A Capitalism for the People

I don’t often do book reviews, but having just finished Luigi Zingales’ book, A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity, I think it is worth writing about. For the last four years I have suggested that there might be common ground between liberals and libertarians. But every time I have tried to advance the notion, either the liberals have savaged the idea or the libertarians have complained of half steps and put forth their “anarcho-capitalist” solution, which is just plain stupid. Zingales offers a middle ground.

Zingales is a free market Professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and his main fear is that Crony Capitalism is destroying the competitive nature of America’s economic system. He believes that government has an important role to play in society, but that as corporations become more dominant in financing politics, they “capture” the regulators who are supposed to control them. Similarly, the corporations lobby the congress to put through special subsidies for their industry, thus distorting competition. Zingales sees the cronyism on both sides of the political aisle, such as when Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin lobbied hard to get the Glass-Stegall Act repealed, in order to help Citigroup, which had already violated the law.

Rubin left the Treasury in July 1999, the day after the House passed its version of the bill by a bipartisan vote of 343 to 86. Three months later, on October 18, 1999, Rubin was hired at Citigroup at a salary of $15 million a year, without any operating responsibility. It is hard not to see the connection between these two events.

Zingales’ prescriptions for fixing this mess are pretty straight forward. Cut all government subsidies and special tax breaks to corporations. Eliminate all tax deductions for individuals, which “would reduce the marginal tax rate for all taxpayers by at least five percentage points, except for taxpayers making more than $500,000, who would see their marginal tax rate unchanged. Use Pigouvian taxes to correct distorted incentives and negative externalities. Examples of this are a progressive tax on payments to lobbyists by corporations; a tax on short term debt held by financial institutions (which he believed caused the 2008 crisis) and a tax on pollution flowing from industry.

It is on various social policies that liberals will find Zingales pushing them into uncomfortable areas. On K-12 education he advocates a progressive voucher system. All schools would have to compete for all children with schools getting paid more to take on under privileged kids. If schools hired bad teachers, they would face the possibility of going out of business. I for one think this idea is worth trying. The K-12 system is so screwed up in this country, we really need to shake it up and perhaps vouchers is the way. But it is in the area of healthcare that I find Zingales ignoring the obvious because of his attachment to the free market. He says that the reason American per capita healthcare costs are so out of control is that “healthcare, unlike most goods and services, is not purchased in a free market.” What this ignores is that the per capita healthcare costs that are so much lower in every other developed nation are directly accountable to their adoption of a single payer system that has the muscle to negotiate with doctors, hospitals and drug companies.

Ultimately taking on Crony Capitalism should be the main task of the next era of reform. Both political parties are so beholden to the corporation that this seems like an almost impossible task. Perhaps we have to start with getting the money out of politics as proposed by Larry Lessig’s Rootstrikers campaign. I know the Republicans are too in the bag to big business to take this on, but if Obama gets a second term, his first act should be to fire Tim Geithner and hire someone like Joe Stieglitz. That would send an unmistakeable message.


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49 Responses to A Capitalism for the People

  1. morgan s warstler says:

    These are of course all ideas I support.

    I’m price shopping on surgery right now. The ONLY thing needed is make all medical providers publish all rates they charge – total full boat menu.

    Internet start ups will take over – in 3 months time Yelp! will have people shopping with abandon.

    Free market health care works. Boob Jobs, laser lipo, laser eye surgery – anything NOT covered by insured health care gets cheaper and better faster – like any of technology does.

    You can’t argue with cosmetic surgery – cheaper every year because people are paying cash / negotiating.

    Let people know the cheapest place to get stitches, a cast, meds, etc.

    The market solves.

  2. Fentex says:

    But it is in the area of healthcare that I find Zingales ignoring the obvious because of his attachment to the free market.

    I haven’t read this book, so I’m making some guesses with these comments; If one recognizes this weakness in the authors suggestions why shouldn’t one suspect similar errors elsewhere?

    I suspect what appeals the most in this book is the direct, revolutionary approach to matters of governance. At the heart of the problem suggested in the title, that there’s been a loss of opportunity to prosper through capitalism, that corporations and wealth have captured governance and created a crony system that undermines competition and opportunity, is that governance is corrupted.

    Once that is corrected the other problems considered, education, health care, etc can be addressed and don’t really need to be considered part of the same problem.

    I think, if U.S citizens are to work for better governance, they don’t need to be distracted by arguments over government policy – no need to get bogged down on issues of school vouchers when the concern is crony government.

    Money has to be taken out of government, quid pro quo for legislation has to be prevented.

    While I think one should avoid particular policy arguments that best follow cleaning up governance tax policy is one that is involved in cleaning up the problem.

    The mechanisms for direct gathering and use of citizens wealth is the greatest motive and driver for corrupt behaviours.

    I suspect the single best thing that could be done to improve U.S governance, confidence, moral and policy in general is throwing out the U.S tax code and replacing it with a vastly simplified one.

