Shakedown, Breakdown, Takedown, Everybody Wants Into The Crowded Line

If you haven’t heard, open socialist Kshama Sawant (yes, really) of the Seattle Council Of Nine, desires Amazon and others pay at least $150 million dollars as part of a ‘head-tax’ to address the ‘homeless crisis’ in the city.  Four of her fellows agree.

‘They estimate the so-called “head tax” of about $500 per employee would apply to 500 to 600 companies and they are calling for it to be spent on low-income housing and emergency services for homeless people. The council has been planning to vote later this month.’

It’s just a start, mind you, phasing into a more permanent revolutionary revenue stream tax within a few years.

Amazon however, disagrees, and has halted construction on a downtown site in response (occupying something like 1/5 of premium office space in the city).

Long-story short:  Seattle is growing rapidly. The housing prices are through the roof.  Many arrivals are ambitious, skilled and entering the job market at the higher-end (Amazon works people pretty hard).  There are many other less-skilled people looking to gain skills and jobs.

Seattle is also attracting many mentally-ill, drug-addicted people into the city.  Many increasingly wander the streets and are encouraged to use public services and set-up tent cities alongside highways, taking-up settlement on public property (I’ll just link here as to final judgments about such matters…).

As for me: I’m currently [overhearing] a strategic political meet-up for the pro-head tax side in a coffee shop.  Here’s what I’m picking up:

  1. Their opponents are clearly ‘immoral.’
  2. Their opponents clearly have a lot of money, but they simply won’t cough it up and clearly don’t care.  In fact, their opponents are choosing to spend money to mobilize people against them unfairly (a lot of projection, that).  Did I mention ‘opponents?’   There’s a lot of ‘opponent’ talk.
  3. ‘Leverage’, ‘narrative’, press releases, ‘messaging’, mobilization, planned protests are all mentioned.  I infer a weakness in their position from their postures and subject matter. I’m thinking both realize this will take work.  Both lament the label ‘socialist.’  I check the latest news and see that iron-workers shouted Sawant down.
  4. As I suspect is the case with most coversations based upon shared principles, ideology and future planned action, there is a curious mix of praise and competitive false praise, familiarity and convenience.  There’s reinforcement of certain touchstones (class, industrialization, greed, the ‘industrial revolution’) and concrete action (Friday 5 pm, mayor’s office etc).

Having seen this a few times (my biases should be pretty clear :)):

Claim you have knowledge of how the world really is (usually some direct or warmed-over Marxism)–>

Claim that a better world is possible (utopia) through immediate political action–>

Claim that the ‘oppressor’ is responsible and blame the ‘oppressor’ for pretty much all injustices in life (filthy capitalist golden-geese like Amazon)–>

Claim anyone outside of your ideological lights is insufficiently ‘woke,’ falsely conscious, morally hollow and eventually either for or against you in supporting your conception of social justice–>

Organize protests/meetings/ to demonize and extract money, gaining political power while constantly projecting all of your intellectual/moral/ideological motives onto the ‘oppressor.’

We all need better advocates of liberty, and better ideas, than this.

Ah, Seattle:

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Fun fact: During times of stress, Josef Stalin is said to have marched his fingers just so across his desk, transgressing his own boundaries!

A Far-Left Resurgence In Ol’ Blighty: Counter-Cultural Tides At Home

Clive Crook at Bloomberg had some reasonable advice for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain:

‘You heard me. A modern party of the left doesn’t need to be anti-capitalist. Concern for social justice, equality of opportunity and even (up to a point) equality of outcome don’t require a belief in the innate wickedness of capitalism.’

Neo-liberalism would be nice, of course; many hardened types on the Left morphing into more compromising, dirigiste, Statist social democrats.  It’s easy to imagine (if you try) realpolitik humanists capable of prevention and intervention abroad, rather than the usual post-Enlightenment apologism for dictators, and/or during times of crisis, conspicuous silence, unless returning to the ‘peaceful’ moral high ground against all ideological enemies.

Market forces could be useful in pursuing such desired ends, after all, rather than many anti-capitalist, totalitarian, true-believin’ ideologues one so often finds.

Yet, here we are, and here’s Corbyn’s home page.  It’s almost as if failed theories of history and the ideologues committed to them keep rising anew…

The Monarchy’s still around, even as a figurehead.  Some real, faded, Red ideologues are still around, too.

