What took him so long? Krugman has been such a relief to those of us in the United States, because the public culture is so bereft of critical perspective, but the fact remains that he's an apologist for the capitalist system, just not as bonkers as some of the others. I quote from his recent posting on the implications of the displacement of human labor power by robots, which means profits go to those who own capital, not those who actually work:
Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.
I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.
The public culture of the United States is obviously an embarrassment, so I don't want to knock Krugman too much, since he's been the most visible voice for civilization in recent years...BUT look what he wrote: "the capital/labor dimension of inequality....didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s." He at least does a mea culpa, so kudos to him for that. Now that the Repugs have been trounced in the latest national elections, we need a real revival of the labor movement in this benighted country to recapture a larger portion of capital from its current heirs, and insure that it meets human needs in the decades ahead.
UPDATE: The Ed Asner video, produced by the California teachers' union as I understand it, is timely.
ANOTHER: More from Krugman. The awakening continues!
Political philosopher Andrew Levine (Wisconsin/Maryland) comments.
(Thanks to Phil Gasper for the pointer.)
There is only one problem confronting urban public schools, and it has nothing to do with the schools or the teachers, contrary to all the blather by idle-rich busybodies and the intellectually feeble politicans who do their bidding. The primary problem with urban public schools is that they largely serve a population that lives under conditions of economic hardship, sometimes grotesque economic hardship, with all the attendant problems of poor nutrition, physical safety, availability of adult supervision after school, and suitable environments and incentives for school work. That, of course, is why suburban public schools in affluent communities--with unionized teachers who are no different than those in the urban schools--always do better on measures of academic performance and outcomes. If you don't have to worry whether there will be food for dinner, or whether you will be mugged, or if anyone will be available to take care of you, or whether you'll have a quiet place to work, it turns out to be easier to do well in school. It's got nothing to do with the teachers, and everything to do with the environment. (Here and there, fabulous teaching makes a difference, but you can't make policy around atypical cases.)
Of course, it would be hard to generate enthusiasm among hedge-fund billionaire busybodies for doing something about the economic environment in which the victims live, so instead we are presented with the absurd idea that if only the teachers were better, everything would be dandy, as well as the destructive idea that to make the teachers better, we need to measure their performance based on standardized test results. (That idea, by the way, started with George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas, and it successfully destroyed the public schools, as the curriculum devolved into "teaching to the test," rather than teaching.)
Rahm Emanuel's kids attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where 99% of the kids go on to college (and about 50% go on to what would be generally considered highly selective or "elite" colleges and universities). There are some very good teachers at "Lab," and some not so good ones. But no one ever dreams of suggesting that to be even better, those teachers should be paid according to standardized test results. Lab School is successful for simple reasons: it has resources and it has good students, half of whom come from academic families and the other half from with families with family and monetary resources to support them. The school's financial resources support a good curriculum, a well-compensated teaching staff, arts, enrichment programs, after-school activities, and more. No one ever suggests we should "stop throwing money" at the school, that what "Lab" really needs is teachers whose students get higher test scores. But this bullshit and blather is standard fare when it comes to the public schools.
The pathological liars of the right are out in full force to smear the striking teachers. Typical are the headlines on the site of "Matt Drudge," one of the ringleaders of the Right-Wing Blob, a man whose crimes against truth and moral decency are well-known. One headline reads that the teachers "Turn Down $400 Million Deal, 16% Pay Raise..." Of course, you have to go to the article and read till the end to learn that that was a 16% pay raise over four years, and that it was in response to an even greater increase in the workload of the teachers. Another headline then reports, falsely, that Chicago public school teachers "have highest average salary in Nation," linking to a blog post at The National Review (!), which cites no sources, since in fact it's not true. Corey Robin has more relevant details. And here's a good takedown of the disgusting Mayor. Jim Nichols has a good round-up of links and information.
UPDATE: A colleague elsewhere correctly observes that if "there is really high teacher turnover and/or burned out teachers who are dramatically overworked and under-resourced, then teachers really do become problematically bad," and that's, of course, part of what the teachers' union is trying to prevent. The key point is that the problems confronting urban public schools are not primarily problems about the quality of teaching, let alone problems that will be solved by gimmicks like standardized testing and merit pay, which will produce, among other things, precisely high teacher turnover.
ANOTHER: A profile of the head of the teachers union.
AND ANOTHER: This story usefully situates what's going on in Chicago in a national context.