    I continue to suspect funding the federal government by a simple single rate consumption tax at hopefully less than 10% and states setting their own (hopefully simple three or four tier progressive tax band) income tax (possibly including calculations of capital gain in income, but that’s very hard to make fair) with absolutely minimal, possibly no, tax deductions is required.

    This would make tax policy transparent, easy to enforce, minimise avoidance, remove questions about taxing online sales (feds get their cut no matter where in the country sales start or begin) and easy to compare between parties and pointless to lobby for non-existent special treatment while states can compete on tax rates according to their commitments to private vs. public services.

    The hard part is how to achieve such a thing. Pork barrel politics is so embedded who can be pressed to make the changes? No extant party can be trusted, or I think, possibly pushed into it.

    Perhaps a third party with this one platform. It would not need to win a majority, it must not campaign on other issues (all votes on other policies would be concience votes for it’s candidates). It would seek sufficient votes that it makes the difference between government or not – that could be about 20 ~ 30 seats in congress, about 5 ~ 10 in the senate?

    “This is our tax code, we will supply confidence and supply to any other party that wins sufficient seats to govern with our votes if they adopt this tax code.”

    Or perhaps a citizens Super PAC – that hammers, and hammers, the need for fair and equitable taxation and the death of pork barrel politics. Could the citizenry be motivated enough to regular contribute, demonstrate and march in support or do they have sufficient bread and circuses to stay at home?

    Whatever is done, there needs be action. The Occupy Movement made an effort but it turns out that it’s disorganization wasn’t a feature and it demonstrated that authority in the U.S is willing to use totalitarian powers and disregard for citizens rights to enforce the current order.

    The U.S had a strong demonstration by it’s police forces that they are the occupiers last year, and they know who are their paymasters.

  3. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan, are you ever going to wake up and look to see how much better health care works in ALL of the other industrialized countries than it does here? How about we aspire to being #1 in infant survival and overall longevity first? We aren’t even in the top ten in the world by those metrics. I’d say seriously looking at what other countries are doing better than we are might be a good place to start.

    And the Pigouvian approach to health insurance might just be a great way to improve upon single payer health care. I do think that life style abusers should pay a penalty for their risky behavior. I don’t want to pay more than my fair share for smokers who get lung cancer or obese diabetics or motorcyclists’ brain injuries. But the only way you’re going to enforce that kind of leveling is to have a single payer system with rebates for good behavior. You’re not going to get it in a free for all market. People don’t work like that; they cheat too much.

    As for schools…what the hell happened? Schools were pretty decent in my youth in the 1950s. I did go to a private school for my last three years of high school, and that was fantastic, but still, the public schools, especially at the elementary and junior high school levels were good. And my youngest kid is going into his last year of a great public school system in Encinitas, CA. He’s gotten a pretty darned good education there…good enough to have been invited to be an intern in the bio-medical engineering lab at Harvard this summer…which he is doing. I’d suggest a serious look at what is working in schools before tossing everything overboard.

    And I’d also point out that one of the biggest problems with public education is with parents and peers. If kids are not immersed in a culture of learning, if they don’t have books at home as part of a normal environment, if they are in peer groups that disrespect academic excellence, if they spend more time watching TV or playing video games than reading, then they are going to fall way below reasonable levels in school. And of course here in California and in many other places, the big elephant in the room is English as a second language. A lot of schools and teachers are blamed for under-performing students, but the students don’t speak or read English at anywhere near grade level. None of that is the fault of teachers or school administrators. There are huge cultural issues at work here that are not going to be magically fixed with vouchers and charter schools, and one of the problems is that talking about this stuff is a minefield of political incorrectness. Let’s get real. Some immigrant cultural groups have come to the US knowing that education is the key to moving up the socio-economic ladder, and they’ve really pushed their kids hard to succeed at school. And some have not… And that isn’t a school/teacher thing; it’s a family and ethnic culture thing. For instance, European-Jewish, Chinese, and Japanese 2nd and 3rd generation kids all have excelled in academic achievement independent of economic status of the first generation. Why? Home culture and parental pressure.

  4. len says:

    The scary thing is the other side of the Interregnum has 19th century manor houses with an upstairs and a downstairs. We’re rolling backwards through cultural epochs headed toward feudalism. The difference is the iBells in the servant’s dining hall.

  5. Rick Turner says:

    The New Depression will be followed by the New Feudalism, and the revolution will not be televised. The freedom to enslave will be upheld in the supreme courts of the land…

  6. Alex Bowles says:

    Ultimately taking on Crony Capitalism should be the main task of the next era of reform.

    Bill Gross seems to think this is already happening. Or rather,
    Joe Wisenthal offers this interpretation of his recent Investment Outlook letter.

