See No Evil

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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66 Responses

  1. predius says:

    This ties into this Cato article on land-use and poverty.

    To a large extent, we are poor because we are forced to remain in poor places. The poorest of the poor can immigrate and make more money, moving to more productive areas almost always makes individual people more productive. If it’s expensive, it’ll be harder for people to do it (see immigration law, makes it more expensive but not impossible to get through borders).

    We’re coming into an era where we need to be able to move freely more than ever before – think of how cities changed in the industrial revolution and think of the changes that the internet will bring society slowly through the years – and people are stuck in 25-year mortgages that they had to get in order to afford living in certain states. And now those states (Cali) are going bankrupt.

    As an aside, I look forward to being a proud member of a generation of renters. Sure having a house might be nice but if it condemns you to stay still for a quarter of a decade, that means you’re not going to be able to take that job somewhere else, when your local area has a downturn and you’re out of a job.Report

    • b-psycho in reply to predius says:

      Ah, the mobility difference between capital and labor shows its importance…

      I think you meant “quarter of a century” there though.Report

    • Liberty60 in reply to predius says:

      So if land use regulations were lifted, wages would rise?

      This study just seems like more of a shiny object of distraction than a serious attempt to grapple with inequality.Report

      • predius in reply to Liberty60 says:

        Well, this shows that a view held by many people who believe that inequality is a big problem in America could be creating substancial inequality, most mainstream political wonks believe in land-use regulation as being a net plus.

        Plus, a big part of global inequality can be explained by immigration laws, and again, all these do is raise the price of migration. I wouldn’t dismiss the massive price disparity in living in certain states over others (see net migration to Texas compared to California), “Red” states are getting more people because it’s easier to live there. The problem is if you’re stuck in one of the expensive places without a job.

        Plus federal government policy for 30 years has been nothing but: enjoy the ride with the boys in Wall Street; keep credit cheap so that the working man “owns” his house and the guys at the banks and in Washington can get their bonuses for a job well done. This paid for the wars, for massive pension obligations that we have no measure of (and this isn’t just in the US, but most of the European countries are coming to realise that the promises that they made can’t be paid for).

        And I can’t really say that “wages would rise” is a meaningful thing to aspire to. America or the world isn’t a person who will be better if wages are higher or more equitable. It is billions of people who do things and eat and have sex and live. I’d like for everyone to have as much as they could. Therefore what I find objectionable is government policies that prevent outsiders (ie poor) from the opportunity to bet on themselves and make something better of their lives, land-use regulations being one of many that elites (state, corporate, academic, cultural, urban(?)) use to stop people from taking away their power.

        I don’t know whether we will be richer in the future, wages may never go as high as 2007, who knows? It’s not 1955 and the Keynesian experiment has failed, nominal GDP doesn’t matter, ‘jobs’ is meaningless and the central bank makes as sense as the government setting milk prices. (I would like anyone to read the transcripts of the Fed board’s meetings and not feel like you’re in an Asimov book, or well a Soviet dairy board meeting)

        The federal government is pretty systemic in its eradication of the world’s poor. I wouldn’t expect much else to come from it, I guess.Report

        • predius in reply to predius says:

          Sorry, didn’t make it clear. Cheap mortgages equals more people ignoring the risk of getting stuck in that place if there’s a downturn. At the margins, of course. Which is still millions of under and unemployed people with mortgages who wouldn’t have otherwise been stuck there.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Liberty60 says:

        Land use regulations might not make wages rise, but could help lower costs-of-living, which is the other half of the equation. Increased housing costs, which can be caused by development restrictions but are also caused by other things (population growth and a lack of land/resources) can contribute just as much to the straining of household budgets as low wages.

        When you can afford to live in Texas on 2/3 of what you need in California, you don’t need California wages. (Of course, land-use restrictions are not the only reason for the COL differential.)Report

        • Liberty60 in reply to Will Truman says:

          As you mention, COL is driven by a lot of factors, not the least of which is desireability of location.
          Santa Monica, CA is always going to have higher rent than Killeen Texas, and land use regulation won’t do squat to change that.

