nader’s policy positions were far, far better than Gore’s (or Kerry’s or Obama’s or any Democrat’s). The superiority of his character is also a slam dunk. As for whether he has/had a presidential “temperament”: what “temperament” really means is an unwillingness to make the Congressional and journalistic hacks look as foolish and venal as they in fact are. I agree that Nader lacks “temperament” in that sense.

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William Timberman 10.27.11 at 3:18 am

Geo, I just don’t see in Nader and his tattered white nag what you see in him. If policies were really our concern, we could just tack a picture of Marx or Keynes or Jesus on a stick and elect one of them. At least we’d have the pleasure of knowing we had the real thing.

294

Harold 10.27.11 at 3:25 am

Policies are not really our concern?

295

William Timberman 10.27.11 at 3:40 am

Harold, I probably should have said If policies were really our only concern…. My point isn’t a subtle one. Cults of the personality can be based on all sorts of baggage, including superior policy recommendations, but the bottom line for me is that while Nader’s policies may have evolved, the man himself seems to have shriveled.

Even if that weren’t so, a person who starts out by styling himself a consumer advocate isn’t exactly the person I would consider the best qualified to articulate and defend the principles that are dear to me. In any case, anyone who ends up thinking of himself as Someone with a capital S has already lost any claim he might have had on my attention, no matter what conventional political wisdom tells us.

296

Rich Puchalsky 10.27.11 at 3:55 am

I hate that we’re having one more Nader-v-Gore go-round when there are actually interesting things happening now … but since the topic has shifted a bit to Nader himself, I’ll mention that my opinion of him was formed when I worked for a nonprofit in DC. The people at his organizations were without doubt the most poorly paid and overworked workers I’d seen outside of migrant farm labor, and it was all because of his idea that they should be virtuous. He had some important organizational advances, but they were based on guilting people into accepting the kind of jobs that they protested when other employers tried to get people to take.

That’s the kind of leader he was, and I wasn’t surprised at all at how he ended up screwing over the Greens.

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geo 10.27.11 at 4:25 am

“Tattered white nag”? Did you look at the platform I linked to? It’s exactly what a President — any president, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Nader or Rich Puchalsky or you — should do. It’s roughly a million times better than the Democratic Party platform. That fact is approximately 99.99 percent of what should matter in any discussion of presidential politics, now or in 2000. Are we really going to descend — here in this lofty empyrean of rationality that is Crooked Timber — to discussing personalities?

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Rich Puchalsky 10.27.11 at 4:33 am

The platform, as we’ve seen, has nearly zero determining power over what a politician will do. Their personality, however, they can never escape. It’s not like we’re discussing “earth tones” or “I’d like to have a beer with him.” People who dealt with Nader as their leader had a long and demonstrable history of getting used.

299

William Timberman 10.27.11 at 4:44 am

Geo, If personalities didn’t matter at all, I’d certainly prefer not to discuss them, but in fact they do matter. Whether they matter enough to be of primary concern in a system as corrupt as ours is a matter of opinion, and I’m not sure myself how much sleep I’d be willing to waste over the personality differences between one American politician and another. (Even the nutcases aren’t always nutcases, but the script is always dedicated to obscuring whether they are or aren’t, which — like it or not — makes us all theater critics.)

Still, I’m willing to go this far: If a person’s behavior seems to belie his principles, it seems to me that we have a right to question just how committed he is to those principles, and just how effective he can be in advancing them. That’s the sense in which I find it hard to understand why anyone would bother trying to make the case that either Gore or Nader should be considered part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

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William Timberman 10.27.11 at 4:49 am

Edit Hell: for waste read lose. Note to self: Change one part of a figure of speech, and you’d be well advised to change the rest to match.

