Re: Guest Post From NickS, Posted Without Really Reading First Because He Generally Makes Sense

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"By tax adjustment we have planned
To institute the promised land,
And just to show we are sincere
We'll sing the Red Flag once a year."
-Leon Rosselson

Nah, if you exclude the possibility of revolution, you have to play with the tax code, because it's all that's really left.

From your little list of alternatives, universal preschool would need paying for, which implies messing with the tax code; card check unions excludes the self-employed and people working for micro-businesses (a huge majority of the workforce in Britain, I'd be surprised if it was that different in America); selecting legislators by lot implies that once in office they'd be any more ethical that the present bunch, for which I see no evidence. I'm generally in favour of all these, but I don't think they'll help much towards equality. Playing with the tax code might. In the end, I think revolution is the safest bet.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:10 AM
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LB, fingers crossed for your dog. Hope she isn't suffering too much.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:14 AM
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So my question for the mineshaft is, "excluding any changes to the tax code do you have any pet policies which you think would reduce inequality?" Universal preschool, card-check unions, selecting legislators by lot? What would you do?

12 months paid parental leave (both parents, full pay).

I mean, there's lots of things I'd do, but that would be one of the biggest changes in the long term.

And of course in a US context, single-payer healthcare.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:14 AM
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GY, good ideas, indeed important and necessary ideas, but again they can't be achieved without doing something to make the rich bastards pay something towards them.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:19 AM
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Good luck DogBreath!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:21 AM
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Pawsitive thoughts for Dogbreath!

12-months paid parental leave sounds awesome, but "full pay" would make it less than effective at reducing inequality.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:26 AM
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Full integration of unions into corporate decision-making processes (or workers if no union exists; like Germany) would do a lot to make the class divides within companies less precipitous, rather than accepting and then taxing current inequality.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:29 AM
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Equality in school funding. Suburban students literally can't imagine what it's like in schools that don't have the facilities and opportunities they have. And vice versa.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:30 AM
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universal preschool would need paying for, which implies messing with the tax code

Not necessarily, not if you cut other spending to offset it. And I think in the context of the post "messing with the tax code" should be taken to include an implied "specifically in order to make it more redistributive"; otherwise almost any government action will involve doing something to the tax code because it will involve spending. Making racial discrimination illegal would involve "messing with the tax code" because you need to employ people to investigate complaints of racial discrimination.

Universal healthcare. Better public transport. Equalised school spending. Tighter controls on atmospheric pollution (because guess who ends up living in the polluted areas?)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:35 AM
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Universal health care (not tied to employment); paid parental leave; equity in school funding.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:35 AM
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9 posted before I saw 8.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:35 AM
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Make it easier to start and maintain a small business. Get rid of stupid things that pointlessly burden small business owners like piddling little nickel and dime taxes (violates the terms of the OP, I know, but it annoys me).

As Ginger Yellow suggests, single payer healthcare. This helps with the small business front as well, since it reduces the downside of things going pear shaped. Worries about healthcare (I have multiple preexisting conditions) has kept me from striking out on my own twice so far. Only when I've built up enough reserve cash to be able to afford a full year of extortionate private insurance as well as the necessary startup capital would I consider trying to fly solo.

A basic income grant would help mitigate things at the low end of the income scale. Cheap college loans and outright grants would be helpful in building skills to move people into the middle class.

In the end of the day all of these things require taxation, so it might as well come out of the pockets of the people who benefit most from pseudo-meritocracy.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:36 AM
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Housing.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:38 AM
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Oh, this is important: actually-free college education.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:42 AM
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At the level of the 0.01% I think the key is reigning in executive compensation. As it is, it seems like part of the problem is that they all sit on each other's boards of directors and so all scratch each other's backs.

As CEO of company A and board member of company B, I'll sign of on a lavish non-performance based "compensation package" for the CEO of company B if he'll sign of on mine (since he's on A's board of directors).

The other big one is inheritance tax. A few years ago I read an interesting book The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, which tracks the British 0.1% from 1870-1970. It seems like one of the major contributors to their decline was stiff estate taxes.

Of course there's no hope of that as long as every wage slave who's barely scraping by can be gulled into thinking that inheritance taxes will prevent him from leaving his imaginary fortune to his kids.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:42 AM
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Ensmallen the financial sector. Ban derivatives, since they seem to add only a little bit of social value and nobody has figured out how to make them safe. Other stuff to limit the activities and profitability of financial firms.

Also 1.

And happy thoughts for DogBreath.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:47 AM
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Cardcheck is weaksauce. What's required is a repeal of Taft-Hartley. Then the rest - single-payer, higher minimum wage, universal pre-school, whatever - becomes much more likely. It's unions all the way down.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:48 AM
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It's kind of amazing how all of the items listed so far (except Toggles, I guess), all of which seem just fine to me, were basically bog-standard demands of the postwar social democratic state, and (I think) all are more or less available in Sweden. Obviously all require high absolute amounts of taxation. The extent to which humanity got close to a reasonable future, yet has been running away from it since about 1975, is always stunning, even if we all know the story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:49 AM
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18.last_sentence is very true and bears repeating.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:55 AM
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What 17 said. Something else that would greatly speed the union thing would be using the fed budget as a cudgel. If the feds refused to take bids/do business from non unionized firms you'd all of a sudden see a lot of companies inviting unions in to keep that money flowing.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:58 AM
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If the feds refused to take bids/do business from non unionized firms

It's difficult even to imagine this passing through congress.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:03 AM
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Everybody gets a check from the government for $20,000 on their 21st birthday.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:05 AM
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To 18.last and 19:

THERE WAS A FANTASTIC UNIVERSAL SENSE THAT WHATEVER WE WERE DOING WAS RIGHT, THAT WE WERE WINNING....
AND THAT, I THINK, WAS THE HANDLE--THAT SENSE OF INEVITABLE VICTORY OVER THE FORCES OF OLD AND EVIL. NOT IN ANY MEAN OR MILITARY SENSE; WE DIDN'T NEED THAT. OUR ENERGY WOULD SIMPLY PREVAIL. THERE WAS NO POINT IN FIGHTING--ON OUR SIDE OR THEIRS. WE HAD ALL THE MOMENTUM; WE WERE RIDING THE CREST OF A HIGH AND BEAUTIFUL WAVE....
SO NOW, LESS THAN FIVE YEARS LATER, YOU CAN GO UP ON A STEEP HILL IN LAS VEGAS AND LOOK WEST, AND WITH THE RIGHT KIND OF EYES YOU CAN ALMOST SEE THE HIGH-WATER MARK--THAT PLACE WHERE THE WAVE FINALLY BROKE AND ROLLED BACK.


Posted by: OPINIONATED HUNTER S THOMPSON | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:08 AM
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Affordable child care, affordable housing, cheap public transport. Education funding that is not just equal but which favours those in greatest need including those who are socioeconomically poor, but not necessarily just those who are socioeconomically poor. A minimum wage that allows a life with a decent standard of living and some decency. Government policy that treats full employment as an aim and provides adequately for those who can't work or for whom work is unavailable. Robust inheritance tax.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:13 AM
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GY, good ideas, indeed important and necessary ideas, but again they can't be achieved without doing something to make the rich bastards pay something towards them.

Well, yes. I'm also in favour of making the tax code vastly more redistributive and having a higher overall tax rate. But the question was about policy proposals other than changing the tax code.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:14 AM
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I love the passage quoted in 23.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:18 AM
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They're classics for a reason.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:22 AM
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The policies, that is.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:22 AM
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Everybody gets a check from the government for $20,000 on their 21st birthday.

Do you work for the auto industry or something, because that's who would benefit the most from that policy.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:24 AM
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By "auto" do you mean "liquor"?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:26 AM
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Uncoupling school funding from property taxes. I don't know if this is how schools are funded through out the US, but I was amazed at seeing this in California.

And in addition, per-child school funding (at a national level probably so that kids in the South don't get the shaft) at a rate that includes 'extras' like music, art, recess, gifted and resource classes. No private schools.