          I wouldn’t attempt to make a blanket endorsement of reglation for its own sake; and the idea that the elites use them for their own ends get no argument from me. I’ve seen that up close and personal.

          But the argument made in the CATO report seems dishonest;saying that land use restriction is the prime factor in inequality ignores all the other factors that contribute to it.Report

          • North in reply to Liberty60 says:

            Where I’d object is the idea that land use restrictions are inherently liberal. I’d say it depends on the restriction.
            I mean sure, environmental based land use restriction is basically liberal to the core right now and I’ll allow that historical preservation stuff embodies some of the worst nattering liberal tendencies (if you think the crumbling 1950’s architectural obscenity should be preserved then you should probably have to pony up your own three hundred grand to preserve it).
            Things like zoning restrictions, building height limits, minimum lot sizes and their ilk, however, are fundamentally conservative in that they try and preserve the state of the neighborhood the way it was and prevent change. I’d note they’re also generally the mostly enacted in the manner and at the level that libertarians say should be used for most regulation: some of the lowest levels of local politics.
            So really I don’t think land use restrictions can fairly be characterized as liberal. I dare say they’re bipartisan but worst of all they’re that peculiar breed of regulation that doesn’t require support from any side of the political fence. They sustain themselves on the naked unabashed self interest of the property owners who support them cloaked usually in only the barest fig leaf tropes.

            And, to be honest, that’s why I find libertarian invocations of them generally unmoving. The most destructive ones are not resolvable through libertarian methods.Report

            • Liberty60 in reply to North says:

              “They sustain themselves on the naked unabashed self interest of the property owners who support them cloaked usually in only the barest fig leaf tropes. ”

              That has been exactly my experience, better stated.Report

            • Liberty60 in reply to North says:

              Which brings to mind the idea that when we speak of “government” we are speaking of a shape shifting chameleon, that can assume whatever form and substance we make it.
              We fixate on government either being larger or smaller, forgetting that everyone (everyone who has an effect on it, that is) loves government to be large, muscular, and assertive, but only when it is in the service of a specific interests.

              Instead of dividing government into large or small, maybe it is more productive to view it through the filter of governments that act in the public interest versus ones that act in narrow interest.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Liberty60 says:

            We’re actually probably closer on this than usual. I was just pointing out that you don’t need to worry about boosting salaries if you can lower the cost of living.Report

        • Steven Donegal in reply to Will Truman says:

          So are we to assume from all this that Appalachia is a nightmare of land use regulation? And if not, might there be a couple other causal factors in areas of long term poverty?Report

    • Rod in reply to predius says:

      I could maybe be convinced if the authors behind your link would deign to be a bit more specific. Exactly what kind of land-use regulations? would be a good start. Some kinds of zoning make practical sense: residential over here, commercial over there, and industrial out at the edge of town, for instance. If for no other reason that to be able to design and build the infrastructure–roads, streets, sewers, water lines, etc. to suit the use. It’s also nice, and reasonable I believe, to prevent late-night bars from being too close to residents just wanting to get a good night’s sleep.

      Maybe the authors of the Harvard study referenced in the linked article make that distinction but I’ll never know since it’s behind a pay-wall.Report

      • clawback in reply to Rod says:

        The “Download This Paper” button worked fine for me.

        Their metric for land use regulations is interesting, but questionable:

        Our measure is a scaled count of the number of decisions for each state that mention “land use”, as
        tracked through an online database of state appeals court records.

  2. Kolohe says:

    The quantitative difference between these guys and the middle class of the time vs each counterpart today is stark and real, but do you really think Scotch on Tap dude ran in the same social circles as the plumber he had to call to keep the hooch flowing?Report

  3. Robert Greer says:

    Great article as always, Elias. I’ll add an anecdote I’ve been ruminating on lately.