MORE: A terrific speech by a Chicago lawyer, Matt Farmer, about what parents want from education.
ANOTHER RESOURCE: Diana Ravitch, who was actually in the Bush Education Department, though has subsequently recanted on the right-wing myths about public education, charter schools, and teachers' unions, has a good and on-going set of posts about the Chicago situation. (Those right-wing myths continue to be championed by the Obama Administration in large part.)
A LATE ADDENDUM: This post raises an important point about how we are taught to think about compensation in the capitalist utopia.
SEPTEMBER 12 UPDATE: Leave it to the "liberal" New York Times to come down squarely on the side of the idle-rich billionaire busybodies!
(Thanks to Richard Marshall for the pointer.)
UPDATE: A reader points out the article that goes with the chart.
Culture industry edition. How refreshing to see the products of the culture industry correctly described (e.g., Paris Hilton referred to as a "narcissistic parasite"). You can see the full movie here (I haven't watched the whole thing, so can't vouch that it's as apt as the excerpt on the culture industry.)
Robert Paul Wolff comments.
The NY Times has published some essays on the subject, adjudged by a rather, shall we say, partisan (and mostly intellectually lightweight) panel. (Thanks to David Auerbach for the pointer.) The whole thing is most interesting, to me at least, from a sociological point of view, i.e., that the subject is even thought to be a subject, which should be addressed in a mass media publication, one whose own record of actual ethical lapses is long enough to make factory farming look like charity. That the main audience for the NY Times is the "morally sensitive", but ideologically deluded, New York City bourgeoisie is no doubt part of the explanation. It is, in any case, a clear victory for the Singerite pop utilitarian movement that this question is even deemed worth discussing.
ADDENDUM: Given my e-mail correspondence, this post was clearly a triumph of ambiguity, so let me try to dispel some of it. Many topics are worth discussing by philosophers, but the NY Times discusses almost none of them, let alone calls for essays from readers on the subject. Why, then, would the NY Times single out this particular topic for this kind of special treatment? (That it does so is clearly a victory for the Singerite pop utilitarian movement, a sign of the extent to which it has permeated aspects of mass culture.) And, of course, it singles it out for discussion in a very particular way, i.e., premised on the idea that the eating of meat requires ethical justification (most of the essays are rather half-hearted defenses as well!). Imagine the analogies for other topics the Times might have addressed: e.g., "Given the criminal war of aggression against Iraq, should Bush and Cheney be hung or merely imprisoned for life?" or "Is it ethical to defend American capitalism, given its failure to meet human needs?" That these questions are not, and certainly will not, be discussed in a similar forum is what strikes me as sociologically interesting. I'll have a bit more to say about the philosophical merits later, though that wasn't what really caught my attention about this display.
You probably haven't yet heard much about this, but the issue is important and deserves attention. Share the link with others so they'll be aware of the latest mischief by the plutocratic class.
...in this interview with Richard Marshall. (Point of personal privilege: I think he's rather silly on Nietzsche [the proof, for Nietzsche, that the "Jewish" slave revolt in morals was victorious is that the Catholic Pope now rules in Rome] but that's OK, it's very much worth reading anyway!) Here's a nice quote:
The US is the leading militarist power in the world and will be, even broke, very hard to stop. The US has for instance 1280 bases abroad; France its leading “competitor” has 5 in former French colonial Africa. Even Obama, the anti-“dumb” Iraq war candidate – the war was one of aggression, crimes of torture to the fore, and to call it merely “dumb” is to say something, unfortunately, at best ambiguous and, prima facie silly – is waging aggressions or occupations in 6 countries, not counting Iran. The use of drones in Pakistan, irrelevant to taking out Bin Laden, has murdered many civilians – called “collateral damage” by the killers – created justified mass hatred of the US, and turned a nuclear power into, increasingly, an enemy of the US. The addiction to war and the forces in imperialism/capitalism that lead to it – particularly given US dependence on militarism as the main productive and innovative part of the economy (creating both the internet and drones for murder abroad/internal surveillance) – will be hard to turn around. If one adds in the speculative casino of finance capital – it has always been parasitic, but with derivatives it now beats the band for perversity (Goldman Sachs advised and made loans to the Greek government and simultaneously took out derivative bets that the Greek government would fail, driving up interest on renewing loans) - and the encouragement of consumer and student debt, one sees the causes of economic collapse.
More information here.