Plus what everyone said about health care and estate taxes.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:28 AM
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30:

Yeah, they'd benefit a bit too but seriously, par for the course for these younger military guys who build up a bunch of combat pay and such while they're overseas for a year or two is to come home and blow a ton of money on a big truck or sports car. Similarly, a native friend of mine grew up on a reservation where the tribe gives a lump sum like that to members when they turn 18 or 21 and again it's pretty common for that person to spend a lot of or all that money on a vehicle.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:31 AM
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Ban private schools, increase the estate tax to 100% for any estate over $100,000 (and change the lifetime gift tax to match), and repeal Taft-Hartley.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:32 AM
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Close loopholes on excess executive compensation. End the drug war.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:34 AM
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Not to distract from the general coversation, but California schools are much less funded by property taxes than those in other states, thanks to good ole Prop 13. Also our schools (by any reasonable measure, and in the aggregate) suck.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:34 AM
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Bring back the usury laws.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:35 AM
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Abolish money. Look, it was a nice, simple technology that scales better than the gift economy but its flaws are manifest. We have much better ways of keeping track of favors done and aid given now.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:36 AM
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What? It's only slightly less likely than any of the other proposals in this thread.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:36 AM
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33: I... actually think that would be bad. Not the repeal of Taft-Hartley, the other two. Mostly because it would make this country much less appealing for immigrants.

Per 32: a massive re-allocation of federal transportation money away from roads and towards public transportation.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:36 AM
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California schools are much less funded by property taxes than those in rich parts of other states, thanks to good ole Prop 13


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:37 AM
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Mostly because it would make this country much less appealing for immigrants.

We can use the military to import any immigrants we need.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:37 AM
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par for the course for these younger military guys who build up a bunch of combat pay and such while they're overseas for a year or two is to come home and blow a ton of money on a big truck or sports car

Disability pay too, if Doonesbury is anything to go by - BD is being counselled by fellow combat amputee Elias: "You'll need your compensation money. Put it somewhere safe. Too many guys blow it all on some ridiculous crotch rocket."
"What did you do with yours?"
"Blew it all on some ridiculous crotch rocket. But that's my point!"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:40 AM
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Access to a reliable car is one of the huge things that separates the haves and the have-nots. The policy doesn't jive well with the idea of an urbanist utopia, but, given the country we have, rather than the country we want, I think it would make a rather large impact on inequality.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:43 AM
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Also, maybe people would spend their $20,000 on a lifetime bus pass. Ever think of that??!?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:45 AM
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Taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income would be a fine thing, and making exec comp non-deductible over a certain amount (graduated based on payroll and number of employees) is worth thinking through.

I'd be happy to see unions come back, but I'm really not sure the problem is primarily regulatory, rather than cultural. At the margins, obviously regulatory changes are going to matter.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:57 AM
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44: I have an employer-provided unlimited transit pass.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:02 AM
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Not quite as much about reducing inequality, but I think we should be open to increasing the minimum wage by folding in government subsidies, not just requiring more of employers. This would also let us better target wages to household size. I realize the EITC does this to some extent now, but I want it to show up in paychecks - spendable immediately, part of the basic social contract, not subject to the refund-advance vultures - and be more substantial.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:02 AM
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I [heart] 1 for the Leon Rossleson reference (have I mentioned, the first concert I went to that made a big impression on me was Leon Rosslseon).

And thanks everybody for ignoring the poor formatting and taking the question seriously (I need to remember to include HTML tags when I send in a guest post, but it always seems odd to do so in an email).

Crossing my fingers for dogbreath.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:02 AM
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Do people actually cross fingers in ML (Material Life), or is it just a phrase? My thoughts are with DogBreath, of course.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:05 AM
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I have an employer-provided unlimited transit pass.

I understand that, in DC, the federal government will pay for employee parking, but not for full cost of their Metro passes.

Wait, scratch that, apparently thats just changed.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:07 AM
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The deal here is that students and employees of big firms get significantly discounted bus passes, but if you are unemployed or work at the Starbucks at the mall, you're SOL.

W/R/T unions, I think there is a building demand for unionization which is stymied not just by Taft-Hartley, or cultural factors, but by the incompetence and corruption of almost all of the business unions. Ferchrissakes a lot of them (IBEW and IATSE, I'm looking at you) seem to be more concerned with PREVENTING their members from working than they are about getting them a fair deal. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2013 is to go to every IWW meeting this year. I've also signed up for an extra contribution to our rent fund, and will be trying to make most of the General Defense Committee meetings as well. You know, a significant number of you folx could join the IWW -- as long as you're not management and you agree with the general principles of the union, your local GMB (or the national) would be happy to have you. The top dues rate is only $27/month. I know, the IWW was moribund for a loooooong time, but the stuff folx have achieved in the last 7 or 8 years with the Starbuck's Workers Union and the Jimmy Johns Workers Union is pretty spectacular. And we take solidarity seriously.

http://www.iww.org/ for more info


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:16 AM
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What a weird article (in 50). That transit subsidy isn't particular to federal employees at all; it's the same tax benefit available to employers generally.

(An occasional gripe at my highly generous employer is that parking is free but transit is only pretax-funded, through that program. At least at my office, parking is easily worth $200 a month. I really wish they would cut back on the parking subsidy, but since that's not going to happen at the California mothership, it's probably not going to happen here, either.)


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:18 AM
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Also, if you want to join the GDC, you don't even have to be an IWW member. And it's only $20 a year! A real 19th century labor movement bargain!

http://www.iww.org/en/projects/gdc/join.shtml


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:24 AM
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Interesting that nobody has mentioned NGDP targeting or some similarly expansionist monetary policy.

Did the Clinton years convince everybody that reducing unemployment won't necessarily push towards a more equal society?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:25 AM
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Money breeds money. The point of Twilight of the Elites was that it can do so in subtle ways as well as blatant. Income taxes and estate taxes can help with the blatant ways that money breeds money, but something else is needed to deal with the subtle ways.

This is hard. Making universities free was suggested. When I was a boy, British universities were free. We even got grants to (barely) cover living expenses. But Oxford and Cambridge set their own admission exams, for which mainly elite secondary schools properly prepared their pupils. So boys whose parents could afford elite secondary schools ended up overrepresented at Oxbridge and preferentially channeled into prestigious or money making careers. You're squeezing a balloon.


Posted by: Jim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:25 AM
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Ferchrissakes a lot of them (IBEW and IATSE, I'm looking at you) seem to be more concerned with PREVENTING their members from working than they are about getting them a fair deal.

I've heard of a particular public sector department in my state (not the service my employer is involved with) where there is literally a contractual agreement that each employee provide no more than X units of service a day. It's not labor-intensive, either; it's hasslesome, but definitely something that can be made more efficient.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:26 AM
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Interesting that nobody has mentioned NGDP targeting or some similarly expansionist monetary policy.
Did the Clinton years convince everybody that reducing unemployment won't necessarily push towards a more equal society?

Good point. Sweden is apparently very good about this.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:27 AM
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Or rather, part of the apparatus of Sweden's welfare state is an aggressively countercyclical monetary policy.

I don't think the Clinton years count as that was just a classic boom; policymakers were happy that unemployment was low, but didn't care enough to do anything about it in the next decade when we got growth without jobs.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:30 AM
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I'd say a lot of the things that have been said already, but also specifically there need to be more drug rehab options available for people who want them and there needs to be adequate housing for people who finish those programs. (And those who don't, of course, but that specific problem is one I've seen first-hand.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:33 AM
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This is hard.

I think so too. The next paragraph after the bit I quote from the Aaron Swartz post presents a sense of how large a change he is talking about:

The clue comes in thinking clearly about the alternative to meritocracy. It's not picking surgeons by lottery, Hayes clarifies, but then what is it? It's about ameliorating power relationships altogether. Meritocracy says "there must be one who rules, so let it be the best"; egalitarianism responds "why must there?" It's the power imbalance, rather than inequality itself, that's the problem.

It's an appealing idea, but it's really hard to see how to get there from here.

I don't think the Clinton years count as that was just a classic boom; policymakers were happy that unemployment was low

I think this is true, but I also think it's true that, in various ways, Clinton bought off the elites to support lower levels of unemployment than they normally would. I clearly remember a window of about six months (at the peak of the boom) when there were articles about how fast food places were having to increase wages because they were having difficulty finding employees and thinking that was unusual compared to previous booms.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:36 AM
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Access to a reliable car is one of the huge things that separates the haves and the have-nots.

A more comprehensive and reliable public transportation infrastructure could go a long way toward making access to a reliable car less important, no?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:40 AM
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59: Also some way to get people out of prison, and programs to get ex-cons jobs.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:45 AM
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Clinton bought off the elites to support lower levels of unemployment than they normally would.
Could you expand this? What did he do, and what did they allow him to do that led to low unemployment?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:48 AM
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Real social safety net -- social welfare at a level where unemployment isn't frightening and doesn't make it impossible to lead a stable life. Decent housing support and income support. (Yes, yes, I know this is unrealistic.) Free, equitably provided education, including high-quality daycare and preschool.

