Monday, May 28, 2012

Enemies of Capitalism

Capitalism's biggest political enemies are not the firebrand trade unionists spewing vitriol against the system, but the executives in pin-striped suits extolling the virtues of competitive markets with every breath while attempting to extinguish them with every action.

– Raghuram G. Rajan and Luigi Zingales
Saving Capitalism From the Capitalists (2003)

In this week's sift:

  • Food-eaters are not a special interest groupNothing the government does affects you as often and as directly as food policy. So in a democracy, you would expect either that food policy is a perennial campaign issue, or that a pro-consumer consensus takes food out of partisan politics completely. That's not what has happened.
  • The Sifted Bookshelf: Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig. The last three elections have all been calls for sweeping change, and neither party has been able to deliver it. Why doesn't democracy work any more? And what can be done about it?
  • Tagg, You're ItTagg Romney is getting rich on his own, by running an equity capital firm financed by the big-money contributors to his father's political campaign. See? You'd be rich too if only you were smart enough to think of something like that.
  • Slinging Mud at Clean Energy and other short notesAs wind and solar power become more feasible, attacks from dirty-energy industries become more aggressive. Biden's moving Memorial Day message. Obama moves black opinion on same-sex marriage. How the fracking industry puts a university imprimatur on its propaganda. And more.
  • Last week's most popular post. If you can't hear it from me ... got 247 view. The most-clicked link was 6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Market Society

market economy is a tool—a valuable and effective tool—for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market. The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets. Do we want a market economy, or a market society?

-- Michael J. Sandel, "What Isn't For Sale?" (2012)

In this week's sift:

  • "If you can't hear it from me ..." -- 3 voices that might get through to your conservative friendsA former climate-change denier explains why he stopped denying. A young Christian author tells her elders how their anti-gay focus is causing Christianity to lose her generation. And a successful entrepreneur explains why he isn't a job-creator, but middle-class consumers are.
  • Citizen of the highest bidder. New FaceBook billionaire Eduardo Saverin didn't intend to become a symbol when he lowered his tax bill by renouncing his American citizenship. But right and left alike seized on his example to make points about taxes, patriotism, and whether anything is truly priceless.
  • 196 People and other short notes196 individuals dominated Super-PAC funding in 2011. Austerity flounders in Europe. Harp seals should get jobs. Easter Island heads have buried bodies. Yet another similarity between the Taliban and Pat Robertson. And more.
  • Book recommendation of the week: The New Religious Intolerance by Martha Nussbaum. For a bona fide University of Chicago philosopher, Nussbaum has a readable, engaging style. This short book looks at the fear-psychology that religious intolerance is based on, briefly presents the major philosophical theories of tolerance, illustrates how those ideas have played out historically, and then brings it all together to look at current anti-Muslim activism in both the U.S. and Europe.
  • Last week's most popular post. Everybody will support same-sex marriage by 2030 got 381 views. The most-clicked link was the election quiz.
  • What you can do. From time to time I've mentioned the Banyan Project (where I'm on the unpaid Board of Advisors; so is Dan Gilmore, author of We the Media). My friend Tom Stites has come up with a business plan for launching local news co-ops, whose loyalty will be to their reader/owners rather than to the advertisers. Banyan has reached the pilot-project stage, and is looking for start-up money through the journalism crowd-source funding site works by an interesting model: It uses crowd-sourcing to fund journalism that the for-profit media won't do. You pledge money via your credit card, but your card is only charged if the proposal meets its funding goal within the specified time period. So you don't get charged for projects that never get off the ground. The Banyan proposal speaks for itself. You can decide for yourself whether it's the kind of thing you want to support. I'll vouch for Tom Stites (who used to be my editor at UU World) and for itself. Neither is a scam. I made a pledge this morning.

The Weekly Sift's main site is a

Monday, May 14, 2012

Well-Prepared Ground

We used to think that revolutions are the cause of change. Actually it is the other way around: change prepares the ground for revolution

Eric Hoffer,  The Temper of  Our Time (1967)

In this week's sift:

  • Everybody will support gay marriage by 2030Support for gay rights has the most inexorable kind of momentum: generational. President Obama's "evolution" may look risky now, but as gay-rights supporters come of age and opponents die, even the most homophobic politicians will have to capitulate -- just like segregationist politicians did in the 1970s.
  • 77 Cents, part 2: What if secretaries became programmers? In a miniature economy with only 30 occupations, eliminating the difference between male-dominated occupations and female-dominated ones only knocks 3 cents off the pay gap. Equalizing pay within the 30 occupations knocks 12 cents off.
  • Does Romney's bullying matter? and other short notesThe important thing isn't what Mitt Romney did half a century ago; it's how well his reaction today fits the story his critics tell about him. What Mom really wanted. LBJ's greatest moment. Maurice Sendak's last interview. Why does college cost so much? And more.
  • Last week's most popular post. It was a slow week. Where the Jobs Are and other short notes was the most popular post with 140 views.
  • This week's challenge. The Wisconsin recall campaign is on: a rematch of Walker vs. Barrett. Between now and June 5, this the biggest race going, and it will have national implications. You can contribute to the Barrett campaign here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Door to Recovery

All through the Depression influential voices warned about the dangers of excessive government spending, and as a result the job-creation programs of the New Deal were always far too small, given the depth of the slump. What the threat of war did was to finally silence the voices of fiscal conservatism, opening the door for recovery.

– Paul Krugman, End This Depression Now (2012)

In this week's sift:

  • 77 CentsWho's right about how much money women make and why?
  • Gays Need Not Apply. Richard Grenell's resignation tells us that the Religious Right has Mitt Romney on a very short leash.
  • Where the Jobs Are and other short notesA great chart compares the Bush and Obama recoveries. The biggest difference between them is in government jobs -- up for Bush, down for Obama.
  • Last week's most popular post. Jesus Shrugged -- why Ayn Rand and Christianity don't mix got 357 views. It was another good week for short notes; Bad Arguments and other short notes was viewed 191 times. 41 of those viewers clicked, making it the week's most-clicked link.
  • Book recommendation of the week. Probably I'll say more about this next week, but Paul Krugman's End This Depression Now is an excellent book. Nothing he says will surprise Krugman's regular readers -- or regular Sift readers, for that matter: He thinks the economy is suffering a failure of demand, which can be solved by more government stimulus spending, easy money by the Fed, and raising the inflation target to 4%. But it's good to see all the pieces of Krugman's view laid out end-to-end. He makes his case very clearly, and directly answers all the objections your friends are likely to raise.