Reader Aravind Ayyar writes:
Reading your recent post on Marx, I was reminded again of how much a Marxian explanation of the roots of the present economic crisis corresponds with the facts far more plausibly than all the pap of the currently accepted economic theories. See, for e.g., http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n03/benjamin-kunkel/how-much-is-too-much.
Indeed, as the recently released minutes of the meetings of the Federal Reserve from 2006 show, the nation's top economists refused to countenance the very possibility of a housing bubble that could have devastated the economy. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/business/transcripts-show-an-unfazed-fed-in-2006.html)
As to the immiseration of the vast majority under capitalism, I wonder whether it is a "relative" one to our times after all. Those marvelous inventions of our age, the iPhone and the iPad, simply didn't pop out of the head of that genius, Steve Jobs, as all the encomiums after his death had it. Rather, the reality of how those devices are actually manufactured in the prison-houses in China reveals something far more horrifying, something that I doubt that even the London of Dickens could have competed with at its nadir. And why is this tolerable today? Because, "Paul Krugman says so." I kid you not.
And anyone who thinks that that's what happens in a "communist" state, should sober up to the fact that the median wage of the retail worker in this country, which used to support a middle class existence for much of the post-war era, is no longer a subsistence wage; indeed, it often doesn't even comply with whatever weak labor laws that have not yet been dismantled by the political class in the race to find the bottom against China.
Wilkinson begins on a silly note. After insulting me as a "bullying ideologue" (misusing, as all these cry-babies do, the label "bullying"), he then admits that I've "treated [him] disrespectfully on a few occasions for what I assume are political reasons." I guess his assumption is as comforting as it is baseless; the simple fact is I don't respect his intelligence (and I'm not alone), and most of his criticisms are a case in point. They themselves are mostly not interesting, but the ideological blinders on offer are, and it is to those I will turn my attention.
Let's dispense with the confused parts of Wilkinson's criticism quickly: (1) he's beside himself that in listing Marx's "faults" I didn't mention "the labor theory of value" and "the tendency of Marxism when applied to produce totalitarian dictatorships that have caused upward of 100 millions deaths." The latter has nothing to do with Marx, and everyone knows the former is defunct--one reason the interviewer presumably didn't ask about it is because he'd bothered to read the paper he was asking about, whereas Wilkinson apparently couldn't be bothered (I've even blogged about this, to make it easy for lazy readers like Wilkinson!); (2) he's equally confused about immiseration, as several commenters point out (the issue is relative, not absolute); everyone knows, including most importantly Marx, that capitalist societies produce large amounts of wealth, the problem starts when technological advances replace the need for human labor power, as they have been doing in all the advanced capitalist societies for more than a generation now, with predictable effects on wealth distribution (though as I noted in the interview, Marx was wildly off on the timing); (3) that Wilkinson thinks Cohen's reconstruction of historical materialism in terms of functional explanations "was doing Marx a favor" by showing historical materialism to be "a credible form of social-scientifc explanation" shows he has no idea what explanatory paradigms are dominant in the social sciences, what the relation is between functional and causal explanations (class conflict being the causal mechanism, even on Cohen's account!), and the kinds of explanations Marxist historians have developed utilizing class conflict as the relevant explanatory mechanism. (Hint: read some Robert Brenner to start).
I'll note in passing that Wilkinson concedes the correctness of Marx's theory of ideology, though, for reasons known only to him, thinks it "vacuous."
A lot of interesting material here.
It certainly helps when most of the elected "representatives" are themselves members.
The gay community there has some fun with it.
Here. Really good questions, it was a pleasure to do this interview.
This is a fabulous bit of writing by Stefan Collini (Cambridge), both in content and style; an excerpt follows, but really take the time to read the whole thing (whether you are in Britain or not, the mindlessness Collini describes is spreading everywhere and, in any case, the essay is a pleasure to read):
One of the most fascinating yet elusive aspects of cultural change is the way certain ideals and arguments acquire an almost self-evident power at particular times, just as others come to seem irrelevant or antiquated and largely disappear from public debate. In the middle of the 18th century, to describe a measure as ‘displaying the respect that is due to rank’ was a commonplace commendation; in the middle of the 19th, affirming that a proposal contributed to ‘the building of character’ would have been part of the mood music of public discourse; in the middle of the 20th, ‘a decent standard of life’ was the goal of all parties and almost all policies. As with changes in the use of language generally, readers and listeners become inured to what were once jarring neologisms or solecisms, while phrases that were once so common as to escape notice become in time unusable.
