Just because you’re paranoid…


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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196 Responses

  1. Avatar Mal Blue says:

    The conceit of chess is that the black pieces are the enemies of the white pieces. Truth be told, they have far more in common with one another than their masters. But neither the black pieces nor the white pieces know how to do anything but bid their master’s instructions and go after their sworn enemy. It’s their reason for existing.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I’m a little hazy on my U.S. history here. Didn’t this exact same thing occur towards the end of the Gilded Age? Didn’t it provide the political momentum that led to the Progressive Era?Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I think this could happen but it could be many years away.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        It’ll be a process, not a revolution. The Progressive Era was a generation long, at least. And it won’t be quite like the Progressive Era, just like this isn’t quite like the Gilded Age. Like I said yesterday about the Atlantic article about racial polarization in schools — history may not repeat itself, but it sure rhymes a lot.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Yes but as Saul pointed out, it took several decades of Gilded Age economics and society to lead to the Progressive Era. The other issue is that the globalized economy gives governments fewer tools to reign in the elites or corporations these days. In the Gilded Age, U.S. Steel couldn’t just leave and go to China. Capital is much more mobile now. Its going to be a long and difficult fight.

      The other issue is that we are very tribal these days as Glyph pointed out bellow and this is going to make working together for a common reform not particularly easy.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Burt Likko says:

      No haze – that’s exactly what happened. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a major economic depression to happen again.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Burt Likko says:

      And actually this was also the situation from 1776 till 1815 or really 1829 (the age of Jackson). At that time there were property qualifications for voting, so only a small proportion of the men could vote. John Adams thought the loss of the property qualification would be the downfall of the republic. The Jacksonian revolution came about partly because the Militia was successful in the war of 1812 and it proved that the common man could fight, so then the demand was that he be able to vote.
      It seems in many respects that the republicans are a mixture of the Federalists (Hamilton) with the Democratic Republicans desire for a small government (Jefferson- Madison).
      It does show however that the same basic political argument has been in place since the establishment of the federal government in 1789.Report

  3. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    Two of my friends posted about this report on facebook. One is left of center. The other identifies as libertarian. The libertarian one said that this something that can finally unite Occupy and the Tea Party.

    My range of reactions is similar to yours but I disagree with my friend about uniting Occupy and the Tea Party or more broadly liberals and conservatives because of this report even though I suspect lots of people feel like you on the report regardless of their policies.

    I still think there are too many fundamental differences on the left and the right on policy outcomes and I notice a lot of talking past each other and misunderstandings. A Tea Party type once tried to convince me that regulations were evil and helped keep down the little guy. It was something long the lines of the Koch Brothers being fine with EPA regulations but those regulations really screw over the guy who wants to start a “custom made luxury car business.” The Tea Partier did not seem to understand that I might sincerely think environmental regulations were good because they protect the environment. I am not sure what can bridge this gap.

    There is also the fact that the Tea Party just might be the far-right wing of the GOP:


    Another issue is that people generally have politics that are all over the map and we might be part of the elite and outside of the elite depending on the issue. When it comes to SSM, I am part of elite opinion by general trend, education, etc. When it comes to regulation of business, social welfare, and other issues, I seem to not be part of the elite.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I notice a lot of talking past each other and misunderstandings.

      I wish I shared your belief w/r/t WHY it won’t happen. In your version, people are at least thinking about the end results and preferred policies. There’s a sort of optimism in that: at least people are *thinking*.

      In my version, people are just too unthinkingly tribal to ever get themselves to agree with the other guy, even when they should be making common cause.

      Because *he’s* a hippie, you see; we can’t join with him.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Glyph says:

        To be fair, there is also probably a lot of not-talking to each other as well. Possibly more so.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Politics, among the masses (that is, the people who aren’t themselves vying for individual power), has always been about two things, my wallet (or once upon a time, my food) and the people I don’t like. One of the best ways to retain power is to make sure that the masses are fighting among themselves, so that “the people I don’t like” doesn’t become you.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Glyph says:

        Jay Gould’s famous observation about how he could set one half of the working class against the other.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:

        those regulations really screw over the guy who wants to start a “custom made luxury car” business.

        He’s not wrong, and it is the danger of one size fits all regulations, especially when the big guys get to heavily influence the regulations.

        GM can do a whole hell of a lot more damage to the environment than a small custom car business can, but the small business has to follow the same rules & incur the same regulatory costs.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Glyph says:

        “GM can do a whole hell of a lot more damage to the environment than a small custom car business can, but the small business has to follow the same rules & incur the same regulatory costs.”

        Sure, but it’s also possible for a multitude of small businesses to produce as much pollution as one giant firm. Think of a bunch of small fishermen collectively overfishing and causing fish populations to collapse.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Glyph says:


        Regulations are still important especially environmental, worker safety, and public health ones. My work as a lawyer on various cases has done more to convince me of this than anything else.

        This is not to say that they will be perfect or people will not mistakes but I never got the argument that said no regulation will ever be perfect, so let’s not have regulations.

        I will admit that a luxury car business is probably not the best example to use on me because I really don’t care that much about luxury cars and I just imagined another bauble for the rich.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Glyph says:

        Bear in mind that baubles for the rich are made by the non-rich. When Clinton got a luxury tax on yachts as part of his budget package, the yacht industry collapsed. Do we care about a rich guy deciding he’s priced out of the yacht market? Nah, fuck him; the rich will manage withoutour sympathy. But guys working for the yacht companies–woodworkers, electricians, mechanics, janitors–were put out of work by the luxury tax.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:

        @saul-degraw @dan-miller

        I’m not saying all regulation is bad, and I never have. My position is, & has always been, that there is a lot of regulation that is harmful, protectionist, poorly thought out, overly expensive, or just plain wasteful, and we have little to no mechanism by which such regulations can be objectively reviewed & changed (courts are not such a mechanism, as their general position is unless there is a constitutional or criminal question, the matter of regulation is left to the legislature). Especially since the vast bulk of regulations are not crafted by elected officials (giving them little incentive to review or change them). Absent such a mechanism, we should be extremely careful and thoughtful with regard to the crafting of regulations.

        When we leave the crafting of regulations to entrenched interests, or big players, or as the result of “Sue & Settle” cases, we more often than not suffer bad regulations that will by & large most adversely impact those who are least able to afford to comply with or fight the rules they must now live under, and it is a rare instance when anyone makes a successful takings claim against the government for the effects of a regulation.

        For instance, the whole CPSIA law had testing requirements that would have driven many small businesses under. From what I recall, Mattel & other major toy makers had a large hand in crafting such rules, and it was only the constant chorus of voices that took a lot of the sting out of the final rules (I believe the CPSC grants waivers to small businesses as long as their is no indication of a problem).Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Glyph says:


        I think that we are dealing with very different default categories for modes of action and I am not sure about how to bridge this difference.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Glyph says:

        “(I believe the CPSC grants waivers to small businesses as long as their is no indication of a problem).”

        No, small businesses are subject to the same lead-content standards as larger ones. The CPSIA small-manufacturer exception only exempts you from the need for certified third-party testing; you’re still required to *do* the tests, you’re just allowed to do them yourself. And it’s only certain products (and certain categories of materials) that are exempted from the testing requirements; if your product uses paint you’re required to have a certified lab do the testing.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Glyph says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist I would agree with this statement–“a lot of regulation that is harmful, protectionist, poorly thought out, overly expensive, or just plain wasteful, and we have little to no mechanism by which such regulations can be objectively reviewed & changed”–if you would agree to add the term “missing”. Entrenched interests are just as interested in ensuring that some things remain unregulated (CO2 emissions, e.g.) as they are in ensuring that they have control of the regulations that do pass.

        And I agree with you about the lack of mechanisms for ensuring ideal regulation, to an extent. But the solution I hear from most libertarians is to get rid of many regulations, rather than ensure that we have the optimal set. Fixing bad regulations is only half the problem, and probably the smaller half; we also need a mechanism for instituting good ones (and such a mechanism is possible, but not helped by the pernicious influence of organized groups).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:


        I’m afraid you’ll have to expand on that a bit before I can formulate a reply.


        Sure, there are areas where regulation is missing or inadequate, in large part for the same reason there is a lot of bad existing regulation – entrenched interests are given undue influence in the process.

        I see two major flaws to the regulatory process – single party interference & lack of transparency. Too often only one side of a debate is given access to the process, with the other side shut-out, or given the mushroom treatment. This, of course, leads to the second problem, which is that a lot of planned government activity is technically transparent, while being functionally obscure (think Arthur Dent & his home wrecking prior to the Vogons).

        Absent actual fairness on the front end, it would be nice if we had something on the backend that offered something.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:


        Bear in mind that baubles for the rich are made by the non-rich. When Clinton got a luxury tax on yachts as part of his budget package, the yacht industry collapsed.

        A the most disturbing thing; we’re so driven by tax code that we make major decisions solely because there’s a tax incentive; and the wealthier you are, the worse the behavior gets. It does drive me to the verge of losing all respect for my countrymen the way they’re rats, following the crumbs that fall from the tax code.Report

      • Avatar StevetheCat in reply to Glyph says:

        Please explain to me how an additional tax on an item is an incentive?

        The luxury tax was actually enacted under George H.W. (Read my lips, No new taxes) Bush although pushed by the Democrats that controlled Congress.
        Repealed under William Jefferson (Tax the Rich) Clinton and the Democrats that controlled Congress when they realized disincentives do matter.

        Also the tax was ill timed in that it coincided with a recession and rising gas prices due to the The Gulf War.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

        Reading comprehension fail.