301

Lee A. Arnold 10.27.11 at 4:51 am

Obama could pull this one out of the fire. It depends on whom he is running against. Romney is going to have a very difficult time in the general election because nobody knows exactly what he stands for. On the other hand, Obama can at least construct the narrative that he has been sandbagged by the Republicans (true), because Congress is a coequal branch, and the President doesn’t always get everything he wants. At the same time, the Dems can roll footage of Romney back to the beginning of his career, standing on both sides of every issue, so I honestly don’t see how you can win, being Mitt Romney. If Obama adapts Roosevelt’s 1936 re-election campaign (very high unemployment, the Depression, of course) he could squeak by. He would have to start saying things like, “Social Security is not in trouble and the young workers in this country have been whipped up into an unnecessary fright.” However, if Rick Perry gets the nomination, which looks like a long shot at present, I would expect a much closer election, possibly again going into the Supreme Court to be decided. At any rate, Obama’s base will be coming back home. Indeed the main emotions against Obama, on the Democratic side, are almost finished. This is because motions only last about 3 months, and then you are able to make the U.S. public to feel the exact opposite of what they felt before. We see this happening all the time. I call it Lee’s 3-month rule of political emotions. The last straw for most Democrats (not all, I admit,) was the Debt Ceiling Debate, a ridiculous passage in U.S. history in which Obama of course had finally to capitulate to the Republicans, because a default was out of the question. But he should have done so with a great deal more fustian and fireworks, and so this episode made his entire base of supporters very annoyed. (Obama’s other major political mistake was also in rhetoric: he should have explained the virtues of health care reform publicly, before the 2010 election. The Repubs would still have won big, but not by as much.) Well, take note that the debt ceiling was passed on August 2, and that was almost 3 months ago. So we are due for a cessation of emotions presently, or more properly a transmutation of those emotions to other annoyances.

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geo 10.27.11 at 5:26 am

William: If a person’s behavior seems to belie his principles

How has Nader’s behavior belied his principles — ie, the principles relevant to how he would govern? The relevant principles in his case are: electoral fairness, regulatory vigilance, public campaign financing, no revolving door, an end to the non-enforcement of labor law, single-payer health insurance, etc. How has he betrayed them? When has he had the chance? Obama, on the contrary, has betrayed virtually all his promises. This is the only sense of “betrayal” that’s relevant here. If you have any reason to think Nader would sell out his campaign promises to gain or keep office, as Obama has, then let’s hear them. Rich’s stories are distressing, but very, very marginally relevant.

Listen, the ruling class doesn’t care whether their hired politicians are nice guys. They care about whether they deliver. That’s what we should care about. Is Nader or Gore more likely to deliver single-payer, a Tobin tax, union elections, electoral reform, etc? Until we the people start framing the question that way, we’ll never be the ruling class.

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geo 10.27.11 at 5:30 am

Is Nader or Gore more likely …

FWIW, I recognize that it is now 2011 and not 2000. Just being rhetorical.

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William Timberman 10.27.11 at 5:54 am

Is Nader or Gore more likely to deliver single-payer, a Tobin tax, union elections, electoral reform, etc? Until we the people start framing the question that way, we’ll never be the ruling class.

I’ve no quarrel with your rhetoric. My answer is still neither of the two, and for a similar reason, i.e. that they both appear to consider their own destinies to be the independent variable, and their policy marketing to be the dependent one. Why do I think that the way they present themselves isn’t just the usual baby-kissing? Well, I have different reasons for each of the two cases, but in Nader’s case, it’s a matter of the hysteria I hear in his presentation of both himself and his policy recommendations. It’s hard to be more specific than that without writing something which goes on far longer than I already have. Believe what you will, that’s my perception, and I believe I’ve come by it as honestly as I know how to.

And to take somewhat unfair advantage of another of your rhetorical flourishes (even though I think I know what you meant) I for one have no desire to be part of a ruling class, but I would like to see a body politic which considers itself the sole custodian of principle and policy, and judges accordingly those who offer themselves to serve as its instruments. We haven’t presently got such a thing, but I’d rather spend the time I have left helping to establish it than try to figure out who is and isn’t either a charlatan or a person overmatched by his own visions.

