Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 27, 2022
by Tony Wikrent
Strategic Political Economy
[ABC, via The Big Picture 11-22-2022]
This week, the world’s population ticks over a historic milestone. But in the next century, society will be reshaped dramatically — and soon we’ll hit a decline we’ll never reverse
[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-23-2022]
The population of college-age Americans is about to crash. It will change higher education forever.
[Medium, via Naked Capitalism 11-22-2022]
...as we look at data from the Global Health Data Exchange, certain counties in America are not growing at the same rate as other counties, largely for reasons that policymakers understand well.
Drug overdoses and heart disease have been some of the leading causes of these increases in deaths. Over the last 20 years, drug overdose deaths in midlife have increased nearly 400% while suicides have increased 71% from 28,000 per year to 48,000 per year… heart disease is now the leading cause of death in America, claiming 655,000 individuals per year. Healthier lifestyles and exercise can dramatically reduce a person’s risk, but healthier food options are more and more out of reach for millions of Americans….
Money has become an increasingly strong determinant of who will live longer. People in wealthy counties outlive their poorer counterparts by as much as 20 years now, the greatest gap that in ages that America has seen in 40 years. In South Dakota’s Oglala Lakota county, for example, the average life expectancy is 66.8, making it the worst county in America. The median income in Oglala Lakota is $30,347, which stands in stark contrast to Colorado’s Summit County where life expectancy is 86.9, making it the highest in the country. Median income in Summit is more than 2.5x higher than it is in Oglala Lakota.
When we dive deeper than the county level, we see this relationship between money and life expectancy come into even clearer focus. Raj Chetty at Harvard analyzed 1.4 billion individual tax records between 1999–2014 and matched those to death records. His findings were alarming:
“First… the gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and poorest 1% of individuals was 14.6 years for men and 10.1 years for women. Second, inequality in life expectancy increased over time. Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5% of the income distribution, but by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5%.”
Oligarchy versus republicanism
Graham Gallagher, November 25, 2022 [The New Republic]
[TW: This is a lengthy article, but it highlights the accelerating shift of American society, and especially “the right” away from republicanism, to oligarchy. Gallagher even uses the word “republicanism” a couple times, though he does not mention the historical tension between republicanism and liberalism. More importantly, Gallagher does not place this accelerating shift in the crucial context of the triumph of neoliberalism and resulting extreme economic inequality of the past half century. They are linked, as I will explain after these excerpts.]
An inkling of the Republican Party’s shocking underperformance in the midterms could be seen in a literal, not figurative, crusade. Allen West, former congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman, decided in September that the time was ripe to join the Knights Templar, the infamous sect of medieval soldier-monks. Photographed standing in a white robe emblazoned with a red cross draped jauntily over his tuxedo, West—a close ally of Donald Trump—tweeted that he had taken “an oath to protect the Christians in the Holy Land.”
The real Knights Templar, of course, were dissolved in 1312. The organization West joined is an American-based “chivalric order” that grants its members “knighthood” and, aside from its name, shares nothing with the actual Knights Templar….
The ascendant weird right will likely struggle to sell its deeply anti-patriotic vision to many voters. In these segments of the mostly young, online-influenced American right, the optimistic vision espoused by Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” has been discarded. The elite educated right has moved even beyond the overt pessimism of Donald Trump’s “American carnage”—now disgust with equitable citizenship, personal liberty, and democratic self-governance is commonplace. Fed by an endless outrage cycle and a motivated and well-resourced donor class willing to pour money into increasingly reactionary think tanks like the avowedly anti-democratic Claremont Institute, right-wing thinkers and activists have begun to identify the foundational pillars of the United States itself with immorality and adopted a new fascination with medieval Catholicism and imported European extremisms. Today, the right has shed its American and conservative roots and seeks a radical shift—a national “refounding.” Indeed, leading right-wing intellectuals like John Daniel Davidson have said that “the conservative project has failed” and that people like them constitute the educated vanguard of a “revolutionary moment.”