        Tax cuts are incentives. Lack of tax break = lack of incentive.Report

      • Avatar StevetheCat in reply to Glyph says:

        Reading comprehension fail.?
        Do you understand that there was no luxury tax?
        They created a new tax.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

        If a rich dude who can afford a yacht decides not to buy one because he doesn’t get a tax break or has to pay a luxury tax, he’s responding to incentives in the tax code.

        More importantly, there are elderly people in my neighborhood who are not non-profit charities and don’t get some neighborly help they need because of a lack of tax incentive.

        Total reading comprehension fail; people spend far too much time looking for tax benefit instead of living.Report

      • Avatar StevetheCat in reply to Glyph says:

        “he’s responding to incentives in the tax code.”
        What “incentives” do you believe higher taxes on cigarettes create?

        “Total reading comprehension fail; people spend far too much time looking for tax benefit instead of living.”
        Again, there was no tax cut, no tax break, no tax benefit. Just an additional tax that did not exist before. Additional money that had to be spent. The money was not spent. Boats were not bought. Jobs were lost.

        Thank you for continuing to question my reading comprehension but I believe the problem may stem from differing languages.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Glyph says:

        You don’t respect people because they respond to price changes?

        Think of it this way: Because of the way wealth and income are distributed (the number of people earning $x per year or having $x in the bank falls off rapidly as x increases), most yachts are going to be purchased by people for whom it’s a fairly significant expense. For every person who can afford to drop $250k on a boat without thinking about it, there are going to be several more who can afford it, but for whom it’s a major expense. It’s entirely reasonable for a tax increase to move it out of the “slightly painful, but worth it” category and into the “too expensive” category.

        You also have to take substitution into account. If I’m on the fence between buying a yacht and something else (home improvements, taking more vacations, renting yachts every now and then instead of buying one*, something like that), then why shouldn’t I decide to do the other thing when the government raises the price of yachts?

        *Now that I think about it, who actually uses a yacht enough to justify buying instead of renting?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Glyph says:


        Well damned if you aren’t right. 😉Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Glyph says:


        I honestly don’t understand your complaint. Money always creates incentives. Really, we’re just talking about the law of demand. There’s no gain in taking a normative approach to an empirical regularity like that.Report

      • Avatar StevetheCat in reply to Glyph says:

        May I ask, what led you to believe Clinton instituted the luxury tax?
        I have a forthcoming study about perception,narrative vs. actual policy.

        *(You are tainted and won’t be included, but would still value your thoughts.)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Glyph says:


        Faulty memory, probably. I seem to remember one of my profs back in the ’90s saying that, or reading it somewhere around that time. But after 20 years, who knows.

        I suppose it does seem more like a Democratic prez thing to do than a Republican prez thing to do, but of course presidents don’t “do” taxes and budgeting on their own. But I honestly have no idea if that’s part of the reason I thought it or not.

        But maybe it’s because Clinton’s budget battles, including his first one, occupy a larger place in my mind than many other budget battles–because I’ve read more about them and used them more as examples in my teaching–that this item got mentally tacked on. Professionally, it’s a bit embarrassing, even though I know how unreliable memory is.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        I’d rather we make decent products for the common man. But increasingly, that seems to be a disappearing marketshare. $5 million a person? Well, when you’re selling low quality meat that wouldn’t have even been seen outside of central Mexico five years ago… you’re going to have more deaths.

        Oh, well, what do we say? Ding Dong, Walmart’s Dead!Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      By that measure, libertarianism is the ultimate elite ideology. It sides with the elite wrt SSM and again with the elite wrt business regulation. And the sort of Jacksonian populism which is pro regulation in both economic and social spheres is the sort of thing which people who are not elite (i.e. mediocre) along all dimensions believe in….Report

  4. Avatar Kim says:

    Asking Astroturf to turn against their masters?
    Good Luck.

    Hatred of the Other is always a powerful propaganda tool, and it’s the Right’s favorite.Report

  5. Avatar Straw Mann says:

    Where might the Left and the Tea Party find common ground that provides fusion in the future, assuming that the Don’t-Tread-On-Me crowd truly do split their voting block from the GOP? Perhaps, if a new study from Princeton and Northwestern is to be believed, such a fusion might be borne from Fighting The Man.

    Uh, I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but just because you guys are used to taking me down like last year’s calendar, doesn’t mean jack-squat.

    Have you ever even MET my brother, The?

    He’s one tough hombre.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    Glad you picked up on this one.

    Next up, I predict, will be pot laws.Report

  7. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    To be fair, I think there is some overlap between the left and the right.

    Salon.com just published an article on the steep decline of Sears and said that this is a symptom of the vanishing middle class.* Rod Dreher posted a link to the article and commented on it favorably.

    So Salon.com, Dreher, The Nation, Occupy, and The Tea Party are all concerned with the death of the middle class. Great! So am I! So are lots of people or so they say because this is still a representativeish democracy and we still have elections and universal franchise.

    Yet I imagine that Salon.com and Dreher would largely come up with very different solutions as how to best help boost the middle class and Dreher is a conservative who strikes me as getting it right every now and then on economic issues.

    *I am largely not convinced that the death of Sears=the death of the Middle class but according to the Salon.com article, I am too coastal elitist to be the core Sears shopping demographic.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      My problem with arguments like this is that they’re really, I believe, the other side of the coin of the right’s “we’re really the civil rights activists — look at what the Dems were doing in the 1940s!” argument. It assumes a level of stasis that doesn’t exist in the real world.

      The things you and the right think are absolute, 100%, litmus-test issues today aren’t going to be what you think are absolute, 100%, litmus-test issues are tomorrow. Even the very reasons you tell yourself *why* you’re for or against something will shift. (Look at abortion and the “rights of the unborn.”)

      Over the next decade, battles will be won and conceded, and new challenges will appear, and people will shift. Not because this is a special time, because this is what is always happening.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I am not quite sure I agree.

        There are lots of issues that (in my mind) should have been decided a long time ago but we are still fighting about. I posted about them on your piece from yesterday.

        There is still seemingly a large contingent of social conservatives who think that no-fault divorce is a great evil even though no-fault divorce has been part of American life for somewhere between 50-60 years.

        Americans seemingly have lots of sacred values that they are not willing to compromise on.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly ,

        My problem with arguments like this is that they’re really, I believe, the other side of the coin of the right’s “we’re really the civil rights activists — look at what the Dems were doing in the 1940s!” argument. It assumes a level of stasis that doesn’t exist in the real world.

        I think the more appropriate conclusion is that the argument is meant to CREATE the assumed levels of stasis, usually in place of actual policy proscriptions that might help middle class Americans (whatever that really means), much less poor folks.


        Americans seemingly have lots of sacred values that they are not willing to compromise on.

        I think Americans have actually compromised on most of these issues, except the fringes and politicians looking to get re-elected (who need those fringes to win primaries).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        There are lots of issues that (in my mind) should have been decided a long time ago but we are still fighting about.

        For example, some people still haven’t gotten the memo that increasing supply reduces prices, and that was settled back in the 18th century.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      There is a certain nativist/populist nexus of agreement between certain kinds of progressives and certain kinds of conservatives. You can probably see this best on respective views on trade and immigration, as trade and immigration are essentially the same thing economically, and morally as well.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        leave it to an economist to put it like that. Immigration, right now, means slavery in my mind, and that’s not just because of the H1B’s!Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to j r says:

        Here I agree with you. The issues over immigration reform, trade, and wages do come up a lot in populist politics of both left and right variants. There have been people on the left to go against immigration reform because of wage issues.

        Though I suspect that the left is more likely to be globalization skeptics. I’d rather have immigration but fewer abilities to outsource.

        I think there is a question here and it is something I’ve been tangled about with neo-liberals. How much should politicians be concerned with wages and jobs in their own countries as compared to the rest of the world? I think to a certain extent it is ethical and moral for people to be concerned with wages and jobs in their own countries. I don’t buy that outsourcing and globalization are axiomatic and tautological goods.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        Notably, immigration and trade are cases where the perceived interests of the wealthy and the perceived interest of most of the rest collide. And what do we have? 1.5 pro-trade parties and 1.5 pro-immigration parties. (A .5 being representative of internal conflict.)

        That’s not accidental, and it’s honestly kind of uncomfortable, even if I mostly agree with the outcomes.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:


        I’m not going to pretend to know what’s what in your mind.


        I’d rather have immigration but fewer abilities to outsource.

        Basically, what you’re saying is that people from other countries are welcome to come here and work, but that you want to throw up an extra hurdle to their ability to work in their own countries. There’s nothing wrong with elected representatives doing things to make their constituents better off, but there are generally two categories of things that they can do. They can make the domestic economy more ripe for investment and growth. Or they can put up barriers that actively stifle trade and migration. I find the latter approach to be economically and morally deficient.


        Freer trade and migration is one of the biggest things that you can do to support the interests of the poor, especially if you are talking about the global poor.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to j r says:


        I think the economist/libertarians/free traders/neo-liberals work with a different set of assumptions that work up to a point but are not complete.

        Yes, globalization and free trade do lower prices on goods and such. This is good up to a point. There is also a cost of cheap namely overconsumption (and I am not an anti-consumerist):


        There is also the fact that land and realestate are finite goods and driving down wages might be good in some theoretical economic sense but it generally does not drive down the rent. Building only helps so much and possibly not at all in some areas. People have their own desires and one of those might be to stay where they want to live instead of conceeding to some theoretical economic argument on good.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to j r says:

        Basically, what you’re saying is that people from other countries are welcome to come here and work, but that you want to throw up an extra hurdle to their ability to work in their own countries.

        People working for American companies in other countries can’t vote for Democrats.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        There is also the fact that land and realestate are finite goods and driving down wages might be good in some theoretical economic sense but it generally does not drive down the rent. Building only helps so much and possibly not at all in some areas.