The point is to keep people from making bad decisions on the basis of desperation, and to keep children from being impacted by their parents' lack of success.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:48 AM
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(And DogBreath either has had a stroke, a brain tumor, or something else that mimics the symptoms of either that the vet is unable to diagnose. If the third option, there's a chance she may recover and start walking again over the next week or two. So we're waiting and seeing.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:51 AM
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Good luck to DogBreath! My friend's cat just died at 22, after a crazy life in which he wrung every drop out of his 9 lives. Hopefully DogBreath will continue on in the same manner.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:54 AM
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Yes, hope all goes better with your dog.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:56 AM
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What did he do, and what did they allow him to do that led to low unemployment?

That was a overstatement of a vague impression, but I'll see what I can find. Looking quickly at The Clinton Tapes I see this description of conversations between Clinton and Greenspan, which is interesting but hardly evidence for anything.

When I steered him back to the calendar, with a question about the sixth hike in interest rates so far this year, the president said Alan Greenspan of the Federal Reserve adjusted rates to keep a "natural" unemployment rate of 6 percent. Clinton cited global price competition and the decline of unions to argue that unemployment could go lower without touching off inflation. He thought stale economic theory was punishing minimum wage workers . . . but he lobbied Greenspan carefully because of the Fed's insulated power.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:57 AM
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Poor Dogbreath. Very sorry to hear that.

As for the OP, I'd prescribe what the late Douglas Adams might call a reduction in the shouting-and-killing-people industries and the related shouting and killing people. I don't know whether that would pull down whatever I don't like about our inadequate welfare state, but it would free up a lot of capital, manpower, talent and attention for everything else we ought to do but leave undone because Senator Blurglecruncheon's state needs another Kill-O-Zap-equipped space trireme.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:16 AM
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Allow me to be the first to suggest that a restored labor movement would be the single most effective change in the policy-social-cultural landscape.

As far as actual changes in law, card-check is the best policy option that's on anyone's radar. Card-check neutrality, in which employers agree not to interfere in the organizing drive and leave the decision entirely to their employees, where it should be, is sometimes privately agreed to, when unions have the leverage to get it. As a matter of policy it would be tough to reconcile with the groovy old First Amendment.

Even more powerful would be enshrining the right to minority unionism -- any group of workers must be recognized to bargain collectively. Basically anyone who wants to be in a union should be allowed to.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:17 AM
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Sorry to hear about DogBreath. I hope she'll recover.

When I visited my parents at Christmas I realized that their dog-- who we got before I graduated high school, so I still kind of think of him as my dog-- is declining faster than they probably realize, since it's more gradual from their point of view. He still seems happy in his nearly-blind, arthritic old age, but he might not be around much longer. For my whole adult life visiting my parents has meant having this warm little fuzzball who's stupidly overjoyed to see me; it'll be sad to see him go.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:24 AM
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51/53: There is also the Freelancers Union, which while it has none of the storied militancy of the IWW, is an alternative to employer-based unions. It's not much more than a resource book, lobbying arm, and health insurance provider, but it's gathering steam and slowly figuring out how to do 21st century unionism.

Another promising development is Our Walmart, which is a membership organization for Walmart workers that is not exactly a union... yet.

There's a great middle between the IWW and the hated "business unions" -- new coalitions, new sectoral strategies, unions organizing. CWA, UAW, UNITE HERE, a lot in healthcare.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:37 AM
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I'm loving this thread.

Also, all good thoughts to Dogbreath. Our oldest cat (about 15 or 16) has begun to decline, and I spent last weekend with a friend whose cat is clearly at the very end of life. It's so, so hard to watch.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:41 AM
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Lots of great ideas. Has anyone pointed to the article in the NYTimes today about China investing in college grads? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/business/chinas-ambitious-goal-for-boom-in-college-graduates.html?pagewanted=all


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:45 AM
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I also hope Dogbreath is ok.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:46 AM
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Requoting from 60, from Swartz:

It's the power imbalance, rather than inequality itself, that's the problem.

The suggestions made are excellent, as befits the mineshaft, but some are compensatory, whereas the notion is to restructure inequality-producing arrangements from the outset.

I like Minivet's 7: Full integration of unions into corporate decision-making processes (or workers if no union exists; like Germany) would do a lot to make the class divides within companies less precipitous, rather than accepting and then taxing current inequality.

though I'd kind of like to get rid of corporations altogether and go full co-op all the time: worker-owned businesses.

We might could rework our electoral system: gerrymandering has got to go, and public financing of elections is a nice idea. Election day should be a national holiday.

I'd begun to read the Swartz CT post that NickS is citing a few days ago, and it was so lucid and plain that I had to stop, over the loss.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:53 AM
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73.last: Sorry to hear about your friend's cat, unless the cat is Hitler.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:57 AM
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||

I love our computing people's emails on the status of the cluster. This morning they were doing surgery on a dead hypervisor due to a PBKAC; now they sent another email about giving magic pixies a stern talking-to.

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:13 AM
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What's with Robert Halford making such good sense? My thoughts go out to DB.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:15 AM
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"I clearly remember a window of about six months (at the peak of the boom) when there were articles about how fast food places were having to increase wages because they were having difficulty finding employees."

Do you notice how these articles treat the higher wages as a crisis? "What are we going to do now - wages are increasing! HOW WILL AMERICA COMPETE? Where will we find the workers?" And the answer is always "more immigration!" The idea that maybe too many people work in fast food and maybe people could become their own sandwich artists is completely out of the question. "Cheap foreigners reducing the household drudgery in my life - that is my birthright as an American!" I like how at Chipotle the labor isn't hidden in the back, like at McDonalds. You stand there right at the front and tell your very own immigrant how you want your taco put together.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:24 AM
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I'd like to get rid of money and clothing, but maybe raising taxes on the rich is a more achievable goal.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:29 AM
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81: Clothing? You're north of me, aren't you?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:31 AM
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Maybe we could convince the rich to give us all their money in exchange for clothes only the unworthy can't see.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:35 AM
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Do you notice how these articles treat the higher wages as a crisis? "What are we going to do now - wages are increasing! HOW WILL AMERICA COMPETE? . . ."

No, actually, that wasn't my memory. Perhaps my recollection is colored by being in college at the time and considering news about a strong labor market to be clearly a good thing.

Clinton cited global price competition and the decline of unions to argue that unemployment could go lower without touching off inflation.

What I find interesting about this, in the context of this thread, is that it's an argument for lowering unemployment without reducing inequality. No obviously every president wants the Fed to keep rates low and, equally obviously, Clinton was making arguments that he thought Greenspan would want to hear. But it's still interesting.

It also makes me think about Robert Reich* as Secretary of Labor, and that, based on my vague recollection, you could caricature The Work Of Nations as encouraging a focus on industries for which either (a) the work could be done anywhere in the world but there was a high value placed on doing it better than the competition and the US had a strong culture and infrastructure (e.g., Movies and Microcode) or (b) the work had to be done in a specific place (e.g., Pizza Delivery). Which is also an argument for conducting labor policy to accommodate rather than challenge structural inequality.

* There is a paragraph in Reich's Wikipedia entry which is interesting, but oddly phrased, that I'm not sure what to make of, "[G]overnments were failing to address them because big corporations and Wall Street firms were also seeking competitive advantage over one another through politics, thereby drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens. The answer was to keep corporations focused on making better products and services and keep them out of politics. 'Corporate Social Responsibility' is essentially forbearance from activities that undermine democracy."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:48 AM
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I am pretty hard core on tax-as-driver-of-social-outcomes, to be honest. High taxes on the rich, lots of free and universal provision. Repeal of sales taxes!

Also various clever gimmicks to make unions more powerful, but in general I distrust any policy that promises something for nothing.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:16 PM
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(Also fuck fiscal credibility & austerity & and living within our means. I'm not sure what the actual political solution to that problem is, but fuck that noise.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:22 PM
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Best wishes to the Breath family.

As for the rest, y'all are doing ok, but probably trying to solve a problem instead of finding the right question.

Swartz is wrong. We will always have meritocracy, inequality, and unequal power/responsibility. The right question might be:"What accrues to merit? How shall we reward it?"

"From each according to her ability, to each according to her needs."