Nine in 10 Americans believe that being “truly American” involves respecting “American political institutions and laws,” the Public Religion Research Institute found last year. Americans consistently affirm that liberty, equality, and progress—the core values of republicanism and the Enlightenment—are ones they try to live by. While the content and meaning of those values have always been contested terrain, opposing them is a nonstarter….
[Peter Thiel’s venture capitalist protege Blake Masters, who lost the US Senate race for Nevada 46 to 52 percent has] openly said that democracy is a smokescreen for the masses “stealing certain kinds of goods and redistributing them as they see fit.”
….When right-wing writers like National Review’s Nate Hochman argue that no-fault divorce was “a tragic mistake” (a view shared by numerous other far-right figures), he is not only embracing a position outside the bounds of conventional American life but one that is deeply politically unpopular, opposed by at least four-fifths of Americans. The activist right’s legal alternative is “covenant marriage,” which allows divorce only under extreme circumstances like felony conviction or child abuse. Covenant marriage has recently made its way into the Texas Republican Party’s official platform as a replacement for existing marriage law….
The growing fascination with Catholicism—particularly sedevacantism, which denies the current pope’s legitimacy—is, according to one critic, indicative of the educated and activist right’s “admiration for the [European] aristocratic past” and a longing for a new elite to which it feels it belongs. This segment of the right has, both programmatically and aesthetically, lost interest in conserving that which is American and moved on to mine its influences from stranger sources. Constitutionalism, Enlightenment rationality, religious freedom, and republicanism are out. European aristocracy, crusading holy orders, and mysticism are in….
[In The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America (New York, NY, Columbia University Press, 2007), Michael J. Thompson argues that there are sharp distinctions between republicanism and liberalism, especially the fear of republicans that economic inequality “lead inexorably to political and social inequalities of power” which grievously weaken “the political community and any kind of democratic or republican political culture,” allowing, for example, the resurrection of feudal hierarchical social relations, and the rise of demagogues like Donald Trump. Thompson explicitly writes that “the contemporary tolerance of economic inequality is actually the result of liberalism and liberal thought itself,” and “Any political community that suffers from severe imbalances between rich and poor is in danger of losing its democratic character...”
[But, how does a society “lose its democratic character”? Marxist theory posits that capitalism itself is the villain, but what about democratic societies before capitalism? Repeatedly, the writings of classical republicans point to the rich as the major source of problems. So, there is some process of human nature that is operative, regardless of how a society’s economy is organized. Marxist theory, in fact, is probably a hindrance in understanding this, as it misdirects attention away from this process to that of “capitalist exploitation.”
[In the Christian bible, we find: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) And, more pointedly,
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. (James 5:1-6)
In The Spirit of Laws, Book 5. Chapter 5.--”In what Manner the Laws establish Equality in a Democracy,” Montesquieu notes that “to men of overgrown estates, everything which does not contribute to advance their power and honor is considered by them as an injury.”
[More recently, we have the example of the slave holding states in the American south, which beginning in the 1820s and 1830s, repudiated the “slaveholding abolitionism” of Washington, Jefferson, Mason, and others, and explicitly rejected the republican precept of equality. Forrest A. Nabors, in From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction (Columbia, Mo., University of Missouri Press, 2017) mapped out in detail how slaveholding south lost its democratic character. Nabors makes great use of the Congressional debates and discussions of the Republicans in Congress after the Civil War, as they struggled with the issue of “reconstructing” the former slave states and bringing them back into the Union.
[Nabors writes that
“In 1785 Jefferson considered the difference between northern and southern character. His list of specific contrasts… showed that the foundations of oligarchic and republican political societies were already entrenched in the North and South, respectively. He wrote that southerners were "zealous for their own liberties, but trampling on those of others," whereas northerners were "jealous of their own liberties, and just to those of others ." ...Northerners respected the dominion that nature's God had allotted in equal measure to each person and were protective of the dominion allotted to each one of themselves….
...In 1830 a North Carolina abolitionist echoed Jefferson, observing that southern society had become careless toward and covetous of the rights of others. He attributed the origin of that carelessness and covetousness to the effect of slaveholding on those with more "wealth and affluence." The result was that "the same contempt which they cherish for the negro they. . . cherish towards the white peasantry." Anyone "who will oppress and abuse his own slaves, will also . . . oppress his indigent neighbour, or any one else over whom he may have gained an advantage."