305

Harold 10.27.11 at 5:58 am

I really don’t care what Nader’s personality is like. He deserves credit for challenging the auto industry on safety and he did effect big changes there. In the 1980s and 90s he showed prescience in being the only person talking about the abuses of the banking industry, to which Gore and Clinton so eagerly prostituted themselves. He did not deserve to be manhandled by the DNC, whom I gather now have very bad consciences (rightly), and therefore leap to the offensive.

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William Timberman 10.27.11 at 6:14 am

He did not deserve to be manhandled by the DNC, whom I gather now have very bad consciences (rightly), and therefore leap to the offensive.

On that point, we agree completely.

307

geo 10.27.11 at 7:12 am

Hysteria? Sorry, William, I’m baffled. He has a record, a very substantial one, about which Harold’s comment barely scratches the surface. I’ve heard him speak numerous times and read his books (of which there are quite a few), and I haven’t seen a trace of hysteria. But even if he were personally a lunatic, he has publicly committed himself to a program, a vastly better program than any other on offer by any presidential candidate. That’s what matters.

In a self-respecting democracy, we elect a chief magistrate, not a king; we vote for policies, not for persons. It’s subtly demeaning to us, really, an abdication of our citizenly dignity, even to discuss the personalities of the candidates. We shouldn’t have to trust them, any more than Wall Street has to trust Obama. We the citizenry should dictate to our leaders, as Wall Street dictates to Obama; they should work for us, as he works for Wall Street; and we should know how to fire them if they don’t carry out our wishes, as Wall Street knows how to fire a President who doesn’t carry out theirs. Away with all this talk of how they “present themselves.”

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.27.11 at 7:30 am

In a self-respecting democracy, we elect a chief magistrate, not a king; we vote for policies, not for persons. It’s subtly demeaning to us, really, an abdication of our citizenly dignity, even to discuss the personalities of the candidates.

Hear, hear.

309

Antonio Conselheiro 10.27.11 at 12:31 pm

Lee Arnold, I’m not sure that an Obama capable of doing those things exists. Hr seems firmly committed to bipartisanship and hating his base.

If the Republicans can’t find a plausible candidate Obama might squeak through. That would be good for the Ds, but not really for the country, since that would be a bipartisan collapse of the political system in the midst of an economic crisis and crisis of governance.

Forget Nader, though. I agree with Timberman and Puchalsky, for the record.

310

djw 10.27.11 at 12:46 pm

Geo, I find the notion that the best president would be the one with the prettiest platform beyond bizarre. Regarding Nader personally: I don’t care (and we all shouldn’t) about the standard personality issues. I don’t care if he’s faithful to his wife. (I’m not quite as willing to dismiss his dismal record of how he treats labor, but I could be potentially be persuaded to ignore it.) I do evaluate politicians on two important axes beyond their platform–ability to implement said platform, and relatedly, their political judgement and skill. What Nader demonstrated in 2000 was that he was more interested in punishing the Democratic party for their various misdeeds and inadequacies than he was about what will actually happen in American politics. His actions produced a presidency (ceteris paribus, natch)that easily did as much damage to the values and goals in his lovely platform than his lifetime of (laudatory and important) advocacy work did good, and yet he’s openly proud of it. That shows an indifference to the actual content of one’s goals that renders him an obviously unattractive candidate for president.

Like you, I’d love to live in a world where someone of Nader’s broad political persuasion were electorally viable. (Although it’s quite obvious that should that world ever be created, it won’t be through vanity presidential runs. There’s a lot of non-electoral changes that obviously have to happen first). However, should that improbable eventuality come about, we surely should set our bar higher, and find a candidate who shares those values but also demonstrates some basic political skills.

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William Timberman 10.27.11 at 1:40 pm

geo @ 308

Oddly, I don’t disagree with your second paragraph at all; it’s the first I quarrel with. If you don’t find me persuasive about Nader, djw is both more explicit than I am and less rhetorical, and I more or less agree with his assessment. I also think that what I only alluded to in my earlier comments should be stated more explicitly here: I didn’t initiate the game that Nader is playing. To be fair, neither did he, nor did any of us collectively, although we’re all being forced by circumstance to try to replace it with something more suitable. As djw implies, that will take a while, but I think we can make a good start by recognizing it for what it is.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.27.11 at 2:46 pm

“l cIf you have any reason to think Nader would sell out his campaign promises to gain or keep office, as Obama has, then let’s hear them. “

Where to start… the U.S. does not have a parliamentary system. Once a President is elected, they’re elected, and impeachment efforts though much beloved by the GOP will almost always fail. Nor, as we’re seen with Obama, is it easy to challenge a sitting President for their second term. So the platform is meaningless if a President does not choose to support the base of people in the party.