        What would help bring down the rent is reducing the monopolization of land, both by having people own their own property, and having a larger number of property owners renting to others. Right now real estate ownership is incredibly consolidated.

        ‘More buildings’ is not very helpful.

        Incidentally, everyone always talks about regulation hurting the small guys, and yet no one seems to apply that to the housing market. I understand safety regulations and whatnot, but why aren’t more libertarians out there protesting zoning rules defining minimum house sizes and density rules and whatnot?

        I think common cause could easily be made with liberals on that…yes, they sometimes favor such regulations, but usually to stop slumlords and whatnot. Allow poor people to *buy* very small houses, or actually having a *proportional* rent, that’s something else altogether.

        This is a classic example of us liberals assuming ‘low quality’ means ‘abuse’, one of the most annoying misconceptions on my side of the political isle. Sometimes it does. People getting ‘low quality’ loans can cause a cycle of rollovers and is, indeed, abuse.

        But sometimes it doesn’t. Making everyone buy Air Jordan houses is idiotic, especially when the cost isn’t due to safety or reduced pollution or anything, but simply *larger portions*. Because obviously no one would actually *choose* to live in 600 square feet, so it must be *banned*. (Except all those people who live in apartments with roommate, or people who live in college dorms. Those people don’t count, somehow.) Liberals are stupid sometimes.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to j r says:


        I think it depends on the goods in question.

        It is a straw man to argue that liberals want regulations that make everything into an Air Jordans or Audis.

        There is a big difference between sneakers and housing though. Not everything has to be a luxury high-rise condo. I don’t live in a luxury high rise condo. I don’t think tenements have any place in a decent society though. Residential buildings should not be fire and health hazards. We still have plenty of problems with negligent landlords with good regulations. I don’t want to see what it would be like with no regulations.

        Building regulations help everyone. They are not just measures to screw the poor. This includes commercial real estate. I am currently working a little bit on a case involving commercial real estate. The defendants allegedly did not follow instructions. This includes from the manufacturers of various equipment in their place
        and local building codes. This created hazards and inconveniences not only for the plaintiffs but for the other tenants in the building (and the building is named after a huge and old multi-national company) and people just passing by the building.
        The plaintiffs lost business because of unpleasant odors and had their space potentially and inadvertently turned into a fire hazard because of the defendat’s not following the regulations and instructions from various sources.

        Neither the plaintiffs or the defendants are little guys. They are both moderately large to large buisnesses and multi-city if not multi-state.

        I can only imagine it would be worse if there were not regulations in place. People are lazy and like to do the minimum amount of work possible and take shortcuts even with regulations and instructions in place. When this happens, everything gets fucked up and usually screws over someone else.

        A lack of regulation and instructions just seems like an invitation to the lazy and idle to be as negligent as possible and then they will be shielded from liability under the guise of “tort reform” and “cavaet emptor.”

        Now if you can get people to be careful and not take lazy shortcuts, I would be interested in getting rid of regulations designed to prevent people from being lazy and negligent. At leas the regulations lead to causes of action when someone is being lazy and not doing due dilligence.

        Yes there is such a thing as property rights but how someone builds has an effect on everyone around them both physically and psychologically.

        Now I think there are problems with how the rental market is set-up in the U.S. The presumption seems to be that it is something that you will do when you are young and single and then you will eventually buy a house in the suburbs. Most urban dwellers rent. There also seems to be an idea that most people will stay in their place for a year or two max and then move. I would be interested in possibly looking at the German system. From what I know, German renters provide their own fridges and stuff but they are also allowed to do independent work on their units without consulting the landlord and there is an assumption in the system that renters will stay in the units for a long time, possibly life.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r says:

        @saul-degraw “It is a straw man to argue that liberals want regulations that make everything into an Air Jordans or Audis.”

        Well, yes and no.

        Here in Portland, for example, it’s pretty common for liberals to push for state and city regulations that limit the kinds of foods available to those more expensive foods preferred by upper middle-class liberals. They are also the ones more likely to push for new-housing building regulations that don’t measurably make a house safer, but make it “nicer” and of higher quality — but at a significantly increased price tag.

        And then there’s Walmart, the opposition of which, I would argue, has as much to do with its lower-class feel and catering than anything else.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to j r says:


        FWIW, I am perplexed by how many liberals are opposed to GMOs as a sacred cause and think one of the problems of gentrification is that the local affordable supermarket becomes an expensive Whole Foods. People might not be driven out because of higher rents but they could find that they are driven out because the old businesses that used to cater to them go away or change.

        I am more opposed to Wal-Mart because of their union busting and low wages and lack of benefits than anything else. I would fight against Wal-Mart opening in SF. I do think that Wal-Mart comes in, drives out all the independent employers, and then offers sub-standard and sub-decent employment to the recently laid off from the former independent employers.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r says:

        @saul-degraw “I am more opposed to Wal-Mart because of their union busting and low wages and lack of benefits than anything else. ”

        Yeah, well, I don’t know how things are in NYC or SF, but in PDX the mom and pops Walmart puts out of business tend to skew heavily toward non-union, minimum wage, no-benefit employers. They just sold nicer stuff in prettier environs. Liberals here have are pretty fine with those.

        In fact, when I hear people ’round here bad mouth WalMart when a WalMart is looking to break ground in their neighborhood, I hear a lot about wages and employee treatment and those kinds of things. But when I hear people ’round here bad mouth WalMart in the abstract, when there isn’t one looking to break ground, most of what I get tends to be various white trash and fat people jokes.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to j r says:

        What would help bring down the rent is reducing the monopolization of land

        For that to make sense, there would have to be large numbers of vacancies. The way monopoly profits work is that the monopolist chooses to increase profits by selling fewer units at a higher price. He can do that because he has no competition to lure away all his customers with lower prices, but demand curves still slope downward. If he raises prices above the market-clearing level, he will sell fewer units. If vacancy rates aren’t high, then there must not be monopoly pricing.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r says:

        @brandon-berg Is that true for housing, though? I don’t actually know, but if it is it seems counter intuitive.

        If there are 1000 rental spaces in a town that are all owned by one landlord, and 3,000 people who need housing, can’t that landlord — assuming no rent control — raise rent quite a bit more than he might be able to if, say, there were 200 landlords and still have no vacancies?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        Round here we’re carving out our names
        Round here we all look the same
        Round here we talk just like lions
        But we sacrifice like lambs

        Portland, eh? And I foolishly thought the song was set in LA.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        For that to make sense, there would have to be large numbers of vacancies. The way monopoly profits work is that the monopolist chooses to increase profits by selling fewer units at a higher price. He can do that because he has no competition to lure away all his customers with lower prices, but demand curves still slope downward. If he raises prices above the market-clearing level, he will sell fewer units. If vacancy rates aren’t high, then there must not be monopoly pricing.

        Vacancy rates are astronomically high, so your point is demonstrating rather exactly the opposite of what you want it to.

        There are somewhere between 14 and 20 million empty houses in the US. Meanwhile, on the buyer side, there are something like a million homeless families in America, and about another 2 million families who are not technically ‘homeless’, but are living in other people’s basements and their couches and stuff and would like their own house. (1)

        Ask yourself what would happen in a *functioning* market where there are around 5 times as much supply as demand? Houses should be an absurd buyer’s market, with sellers desperately trying to lure them in via any means possible, especially as housing inventory is *incredibly expensive* to upkeep. Houses aren’t like extra cell phones where you can stack them in a warehouse somewhere….there’s taxes, actual required property upkeep, vandalism to worry about, etc.

        And, yet, you don’t see reduced prices. Granted, housing prices have ‘gone down’, but that’s only because they had a completely insane bubble to deflate from. Empty house inventory *continues* to grown, and, somehow, housing prices are the same.

        But all the houses are owned by a few groups, either giant holding companies or, most recently, banks. They keep their high monopoly prices. A few *individual* sellers have figured things out and lowered prices, but the monopolies have no incentive to do so. A lot of the monopolies are geographical, so it’s hard to see nation-wide, but it’s true.

        1) Let’s not quibble over the number of homeless…because notice the *less* homeless people there are, the *stronger* the supply/demand imbalance is, and the *lower* home prices should be in a free market.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        Here in Portland, for example, it’s pretty common for liberals to push for state and city regulations that limit the kinds of foods available to those more expensive foods preferred by upper middle-class liberals. They are also the ones more likely to push for new-housing building regulations that don’t measurably make a house safer, but make it “nicer” and of higher quality — but at a significantly increased price tag.

        That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Not the safety regulations, the ‘higher quality’ nonsense.

        There’s a certain strain of liberal thought that says that poor people are ‘taken advantage of’ by buying crappy things. So we shouldn’t let people sell crappy things.

        And I’m okay when the crappy things are *actually harmful*. No, we shouldn’t let people sell toys that are cheaper because they have lead paint on them. No, we shouldn’t let payday loans with insane interest rates happen. And there are, indeed, things we probably shouldn’t let people put in food.

        And we do need some sort of minimum level of functionality for residences. Working water and heat and electricity and stuff like that. No rats. Stuff like that.

        But that’s it. That’s where the regulations should stop. Making people build houses with at least 1500 square feet or whatever, and have a lot size of half an acre or whatever, is nonsense. It does not help anyone at all. There’s no reason the poor couldn’t live in essentially hotel rooms, because otherwise they’ll live in their cars. (And guess what? Very few cars have running water.)

        And *both* parties do this. The left out of a misguided attempt to protect the poor, and the right in an misguided attempt to protect property values.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        stifling someone’s freedom to be a slave in their own country, to be employed by lawbreakers? I’m not sure that’s an outright moral bad.

