Category: Birthdays
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Marcel DuchampOn this day in 1887, the great French artist Marcel Duchamp was born. He is hard to talk about though. Because I use the term "artist" in its widest possible sense. He worked in most mediums, but he was also a writer and eventually a chess player. In his early 30s, after a very successful artistic career, he decided he wanted to play chess. He went on to be a Master level player—for those of you who do not know, that means he was better than you can possibly imagine. But he is better know for his writing about chess theory.

Duchamp was born into a rich family. This allowed four of his parents six surviving children to go on to be successful artists. The family was very much into culture, so it isn't surprising. It does make me wonder about what I see as the modern American rich who seem only to be interested in creating a new kind of aristocracy. The Koch brothers looked at their lucky fate and said, "I want to just make more money and influence politics so that even more comes to me." The Duchamp children used their lucky fate to do something interesting. And all the Duchamp children did compelling work. What will the Koch children leave us? Oh, that's right: a potentially catastrophically changed climate. I guess I'm forced to admit that the Koch's legacy will be more profound than that of the Duchamps, even if it is a tragic legacy.

When I was a kid, I was never that much into modern art. The painting that really turned me onto it was Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. I love the use of line, the movement (not surprisingly from the early days of film), and the limited palette. It works as well for me today as it did 35 years ago:

Nude Descending a Staircase - Duchamp

Most of his other work is more conceptual in nature and not as interesting to me. Part of the problem is that once he started playing chess, he didn't pursue art all that much. Still, he was still very much part of the art world. There is a great quote from him, however, "I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art—and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position." I understand the feeling, although as a sport it has managed to be commercialized. But it certainly indicates that his love of art was pure and he didn't like the way it became commodity.

There is an interesting story about his personal life. He married Lydie Sarazin-Lavassor, but couldn't stand the confinement of marriage, so they divorced six months later. But Duchamp and Sarazin-Lavassor continued their relationship for the next two decades until she died. That's right out of Scenes from a Marriage. And very sweet.

Happy birthday Marcel Duchamp!

Category: Politics
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Climate Change Is a HoaxI should know better than to ever even look at a post on Google+ about global warming. The reason is that I always look at the comments and it makes me very angry. I don't especially care what people think, but from top to bottom, the denial community is rotten. You have the lowest of the low: people who just know that global warming is a crock because Fox News told them Al Gore made a lot of money off it. There is nothing to be said to these people; their belief is a kind of religious faith. But I find the more polished of the denialists most exhausting. I ran into one today.

He made a point I make quite often here: most people who accept global warming are just as faith based as those who deny it. Absolutely true. I've long since gotten over being shocked at just how ignorant many liberals are on the subject. But there is a big difference between deciding that you are just going to accept what the experts say and deciding you are in any position to just dismiss what the experts say.

I don't know how many times conservatives have given me the Al Gore canard. They somehow think that only Al Gore and a couple of other popular figures have anything to gain by discussing global warming. The fact that fossil fuel companies have billions of dollars per year at stake isn't ever mentioned. And when this fact is pointed out, they dismiss it because we all know that corporations would never lie to us. Except, of course, we don't know that because it isn't true.

We actually have recent experience with this. For decades, the cigarette companies trotted out their cherry picked studies to tell the world that smoking did not cause cancer. There is nothing different here. Corporations have no interest whatsoever in the safety of humanity generally. It is all about next quarter's profits and the bonuses that the top executives will get. But does this sway the denialists? Of course not! Because they know it is a conspiracy because they've heard of Climategate and don't know the first thing about the difficulties of getting temperature records from tree rings.

What really bugs me about all of this is that in their regular lives, all of these deniers do what liberals do when it comes to global warm. They don't know how the plumbing in their houses work, so when there is a real problem, they call an expert: a plumber. When they crash their cars, they take them to an auto body shop. But when it comes to global warming, they listen to the oil companies who have an overwhelming conflict of interest.

So liberals look to people like me, who actually do understand the science. And I actually have some credibility here because two decades ago when I was working in the field, I was highly skeptical. But the data got better. The models got better. And the climate got worse. All of this made me change my thinking. But the conservative movement in this country has taken the opposite course: as the science has gotten more certain, they have become more certain that there is nothing at all to worry about. And unlike with smoking, their denial is going to hurt all of us.

See Also

More Republican Delay on Global Warming
Charles Krauthammer Doesn't Know Science
Why Conservatives Ignore Global Warming
The Global Cooling Myth
If Global Warming's Real Why Is It Cold?
It's Raining, But Not for Long
Global Warming and Budget Analogy
Pretend Scientist Fred Singer
A Really Big Problem
And many more...

Dallas Buyers ClubI finally got around to watching Dallas Buyers Club. I really didn't want to watch it, but a lot of people told me I should. It turned out to be exactly what I thought it would be—exactly the kind of film that I don't need to see. More important: it is exactly the kind of film that the Academy loves. And it is a well made film. It works surprisingly well as an episodic story. And I suppose we are supposed to think that Matthew McConaughey's performance is amazingly subtle as he goes from being a homophobic jerk to someone who embraces the gay community. But I think that's something that is more read into the film than is found on the screen.