    (Gross) notes that historical rates of return on stocks of about 6.6% per year were always outpacing GDP growth of just over 3%. This seems like a contradiction, until you realize that over the last few decades, capital has been extracting more and more from the economy, compared to labor. Thus, stock investors have consistently ‘beat’ the economy thanks to capital beating labor. But that trend, it would seem, can’t go much further, and thus it’s time for things to swing the other way, to the detriment of equity investors.

    As Gross himself notes,

    The Siegel constant of 6.6% real appreciation, therefore, is an historical freak, a mutation likely never to be seen again as far as we mortals are concerned.

    Crony Capitalists will try, of course, to keep the pendulum from swinging away from its current extreme. And so will bond issuers, who will push for inflationary policies in order to generate 7-8% returns that the real economy simply won’t allow capital to achieve in any other way. But the trend seems clear – a 3% return on investment is becoming the new normal, and if you want more, you’ll have to work for it.

    Critically, you’ll expect to keep anything over 3% for yourself. Working for organizations dedicated to “maximizing shareholder value” beyond what’s generated by the real economy will be seen – very publicly – as demanding something for nothing from the staffs and states they depend on.

  7. Alex Bowles says:

    Whoops – I meant to say “Or rather, he sees the economic underpinnings for this reform movement falling into place”.

    In other words, the reform movement – when it crystalizes – won’t be a demand for change. It will be a demand to recognize change that has already taken place. In that sense, it should look more like the American Revolution, and less like the French.

  8. Rick Turner says:

    Off with their heads…

    And yeah, anything that seemingly consistently outpaces the regular economy is or will become a bubble, and it will burst. Growth is not in and of itself a good thing.

  9. morgan s warstler says:

    “How about we aspire to being #1 in infant survival and overall longevity first?”

    Rick, how about you READ first???

    US infant death is premature birth – and is a combination of: 1) older woman having babies 2) a large incidence black teenage pregnancies 3) other countries not counting dead babies like we do – becuase we asusme we can SAVE THEM with our expensive healthcare!

    A 2006 article in U.S. News & World Report states, “First, it’s shaky ground to compare U.S. infant mortality with reports from other countries. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths.

    In Austria and Germany, fetal weight must be at least 500 grams (1 pound) to count as a live birth……

    In Belgium and France, births at less than 26 weeks …. And some countries don’t reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth.

    Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates. For this very reason, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects the European numbers, warns of head-to-head comparisons by country.”


    On longevity, you get it wrong, what is amazing is that we have so many fatties and we still live as long as we do…

    If you want to run comparisons, check Swedes in US vs. Swedes in Sweden or something.


    As a larger point Rick, when you are the country that takes all comers, you have to assume a health care system that doesn’t treat everybody the same.

    We can easily provide a universal health care system, but the left has to come to terms with the idea that the bottom half get older technology, out of patent medicine, sit in lines, wait for surgery, and basically drive the used KIA, while other get brand new BMWs.

    That’s what America is about – if your side would just accept it, we could reach agreement far more quickly on how to the get the bottom 20% something that is “pretty good” without making the top 80% sacrifice anything.

  10. morgan s warstler says:


    Taplin is a crony capitalist.

    I was the one saying no bailout – 4 years ago, not Jon.

    Jon suported watching GM float int he toilet for 5 more years before a flush…. did you seee the Opel wreck over the weekend?


    And all those green companies??? Jon supports them too.


    MEANWHILE, me and pappy, we ALONE here have the cred of ALWAYS standing against treating any company different from any other.

    You are all suspect, you are all dirty.

    Crony capitalism is MY BAT, and I beat you with it.