This effect of slavery was not restricted to the slaveholders. Everyone who had some advantage over another used it to oppress whom they could. He added that this tendency was "common among the wealthy, and by far too common with the middle classes of our citizens," striking "at the root of our republican institutions, and if suffered to become sufficiently strong, would overturn even our liberty itself"112 He recognized the development of a haughty ruling class, and much more. He saw that oppression of the stronger over the weaker was becoming general throughout slave society.
[Nabors explains how the Southern states began to codify this oligarchical mindset into law, so that “Eventually, the law formally established ranks of the stronger over the weaker, determined by wealth.” This followed logically from South Carolina Senator John Calhoun’s decades long campaign to repudiate the republican ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and to not just remove the stigma of slavery as evil, but get slavery accepted as positive good. Calhoun explicitly argued that the principle "all men are born free and equal" was "the most false and dangerous of all political errors.”
[The late 20th century campaign to enshrine Milton Friedman’s “shareholder value” as the penultimate capitalist principle, should be seen in the same light as Calhoun’s campaign to legitimize slavery. Ditto for the entire neoliberal project of enshrining Adam Smith’s invisible hand, and von Mises’ and von Hayek’s “free market,” as the best means of allocating society's resources.
The new legal standing of wealth and the decline of natural equality correlated. By making relative wealth the basis of rights, the slave South made rights alienable and reintroduced domination as a lawful principle of civilized government. The law promised to reward the covetousness of the rich... Superior success and power conferred the right of one to dominate the other. The weak were contemptible objects of paternal care, not equals in liberty. (pp. 254-256.)
[Recall that Gallagher began his article with the spectacle of former congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West joining the Knights Templar. Note the end of this next paragraph from Nabors:
To put this in Jefferson's terms, their liberty was achieved by having successfully trampled on the liberties of others. In conflicts with the planters over such things as common land use and slave discipline, the planters prevailed... The planters' greater liberty was achieved by trampling on and acquiring the liberties of the lower nobility. The relative amount of landed wealth owned determined the extent of the possessor's liberty—yeomen over poor whites and slaves, planters over them all. The hierarchical relationships between these ranks revived the medieval relationship between lords, vassals, and serfs, which goes far to explaining why, in the middle of America in :he nineteenth century, wealthy Southerners actually staged medieval fairs and jousting tournaments, emphasizing chivalry, courtliness, martial virtue, crownings, and maids of honor.120 Evidently, they felt an instinctive affinity or the dominating lords of the bygone era and sought to imitate them and re-create their way of life as they developed their revolutionary regime.
Liberty was dependent upon acquiring wealth and could be won only by devouring the liberty of others. In contrast, a model republican society protects the liberty of all against all oppression, despite inequality of wealth. Economic competition is mild, defused of the fear of oppression and the appetite for domination. Prosperity and poverty can neither elevate nor depress the individual's equal standing as a citizen. The most that greed can acquire is wealth, simply, and so the appetites are restrained. (pp257-258)
[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-22-2022]
“Corporations spend billions buying influence, and there are any number of academic studies to show that this pays off (one from 2021 found that a dollar spent on political influence is associated with $20.67 in higher future annual earnings; I could list a dozen others with similar findings). Foreign governments do the same. A few days ago, the National Intelligence Council released a report showing that the United Arab Emirates used corporate donations, political lobbying, grants to universities and other types of spending ($164mn since 2016) to influence US foreign policy over several years. This isn’t a nefarious attempt to leverage disinformation by illegal means. This is a friendly government buying power by legal means. And that is the problem. Corporate political action committees, Citizens United and all sorts of loopholes in our very porous political system have turned Washington into a kind of open-air bazaar for influence purchasing. It pays off, and people know it. I actually got a research report from an investment management firm the other day that put forward an extremely convincing portfolio strategy based on buying companies with underutilised lobbying power. Wow. Just wow. To me, this is a huge issue in a world in which the US is trying to present “values” as its competitive edge against China. Supporting liberal democracy is one thing. But what if democracy is for sale? This was the one terrible truth that Donald Trump embedded in his own welter of lies as president. In what must be the greatest irony of all time, a crooked real estate guy from Queens essentially said to the nation, ‘Hey, you see those politicians and CEOs in the back room? They’ve got the system rigged.’ He then went back and continued playing poker with them, and encouraged everyone else to do the same.”
