Linky Friday #69

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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105 Responses

  1. Saul DeGraw says:

    L1: I think it is a worthy experiment but I understand some of Weismann’s concerns.

    L4: Zero-hour contracts are a horrible crisis and in my mind they should be illegal. How are people supposed to budget and live if they can work for 50 hours one week and 0 hours during the next and then 10 and then be back to 40? I think there should be a basic labor right of known when your shifts will be in advance. It doesn’t need to be the same shift everyday. Flex time is good for true freelancers who have the right to determine their own schedule but not for “contract” employees who are really not freelancers.

    P1: The general shifts seem to be more polarization but less so on the Democratic side. Blue districts are generally getting more liberal as are Democratic senators. Republican districts are moving further to the right. Chait observed that this is happening because activists control the parties and activists demand action. Our system was not designed for political parties. Michelle Goldberg theorized that the reason for the current spate of commencement speaker protests (which is really only a handful of examples) is that leftists (who aren’t liberals) are frustrated by how little change is happening despite Obama and Democratic control of the Senate, college campuses is one area where leftists control and this is a small way that they can exercise power and show disapproval even if some targets are odd like Christine LaGarde at Smith.

    P2: The GOP establishment co-opted the Tea Party by moving further to the right. This is not good.Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I don’t. I find the way we treat our hostelier businesses to be truly deplorable, and would be glad for more automation.Report

    • North in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      P1: I sympathize. Liberal activists are frustrated that sheer obstruction by right wing echo chamber types and their cynical enablers is blocking any movement so to convince people to give them more power they… act like the worst elements of the right wing echo chamber types… … I take it back, I don’t sympathize at all.Report

    • I think that to a large degree, zero hour “contracts,” if I understand them correctly, are and have been for a long time the m.o. for a lot of low-waged service jobs. That fact (if it is a fact) tells me that such “contracts” reflect something bad rather than being bad in themselves. In this case, the “bad” is the weaker position workers at such jobs find themselves in and the fact that the economy is weak and hurts the lesser skilled people the most.

      I’m not sure if outlawing them would help. Some people would lose their jobs, I imagine. I also imagine that outlawing them would necessitate a law that would require businesses to commit to each employee certain number of hours a week and not go below OR above that number, on the ground that going above the number would be violating the commitment.

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding these “contracts.” Before I skimmed the article, I had never heard of them.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Zero hero contracts means that nothing about your working hours is set in stone. A traditional contract would spell out when and how long you are expected to be at work. In a zero hour contract, your essentially on call. One week you could work a normal eight hour day, five days a week. Than they next week you could work a ten hour day on one day and thats it and the week after that, nothing at all.Report

      • @leeesq

        That’s essentially what I thought it was. The main reason I still put “contract” in scare quotes is that in practice, that situation seems to obtain for a lot of workers today without a formally signed document. (I do realize that even an at will employment relationship with nothing signed might be construed as a “contract,” but for me the word “contract” does a lot of work.)Report

      • By the way, thanks for explaining it.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Back when I worked crappy jobs I had at least some idea what my hours would be, at least they didn’t vary widely. This new scheme seems really shitty.

      (And as a woman, I can tell you that managers will abuse this system, and withholding hours will become an even worse tool of control. And that’s how the world works for large numbers of people, including many of my friends. Bad stuff happens.)

      (You wanna eat this week, open your mouth girl.)

      (This is the real world.)Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      And more on L4, folks like Venkat have been suggesting for a while that the “post work” economy is very real, and upon us now. Not only is it here, but it’s only going to get worse. There will be the elites, who own it all, the highly technical, who will serve the elite (that’s me!), and everyone else. And everyone else can pound sand.

      I mean, it seems dark and cynical, but articles like L4 seem hard to ignore. It’s here, and it’s a really shitty world.Report

      • North in reply to veronica dire says:

        Well, if we truly are approaching a post work world unless the elites can build an army of robots and can eliminate the entire independent hacking world so as to prevent their robots from being reprogrammed then the post work electorate can be expected to vote some kind of redistributive guaranteed basic income scheme into place in quick order.

        Or am I being too optimistic?Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to veronica dire says:


        I suspect you are being too optimistic.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to veronica dire says:

        @north @veronica-dire

        I also suspect that if we are truly in a post-work economy, we won’t realize it until it is too late. The only people I know who talk about guaranteed minimum income are a small percentage of people.Report

      • North in reply to veronica dire says:

        @saul-degraw Too late for what Saul? The rich 1% build a fort out of their money and the other 99% can’t get in? What is the mechanism by which the unimaginably wealthy accomplish locking the other 99% into near squalid poverty and don’t end up with the tax man carrying off their dough (or dangling by their toes from a lamp post in front of their burning mansion worst case scenario)?

        My own personal guess: we’re nowhere near post work yet.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to veronica dire says:


        Okay. Fine. We are in something similar to the phase of the Industrial Revolution where it took 30-50 years for skilled craftsman jobs like Weavers to be replaced with higher paying jobs on things like the Railways.

        Great comfort to people who are burdened by student debt and/or dealing with temp job after temp job/contingency labor now with no benefits like health insurance, vacation, etc. But hey, video game systems right…..Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        I think it depends on what you mean by post-work, something that was never satisfyingly defined to my satisfaction. Some types of jobs like doctor, nurse, architect or teacher are never going to disappear. Technology might change the numbers necessary or how those jobs are performed greatly but they aren’t going to go away. We are probably never going to get Robo-Florist or Robo Gourmet Chef either. At the same time, its clear that large categories of jobs do disappear because of changes in technology or at least the numbers of people needed for these jobs are being greatly reduced. The humongous factories of the past with thousands of workers are kind of gone for good.