        How many multinationals pay the mandated retirement benefits in Mexico? My understanding is that it is virtually nil.

        (if Mexico’s a poor example, feel free to substitute something that works better).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to j r says:


        Saul, you have got to stop painting with the all-or-nothing regulation brush. Very few people in this forum, or even outside of it, think like my sister & want zero regulation for x, y, & z. It’s lazy & it is making it very hard for me to have respect for your opinions in this area. We all recognize the value of regulations in the abstract. It is regulations in practice that can cause trouble, especially when regulations are crafted to serve a subjective purpose, as opposed to an objective one.

        @tod-kelly @davidtc
        I recall reading not too long ago about a developer in Portland who was building low income housing for substantially less than others. His approach was to take as little government funding as possible, so as to avoid the myriad of “value/quality” regulations that inflated the cost of his units. His units still conform to all the safety regulations, but avoid other rules that inflate the cost.Report

  8. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    Yeah, I’ve been seeing this pop up in my Facebook feed a lot lately, usually from people who really should have known better but just *love* seeing their ideological biases confirmed.

    The paper is actually just a restatement of regulatory capture and public-choice theory, but those ideas were developed before Upworth existed so nobody knows about them.Report

  9. Avatar j r says:

    I will have to dig into this more later, but this doesn’t pass the smell test.

    Was there a point in the history of America, or the history of the world, where there was a political system more democratic than this one? 1960 was the first year that primaries even mattered in selecting presidential nominees. For the hundred years before that, politics was dominated by local party organizations and big city political machines. And before that, America was basically run by an actual oligarchy in most places.

    Also, the idea that more democracy means more individual power to influence makes no sense at all. The most democratic system you could have would be one where elections and referendums were the only means of affecting policy. No campaign donations, no activism, no lobbying, no personal appeals to your representative, etc. In that situation, the only thing that an individual has is one vote among millions. In other words, the closer to a pure democracy you are, the less your individual preference matters in the aggregate.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to j r says:

      Two points – most Americans (including the esteemed reports authors IMHO), still confuse what America supposedly had (Democracy) with what we actually had (Representative federalism). Once you sort that out, you get a clearer picture of what the report mean.

      Second, One Man One Vote is central to that misrepresentation of the American political system. And its perpetuation without nuance or context is a large driver for why the current system is as broken as most of us think it is. In a country of 360 Million or so people, one person one vote doesn’t make a lot of difference, but large groups of people will vote in their perceived best interests. The desire to regain a feeling of “democracy” is (again IMHO) about people feeling they matter in the system, not really whether the system always delivers the exact outcome they want.

      And in that the report is on target – our present oligarchy does, indeed render most of the citizens unnecessary in the political system.Report

  10. Avatar Will Truman says:

    On the basis of what could happen, you’re exactly right, Tod. Ideological and partisan shifts are constant and it’s foolishly typical to think that we’re at the end of history as far as that goes.

    Whether the sort of realignment you imagine is likely, or feasible in more than the theoretical sense, is a different matter. There I will not say that you’re wrong, but you have to get from Point A to Point B. Realignments tend to occur out of political and electoral necessity. Parties exist solely to win elections. Various groups enter the partisan coalition to have their policy preferences honored or at least less ignored than they would otherwise be.

    So to get from Point A to Point B, you’d need a situation where (a) the respective coalitions that would move would have their needs met more by the opposing coalition than by their existing one, and (b) the party would have to see an electoral advantage to courting them.

    In the case of the Dixiecrats, the Democratic coalition became unstable by virtue of having two (more than two, actually, but we’ll say “two”) constituent groups that were simply incompatible with one another. It couldn’t please both, and so it shifted towards working for one and disregarding the other. It cost them the New Deal Coalition, but it was the right thing to do and they did remain electorally viable afterwards (although at a disadvantage for a while). There was a bit of a tailspin before they recalibrated under WJC, but rebuilt a viable (trending towards dominant) coalition. Meanwhile, the Republicans picked up another group of voters that, at least for a time, made them viable and arguably dominant.

    To get from here to there, what you need is a Democratic fracture that leaves the portions of the left you refer to so alienated from the Democratic Party that they believe they can have their needs better met by the Republican Party. That’s a pretty tall order.

    If the Democratic majority is as ascendant as it often appears, something is going to give and a realignment will occur. I suspect it will not be as conspicuous as the Dixiecrats, and probably not as monolithic. I have some ideas on this front, but it would more likely consist of subgroups within subgroups within the Democratic Party (married members of this ethnic group within this economic range as opposed to “this ethnic group”, professional married women with children as opposed to “women”). But it could be more earth-shaking than that.

    Your specific vision, in my view, is more likely to occur in a more bipartisan fashion with realignment repercussions but not exactly a Realignment. @burt-likko mentions the Progressive Era, and that’s probably a fair template. Perhaps a Populist Era. One that could ultimately land more of the populists over here or over there, but probably not much more than that. The reasons why the “oligarchs” exert the control they do aren’t going away. Parties need money, and so they need a monied wing, and the monied wing will perpetually exert disproportionate influence. The question is how much.

    I wanted to fit Ross Perot in this comment, but couldn’t quite do so seemlessly. He did tap into right and left instincts. But his movement died as the parties managed to incorporate them into their rhetoric, if often not their policies.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Will Truman says:

      Keep in mind that the Depression Era ended because a huge war started overseas and suddenly there were plenty of jobs for everybody, and afterwards the jobs stayed for a while because A: we’d blown up the industrial capability that existed before, and B: Southeast Asian industrial capability didn’t exist yet.Report

  11. Avatar Will Truman says:


    Q: Do we live in a democracy or a (federal) (constitutional) Republic?

    A: Are we talking about an issue where I am with the majority or not?Report

    • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Will Truman says:


      Q: Do we live in a democracy or a (federal) (constitutional) Republic?
      A: Are we talking about an issue where I am with the majority or not?

      This always ticks me off. We live in a Representative Democratic Republic. The phrase “Constitutional Republic” is a shibboleth and a not particularly informative one.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to NoPublic says:

        We live in a Democratic Representative Republic, and I’ll kill anyone who says otherwise.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NoPublic says:


      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NoPublic says:

        Well, according to Steven Taylor we live in a democracy and a republic because they mean the same thing. Thus making “representative democratic republic” redundant.

        If one accepts “republic” and “democracy” as being the same thing, then I think “constitutional republic” adds value simply by stating that there are specific limitations to the degree of democratic rule that the system allows for. Federal republic adds value by explaining some of the oddities both historical and current, such as the US Senate.

        So we live in all of them. When they conflict, of course, we live in whichever one serves my purposes.

        (I do agree that “Constitutional Republic” is the least helpful of the above phrases.)Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to NoPublic says:

        (I do agree that “Constitutional Republic” is the least helpful of the above phrases.)

        Yeah. I’m not entirely sure what a *non*-Constitutional Republic would look like. The very premise of a republic is that it has, at base, some sort of structured government. The whole point in putting ‘Constitutional’ in front of things is to signify that, as in ‘Constitutional Monarchy’, that there is a system of laws that are harder to change than just ‘the people in power want them to change’. Which is pretty much how it has worked in every Republic, ever. You have laws that are easy to change, and laws that aren’t.

        While you could technically have a Republic with a ‘flat structure’ of laws where no law is harder to change than any other (I.e., the elected officials could, tomorrow, make it illegal to vote of the other guy, or whatever they wanted.), I’m not sure such a system of government is actually plausible, and probably would not qualify as a ‘Republic’ in any meaningful sense. So ‘Constitutional’ is a completely absurd qualifier. It’s like saying ‘Asbestos-free Cereal’.

        In fact, it’s a pretty absurd qualifier most places it’s used in the modern world. I understand what ‘Constitutional Monarchy’ is trying to say, and I would indeed say that England, for example, had a Constitutional Monarchy…under the Magna Carta. That would be a perfect way to describe England *then*, a world where the monarch was in charge, but their powers were curtailed in specific ways.

        Nowadays, however, modern Britain is more a ‘Republican Monarchy’, or even just a ‘Republic’. We no more need to mention Britain’s monarch than we should mention the US’s poet laureate.

        Frankly, a more useful method of qualifying a system of government would be one that signifies how the executive and legislative interact…a completely separate executive and legislature, or a Parliament-type affair? Sadly we don’t seem to have qualifiers for that, or if we do we don’t use them.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NoPublic says:

        The delineations there tend to be called presidential, semi-presidential, and parliamentary.Report

  12. Avatar Patrick says:

    The problem with the framework of oligarchy is that we aren’t actually one, and thinking that we are one is going to lead to people pursing the wrong solutions.

    There’s no oligarch meeting. Google’s executives and Microsoft’s executives and BP’s guys and the Morgan Stanley dudes don’t all meet for a week to set policy. That’s not how it works, here.

    Oligarchy kinda requires the ruling class to rule as a class, not as a bunch of individuals each seeking their own level of elevated access to power.

    Put another way, “fighting The Man” is a lot different from “fighting those guys”. The #Occupy and the Tea Party dudes can’t unite, from a populism standpoint, because they’re not even sure exactly who it is they’re fighting and why.

    Let’s take Citizen’s United. What have we seen since CU? Expenditures on political spending have esploded.

    But we’ve also seen that this doesn’t affect electoral outcomes all that much. People vote for name recognition and party more than they do who spends the most didge.

    But we’ve also seen that it affects regulatory access, because regardless who people vote for, politicians give better access to the folks who spend the most didge.