Global power shift
Harold Meyerson, November 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]
Last month, the axis of American commerce tilted from the West to the East. By “East,” I don’t mean China, Asia or, to resurrect a colonial exoticization, the Orient. I mean our East Coast instead of our West.
In August and September, The Wall Street Journal reports, the Port of New York/New Jersey was busier than the Port of Los Angeles for the first time since America’s corporate leaders discovered that employing cheap Chinese labor meant bigger American corporate profits.
[Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]
They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals
[Heisenberger Report, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]
The cryptocurrency craze taught us that if enough people believe, the myth can become strong enough to supplant common sense, and the resultant mania can perpetuate the delirium such that skeptics begin to question themselves, on the way to becoming converts. On that level, crypto is really no different than the dollar or any other fiat money. It’s all just a myth, and once there are enough converts, holding out becomes asinine. But no crypto has come anywhere near that tipping point. And thanks to recent events, none ever will.
I don’t expect anyone to like this article, and I fully expect most readers to find it “flawed” on many levels. But it’s not. Flawed, I mean. Instead (and this brings us full circle), the reality is that everyone is just this damn stupid. The entire financial universe, inclusive of VCs, hedge funds, institutional investors, veterans from Wall Street’s largest banks, journalists with otherwise good reputations, former securities lawyers, congresspeople, retail investors and everyday folks from all walks of life, were duped into believing that the private money business can work at scale. That somehow, thanks to blockchain, anyone, anywhere can just print money. And that throwing real money at fake money was a good investment.
In July of 2015, a 45-year-old woman was arrested in Kingsport, Tennessee, for attempting to use counterfeit dollar bills “printed in black and white on regular copy paper” at a local grocery store. When she was detained, police recovered two of the bills, along with a receipt for a new printer and “said copy paper,” as TIME dryly put it.
While explaining herself to police, she reportedly said, “I don’t give a f–k, all these other bitches get to print money so I can too.”
Little did she know, that straightforward pitch would’ve made her a VC darling, a financial media celebrity and a real-life billionaire in 2022.
Eschaton, November 17, 2022
A big chunk of the "popularism" and "anti-criminal justice reform" rhetoric/agenda has been pushed by people directly funded by and who otherwise promoted the crypto scammer of the day, with some of those people quite clearly being conduits from the crypto scammer lobby to Dems in Congress. Crypto scammer boy was a high profile Dem funder this cycle, nuking progressives in primaries to the cheers of these people.
A big crypto-bro candidate was Carrick Flynn, who was pushed by Pelosi's PAC, for mysterious reasons. Fortunately he lost to Andrea Salinas, who just won her seat in Oregon. SBF also gave a bunch of money to Vox, which promoted Carrick.There's a very long piece to be written about all the ways SBF's money corrupted this election cycle, all the corrupt people who joined in, and the influence they had, hiding behind "Effective Altruism", which was just a front for this scam. Some of your faves are involved!Of course the problem with corrupt systems is that everyone involved is tainted, or their friends are, so best not to mention it.
[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 11-25-2022]
An industry that has long escaped scrutiny in Washington has found agencies slow-walking deals and enforcing long-dormant competition laws.
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-2022]
...But there are some critical questions they don’t ask: Do you drink your tap water? Is it potable and ample? Can you cook food with it, and use it to mix infant formula and cereal? Such questions could uncover some of the millions of Americans who are water insecure—a circumstance directly connected to food insecurity.
There’s no healthcare screener for water insecurity. The issue is not even on most public health professionals’ radar, although recent water disasters in Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi, are starting to change that. Clinicians who are aware of water insecurity “are thinking, ‘If I screen for this, what am I going to do about it?’” says Palakshappa, noting the dearth of resources available to mitigate it….