    July 31, 2012, 6:49 p.m. ET
    How to Avoid Another Bank Bailout
    Prohibitions on proprietary trading will be hard to enforce. There’s a better way.
    Federal deposit insurance was enacted in the 1930s to prevent runs on banks by giving nervous depositors confidence that Uncle Sam would protect their money. But Congress was not about to let federally insured commercial banks trade, underwrite and speculate in securities or commodities. That’s why the Glass-Steagall Act, which created federal deposit insurance, also separated commercial and investment banking.
    Congress repealed the provisions of Glass-Steagall separating commercial banks and investment banks in 1999. Unfortunately, the government remained in the business of insuring bank deposits. And that helped set the stage for the financial system breakdown in 2008—as well as the flawed Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, whose prohibitions on trading activities will be hard to understand and enforce.
    When it repealed Glass-Steagall, Congress already had an example of what could go wrong. In the 1980s, after it loosened restrictions on federally insured Savings and Loan companies, more than 1,000 of them collapsed. This ended up costing American taxpayers more than $100 billion. But Congress chose to ignore that lesson.
    Instead of retaining federal deposit insurance, Congress should have permitted the market to create a system of private guarantors of bank deposits. It would have been consistent and intellectually honest to repeal both sections of Glass-Steagall: federal deposit insurance as well as the separation of investment and commercial banking. Whenever a nation privatizes profits while it socializes losses, no societal good can be achieved.
    In 1990, the Securities Industry Association (SIA then and now called Sifma), which represented all the nation’s investment banking firms, proposed federal legislation that would have permitted separately capitalized investment banking subsidiaries of bank holding companies to compete with traditional investment banks—but with strong firewalls to prevent access to federal deposit insurance.
    Such investment banking subsidiaries could succeed or fail with no help or hindrance from the government in the same manner as independent investment banking firms. The SIA plan was never adopted by Congress.
    Instead, after the repeal of Glass-Steagall, commercial bank holding companies eventually housed their investment banking operations in their federally insured banks. And it was in such banks where bank holding companies located the vast majority of their derivative trading business.
    This is not surprising. The ratings agencies rate the bank holding companies’ federally insured banks several notches higher than the holding companies themselves. And with higher credit ratings, significantly less capital is legally required to trade such instruments.
    This situation would have been prohibited under the SIA plan. To protect the taxpayer, trading activity would have to be done in a separately capitalized subsidiary of the bank holding company.
    As a result of the world-wide financial debacle over the last few years, key elements of the SIA plan are being considered for adoption today in the United Kingdom, based on the recommendations of the Vickers Commission, headed by Sir John Vickers. The British government seems serious about adopting it.
    The Vickers plan is essentially the old SIA plan. Where we used the term “firewalls” to segregate the riskier businesses from government insured deposit taking, they call it “ring fencing.” The concept is the same.
    Congress should take another look at the SIA plan or the Vickers plan, both of which are simpler and cleaner than Dodd-Frank’s prohibition of federally insured banks from engaging in proprietary trading. The intractable difficulty with this so-called Volcker rule is to distinguish between a bank’s permitted hedging and market making activities, which are legal, with proprietary trading, which is not.
    Should the banks get into trouble again, American taxpayers will not stand for another bailout by Congress. Instead we’ll have to rely on the “living wills” section of the Dodd Frank law to provide for orderly wind-downs of failing federally insured banks. But no one knows how or if these living wills would work—and what would happen if the contagion from such failing banks were to spread rapidly within the system as it did in 2008.
    Mr. Downey is a former chairman of the Securities Industry Association.

    # # # #

  12. Alex Bowles says:

    Over the last few decades, capital has been extracting more and more from the economy, compared to labor.

    It’s astonishing to realize just how thoroughly Romney epitomizes this dynamic. We’ve already seen the strip-and-flip nature of Bain’s work, and how that beat labor directly. His tax mess represents the other side of the same coin; an unrelenting desire to extract every last dime so pathological that it overrides his otherwise single-minded desire for the Presidency.

    Now Harry Reid is gleefully insinuating that Romney paid no tax whatsoever for a decade, and Romney can’t release his returns to disprove the charge because he, presumably, never cleaned up his finances well enough to survive (unanticipated?) election year scrutiny.

    What’s even more astonishing is that (a) he’s wanted the Presidency for ages and (b) as the head of an investment firm, he understands due diligence better than virtually anyone. That is to say, the returns issue is the exact problem that he – of all people – should not be having. But he is. It’s flabbergasting.

    Gross seems to see the pendulum’s swing away from everything Romney represents as economically unavoidable. At the same time, he notes that resistance could be sustained for years, if not decades. That’s a huge range, so what actually happens depends on the quality of the catalysts involved. Frankly, I’m having a hard time imagining one more volatile than Mitt Romney; dangerously competent in one regard, catastrophically inept in every other, and completely oblivious to the storm gathering around the lightening rod of his career.

    Axelrod, on the other hand…

  13. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan and Papola, if I thought the free market really could be made to work, I’d be all for it. It’s just too much against human nature, though, not to cheat, lie, and game the system. I don’t have your Pollyanna belief in the goodness of my fellow humans nor the faith that an honest little guy can win against a dishonest rich guy or company with a raft of lawyers. Hence the need for a decent government…not that we have one…but it’s better than trusting that everyone will agree and abide by “level playing field” libertarian ideals. Hell, if you could get everyone to go along fairly, communism wouldn’t be too bad, but it didn’t work either…the human nature factor…

  14. len says:

    MEANWHILE, me and pappy, we ALONE here have the cred of ALWAYS standing against treating any company different from any other.

    Can’t. Every company treats us differently. Don’t believe it? Had a chikin sandwich today? Headed down there Friday? Cathy used the money to take on an up and coming civil rights cause. Now everyone else will use their civil rights to decide if a teen ager committing suicide is worth less than a chikin’ sandwich. Wow.

    We can have a debate about civil rights, free speech, crony capitalism, etc., but at the end of it we face the same problems of groups of people with agendas whether in PACs or CORPs using accumulated wealth to abuse others. It’s not competition. It’s abuse whether as thievery (the copyright thread) or economic injustice (this thread) or social inequality (the soon to come to a blog near you gay marriage thread) or religious discrimination (the spy vs spy thread of people who just can’t get along because there is no power base to be had in that).