We can reward distribution instead of accumulation and still enjoy a world of difference.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:24 PM
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We are not bringing back unions, which are only an attempt to create another power center, an accumulation of social energy. As are other forms of organizing. We don't need to accumulate, to concentrate.

We are past that, it is over, we are over it, we don't need it. We have enough.

We just need to distribute power, wealth, and energy. We need to disaggregate now. We need to disintegrate.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:35 PM
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I'm suspicious of credit.

I think it masks real resource tradeoffs until Too Late; I think temporary jitters in the economy are asymmetrically bad for debtors; consumer credit seems to swamp investment borrowing.

No idea how to fix that, although the last two are probably from policy choices. Frex, I'd swap the mortgage interest deduction for public provision of education, childcare, and small-business startup loans (the only good reason I know of for an interest deduction is to help young people get on their feet).


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:39 PM
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I think the free preschool is important because it levels off the leg up middle class children get from plenty of stimulation (to be clear, I mean by this lots of interaction and talking and some stories read to them or told to them and perhaps some blocks and sand, not numbers and letters).
When my older brother and I were small, my mother used to regularly make up stories for us wherein the children did things that we had done; so if we'd been to the zoo, Liam and Sorcha went to the zoo and saw the monkeys climbing and the seals swimming and so on, giving us vocabulary for our experiences. (My younger brother is nearly 3 years younger than me so we didn't have shared story time, in fact I used to read to him and act out the parts.) I see now the flourishing of my nieces under good parental attention well short of hothousing and I think of the child seen by my mother on a house visit for her charity, who at 2 1/2 had hardly any words and did not know her own name in any way. (The charity encouraged the parent to put the child in a play group a few mornings a week and herself to sign up for some kind of basic life skills course available to the unemployed. They paid for the play group until a govt policy funding 1 year free preschool came in.)


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:44 PM
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72.3: UNITE HERE is usually solid. Local experiences of CWA and UAW that I'm familiar with are not so grate, akshully. The UAW totally, totally screwed up their organizing drive at the U of Mn. (for grad students, admittedly a tough nut to crack); and the CWA local that I am familiar with has all the hallmarks of bad business unions. SEIU here is pretty good, and we have a local group called Centro de Trabajadores en Lucha (CTUL) that does some good work as well.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:48 PM
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Boosting labor organization/unionization is maybe the single most important thing, because without that I don't think anything else is really secure politically. The political process is dominated to an unbelievable degree by organized business interests. Business interests differ on legislative detail but they are as one when it comes to the dominance of capital, and they don't break ranks in opposing increased regulation.

Of course a primary benefit of greater unionization would be pressure for better wages and benefits within the firm, but it also creates a countervailing force politically and ideologically. Also, the more union representation grows past a certain point the more labor collectively internalizes the public interest in how it negotiates on the broad political issues. Now, when we're stuck with the tattered remnants of the labor movement, unions face pressure to just emphasize the particularist interests of their industry in order to survive.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:49 PM
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90: So, does anyone here have experience/numbers on Head Start? And the other one? Do they actually work? I went to super-hippie Montessori preschool from 2-5, and it certainly seemed to work pretty well, especially since I did K-2nd in a public school Montessori program as well. I wonder about more conventional structures though.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:51 PM
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On the public policy agenda, I think that you need to take the 'public option' thinking broadly -- basic public services, from health insurance to utility banking to basic retirement savings to higher education, need a strong, robust, low-cost/free public alternative to private sector provision. E.g. with retirement savings, there should be a public account with a low but guaranteed return as an alternative to getting ripped off in your 401-K. State universities need full funding that results in low tuition and is not reliant on high levels of subsidized borrowing, etc.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:53 PM
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pwned multiple times.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:55 PM
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Ah, okay, PICA is just the local Head Start affiliate. So just Head Start then.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:57 PM
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Part of why I was thinking of preschool when I wrote the post was this article from the American Prospect which I found optimistic as an example of how a pre-k program could be sustainable even in a state where it might seem like an odd fit, politically, because it was simply so popular.

Although Eddins's law also made pre-K voluntary, "people started camping out that first night before we started enrolling," says Cathy Burden, the superintendent of Union Public Schools in Tulsa. That was in 1998, when Union enrolled less than half of its four-year-olds and pre-K was only half-day. Today, about 75 percent of the district's four-year-olds are enrolled, all are in school for full days, and demand continues to grow. "If anyone tried to get rid of pre-K now," Burden says, "they'd get run out of town."

No doubt, part of pre-K's appeal is that it's a safe--and free--place for children to be while their parents work. Child care can cost more than $500 per week. But for most parents, the educational value of pre-K is at least as important as the financial benefit.

"I wanted my son to learn," explains Maria Mauricio, who lives in the low-income Tulsa neighborhood of Kendall-Whittier. Her four-year-old son, Gabriel, attends pre-K through Educare, another local Head Start provider. A stay-at-home mom of five, Mauricio could have kept Gabriel with her during the day. When she was growing up in Mexico, Mauricio went to school only through seventh grade, stopping so she could help her grandmother support the family by picking peanuts. She wanted more for her son, who, by the age of two, wasn't speaking either English or Spanish understandably, partly because of hearing problems. Mauricio felt confident that starting school early would give Gabriel the best shot at success.

...

The case for universal pre-K ought to be closed. In Oklahoma, it is. Even as enthusiasm for the Tea Party has swept the state, the program has gained in popularity. Oklahomans on both sides of the aisle take pride in being recognized as a national leader in early education. Many rural school administrators regard the program as a lifeline because it helped them keep schools open even as the number of children in their districts diminished. Regardless of their political stripe, most working parents here embrace pre-K as a superior alternative to day care.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 12:57 PM
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tiqqun - the Bloom


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 1:22 PM
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I'm partial to the tax and rebate system for carbon. Everyone pays for the carbon they use, and everyone gets a rebate check. If your carbon use is below average, you come out ahead. So it encourages people to cut down their CO2 emissions, while also creating a constituency for raising carbon taxes. And it transfers money from people who drive SUVs to people who take the bus.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 1:23 PM
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What if you fit in both of those categories?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 1:27 PM
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98: I maintain that it would be exceedingly funny if people gathering for a Tikkun convention wound up with people gathering for some kind of Tiqqun conspiracy meeting, or whatever those people hold.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 1:34 PM
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What if you fit in both of those categories?

Then you break even.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:00 PM
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We just need to distribute power, wealth, and energy. We need to disaggregate now. We need to disintegrate.

Right on, dude!


Posted by: OPINIONATED COLLEGE SOPHOMORE WHO HAS READ DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH BUT NEVER ACTUALLY BEEN PART OF AN | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:02 PM
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[103 continued]


Posted by: ... ACTIVIST MOVEMENT | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:03 PM
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We just need to distribute power, wealth, and energy. We need to disaggregate now. We need to disintegrate.

I don't even know what this means, but just FYI we are dealing with vast world-spanning multinational corporations and seamlessly integrated global financial markets that effectively hold national economies hostage....dealing with this is going to take something on a larger scale than your local food co-op.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:11 PM
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You don't even know how powerful Bob's food coop is. Disaggregated, disintegrating, but more powerful than you could possibly imagine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:47 PM
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All those 19th century ideas floating around above, like universal pre-K and re-unionizing everyone...are you seeing that or its possibility anywhere in the fucking world? Is like the Great Momentum, the Tide of History on your side? Are you at all serious?

105:Local food co-op might be natpen's idea, relevant circa oh 1900.

I have shown you all I know, where to look. You need a master-plan?

Do these feel like riddles, metaphors, like paradoxes? Radical de-subjectification, an apotheosis of disinterest?

Desertion in the ranks?

Of course it is alien, because the Other is the economy inside you. They've won. They're lost.

100 years after October, what, we are bringing back the Gotha Programme? What do you think the best people, the best minds for a century been doing for a century of genius?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:48 PM
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106. It's Norovirus? But with the potential to come together into a coherent entity, kind of like Dictyostelium?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 2:51 PM
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DISAGGREGATE! DISINTEGRATE! DISINTERMEDIATE!


Posted by: Opinionated Dalek Mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 3:16 PM
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I have shown you all I know, where to look.

I'm sorry, but if I watch more than 5 Chobits episodes a day my brain will explode.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 3:23 PM
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So sorry to hear about DogBreath, hope it turns out all right.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 3:49 PM
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I am concerned re Bob's turn to manga, it is disturbingly reminiscent of Steven Den Beste.