        The main reason why employment is getting more cruel is that its much easier is that in the post-Cold War World, much more labor is available to corporations. From 1945 to 1991, hundreds of millions of people were cut off from the global labor market because their countries were either in the Communist bloc or were newly freed colonies that while not exactly Communist, weren’t part of the labor market in the developed world. There was nothing to gain by an American corporation closing shop in America but opening a factory in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any of the Western European countries. Labor was generally equally expensive. The collapse of communism and the lack of international labor organizations gave corporations hundreds of millions of cheap laborers to use. Whats necessary is an international labor movement that fights globally as well as nationally and locally. Big labor must get bigger.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        @North and others, I think its also important to point out that while goods might be cheaper than ever, the services necessary to leave poverty like education including vocational education are getting more expensive and out of reach.Report

      • North in reply to veronica dire says:

        Well Saul, they have health insurance now if they wish to get it. Thanks a lot Obama*. I’m not generally moved by student debt but maybe we should ask some hard questions of the universities as to why they keep jacking up the prices. It’s possible we’re in some kind of interval like what you’re describing but I suspect it’s more likely that the cause is a less sexy one: we’re pumping our global development into developing the undeveloped. Asia again. That’s a conundrum for me as a liberal because things are semi stagnant here on the home front while other countries and people have never had it so good. So on one hand you’re a free trader who’s not caring about suffering Americans but on the other hand you’re a protectionist who gives not a damn about Asians and other foreigners. But then again I’m being too neoliberalish I suppose, the numbers and empirics don’t matter so long as one’s heart is in the right place.

        *I support the ACA in the absence of a politically and realistically feasible more liberal alternative.

        @leeesq I have little to object to in your analysis though I think that the universities and other schools are likely due for a terrible shakeup. A lot of politicians and university admins are gonna have to get their hands outta the goddamn cookie jar there.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        North, its starting to happen with law schools a little but for other universities not that much. We have lots of politicians that don’t have any particular problem with all this corporate raider behavior by university administrators, so I think we are going to see stories like this and behavior like this for a long time yet:

        For those that don’t want to read the link, NYU gave Henry Louis Gates, Jr. a very nice apartment in NYC for very cheap rent even though he lives in the Boston area and teaches at Harvard rather than NYU.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        At the risk of going all super-abstract, the market is an optimization process, one that had led to measurable prosperity. But that said, it is not a simple optimization process. Nor does it run over a fixed convex space. Instead, it is a dynamical system running over a complex, changing fitness landscape. In fact, I think one can make a (very loose but reasonable) comparison to evolutionary biology, which is also a dynamical system running over a complex, changing fitness landscape.

        And evolution is amazing. It made us. It made ferrets. Yay evolution.

        But mass extinctions happen.

        This is about positive feedback cycles, market traps where the immediate self interest of the actors screws everyone in the end. And sure, if a thing cannot go on forever, it will stop. But it stops because things break, the machine shakes itself to destruction.

        “Post work” might be a real thing. In fact, I think it is quite likely, in some form — and I don’t mean the full-on OMG DOOM APOCALYPSE version you’ll hear on the blogs. But something more subtle and insidious. We won’t see it until it is everywhere.

        The elite no longer need a large workforce to live amazing, wonderful lives. Wealth means power, including the ability to consolidate power and wealth. People are irrational; they are class driven, race driven; they take care of their own.

        These are real social forces. They are powerful. They might win.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to veronica dire says:

        The theoretically ideal post-work society is one in which everything is produced in sufficient abundance by machines that it is freely available without the need for humans to need income to purchase their wants and needs.

        Absent that, I’m not sure a post-work society is actually possible. You’d have starving masses unable to buy what’s being produced. So producers couldn’t profit, even at lower production costs, and they’d stop producing. Or we’d end up with Marx’s industrial reserve army, and–North hints–civil war.

        I’m curious how people envisioning this post-work economy actually functioning.

        Personally, I think what’s going on is no more than that the developing world is being brought into the economic picture in a competitive–as opposed to a colonized–way. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the U.S. had massive immigration, which resulted in competition that drove wages down and made regular employment uncertain. As English feudalism collapsed due to the plague and labor demands in the cities, everyone flocked to the cities and created labor surpluses there. In each case things worked themselves out over time.

        We’re repeating that, but instead of bringing the labor to the jobs we’re taking the jobs to the labor. What happens as that labor starts to catch up? Remember, it’s not just the wage that matters, but net productivity, as well as other costs (shipping, management, compliance) of operating in other countries, so wages don’t have to totally catch up with the developed countries before it makes sense to bring some jobs back home. We’re already seeing that, in fact, not that the media’s noticing.

        Also, as these other countries develop their internal markets develop, and some of the production begins to shift toward domestic goods, tightening the labor market for makers of export goods.

        In fact already people are beginning to talk about the end of globalization, not as a state of affairs, but as an economic process. I think they’re premature, but only premature, not wrong. And when these other countries are more developed, more of our domestic production will move back on- shore, and they also will become export markets. That’s superficially contradictory, but not really–there will be a complex and unpredictable mixture of domestic and export production in all reasonably developed countries.

        So we’re in a period of transition, not a permanent state. Saul notes that this is little comfort to American labor who are un/underemployed. That’s true, but it would be a bad reason to stop the process. The gains in the developing world vastly outweigh the losses here, whether we’re being coldly utilitarian in our calculation or warmly humanitarian. Provide better safety nets for displaced American labor if we choose, but if you critique the process that is lifting hundreds of millions, and likely soon to be billions, out of poverty that dwarfs the struggles of displaced American labor, you’re something of a monster.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to veronica dire says:


        I’m in full agreement with your first three paragraphs. But nobody here is giving us a model of how the post-work economy can function, how it can be maintained.Report

      • zic in reply to veronica dire says:

        There will still be workers.

        Manufacturing, for instance, will be done by the private prison-industrial complex.Report

      • Roger in reply to veronica dire says:


        “…. in the post-Cold War World, much more labor is available to corporations. From 1945 to 1991, hundreds of millions of people were cut off from the global labor market because their countries were either in the Communist bloc or were newly freed colonies that while not exactly Communist, weren’t part of the labor market in the developed world….The collapse of communism and the lack of international labor organizations gave corporations hundreds of millions of cheap laborers to use. Whats necessary is an international labor movement that fights globally as well as nationally and locally. Big labor must get bigger.”