    If it goes far enough, it isn’t a matter of who is right but of who burns your house down first. If we keep turning up the lobster pot, we’re all going to boil in it.

    Pickle anyone?

  15. Fentex says:

    if I thought the free market really could be made to work, I’d be all for it.

    The problem governance needs to deal with isn’t whether or not any or all markets can or could work free of regulation. It’s a settled question that not everything can be provided by a free market (one recognises this the moment one makes a claim on independent law enforcement).

    The problem for governance is that whether or not it regulates anything there are market forces at work, always, and careless ignorance of them creates rather than prevents problems.

    The banks should have been left to fail, investors scalped, simple deposits gauranteed, and bankrupted retail banking operations purchased by the government at a few cents on the dollar as a route to provide liquidity directly to the economy without vampires leaching profits.

  16. Jon Taplin says:

    @morgan s warstler Why do you always have to act like such a boastful dick. One of the things I liked about Zingales’ book is that he realizes that this country was built on dialogue and compromise. Thats why for all his free market beliefs he is never a table pounding zealout. For instance he comes to realize that while he can rationalize the repeal of Glass Steagel as an economist, in the real world it needs to be restored, because it is so much simpler than the patchwork of regulations since it was repealed.

  17. Fentex says:

    while he can rationalize the repeal of Glass Steagel as an economist, in the real world it needs to be restored, because it is so much simpler than the patchwork of regulations since it was repealed.

    I think this illustrates the elephant in the room of many peoples economics; “while he can rationalize the repeal of Glass Steagel as an economist” demonstrates a serious flaw in reasoning, the flaw of ignoring corrupt practices.

    Repealing Glass Steagel enabled simple theft from depositors.

    To be able to make an argument, typically along lines of efficiency, that letting depositors wealth be scooped up and put at risk shows a mammoth blind spot to the incentive to thieve and reveals a gaping flaw in many market economists thinking. They just don’t consider the consequences of dishonesty and the true costs of the practical absence of transparency and asymmetrical relationships between individuals and institutions.

    I think this corroborates my theory that economists, no matter how much they protest they do, do not properly consider marginal valuations and non-cash calculations, I suspect primarily because they seek the imprimatur of science and want to only consider what can be measured and weighed.

  18. Rick Turner says:

    Fentex, I agree.

    The problem is that investors are lazy, especially the “everyman” types and those whose money is tied up in dubious pension funds run by insiders who have learned this “privatize profit, socialize loss” game. The money managers “relieve” the real investors of the need to pay attention to where their money is actually going. Not a good idea… And it’s one of the reasons I took my dough out of B of A and now keep it in a locally run credit union where I know the money is being loaned out nearby.

    I think that the idea that “the free market” will correct abuse is a pipe dream. I wish it were that it could, but I don’t have that kind of faith in the ethics of mankind.

  19. len says:

    I think that the idea that “the free market” will correct abuse is a pipe dream. I wish it were that it could, but I don’t have that kind of faith in the ethics of mankind.

    They lined up for miles and hours here today to support Cathy and hate. It was… awful. Our representative, Jeff Session, said that climate change science “offends him”.

    God…. I guess the only bright side is this is Alabama and we don’t have a reputation to lose, but I have to say it: what I see coming terrifies me right down to my sox. Even Richie Furay had himself photographed with a chick fil a lunch.

    If religion can turn this hateful, do you really think for a moment they have the capacity to understand economics? They are willing slaves because as long as they have masters, they don’t have to think. They can stand the whips as long as they have chikin’. Free market? They don’t even know what that means. They can’t even live up to the promises they make or believe in the prayers they pray.

    Miles. Hours. Cheering for hate. Spouting Republican talking points.

    I don’t have the words for it. America is about to rip itself to pieces.

  20. Alex Bowles says:

    @len This problem isn’t new, but it is real.

    “Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes, or at any rate than either singly; for the addition of the middle class turns the scale, and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant. Great then is the good fortune of a state in which the citizens have a moderate and sufficient property; for where some possess much, and the others nothing, there may arise an extreme democracy, or a pure oligarchy; or a tyranny may grow out of either extreme- either out of the most rampant democracy, or out of an oligarchy; but it is not so likely to arise out of the middle constitutions and those akin to them. ”

    –Aristotle, from “Politics”

  21. Rick Turner says:

    How do free market libertarians who espouse virtually no central government deal with this:?


    I noticed a while back that Rick Perry, who had seriously suggested that Texas secede from the United States when times were good went to Washington with “a mouth full of gimme and a hand full of “much obliged” when Texas started to burn.

    As Peter Rowan sang, “We’re all Dust Bowl children…”

    New Depression coupled with New Dust Bowl, folks.

    Might be time for a New WPA, a New CCC and a New New Deal.

  22. Fentex says:

    The problem is that investors are lazy, especially the “everyman” types

    I disagree. The ‘everyman type’ who has some money deposited is tired from working all week and spends what little spare time they have with family and friends and is not lazy.

