Stuff to Read

I’m feeling a bit burned out and writer-blocked, but here is other stuff to read until the muse strikes —

The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent.”

The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But as the story of Venice shows, virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.

It’s so obvious that unfettered capitalism turns into a cancer that eats itself. Capitalism needs government oversight and limits to stay healthy. It boggles the mind that so many people who are so clever at making money are too stupid to see the bigger picture.

Jonathan Bernstein, “Substance-free Republicans default to lazy mendacity

Are the wingnuts falling out of love with Ryan? — “The Hero, Diminished

Paul Ryan’s Christmas Tale

38 thoughts on “Stuff to Read

  1. Regarding Paul Ryan’s Christmas tale; several years ago, I was working in Sarasota Florida. Sarasota is a pretty town on the Gulf of Mexico, just below Tampa.
    My work (as usual) was outdoors, and the weather took a turn for the worse. There is an old saying in Florida; if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour.
    The Public library was right on the block where I was working, so I decided I’d go inside and mess with my paperwork until the storm passed.
    I had not been to a library for a while, and didn’t realize how libraries are now used by the homeless as a refuge from the weather and for their toilets.
    Not long after I found a seat at a long table, a man in his (I’d guess) early 40’s sat down in a near by chair.He was rumpled and looked like he needed a shower. He turned to face me and I saw he had no nose. The poor guy had a hole where his nose used to be.
    When it comes to charity, middle aged men who are homeless and /or have substance abuse problems or mental health issues are way down on the scale regarding help offered. I can only imagine how far down on the scale one would be without a nose.
    Sarasota has a rather large number of wealthy people who own yachts and waterfront mansions, there is a very active “upper crust” that support the opera, theatre, and local charities. Here in the midst of wealth walks a man with no nose and little hope.
    When you rely on the kindness and generosity of strangers, you’d better be cute and cuddly.

  2. Mitt claims he’s gonna create 12 million jobs in the next 4 years…3 million by his energy policy, 7 million by tax cuts to the middle class, and 2 million through education. Boy,that’s so perfect..I should have thought of that! As it is spoken, so shall it be done.

  3. We do not have unfettered capitalism in the United States. Indeed, we are far from it. You are arguing against a straw man when you suggest that Romney, or any other candidate, could or would want to remove all fetters.

    • We do not have unfettered capitalism in the United States. Indeed, we are far from it. You are arguing against a straw man when you suggest that Romney, or any other candidate, could or would want to remove all fetters.

      I didn’t mention Romney or any other candidate. Do brush up on your reading comprehension skills. Also, please read the entire article; I am too tired to explain things to the lazy.

  4. Also, I read the referenced book “Why Nations Fail” and the excerpt has been misused. The book concludes that the USA has thrived precisely because it has not had, for the most part, extractive institutions. The warning is, however, that the direction the left is trying to take us now is toward extraction.

    • The warning is, however, that the direction the left RIGHT is trying to take us now is toward extraction.

      Fixed it for you.

  5. I’m very depressed today.

    Today should be a national day of mourning – at least for Yankee fans.

    Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the 12th inning last night, and is done for the season.

    *sob* :’-(

  6. Do try to catch a rerun of MTP today!

    Gregory is doing the best interview of his life – with Stephen Colbert.

  7. Day-yam, Swami, seeing’s saying is the same as doing, next year I’m going to pick up a doctorate in quantum physics, win the lottery, write a best selling novel, and climb Mt. Everest.

    All in my spare time, of course.

    Erm . . . does magical thinking only work if I join the Mormon Church? Or can I still be a Druid on Halloween?

  8. Hmm, yes, extractive states and inclusive states. I like that. It makes a lot of sense, and it also helps to highlight the absurdity of trickle-down economics: War is peace! Freedom is slavery! Extraction is inclusion!

    (Of course, it isn’t trickle-down when Mitt Romney proposes it, is it? It’s a totally new idea that’s never been tried before! Paul Ryan would try to explain it to us, but he doesn’t have time to get into the math, and we probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.)

  9. Why did you moderate my comments out? They were polite, on point and informed. I actually even read the book you’ve referenced.

  10. muldoon..You don’t have to join the Moron Church..The Little Engine That Could didn’t…just repeat.. I know I can, I know I can. The faith of a mustard seed is all you need..

  11. I really appreciate this posting, and have bookmarked Robinson’s book, and the NY Times article for later. I love Big Picture stuff like this.

    I don’t know about inclusion vs exclusion, but for ancient Rome, there was a time when the political and economic forces worked in such a way, that wealthy people were incentivized to contribute, to build up the state. This led to Rome’s greatness, and the Pax Romana, which lasted an amazing 200 years. Eventually it came apart, the incentives changed so that it favored “every man for themselves”.