        I completely agree with the beginning. In other words, wages are affected by supply and demand, and we have had an influx of hundreds of millions of new workers supported with global supply chains and technologies.

        Labor unions can add value via being a collective voice of the worker. This is good. They can negotiate a wage/benefit/working conditions package of higher utility for the same cost (assuming they don’t also lower productivity and efficiency through rent seeking activities.) I am a big fan of non coercive unions worldwide (non coercive is shorthand non rent seeking, non cartelized unions).

        A few observations though on you recommendations though.

        First, remember that we are seeing the greatest era of human advancement since the advent of fire. The last generation has seen more advance in living standards than ever before, especially for lower skilled workers. A billion people out of extreme poverty. All without global unions.

        Lower skilled workers in first world nations lost their privileged status. Now workers worldwide can compete fairly with them. A billion people gain, at the cost of wage stagnation for the previously privileged.

        I caution you to consider the true role of a fighting union. Labor is not competing or fighting with capital or management. They are best seen as cooperating (with the terms of cooperation set by shorter term supply and demand and longer term incremental productivity.)

        Supply and demand means that labor effectively competes (fights) with labor. Thus the absolute last thing that the underprivileged workers of the world want is a labor cartel. Cartels work by beggaring someone else, in this case less privileged or prospective (next generation) labor.

        Some may counter that an international union could make a shift in the relative returns to labor vs capital. Not long term though. Capital returns are profit signals for more investment. Lowering returns to capital will reduce capital investment thus reducing demand for labor. Penny wise, pound foolish.

        Prosperity is on an unprecedented upward trajectory. Privilege was the problem, loss of privilege was part of the the great breakthrough, and dreaming of global privilege (international labor) mistakes the solution and the problem.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        @james-hanley — For the record, I am not advocating for the utopian version of post-work. I mean, it would be great if we could get there, as it could produce much human flourishing, but like you I’m skeptical.

        No, instead I am exploring the risks of the dystopian version of post-work. Under this model you have four broad classes: the elite, who consolidate the available wealth and power, the knowledge workers (that’s me!), who run their machines, the service people, who mow their lawns and serve their food, and everyone else, who starves.

        Okay, like many models this is super-extra simplistic. But take it as a coarse illustration.

        Okay, so, here’s the thing: there is nothing about that model that is unstable from a market perspective. It could work. The fact that, under this scheme, large markets don’t exist is irrelevant, since the point of consumerism is to get the money from the people who have it, which in this model is concentrated near the top.

        I would still go on vacation and buy cool stuff. The busboy would labor in squalor, but he would still buy food.

        The forth tier would buy nothing.

        I say this is stable from a market perspective, and indeed it might be. On the other hand, it is certainly not stable from a political perspective. But civil unrest is its own kind of nightmare.

        But perhaps with a strong enough police state — or perhaps not, but how much damage is done in the struggle?

        Okay, so my final point: I don’t believe this (or any) model will come to pass in its pure form. The danger is, however, that we are moving to some form of the above. It certainly feels that way to many in the US.

        What precisely happens will of course remain an empirical question. We’ll see.Report

      • My own vision of a post-work future (which I am not predicting, but viewing as a possibility) looks something like this: There is plenty of work to be done. Always has been, always will be.

        What might not exist is self-sustaining work. That is, work that commands sufficient money to afford what we consider to be a livable life. In other words, they would need government assistance. The government assistance would be worth more than their work.

        Raising the minimum wage wouldn’t work because for that cost the employers can afford ever-more automation and outsourcing. An example might be a cashier at a fast food restaurant. For the livable wage they might be required to pay, they can stick a kiosk up there and they wouldn’t lose enough business that they’d still end up financially ahead. Another example might be a cleaning person, where they can get a roomba or simply go without.

        From there, I expect one of a couple of trajectories. Either we simply subsidize the work, or we pay people not to work (and to not storm the castle). I consider the former to be far more preferable to the latter, if it comes down to it.

        One way or another, I agree with North that we’re not going to have mass starvation on the American streets outside gated communities of those fortunate enough to work. But that doesn’t mean that it will go smoothly or comfortably. Though if this site is still around in such a scenario, our children would still have plenty of statistics to point to that say “Way better than it was in 2014.”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to veronica dire says:

        Do we have any “post-work” sub-sets of societies at all today? People who do not work, have never had to work, and are not reasonably expected to work?

        If we do, are the people in these sub-sets flourishing?Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to veronica dire says:

        For something we’re not going to see until it’s too late, it’s surprising how many people are calling it early.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to veronica dire says:

        Maybe this is one of those things we should wager on.Report

      • Romney’s 47 percent may have been an exaggeration, but I’m not sure it isn’t indicative of what I’m referring to.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to veronica dire says:


        I think you basically described Ancient Rome. At certain points, a third of the treasury went to feeding the people.Report

      • North in reply to veronica dire says:

        Well! Since this subthread has evolved into a discussion of what post work or near post work would look like (and how awesome is it that it has?) I’d love to throw in my own rambling.

        In general what we’re looking at is a diminished need for labor and rising wealth in general. In practice this means enormous returns on capital but an enormous depression is returns on labor. The wealthy get much wealthier, the wealthy also get a lot more numerous but the middle class shrivels and the ranks of the poor or nearly poor burgeons. In a democratic society this is neither tolerable nor sustainable. The poor masses can and will vote for more redistribution to begin balancing out that equation. The wealthy can shriek about takers to a degree but they simply don’t have the votes in the long run to prevent this. In every liberal dystopian movie ever made the writers imagine a scenario where the wealthy use force or fraud to stave off this process by subverting democratic order. These movies answer their own question of course; the result of an attempt to short circuit this process is reform/revolution either violent or not. The scenario of gated communities of incredibly wealthy lounging about while the overwhelming masses meekly starve in the streets is not realistic.