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Possibly relevant quote via Chaos Manor:

‘Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

Another from Karl Popper:

“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

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Here at home, Charlie Martin reminds us that there’s no free lunch.  When you offer sick people other people’s money to buy insurance, and generally offer healthy people only higher premiums and relatively fewer options, you haven’t really understood the basic concept of insurance:

‘I won’t go into great detail about how insurance works here. I’ve done it before, both laying it out mathematically and in a little parable appropriate to the season. The basic thing is that insurance is a bet: you bet someone that something bad is going to happen, and that someone takes the bet.’

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As previously posted, but relevant:

Why have large numbers of people from the suburbs and small towns been migrating to Brooklyn, for example, seeking to make what they do what they love, engaging in the creative process and almost fetishizing the idea of ‘craft’?

Below are the Mast brothers, taking the hipster ethos into the business and branding of themselves as chocolate-makers, along with an entirely ‘old-timey’ aesthetic. Few chocolate-makers take pains to mention Mark Twain & Ralph Waldo Emerson in their promo videos:

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I’ve been thinking that upon examination, hipsterdom (not necessarily the Mast Brothers) may reveal DNA strands of previous American counter-culture movements: Some hipsters have adopted milder forms of the bohemianism and cultural withdrawal of the Beats, others the collectivism, activism and ‘social conscience’ of the Hippies (along with many tenets of the feminist and environmentalist movements).  Some others still the disposable income and professional ambition of Yuppies (see: Park Slope).

Overall, in terms of political philosophy, I’m guessing such strands would most likely unite under a rather standard-issue secular-liberal humanism or post new-Democrat alliance (how tolerant such a voting bloc would be of progressive activism, redistributionism, and true radicalism remains to be seen when the chips are down).

Throw in some postmodernist art-theory and nihilist performance artists seeking human connection in the meaningless void, such as Matthew Silver, and we may be getting somewhere (apologies if I’ve unfairly reduced you to a bit part in a bad theory…such are the wages of cultural criticism in the blogosphere).

Another explanation I’ve heard floated is that hipsterdom is partially the product of the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation. Everyone’s a special snowflake. Every minute of every day can be planned and some parents are still hovering like crazy in the lives of their children. The Self-Esteem movement can then loom large in the rather rarefied atmospheres that some kids have grown-up in.

How to live, what to do?

Where to find meaning, purpose and connection?

Perhaps many people making American businesses run are more likely to respond to the language of psychology and pop-psychology, neuroscience and pop-neuroscience, literature, ethics gurus and even the kinds of self-help books to be found on Oprah, whatever wisdom and truths they may contain.

Or, at least this stuff is bigger business these days.

As for Emerson, and the transcendentalist, perhaps even somewhat pragmatist, search for the Stern Fact & Sad Self, I suspect it will still figure heavily in American life and culture for quite some time.

Let me know what I’m missing.

***In terms of starting some kind of business or appealing to popular sentiment, I would recommend the safe option of a time-lapse a video of the stars, adding some quotes about living in a globalized world, the importance of (S)cience, (A)rt, people and progress, then some background indie music and you may well have a Kickstarter campaign.

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So, economics is a science?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…I’m much more inclined to believe it is if there’s a defense of Jeffersonian liberty and Adam Smith’s invisible hand: Repost-’Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Using J.S. Mill, moving away from religion? Rationalism and Utilitarianism On The Rise?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Liberalism should move towards the Austrians, or at least away from rationalist structures?:  Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Every Time An Activist Gets His Wings…From Inside Philanthropy: ‘Did You Hear The Koch Brothers Just Gave A Million Bucks To NPR To Cover Healthcare?’

Full piece here. (No, it didn’t really happen, but this is one of my hobby horses, and I’m not afraid to whip it often).

NPR works alongside the Kaiser Family Foundation to deliver ACA coverage.

Money, money, money:

‘My point, of course, is that growing concern about the subversion of public media by private donors is quite selective. Progressives only fret when it’s conservative money coming in, but ignore cases in which funders they like are writing the checks. And while the right routinely hits NPR for being too liberal, it’s been strangely quiet on NPR’s sources of funding and the possible conflicts embedded in funding arrangements’

Let’s just say most people are attracted to large revenue streams, even lofty secular idealists.  The money has to come from somewhere.

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A brief rant:

Activists of all stripes seem to occupy a special place in the moral universe of NPR coverage. Perhaps a pure, uncut activist is a little much, but such folks can always be backed-up with the right studies and statistics.  In a four-minute piece, activists can be bolstered by a two-minute interview with a more knowledgeable bureaucrat and/or favorable university professor.