    I have a friend who works at a law firm in New York. The partners at her office pull in roughly a million dollars a year, and are mostly liberal on social issues. When it comes to economic issues, however, the partners diverge: The ones who live in New York City are mostly economic liberals, while those who live in Westchester or other wealthy suburbs are invariably right-wing.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Robert Greer says:

      As a former resident of New York and now San Francisco (and someone who grew up in suburbs of NY, this makes sense to me)

      You can’t escape poverty if you live in NYC or San Francisco. I have always lived in fashionable and gentrifying neighborhoods in both cities. Neighborhoods filled with young professionals, destination restaurants, hip bars, and convenience stores that sell fancy beer and food stuffs (domestic and international) but you still see poverty. I probably see at least two to four homeless people a day in San Francisco. Sometimes a lot more. There is still a lot of mixing despite gentrification. When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived on a small street filled with brownstones worth millions of dollars. Many were single family homes to professional families (I rented the bottom floor from one such family). One cross street was filled with the type of stuff as described above. The other cross street was a huge housing project.

      I guess living in a city makes you more aware of poverty and if you are doing well, maybe it increases feelings of guilt and wanting more economic justice. Most of those million dollar partners do not have enough money to truly insulate themselves*, they probably still take the subway to work and walk and see the multitudes. Suburbs don’t always but can lead to a more bubble because they tend to be economically more homogeneous and it allows for the poor to become more like an intellectual abstraction or an inconvenience.

      *This requires tens of millions of dollars, living in an area like Pacific Heights or Park Avenue and having a private driver (not a cab) take you everywhere.Report

  4. Mike Dwyer says:

    “You’ve probably heard before about how Americans are increasingly choosing to live only around people who share their political views.”

    I’m of the opinion that they have this backwards. People’s political views tend to change with their locales. It’s a product of personal experience that happens while living there, not the other way around.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Intriguing. Can you prove this?

      I was born in a very blue area to a very blue family and have stayed that way. I lived in a red area during college but stayed within the very blue bubble of the college campus.

      I know some people who were conservative who moved to blue areas and slowly or quickly changed their tune depending on the circumstances. However, I don’t know anyone who moved from a blue area to a red area to become a Republican or Conservative. Partially this could be because of Big Sort reasons as listed above and selection bias. Usually my liberal friends in red areas tend to move very quickly or associate with a small circle of like-minded people.

      Though you are right that it is probably a very lonely existence to be the odd duck out. Whether this means being a liberal in Wyoming or a conservative in San Francisco.Report

      • North in reply to NewDealer says:

        I think you’d need to break this out more ND; I would agree that socially there’s definitely a ratchet with regards to moderate liberal views; when you move towards treating minorities the same as majorities, women as equal to men and gays the same as straights you generally don’t go back (which I’d posit is why those issues are running the tables politically). That said there’s definitely a center of gravity on the left that people move to the left of and then start sliding back; I think it floats somewhere in the field of affirmative action (and if you run into an idiot shrieking about heteronormativity you know you’ve gone too far to the left).

        That said, I’ve known and heard of many people moving from left to right (or at least rightward) on economics. Heck, I’ve done it myself (rightward that is, I don’t drink the Paul Ryan kool-aid). But there’re a lot of distributive and economic issues that people move to the right on very easily as they age. I know more a few people who’ve been so horrified by things like New York rent control (and the elitist cronies and poor/student stooges that support it) that they’ve spun all the way round to libertarian (they recovered but never fully).Report

        • Kazzy in reply to North says:

          “…and if you run into an idiot shrieking about heteronormativity you know you’ve gone too far to the left…”

          Is it the shrieking that’s a problem? Or the heternormativity? I do the latter, but not the former. Just trying to figure out if I’m crazy or not.Report

          • North in reply to Kazzy says:

            Being gay myself I feel a certain entitlement to scoff at people (especially gay academics) who talk about heternormativity, particularly if they bring it up in a tone which I describe as shrieky (maybe strident is a better word). That said I haven’t seen you use it in that matter (if I had I’d have doubtlessly jumped in to say something funny). So I think you’re good.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to North says:


              Leaving tone aside, can you elaborate on your issues with the theory of heternormativity?Report

              • North in reply to Kazzy says:

                I can try to put into words my distaste for the concept. Apologies if they’re scattershot or incomplete; I never immersed myself in that field (I avoided it in fact).