    But the #Occupy folks are freaked out about Citizen’s United and are all about either re-writing McCain-Feingold or voting for Hilary because they want the next SCOTUS justice to be more like Ginsburg than Scalia.

    But the Tea Party folks are freaked out about the possibility that another justice like Ginsburg will result in overturning Heller, and they’re more likely to vote for whoever the GOP fronts out.

    Everybody likes their own Congresscritters, they all hate Congress. This means everybody is effin’ stupid.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

      We live in capitalism.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Patrick says:

      Following up on Patrick’s point about the lack of an oligarch’s meeting, there’s some classic work by a couple of Marxists–“The Ruling Class Does Not Rule” by Fred Block and “The Market as Prison by Charles Lindblom–that support his position. They’re important and insightful essays.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Patrick says:

      I don’t think we can safely say that the explosion of political money has zero electoral impact. If securing large chunks of change has a big impact on who can capture nominations or who decides to run at all, that’s certainly influence, even if it doesn’t show up in general election results by definition.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Dan Miller says:

        I think this is true, but still mostly describes the problem backwards. (Money buying candidates a bigger issue than money buying elections.)Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Dan Miller says:

        That’s a fair observation, Dan, but right now the evidence just doesn’t seem to be piled up to, “PANIC” levels.

        More like “possibly future concerns”Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Dan Miller says:

        @will-truman I don’t think it’s anything as crude as money buying candidates–I would imagine that Paul Ryan actually thinks that large tax cuts for the rich are the best policy for America to adopt. There’s no amount of money you could pay him to convince him to work for higher taxes on the rich and abandon his former position explicitly. Instead, it’s that money determines what choices get offered to the American people. We’re ordering off a menu, but what’s on the menu is determined mostly by wealthy people, who have systematically different views than the non-wealthy.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Dan, I think this is where we differ somewhat.

        I’m not worried about campaign issues. If Bill Leonard supports lower taxes for the wealthy and wins, then it’s all good. They knew that when they elected them. What I’m worried about is the MPAA and RIAA having Bill Leonard’s ear when it comes time to discuss SOPA, or Disney having his ear when it comes to copyright extensions.

        I’m less worried about Republican issues or Democratic issues. We have elections to sort that out. I’m far more worried about bipartisan issues. That the big boys have everybody on speed dial. If not Leonard himself, then his colleague from the next state over, and the Majority (and Minority) Whip.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Patrick says:

      Oligarchy is just short hand for the political system favors the wealthy and their interests these days. It works well enough as a word to describe whats happening even if it isn’t technically correct. During the first Gilded Age, the interests of the various captains of industry/robber barons could conflict greatly but they still knew well enough when to unite for a common cause. They were a bit more united back than because there weren’t social issues that split them into different parties.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Patrick says:


      But we’ve also seen that this doesn’t affect electoral outcomes all that much.

      You’re wrong there.

      Massive spending (Especially if you count *Murdoch* subsidizing an entire cable network for decades, which for some reason never seem to count when talking about ‘spending’.) has completely eliminated centrist Republicans, and seriously cut back on *standard* Republicans.

      That is an ‘electoral outcome’.

      What massive spending *hasn’t* done is produce the tidal wave of elected Republicans people might expect.

      People vote for name recognition and party more than they do who spends the most didge.

      Right, which is exactly why the spending is having the opposite effect it’s intended. It’s occasionally resulted in far-right lunatics being elected, or just showing up at elections as ‘Republicans’, which has turned people off from the Republican party.

      It turns out that massive spending does do exactly what people think. It results in people being able to win primaries despite having massively unpopular ideas. It also results in those people sometimes winning elections.

      This, oddly, often is *not* a good thing for people supporting those massively unpopular ideas. Because it turns out that people, believe it or not, don’t like it when politicians attempt to enact massively unpopular ideas. (The super-rich need a class in Tautology 101.) Hell, a lot of people are taking issue with actual implementation *even when* they thought they supported the idea.

      The massive amount of money being thrown around is not having ‘no effect’. It generally is having *the opposite* effect of intended, but that’s still an effect.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to DavidTC says:

        You’re wrong there.

        I don’t think so.

        Massive spending… completely eliminated centrist Republicans

        I think that’s one way of looking at it. I don’t think that’s the right way. In fact, I think it misses the actual problem entirely.

        Another way of looking at it is that “85% of voters approve of their Congresscritter” doesn’t happen because somebody tried to get rid of the centrists at the electoral point of the process. They got rid of them at the district-drawing point of the process. Which doesn’t have anything to do with campaign spending and has a lot to do with how we draw districts (which I think we’ll both agree is batshit insane?)Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

        They got rid of them at the district-drawing point of the process. Which doesn’t have anything to do with campaign spending and has a lot to do with how we draw districts

        I agree that’s a problem, but a slightly different one. *That’s* why the crazy ones sometimes win elections. The reason they win *primaries* is because they have money behind them.

        You’ll notice that, if what you were talking about was the sole problem, we’d have no crazy Senators. And we do. But let’s not pretend this is an either-or thing.

        Gerrymandering allows pols who wouldn’t be elected to get elected, but only *inter-party*…the primaries themselves still mattered, and kept out the crazies.

        And massive spending gives credence to loons who under normal conditions wouldn’t be allowed near the political process *at all*. They now get an extra 20% or whatever votes.

        With just gerrymandering, you get crazies defeated in primaries. With just massive spending, you get crazies that win primaries and go down to sound defeat in the general. (As the Republicans keep tripping over.)

        When you combine *both*, you get crazy elected officials.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to DavidTC says:

        @patrick and @davidtc

        I think gerrymandering, while it does happen, is greatly overrated, and it benefits both parties.

        More important to gerrymandering is a social collecting and how views and philosophy sort of spread through a local area; some cohesion develops. For example, where I live, on the edge of the great northern forest, the politics of forestry and woodland management are pretty touchy. There are deep ecologists living next door to clear-cut it and sell-it folk. But they all speak with a certain language that’s rooted in the common understanding of how the forest works, and that language is vastly different from the people who come here to vacation. There are variations of that language from my home town to the towns 50 miles in either direction along the forest border, too.

        So I honestly believe a lot of what we think of as gerrymandered is not; it’s local culture — where the natives on any side of a political debate actually hold some local signaling in common despite their political differences. I think this goes a lot toward explaining approval high ratings for district representatives (and schools), as well.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

        Gerrymandering is assisted by a whole lot of self-sorting. The statistics at the country-level in presidential elections have been telling in this regard.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

        From Jonathan V Last’s What To Expect When No One’s Expecting (citing data from Bishop and Cushing of The Big Sort:
        In 1976 only 26.8 percent of the counties in America went for either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford by a margin of 20 points of more. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. The 1976 election was an incredibly polarized moment with the country shaken by Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. Carter won 50 percent to 48 percent, and in three out of every four counties, the vote was reasonably close, which meant that Republicans and Democrats were, for the most part, evenly intersparsed at the local level, even if, in the aggregate, their states tilted one way or the other.

        But after 1976, something happened. As people began graduating from college at higher rates they became increasingly mobile and willing to put down roots far away from where they were raised. And they began to cluster around other like-minded people. So much so that in 2000, America had one of the closest presidential elections in the nation’s history: George W. Bush won the race despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore, 47.9% to 48.4%. Yet in nearly half the counties in America (45.3 of them) the vote wasn’t close at all: Either Gore or Bush won by more than 20 points. In 2004 – another very close election – the percentage of what Bushop and Cushing refer to as “landslide” counties increased to 48.3%. The end result is fewer neighborhoods that are ideologically mixed and more places that look like Old Town [Alexandria] (or its Republican doppelganger). Bishop and Cushing’s conclusion is inescapable: We are sorting ourselves into communities of the saved.Report

  13. Avatar dexter says:

    Patrick, What is a “didge”?
    Also, as a lefty, I do not want Mrs. Clinton. I want a Sanders/Warren ticket where Sanders stays president for four years then Warren becomes president for eight.
    One of my pet peeves is the over use of absolutes. “Everybody” does not love their congress critter.; I hold Cassidy in great disdain and although do not like Landrieu either, I am glad that Cassidy, who is running against her for the senate is down 13 points in the last poll I saw.
    Finally, I know exactly who I am fighting and why.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dexter says:

      If you mean Col. Sanders and Warren the Ape, I’m in.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to dexter says:

      I want a Sanders/Warren ticket

      Oh, FFS.Report

      • Avatar dexter in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Brandon Berg, That is the wittiest thing I have read on the web since my cat walked across my keyboard.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I wasn’t aware that expressions of despair were judged by their wittiness.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I wanted to keep it at a level Elizabeth Warren’s supporters could understand.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Yes, Brandon. Good forbid anyone have different views on what society and economics and the social contract than the holy trinity of Rothbard, Hayek, and Von Mises.

        How dare we question your sacred dogma?Report

      • Avatar KenB in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Oh, was that despair? I thought Brandon was just saying that in that case we’d be ditching Medicare Advantage and sticking with the traditional Fee For Service model.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        People can have different values. Elizabeth Warren’s political rhetoric is objectively stupid.Report

      • Avatar dexter in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        James, I have found in sports and politics that one person’s despair is another unmitigated joy. So even though BB might have a giant sad, I would be ecstatic if my dream came true.
        We have had 34 years of Reaganomics and as I look across the landscape what I see is a decimated middleclass and more environmental degradation.
        BB, Unlike some people, my beliefs are just that, beliefs, and my mind can be changed, but calling me stupid is not the best way to do that. Please give me examples of the wrongness of my thinking. You can start by telling me why going after the banks would be a bad idea.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        If data revealed that the middle class actually has gained significantly and is in terms of PPP doing better than any other large nation and that the environment is much better now than in the seventies would your opinion change?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I apologize, @dexter. That was rude, and you didn’t deserve it. I just really hate Elizabeth Warren. Or rather, the fact that she’s popular. To me, she personifies everything wrong with the American left, and it pisses me off that people take her seriously. But none of that was any excuse for being rude to you, and again, I apologize.