It’s not a matter of “selling out”, which is kind of a silly phrase in this case because a President already has the top reward that our society can give to people whose primary motivation is power, and there isn’t really anything to sell out for other than increased personal glory. It’s a matter of loyalty downwards, something which Obama clearly doesn’t have, and which I’ve never seen any signs of in Nader either. There were a number of things that Nader could have done to improve the chances of the Green Party during and after his loss. He didn’t do them. You can look at recent interviews like this one in vain for any mention by him of the people who risked their party and their long strategy of grassroots organizing on rolling the dice with him and got demolished for it.

So, yes, Nader seems to me like someone who would make technocratic deals with the rest of the political system in order to get one of his objectives, betray his supporters in the process, and hold himself out as virtuous for doing so.

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Bruce Baugh 10.27.11 at 4:40 pm

The crucial quality in a democratic leader, it seems to me, is a combination of intellectual and moral judgment. Unexpected things will happen, and expected ones in unexpected ways, and a lot of decisions will have to be made. I’m interested in how a political figure will do it.

Affiliating yourself with evil, loathsome, stupid, unproductive ideas is one way to show bad judgment, and it doesn’t a lot matter whether it’s sincerely held evil desires or cynical willingness to play along with them.

Affiliating yourself with evil, loathsome, stupid, unproductive people is another way to show it. You may have good inclinations yourself, but if you get information and counsel from bad people, and if you simultaneously exclude people with a history of being right, you’re showing bad judgment now and are much more likely to make bad judgments in the future than if you were listening to better people.

You can also show bad judgment by professing good ideals about social organization and such but being personally abusive, tyrannical, dishonest, and/or incompetent. And this matters, because as a political leader you will have to administer a large organization in times of crisis. If you can’t do that well, you don’t deserve the position.

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geo 10.27.11 at 6:24 pm

The question is not, or shouldn’t be, whether Nader is a good man, a good administrator, or a good “leader.” The question is whether you want someone publicly committed to the program I linked to above (http://www.votenader.org/issues/) or someone publicly committed to the programs and positions of the Democratic or Republican parties. Whether it’s Nader or anyone else one elected on that platform is a matter of complete indifference to me — and I’m fairly sure, to his great credit, to Nader himself, who would probably be happy to take the vacation he’s been postponing for forty years if some other person committed to that program were to be elected. What’s “beyond bizarre,” as djw eloquently puts it, is that people who would enthusiastically affirm every single aspect of Nader’s program (or very nearly), from Brad to William to Rich to djw, find it impossible to understand why, as William put it back @271, anyone would want either Gore OR Nader as president. The notion that Nader as president — whether he’s a sonofabitch or a sweetheart– wouldn’t be a first large step toward the kind of world we all want is far, far more perverse even than the notion that there was no difference between Gore and Bush.

As for the interview that Rich finds so incriminating, here’s one bit of it. Comment is superfluous.

AVC: It’s November 5, 2008. What realistically, would be the best-case scenario for you?

RN: That we mobilized a lot of people, young and older, and got them running for local and state election. Or energized citizen groups whose causes and various localities we championed as we go through the country. That we kept the progressive agenda alive. That we set standards for presidential campaigning, like not taking commercial money and focusing on subject matter of great importance to the public. And building for the future. In ’08 or ’09, maybe we can get Congressional citizen lobbies in each Congressional district to get some of these issues through, like single-payer [health care] and a living wage.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.27.11 at 11:14 pm

Comment is superfluous? Nader can deliver progressive bromides, just like any politician on the left. Obama said a lot of that too. But that answer makes no mention of the people who actually worked to give Nader his shot — only of abstractions.

