Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, January 18th, 2011.


Stuff to Read

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Social Issues

Andrew Leonard, “Why Is the U.S. So Awful at Job Creation?

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative has the charts. In comparison with other members of the G-7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. — the United States has demonstrated remarkably good GDP growth since the beginning of 2009, second only to Canada’s. But we’re last, by a mile, in terms of new job creation over the same period. …

… In comparison to the rest of the G-7, the U.S. boast higher levels of income inequality, does a poorer job of educating its workforce, enjoys the double jeopardy of weaker labor unions and a sketchier social welfare net, and, at the government policy level, appears relatively more influenced by the financial sector than by Main Street.

Another interesting but flawed article at Salon is “America in the Age of Primitivism” by Michael Lind. Lind argues that instead of being divided between liberals and conservatives, we’re currently divided between regressives and modernists.

I agree with the basic point, but the Lind article doesn’t work for me 100 percent. His reaction to Star Wars was way overwrought, I thought. I don’t think its popularity meant that progressives were turning away from science in favor of magic; it was just a good story. Nor does disenchantment with nuclear energy mean one wishes to “quit modernity.”

I also think he misreads the 1960s counterculture (I looked him up; Lind was born in 1962, so he missed most of it). Yes, we flower children were romantics with some silly affectations, but most of what we did was a reaction to the conformity, repression and depersonalization of the 1950s, and really needs to be understood in that light. And we were much younger then. (sigh)

Lind goes on about GM (genetically modified) food, as if there were some huge backlash coming from the left about it, which I can’t say I’ve noticed. I have some qualms about messing with nature, but genetically modified food is not that high on my list of things to get aggravated about.

And, believe me, I know people who get just a little too excited about heirloom tomatoes, but an enthusiasm for boutique vegetables is hardly a threat to civilization on the same level as, say, denial of global climate change.

Lind’s view of modernity seems weirdly retro to me —

Let everyone who opposes abortion, wants to ban GM foods and nuclear energy, hates cars and trucks and planes and loves trains and trolleys, seeks to ban suburbia, despises consumerism, and/or thinks Darwin was a fraud join the Regressive Party. Those of us who believe that the real, if exaggerated, dangers of technology, big government, big business and big labor are outweighed by their benefits can join the Modernist Party. While the Regressives secede from reality and try to build their premodern utopias on their reservations, the Modernists can resume the work of building a secular, technological, prosperous, and relatively egalitarian civilization, after a half-century detour into a Dark Age.

Or, we can form the Real True Modernist Party that favors development of green technology and sustainable agriculture and investment into mass transportation to reduce oil dependency; remains wary of any business or financial enterprise that becomes “too big to fail”; and demands transparency and accountability from business while building a technological, prosperous, multicultural, tolerant, and relatively egalitarian civilization. How’s that?

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