Activism is virtuous, after all.

From civil rights to feminism to environmentalism to gay rights…equality will eventually be reached, doled-out, quantified and planned.  But only if the general will is being served daily, while the ‘The People’ are rising-up demanding change, protesting and chanting, forming purely democratic coalitions and autonomous collectives that can only make our politics and the world a better place.

Each individual is gaining more freedom daily through collective action, dear reader.

***I’ve been assured that every time an activist gets his wings, the storehouse of moral good increases by a hectare, while the happiness index inches upwards.

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Of course, making such Left-liberal ideals the highest things around means always courting activists to some extent, for no other purpose than staying in business. It also means making choices in the real world.  Private donations by listeners to NPR are generally good, while private ownership in a company donating to political campaigns is generally bad.

The foundation money that funds Left-liberal think tanks and action committees is generally a force for good in politics, while the Koch brothers money is generally bad, and suspicious.

Even if the foundations were started by capitalists, innovators thriving under a relatively free flow of capital and labor like Henry Ford’s motor company did, dramatically driving down the price of cars for everyone, these cash-cows have finally been bent to the right ideals.

Equality is next, right after the next big private/public partnership.

(addition: yes, that last part is sarcasm, and no, I don’t think anyone is capable of being the moral judge nor final arbiter of the Civil Rights movement and its gains of freedom for many in the real world.

Rather, one can simply point out many of its costs and consequences; the logical flaws, including the lack of limiting principles to political power.

I think it’s more clear now how endlessly rewarding victimhood, capitalizing on grievance and injustice, and cultivating envy into a movement led by a charismatic figure has consequences.

It seems there’s some good when the folks at NPR are called-out on their activism as well as their moral and political commitments, to see how their business works while they are busily minding everyone else’s business).

Related On This SiteJack Shakely At The Los Angeles Review Of Books Reviews Ken Stern’s ‘With Charity For All’

How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
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Via The Future Of Capitalism: ‘Nurse Union Chief’s Communist Past’

Future of Capitalism here.

Original article here.

The head of NY biggest nurse’s union:

“I’ve absolutely been an activist since high school,” said Ms. Furillo. “It helped make me who I am.”

When Ms. Furillo was 25, she was an active member of the Young Workers Liberation League, a youth arm affiliate of the Communist Party USA, and an editor of its Young Worker publication. She wrote in 1975: “It is clear that for youth today, there is no real and meaningful future under capitalism. Capitalism means joblessness, racism and degeneracy.”

And from the NY Times on current NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s past:

‘His activism did not stop. In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. “The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle,” said a poster designed by the group’

Let’s call the activism of our current President more tame, less radical and more ‘progressive:’

A WaPo piece looked at Organizing For Action, the President’s bid to to make a non-profit fundraising machine out of his coalitions and activist supporters around the time of his second election.

An OFA spokeswoman’s defense of the group’s mission:

“We are confident as we have always been in our abilities to programatically and financially fulfill the mission we have laid out, working on issues like raising the minimum wage for Americans and continuing the fight for action on climate change. It is because of OFA’s strength of having 4.6 million action takers, an average contribution under $40 and more than 420,000 contributors that we are able to choose not to solicit new large donations now through November as we expect some of our supporters will also choose to shift their focus during the midterm season.”

If by ‘grassroots’ you mean organized from the top-down…and if by ‘individuals’ you mean they call you ‘an individual’…for now…then I see a lot of laws that interfere with individual liberty, overpromise money and benefits in poorly-designed systems that favor certain coalitions (unions, activists), and also a governance model that feeds on emotions and outrage often over facts and statistics, encouraging membership on political and ideological grounds.

Addition: Or as a friend points out, OFA is a more sanitized version of activism, made to adapt to a national audience, a breach into which the other radicals run.

A national leader with such commitments needs to use the budget to reward friends and fellow activists, and find the broadest policies possible that keep him in touch with his base (climate change, labor unions, immigration policy tapped into La Raza and Wall street backers), so if the gap can’t be breached, it’s the other party’s fault.

A Defense Of Capitalism, Moving Away From Deconstruction & Questioning The Idea Of All That Progress-Some Links

Via Bloggingheads-Will Wilkinson & Jason Brennan Of Georgetown University discuss Brennan’s new book: ‘Why Not Capitalism?’

A radio interview with Brennan here at Libertarianism.org.

Some arguments against idealized and practical socialism.  The kids probably need to hear this kind of thing nowadays.