It is true that as bob says many left ideas go back toward the glory days of social democracy, a back to the future strategy. I go back and forth on that.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 3:53 PM
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I think it's also probably true that we've lost.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 3:57 PM
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110:Exploding brains is great! You approach wisdom, gracegroper.

"For to organize pessimism means nothing other than to expel moral metaphor from politics and to discover
in political action a sphere reserved one hundred percent for images."

Such lines conspire to open the male otaku perversion to engineering, to disassembly and reassembly. Such lines delineate an otaku park, a reserve of perversion, a technologized stocking of potential labor to be perversely and generically folded into the service of gynoid surfaces. The male otaku, the proto-Lacanian subject, is transformed into a standing reserve, a domesticated viewer for female perversion. This is a perversion of perversion, a serialization of serialization that potentially reopens divergent series.

In an age of modulation in which technical confluence (communications networks) begin to allow capital to enter more profoundly into divergent series of animation, the risk is that the divergence inherent in the force of the moving image, because caught between manga and anime, between the post-action-image and the crisis of the time-image, can become so technologized that thought and feeling remain paralyzed in a series of shocks and crises that go nowhere. The response of Chobits to this postmodern technological condition is as ingeniously and cryptically simple as the most basic intervention into the computer network: not retreat (like Miyazaki), not rebuild (like Anno), but reset.

All I really want for Christmas is a discourse that can use time-image and deterroritorialization in a sentence, rather than a zombie SWP battling a zombie Bismarck or doing a Laura Hamilton and raising the AFL-CIO from the dead.

What, oh what will we do about (student) debt? Who owns that debt? We do (the rich get the juice). What happens after Jubilee? We are all totally dependent on each other. Is that a big change? Not so much. So why can't we do it?

Hard boots are scary.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:03 PM
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107.2: Wait, am I "natpen"? I don't even own (a share in) a food co-op! I guess maybe I have a more jaundiced view of the whole business, given my MPLS origins, and the crazy history of food co-ops here. (It didn't end with the cessation of the Co-op Wars, either.) 'Cause yeah, food co-ops as they exist are pretty fucked up. Might as well just go to Whole Paycheck if you want to pay exorbitant amounts for greenwashed food sold to you by non-union employees.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:06 PM
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"This is a discourse that uses time-image and deterroritorialization in the same sentence," Tom said, Lacanically.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:07 PM
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99: With you, Spike. Do you have an accounting plan that doesn't require Skynet? And have you decided whether everyone born gets a share (nationalist natalist games) or new shares are inherited from existing people (starving babies)?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:15 PM
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113: agreed -- for now. (I've got a plan.)


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:20 PM
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I really like PGD's 94 and think it's under-emphasized.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:26 PM
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Unlimited transit passes from employer are a divine thing. It's funny: public transit wasn't one of the things that drew me to NYC--I had a car and liked driving and just hadn't given much thought to public transit as you don't when you live in places where it's rudimentary-- but nine years later it's hard to imagine living without it. I guess especially since gas has become horribly expensive in the intervening nine years. (I think I used to occasionally fill up for 90 cents a gallon at the gas station near my house in Austin in 1996, if I could reach my wallet through the onions on my belt.)


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:32 PM
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Sometimes I get dreamier about the idea of people being able to survive with food and a roof over their heads without doing anything than I do about the idea of people being able to live a sort of normal lifestyle on minimum wage. This is my own personal bullshit, of course, having to do with those moments when I fantasize about just dropping out entirely. I delude myself that not working would make up for not getting to do anything fun. The line in Slacker that ruined my life: "I may live badly, but at least I don't have to work to do it." (And then my favorite line: "To all you workers out there, every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death.")


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:36 PM
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Heck, if we continue deregulating education, health, investment, etc., the public bare-bones-reliable services will be more appealing than the private customers-don't-have-yachts pretty soon. Well, ten years ago, actually.

Things that seem necessary but particularly difficult in implementation: universal public safety, food safety, worker safety. (There's a book about the (first?) US steel minimill; committed workers doing dangerous stuff in new ways are probably necessary to innovation, and it was probably glorious to do, but also there were some horrifying deaths. I don't know at what point those risks were freely chosen.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:41 PM
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121: Those are some of the best lines in the film. Although "...and where was I? Way the Hell out on South Congress somewhere, because my fucking wife had an appointment" is quite amusing too.

Allegedly, a friend of mine, who was living in LA, was walking down the street in Hollywood with an acquaintance, when they saw Charles Gunning (Hitchhiker awaiting "True Call") driving, and he yelled "Hey, I'm that guy from Slacker" at them, just as you would expect him to.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:43 PM
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Why are we not more excited by the prospect of choosing at least some legislators by lot? With some simple institutional design changes, replacing say the Senate with a rotating cast of 1000 randomly selected Americans could do a lot of good. Contra 1, the problem isn't that we need more ethical legislators so much as we need (some) legislators who more accurately reflect the policy preferences of the majority, and aren't (as) subject to capture.

Embracing chance strikes at the heart of Hayes' Iron Law of Oligarchy - we should be selecting representatives randomly whenever the objective is deciding on values and objectives, instead of simply technocratic execution. Citizen-legislators' go-to solution for deciding tough questions should be to empanel a randomly-selected jury to deliberate it.

I'd push that as hard as we can go into the private sector too - give preferential tax treatment, for example, to a new kind of corporation that specifies that the Board of Directors are randomly selected to rotating terms from among the employees. Generously subsidize institutions of higher learning that agree to choose a pool of 2x the size (10x?) of the incoming class, and randomly assign admission to that pool. Set up new such institutions if need be. Preferably set up one such institution with the explicit goal of being "better than Harvard" and spare no expense. You want to flood other elite institutions with a new crop of young people who know from day one they're there because they're lucky.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:52 PM
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121: I really am with you on that. Partially because I don't think enough people really want to for long that it would be unworkable. And partially because it does sound personally appealing -- beans for dinner every night, a library card, and what else could I possibly need? But largely because I think it's the only way to keep life stable for unfortunate people and to give negotiating power to workers: if a job had to make your life better than living indoors on a tolerable subsistence stipend, there'd be a lot fewer horrible jobs out there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:56 PM
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Plus, you know, a wealth tax to fund universal goodstuff.

But just you try and sneak a bill repealing the wealth tax through the People's Senate!


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 4:58 PM
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Why are we not more excited by the prospect of choosing at least some legislators by lot?

Have you met people?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:03 PM
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124 --- because it's fundamentally contrary to representative democracy and responsible government and in practice leads to California-esque disaster? I mean, the major welfare state gains were made by disciplined machine politicians organising mass popular support for a reason.

Also the reason I dislike predistributionism is probs mostly 'cause it's a kinda right wing move in internal UK Labour politics, so yeah, application to other contexts is possible a bit so-so.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:03 PM
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123: I had some funny two-degrees connections with the film. I got to Austin in 1991 and it was a lot like that, but also Conspiracy A-Go-Go Author is the son of family friends and Old Man Recording Thoughts (another favorite line for no reason, "My life, my loves. Where are they now?") was a professor in my dad's PhD department. Mostly, though, in 1991 you would just occasionally have this realization that Austin was at times fairly like the film. What a day, what a day.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:07 PM
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I'd argue that part of the problem is that representative democracy as currently practiced is fundamentally contrary to long-term egalitarianism. We need more participatory democracy and deliberative democracy instead.

California-style direct democracy is terrible because most voters are rationally ignorant of policy details. Representative democracy > direct democracy, at least as commonly practiced in the US. We have representatives for just such a reason.

But the proposal isn't to have every bill in Congress go out to a national plebiscite, it's to have a body in Congress that specializes in learning about bills, but the composition of which is randomly chosen. Now some percentage of them will be knaves, fools, or both, and they'd likely be terrible at drafting legislation. But that's what I mean by with some simple institutional design. Here's a first stab:

Take the current Senate (which is terrible, so we should scrap it anyway, and which leaves the House for handling geography-specific issues and building up the kind of machine-politics farm teams that I agree may actually be pretty good for egalitarian politcs). Increase it's size ten-fold just to give you a bit more of a buffer form the Law of Large Numbers. Reduce its power to (1) taking up-or-down votes on legislation passed in the House (2) conducting hearings and investigations, and (3) delegating those powers to randomly-selected empaneled citizens. Keep the six-year-term, one-third-turnover-per-year structure, so that you have some ballast of institutional knowledge in the body itself, so you don't get the kind of complete interest-group capture that really short term limits have created in California. Pay your Senators some multiple of the median income, plus a generous pension, and conduct routine randomized sting operations to discourage outright vote-buying. Create a sense of duty about holding the office (maybe make it outright compulsory like jury duty) so that people above the Senate income feel obligated to participate if selected.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:18 PM
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127: People are awful. The question is how they compare to the mean congressman.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:24 PM
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The question is how they compare to the mean congressman.