                First in my experience with it I’ve always gotten the impression that in the word “heteronormative” queer studies profs were seeking to forge a linguistic blade that they intended to wield on behalf of non-heterosexuals everywhere much in the manner that the word racist was used (and overused and now days apparently used to death) by the heirs of the great racial civil rights activists or the way sexist was used by feminists. My own opinion is that this is a category error of the highest level and risks repeating the most dreadful mistakes of those two civil rights struggles which preceded (and indeed gave birth to) the gay civil rights struggle.

                Second from my own understanding of this field the general thrust and desire of queer studies groups was to forge a brave new world from which all traditional social structures would be torn down. Gay rights in general and the struggle against heteronormativity in particular were intended not specifically to better the lot of gay people who have been oppressed but rather to liberate the entirety of society from heteronormativity (which would incidentally help gay people in theory). While I’m not one to wave the flag of traditional social mores the idea of a miniscule group of social science professors attempting to engineer the social mores of society in general was distasteful. Just as bad it is unrealistic in that particularly distasteful manner that fringe theories are in that they presume that the great masses will be moved if the right minority hectors them sufficiently.

                Third, pragmatically, is the simple fact that queer studies implies that homosexuals are somehow uniquely different from heterosexuals when all personal experience (and the progress made socially in the civilized west generally) suggests that instead homosexuals and heterosexuals are very much alike. Both gays and straights desire to love and be loved. They largely desire stability, security, companionship and reliability and they generally wish to have the freedom to choose for themselves how much of those goods each desire in their own relationships. It is only in turning away from the reccomendations of queer studies groups and ditching the poisonous charade of heteronormativity that the gay rights movement has made its greatest advances. Marriage, military service, ordinary civil rights, the pursuit of these things (embraced in the 90’s in defiance of queer studies demands that they be spurned as heteronormative) has turned the masses of the people from generally repulsed by gays to sympathetic to us and increasingly scornful of those who would condemn us based on animus with the fig leaf of religious dogma. It is telling to me that queer studies leftists stand right along side moral warrior rightists in intense puckered revulsion at the sight of gays happily going about their lives and melding back into the population as if homosexuality were nothing more special that red headedness.

                Finally, alas anecdotally, is my own personal experience with professors and other gays of their generations (also their younger alcolytes) and my personal experience with reading what they write about all things heteronormative. Their wounds (inflicted to be fair by right wing conservatives and right wing social conservative ideals in practice) have left them twisted to my privileged eyes. They’ve crossed out of the wasteland of gay oppression but they carry that terrible era in their hearts still. I have always had the impression of a desire for vengeance that burns in their collective motivations. It is not adequate, for them, that homosexuals flourish and be happy. No we must also assail every stone of the previous social order and leave not one atop the other. This is to be our reckoning on the social conservatives who tormented us so; the utter dissolution of all of their works.
                Well I’m privileged. I was born in ’79 and came to my orientation only in the 90’s. I’ve never suffered the way the preceding generations have though I know many of my generation did. I’ve seen how each succeeding generation of young gay people are becoming increasingly unafraid and how as they have done so they’ve become increasingly indistinguishable from their straight peers. Heteronormative is a battle cry for a war that gay people neither need nor desire to fight. They would have us seek to tear all social mores down, look at the scars that would result and call it good.

                I reject the theory of heteronormativity because I think it’s wrong. I think it seeks to divide apart people who are more or less the same. It is wrong in spirit; am I so utterly different than my brother who is straight; I know this to not be the case. It’s wrong in motivation; the social right’s worst fear is to be ignored and for us to flourish indifferent to their fulminating. Consider if you were the slavering anticipation that glows in right wing writing when they contemplate the assault of the cultural left and wrap the mantle of victimization about themselves “the homos are coming to throw us to the lions! We’ll be martyrs again! We’ll know we’re righteous; just like the martyrs in the bible! No, I’d rather get married, buy a house and maybe adopt a cat or two and let the social right caper on the sidewalk like a demented South Park Mel Gibson “Look at me *mwargle* they’re torturing me!” Finally heteronormativity is simply wrong in practice. There is no natural historic inevitability to the advance of gay rights. Our rights have advanced because we’ve chosen correct paths and eschewed incorrect ones like the theory of heteronormativity. If we listened to the Queer Studies profs we’d still likely be where we were before we turned from their guidance: angry, marginalized and sequestered away in our gilded urban ghettos. All I can do is echo the younger gay generations because they’re right on this: Look dudes, I know you were hurt and it sucks and we’re sorry for you but we won’t fight this war; we’d rather play Nintendo, get married. make home brew, complain about our boyfriends and cats and do all the other millions of things everybody does when they’re free to do what they want.