    I hope Robinson’s book gives more examples than Venice.

    @erinyes – I appreciate your posting about homeless people and public libraries. I first started noticing this in the 80s, but don’t really know how long it’s been going on. It’s somewhat understandable if this were happening in a poor area of the country (like the rustbelt where I noticed it), but in a wealthy enclave like Sarasota, it’s mind boggling, and says everything you need to know about the people living there.

    I work with a spiritual teacher who 1) grew up in post-Holocaust Germany (most of his family were killed by the Nazis just because they were Jewish; he himself was born in a prison camp that was set up for Jewish refugees after the war), and 2) has decided to leave his adopted country, the USA, because he can see what’s coming here (economic collapse and right wing dictatorship).

    This teacher has been traveling around the world, seeking a new base. He wanted to see Scandinavia, specifically Denmark and Copenhagen, because he had heard all his life about Democratic Socialism, and wanted to see first hand how it works. His reaction to Copenhagen is that nobody is poor. Nobody has any economic worries there. Everything is extremely expensive, and taxes are high, but everyone feels they get value for their taxes, and people generally don’t complain about taxes. A very well run place, he concluded.

    This teacher isn’t going to be setting up in Europe – it’s too tied to the USA, but he wanted to see an example of what other countries have done.

    As for your experience in the public library – this teacher would say the homeless were created, not just made visible, but were created, by Ronald Reagan.

  12. moonbat,
    In all fairness to us, the US, Denmark’s military offense, Ooops, I mean military defense, I meant, defense, I meant security, budget is nowhere near ours – and they’re smart enough to know to NOT cut taxes if they ever DO, by some offchance, have to use their military.

    Image how much better off people here would be if the military industrial complex wasn’t still asking for spending like we were still fighting the Cold War?
    And even then, why did we need more than a handful of tanks? It’s not like we were going to have the Battle of El Alamein in the Middle East, and the great battle of Kursk, in the fields of Mother Russia – even under Reagan and his growing dementia.

    Yeah, I know – there are a lot of jobs tied up with the military.
    But that’s less and less true.
    Now, theGaltian geniuses in this country have decided it would be smart to outsource the jobs to build our weapons systems and parts, to China, India, Vietnam, etc.

  13. @gulag – to me the lack of a significant defense budget is a feature, not a bug. A gigantic military, unsupportable by the economic base, is the end stage of all empires (think the Soviets or the Roman). Moreover, the cost of this military is always balanced on the backs of those living in the empire who are in no position to complain about it. We can have a fleets of nuclear powered aircraft carriers or stealth aircraft or spy satellites, but we can’t take care of the destitute, or give our kids a college education. We’re so used to this outsized military and its effects, and military service is so glorified in this country, that we don’t consider how extremely abnormal this is, and how unsustainable.

    I remember reading some study regarding job creation and the military, back in the 80s. I even used it to rebut arguments coming from right wingers back then. If the intention is to create jobs, the military is one of the least effective ways to do it (argument took the form of: you spend x dollars to create 1 job). But that was back in the 80s.

    The mere fact that the military takes up so much of our economy now, means that any downscaling would have a large effect on an already fragile economic recovery. But that again, speaks to how skewed the economic base is of late stage empires.

  14. Moonbat; I’d be interested in finding out if your teacher has considered New Zealand.
    I was considering moving there some years ago. They are far enough away from everyone that chances of something going bad there is remote, and they have an abundance of geothermal energy, plus more than enough wind and hydroelectric for power.
    They also grow enough food, and have plenty of fresh water.( and a smaller population)

    Regarding my comment on the homeless in Sarasota Fl, there is an even more “exclusive” community about an hour south. Naples has a high concentration of very wealthy people. I had a job going there in the mid 90’s, and was told by the dock master that if a “person of color” was observed on the west side of U.S.41, the police would investigate immediately. During the realestate boom years, the “service people” who work in the grocery stores, restaurants, etc, would be bussed in from outlying areas because housing was so expensive. There is a rather large community between Naples and Everglades city (actually in the Everglades) that was built for the working class.
    The real estate collapse really hurt Sarasota, but Naples; especially the really high end properties are the exception.

    ‘Gulag, I guess we now have a “Toys R Us” for the five sided insane assylum.

  15. We do not have unfettered capitalism in the United States. Indeed, we are far from it.

    We have unequally yoked capitalism in the United States. Fetters make for a good appearance when you’ve got your thumb on the scale.

  16. @erinyes – he has taught in New Zealand, but considers it a very conservative place, somewhat like the 1950s in the US. In all other respects it’s probably great in terms of isolation, self-sufficiency, and natural beauty. The people I’ve met from New Zealand tend to look to Australia as perfection, probably because the climate is sunnier, drier and warmer. Yeah Naples has a much bigger reputation than Sarasota.

