One Big Mutual Fund, or, The Ownership Society

by Cosma Shalizi on July 31, 2006

Attention Conservation Notice: Over 1500 words on a wacky quasi-socialist economic scheme, from someone utterly lacking in credentials in economics. The scheme does not respect the sanctity of private enterprise, but at the same time would not reduce the alienation of labor one iota. Includes a lengthy quotation of a game-theoretic impossibility result.

In the previous installment in this series of modest proposals for the reform of corporate governance, I looked at ways of making the incentives of the managers of large, publicly-held corporations align more closely with those of their long-term shareholders. This left alone the question of the beneficiaries of corporate value; assuming that the managers are busily working to maximizing their revenue streams, who benefits from their industry and diligence? Having just read Mark Greif’s great essay on redistribution in n+1, I would like to make a suggestion. (Issue 4; long excerpt here, as pointed out by Matt in the comments.)

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Cuban Oil

by Jon Mandle on July 31, 2006

Now that oil has been discovered off the coast of Cuba, I may eventually be deprived of my best come-back to those lefties who oppose anything that could be called “globalization” but who also complain about the U.S. embargo of Cuba. But the more interesting question will be the reaction of Republicans who will be torn between their love of all things oily and hatred of all things Cuban (post-1959). Some possibilities:

1. Suddenly realize that the embargo isn’t working and end it;
2. Suddenly realize that the embargo isn’t working where oil is concerned – end it for oil, but keep it in place for everything else.
3. Dispute Cuba’s territorial claims where the oil was found;
4. Escalate – either blockade or at least stop suspending enforcement of title III the Helms-Burton amendment [pdf] until Cuba is a democracy like Saudi Arabia;
5. Really escalate – invade Cuba (beyond Guantanamo Bay) or some other country, related or not – I’m thinking Venezuela;
6. Keep very quiet about this and hope Castro dies soon and declare success no matter what the replacement regime looks like.

The early front-runner seems to be 2, with hints of 3, and of course 6 is an old standby.

Thus spake Rousseau

by Chris Bertram on July 31, 2006

I’ve been a participant in various discussions on and off blogs, about the laws of war, just war theory and so on, as it applies to recent events. Though I think it is necessary to get clear about those things, there’s a horrible disconnection and abstractness about the debates, which doesn’t seem respond appropriately to the human miseries, to the people who are most human to us just as they are stripped of their humanity. Two texts came to mind when I thought about this, and felt feeling of disgust at myself for treating such matters as theoretical exercises. The first was Yeats’s “On a Political Prisoner”:http://www.poetry-archive.com/y/on_a_political_prisoner.html , and the second was Rousseau’s _The State of War_ from which I reproduce the opening lines below:

I open the books of law and morality, I listen to the sages and the philosophers of law, and, imbued by their insidious speeches, I am led to deplore the miseries of nature, and to admire the peace and justice established by the the civil order. I bless the wisdom of public institutions and console myself about my humanity through seeing myself as a citizen. Well instructed concerning my duties and my happiness, I shut the book, leave the classroom and look around. I see wretched peoples moaning beneath a yoke of iron, the human race crushed by the fist of oppressors, a starving and enfeebled crowd whose blood and tears are drunk in peace by the rich, and everywhere I see the strong armed against the weak with the terrifying power of the laws.

All this takes place peacefully and without resistance; it is the tranquility of the companions of Ulysses shut into the Cyclops cave and waiting their turn to be devoured. One must tremble and keep silent. Let us draw a permanent veil over these horrible phenomena. I lift my eyes and I look into the distance. I notice fires and flames, deserted countryside, pillaged towns. Ferocious men, where are you dragging those wretches? I hear a terrible sound. What a confusion! What cries! I draw closer and I see a theatre of murders, ten thousand men with their throats cut, the dead trampled by the hooves of horses, and everywhere a scene of death and agony. Such is the fruit of these peaceful institutions. Pity and indignation rise up from the the depths of my heart. Barbarous philosopher: try reading us your book on the field of battle.

Lieberman-Lamont and the blogs

by Henry on July 31, 2006

Mark Schmitt has the best “blog-overview”:http://markschmitt.typepad.com/ of the Lieberman-Lamont race that I’ve seen so far.

bq. It’s a great expression of the Democratic Party of 1996: You got your enviros, you got your minorities, you got your women. Each group has one issue. For the enviros, it’s ANWR (the most trivial of victories, but the one that raises the money). For the minorities, affirmative action. (Likewise, of minor relevance to the actual structure of economic opportunity for most African-Americans and Latinos.) For women, it’s all about “preserve abortion rights.” There are a couple others, but those are the basic buttons you press to be credentialed as a good liberal Democrat. After you press them, you can do whatever you want. But has Lieberman failed to press those buttons? No! In fact, he’s been pounding on them like that guy at the elevator who thinks that if he presses “Down” hard enough and often enough, eventually the elevator will recognize how important and how late he is. … But where do these other issues come from? … since when do they care about bankruptcy? What if all of a sudden you couldn’t count on Democratic women just because you said that right things about choice – what if they started to vote on the whole range of issues that affect women’s economic and personal opportunities?

There’s just one thing that I’d add to this. As Mark said in a previous post, the netroots aren’t a “critically important”:http://markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2006/07/what_the_netroo.html force on the ground in Connecticut; they’re helping stir things up, but they’re only one of many groups that are doing this. The buzz for change is coming from the voters rather than the blogs. If you talk to the netroots people they’ll happily confirm this. But where netroots bloggers are playing an unique role is changing the way that this is being framed in the national political debate. They’ve made the Lamont insurgency into an attack on the shibboleth of bipartisanism. I just can’t imagine that the dueling editorials in the “Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/opinion/30sun1.html?ex=1311912000&en=27103aed18e357d8&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss and the “Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/29/AR2006072900680.html would have happened if the blogs hadn’t consistently and relentlessly framed Lieberman’s problem as a fawning and corrupt bipartisan deference to a president gone crazy. It would have been framed (as it was and still is elsewhere in the media), as a debate about the Iraq war, or a local race that was of interest not because of the issues at stake, but because the guy in trouble was a former vice-presidential candidate. The fact that guys like David Broder and Morton Kondracke view this as an attack on the tradition of cosy bipartisanship (and their source of authority in the punditocracy) isn’t an accidental outcome, nor is it something that would likely have happened if there hadn’t been blogs pushing this message (and getting read by reporters and editorialists) over a considerable period of time.