                And crap, this is way too long. Sorry man.Report

              • Murali in reply to North says:

                Can I throw this up as a guest post? Because it is quite awesomeReport

              • Jaybird in reply to Murali says:

                “Comment Rescue” is a tradition we don’t follow even half as often as we ought, if you ask me.Report

              • North in reply to Murali says:

                If you’d like to feel free.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to North says:

                Phenomenal, North. Absolutely and totally awesome.Report

              • Simon K in reply to North says:


              • North in reply to North says:

                Thanks to you all. It made my morning.Report

            • Murali in reply to North says:

              I’m sure that I’ve used the word heteronomorative without ridiculing the concept about at least once (do I get to count as far left?)Report

        • NewDealer in reply to North says:

          I don’t know if I could say that I became more “conservative” or not.

          I’ve always identified as a a liberal Democratic voter but in college I was a liberal on a radical campus. Perhaps I’ve just followed the old Robert Frost line about never daring to be a radical when young, lest it make me a conservative when old (Paraphrase, I saw it once and have not been able to find this line since. Google fails me.)

          Economically, I am still a firm supporter of the welfare state but as co-existence with what is essentially a mixed-market but capitalist economy. I once met a person from the UK who immigrated to the US. She complained about needing to finally go to university because the US allows for income-discrimination based on educational status. This is apparently not allowed in the UK. My thought was it makes perfect sense to pay someone with a graduate degree more than someone with a high school education.” I imagine this thought is not very fashionable in certain parts of the left.

          I also tend to role my eyes when a certain kind of leftist begins talking about anti-consumerists politics and goes about calling people corporate sheep for wanting material comforts or luxury goods. My general thought is that such things are done by upper-middle class kids trying to be radical and that they will cool it quickly enough. Or “Shut up. You are going to want nice things as well.” I suppose my main feeling is that I have no desire to live on a commune and neither do most people.

          “Privilege” is another one of my least favorite college left words. It is a very useful concept that has been abused into a base attack and really just translates as “You are bad and should feel bad.”

          None of this is annoying enough to make me become a libertarian or a Republican though. Perhaps in another time, I would have been a Rockefeller Republican but probably not. Right now, the social conservatives, ultra-hawks, and hard-core supply sliders/Paul Ryanites make it impossible for me to consider voting for any Republican.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to NewDealer says:

        ND – any proof I would give would be 100% anecdotal. But I think that peopel often, for example, live in denser urban environments when they are young and more liberal. Then they decide they need some elbow room and move to the suburbs where they become increasingly conservative. Maybe they are already starting to lean that way and the transformation just finishes once they are there.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


          It is true that young people tend to move to the suburbs once they start families (or at least when their kids are young enough for elementary school.)

          There are still plenty of liberal suburbs though. Or at least suburbs filled with social liberals/Clintonesque moderate Democratic voters. I grew up in one and can tell you which suburbs of SF and NYC are blue and which ones are read. I can also kind of do this for DC and Chicago. Marin County is wealthy and blue. Much of South Bay is also well off and blue (though the ultra-wealthy towns tend to run red). East Bay is more diverse and has a more sizeable Republican/conservative population but I think still swings largely blue especially in Alameda county, Contra Costa county is more red. In NYC, it is much more on a town to town basis.

          Perhaps my experience is different but while I see many of my classmates moving to the suburbs eventually (some of the married with kid ones already have), I don’t see many of them becoming Republican. We will see in 20-30 years. They might become fiscally more restrained but I don’t see them joining in with the current ranks of hardcore social conservatives of the Bachman/Santorum mode.* It would be horrible for gay rights and gay marriage for it to be an issue supported by young people who then think twice.