    The lazy do not have even small surpluses to deposit.

    And even if particularly attentive the outsider, not privy to the wheeling and dealing of the inside clique, is purposefully misled by opaque terms and documents.

    The problem, if you want to pick a single one, is the ever present rorting of the populace by the priviledged through manipulation of law and force.

  23. len says:

    @Alex Bowles

    I wish that were all it is, Alex. There is the John Bircher theory that when any person or class goes from higher to lower status, they become conservative and spiteful. That is possibly part of this, but something worse is afoot.

    What I saw yesterday was triumphalism, mocking, and outright scorn of a minority. I’ve seen this before. I was a child but this is how our parents looked during the civil rights movement when people were being beaten, burned out of houses and killed. It is that same wide-eyed, we don’t care what history thinks or Washington says or those liberals want: it’s our right to express our hatred.

    Unless you are in Texas or Alabama, you are possibly not seeing what just happened. Courtesy of Mike Huckaby and Fox News, our local broadcasters, our local leaders and even our Federal leaders have gone dark. It was the top story on the news stations even here in a city that built the rockets that sent us to the moon, a city with a very good economy and a highly educated class. Fifth best place to live in the nation. Our locals news anchors supported this. Our newspapers are dieing and there is almost nothing to stop this. The fights on FB are sickening.

    This is hate gone viral. This is bad. I don’t know what happens tomorrow if the gays show up to lip lock. The local manager of a CFA was chewing out the few who showed up to protest yesterday.

    Defeating Romney just became a matter of national survival and even then, it will be a near run thing.

  24. Steve White says:

    @len – supporting Chick-fil-a does not equate to hate against gays. If there were any of those restaurants in my area I would have supported them too. I am not opposed to gay marriage. I support free speech.

  25. len says:

    @steve: What the protest is about and what it creates can be very different outcomes. Cathy donated millions to hate groups. You may want to dig into this more. Chick-fil-a has active lawsuits against it for treatment of employees. Do some research. This isn’t free speech; some of it is illegal.

    The people who don’t want to support them refuse to have their money supporting hate groups. Now the cause is bundled as religion and free speech. It’s not individuals who will be the cause. Once the antagonism is in place, it morphs. Some of the rants yesterday on Facebook were notably hateful.

    No one believed the bigots would kill children. Then Mississippi caught fire. Most of the southerners were not violent. It only took a few. In a culture obsessed with sex, religion and guns, the ease with which defense of rights becomes attacks on the perceived threats is stunning. I assure you, that is still the South even in places where there is plenty of money and well-educated people. I don’t know what is like where you live and the local culture makes a difference.

    Semiotic bundling is very potent because despite what we may believe, the human emotional mechanisms are very basic and easily manipulated and of these, the fear response trumps all others. Once the media gets into the act, the amplifiers are in place and the feedback does the rest. A small group will begin to perceive they have permission to act on their deepest fears. Then they do and the rest recoil in horror saying, how could that happen? How tragic?

    But no one takes responsibility. A bit later as they begin to realize that they did have responsibility, the gestalt shatters and they crack up. That was our parents in the 1970s.

  26. len says:

    BTW: the morning radio jocks who pander to this are selling it as a response to “Big Government Telling US What To Do and We Won’t Put Up With That”. Guess who’s campaign that benefits in an election that is tight? They have to get around the women’s vote and the women were down at Chick-fil-a in droves.

  27. Rick Turner says:

    I just think the Dems are too stupid to get Obama re-elected and that they’ll lose pretty seriously in the House and Senate. I expect four years of Republican hell raining down upon us.

    Maybe Mitt will be the Herbert Hoover of our times, except such policies as Hoover’s might make too much sense…as in raising taxes on the rich as Hoover did.

    Infrastructure? Romney Dam anyone? How about Romney Grid? How about subsidized gated compounds for the rich with a private police force with drone aircraft?

  28. Rick Turner says:

    You know, there’s a sad similarity between the Asian badminton players who were trying to lose and the Democratic Party who seem to be doing the same…

  29. Rick Turner says:

    “Everyman” investors would have done better over the past ten years stuffing c-notes into mattresses than entrusting money to thieves…

  30. JTMcPhee says:

    @Steve White
    What country you live in, fella? This ain’t no more about “free speech,” except as eyewash and blown smoke, than Citizens United is about “free speech.”

    Len, sorry you have to experience another Dark. I think that we just don’t have the tools to actually describe and diagnose the real nature of what’s going on in the Heart of Darkness. The rallying points for a large set of our fellow critters emanate down there in the amygdala. You know that “abortion” and “gay marriage” and “Arab Turrerist” and “pointy-headed Commie librul” and all the rest are just the angry head of a deep boil. Getting a little glimpse, we are, of what is coming when that boil erupts. “Nosce te ipsum.” So few of us do, so few of us can look behind the screen. So very few of us even want to — it’s so much more fun doing the other shit.