Have you ever read the Obama 2008 platform? Global climate change, immigration reform, taxing the rich… wow, there’s a lot of good stuff there. We should all go out and vote for Obama because his platform’s so great.

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geo 10.27.11 at 11:34 pm

just like any politician on the left

Has a single Democratic Party politician even talked about (much less done anything about) energizing local groups of citizens throughout the country to pressure Congress, or about not taking any campaign money from corporations, or about proportional representation, or about mandating a living wage, or about reviving the Consumer Protection Agency that he almost got through Congress in the late seventies and which might have slowed the metastasis of the credit-card and financial industries, or dozens of other things he’s been talking about for decades? Has a single DP politician organized one, much less scores, of citizen watchdog groups and anti-corporate campaigns, as Nader has? Has a single DP politician written hundreds of articles and newspaper columns, year in and year out, exposing corporate, regulatory, and judicial malfeasance?

Rich, you may very well have a point about Nader and the Green Party — I don’t know that history at all. But if you’re suggesting that the difference, both in program and record, between Nader and Obama, Gore, or any other Democratic politician isn’t orders of magnitude greater than the difference between any Democratic and any Republican politicians, then you’ve taken leave of your senses.

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Bruce Baugh 10.28.11 at 12:17 am

It’s been a long time since Nader was a force for good in American life. He’s always been a bad manager, a leader with bad judgment about how to lead, and he long ago let that crowd out other priorities. He’s gone for grandstanding – inflicting substantial and completely unnecessary ongoing harm on people I care about, thanks to things like his crusade against certain narcolepsy drugs.

I like a lot of his platform. I like a lot more of than any platform available from a Democratic candidate with any chance at all for a good while now. But he has character flaws that would keep him from implementing any significant portion of it just as Obama does with his.

It’s one thing to grant some slack and opportunity to a young adult just beginning a career involving political power. It’s another to look at a long history and refuse to acknowledge that there’s a persistent gap between professed goals and the means a person chooses to pursue them.

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djw 10.28.11 at 12:47 am

So your position is that we should judge politicians 100% by what they say they’d like to do (even if they’d have no power to do it in the office they’re seeking) and 0% by the predictable, straightforward consequences of their actions? Fascinating.

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djw 10.28.11 at 12:57 am

Does the broad lack of support for Nader’s platform in our society figure anywhere at all in your vision of politics?

The actual constituency for that platform is obviously inadequate for political action. Obviously, it’s higher than Nader’s voteshare, but realistically it’s in the very low single digits, at best (more on a few issues). The natural constituency for those positions overlaps considerably with much of the Democratic electorate. They’d do well (in my view, and I presume, yours) to support this platform. But Nader’s approach isn’t to make any effort whatsoever to a) bring the platform to them, or b) bring them to the platform. Instead, he explicitly tells them he’s got no interest in entering into a political coalition with them, becuase punishing Democratic politicians (and subjecting the rest of us to the rule of George W. Bush) is more important.

But for you, geo, it’s the pretty words that matter, never mind the callous indifference to the actual people whose words are offered on behalf of. If something like Nader’s political vision ever has a sufficient political constituency to have a chance to be enacted, it’ll be in spite of Ralph Nader, not becuase of him.

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Antonio Conselheiro 10.28.11 at 1:35 am

Come on, guys. Nader was a dummy protest candidate who had no intention or possibility of being President, and he did a crappy job of that because he was too proud to bother. He could have worked to get the word out, but he didn’t. He was just giving the American people a chance to show how wonderful they were by electing him, but they refused the chance, and as far as he’s concerned that shows how stupid they are.

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geo 10.28.11 at 2:58 am

Does the broad lack of support for Nader’s platform in our society figure anywhere at all in your vision of politics?

Why yes, djw, I’d define it as the main problem with American politics, and exactly what has to change before we can get anywhere. I assume you agree, since you say that the people ought to support that platform (or something like it), in your view (and yes, in mine). What exactly is the force of your rhetorical question?