It will be a long time before historians can adequately chart, let alone explain, the changes in public discourse in Britain in the past half-century, but when that task is attempted, official publications will have a special evidential value. They tend not to bear the marks of an individual sensibility, but rather to deploy the idioms and arguments thought to command the widest acceptance, even when – perhaps especially when – the proposals they contain are novel and controversial. Since perhaps the 1970s, certainly the 1980s, official discourse has become increasingly colonised by an economistic idiom, which is derived not strictly from economic theory proper, but rather from the language of management schools, business consultants and financial journalism. British society has been subject to a deliberate campaign, initiated in free-market think tanks in the 1960s and 1970s and pushed strongly by business leaders and right-wing commentators ever since, to elevate the status of business and commerce and to make ‘contributing to economic growth’ the overriding goal of a whole swathe of social, cultural and intellectual activities which had previously been understood and valued in other terms. Such a campaign would not have been successful, of course, had it not been working with the grain of other changes in British society and the wider world. Very broadly speaking, the extension of democratic and egalitarian social attitudes has been accompanied by the growth of a kind of consumerist relativism. The claim that one activity is inherently of greater value or importance than another comes to be pilloried as ‘elitism’. Arguments are downgraded to ‘opinions’: all opinions are equally valuable (or valueless), so the only agreed criterion is what people say they think they want, and the only value with any indefeasible standing is ‘value for money’. Government documents issued in the last 20 years or so are immediately identifiable by the presence of such buzz phrases as ‘it is essential to sustain economic growth and maintain Britain’s global competitiveness,’ ‘consumers must have a choice of services,’ ‘competition will drive up quality’ and so on.
This is the text for a public lecture I will give at the end of the month at the University of Alabama, that deals with some familiar meta-ethical issues in, I hope, a non-technical way, and without getting bogged down in the unfortunate tendency of much recent philosophical work, in which the semantic tail wags the metaphysical dog. The abstract:
Over the last 250 years both moral philosophy and ordinary moral opinion have witnessed a remarkable expansion of their conception of the “moral” community, that is, the community of creatures that are thought entitled to basic moral (and ultimately legal) consideration--whatever the precise details of what such consideration requires. "Being human" is what matters now in terms of membership in the moral community, not race, gender, religion, or, increasingly, sexual orientation. (Species membership—hence the “being human”—remains a barrier to entry, however.) How to explain these developments? According to “Whig Histories,” this is really a story of expanding moral knowledge. Just as we discovered that the movement of mid-size physical objects is governed by the laws of Newtonian mechanics, and that those same laws do not describe the behavior of quantum particles, so too we have discovered that chattel slavery is a grave moral wrong and that women have as much moral claim on the electoral vote as men. I argue against the Whig Histories in favor of non-Whig Histories that explain the expanding moral community in terms of biological, psychological, and economic developments, not increased moral knowledge. If the non-Whig Histories are correct, should we expect the “species barrier” to membership in the moral community to fall? I argue for a skeptical answer.
In any case, comments are very welcome.
The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.
The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office may in fact bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests.
Corporate power's ascendancy over politics and society - by now mostly financial - has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.
For the public, the primary domestic concern is unemployment. Under current circumstances, that crisis can be overcome only by a significant government stimulus, well beyond the recent one, which barely matched decline in state and local spending - though even that limited initiative probably saved millions of jobs.
For financial institutions the primary concern is the deficit. Therefore, only the deficit is under discussion. A large majority of the population favor addressing the deficit by taxing the very rich (72 percent, 27 percent opposed), reports a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Cutting health programs is opposed by overwhelming majorities (69 percent Medicaid, 78 percent Medicare). The likely outcome is therefore the opposite....
The Democrats aren't failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there's political hay to be made moving to the right. They're doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I've said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television.
For evidence, all you have to do is look at this latest fiasco.
The Republicans in this debt debate fought like wolves or alley thugs, biting and scratching and using blades and rocks and shards of glass and every weapon they could reach.
The Democrats, despite sitting in the White House, the most awesome repository of political power on the planet, didn't fight at all. They made a show of a tussle for a good long time -- as fixed fights go, you don't see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did -- but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive.
We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions? When the final tally comes in for the 2012 presidential race, who among us wouldn't bet that Barack Obama is going to beat his Republican opponent in the fundraising column very handily? At the very least, he won't be out-funded, I can almost guarantee that.