        So, ruling out the dystopian outcome what would a post work society look like as it came on and came about? I think we’d see it in a variety of ways. Redistributive safety nets would increase; progressive taxation would also increase, work weeks would shorten (either naturally or by fiat), hopefully at some point something like a guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax would be instituted to increase the efficiency of the redistribute system. The costs of the basics, food, drink, consumer goods, entertainment and housing would plummet. People would increase their participation in the sciences and most especially the arts. In theory we’d arrive at a total post work society when robots were producing so much that people didn’t need to work at all to live comfortably on their GBI. I would expect that the wealthy, however, will always be with us. Society finds great utility in rewarding the brilliant, the motivated (and also their descendants) but hopefully the floor would move up a lot closer to them. We have seen this occur in the past. Many of the lower quintile in the developed world today live objectively much better than the upper middle class lived in, say, the 1700’s. Absent environmental calamity, some sort of poisonous ideology* developing I am optimistic that this could come to pass. I doubt, though, that it’ll occur in my lifetime.

        *No I do not think libertarianism or liberalism fit the bill.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to veronica dire says:


        Your scenario sounds wonderful but I am also doubtful that it will happen in my lifetimes or happen at all because:

        1. We already know that there are countries/societies with huge gaps between the wealthy and the poor and these societies are pretty good at keeping such structures in place even after reforms or with democracy. India is a democracy and there are huge gaps between the wealthy and the poor with many people who just idle about or don’t have full-time work. Mexico also has huge gaps between the wealthy and the poor without having become a post-work society and is basically Democratic.
        The other Latin America countries with huge gaps are basically not-Democratic.

        2. “I can set one-half of the working class against the other half.”-Jay Gould. IMO the biggest thing that helps the reactionary right maintain the current economic order is cultural wedge issues. Maybe we can create your society once we get rid of social/cultural wedge issues but this hasn’t happened yet and I doubt it ever will. No one has ever come up with a plan that would disarm all of our cultural/social wedge issues like gay marriage, gun control, rural v. urban, race issues (or how we notice how Republicans always dog-whistle about the culture of inner-cities but never talk about the culture of rural, poor whites as being problematic.) Or to use that old Marxist term “class consciousness.” Why did the police go harder on OWS but give Cliven Bundy the kid gloves? Why do college students get pepper sprayed by a bully security officer? Never underestimate the powers of ressentiment.

        Notice who counts as elite in Sarah Palin land is the urban/inner-ring suburban upper-middle class or culturally advanced. In conservative land, it seems like a bartender/actor who went to Amherst and makes 35,000 a year is elite but the Koch Brothers and Romney and hedge fund managers are not. An upper-middle class liberal from Brownstown Brooklyn or Westchester is also elite. My theory of this is about wages and employment. Upper-middle class liberals are often income wealthy, self-employed, or able to employ small amounts of people. The wealthy conservatives like the Koch Brothers are the ones that create industries that employ the working and lower-middle classes the most. Maybe one day I will have a small to medium sized law firm with 10-20 employees. This is not going to solve any employment problem. I’ve no desire to start something that can become a big multi-national law firm.

        How are you going to solve the tribal, social, cultural division problem?Report

      • Roger in reply to veronica dire says:

        More riffing on post scarcity…

        The crux of the issue is that over time we shift from computers and machines doing things so well that they supplement human productivity to a transition point where they do everything better than humanity.

        They build better. Design better. Repair better. Serve humans better in every way and need. Build and design and repair other machines better. Invest better. Invent better. Become better entrepreneurs. Better novelists, better philosophers, better scientists, better teachers, better wombs, better child rearers and better lovers.

        You are basically talking about a post scarcity world. Where humans become inefficient at anything productive. Any cooperative service that a human could provide, a machine or computer could do better.

        There is no wealth inequality, as scarcity of resources becomes irrelevant.

        What there is still is status inequality, as humans are always concerned with relative status (wealth being just one version). However, even here we are thinking too small, as computers can also deliver status to humans. No?

        This is the antithesis of a dystopian world. The next question of course is what value are we adding to the mix?Report

      • Cultural issues often require a degree of economic comfort in order to successfully wedge. The tighter the economic screws, the less effective cultural issues are likely to be (except insofar as economic platforms are roughly similar).

        (A slight exception are issues that combine the two – cultural issues with economic ramifications or at least perceived economic ramifications. Like immigration and environmental issues.)Report

      • Roger in reply to veronica dire says:


        I would argue that the false consciousness (aka the big lie) is that there is no competition within a class. Capital competes with capital and primarily cooperates with labor. Labor competes with labor.*

        Note my disagreement above with your brother (and his with his vision of the fictional solidarity of international labor) was on the same conflict of world views

        I could of course be wrong though, and would love to hear why.

        * though not in a zero sum way long term. It is constructive competition.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        @north, I’m with Saul on this one. Your solution, basically a beefed up version of social democracy writ large, is the best way to set up a post-work society. I’m not that confident that this is going to be that easy to achieve. The United States was wealthy enough in the post-World War II era to set up a welfare state that would be potentially much more generous than anything Europe had to offer but various factors ranging from our veto point riddled political system, racism, and ideology made creating universal healthcare an impossibility. I’m relatively sure that at least in the United States, the same factors are going to make dealing with the realities of a post-work society much difficult than it would be in many other countries.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to veronica dire says:

        Or to use that old Marxist term “class consciousness.” Why did the police go harder on OWS but give Cliven Bundy the kid gloves?


      • Do we have any “post-work” sub-sets of societies at all today? People who do not work, have never had to work, and are not reasonably expected to work?

        Didn’t a French economist just write a big book all about them?Report

      • Glyph in reply to veronica dire says:

        People who do not work, have never had to work, and are not reasonably expected to work?

        Didn’t a French economist just write a big book all about them?