Your point, and Antonio’s, seems to be: Nader was a terrible candidate. Therefore … what? I assume (at least I hope) you’d say: therefore, let’s find and support another candidate with a similar program. Which is perfectly fine with me. In fact, it’s what I’ve been arguing all along. Nader’s personal qualities, and his personal political fortunes, are, as I’ve said, matters of complete indifference to me. I want his program, or the equivalent, adopted. Period.

Let’s bracket the question of whether Nader was as incompent and irresponsible a candidate as you and Antonio breezily assert. I know enough about his career and candidacy to suspect that you’re both talking through your hat, but not enough to prove it. In any case, let’s leave it for his biographer to sort out and instead figure out how to get his and our program enacted. Presumably in a future thread.

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Sandwichman 10.28.11 at 3:15 am

You’re all arguing about… Nader 2000? Whoa!!! Where’s the hot tub?

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djw 10.28.11 at 3:20 am

I assume (at least I hope) you’d say: therefore, let’s find and support another candidate with a similar program. Which is perfectly fine with me. In fact, it’s what I’ve been arguing all along. Nader’s personal qualities, and his personal political fortunes, are, as I’ve said, matters of complete indifference to me. I want his program, or the equivalent, adopted. Period.

Good grief, no! The thing that makes Nader so appalling is that he knew his position had woefully insufficient support, and he ran anyway. It’s not like if you replace Nader with a skillful and charismatic candidate he’d suddenly have 10-15X the support. That sort of thing matters on the margins. Besides, anyone who would be a good candidate because they have the political acumen and judgement Nader lacked would decline to adopt such a stupid political strategy anyway, so the creature you think we should be looking for doesn’t exist.

Look, Nader’s platform isn’t popular. The sorts of shifts that would need to take place for it to become popular have to be a lot further along before there’s any point in running a 3P candidacy. I have no idea why you think the ideal way to launch a left/progressive political movement should be lead by 3rd party presidential runs, but it makes no sense whatsoever, and there’s no theoretical or empirical reason to believe it’ll work. There are good reasons to think it will be counterproductive, though, as 2000 amply demonstrated.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.28.11 at 3:30 am

It was the only way to stop arguing about Nader-v-Gore, Sandwichman. Not quite “we had to destroy the village in order to save it”, but…

Here are the various options, ranked in Hitlers:

“Gore wore earth tones!” = 10 Hitlers
“Nader kept Gore from winning” = 5 Hitlers
“Nader was the best guy evar” = 1 Hitler
“Nader’s platform somehow made his candidacy the best evar” = 1/2 Hitler

So, ten times fewer Hitlers.

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geo 10.28.11 at 4:31 am

Sorry, djw, I’m confused, probably terminally. I thought we agreed on the basics of Nader’s program — proportional representation, regulatory vigilance, severe crackdown on tax evasion, public campaign financing, no revolving door, card-check union elections and an end to the non-enforcement of labor law, single-payer health insurance, drastically reduced defense spending, zero funding for nuclear power and sharply increased funding for solar power, etc. etc. — and were discussing the best way to advance popular support for these things. Now it appears that you don’t agree with Nader’s platform because it “isn’t popular.” But you can’t really be saying that? Or are you saying that, because it isn’t popular, no one should try to advocate it, at least not with a third-party campaign? But how else will it ever become popular? Or should one try to advocate it within the Democratic Party? Good luck with that. Or should one simply put those goals on ice for an indefinite period? Until when?

If you have any ideas about “the ideal way to launch a left/progressive political movement,” I am (and I assume others here are) eager to hear them.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.28.11 at 7:10 am

djw, Nader’s platform is extremely popular.

Why don’t you put the blame where it belongs – on the corrupt political system? Otherwise, what you seem to be arguing here is that any candidate who isn’t a power-hungry lying slimeball willing and skillful enough to navigate through this thoroughly corrupt system is somehow ‘appalling’. That doesn’t make much sense, does it.