  31. Steve White says:

    I live in Seattle. There are no Chick-Fil-a’s anywhere near me. Admittedly, I have not followed that controversy very closely. I have no problem with people protesting/boycotting if they feel the company is bigoted. I do have a problem with the mayors of major cities’ attempts to prevent a company from doing business in their town because they don’t agree with the politics or religious beliefs of the business owner.

  32. len says:

    @jtmc: It does resemble a fester, you’re right. You know how this goes. Something trivial sets it off, and something horrific ends it. This time the cause will have a name and face: former Gov. Mike Huckaby, Fox Talking Weasel.

    Meanwhile Mitt can’t explain his taxes and Harry Reid says it’s because Romney hasn’t paid any for a decade. Drip. Drip. Drip. They need a big distraction and Cathy managed that for them and this one can be cranked up at will because it uses very deeply felt emotions and a topical bundle guaranted to be incindiary despite none of the constituents being that flammable in isolation.

    The side effect will be meiosis in the Christian community, and perhaps that is karmic justice for the weasels. I am surprised by Richie Furay but that shows to go ya how little we often know about the images on the album covers. Since Dylan is talking religion again, I wonder what his take is on this or if he will say given he has a new album to sell.

    So few heroes left. I guess I should have outgrown them by now.

  33. Rick Turner says:

    I’m with Steve on this. I would simply choose not to patronize the place…or any other business whose owners I found to be particularly odious in such a public manner. Then again, I try to avoid chain fast food joints, though it’s nearly impossible to do so when traveling, particularly in the South. I avoid them because I just don’t like the food very much, and I know just a bit too much about where that food comes from and how it’s raised. But I am a Northern California liberal…a libertarian-socialist…

  34. Alex Bowles says:

    @len Nasty fact about humans: when they choose to do something wrong they feel wronged by other people’s higher expectations of them.

  35. len says:

    Steve White :I live in Seattle. There are no Chick-Fil-a’s anywhere near me. Admittedly, I have not followed that controversy very closely. I have no problem with people protesting/boycotting if they feel the company is bigoted. I do have a problem with the mayors of major cities’ attempts to prevent a company from doing business in their town because they don’t agree with the politics or religious beliefs of the business owner.

    So would I. They didn’t do that because THAT would be illegal. They disinvited them. That’s free speech. See the trap everyone is in if that is the topic? But it isn’t. That is a con just like asking critics if they avoid using gas because nations that produce it support terrorism (Canada?). You can’t actually tell where your gas comes from because of the way it is processed. We found that out after the BP spill. Where you are, they lean on free speech. Here they combine that with freedom of religion. Then they toss in a does of Leviticus, Corinthians and Romans to give it the patina of “Jesus says” except Jesus said nothing about it. Other men did. They get angry when one brings that up. I’ve been called “The Liar”, “Satan’s pawn”, etc.

    It is the ease and smoothness with which these jewels of misdirection are foisted into the conversation that should give you pause to wonder.

    Chick-fil-a has been contributing to Exodus International: a group that “repairs homosexuals”. That’s only one of their deeds. They are being sued for firing a woman so she would be a “stay at home mother”. Also illegal.

  36. len says:

    @Rick Turner

    I would, Rick, but this is a different issue here than where you are. Yesterday they lines went on for hours. Thousands of people. Big deal. Hate speech. Not looking forward to the liplock protests tomorrow. Hopefully cool will prevail but it will be over a hundred degrees in the shade physically and maybe that will limit the participation until it blows over. I suspect the righties will resuscitate it at the ‘right’ moment. Ugh. For the first time I really want to move out of the South.

  37. JTMcPhee says:

    In the Chicago of my youth, the riots blew up at 98.6, and faded out when the muck-sweat temperatures were reached. Like so many biopsychophysical functions: Only operate in a very narrow range of conditions. Just that little bit over “Blood Heat.”

    Enough to move ’em back up on the porch, fanning themselves with old editions of “Hustler” and “Guns and Ammo,” reaching for a long-neck from the fridge? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Heat

  38. len says:

    @jtmc: Same with the 2001 Cinncinatti riots except it was cold rainy weather. Let’s hear it for provident weather. Or CFA runs out of pickles.

  39. re Jon’s recommendation to send a message by hiring Stiglitz at the beginning of the second term … and Jon’s initial overview presenting t/his site — “America 3.0 and the Interregnum”, here’s a review of Joe Stiglitz new book & the issue of issues, inequality. I attempted to address many of these issues as a drafter of the Green platform in the 90s, after a stint as advisor to Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign and unsuccessful argument to and confrontation w/ the Clinton campaign and DNC… I continue to watch a slow mo roll out, results of prevailing ‘wisdom’ at work, w/ Stiglitz being one of the few dissenters

    The Price of Inequality

  40. Alex Bowles says:

    Here’s a possibly dubious but definitely interesting study published in Nature suggesting that serious conflict and violence erupts in 50 year cycles.