I guess I don't know who actually writes legislation. Is the text from people who work as assistants to the congresspeople? I would worry you could fill up congress with people who might be objectively less evil but who couldn't even construct a logical paragraph or write down a law in words that make sense.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:45 PM
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I look at the House reps I've had -- Jim Wright, Ron Dellums, Pat Williams, Van Hollen -- and the random idea doesn't look that attractive. Connie Morella was probably better than a random person, and I voted against her every time.

I've had some duds like Ron Marlene and Denny Rehberg, but both were about what you'd expect from a random draw.

So, no thanks.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:45 PM
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129: That's when I got to Austin, too; and for a couple years I had an office down the hall from Old Anarchist, who was really something else. What a day, indeed. Then they paved Les Amis to put up a fucking Starbucks...


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:49 PM
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70

Even more powerful would be enshrining the right to minority unionism -- any group of workers must be recognized to bargain collectively. Basically anyone who wants to be in a union should be allowed to.

I was under the impression that this is already the case. IBM for example has a non exclusive union .


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:54 PM
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The line in Slacker that ruined my life:

Have I recommended A Nous la Liberte? I saw it in a film class at college and I probably would never have watched it if it hadn't been assigned, but it was one of the treats of the class. Funny, with a very sweet ending -- which, as my professor pointed out, doesn't involve the characters ending up in romantic partnerships. It ends with the two male friends being able to live in idleness (based on the vast productive capacity of the automated factory).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 5:58 PM
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Yeah, I'd want to see random lot tried out on a smaller scale before I was subject to it.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:02 PM
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There's a species of rightwing nut job that believes that the county, and especially the sheriff, is the one true place authority should reside. Maybe that where it should be tried.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:10 PM
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We could keep the current House as-is - there's no need to go all or nothing on election-by-lot. And like I say, we could pare the random electors' powers down to voting up-or-down if we were really concenred about drafting.

And there's nothing to say you couldn't get a good ecosystem to support a Random Congress. We'd probably want a beefed-up Congressional Research service, and a lot more activity by various groups drafting model legislation.

I'm all for small trials in the mean time, and as for other precedents would point out that ancient Athenian democracy leaned heavily on election by lot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:12 PM
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if a job had to make your life better than living indoors on a tolerable subsistence stipend, there'd be a lot fewer horrible jobs out there

Yes, this. I first understood this at the AFLCIO teach-in at Columbia in 1995 when David Montgomery, rest his soul, shouted it from the stage w/r/t welfare reform. He also said something about Gila monsters that I quote from time to time.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:13 PM
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If the random draw is anything like a jury, at least 25% will be insane, 25% asleep, 25% inane, and 25% confused. And a lawyer will be chosen to lead them. They still might come out with generally correct answers, though, if they're presented with narrow yes/no questions (but by whom?)

All in all, it sounds like an even better way for ExxonMobil to run the country.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:15 PM
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135: I assume that the phrase "While our ultimate goal is collective bargaining rights with IBM" suggests that they do not in fact have such rights at present.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:15 PM
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My intuition is that there's a bigger chance of outright corruption at the local government level, but you really do want eleciton by lot happening at every level of government, so that making decisions as part of a deliberative body becomes part of the civic culture (again?).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:16 PM
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They still might come out with generally correct answers, though, if they're presented with narrow yes/no questions (but by whom?)

The House?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:17 PM
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143, 144 by me, obviously


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:18 PM
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132: I guess I don't know who actually writes legislation. Is the text from people who work as assistants to the congresspeople?

I've gotten the impression it's think tanks who write actual legislation, then pass it along as a draft to congressional staffpeople -- but the definition of a think tank is broad: sometimes it means ALEC, which is for all practical purposes a lobbying organization. (Though ALEC operates at a state level.)

PGD? Who writes the actual legislation?

Appointing legislators by lot is, to borrow a phrase from the Brits, daft. Don't we want to go in the opposition direction, toward legislators who are actually qualified to make judgments about public policy?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:22 PM
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142

135: I assume that the phrase "While our ultimate goal is collective bargaining rights with IBM" suggests that they do not in fact have such rights at present.

I am not an expert but I believe they have non exclusive rights (they can bargain for their membership) which they aren't exercising but want exclusive rights (the right to bargain on behalf of the entire workforce).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:26 PM
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I made it almost to the end of the day. Now I'm a little early for my evening school thing, because I gave myself a little extra time in case the baby-sitter was late. One last presentation type thing and then I'm free and then Jammies gets home tomorrow night. Whee!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:27 PM
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There was an article a while back -- it must have been in either Harper's or the NYRB -- explaining that representatives simply don't have the wherewithal to research and understand the legislation (hence, the public policy proposals) before them, so they just must rely on lobbying organizations and think tanks to tell them what's going on.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:28 PM
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Don't we want to go in the opposition direction, toward legislators who are actually qualified to make judgments about public policy?

Qualified for judgement (ends) and qualified to make policy (means) aren't always going to be found in the same person, though I doubt the tasks are cleanly divided.

I've been thinking about essentialism and proportional representation. Plenty of people think women and men are essentially different (the ESWN is talking about knock-on career effects from what look like woman-friendly daycare policies*). I generally assume otherwise, but fine, I could be wrong. However, I don't believe people who claim this claim it in good faith unless they support proportional representation of both genders in government. If we're really different, I really can't trust men to *know* what would do me good, even if I could elect virtuous ones who would try to do it. (Which, hah.)

And this should extend to any other essential difference; exercises for the reader.

*For a while I assumed `raven mother' was compliment. Apparently not.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:30 PM
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Oh, sorry. "opposition" in 146 s/b "opposite", of course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:30 PM
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representatives simply don't have the wherewithal

As in, no human could, or as in, they're distracted by fundraising?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:31 PM
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ancient Athenian democracy
Not exactly encouraging, and I'm no expert but it's my impression that public policy was simpler then.
Don't we want to go in the opposition direction, toward legislators who are actually qualified to make judgments about public policy?
Any idea how to do this?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:32 PM
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149: Also, based on any number of public utterances and documents, they don't have much of that non-existent "g" we don't discuss here.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:37 PM
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153

Legislators who didn't have any campaigning to do would presumably have time to study up, hear testimony from experts from various sides, etc.

You could also empower them to delegate their authority over specific questions to smaller randomly-chosen study groups emapneled for just that purpose. There are people that do academic work on how to do this well, right?


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:41 PM
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147: interesting, I will have to learn more.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:52 PM
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Again, there's no reason to limit ourselves to millenia old technology. The most successful modern paradigms for building complex systems collaboratively are wikis and open source software. With only a little imagination these could be adapted to build a system of laws.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 6:55 PM
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Much as I love wikis and FOSS, their successes have come where exit is easy. Why should that extend to, say, water right policy?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:01 PM
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152: As in, no human could, or as in, they're distracted by fundraising?

The latter. My understanding from the piece I read -- and I really wish I could remember where I read it -- is that they're fundamentally short-staffed, and what with the fundraising, there is simply not time (and in our day of blowhard representatives, possibly not the mental capacity) to get a grip on the actual technicalities of the issues. By which I mean: will this legislation/policy accomplish the end(s) desired.

So they necessarily and over time have come to farm it out to lobbying groups and think tanks.

As Lambent Cactus says, congressional working groups might be helpful -- though there are already all kinds of committees. I don't know enough.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:02 PM
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153: Any idea how to do this?

I've been avoiding this, because it's so awkward, but since I'm on a roll here: in my wilder dreams, I've considered whether there should be a basic competency exam. Call it a civics exam.

We have this notion that representative democracy can or should be representation by the rabble (forgive me for that term), but in fact the ratification of laws has pretty serious ramifications, yo. It's a job. It's work. You shouldn't get to do it if you have no idea what you're doing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:26 PM
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Call it a poll tax!


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:37 PM
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Call it a literacy test!


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:37 PM
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Call it the rule by philosopher kings!


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:40 PM
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What's weird is that I posted those back to back to back, and yet the time stamp says otherwise.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:41 PM
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Were you traveling at near the speed of light?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:46 PM
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Call it Wildfire!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:47 PM
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163: Believe me, that's why I was avoiding saying anything, at least for an hour or so.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:48 PM
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Were you traveling at near the speed of light?