And what does that mean? Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars for what looks, on the outside, like rank incompetence?
It strains the imagination to think that the country's smartest businessmen keep paying top dollar for such lousy performance. Is it possible that by "surrendering" at the 11th hour and signing off on a deal that presages deep cuts in spending for the middle class, but avoids tax increases for the rich, Obama is doing exactly what was expected of him?
(Thanks to Jason Walta for the pointer.)
An apt excerpt:
[M]y Salon colleague Glenn Greenwald has expertly documented the current supremacy of transpartisan consensus. Setting aside the Third Party Fetishists' platitudes about "polarization," Glenn uses the only empirical evidence there is in politics -- congressional votes -- to show how on everything from war, to civil liberties, to budget cuts, to financial deregulation, to high-income tax cuts, to Supreme Court nominations, to assaults on public education, to executive power grabs, a transpartisan consensus all but dominates the federal government -- and to a historically unprecedented degree.
You don't need look far to see that consensus in action -- just check out the current debt ceiling brouhaha. Paraded around by carnival barkers as supposed proof of unprecedented division and rancor, the moment's manufactured crisis in Washington actually exemplifies all the hallmarks of transpartisan consensus, as the Democratic president and the Republican congressional leadership essentially agree that Social Security and Medicare should be slashed, corporate taxes should be cut, taxes on the wealthy shouldn't be significantly raised and defense spending should face only minimal reductions. The only real "debate" is about the specific numbers -- not about whether such an extreme set of priorities is the proper way to balance a budget.
Huge numbers of beneficiaries of government programs (in some cases, majorities!) believe they have never been a beneficiary of a government program. Rupert Murdoch must be proud. Rational choice theories of political and economic behavior will be unmoved.
(Thanks to Rob Icsezen for the pointer.)
A useful compilation, that highlights some of the extreme pathologies of American plutocracy.
The poster boy for the latest moral mischief is Congressman Paul Ryan, an Ayn Rand devotee whom Krugman aptly dubbed "the flimflam man." One might be strongly inclined towards an expressivist interpretation of "moral obligation" when one hears Rep. Ryan describe his attack on medical care for the elderly and the poor as a matter of "moral obligation." Here again Krugman:
[This is] going to be just like the Social Security fight, only worse: once again, Very Serious People will pretend not to notice that the Republican plan is a giant game of bait-and-switch, dismantling a key piece of the social safety net in favor of a privatized system, claiming that this is necessary to save money, but never acknowledging that privatization in itself actually costs money. And we’ll have endless obfuscation, both-sides-have-a-point reporting that misses the key point, which is that the putative savings come entirely from benefit cuts somewhere in the distant future that would, in all likelihood, never actually materialize. (What do you think will happen when retirees in 2025 discover that their Medicare vouchers aren’t enough to buy insurance?)
Posted by Brian Leiter on April 05, 2011 at 08:45 AM in Hermeneutics of Suspicion, Merciless rhetorical spankings of fanatics, villains, and ignoramuses, Of Cultural Interest | Permalink
Here is liberal economist Krugman debunking, yet again, the myth that public sector workers are paid more than private sector workers. But what is really revealing about this way of framing the debate is the assumption--not challenged by Krugman (he is an economist, after all) or anyone else in the 'mainstream'--that the private sector market is the correct benchmark for compensation, such that a deviation from the private sector would have to be justified, or shifts the burden of proof of desert on to those who deviate. But why believe that? And why would Krugman believe that after only the most recent example of massive market failure, the Great Recession of 2008?
ADDENDUM: It is amusing to be called a "kook" by a notorious right-wing smear merchant and simpleton like Taranto, who, true to form, also can't read, since no one here is "nostalgic" for the Soviet Union. Apparently discussion of counterfactual questions about the consequences of its demise is off-limits in his parochial universe.
===============original piece below=====================================
A couple of readers took me to task for being too generous to Reagan, in crediting him (as a side-effect of his Keynsian deficit-spending on the military) with helping bring about the economic and then political collapse of the Soviet Union. Longtime reader Roger Albin, for example, sends the following informative comments:
Reagan's anti-Communism and that of his supporters was deep, sincere, and wildly out of proportion to the actual threat. You're assuming that Reagan had a rational view of the Soviet Union. You're assuming also that Reagan was following a rational Keynesian macroeconomic approach. This is simply giving him too much credit; he really believed the supply side fantasy. As with Bush II, there was a complete disconnect between foreign policy goals and their financial consequences. His OMB Director, David Stockman, actually admitted that they essentially concealed the financial consequences of the military buildup from Reagan. Reagan, of course, was too cavalier to actually evaluate budgets.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was partly the cumulative effect of decades of great power competition with the USA, but not Reagan's spending specifically. If anyone deserves pride of place in terms of competing the Soviet Union into the ground, it would be the Truman administration, which inaugurated the containment policy. Reagan's considerable increment of military spending (which had already started to rise under Carter), probably made little difference.