        You mean the French? HEY-O!Report

      • North in reply to veronica dire says:

        Well ND, we’re talking about long run here. The examples you’ve cited are definitely imperfect democracies riddled with massive problems (really your item #2 is blended into #1 quite considerably) but in order for them to be solid refutations of my theory we would have to have reason to believe that your examples were stable situations that we could expect to persist into the future. I do not see that as the case. These democracies are roiled with problems but they have been progressing and they are changing dynamically. The thing to keep in mind here is that we’re talking about a significant long term here. I do not think that we currently have the technological capacity to institute a post work scenario or even a very strongly reduced work scenario.

        ND Will Truman beat me to it. The raw unromantic (to a lefty) fact is that the privations of the middle and lower classes aren’t severe enough to merit them ignoring the cultural distractions they are interest in. If the problems grow severe enough obviously culture war and even racial distractions can be tossed to the wayside. The revolution hasn’t come, to wit, because the revolution isn’t wanted or at least not yet. It should also be noted that all of the cultural and racial distractions you’re calling out are gradually getting resolved. If one considers the state of racism fifty years ago versus now we’re an astonishingly less racist society. Entire categories of people have by and large passed out of the realm of racial discrimination entirely in the US (Italians, Irish etc..) Religious conflicts have also drained significantly in their virulence and passion. If one projects outwards I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have optimism that they will continue to diminish globally.

        Lee: I think the only rejoinder I can offer is that the flat unsexy truth is that we are not at a point culturally (and especially technologically) where we could institute a mass post work or near post work scenario. If you try to implement post work or near post work safety net policies in a non-post work environment you can obviously expect it to fair dreadfully both at the political and practical level. On the political level if people can say “there’s real work that needs doing” then it’s going to founder in a Democratic system. Practically if you start printing dough and handing out a guaranteed minimum income when the economy isn’t capable of sustaining it then you just get inflation and misery.
        What you’re talking about historically is emphatically not post-work.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        @north, what I really meant was simply that not every nation is going to respond to post-work in the same way or in a good way. There can be negative responses to post-work that make the issues worse. The United States was rich enough to implement a European-style social welfare state in 1945 or even now but various factors prevented us from implementing even the more common sense elements like universal healthcare.Report

      • North in reply to veronica dire says:

        That may be Lee, but frankly I don’t think it’s plausible. The US has some legislative and institutional stop points for reform and change, sure, but those points serve to slow down change not roadblock it entirely. In a post work or near post work society the interests of the vast majority will be so aligned towards the need to deal with the fallout of post work that US style roadblocks will simple delay the implementation of a response. Voters aren’t going to be distracted by jabbering about cultural issues if there’s no paying work to be had and they’re in danger of mass destitution. Supermajority requirements and committee chairs aren’t going to ward off a response if the electorate elects supermajorities to their representative bodies and I see no scenario where the super wealthy can buy enough votes in that environment to prevent it. We’ve never had a post work scenario economically speaking so I think you’re underestimating its electoral draw.Report

  2. Glyph says:

    [L2] The Boy really wants to go to Sea World one day, and we are not sure how to handle that since we have serious reservations about keeping cetaceans (really, any large/intelligent mammal) in captivity mostly for our entertainment (though arguments can be made for scientific study, and as tools to educate/encourage preservation).

    “It took half your legs, and both your lungs”:


    • aaron david in reply to Glyph says:

      ” since we have serious reservations about keeping cetaceans (really, any large/intelligent mammal) in captivity mostly for our entertainment (though arguments can be made for scientific study, and as tools to educate/encourage preservation).”
      I would suggest reading David Brin’s Sundiver. It will remove that reservation.Report

  3. Kim says:

    Yes it does. I’m fairly certain, judging by the current state of employment (and more importantly, unemployment), that folks that work in fast food after age 25ish or so, do permanently damage their earning potential. Even I can do the HR thing with that one– this person can’t take unemployment for even a little bit, in order to pull a better job than fast food. More desperate == less pay — less pay at any point means less pay at all points in the future (look at women’s pay if you don’t believe me).

    By restricting the calculation to older workers, this could have been a strong article.Report

  4. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    R5: This bans are little more than the worst sort of “othering” disguised as good for everyone regulations.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      …unconstitutional, though? Really, Linnekin?

      That said, I look forward to the food-truck vendor saying “hey, why do I need to get a permit if that store can just give away food for free?” I look forward to the restaurant owner saying “hey, why do I need to get a permit to *sell* food but not to give it away for free?”Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        If you follow his reasoning that such rules violate the right of free assembly.

        As for food trucks & restaurants, the chief difference is cost. Food trucks & restaurants are a business, not a charity.Report

      • @mad-rocket-scientist

        My problem with Linnekin’s statement about these laws’ unconstitutionality isn’t so much that he’s wrong–maybe he’s not–but that he seems to suggest that his view on their constitutionality is more mainstream than it is.

        At least, I think so. I’m no constitutional law expert. Maybe it’s not beyond the pale to say that regulations that forbid people to distribute free stuff (assuming that’s what these “bans” are) violate free assembly. Also, I realize that columns come with word limits, so maybe he didn’t have time for nuance.Report

    • I was curious enough about these bans to read the linked-to article, but not curious enough to follow Linnekin’s links. So with apologies for my laziness, my questions are these:

      Are these “bans” actual bans against sharing food with the homeless, or are they regulations of business that are sometimes interpreted to ban specific instances or ways of sharing food with the homeless?

      If the latter, are these interpretations consistent with a bona fide reading of these laws or do they reflect the actions of some rogue police officers?

      I suppose whatever the answers are, it’s bad if regulations have the result (perverse or intended) to ban sharing food with homeless people, and they need to be revised or repealed or their interpretation needs to be modified. But (and yes, there’s always a “but”) I’d like to know the endgame behind what Linnekin is arguing.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        This may be helpful.Report

      • Thanks for the link. I’ve skimmed it and it gives me an appreciation for the objection to laws that in practice prohibit sharing food with homeless people. And for the record, I do believe that communities do use extant laws to hide the “blight” of homelessness from public view, regardless of how facially neutral such laws are. Indeed, perhaps these laws are at least sometimes (or more often) designed with such an application in mind.