Always. Something something Kessel Run something.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:48 PM
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Man, if this thread can get to 1000 I bet we'll have government all figured out.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:49 PM
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167: an hour at the speed of light is millions and millions of lifetimes. But it's not even the blink of an eye in geological time.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:50 PM
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Geology is more Stormcrow's thing than parsi's.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:52 PM
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169: so talk about the speed of light, physics boy.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:52 PM
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The real question isn't "why is light so fast?", it's "why are we so slow?", and the answer's too complicated for me to understand, though it has something to do with how the formation of stars requires things to get really, really cold.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:56 PM
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171: I've been actually working and shit the last few days so I have no idea what you're talking about but I'm sure it's quite clever.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:57 PM
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Because stars are so fucking cold that you need to stay 8 light minutes away.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:57 PM
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So what's the speed of dark?


Posted by: Stephen Wright | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 7:59 PM
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175: No, see, the gas had to get really cold in order for enough of it to fall into a small enough region to make a star without a bunch of it zipping back out the other side first. More or less.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:00 PM
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We have this notion that representative democracy can or should be representation by the rabble

It is not the Clamour of a Rabble, my Lord Lady, but the Voice of Liberty, which must and shall be heard.


Posted by: OPINIONATED JOHN WILKES | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:01 PM
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Once the star formed, it got hot. You gotta get cold to get hot.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:01 PM
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You gotta get cold to get hot.

The real question isn't "why is light so fast?", it's "why are we so slow?

Essear's on an aphorism streak!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:03 PM
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174: Just that you are interested in geology.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:03 PM
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I'm trying to learn astrophysics at the same time as I'm trying to write my first paper about it. This would be fun if not for my older collaborator who keeps demanding that the paper be finished now and insulting all the rest of us and sending 10 snide emails in the course of a 15 minute interval. It's so charming working with a brilliant older person.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:03 PM
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Stars are like Baked Alaska.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:04 PM
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181: But I saw no Geology.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:04 PM
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This would be fun if not for my older collaborator who keeps demanding that the paper be finished now and insulting all the rest of us and sending 10 snide emails in the course of a 15 minute interval.

Cute.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:06 PM
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174,181, 184: I'm just venting random aggressiveness because of work and stuff. In the middle of trying to convince folks to spend several million dollars on a tight deadline. Lawyers deploying vast webs of deceitful speculative words to hinder me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:08 PM
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Lawyers deploying vast webs of deceitful speculative words to hinder me

This reads like haiku.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:11 PM
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Geology is just unusually detailed physics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:12 PM
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182: You could decoy him to an eclectic web magazine.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:12 PM
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Difficult though it is to believe, geology involves even more beer.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:13 PM
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189: Your comment contains an assumption that may not be true.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:16 PM
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191: I'm assuming that s/he doesn't already comment on all the eclectic web magazines. If that isn't true, I can't think of anything to do but tremble, bow, and type faster.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:18 PM
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(And slap me for using `him' in the first place!)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:19 PM
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191 to 193.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:27 PM
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And you did such a nice job of casting the sentence, too.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:32 PM
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||

My day is OVER!

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:34 PM
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||
Time for more posts! Have we objurgated MOOCs yet?
|>


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:38 PM
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It depends! On what "objurgate" means.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:41 PM
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I'd rather figure out how stars get cold before they get hot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:42 PM
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Are you talking about Jodie Foster again?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:43 PM
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Objurgate is what people had to say before WMYBSALB.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:44 PM
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I had to read the FA to get that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:50 PM
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I googled it, but all the first hits were to the archives. That's a pretty great accomplishment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:52 PM
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Geology is just unusually detailed physics.

No, it's history without the people (as it was once described to me by a geologist).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 8:59 PM
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Oh, this one is easy. Every college shall admit 3/4 of its class from families below the median family income and wealth in the country.
Colleges shall be measured (and their grants, and the salaries of their professors shall be prorated) based upon the graduation rates and medium-term earnings of the graduates from those lower-income cohorts.

Too bad about poor Richie Rich. Honestly, I don't have any sympathy for him. If he drinks and snorts away his poppa's money, maybe his -son- can get into Harvard.


Posted by: Chet Murthy | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:01 PM
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The carpet crawlers heed their callers
You gotta get hot to get cold


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:02 PM
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I even posted in it. I'm going to pretend I wanted more objurgation and hadn't forgotten completely.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:11 PM
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173: You know who else is slow? TURTLES.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:23 PM
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I like where Chet's head is at


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:50 PM
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Our state lege, which is in session now, has a service that drafts bills for members. Then the member reviews the draft, makes edits, then it gets submitted. Or not.

The members are pretty much ordinary folks who can arrange to take 3 months off every other year.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 9:59 PM
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I like where Chet's head is at

Yeah! Down with those damned professors with their grant money and their salaries! That's what's wrong with our society today. Inequality? All the fault of academics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:01 PM
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I mean, I might have a little bit of bias or something, but really?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:01 PM
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Our legislative session just started this week, which means it's going to be pretty busy for us at work for a while. I don't know who writes the bills.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:02 PM
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Chet's proposal is obviously based on the assumption that the primary purpose of universities is to educate young people and/or endow them with social capital.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:05 PM
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Chet's proposal puts a different filter on entry to the degree-meritocracy, but that can be pretty icky. Are the new students more likely than now to work for their original groups, or adhere to their new status? Given that the school incentives are to get them into low-risk high-return jobs, which is most efficiently done by working for the existing power structure? The only way this makes it less awful and irreversible to be poor is that one's children are less doomed by it.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:07 PM
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Is essear still around? Because I need to know, True Blood? Yea or nay?


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:11 PM
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211

Yeah! Down with those damned professors with their grant money and their salaries! That's what's wrong with our society today. Inequality? All the fault of academics

I think Chet's proposal is nuts but academia in general is very elitist and hardly a model of equalitarianism.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:11 PM
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I watched a season of True Blood but had to stop because I'm grossed out too easily.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:18 PM
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I may be an elitist, but not in a way rich people can understand.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:19 PM
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I'm finding the first episode hard to take. Too much Louisiana color.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:20 PM
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The first few episodes of 90210 weren't very good either, though, so maybe I should let it build.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:21 PM
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216: I made it through slightly more than one season but never really got into it.

(Previous comments on the subject: here, here, here.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:25 PM
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For example, I'm the kind of elitist who thinks "equalitarianism" should be "egalitarianism".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:26 PM
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I'm finally getting around to watching Luther but so far I'm not convinced it's significantly more interesting than all the American police procedurals I don't watch.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:33 PM
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224

For example, I'm the kind of elitist who thinks "equalitarianism" should be "egalitarianism".

Just the sort of snotty comment I would expect from a Harvard professor. I chose the rarer spelling because I am not French.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:36 PM
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||

I really don't want to turn this into a gun thread (which is why I'm using pause-play even though we're well into the late-night off-topic part of the thread), but I thought this Josh Marshall post eloquently captures my feelings on the whole gun issue, even using the same terminology I had come up with independently ("gun"/"non-gun" rather than "pro"/"anti"). I agree totally with the idea that there are these two groups with totally different assumptions about guns, which is what makes the politics of national gun policy so fraught, and as I said before I also think there's probably no way to bridge that gap, so there's no solution to the political or policy dilemmas.

|>


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:39 PM
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Yeah, let's expunge all the French influence from the English language. That'll be fun.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:39 PM
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222: thanks.

226: agreed. It was a really thoughtful and seemingly very honest post. It made me wish that Josh spent more of his time writing and less of it magnating.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:51 PM
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Also, I don't think I can watch this show. It's gratuitous in a way that I don't enjoy.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:52 PM
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226: I'm with him except that I'm also not really comfortable with cops carrying guns.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:52 PM
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227 is set out in a way that puts scorn close at hand, but soothly Uncleftish Beholding is a mighty work.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:53 PM
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Well, magnating is where the money is. But yeah, I do sometimes wish more of the posts on TPM these days were by him.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:53 PM
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231: Indeed.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:54 PM
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I certainly hope Josh Marshall is pondering neither child enslavement nor other projects still more mean.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:54 PM
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232: the follow-up is good too.


Posted by: von wafer | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 10:58 PM
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235: Agreed.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:01 PM
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Thanks, teo and vw, for posting those links. The "gun"/"non-gun" terminology really captures something about the divide.