I think the most thoughtful concise account is found at the end of Melvyn Leffler's For the Soul of Mankind. Leffler, a very distinguished historian of the Cold War (his book on the onset of the Cold War, A Preponderance of Power, won the Bancroft Prize and is superb) wrote this book with a broad audience in mind but it is based on his own research and a considered analysis of the secondary literature. If you want to wade through a very detailed analysis that is quite (and I think appropriately) critical of Reagan, I recommend Raymond Garthoff's The Great Transition. Even the relatively conservative John Lewis Gaddis accords Reagan and his policies a secondary role.
I should add, of course, that whether the collapse of the Soviet Union should be considered a good thing is a separate question. Certainly everyone (except the despots) welcomes the end of totalitarian regimes, though some of the former Soviet republics have remained thoroughly undemocratic, and Russia itself has moved strongly back in that direction. Then, of course, there was the enormous human cost to the collapse (increased mortality, a decline in longevity, and massive economic and thus human dislocation and suffering). Finally, certain other world-historic crimes, such as the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq, are unlikely to have occurred if the Soviet Union had remained intact.
ADDENDUM: And still more here.
ONE MORE: More on Reagan myth-making.
Today is the centenary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, certainly the most significant U.S. President in my lifetime, and the one most responsible for the long, downward spiral in sanity and decency that has marked the last 30 years in the United States.
The Republican Party, before Reagan, mostly kept its crazies hidden away, and mostly functioned as the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce, reliably defending the interests of a prudent ruling class, one that had largely made its peace with the labor movement, with progressive taxation, and with the welfare state.
Reagan changed all that: he turned conservatives into reactionaries; pandered to the most imprudent elements of the ruling class, whose goal was to turn back the Great Society and the New Deal; and set in motion attacks on labor unions, progressive taxation, and the welfare state, that have continued unabated through two Democratic presidencies (Clinton's and, so far, Obama's). He inherited an American economy in recession, and pulled it out of recession through tried-and-true Keynsian methods, namely, massive deficit spending, primarily on the military. (This had the side benefit for the American Right of ultimately driving the Soviet Union into economic and then political collapse, since its dysfyunctional bureaucratized relations of production could not sustain productivity adequate to keep pace in the arms race.) His actual economic policy was concealed behind rhetoric about "less government" and "fiscal restraint," which permitted him to slash taxes on the wealthy, beginning three decades of enrichment for the richest.
An anonymous student posted a link to this remarkable display on the earlier thread concerning the "Other"; the author of this new piece, Michael Marder, is the reviewer lambasted in the earlier thread. His latest bit of sophomoric obscurity is, alas, naturally read as a "reply" to the beating he took. According to Marder, naturalists (which he doesn't seem to realize includes "critical thinking" folks like Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud [the latter of whom Marder even invokes!]) are opposed to "critical thinking" and committed to the "status quo." (This will also come as news to Carnap and the other logical positivists who were actually opponents of both Nazism and capitalism.) It helps, to be sure, that Marder appears to have no notion of what naturalism is, as when he writes:
Under the title of naturalization, which remains suspiciously vague in a discourse ostensibly committed to the rigors of argumentation and clarity of expression, we encounter nothing more than a reductivist comprehension of nature as a set of empirically verifiable causal relations and quantities of force.
Actually, it is usually quite clear what is meant, as even a quick consultation of relevant articles in SEP would reveal--but, of course, Marder isn't doing scholarship or philosophy, he's just bluffing and licking his wounds. And one thing one might learn if one actually read some philosophy is that lots of naturalists aren't committed to "a reductivist [sic] comprehension of nature as a set of empirically verifiable causal relations and quantities of force."
I have, as I'm sure Marder knows, some views on "naturalizing jurisprudence," so I was especially amused by this paragraph, which would get a student expelled from even a mediocre PhD program, but apparently passes as "thinking" in some circles:
In the legal domain, "natural law" presupposes the pre-modern, teleologically inflected ontology of nature; this kind of law works when an entity fulfills its telos or function well. The universal principles inherent in this image of the law are metaphysically determined in keeping with the objectively fixed hierarchy of ends and, later on, the standard of truth emanating from the word of God.