          I’m always up for the explanation that being Jewish and therefore part of the Democratic base skews my prospective on liberal to conservatism.

          *Though who knows whether they will become hypocritical on marijuana and drug use in general. I hope not but suspect you are probably right on this issue. Drug use seems to be an issue in which many people become hypocrites once they become parents including smoking pot on the side while telling their kids not to.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to NewDealer says:

            “They might become fiscally more restrained but I don’t see them joining in with the current ranks of hardcore social conservatives of the Bachman/Santorum mode.* It would be horrible for gay rights and gay marriage for it to be an issue supported by young people who then think twice.”

            I don’t think you would have to worry about the gay rights movement. They won’t regress. But they WILL become more conservative on the next social issue or the one after that. My mother was very pro-civil rights for blacks in her earlier years. Very liberal. She’s not so comfortable with gay marriage., but that’s nearly 40 years later.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              No doubt but not for all of them. I know plenty of boomers who are on Team Democratic and fully supporting of gay marriage but there are also probably plenty of older voters who are like your mom.Report

  5. George Turner says:

    I can see Gotham City from the monorail my father’s company built, and I really don’t want to go down there!

    Elements of what you discussed notably occured in the inner cities, probably to a more extreme degree, as the more affluent and socially mobile fled minority neighborhoods, creating a more concentrated poverty with vastly fewer successful role models.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    I look at how disagreements politically are likely to result in moral arguments in today’s discourses. It’s not enough for someone to disagree because they’re wrong, they have to be somehow morally stunted to have to believe the things they believe…

    And I wonder whether this is something that has always been or whether it’s something that has shown up a lot more since, say, 1950.

    I mean, if I said that I were a Broncos fan and someone else said that they were a Seahawks fan, I suppose I could start a “how could you possibly like the Seahawks?” conversation but it seems like I wouldn’t be able to run with that even half as far as “How can you call yourself an independent when the (either) party is trying to destroy LIFE AS WE KNOW IT???”

    If moral language is more prevalent today with regards to political arguments than it was in 1950, say, I’d wonder why… and I’d also wonder if the “people living next to people like them” numbers are similar to the Protestant/Catholic “live next to each other” numbers from 1950.Report

    • Elias Isquith in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’d guess that to the degree there’s a diff (real but exaggerated, imo) it stems largely from a dominant order enforcing a consensus that in many regards was chimerical. You could see the rightwing backlash to Eisenhower as a representative example. Indeed, the modern conservative movement to a large respect founded on the principle that the conventional wisdom of the time was a flimsy and vulnerable creation of elites.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think there has always been the moral angle but what has intensified it is the polarization of the parties. Richard Hofstatder’s work seems to cover this especially in the Paranoid Style in American politics. There is nothing new under the sun for Michelle Bachmann’s rhetoric. The right-wing especially was always likely to see liberal Americans as being fundamentally unAmerican. See also: The Know Nothings, anti-Mason, How the Federalists and Anti-Federalists used to talk about each other, etc.

      There were always very conservative Republicans and large elements of the Evangelical community always associated with the Republican community. There were also liberal Republicans like Jacob Javits. Likewise, there were conservative Democratic supporters and liberal Democratic voters/politicians. In short, both parties were more big tent.

      So more polarized parties plus a permanent condition in American politics equals lots of rhetoric about being morally stumped or at best just plain moronic.Report

      • North in reply to NewDealer says:

        Yeah but lets not forget why the two parties were more big tent. It was Jim Crow and institutional racism that kept things so mixed up. Now that it’s pretty much a thing of the past the parties don’t have that artificial calculus keeping them diverse.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      The only area where I’d disagree with you Jay is where you suggest it’s getting worse. I’d say looking at history that it’s gotten massively better.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        While it’s true that we don’t go to war over this stuff anymore, it seems like we had a vague reprieve for 80ish years or so.