        I still have some reservations about Linnekin’s endgame. But then, that approaches ad hominem territory , based on my own bias about Reason’s ideological disposition, and on my suspicion that Linnekin, whose work I have never before now read, might be trying to bait all regulation as suspect by looking at its most pernicious, possible applications. Of course, my bias + ad hominem doesn’t refute the argument that such policies need to be revised.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        I think there are a lot of local laws that are facially neutral but are designed to protect entrenched & preferred interests because of the manner in which they are enforced.

        As for Linnekin, I’m sure if you are curious, you can find some of his other writings on the topic at Reason & elsewhere & suss out his overarching logic.Report

      • I don’t think the constitutionality argument is very weak at all. There is an association aspect in there, as well as a religious. It’s easier to say “Giving food to the homeless is an expression of my faith” than it is to say “Selling food to people and making money off it is an expression of my faith.”Report

      • @mad-rocket-scientist

        True enough.


        I’m not saying the argument is weak. I’m saying that it’s possibly not well-established, as in not adjudicated and so much part of the case-law tradition that we can say, “of course, it’s unconstitutional.” Now, I might very well be wrong, IANAL, etc., usw.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    L4: The global race to the bottom continues. We seem to be rapidly returning to an era where economic uncertainty and misfortune reflects the norm rather than the exception for most people. These zero-hero contracts remind of the situation in many Southern European or Eastern European countries in the late 19th and early 20th century, where getting a 150 days a work a year was considered lucky. Of course nobody could live on 150 days work just as people can’t live on zero hour contracts now. We either need government to fill in the blank through a GBI and other welfare state programs or to radically strengthen labor laws.Report

    • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

      We seem to be rapidly returning to an era where economic uncertainty and misfortune reflects the norm rather than the exception for most people.

      When exactly was this not the case for most people?Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to j r says:


        …What? You’re not counting foreigners as people, are you?Report

      • Mo in reply to j r says:

        Global poverty is way down from 1998.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Probably never but there were several decades after World War II were a significant proporation of the world’s population enjoyed a decent amount of prosperity, certainty, or both and didn’t have to hustle to simply survive. I am not sure why we, in the United States and elsewhere in the developed world, want to make life more of a struggle.Report

      • North in reply to j r says:

        Sorry Lee, I sympathize but objectively I don’t think you’re correct on that one. The decades after World War II was Elysian, if you lived north of the US/Mexico border in North America, otherwise they were kindof crap.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Switizerland, Sweden, Norway, Spain, and Portugal and even Finland somewhat emerged rather the nicely after WWII compared to other parts of Europe. I agree that most of Europe and Japan was flattened completely after World War II and the immediate post-War period sucked including rationing in some places to the early or mid-1950s. The European states did mitigate this through welfare state measures and the rebuilding effort led to economic good times by mid to late 1950s or 1960s at latest.Report

      • Mo in reply to j r says:

        @leeesq I agree with North. Things aren’t getting worse in the US, the problem is they’ve largely leveled off (and we’re still in a very slow recovery). The “problem” is that all of the growth and dynamism and growth has been offshored. Life in India, China, Latin America and even sub-Saharan Africa have gotten leagues better.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to j r says:

        Switizerland, …emerged rather the nicely after WWII

        Keeping all the gold and jewels stolen from six million dead Jews and their assorted family members is good for the economy.Report

      • North in reply to j r says:

        Lee, I sympathize, but the math simply does not work. One word: Asia. If you calculate the welfare of humanity globally then I don’t see how any preceding era can beat the current one out. The math doesn’t strike me as even remotely close. The only way one can cite the post WW era as better than our current one is if one somehow writes Asia out of the picture.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to j r says:

        Global poverty is way down from 1998.

        Right. That was my point.Report

      • Roger in reply to j r says:

        Regarding the unprecedented recent improvements in global poverty reductions, I strongly recommend everyone check out the amazing graph on page 13. It shows how everyone has improved dramatically EXCEPT those making up the middle and lower class of the first world.

    • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The global race to the bottom continues.

      Someone needs to tell poor countries that they’re going the wrong way, then.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:


      In the late 1960s, my dad was jobless for a long time. He even gave up the newspaper subscription because he couldn’t afford it, but my aunt covered it so he could get the help wanted ads.

      In the early 1970s I watched my mom cry in the grocery store because inflation was making it hard to feed her kids. I remember the days we’d have cornmeal mush for dinner, because cornmeal was all we had in the house besides vegetables from our garden. My mom worked for GE– it was great pay when there was work, but frequently she’d be laid off for weeks or months until more orders came in.

      We lived in a scrubby little farm town, with a lot of run-down houses. Growing up I thought people didn’t care, until in the ’90s, when the economy was rolling, I saw them getting fixed up, and I realized, “Oh, they couldn’t afford to when I was a kid.”

      Just a frickin’ golden paradise of an era, those post-war decades. Too bad you weren’t there to enjoy them with us. But your romanticism brings back memories; oh, does it bring back memories.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

      James, I realize that the experience wasn’t universal but plenty of people in the United States experienced much more economic security than they do at the present for various reasons. You can’t argue that this was wrong because it wasn’t completely universal.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        And there are people now who experience more economic security now than then.

        Look, it’s just not intellectually legitimate to use the postwar decades as the benchmark. They weren’t normal, and damned if we’d want to recreate the conditions that created them. A decade and a half of depression and rationing created vast amounts of pent-up demand, and a massive war destroyed most of the world’s manufacturing capacity, with the U.S. being one of the few places it was untouched, while the war created huge demand for rebuilding.