Historical forms of natural law depended on a teleology of nature; contemporary forms do not.
Legal positivism is usually taken to be the exact opposite of natural law, though, in fact, it is nothing but the end result of the global translation of the old notion of "nature" into the categories of modern science.
Legal positivism does deny what at least some natural law theorists assert, namely, that there is a necessary conceptual connection between legal validity and moral justifiability. Some versions of natural law theory do not, however, claim such a connection, raising the question whether there is any dispute left (vide Mark Murphy's essay on natural law theory in The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory  for a good overview). Positivist theories typically hold that law is, in Hart's formulation, the union of primary and secondary rules, and that among the latter, is a "rule of recognition," which is just a complex social fact about the actual practice of officials in deciding questions of legal validity and their attitude towards that practice (their acceptance of it from an 'internal point of view' as Hart says). I'm sure that's what Marder had in mind by saying positivism is "the global translation of the old notion of 'nature' into the categories of modern science."
The naturalization of jurisprudence, with the attendant conceptualization of legality on the basis of cause-effect relations, enables the same legal oppression as the one that marked the pre-modern notion of the law.
Even God probably does not know what the last half of the sentence means ("enables...pre-modern notion of the law"), but the first half is another citation-free bit of free association. The naturalization project of the American Legal Realists did not involve a "conceptualization of legality on the basis of cause-effect relations," since it didn't involve a conceptualization of legality at all; the naturalization project of the Scandinavian Legal Realists [like Alf Ross] involved a translation of the normative concepts in law into predictions about behavior. So what does the author mean? Who knows?
What both approaches have in common, then, is their insistence on the objectively fixed meaning of the law, whether it is defined by the teleology of nature, by the word of God, or by the impoverished ontology of effective causality.
Neither Ross nor I, nor any legal positivist believes that there is an "objectively fixed meaning of the law." But it's another trademark of "Jewish poker" philosophy to lump together competing positions on the basis of total misunderstandings of those positions.
I do agree with Marder that "the response has to be both harsh and rigorous" to those who are "the enemies of thinking;" we differ, apparently, as to who the real enemy of thinking and serious critical thought is, though I can't imagine it's too mysterious to any literate person.
ADDENDUM: Michael Rosen suggests an apt bit of music for this occasion, from 1938: "Hes' dead--but he won't lie down."
...apparently doesn't care for people commenting unsympathetically on his (and Lydia McGrew's) fascist program to eliminate the Muslims. This fine comment by Dan Kaufman (Colorado) on the second post didn't last long:
awesome! now that's the kind of scathing satire of right-lunatics we need! soooo good and without even a hint of irony, it is really scary. keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars, friends!
On the other hand, this observation from one Jeff H. survived:
Even if all the sickening hate-mongering in the previous post were entirely correct, these policies would make Americans and America less, not more, safe. Like many Americans, especially on the political right, you show a breathtaking lack of awareness of how your actions look from the outside or just *why* Americans have a reputation as arrogant jackasses even among close allies like England and Canada, and are downright hated by many others (including, but by no means limited to, Muslim countries). If you want to GUARANTEE more 9/11s, there would be no better way to do that than to enact these policies.
Put to one side the fact that Culbreath and McGrew are obviously disgusting moral miscreants, the question is what explains their fall through the looking glass? Here is one speculative explanation: it is quite obvious that religious extremists of all sects can be prone to illiberal and dangerous behavior (as RAWA correctly observed about 9/11, "fundamentalism is the mortal enemy of all humanity"). But Culbreath and McGrew are quite obviously themselves religious extremists with an illiberal and dangerous vision of what the world should be like. Is branding all of Islam the threat a way of avoiding self-knowledge, i.e., a defense mechanism against the recognition that they themselves are as abohrrent as the fantastical vision of Islam they defame? (McGrew has even argued, previously, that since conservative Christians, especially those who homeschool, don't want society to interfere with the religious indoctrination of their children, these same conservative Christians should therefore oppose Muslim immigration, since (it is alleged) some Muslim parents mistreat their children in ways that would prompt societal interference in the family.) As I admit, this is speculation, but some causal explanation is required to make sense of these transparently irrational displays of bigotry and hatred.