To me, the main character, Ron Woodroof, is a selfish jerk throughout the film. But selfish jerks often do a lot of good, as Woodroof does. He has two primary concerns: keeping himself alive and making money. And it is not until the film is almost entirely over that he seems to care about anyone except in the sense that they help him in that regard. And it is only when he is too ill to care about the financial aspect of the venture, that we see what might be considered altruism. I don't see anything wrong with this. As played by McConaughey, he has the feel of the lovable rogue. How can you not love a man who smuggles a trunk load of drugs over the US-Mexico border dressed as a priest? Moist von Lipwig was never more adorable. (Or is that "Adora Belle"?)

The film does a good job of showing what it was like for people early on during the AIDS epidemic. And it is a hell of a lot of fun watching Woodroof lash out at the haters, even as he still is one himself. At one point, he comes home to his trailer to find graffiti written on it, "Faggot Blood." The door has had a padlock placed on it and there is what looks like an official notice on the door. So he yells, "I still live here, you hear me?!" Then he gets a shotgun from the trunk of his car, and blows the lock off the door so he can get his stuff. There is another scene where he forces a former friend to shake hands with his new transvestite friend and business partner Rayon.

In end though, I'm not really sure what the film is supposed to be all about. It seems like it wants to be an issue film about the drug companies and the corrupt system of FDA approval. And it makes a point about drug trials that even under the best of circumstances, those running them expect half of the ill to die. But overall, this seems tacked on and acts more as a distraction. To me, it is a given that drug companies are always evil. The issue at the time really was whether the government was going to get over itself and allow people who were dying to do whatever they wanted that they thought might help them.

But in the end, the film works pretty well. And Hollywood can pat itself on the back that 35 years after the AIDS epidemic, a couple of unknown screenwriters and a Canadian director managed to get a low budget film made about it that the people liked enough, so that the Academy could nominate it for a bunch of awards. It helps, of course, that Ron Woodroof was presented as straight, even though he probably was bisexual. But this also means that it falls into the same troubling category of a film I like very much, Mississippi Burning, where the white folks come in and save the blacks. Here the straight man saves the queers.

Dallas Buyers Club is still an engaging film. It's sad, at the same time that it is exhilarating the same way that Dirty Harry was. It's stylishly shot, at the same time it is lit in a highly realistic style. And I think the editing is particularly good. In a film like this, pacing is everything. Given that the thematic thread of the film is very weak, the whole thing could have disintegrated due to its inherent chaos. Regardless, the film sticks the ending with a public defeat but a private triumph. And then it tacks on a short fantasy of Woodroof riding a bull in the rodeo. It's pretentious, but the metaphor works on so many levels that I can't imagine anyone not using it. And it allows our last view of him to be when he was healthy, which otherwise might have been a downer of an ending.

As I'm always on about, the issue is whether a piece of art works on its own terms. And Dallas Buyers Club certainly does that. I have no intention of ever watching it again, but I'm glad that I did watch it. And I can see why a lot of people really liked it. It's unfortunate, however, that this is what passes for a serious film in Hollywood. I had the same problem with Crazy Heart a few years back, although Dallas Buyers Club is a far better film. So maybe there's a trend. It is pretty to think so.

Category: Quotes
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Ian Heney LopezIn Namibia, then under South African control and also an apartheid state, the towns were widely spaced in a desert of sere geologic beauty. A farmer who gave me a lift lived some hundred-plus kilometers outside of the next town, but recognizing that there would be little traffic and so virtually no chance that I could secure an onward ride, he drove on past his homestead in the fading sunlight. This generous act added hours of needless driving to an already long day for the farmer. As we got close to town, though, he apologized and explained he would have to drop me off several hundred meters from the outskirts. He had killed a "kaffir"—the local equivalent of "nigger"—for poaching, and the constable had asked him to stay out of town for a few weeks until pressure for his arrest subsided. I was stunned speechless. Then the routines of normal etiquette kicked in and carried me through a ritual of thanks, goodbye, good luck with your travels.

Like most, I have been conditioned to think of racism as hatred, and racists as pathologically disturbed individuals. To be sure, sadistic racists exist, and racism is frequently bound up with the emotional heat of fear and hatred. But as I began to intuit while hitchhiking through the landscape of apartheid, most racists are good people. That bears emphasizing, since it runs so profoundly contrary to the dominant conception. Even the farmer who killed another human being for the petty act of poaching, I came to understand, was not a homicidal lunatic but a complex person capable of both brutal violence and real generosity.

—Ian Haney Lopez
Dog Whistle Politics

27 Jul 2014: Modern Racism

Category: Politics
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Modern RacismI have been reading Ian Haney Lopez's excellent Dog Whistle Politics. You should expect a quote and a review of sorts coming in the next few days. But I want to talk about the issue of racism in a more general sense. The truth is that I'm feeling a bit full of myself reading the book, because what he argues in great depth with an amazing amount of documentation is what I've been writing about here a lot—especially recently. Racism ain't what it used to be, and more to the point, racism has never been what it used to be.