        It’s a cherry-picked starting point for comparison. And even at that it wasn’t as ideal as you think. You seem to have missed the fact that my mom was in manufacturing…even that was not so stable for employment as romanticized histories would have you believe.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Not to mention that standards of living were lower. People would be a lot more financially secure if they lived at a 1950s standard of living and saved the rest.Report

    • aaron david in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “We seem to be rapidly returning to an era where economic uncertainty and misfortune reflects the norm rather than the exception for most people.”Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    The link that is allegedly about why Japan shouldn’t apologize leads to one about Australian sensible conservatism.Report

  7. Chris says:

    G1: I’d been wondering how this was looking in Germany, given its history (and it was on my mind, given that I’ve just read a bunch of Cold War novels and reread Too Far Afield).

    Also, did you notice how the author had to make it clear that his grandfather was drafted? Plus ça change.Report

  8. greginak says:

    G1- Interesting stuff about German history. Many Germans have a deep romantic affection for our Old West. Not particularly the real old west but the legend stuff. It seems like many Germans are always looking someplace else for an older simpler fairy tale of being back to nature and the good old days.Report

  9. zic says:

    T3 is pretty much what I would expect.

    And the suggestion in the piece that most companies initially engage with the open source community because this is where the best developers are reflects on what I repeatedly argued about Eich and Mozilla. The development community are the drivers.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

      Yeah, maybe being in the industry make me a bad audience here, but that article was kinda like a report that water is wet and the sky is blue. Yeah, we use open source, everyone who is anyone does. It’s better and having source code matters a lot. And upstream pushes happen, they have for a long time.

      So, anyway, yeah.Report

  10. Herb says:

    L4. “It’s hard for me to see it as not revolving around a worker surplus.”

    The linked article suggests that’s not the only problem: “High unemployment and tough economic times, combined with ever-increasing flexible working practices that favour big business, is creating a culture of servitude, trapping people in vicious cycles of instability, stress and a struggle to make ends meet.”

    I’m guessing smaller firms would find less advantage (if any) from zero-hour contracts.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Herb says:

      I don’t at all see why flexible-to-them work hours favor big businesses and I know that small businesses rely on them whether in the specific form of zero hour contracts or not.Report

      • Herb in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yes, I can see how a smaller firm would come to rely on a zero-hour contract. They may still be growing or business may not be as steady. If the smaller firm has a zero-hour contract, it’s because they need it, not because it gives them an advantage.

        Scale that up to a larger firm, say, a grocery store. If a grocery store has employees with zero-hour contracts, it’s not really need-based. They’re a full time business in need of a full time workforce. They’ve chosen that route because it gives them an advantage.

        And that advantage accrues only to the larger firms.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        So small firms need it, and big firms only benefit from it, so it favors big business?Report

      • Herb in reply to Will Truman says:

        “So small firms need it, and big firms only benefit from it, so it favors big business?”

        Is this an attempt to understand my point or are you just trying to render it ridiculous by misstating it? If it’s the former, I’ll gladly clarify it for your understanding.

        If it’s the latter, why bother?

        (I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, but in case it’s the former, you should ask yourself about the relationship between profitability and overhead, and then somehow work that into a thought about how zero-hour contracts “favor big business.”)Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m trying to demonstrate what I see as its ridiculousness by stating it more concisely. If I’ve somehow misstated it, I would appreciate a clarification, because I’ve read it multiple times and it still doesn’t make sense.Report

      • Roger in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yeah, Herb, it might help if you clarified what distinguishes fulfilling a legitimate need and what constitutes taking advantage. I am not arguing, just agreeing that I am not getting the argument.Report

  11. Jesse Ewiak says:

    P4: Um, Abbot’s a sensible conservative only if you consider somebody completely going back on their election promises, having states even controlled by his own party in open political rebellion against his policies, allowed the right-leaning populist third party that was assumed to help him a way to seem independent and sane despite being the personal vehicle of a billionaire, and given the opposition’s version of John Kerry according by all accounts enough stones to give a response to the budget that makes him sound like FDR in ’36.

    When you’re talking about a double dissolution election in Australia openly, you’ve done nothing sensible. – Here’s some liveblogs (it’s from the Guardian, so YMMV) for some background info for those who aren’t political obsessives like me.Report

  12. Michael Cain says:

    P3: If Texas can stabilize their population, they have a chance of staying red. If not, then the blue turn seems to me to be inevitable. Their water problems are bad enough that this past year they set up a $2B fund for large water projects; it passed despite the objections of the rural areas who (correctly, IMO) see their way of life disappearing when the urban areas can buy, store and transfer the water. The urban areas are slowing moving towards light rail; they (and inner ring suburbs) understand that more lane-miles isn’t always the answer. Assorted factors are going to push them towards renewable electricity and efficiency, rather than building more coal plants; renewables require more infrastructure and planning to handle the intermittency problem.

    I’ve long said that in order for Texas to support a population the size of California’s (38M people), the state regulations and taxes required to keep it habitable will be at least as heavy as California’s.Report

    • Roger in reply to Michael Cain says:


      Why? Are you suggesting that California taxes and regulates efficiently?Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Roger says:

        No, I’m suggesting that demand for regulations and public spending increase as more people are crowded in together. To pick an extreme example, a farmer a half-mile from the nearest neighbor doesn’t bother anyone by drilling an uncased well for water, building a jury-rigged septic field, and burning trash in an old oil drum out back. Residents of a modern urban core, where average spacing between households can be measured in feet or even inches, will need water to be collected and transported from a distance (with treatment required to keep the transport system reasonably sterile), demand sewage transport and treatment, and insist on regulation of air pollution sources.