Most estimates put US water insecurity at 2.2 million residents. Asher Rosinger, director of the Water, Health, and Nutrition Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, says this is probably a “huge” undercount, and the actual number might be closer to 60 million. There are no official estimates of combined food and water insecurity, which makes it tough to understand the scope of the problem, let alone to propose solutions.
“We’re measuring water by how many cubic meters there are and dividing it across the land,” says Northwestern’s Young. “Or we’re measuring infrastructure, which is like, ‘Where do you get your drinking water from? Is it from a tap? Is it from a well? Is it from a borehole?’ But you can imagine 99 scenarios where you have a tap but you can’t pay for water to flow through it, or you don’t trust the water that comes out of it, or the infrastructure upstream of the tap has gone to shit. There are lots of reasons why measuring physical availability or infrastructure only gives you a pinhole peek of what the real problem is.”
[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]
The rentier economy
[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 11-24-2022]
Disrupting mainstream economics - Modern Monetary Theory
Robert Cauneau [MMT France, via Mike Norman Economics 11-22-2022]
A good understanding of the potential of MMT can only be obtained if we have a good knowledge of the origin of societies. A return to the past shows us that they never appeared spontaneously, but always under the pressure of an authority exercising a strong coercion. It also shows how the need for money came about....
According to Henry (2004), money was of no use to them before societies could produce a surplus. Indeed, a substantial transformation of social relations from an egalitarian tribal society to a stratified and hierarchical society was necessary before money emerged. Once agricultural developments generated economic surpluses, taxation was used by the authorities as a method of transferring some of these surpluses (real resources) from the population to the palaces. The central authority (the king) levied taxes on the population and determined how to settle them by establishing the unit of account used to designate all debts to the State (Henry 2004). Henry (2004: 90) adds that money cannot exist without power and authority. Human populations organized around hospitality and exchange simply did not need it5, whereas in a stratified society, the ruling class is obliged to devise standard units of account that measure not only the economic surplus collected in the form of taxes, but also the royal gifts and religious duties that were imposed on the population concerned.
In ancient Greece, as in ancient Egypt, the emergence of money was closely linked to the need for religious authorities to control the flow of surplus. In other words, money becomes a public mechanism for the distribution of economic surplus and justice….
Thus, if we base ourselves on logical reasoning, we realize that there can be no market without a currency, that there is no currency without a State, and therefore that the market is an epiphenomenon of the State. This process is based on the taxation by the State of agents who are thus obliged to demand this currency, by all possible means, and thus to offer goods and services in exchange for currency, in order to pay the taxes….
We can thus see that MMT analyzes the currency as a public monopoly. The State is the precondition of the currency. But it can also be said that it is the precondition of capitalism, which is, in fact, only a particular case of monetized society. Capitalism can thus be considered as an epiphenomenon of the State.
Thus, contrary to many other heterodox approaches, which consider that money can be explained on the basis of the market or of capitalism8 , and therefore that it represents something completely different under other political regimes, MMT considers that money has common bases shared by all categories of monetized societies. For it, the State intervenes a priori, and not a posteriori, to stabilize the situation, to fix the problems of a supposedly spontaneous market.
Restoring balance to the economy
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 11-21-2022]
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 11-22-2022]
Jarod Facundo, November 23, 2022 [The American Prospect]
Thanks to the Railway Labor Act, a Congressional resolution could force workers back to the railroads under the terms of a contract many of them just rejected.
[MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]
Steven Greenhouse [The Century Foundation, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]
[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-24-2022]
Robert Greenstein is not a household name. But for 40 years, he was one of the most powerful people in Washington, DC, with one of the most surprising jobs. He was the capitol’s de facto lobbyist for the poor, and he won countless fights that cumulatively directed hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to programs for low-income people. The odds are that you or someone you know got more services from the government — health insurance, more money, food assistance — because of his actions.
In 1981, Greenstein founded the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank to provide rapid-fire analysis of tax and spending proposals, with a focus on how they affected low-income people. Over four decades, he built the Center up into one of Washington’s most influential institutions, insinuating it into the heart of the $6 trillion-plus annual federal budget process.