        Am I looking at the wrong places?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

          Well, there was that whole “communism” thing, I guess.Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            I’m sorry Jay, I think you’re wrong here. There was the communism thing, there was the race thing, the sex thing, the religion thing, the gun thing and a lot of it was a lot more violent then than it is now. Frankly if you control away the comity that the political considerations of Jim Crow enforced on politics in the past 80 years then the past looks strident, moralistic and divisive just like the present. At least to my eyes.
            But that’s just my take, I dunno. Also remember that there’s the internet which means a lot of bad debaters with very strong opinions can communicate with each other now. Back 80 years ago the only people on either side who publicly debated were learned and seasoned debaters. Half a century back the national discourse was Buckley versus Galbraith or Mcgovern. Now the national discourse is ten million Koz’s and Scotts screaming from the right and ten million North’s screaming from the left with your occasional sardonic Jaybird libertarian tossing in a bomb or jab now and then. It’s feisty and messy and not necessarily collegial.

            But that’s just my opinion and if you disagree with it you’re an immoral fascist squirrel-cross-dressing closet Krishna.Report

  7. MFarmer says:

    The welfare state plays a large role, in that incentives have harmed the poor and created dependence and lack of mobility. Government cronyism has favored the rich, protecting the super-rich from competition. Most of the gains made by the middle class over the last 25 years or so were due to bubble wealth, with the dotcom boom then housing. The constant intervening factor throughout the three classes is government. If we had a free market with unfettered competition, many of the Super Rich would be scrambling to stay in the game, and many would lose. Small businesses would likely thrive, thus creating more jobs and opoortunities for the poor to find work and move from the government projects where they are now stuck. I don’t have to rely on imaginative empathy — I grew up in poverty. The best way for the poor to advance, and then integrate into the middle and upper classes, is to have opportunities. Welfare/assistance must be transitioned to the private realm in order for creative/innovative solutions to arise so that we can break the log jam and divisive social structures erected by government. The upper class will not invite the middle class, and neither upper nor middle class will invite the poor, but when the poor have opportunities and knowledge, they will bust through barriers and enter on their own. What government has done to the poor with welfare programs and public education is criminal.Report

  8. Liberty60 says:

    “If we had a [this thing that has never existed and cannot possibly exist], many of the Super Rich would be scrambling to stay in the game…”

    I agree with you.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to Liberty60 says:

      “cannot possibly exist”

      Father Time: “If I had a nickel for everytime some knucklehead has made this bold and ignorant claim, I’m be as rich as David Koch.”Report

      • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

        I’m beginning to believe that no concept is as misumderstood and mindlessly rejected as the concept of a free market. It strikes fear in the Left and Right alike.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer says:

          We already know how the game plays out, Farmer. The last few paragraphs of Animal Farm make for dismal reading but they’re pretty much how it always ends. Inevitably, there’s no distinguishing the regulated from the regulators. If you try going down the Free Market route or the Marxist route, you always end up in the same place.

          Lord knows I hate the Marxists. I’m with you, insofar as capitalism is the only route to progress. But the only way anyone can win in the game of capitalism, a wonderfully rewarding game, I play it every day the markets are open — is if the game is on the square, you know, where ordinary folks like us can possibly win. The only way that’s possible is with regulated markets, where we can tell who wins and who loses and the cards are properly shuffled and the dealer doesn’t work from the bottom of the deck.

          That part seems to annoy some folks, when this is explained to them. All this business about unfettered competition is hugely amusing. Guess what happens when we unfetter those markets. We get price fixing and collusion and melamine in the milk. That’s what really happens, not some heaven on earth.Report

      • Liberty60 in reply to MFarmer says:

        Oh, free markets exist all over the world, and always have.
        Except they only exist in the presence of regulation and enforcement.

        Unregulated free markets? They exist in that same alternate universe as the Pure Socialist Collective.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to Liberty60 says:

          You lack market imagination — you assume only governments can regulate. I didn’t mean that markets should be unregulated, just not regulated by government — controlled by government is a better description — it’s like saying there are free markets all over the world controlled by government, what’s the problem? I’m flabbergasted at the number of Americans today begging to be controlled by government — they want to give up rights to the State — they are eager to give up rights. It’s frigging amazing.Report

          • Liberty60 in reply to MFarmer says:

            Oh, ok, so we are talking about an unregulated free market that is regulated?
            Why didn’t say so!