        California in 1984 had about the same population as Texas today, and has grown by >40% since then. How much of what people characterize as California’s over-regulation has occurred after 1984, versus before?Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Roger says:


        residents of a modern urban core, where average spacing between households can be measured in feet or even inches,

        How often do states have regulations that only kick in within urban boundaries or when population density is X? I know cities can craft their own rules, but I wonder how often states craft rules for urban areas only? I also wonder how often states craft rules that should apply to urban areas only, but because city dwellers find a given behavior distasteful, the lobby for it to be illegal everywhere?Report

      • Kim in reply to Roger says:

        Always always and always. It is legal to hunt in the city of Pittsburgh (provided you are X distance away from houses). Because the state wanted to assert sovereignty over the localities (and because Republicans). Pittsburgh has a law banning hunting, but the state law specifically says it overrules the city laws.Report

      • Roger in reply to Roger says:


        I would certainly be willing to concede — for argument’s sake — that all else equal, a denser network of people require more regulations than a less dense network.

        It does not follow from this that any other state will need a regulatory burden as heavy as California’s to be that dense. Indeed, implicit in this statement is that California has some kind of optimal and enlightened regulatory burden, with no substantive rent seeking or inefficiency.

        I’ve lived and worked extensively in both states (many others too), and would caution strongly against any assumption of efficiency or absence of destructive regulatory efficiency.

        Indeed I can go on for hours about how even many of Texas’ regulations are bat shit crazy.*

        And I would not concede –even for arguments sake– that population density requires intrinsically higher taxes.

        * at one time I was a registered lobbyist — it was required in my position as I was on the board of several Texas domestic insurance companies.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Roger says:

        How often do states have regulations that only kick in within urban boundaries or when population density is X?

        Regularly, it’s just not phrased that way. To pick a specific example, Colorado’s vehicle emission testing program applies only to certain counties. If you move across the street and register your car in a different county, you may no longer have to pay for an inspection (and necessary repairs to achieve compliance). When the legislature extended the program to additional Front Range counties recently, those counties screamed. The response from the General Assembly was basically, “When your population grows to ‘big city’ size and density, then you have to play by the ‘big city’ rules.”

        Another example is a regulation that includes language that says, “This requirement only applies when effluent discharge is greater than X gallons per day.” Where X is large enough that it only applies to a handful of cities in the state. Cities who can see that they’re going to reach X in the not-so-distant future have to raise fees to pay for the improvements that their sewage treatment plant needs in order to conform.

        One of the odder cases in Colorado was a requirement that applied only to “investor-owned electric utilities.” When you put it on a map, what you found was that it applied to the bigger cities, and not to the towns and rural areas served by electric co-ops where the customer density was low enough that service was unprofitable without cheap RUS money that the for-profit utilities couldn’t get.Report

      • Kim in reply to Roger says:

        We had a state law saying that police officers had to live in the city of pittsburgh if they worked there.

        I believe our “red light traffic cameras” also have weird areas where they can go:

      • Michael Cain in reply to Roger says:

        That’s an interesting argument. Do we know of any examples in the US where, as a city grew in size and/or density, demand for public services declined? Where the fee and tax rates declined? Or is this a “no one has figured out how to get it done in practice” situation? Those are serious questions, not snark.Report

      • Roger in reply to Roger says:


        I am not following you. I conceded in the first paragraph that regulation may very well in general tend to increase with population and density. That is not my argument at all. I also put taxes to the side for clarity.

        Saying that regulation naturally increases with density is not the same though as saying that the level and quality of regulations currently in place in California is necessary “to keep it habitable.”

        Consider the difference between regulations which grow as a factor of complexity of human interaction, and regulations which grow via rent seeking, log rolling, political power struggles and sheer bureaucratic sclerosis. We can call the first kind good regulations which make life better. We can call the second group bad regulations with net harms on welfare. I can provide examples of both, but I assume this would be superfluous.

        The point is that people can flee poorly regulated states and move to better regulated states. Poor regulation is a factor of more-than-needed (per the individual affected) as well as the quality. Quality and quantity.

        I spent many years in working and living in both states. Texas is extremely over-regulated IMO. I can provide stories. California is astronomically, hilariously worse. Interest groups have gotten out of hand and are sacrificing the future for special privilege.Report

      • Roger in reply to Roger says:

        Adding on for clarity.

        I assume everyone agrees that a regulation can be any of the following:

        1) attempts to solve problem and does so better than any alternative course of action
        2) attempts to solve problem, does, but not as effectively or efficiently as other alternative actions could have
        3) attempts to solve, does, but generates massive unintended and unseen externalities (usually negative)
        4) attempts to solve, fails miserably
        5) attempts to solve, perversely actually makes the problem worse
        6) attempts to solve problem, succeeds, but the problem solved does not correspond to general human welfare, but rather exploitation and privilege of interest groups
        7) attempts to solve a problem, does, but some people with different values disagree with both the problem and solution.

        My point is that there is a hell of a lot of 2-7 in California and Illinois, a little (but noticeably so) less in Texas, and substantially less in some other states. This is not completely a factor of population size.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Roger says:

        @roger What are some states you have done business in with substantially less regs than Texas?Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Roger says:

        @roger When you start saying a state like Texas, where a plant blew up and the response was, “the market will take care of it” has too many regulations, then you’re straining credulity.

        Now, Texas may have some incorrect regulation in certain industries, but I’d also note, for instance, the “overregulation” in mortgages according to most sources, stopped Texas from having a housing bubble like Nevada and Florida did.Report

      • Roger in reply to Roger says:


        You did indeed answer your own question. I am not familiar with every industry, just one, and it was comically over-regulated to the benefit of special interests (some inside the industry, some outside) to the detriment of general welfare.

        I assure you I can envision effective and efficient regulation. I am sure there are problems in every state which can be solved by regulation. There are also examples of 2-7 (above) in every state.

        The overall regulatory climate is a summary of all the above in all fields as seen by the average constituent. There are surveys of this, and some states, of similar size, are viewed more favorably by their constituents than others.

        By the way, when I moved to Texas it was still a Blue Dog Democrat state.Report

      • Roger in reply to Roger says:

        In my industry, believe it or not, Illinois was the least over-regulated. Texas was one of the worst at the time, though nowhere as bad as California and New Jersey, to name two of the very worst.Report