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Norwegian Guy 10.28.11 at 12:04 pm

Chris Bertram @ 89:
“”@ 44 ““In country” inequality has been rising “globally”.”

Well it has certainly risen sharply in some countries, such as the United States and UK. Other countries such as France, Denmark and the Netherlands not so, or not so much (depending on how you measure).”

In 2001 Denmark was the most equal Western European country, with a Gini coefficient of 22. After 10 years with right-wing government, this is no longer the case. According to Eurostat data, they had the highest growth in inequality in West Europe, 5 points, from 2001 to 2009. The same data show that France experienced the fourth highest rise in inequality, while there was only a very small increase in the Netherlands, putting them in the middle of this group of countries.

By the way, the UK and Norway had the largest falls in the Gini coefficient. In Norway’s case, there are data showing some differences since before and after the change from a right-wing to a left-wing government in 2005. But generally, inequality has risen sharply in Norway the last twenty years, leaving the super-rich (the 0,05%) with as large a share of national income as they did before the postwar equalisation. Neoliberalism has taken its toll in Scandinavia as well.

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Earwig 10.28.11 at 12:29 pm

“Why don’t you put the blame where it belongs – on the corrupt political system?”

He doesn’t do that because he thinks a candidate drawing next to no votes is the thing to pay attention to in the system. He’s either deluded or despite his blather he doesn’t care about outcomes.

As long as we have some minimal level of intermittent democratic influence over the political system, it remains necessary to get folks to pull levers. How that happens is where the action is.

It happens through media.

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djw 10.28.11 at 12:43 pm

Now it appears that you don’t agree with Nader’s platform because it “isn’t popular.” But you can’t really be saying that? Or are you saying that, because it isn’t popular, no one should try to advocate it, at least not with a third-party campaign? But how else will it ever become popular?

The innocent little words “at least not” hint that you might be starting to get it. (I’ve read some brilliant essays by the person I think you are, but I have a hard time believing that person would be so dense) Let’s try this: In order to win people over to your position, you shouldn’t do it by creating campaigns that are, in effect, an act of refusal to enter into a political coalition with the people you’re trying to persuade (and I’m not talking about Democratic politicians here but the democratic electorate). 3rd party candidates in this political system, if they ‘work’ insofar as they get a non-negligible (but still uncompetitive) votes, are much more likely to have the effect of harming their own interests, and the people whose interests they purport to promote those positions on behalf of. The more it works, the worse it works. The series of questions you pose in this comment suggests you can’t imagine any other way of popularizing these ideas. It’s certainly a tall order, and it may not be possible. But broad based leftist movements are virtually never lead by hopeless political campaigns, and 3rd party campaigns certainly never create such movements, when electoral systems create a high bar to entry through FPTP). Your position seems entirely ignorant of the relevant history here.

As to whether to attempt to do this within the Democratic party or not, I have no idea. Obviously, on some issues, yes. Others are obvious non-starters that’ll never happen, even with a broad-based leftist movement (PR). But that’s something we can’t really meaningfully ask until we actually get an effective movement. Perhaps the Democratic party is capture-able by such a movement (they should obviously try). Perhaps it is not.

I’m very pessimistic about almost everything these days, but I’m very cautiously optimistic about the OWS movement, in part because they do seem to be contributing to a change about how people think about economic inequality. But it seems bleedingly obvious that whatever potential this movement may have would be almost immediately short-circuited if they were to try to found an 99% party and get a candidate on the ballot. The media would have their narrative, lots of people who have a certain amount of sympathy for the movement would immediately disavow it, Democratic politicians would immediately start hippie-punching, the candidate would get a trivial share of the vote, and that would be that. It would be like going from step 1 to step 9. You’ve got a lot of intermediary steps that have to be taken before step 9 makes much sense. That they’re really hard and may not be possible doesn’t change that.

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djw 10.28.11 at 12:49 pm

First para above is quoted, obviously.

Why don’t you put the blame where it belongs – on the corrupt political system?

We have a corrupt and poorly designed political system. This is a major source of problems for what’s wrong with this country. (Nothing I’ve said that would contradict that view, unless you hold the highlander theory of causes of electoral outcomes).