            But for the slow kids in the class, a few examples would be nice.Report

          • Michelle in reply to MFarmer says:

            Historically, the reason government stepped in to regulate markets is because other forces failed to do so. Big government is a direct outgrowth of big business–money and power amassing in the hands of a few large organizations. If we lived in a world of relatively small businesses and greater economic equality, self-regulation might work. But that’s not the world we live in.

            Of course, in the world we inhabit, the regulatees have the economic clout to co-opt the regulators. It’s hard to trust government to regulate the market effectively when its members have been bought and sold by the folks they seek to regulate.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    From the blurb of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

    “They wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is the searing account of their travels.
    The book starts in the western plains, where Native Americans were sacrificed in the giddy race for land and empire.”

    You’re going to need bigger scare quotes for “Free Market” Unless you’d like to buy into the right wing subtext meme that the 7th Cavalry Regiment is not really a government institution.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kolohe says:

      Free market ceases to have any meaning in the mouths of lefties. All it means to them is “something I happen not to like.”

      Native Americans had a legitimate claim to the land. It was taken from them coercively. That’s not right. It’s very simple. It’s not even a little bit open to debate.

      We may debate how best to compensate them, for which our all-wise government has instituted the tribal system. And it’s just worked out so well, hasn’t it?Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    Sean F. Reardon, an author of the study and a sociologist at Stanford, argued that the shifts had far-reaching implications for the next generation. Children in mostly poor neighborhoods tend to have less access to high-quality schools, child care and preschool, as well as to support networks or educated and economically stable neighbors who might serve as role models.

    You know, if we substitute race for class in the excerpt – which I believe we all can agree are correlated quite a bit more than we like in America – the tone comes across quite different and has really hairy implications.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Kolohe says:

      The guy who wrote Bowling Alone talked about this at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

      He thinks that class is much more of a problem now than race. Basically upper-middle class culture is upper-middle class culture whether White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. You are taught to study hard, delay certain aspects of gratification, get into a good college, good grad school, get a good job, etc.

      Underemployed culture is the same whether among Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc.

      • Kolohe in reply to NewDealer says:

        Which I not going to disagree with, but I will point out it’s funny that all the stuff that (many*) liberals rejected about bourgeois culture and values, and that the conservatives harped upon them for rejecting (a la Nixonland) have now come around full circle.

        *like most but Pat Moynihan.**

        **I think it’s common nowadays (and even back in the day) not to consider Moynihan a liberal. Fair enough.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Kolohe says:

          Eh. I consider Moynihan to be a liberal. He certainly consider himself to be one and a staunch Democratic Party man and that is good enough for me. He was one of the great voices of dissent during Clinton’s Welfare Reform during the early 1990s. This is all despite his working for Nixon and Ford. Though that was a very different time. And for all of Nixon faults, he still gave us Associate Justice Harry Blackmun*. Though he also gave us William Rehinquist.**

          Personally I have always been fond of Daniel Bell’s line of being a “socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.” Though Daniel Bell might be to the left of me economically. I’m just a welfare-state mixed market guy in economics.

          *Law school made me develop a very soft spot in my heart for Harry Blackmun. I’m a huge fan of Brennan and Marshall but the world would not be a bad place if there were more people like Harry Blackmun. He gets dismissed as a sentimentalist but I think of him as a very thoughtful Justice even when I disagreed with his decisions.

          **Nixon’s joke that kept on giving. He might still keep on giving.

          Though I would point out that conservative policies like mass incarceration and attacking the unions as a social experiment are plenty to blame for the current state of affairs.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      If we wanted to seriously discuss the level of Paternalism we’d require to turn things around from the top down, we’d quickly lose our stomach for the discussion.Report

  11. Jason Kuznicki says:

    “You’ve probably heard before about how Americans are increasingly choosing to live only around people who share their political views.”

    You’re right! I heard about it from Charles Murray’s new book Coming Apart. There’s a massive left-right overlap here that I wish you’d take a bit more seriously.

    You might do well to read the book. Posts like this one might easily have been lifted directly from it, which I find secretly hilarious. As does probably everyone else who has read it. You should at least be in on the joke.Report