        As for what’s going wrong with “going after the banks,” I think the fact that you chose to phrase it that way is a huge red flag. The banking industry is a legitimate industry. We need it, and the vast majority of the people involved in it are doing honest work. It’s not unreasonable to talk about changing the way banks are regulated, though obviously the devil’s in the details. And it’s not unreasonable to talk about prosecuting specific individuals who have committed actual crimes. But just “going after the banks” is banana republic stuff. And while Warren may not use those exact words, I don’t think it’s an accident that that’s the message you came away with.

        I’ve pointed out some specific fallacies and errors in Warren’s rhetoric here in the past, though I don’t remember on which post.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        I have no idea how old you are. Do you remember the 70s?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        To sorta fill out your point here, there’s this quote from Matt Taibbi who’s researched and written about this stuff for his view to be taken seriously:

        AMY GOODMAN: Who was tougher on corporate America, President Obama or President Bush?

        MATT TAIBBI: Oh, Bush, hands down.

        If correct, that view sorta flies in the face of lots of liberals who want to believe otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Context for Stillwater’s reference.Report

      • Avatar dexter in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Roger, Yes, my belief would change if I saw a persuasive argument about how the middle class is doing well. I scanned a few articles about the middle class and only two said it was thriving and they were from a Tea Party site and the AEI, neither of which hold much sway with this lefty. Even a Forbes article said the middle class was shrinking, but of course the prescription for fixing the problem was less regulations. If you think differently, could you direct me to a site that might change my mind?
        James, I don’t know why it matters, but “I turned 21 in 69 and I called the road my home”.
        BB “Elizabeth Warren’s political rhetoric is objectively stupid.” That convinces me. Next election I am voting for Ryan.
        Less smarkily. I should have been more specific about the banks. It bothers me greatly that many have broken the law and are only paying pennies on the dollar in fines. The people in the bank that laundered money for cartels not getting jail time is particularly bothersome.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Well I can provide links that standards of living are:
        1) up for all quintiles over last generation
        2) up substantially overall (38% per capita if memory serves)
        3) better than any other large country for all except the most poor ( where it is roughly the same, until they move up, at which point it gets better than other countries) This data is fascinating.
        4) better worldwide and improving at a faster pace than ever before in history by a large margin

        I can also find links on environmental quality. Virtually every measure is better, many significantly. Except for Polar bears of course.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Then you remember the ’70s. What is your perception of the economy of that pre-Reaganomics era?Report

      • Avatar dexter in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Roger, I scanned a few posts about the middle class since this morning and I remember that 38% number from either AEI or the Tea Party site and like I said, I really don’t put much faith in those organizations. The post that caught my attention and worries me was this opening paragraph from Forbes: “The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970’s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility.”
        I really need to see the sites explaining how the environment is getting better. I am about a third of the way through “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert. I’ll let you know if she agrees with you after I am done.
        James, My first job that was a doing something besides shoveling snow, mowing lawns or picking up rocks was at a restaurant where most of the male diners wore suits. I was paid 1.25 an hour and ten percent of the waiter tips which usually came to around ten dollars for a four hour shift. So according to the inflation calculator I use that comes to comes to around 28 an hour.
        The first job I had after high school was an incredibly menial one in a foundry that paid, adjusted for inflation, around 25 an hour plus benefits.
        From spring of 69 until the fall of 72 I spent my summers in Alaska fighting forest fires and winters in Colorado working as a carpenter. Plus I went to Mexico several times in the winter.
        Life was easy until 74 when the gas shortage hit and Boulder decided it needed to rein in expansion so construction died. I then came to Louisiana and went to work in the oil field. I had worked my way up to driller and was making around 50 (adjusted) an hour plus benefits until that crashed and I went back into construction. Since then my salary has stagnated.
        So what I am trying to say is that from 46 to 80 was the best time in American history, at least since the Europeans got here, for the middle class.
        I know that the rest of the industrial world was a pile of rubble but I for me it was a great time to be young. I came of age post pill and pre aids. Plus it only cost 4.50(not adjusted) to see the Stones, Doors, Big Brother, Buffalo Springfield, etc, etc, etc. I saw the Dead for free so many times I have forgotten how many times I saw them. Same for the Airplane.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        I was a kid in the ’70s (started high school in ’79). We were middle class, and an overriding memory is of my parents saying, “no, we can’t afford that,” and my mom crying in the grocery store. For my middle class family, the ’70s sucked balls. Thank god for Jimmy Carter starting the deregulations that helped spur the economy and for appointing Volcker to the Fed, and thank god Reagan for continuing what Carter started, and for re-appointing Volcker (who, so I’ve read, had to explain to Reagan why the Fed mattered). (Don’t take this to mean I’m a Reagan fan–he should have been impeached for Iran-Contra.)

        Keep in mind that pure cpi-adjusted measures don’t capture the whole story. Purchasing power is the real key–wages compared to contemporary prices. One of the best ways to measure things is by how many hours you have to work to get specific consumer goods.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Here is a good explanation from the vice president and chief economist of the federal reserve in Minneapolis:


        Here is an explanation I read yesterday in Forbes.


        The short version is that per capita living standards have gone up dramatically since the 70’s. Those inconvenienced by this fact massage the data by converting it to family units (which shrank dramatically in the period), and by excluding benefits and transfers.

        Note also that not only are incomes rising, but they are still markedly higher here than in any other large diverse nation. Links available, but I know not to include three links in a comment.

        By the way, crime is down by half, education has improved, as has life expectancy and equality of opportunity.

        Now, if your argument is that the 70s were a great time for you personally, then I have no rebuttal. I experienced them too and have fond memories.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Part two.

        Worldwide, the trends are even more impressive and unprecedented. Global inequality and extreme poverty are better now than ever.

        Half a billion people have risen out of extreme poverty in the past five years alone, and in developing nations, the rate has gone from fifty to less than twenty percent in extreme poverty in the last generation.

        This is probably the greatest story of our generation, yet I find people of a certain political persuasion are oddly unaware of it. ( perhaps It doesn’t fit their narrative?).


        It is important to note that many economists believe that wages would be EVEN higher in OECD countries than they are today but for globalization. Said bluntly, expanding global networks have allowed those previously blocked out of markets to enter and compete for a fair wage. Developed nation workers have lost their previous unfairly-privileged status. Long term of course, overall standards of living are optimal with large unfettered markets. Individually there can be winners and losers.

        On environmental quality. To be honest I do not believe there is even a debate. Every reputable source which tracks air quality, water quality, toxic chemicals, forest cover and such in the US shows dramatic improvement. Here is one source which you can skim:


        The EPA site tracks many of the same trends. Air quality is much, much better now.

        I also recommend Indur Goklany and his book The Improving State of the World.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Plan your investments wisely. Walmart: Do Not Buy. (note: yes, this is not a SELL).Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Thanks Kim,

        I hope this doesn’t mean Dexter doesn’t have an open mind after all. Perhaps he got waylaid.

        Isn’t Walmart aimed at the more value conscious segment? I sold Sears decades ago.

        I recently saw an interesting article tracking cross country returns to skills comparisons by E. Hanushek. This of course represents the other definition of fairness, that is the degree to which outcomes (lifetime earnings) match skills and contributions. Fascinating stuff. Shows the Nordic countries and those with high union representation and stiff employment regulation have notably worse (less fair?) return to skill.

        The US came out on top. As expected, the returns to skills is also notably worse in the public sector.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        sure walmart is. But it’s demise (and subsequent reconstruction?) is tied to gas prices, and rural poverty increasing. Quite simply, when Walmart pulls out, the towns may go too. There aren’t other stores anymore.

        Americans are living more in cities because they keep on getting poorer (and cars are a huge money sink). (I’ll grant you the point that some of this “getting poorer” is diverting more money into health care, though I won’t grant retirement).

        That Fed Study was very fascinating. But I’ll stick with the free market on inflation (check out shadowstats). After all, someone’s paying them for the “real” inflation numbers. I suspect ideas about inflation are a LOT of what causes differing opinions between liberals and libertarians (pessimists and optimists)Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to dexter says:

      Man, the things people used to call budget deficits back in the 70s, before Reagan taught us how to do it up right.Report

    • Avatar dexter in reply to dexter says:

      Roger, Sorry to take so long to get back to this, but it was a very hectic weekend and my computer periodically goes goofy and won’t let me go to sites listed here.
      The short version of the econ piece is that, no, my mind is not changed. I did find out that one of the econ guys works for Congressman Ryan. I probably dislike him as much as BB dislikes Senator Warren. I did find several pieces that refute those theories. One of them was in Forbes. So for now, I still think the middleclass is going down.
      On the environment, if you had a piece of land and you wanted to do a forty year project for your grandchildren and took the plans to 100 contractors and 97 of them said, “If you do this, bad things will happen,” and 3 of them said, “No problem, but you have to buy all the material from us and let us build it,” would you still go ahead with the project?
      James, I think you sent me an email telling me that you would be a horrible neighbor because you drink fine whiskey and play the Dead Kennedys loud. I live in Louisiana and would be very lonely if I couldn’t deal with drinkers. It does not matter how much you drink, it is what you do when you drink. Plus, there is no way you could buy or build closer than a quarter mile from my house so your close neighbors would call the cops long before I did.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to dexter says:

        Any data you can provide that indicates average per capita including benefits after taxes and transfers has gone down since the seventies would be greatly appreciated. All the data I see that paints a negative picture presents the data by family, and or excludes benefits and taxes/transfers.