That said, designing and pursuing political strategies as if the political system was completely different than the one we’ve got makes no sense, and does absolutely nothing to change the system.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.28.11 at 2:10 pm

The only reason to pursue what happened with Nader in 2000 is that it illuminates that some people really have no idea what’s going on with Obama now. In fact, what Obama implicitly promised through his platform — minus the bit about PR — was that he’d take most of Nader’s platform, which is not really “Nader’s platform” but many of the perennial things that progressives agree on, and go as far as he could to implement it within the system. Everyone understands that a Democratic run can’t be all virtuous and pure like Nader always wanted to be.

Obams broke that implicit promise. He claimed that he was forced to. Well, if he’d been FDR, he wouldn’t have been forced by any of that namby-pamby political opposition; he would have found the time-honored ways of getting his party into line and they would have discovered that they held a majority everywhere.

So at this point, yes, it’s all about personality. If you think that the system is hopelessly corrupt, or if you don’t think that FDR was good enough, then Obama is meaningless. If you think that FDR was, while not perfect, pretty good in many ways, then this is Obama’s fault. Not because of his platform, but because of his personality.

My own opinion was that Obama had a brief window in which to shift the system, which is now closed. So it’s largely his fault, but the system is now hopelessly corrupt, so we might as well not dwell on it.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.28.11 at 2:48 pm

I don’t know, maybe ‘corrupt’ is not exactly the right word here, rather it’s what Zizek calls ‘post-political’, ‘post-democratic’. The most powerful interests have merged (more or less), there is a wide consensus, and it’s now just a matter of management. That wasn’t the case in Roosevelt’s times, there still was real struggle there: unions, bankers, industrialists; communists, fascists, progressives…

Today, only an establishment candidate can get elected, and he/she can only enact establishment policies. They may be tilted a bit towards Wall Street, or oil and ‘defense’, but not by much. And so personality, I think, is completely irrelevant; they are all mere figureheads.

Now, if you think in this environment you can still have strategies and pursue goals – that’s fine, but don’t blame people who refuse to play this game.

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William Timberman 10.28.11 at 3:01 pm

Henri, this reminds me soooo much of 1968. We said: No, no….we’re just getting started. Please, not Eugene effing McCarthy! Not Bobby ferchrissake Kennedy! Nothing will change! They did it anyway. And, as we all know, the Democrats went with Humphrey, and we wound up with Nixon. Forty-three years later the Democratic Party apparatchiks are still blaming us for embarrassing Humphrey, and the McCarthyites are still blaming us for being non-serious.

You had to be there, I guess. If you were, you sure as hell don’t want to be here now, blaming the Democrats for Nader, and the Naderites for Bush. djw is right, it’s our problem. It’s got nothing whatever to do with egotists in suits and the visions of sugarplums/delusions of grandeur dancing in their wee little heads.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.28.11 at 3:28 pm

“it’s our problem”

I’m in OWS (or one of the local groups, actually), but too many people in OWS seem to believe that “We are the 99%” means that the people in OWS speak for almost everyone. We don’t. So before we start saying “it’s our problem”, who is the “our” in that phrase?

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William Timberman 10.28.11 at 3:40 pm

Well, for one thing, Rich, our not an attempt at a cheap rhetorical escape from the fundamental conundrum of human organization. Generic pronouns can be useful in all sorts of ways, but one doesn’t look to them for salvation. The our in that phrase is simply an acknowledgement that any lasting progress, or solution to our dilemma will have to be a collective one, and that implies a dialectical process. Those of us who agree with geo that Nader’s stated platform is a pretty good one will have to convince enough other people that it is to make it seem a force of nature, and not a set of silly assertions about a reality no one can seem to agree on.

To do that, of course, we-who-are-already-convinced will have to bump into all sorts of other convictions, and perhaps be knocked off course in the process. No matter what folks like Steven Pinker say, the outcome is a matter for speculation, engagement and hope, not an inevitability that we can all rely on, even in general terms.

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