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Via The American Mind Series at Claremont McKenna CollegeHeather McDonald, a fellow the Manhattan Institute, discusses her movement away from Deconstruction at Yale, Jacques Derrida, and her time as a clerk for a judge on the 9th Circuit:

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This Jack Balkin paper on Deconstruction is interesting.

See: Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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Via a reader: Edward Feser’s review of John Gray’s ‘The Silence Of Animals.’  It is rather unfavorable, and for my part, may highlight a divide between the act of writing and reading as a particular use of the creative imagination versus that of the more sustained reasoning required of philosophical debate.

Needless to say, Gray’s rather nihilistic approach casts doubt upon much of the modern project, religious claims to moral authority, the new humanism and many common assumptions of progress and the products of reason as well.

Here he is in his own words:

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Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

See:Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’…John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

From The Future Of Capitalism: ‘Compliance’

Full post here.

Ira Stoll has a follow-up on his column from last year, by highlighting Zenefits Insurance Services, a company designing software to help businesses keep compliance costs down, especially with the new Obamacare regulations coming down the pike:

‘The company’s co-founder and CEO is Parker Conrad, a former managing editor of the Harvard Crimson and cancer survivor who I tried unsuccessfully to hire at the New York Sun. If someone has to make money from the “compliance complexities” of ObamaCare, I’m glad it’s him.’

I keep putting up this quote from Stoll’s original piece:

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

These past decades have seen Washington D.C. and surrounding counties grow at a very fast rate, as people move there in pursuit of their talents, jobs and opportunity. The business of D.C. is politics, mostly.

Some people’s guiding ideals and moral lights lead them naturally to activism and leveraging political power to advance their interests, but certainly not all. Individually, I’m guessing there are people willing to accept pursuing opportunity in the public sector, instead of the private, where a lot of money and jobs currently are, especially in a down economy. These incentives will have them primarily managing other people’s lives, money, and time, through laws, tax revenue, and regulations.

This doesn’t seem commensurate long-term with a growing economy, more individual liberty and social mobility, nor a limited government which tends to keep more freedoms and responsibility in the hands of greater numbers of people, should they want that freedom and responsibility.

We’ve been getting a good look at the incentives, inertia and design flaws inherent in bureaucratic organizations lately.

Are we in decline? A rough patch of road?  A tipping point?

Related On This Site: Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

Once broader ideas of the public good take hold, they tend to lead to greater claims of the public square, and view market activity as an animal to be harnessed: Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis

Tom Palmer From Cato@Liberty: ‘Crony Capitalism’

From World Affairs Via A & L Daily: Jagdish Bagwhati’s ‘Feeble Critiques: Capitalism’s Petty Detractors’

.So, Is America In Decline?Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Repost-Lawrence Lessig At Bloggingheads: ‘Fixing Our Broken System?’Conrad Black At The National Review: ‘Decline, But Not Inevitable Decline?’

 

Some Thursday Links-Robots & Politics

Ira Stoll links to Michael Spence at Project Syndicate:

Many current jobs can be automated, then potentially customized:

‘It is important to understand the economics of these technologies. The vast majority of the cost comes at the start, in the design of hardware (like sensors) and, more important, in creating the software that produces the capability to carry out various tasks. Once this is achieved, the marginal cost of the hardware is relatively low (and declines as scale rises), and the marginal cost of replicating the software is essentially zero. With a huge potential global market to amortize the upfront fixed costs of design and testing, the incentives to invest are compelling.’

As Stoll points out:

‘It’s not only McDonald’s order-takers and cashiers that may have their jobs replaced by computers, in other words: taxi-drivers and longshoremen may be next.’

Check out Stoll’s piece ‘How Raising The Minimum Wage Destroys Jobs

-You may have noticed the $15 hr minimum wage debate in Seattle, which pitted Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant against Ben Shapiro.

It’s enough to make you see red.

-The mayor is reviewing minimum wage options.  Really, it still could happen within Seattle City Limits.

Most of the country doesn’t support that kind of socialist base.

As far as political economy, it seems people have a tendency to resist change and protect their own.  Some will innovate and make new opportunities.  Many businesses have incentives to adapt or perish, and many will try and lead the way and dominate.  Many forces both Left and Right will mold their ideas, ideologies, and moral commitments to changing realities in individuals’ lives.  They will respond to the incentives from the public, their coalitions and interests, hoping to ride and shape public sentiment into political power.

All with an eye on re-election, of course.