        These aren’t disputes over numbers (granted the inflation arguments are) they are disputes on how to best measure the trends in terms of human welfare.

        Political factions do indeed actively deceive their constituents. Just read a Coulter or Krugman article for proof. And their constituents love to be deceived. The best we can do is research lots of sources and improve our judgment over time.

        This web site is useful for fleshing these things out. Creon is my favorite commentor from the far left as he (uncharacteristically) loves to argue with data.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to dexter says:

        yeah, well, let’s look at a particular “large” expenditure:

        Student debt isn’t a goal in of itself, and there’s tons of rentseeking from Nelnet and company (or there was last I checked).

        Red Queen’s Race. While, increasingly, jobs are won not by skills but by “who you know” — I see it around the office.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to dexter says:

        I think it’s interesting to watch the back and forth between the factions on this issue because what they include in the list of things that add up to “standard of living” give some insight into what questions they think they’re answering. The fact that the two sides can’t agree on whether or not to include, say, government transfers tells me that they’re trying to answer very different questions, and I don’t think they realize it.

        A few thoughts:

        1) Increases in transfers to supplement falling incomes increase the standard of living for the working poor. That means that the poor are better off than their raw income figures show. However, it doesn’t mean that the underlying wage trend is not interesting, especially if t means that transfers will have to increase further to maintain the apparent increase in standard of living.

        2) Increases in the share of income that go to health insurance could indicate an increase in standard of living or simply an increase in the cost of health care. That doesn’t mean that the increased cost to employers is not real. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that the worker is getting “more.”

        3) Two income households earn more than single income households, but all else held equal, a single income household with the same total income as a two income household is much better off.

        4) Adjusting for number of children may or may not be a sensible thing to do as it may scramble cause and effect. People may delay having children if it takes longer to find a stable home and income, so the increase in standard of living that comes from having fewer children may be similar to the increase in standard of living that comes from not having a nice car to maintain. It may just be a silver lining to an otherwise gray cloud. The Forbes article even considers the gains from taking on a roommate to be a net win. I doubt it is in most cases.

        5) Inflation measures differ, but ShadowStats inflation measures are just nutty to use for these purposes.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to dexter says:

        1) I’m kinda ambivalent on this. If we could show that companies are paying less to the general till, that would be distressing (more gov’t spending coming out of the pockets of the poor through sales taxes, say…).
        2) Judging by the sorts that would label “health insurance” as a growth industry as it got better and better at denying care/coverage, I’d say it’s more likely that we’ve been putting a lot of money towards waste.
        3) From a risk management perspective, a single income household is a lot more geographically mobile.
        4) Wasn’t that will posting articles about how people want more kids than they actually produce?
        5) read roger’s cited report before you totally dismiss shadowstats. Personally, it makes sense that a lot of presidents started cooking the books to give less money to seniors.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to dexter says:

        Good comments, all. Some follow up thoughts on Frog’s list.

        1) Good point on the effects of transfers and taxes on wages. If we are tracking the well being of the poor, then we certainly do want to track them. If we are tracking underlying wage trends then not. I would cry foul though when the data for one is used as an argument for the other. Also, I cry foul when the side arguing for more transfers for the poor, then excludes these in measuring well being, especially when the argument from the other side is that it will distort incentives to work.

        2). I think health insurance cost increases are already captured under the inflationary adjustments. Could be wrong.

        3). In an era with steadily and substantially decreasing family size and numbers of workers per household, any report which neglects to mention this is probably providing less than full disclosure. To the extent this is the driving force in living standards, the appropriate headline is “decaying traditional family and smaller household sizes makes life tougher for lower and middle class.” Instead the headline always seems to be “crisis in growing inequality and stagnant wages”

        5). I agree the choice of inflationary adjustments can be extremely subjective. I tried to steer away from emphasizing it in my earlier comments on living standards. I will say that I personally believe all these inflation numbers are too high. I think inflationary adjustments don’t even come close to measuring quality improvements. I think someone needs to make themselves famous by starting over from scratch and identifying the true value of better medical care, better technology, and the net effect in terms of higher purchasing power and greater resale value of craigslist and such.

        People can now easily buy used stuff, off market, for substantially less than ever before, and they can later resell it. The new surfboard that I used to buy for $600 and then store in my garage until I throw it out is now bought for $450 on Craigslist kept for a year and sold on the same for $350. (The latter sales price is to best of my knowledge counted in neither standard incomes nor in net costs). This example reduces net cost from $600 to $100. Doesn’t show up anywhere in the stats. I know people who could live off Craigslist just acting as middle men.

        On the technology and quality front, there is the issue of how do you measure early era improvement. The smart phone we all own would have cost a million dollars ten years ago. This single item would more than offset all inflation for the last century. And it is true on many different technical and medical categories. Way off topic though.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to dexter says:

        When you say traditional family, you mean grandparents, parents, and their kids in the same house, right?
        One thing that study from the 70’s onwards is missing is that the decline in number of people per household is a continuing trend, there used to be a lot more than 5 per household. (20% of Pittsburgh is vacant, but Pittsburgh has lost 50% of its population).Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to dexter says:


        Don’t get me started on the education scam. Working class parents didn’t send their kids to love in the dorms at expensive private schools with first class football teams in my generation. They sent them to local community colleges and or state colleges while living at home with a part time job. Both of which are still pretty affordable.

        The real problem in CA is housing restrictions and regulations driving up scarcity and prices combined with people snookered into sending their kids to expensive schools.

        Personally, I never gave a second thought to which school someone came from, especially the day after they were hired. And even before hiring, a good interview trumped any school.

        Yes, it helped to know someone. Because the person could vouch for them.Report

  14. Avatar James K says:

    Looking at the results tables on pages 26 and 27, I’m not filled with confidence.

    First off, they note on page 14 that their Elite Opinion and Average Opinion measures are highly correlated. This makes it heard to tell which of these two measures is really doing the work in the model. Just because one is significant to 99.9% (and that seems like a really high standard to use) and the other one isn’t actually enough to conclude anything in this case. I’d have liked them to have compared their Model 4 with a model with Average Opinion omitted, to see how the overall model fit varied (and while on the subject, why are they only reporting the R-square as a measure of overall model fit?).

    Secondly, those R-square values are incredibly low. I don’t expect miracles in the social sciences, but 0.074 is the best they can do – that means 93% of what is going on can’t be explained by their best model. The authors wonder if they have a problem with their proxies, and I’d have to say that they do. Either that, or the majority of policy decisions are driven by things that have nothing to do with what anybody thinks.

    Don’t get me wrong, any piece of research will have some problems with its methodology, but the fact that they are (by their own admission) arguing against the current academic consensus means that their study warrants additional scepticism.Report

  15. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    The “Economic Elite” is defined for purposes of the study as people at the 90th percentile of the income distribution. The idea that the top decile—not the top 0.1%—is buying off Congress seems implausible. There’s a simpler explanation: Congressmen bring their own values to Congress, and they are drawn overwhelmingly from the same socioeconomic stratum that makes up the top 10% of the income distribution.Report

  16. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


    This is where I think some of the breakdown occurs. Let’s hypothetically use the food industry as an example.

    Suppose the food industry is video tapped by supporters of animal welfare and rights and the videos show cruel treatment of animals. They are kept in extremely confined quarters, filth, etc. The videos are meant to encourage laws and regulations that increase cage/living space and decent treatment of animals.

    I don’t think there is anything unethical about eating meat, diary, or using animal products like leather. I do think that if we use animals, we have an ethical obligation to treat them as humanly as possible during their time on this planet.

    The agricultural industry seems to go into nothing but a complete fit about these kinds of regulations and we are not talking about mom and pop farms but large corporations, many of which can be publicly traded companies and operated by white-collar managers. There are very few mom and pop farms left and those that exist tend to be on the hippie-side of things and be very small operations and generally humane.

    The big guys hate the regulations. They try to pass laws that go after undercover videos and reporters. They just want to do their business and not have anyone object or try to figure out what is going on.

    These businesses are part of civil society and the public has a right to know. The liberal in me concedes that animal rights regulations might raise food and animal product prices but that is an acceptable price to pay because of my belief above on our ethical obligation to farm animals or animals used for leather. I also think that the big farmers will generally survive and learn to deal.

    It often seems to me that conservatives and libertarians miss or completely ignore the points liberals are going for when calling for regulation. We acknowledge that it might raise prices somewhat but in our minds, there are things more important than low prices. We also care about a decent and dignified society and are trying to avoid races to the bottom.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Very few people really seem to understand how costs of regulation are passed on to consumers. Suppose a farm makes a profit of $50 on each head of cattle. If a regulation which would increase the cost of producing a head of cattle by $60, then it looks really bad to the farmer. That’s all his profit and then some. He’s going to lose $10 on every head he sells!

      Of course, he’s not going to, because all his competitors are facing more or less the same cost increase. Each individually raises prices because he has to, and because everyone does it, nobody loses as much business as he would if he raised prices unilaterally.

      But all is not well. For one, prices go up for consumers. Moreover, demand curves slope downward. If the market price goes up, quantity demanded will go down. Which means that the industry has to contract. It’s not the utter ruin that one might naïvely predict from looking at an individual farmer’s books, but prices will go up, fewer head of cattle will be sold, and some producers who were in a bad place to begin with may go bankrupt.

      If the regulation is really justified, this is as it should be. Prices should be higher, because they should reflect the true social cost of production. But for producers, especially those who have small margins to begin with or who don’t have economic analysts on staff to explain to them how it’s going to go down, they really can look terrifying.