  17. moonbat,
    Back in my summers off from HS, from 1973 to 1975, I worked with my late Father in a Machine Shop in Upstate NY.
    He was the Foreman, so I had an “in.” 🙂 I was, probably the WORST Machinist in the history of that fine line of real work.

    One of the things we worked on, was parts for our fighter planes. I remember de-burring panels for what I was told were parts of the wings – and “scripting serial numbers on the parts. I remember, because I still have a scar on my right elbow from accidentally brushing it against a wing part I hadn’t yet de-burred.

    To make a long story short, we also made other small parts for the military. The wing parts got sent to San Diego when we were done. Other parts were shipped to MN, CO, FL, and FSM knows what other states.

    The most brilliant thing the Military Industrial Complex, that Ike warned us about as he was exiting the stage did, was to spread the machining, and other aspects of making things for out military, to EVERY Congressional District that they could.

    In that way, jobs were tied in with continuing, if not expanding, our countries military. And now, we’re out-sourcing those jobs.
    It’s mind-boggling!

    How do we allow this?
    It’s like the Romans outsourcing the making of spears and shields to the “Barbarians.”

    “Quick, the Barbarians are attacking!!! We need a million spears and shields! What do you mean we can’t get them ’cause the spears are made by the Franks, and the shields by the Vandals? What maniac thought up this outsourcing? Nero, or Caligula! Oh, Mitt Romulus! Well then, we’ve got not choice but to tax the peasants!!!”

  18. We do not have unfettered capitalism in the United States..

    It’s a relative thing. No society is 100% capitalistic and no society is 100% communistic, although the USSR and Communist China came close. Most societies are a blend of individual freedoms constrained by what that society thinks is better for the group as a whole.

    Every society is a mix of the rights of the individual versus the rights of the group. If you think about it, every collection of people, from nation-states, down to families and couples also have this same tension going on within them, between the rights of the individual, versus what rights individuals are willing to surrender to the group, thus giving the group power over individuals.

    Even temporary societies, like the people in a checkout line, or the all the cars on a highway, surrender certain individual rights to the group, which in turn provides a benefit to individuals. For example, if everyone on the highway surrenders their right to drive willy-nilly, and tries to stay on their side of the middle lines, then fewer people get maimed or killed. We even hire police to enforce these rights of the group, over individual freedom.

    We all give up certain individual freedoms to gain more freedom, within a group. This is why when right wingers extol individual freedom above all else, they completely miss the other half of the picture, and sound like immature teenagers, clueless about how the various groups they’re in – be it family or country – helped get them to where they are.

    The US may not be 100% unfettered capitalistic, but it is more unfettered than almost any other place on earth, at least among nations we would called civilized. The only places more unfettered are countries like Somalia, which are ruled by warlords. There it is truly the law of the jungle, which is another way of saying completely unfettered capitalism.

  19. Nice comment, Moonbat.We have an exchange student living with us who is studying government, I’ll be sure she reads your comment. We were having a conversation about several Muslim countries; Libya and Iraq under Kadaffi and Saddam yesterday. She had a hard time understanding how two such eccentric blow hards could have done any good for their subjects.
    As far as the “pure communism” thing goes, I think North Korea came as close as possible, but that situation seems to be changing under the new leader.They had a strange blend of communism and cult hero worship of “dear leader”.
    Under the new leader, we may see “Disney on Ice” in Pyongyang in several years.

  20. Whenever I have been fortunate enough to travel to countries with universal healthcare, it seems to me that there is a far lower level of anxiety in the culture. I might just be seeing what I want to see, and the situation between native and tourist is generally rich in misunderstanding. But, I like to do simple walkabouts hoping to talk with people rather than “see the sights”. Life without a lot of money is generally more tolerable if you don’t have to worry about that funny looking mole or spells of dizziness. To me, universal healthcare is just the decent, civilized thing to do. The “blended system” makes the most sense to me for various other reasons too.

    I wrote before about visiting Dominica, which is not a rich country by any means. It has a very practical set of policies for delivering healthcare on a budget. As a result they have on of the longest life expectancies in the world and even though none of the people I met were rich, they were generally happy, well educated and productive.

    Aw hell, I’ve just got a case of culture dysphoria, so don’t mind me. Fortunately, no one is going to read this far down in the comments anyway.

    Hey Erinyes, I used to make out with my high school girlfriend in the parking lot of the Sarasota public library. That was pre-Reagan and so most people still went there to read books. That was 44 years ago, so I guess it’s OK to “kiss and tell”.

  21. goatherd,
    I hate to say this about my country, but even if we had universal health care, there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t be happy because it wasn’t universal WHITE CHRISTIAN health care.