The gap seems unbridgeable to me when I hear/read the arguments for putting armed guards in the schools. And for arming the teachers, even. I honestly cannot understand how any parent could think, "My child will be safer in a heavily weaponized learning environment where all of the teachers are ready to lock and load."


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:25 PM
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There are some very large bangs occurring in my neighborhood -- I don't *think* they're sharp enough to be gunshots, and it's urban (and late) for stump-blasting. No audible shouts. ??


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-17-13 11:32 PM
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Enormous bangs with rolling after-echos.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:06 AM
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Fireworks?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:06 AM
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Maybe fireworks. They seem to have moved from NE to NW of me while I've been posting. Giant metal thing being run into accidentally by pickups? ...no brake squeals, probably not.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:15 AM
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I'd argue that part of the problem is that representative democracy as currently practiced is fundamentally contrary to long-term egalitarianism. We need more participatory democracy and deliberative democracy instead.

Why would participatory democracy / deliberative democracy be more likely to lead to egalitarian outcomes?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:26 AM
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Not a railyard, right?


Posted by: CC | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:47 AM
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Wrong direction for the yard or even the tracks. And there's been another couple of bangs, and no sirens. So probably not guns. Some kind of lighthearted exothermic idiocy seems likely.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:58 AM
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242 -If you're electing representatives, elites can use their capital (broadly defined) to make it more likely that they get elected, or that representatives that share their policy preferences get elected. So we see things like Larry Bartels's finding that American senators are entirely unresonsive to the policy views of the bottom third of the income distribution (http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/economic.pdf - pdf). Over time, the policy preferences of elites will converge on policies that entrench their elite status.

Selecting legislators randomly means that your legislators come in with policy preferences that should more or less mirror those of the general population.

Now, that could get you less egalitarian outcomes if either the random legislators want on average less egalitarian policies than current elected legislators do (I would be astounded) or the policies they favor tend not to produce egalitarian outcomes in practice (more plausible, but I have to think that at equilibrium there are some sufficiently blunt instruments they could use).

Now beyond that, I believe without being able to prove a bunch of hand-wavy stuff about small enough groups of people who aren't doing this professional becoming able to synthesize conflicting evidence and come to better understand each others' perspectives, so that the results of deliberations between random legislators could be yet more egalitarian than the preferences of the underlying population. That's not necessary for the case, though.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 2:00 AM
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I like the way this cactus talks!


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 2:13 AM
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I really don't think the history of ancient Athenian democracy is any kind of advertisement for election by lot. They tried it twice, and neither time did it survive a hundred years. It's a depressing catalogue of gratuitous imperialism, occasional genocide and losing wars of choice. Oh, and disenfranchising immigrants. I pass over the slavery and the legal incompetence of women only because they were the rule rather than the exception at the time. Truly our civilisation owes everything to the Greeks.

If you want an element of fairness and randomness in US federal lawmaking, I suggest:

1. Equalise the size of House districts where possible (you'd probably need to make exceptions for Alaska and Hawaii). Ignore state boundaries for this purpose, but retain the same number of districts.
2. Let each district return three representatives elected by single transferable vote. (This would make the House very large, but the US is a very large country. In practice it would reduce the ratio of representatives to the general population from one in 3/4 million to one in 1/4 million, which is still very high.)
3. Abolish the Senate, but...
4. For every law passed by the House, empanel a separate jury of say, 24 citizens chosen at random to consider it and propose amendments, but not stop it outright. Each such amendment would be returned to the House for further consideration, and a 2/3 majority would be required to overturn them. This would have the effect of involving a fairly large number of people in the legislative process, but only for a short time, which is fairer.
5. The President and VP to be chosen by participating in a foot/wheelchair race along Pennsylvania Avenue. Candidates with mobility issues to be given a head start determined by the Supreme Court.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 3:43 AM
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re: 247.5

In the event of a split vote in the Supreme Court the final decider to be a battle with broadswords, in a pit?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 3:59 AM
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248. Sounds good to me. Also in case of bad weather conditions on election day, the candidates all go indoors and play 15 to 1.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 4:10 AM
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Hah!

'The government's plans to invade Iran have taken a set back after the house majority leader lost three games of Snakes and Ladders in a row, triggering the 'Trivia Game Cliff''.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 4:19 AM
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"A despotism, tempered by frequent games of 'Mousetrap'."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 4:22 AM
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100 years after October, what, we are bringing back the Gotha Programme?

As opposed to the unequivocal triumph that was t'other half of the international?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 5:17 AM
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The lemurs at Tropiquaria Zoo in Watchet, Somerset, have found a cheeky way to stay warm - by reaching into a heater cage and turning up the thermostat themselves. Zoo director Chris Moiser said: "The normal lemur behaviour in the cold is to huddle, but these do that and then take it in turns to have a heater huddle too." - BBC live feed
How intelligent is this behaviour? I for one welcome our new strepsirrhine overlords.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 7:06 AM
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Despite being nearby for several years, I never went here. I assume they know what the lemurs are up to but are too afraid for their lives to talk.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 7:12 AM
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I enjoyed the first six or seven (?) books in the series that True Blood is based on (alternately called the Southern Vampire or Sookie Stackhouse series), but couldn't get into the show.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:05 PM
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I guess I don't know who actually writes legislation. Is the text from people who work as assistants to the congresspeople?

Classically, legislative assistants to congress people or to a committee submit their ideas to these guys who do the actual drafting. But there is no requirement that the professional leg counsel be involved, you could jot down your law on the back of a napkin and submit it that way so long as it was signed off on by a legislator. And last-minute amendments sometimes are written in the margins. Some weird marginalia sometimes get into law that way.

In practice, writing laws is done cooperatively between Congressional staff, outside lobbyists and experts, people from administrative agencies, and the legislators who have final sign off authority, with technical assistance from drafters. A 100 word amendment might bounce back and forth for weeks between the responsible staffer in the sponsoring office, the outside groups that you want to endorse your amendment (or at least not oppose it), the staff of the Congressional committee of jurisdiction (whose support you often need), the executive branch political people responsible for determining if the President will make a veto threat, the executive branch career staff responsible for implementing it, the staff of other key legislators that you want to cosponsor or support it, and your own legislator who needs to sign off on all the various modifications people might want.

This process is similar but slightly different for a 'big bill' coming out of a committee. (Classic example being a major appropriations bill or a big tax bill, but could also be talking about a major piece of legislation like health or financial reform). These bills are huge and are generally drafted behind closed doors by the relevant committees. The tax and appropriations committees are almost like a 'Congress within the congress' because of the power they have. The staff and key members for those committees hash out these giant bills with lobbyists, the key executive branch / Administration people, and perhaps a few Congressional leaders, and then reveal the immense bill to the public and other legislators somewhat before the vote. Other legislators have limited chance to influence these bills once the 'train has left the station' and the bill is rolling; often the bill needs to pass, you cannot submit amendments without leadership approval in the House, and there is an effective 60-vote threshold for amendment in the Senate. Someone like a Max Baucus, central in writing tax bills, has a great deal more power than a freshman Senator, and infinitely more power than a freshman House member. (A freshman House member may as well be just another blog commenter for the real power they have).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:08 PM
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I don't think legislators are stupid for what it's worth. They are good at getting elected, which is not at all simple, although it calls on different kinds of smarts than governing. I think the seeming stupidity of the process comes from politics (competing material and ideological interests creating gridlock/compromise) and not from the stupidity of the people in it. Although I do think that most Democrats lack the courage of their / any real convictions and many Republicans are bought into an ideology that makes effective governance impossible. That too is about politics not IQ points though.

But you also have to realize the sheer complexity of the government we've built. There are 200,000 pages in the US Code, about 70-80,000 pages of new regulations published in the Federal Register published each year, and about $3.8 trillion in Federal spending a year right now. Divide it up equally between 100 Senators and that is thousands of pages of law and new regulation to consider (let alone existing regulation), plus $30-40 billion in annual spending per Senator. Plus fundraising and getting reelected. I realize that's a highly artificial way to think about it but it gives a sense.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 12:20 PM
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Apparently disciplined candidates spend 10+ hours a week just on "call time," personally calling past/potential donors; and then there's events and so on.

Can't come up with good sources for comprehensive "where does the time go?" studies on US congresspeople, but I know they're out there.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 5:35 PM
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You'd think they could find a staffer who has a similar voice and be done with it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-18-13 5:48 PM
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