[The Lever, 11-19-22]
On Monday, Oregon voters passed Measure 111, making affordable health care a fundamental human right. It is the first state in the country to change its constitution in order to enshrine the right to health care. The measure states: “It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.”
By including the right to affordable health care in its constitution, Oregon would be given more authority to address rising health care costs and prevent the legislature from cutting current recipients from Medicaid, including undocumented immigrants.
Passing Measure 111 and securing the constitutional right to health care was a lifelong goal of Portland Democrat Mitch Greenlick, who served in the state’s legislature and attempted at least eight times in 16 years to bring such a proposal before voters. Greenlick passed away in 2020, after advocating the proposal in that year’s legislative session.
[The Lever, 11-19-22]
In a creative use of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Toledo’s city council approved legislation to use some of the city’s COVID-related stimulus funds to relieve residents of millions of dollars worth of medical debt. By partnering with the non-profit organization RIP Medical Debt, which buys debt bundles from hospitals at a discount, Toledo and Lucas County Residents will use $1.6 million to eliminate as much as $200 million in medical debt.
“Because of our model, and the way medical debt is bought and sold in the U.S., we’re positioned to stretch government funds even farther,” RIP Medical Debt president and CEO Allison Sesso said in a statement. “One dollar into the program abolishes on average $100 of medical debt.”
Councilwoman Michele Grim spearheaded the measure and said it would use less than 1 percent of the city’s ARPA funds to wipe out decades of debt.
How To Be Good
[The Ruffian, via The Big Picture 11-24-2022]
Three models of global social impact. (The Ruffian)
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-24-2022]
The Netherlands has used advances in vertical farming, seed technology and robotics to become a global model
[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-2022]
Despite all the renewable-energy investments and installations, actual global greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing. That’s largely due to economic growth: While renewable energy supplies have expanded in recent years, world energy usage has ballooned even more – with the difference being supplied by fossil fuels….
Also posing an enormous difficulty for a societal switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is the increasing need for minerals and metals. The World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the International Monetary Fund, and McKinsey and Company have all issued reports in the last couple of years warning of this growing problem. Vast quantities of minerals and metals will be required not just for making solar panels and wind turbines, but also for batteries, electric vehicles, and new industrial equipment that runs on electricity rather than carbon-based fuels….
Irina Slav [Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 11-21-2022]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
[American Affairs, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-22-2022]
“The book is at its strongest when describing the evolution and transformation of various “innovation bureaucracies” across time and around the world. While digging into historical examples like the original Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, the authors surface certain themes that repeat across case studies: the need for flexible hiring rules, the importance of attracting a nation’s best and brightest into public service, and the significance of overarching ‘missions’ to focus the public sector. A unifying theme discussed throughout the book is the idea of ‘agile stability’ for state bureaucracies: the tension between ensuring stability in the core functions that they provide to the public while also maintaining the flexibility to evolve and add new capabilities over time. Nevertheless, the book is frustrating in its lack of practical detail as to how agencies can embed agility into their functions or how to structurally enable bureaucratic actors to take risks. But the fundamental question is an essential one for our current moment, and the book can help point us in the right direction. So, how does one actually make an entrepreneurial state? There is no single correct model, and in fact, an essential element of entrepreneurship is the ability to correct course and revise plans in real time to accomplish overarching goals. With that in mind, some recent attempts at rebuilding state capacity and fostering agile stability within the U.S. federal government can shed some light on the “how” of making an entrepreneurial state.”
Disrupting mainstream politics
[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]
Collapse of independent news media
Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]
Lambert Strether: “A magisterial takedown in response to this Times example of something everybody has. From below the fold:”
By “a tiny bit flat-footed” [Times editor Dean] Baquet meant his paper was unprepared for Mueller to come up empty because it had ceased to be a news organization willing to embrace guilt, innocence, or whatever the hell the truth was, and instead became a political operation agitating on behalf of “our readers who want Donald Trump to go away.” It openly rooted for one particular outcome and ignored the other possibility, causing the paper to publish one mistaken or clearly biased story after the other.