    They’d hate it that it covered the Nigrahs, Sp*cs, Chinks, F*gs, D*kes, and Red Inj*ns (ours, and the ones with the dot on their heads), and, how could I forget – WOMEN!!!

    Universal WHITE CHRISTIAN MALE health care, would be very, very popular. Unless you weren’t a white Christian male, I mean.
    Then you’d be screwed.
    But that’s what they’d love, ’cause that’s how they play.

  22. @Maha. You: “I didn’t mention Romney or any other candidate. Do brush up on your reading comprehension skills. Also, please read the entire article; I am too tired to explain things to the lazy.”

    Me:True, you didn’t mention Romney or any other candidate. I did. However, your other references are sufficiently telling so you didn’t have to. Namely, ‘Making the World Safe For Liberalism’, ‘wingnuts falling out of love for Ryan’, etc. My reading comprehension is fine. It is just that I disagree with the conclusion and the selective marshaling of facts.

    I did read the entire article before I commented here. You know I was accurate about your intent when I gestured at Romney. It is you who are lazy because you chose the easy route of denial and ad hominem attack on me rather than to engage in an honest discussion. Why even bother to have a comment section if you don’t intend to have a discussion.

    • Me:True, you didn’t mention Romney or any other candidate. I did. However, your other references are sufficiently telling so you didn’t have to. Namely, ‘Making the World Safe For Liberalism’, ‘wingnuts falling out of love for Ryan’, etc. My reading comprehension is fine. It is just that I disagree with the conclusion and the selective marshaling of facts.

      In other words, you feel free to assume what I think based on your own biases so you can trot out straw man rebuttals for stuff I didn’t write.

      I don’t have time for fools. Bye.

  23. “I hate to say this about my country, but even if we had universal health care, there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t be happy because it wasn’t universal WHITE CHRISTIAN health care.”

    Unfortunately, I mostly agree. I can see some of this attitude in some of my fundamentalist friends, although the church that my neighbors belong to is attended by both black and white people. I have several biracial couples as neighbors. If a church has “everybody welcome” on their sign, that generally means it has a diverse congregation, at least black and white. Hispanics generally seem to attend their own small churches, probably due to language differences.

    But, I am hard pressed these days to find or even remember anything I would describe as a charitable attitude voiced by my Christian friends, at least as it regards the general populace. They really seem to believe the right wing line and generally believe that unemployed, impoverished people are wholly to blame for their unfortunate situation. You know that whole “Sermon on the Mount” and most of the other red ink in the Bible, never really meant anything.

    I have a facebook friend who is, to my mind seems like a hateful, bigoted, gun nut, if I judge by the things he posts. He seems to live in a constant state of outrage. He has a visceral hatred of Barack Obama, he posts from the expected RW sources with the occasional picture of Barack Obama dressed as an organ grinder’s monkey, but he’s “NOT RACIST!!!” I can think of few things he has ever posted that were anything other than distorted facts, misinformation or outright lies. He’s a GUNS!, GUNS!, GUNS! Ted Nugent follower. Then suddenly he’ll post some sappy drivel about “God” and how he is a Christian, but, I never get the sense that he has actually read and considered the teachings of Jesus. Although he might has exceptionally lousy reading comprehension, I don’t know.

    I bet this sounds very familiar to some of you.

    I don’t think people like my friend are bad people, but I don’t find them admirable and i do find them dangerous. I think they are overcome with fear and the anger and hatred it engenders. They probably weren’t too swift at rational thought to begin with and the Glenn Becks and other right wing clowns poking them with sticks continually doesn’t improve their capacity for rational thought. The ironic and tragic part is that they are convinced that everyone else is hateful and stupid and that they alone, with the help of geniuses like Rush Limbaugh, have found the truth.

    As a favorite fictional character often observed, “What a revoltin’ development THIS is.”

    Sorry, I should have edited this or tossed it, but now I have too much time invested. I get this way late in the election campaign.

  24. Hey Goatherd, that girl you were making out with wasn’t named “Debbie”, by chance?
    Only kidding…..
    I was down in Dominica about 5 years ago with my wife and daughter, we had a fantastic time, stayed in Rosseau, ate lots of curry chicken roti and did a dive at Scott’s head. The best was to get out among the locals and talk with the Cuban doctors.

  25. I think when stray righties are wandering in here to pick fights, something out in the big wide world has spooked them. Possibly, at some subconsious level, reality.

  26. joanr16.. Maybe if Maha would stop antagonizing the wingnuts with her marquee — Making the World Safe For Liberalism — she wouldn’t be molested by them. I mean as being liberal we have to look at ourselves before we start blaming others, no?

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