      On the other side of the counter, many (most?) consumers blithely assume that all of the costs will come out of producers’ bottomless profits and screw those rich bastards anyway. And politicians promoting the regulation do little to disabuse them of this notion, and often even actively encourage it.

      My favorite example is how opponents of oil drilling try to portray it as something done exclusively to satisfy the greed of oil companies. Because people who drive cars don’t benefit from increased oil supply, obviously. Maybe there should be more drilling for oil, and maybe there shouldn’t, but we don’t actually live in the cartoon world implied by that rhetoric.

      I’m not opposed to regulation where there are legitimate externalities to correct, but all the bullshit economics that gets thrown around makes me skeptical that any kind of rational cost-benefit analysis is going on, especially when those promoting the regulations are working so hard to pretend that there are no actual costs.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Actually, many liberals do understand how regulation passes the price down to consumers but they think that current industrial practices keeps the prices for certain goods artificially low. In the United States, gas was historically cheaper than it was in most other places besides the Middle East maybe. Some of this was because we had a lot of oil but a lot of it was do to combination of industry practice and government not taxing it high enough. Liberals believe that this low-cost taxation encouraged American car culture.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        This liberal also believes that taxation is one of the ways we should work in the cost of externalities — particularly those not priced into the transaction and shifted to the commons. So in your example of gas, the tax on gas (in my perfect world) would be used to help offset the environmental problems caused by gas.

        I recall Al Gore once saying we should tax pollution, not employment. I think he was correct.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        So Brandon, you’re in favor of the agriculture industry being allowed to go after people who expose their animal treatment policies?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I think you’re making fun of someone, but I can’t tell who.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Regulation is a cost, yes.
        What do we get in return for that cost, and is it worth what we pay?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        This might be your best comment on the blog.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I agree, because it’s basically what I said. There needs to be cost-benefit analysis, and the rhetoric around most regulation does not inspire confidence that this is actually happening.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Hasn’t there already been a cost benefit analysis? As in, is there a latent desire on the part of the voters to do away with regulations en masse and return to an unregulated state?

        Where would this latent desire show itself?

        Can’t we observe empirically that high regulation nations have generally higher standards of living than lower regulation nations?

        Is there some evidence demonstrating the superiority of a nonregulated environment?

        If you want to argue regulations one by one, you could easily show that some are harmful- but to argue that generically they are not worth the cost, you have a lot of work to do.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        LWA writes,
        to argue that generically they are not worth the cost, you have a lot of work to do.

        Brandon wrote,
        If the regulation is really justified, this is as it should be. Prices should be higher, because they should reflect the true social cost of production.

        Maybe LWA could respond to the Brandon who actually wrote the comment, instead of to some mythical Brandon?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Fair comment- Brandon, you are off the hook.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        BB; nope, no joke, was just curious since in Saul’s example above it’s effectively the agricultural industry that’s demanding a regulation: “if you sneak into our farms and photograph/video tape what we do to our animals we’ll send you to jail.” I just asked if you were in favor of that regulation.

        That said I don’t have much quarrel with most of your general comment.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @north My comment kind of went off on a tangent, and was more inspired by Saul’s comment than a direct response to it.

        I’m conflicted about this specific thing. I think trespassing laws should be enforced for the same reason we have laws against unreasonable search and seizure. On the other hand, it’s not such a bad thing if people know about this stuff. On the other other hand, concern about the welfare of animals that are being raised for slaughter strikes me as of questionable value. If we really care about their welfare, killing them seems problematic at best. If their consciousness is off a low enough level that it’s okay to kill them, does their pain matter, either?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Brandon, I’m a notorious meat eater and I certainly balk at organic farmed meat prices so I accept that industrial meat farming is necessary on some level. That said I think there’s a significant difference between raising animals efficiently, cleanly and killing them swiftly and humanely and the abuses the industrial agriculture industry pursues these people for exposing.

        Setting that aside, the worst agricultural practices also depend on massive overuse of antibiotics which amounts to keeping the price of hamburger low at the potential cost of us losing antibiotics entirely in the near future. That strikes me as insane.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’m with @brandon-berg on this. If we care about the well-being of animals, the fact that they are killed for our gustatory pleasure should give us more concern than the fact that they are treated badly until such time that they are so killed.Report

      • @brandon-berg and @murali do you think we should be able to torture prisoners on death row? Or that people who support the death penalty (which if I recall you both have defended) should not have a problem with death row rape or torture?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Will pretty much beat me to the punch. Murali, I believe your position is close to the vegetarian line which finds it very convenient to say “either you’re vegan or you’re an animal torturing sadist, there is no middle ground”. That said I think there’s a continuum with WTF-veganism at one end and torturing animals and then killing them and leaving them to rot at the other end. I’d put our current practices somewhere near the middle and put the idea of raising animals in comfortable lives and then harvesting them humanely to the veganism side of that center line.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Suggested edit:

      The big guys hate write the regulations.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      There are very few things more important than keeping prices low. One of the big reasons there has been a decrease in real income among the bottom decile is that inflation has risen faster than nominal income growth. While inflation is sometimes (or even fairly often) driven by loose monetary policy, it can also be driven by regulatory policy*.

      *Incidentally, trying to solve the problem of rising cost of housing by making it harder to take out a housing loan is incredibly perverse.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:


        Has there been a decrease in real income for the bottom decile?

        Worldwide, the answer is not clear. Extreme poverty in developing nations has been reduced more in the last generation than ever before. I assume everyone is familiar with the data — from around fifty percent extreme poverty to less than twenty percent and still dropping like a rock. However, for the bottom decile still in extreme poverty, things have certainly not gotten better (I assume they can’t get worse due to Malthusian limits).

        But I actually assume you mean bottom decile in the US (or perhaps you mean in developing countries?). I couldn’t find US data by decile, only by quintile.

        US Per capita consumption data adjusted for inflation is up significantly in the bottom quintile over any reasonably long time period.

        Income per capita is also up at least 18% for the bottom quintile. The data which indicates otherwise is usually not adjusted for family size, non monetary benefits and transfers. Again though I cannot find decile breakouts.

        Do you have per capita real income data on the bottom decile? Does this include or exclude transfer payments?



      • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali says:


        I’m talking about Singapore.Report

    • Avatar dand in reply to Saul DeGraw says:


      do you think Kosher slaughterhouses should be exempt from animal cruelty regulations(this has been an issue in Europe).Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul DeGraw says:


      Brandon hit all the high points I was going to make. In short, regulation has it’s place, and regulations that are done well will minimize price impact relative to the benefit gained (i.e. let’s get the desired benefit with as little price impact as possible). Regulations that are crap add cost with little benefit (except, possibly, to a limited few – rents, etc.).

      For example, in the same realm, there are numerous cities enacting bans on feeding the homeless.

      Please explain to me, without logical gymnastics & contortions, how this is a benefit to anyone but a limited set?Report

  17. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    The median net worth of US Senators is $2.7M. The median net worth of Congress as a whole is a tad over $1M. The average net worth of the freshman members of the current Congress is >$7M. The median net wealth of the entire US adult population is about $39K. The rich don’t have to buy candidates or elections, just have a handful of their number that are willing to go off to Washington and look out for their own interests.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Maybe it is time to have a dialogue on requiring government servants take a vow of poverty. Exact details could be worked out.

      That said, it is a big leap to assume a significant overlap in their interests, other than the clear shared interest in getting re-elected (which often requires doing something for constituents which may go against the generic interests of the wealthy).

      I think a more realistic view of interests is that the wealthy are using politics to fight a zero sum game between each other (with massive negative sum externalities) for government privileges.

      Perhaps we should revisit James’ idea on a constitutional amendment against rent seeking. Of course this negates the lions share of government activity and emasculates the power of politicians and their progressive champions.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

        I think you mean ‘elected’ officials here.

        The vast majority of government employees are not elected; they’re simply trying to do their jobs. They teach in schools, they plow highways, they send rocket ships into outer space — or they used to, anyway. They sacrifice their lives fighting wars other people decide to wage.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        No, I meant “government servants” though I use the term facetiously and we could debate pros and cons of who should and should not be covered.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Roger says:

        I recall reading a sci-fi book where the legislators, before they could be considered for the job (no guarantee they would get it), had to hand over their entire net worth to the government, and could never again take a penny from any private individual or company while they were serving. They were also forbidden from voting on issues that directly impacted family finances.

        They were provided a nice residence, security, & a generous salary, but that was it; & all their finances were subject to public review.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger says:

        sometimes the executive branch can be bribed too.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Roger says:

        By doing as the author suggests, we would see who the real public servants are as opposed to those pursuing power. my guess is the overlap between the current set and the new one would be nil. That said, I am sure there are plenty of cons too. Ninetynine percent of all novel ideas fail.Report

  18. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


    If we really care about their welfare, killing them seems problematic at best. If their consciousness is off a low enough level that it’s okay to kill them, does their pain matter, either?

    Brandon, obviously we don’t care about how our harvesting of plants affects the plant because we are pretty sure plants are mindless organisms. Same goes for insects. Higher animals, the ones we use for food &/or clothing can feel pain in a way that we relate to, so we have a “primal” sense of what they experience, and therefore an empathic desire to minimize their pain. We have a connection to these animals. Some people, obviously, more than others.

    When we see animals so callously treated by the food processing industry, & it’s employees, we recoil not because we don’t want the animals killed, but because those who could be so callous to the lower animals are people we are rather wary of.

    It’s kind of like that old saying, “A person who is nice to you, but not nice to your waiter, is not a nice person.”. The measure of a persons character is taken, in part, by how well s/he treats those they have power over.Report