These ranged from the infamous “Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence” story to the transparent government PR headline, “F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims” to stories proclaiming the “Nunes memo” about FBI malfeasance to be a mere partisan effort at “defending President Trump from Mr. Mueller’s investigation.” As later revealed in the report of Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the Nunes memo was correct in virtually all its parts. Yet the Times didn’t investigate that story or dozens of others properly, because it was and is now a political organ, not a newspaper.
They also played dirty. They accused people of serious offenses without calling for comment, dragged people under public suspicion based on un-checkable assertions of anonymous officials, and fixed errors late if at all. If new events punched holes in earlier reports, they rarely copped to it. This was all part of a new unwritten rule, that coloring outside the lines was permitted, because Trump.
Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War
[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-20-2022]
[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 11-20-2022]
Lobbying group Alec wrote model legislation to protect oil companies, big ag and gunmakers from economic backlash.
[Forbes, via The Big Picture 11-20-2022]
When it comes to doublethink, Big Brother ain’t got nothin’ compared to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-23-2022]
The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts
Linda Greenhouse [The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 11-21-2022]
[The June 2022 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade] caught many Americans by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. The majority votes that erased the right to abortion, that put a constitutional stranglehold on states’ and cities’ efforts to keep guns off the streets, that further tightened religion’s grip on civil society, and that cast an ominous shadow over the policy-making apparatus of the modern federal government were the products of a project that goes back decades, one that unfolded in the full view of anyone who bothered to watch….
How did the Supreme Court itself acquire so much power over the lives of Americans? The answer is, to a surprising degree, a 20th-century story. It wasn’t until 1925 that Congress gave the Court the power to select the cases it wanted to decide instead of simply resolving disputes as they happened to come along. Before then, as remains true today in the federal circuit courts of appeals, the justices didn’t control their own docket. The power to choose—a power that Congress expanded further, to near total, in the mid-1980s—transformed the Court from a solver of disputes between parties to a shaper not only of its own agenda but in many ways of the country’s as well. It became a law-giver rather than a dispute-solver….
Roberts was also wrong in a more fundamental sense. It’s not simply that the public is unhappy with the Court’s decisions. That’s what the polls show, but something deeper is going on that eludes even a well-crafted survey, something that may be the most important of all. It is a growing sense that in its actions in the past term, the current majority is abusing its power. It has broken the Court’s connection with the American public, reneging on the tacit deal the Court made decades earlier….
...In a notable series of pointed remarks since mid-summer, Justice Elena Kagan has sounded an alarm. “If over time the Court loses all connection with the public and the public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for democracy,” she said at a conference of federal judges in Montana. Kagan, a dissenter in Dobbs, did not explicitly mention the decision, but the reference was unmistakable. Scholars agree, warning that the gulf Dobbs opened between the public and the Court, and the majority’s blatant disregard of public sentiment, presents a serious threat to the Court’s legitimacy. “Indeed, the Dobbs decision may be the most legitimacy-threatening decision since the 1930s,” James L. Gibson, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis and a prominent scholar of the Court’s relationship to the public, wrote in an unpublished paper he posted on an academic website….
For more than half a century, a key text for scholars on the relationship between the Supreme Court and the public has been an article by the Yale political scientist Robert Dahl titled “Decision-Making in a Democracy: The Supreme Court as a National Policy-Maker (pdf).” In this short article (only 17 pages) published in 1957 at the height of concern over the Warren Court’s activism on civil rights and criminal justice, Dahl pointed out that the Court tended over time to align itself with the national consensus on major issues. The Court “operates to confer legitimacy,” he argued, “not simply on the particular and parochial policies of the dominant political alliance, but upon the basic patterns of behavior required for the operation of a democracy.”
...A political scientist would have been farsighted indeed to anticipate what happened to the Court from 2017 to 2020: that a president who lost the popular vote would manage to lock in a conservative supermajority with three appointments, all of them confirmed by the narrowest of margins—following the Republicans’ abolition of the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmations—by senators from states that collectively contain less than half the country’s population. No wonder, then, that theory no longer fits reality. Robert Dahl’s reliance on “the basic patterns of behavior required for the operation of a democracy” is of little use when the patterns have been shattered and democracy itself seems so fragile.