    Noting spikes ~1870, ~1920, and ~1970, it suggests we’re in for another one ~2020. Interestingly, it notes that the precursors are just as cyclical. Not mentioned is whether real insight and capable policy makers can avert a crisis. The author of the paper doubts they can, since their growing incompetence and corruption is a root cause of the trouble. And he seems sanguine about the prospect of their failure, observing that revolutions are often progressive. But as noted in the comments, this isn’t always the case. Yes, the Civil Rights movement (which he mentions) turned out for the best. But the October Revolution (which goes unmentioned) offers an especially nasty counterpoint.

    In any case, professional historians remain skeptical about the entire premise, since they’ve had their fingers burned enough times (starting with Hegel) to steer clear of long-range prediction, especially when it’s based on the premise of an underlying “law”. That said, we’re starting to work with data in previously inconceivable amounts, and employing an equally astonishing capacity to mine it for patterns. To the extent that patterns are real and discoverable, the desire to model their causes will only increase. And the thing about this prediction is that it a mere eight years out. Historically speaking that’s practically tomorrow. If there’s anything to this, we’ll see soon enough.

    Also worth noting: it’ll be a Presidential election year. More importantly, it’s a census year, so whichever party takes the House will control the redistricting process that redraws the electoral map for the following decade. Assuming that eight years of growing awareness of disenfranchisement is enough to spark general opposition to gerrymandering’s evils, it may not be the overly technical, and under-the-radar issue that presently provides people abusing the system with security through obscurity. In short, the stakes will be high for these reasons alone. And if California’s reforms have started to bear fruit (which they should, by that point), people will have a tangible example with which to support their demands.

    Projecting a bit further, it’s safe to say that the “voter fraud” issue ginned up by the GOP represents (a) overt contempt for democratic principles (b) a deep and real injustice, and (c) no small amount of desperation on their part. Organized voter suppression is a last-ditch effort by a waning power, not the strategy of a party confident about its prospects with the demographically ascendent. Luckily for Republicans, papers from the Times on down are too hamstrung by The View From Nowhere to discuss what they’re doing explicitly/a>. But given eight more years, this ethical catastrophe may have imploded. That’s also more then enough time for the radicalized right to cement its illegitimacy. With little to lose, it becomes a formidable tool for anyone wanting to protect ill-gotten gains.

    I always though that the GOP, having lost badly in 2010, could recover itself from the insurgency of the fringe. But that didn’t happen, and I suspect their only opportunity has been lost. A failure from Romney (who they never liked anyway) will prompt a doubling down on the crazy. And given an electoral map (redrawn by the crazies in 2010), the structural support for their continued slide is locked in place for the remainder of the decade. Then they hit the wall, NASCAR style.

  41. len says:

    @Alex Bowles

    War with Canada. Fast, cheap, solves all the problems and we get legal pot.

  42. len says:

    re Stiglitz: D’oh.

    It’s now a matter of graduated change where we readjust the feedback (say regulations, say more responsible media among others) or whether we shoot through their armies and kill the bastards.

    It seems comical but kids, that is what will happen and the thing that should bother you is guns are rather passe in an environment and culture that is this interconnected. There are ways to get to them that don’t require bullets and will work just as well without all the collateral damage. There is a very imaginative generation out there with access to mountains of information and a whimsical sense of revenge.

  43. JTMcPhee says:

    Who gets to deal with the tar sands?

  44. len says:

    We all do.

    Once Canada wins, they abolish our Congress. This is a very big improvement because it simultaneously removes a source of viral corruption and disconnects our wealthy SOBs from the DoD which of course is abolished. We go to a Canadian lifestyle which means buy one house and keep it for life, travel less and immediately reduce our energy consumption (the average Canadian home is much smaller) so they may have us bulldoze our McMansions and build smaller more energy efficient homes. That solves some of the unemployment issues. Immigration will be solved because they will open the southern borders just as the northern borders are but anyone with brains will go as far north as possible.

    Oh the possibilities.

  45. len says:

    So will Mitt the Twit be able to make the case that Chik Fil A is the symbol of successful conservative values based businesses who can restore America to its economic glory? And is that the way to win the margins?


    It sure as hell is working here but Alabama is lost to Obama anyway where clinging to the Bible and guns is not just a campaign rhetoric, the conservative nutters are posting pictures lauding it. Scary stuff. Someone should notice that.

    The question is how does this play in Ohio? In Florida? One wonders if the fence sitters remaining really want to be as associated with the Chik fil a appreciation as the local sheriffs here were with the KKK in 1962.

  46. John Papola says:

    I love this post, Jon. I’m with you on all of it. Seriously. Except Joe Stiglitz. He’s generally pretty awful on economics even if he’s a great guy personally (which he seems to be).

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