More and more, I'm exasperated at people who freak out when someone makes a racial slur. And sometimes these things are just a question of ignorance and don't necessarily show any racism at all. I especially feel that when someone makes the mistake of talking about the "Jewish lobby" as opposed to the "Israel lobby." Does this mean the speaker is antisemitic? Not this alone, that's for sure. Israel is the only explicitly Jewish nation on the earth. It's an easy mistake to make, but it's come to mean a lot to people when it usually doesn't. To me, the word "Zionism" throws up red flags, unless someone is explicitly talking about the history of Israel; when the word is used in a global sense, it is almost always antisemitic.

Regardless, all this focus on the words people use strikes me a way for public discourse to deny modern racism. The truth is that if some racist uses the n-word commonly in public, he's going to be shunned by most people, and marginalized. That's great. But when we are talking about politics, this kind of person doesn't matter. What does matter is that David Duke can put away his Ku Klux Klan robes, not use any of the forbidden words, and fit easily within the Republican Party. And that brings us to Lee Atwater.

Atwater, of course, was the man who used Willie Horton so effectively for Bush the Elder against Michael Dukakis in 1988. And he is the man who explained how racism changes over time. He said (and I know most of you know the quote):

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now, you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is: blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

That's why a couple of times I've gone ballistic on David Weigel, most notably in, Dave Weigel's Racist Apologetics. The point is that politicians like Paul Ryan say things that are the newest form of racism, and Weigel is there to say, "No!" Because that's what is so great about modern racism: you can always claim that you aren't actually being racist.

But here's the key: this has always been the case. When there were literacy tests, they were given with a nod and wink. The people promoting them would say, "This isn't about race! This is just making sure that only 'educated' people vote." And there were plenty of people who took that argument seriously at the time. But now, it retrospect, everyone sees it for the racist policy that it was. And people make the same kind of case about statements regarding young men in the inner city, but in another 40 years, that too will be seen as clearly racist as if the n-word had been used. And lest you think I'm reaching, what are Voter ID laws if not a new kind of poll tax? And Paul Ryan supports Voter ID laws.

David Weigel is not the problem, however. The problem is everywhere in the media. And this is why the media go crazy when someone uses an explicit racial slur. It doesn't just indicate that there are still good old fashioned racists out there, it damages the pretense that we are post-racial. But it's one big fiction. Racism still exists—it will probably always exist. And if Paul Ryan's budget ever became the law of the land, it would have gotten popular support not because people were saying, "Let's get those darkies off welfare!" It would have gotten popular support because in the minds of even many people who would be harmed by the budget (and not necessarily consciously), it was those minorities who were disproportionately being harmed. "And a byproduct of them is: blacks get hurt worse than white."

That's modern racism and that's what we should be talking about. But instead, we go out of our way to deny it. And history will not look back fondly on us.

27 Jul 2014: Keenan Wynn

Category: Birthdays
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Keenan WynnWhat a pain today is! Last year, I did Norman Lear, who has made it through another year to the age of 92. But I didn't even mention Bobbie Gentry last year. I would definitely write about her today, but two weeks ago, I wrote, What Matters in "Ode to Billie Joe." In it I wrote as much about her as I'm afraid I have in me.

On this day in 1916, Keenan Wynn was born. He was one of my favorite character actors. His father was arguably more famous than he was: Ed Wynn—a vaudeville comedian who then became very popular in radio and films; if you watch old comedies, you know him. The son's full name was Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn—you can see why he shortened it.

Because of his father's fame, Wynn did not live the most exciting of lives. There are no great stories of his rise to fame. He got work. He was good so he continued to get work. I do think it is notable that his first wife left him for Van Johnson. Kind of. It appears their relationship was crumbling, so the studio got her to marry Johnson to put an end to rumors that Johnson was gay. Of course, Johnson was gay, although they did manage a child (but who knows). You see how it is with Keenan Wynn? There was always a lot more around his life than in it.

Wynn started on Broadway where he worked from the mid-1930s through the beginning of the 1940s. Then he worked in films, doing bit parts into the mid-1950s. From that point on, he did mostly television, but still a fair amount of feature film work, most notably Dr Strangelove and a number of those Disney live action films that I loved as a kid but am now afraid to revisit because they were probably terrible. In the end, IMDb has him listing as being in 278 films and television series, and that doesn't include 25 episodes of Troubleshooters, 9 episodes of Dallas, and 22 episodes of Call to Glory.

Happy birthday Keenan Wynn!

Category: Politics
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Rula JebrealYou know my general feelings about MSNBC. It has become too much of a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party. And like the Democratic Party, it lacks backbone and shows no loyalty whatsoever. This was clear when they fired Alec Baldwin, whose show wasn't all that good anyway, but it was certainly better than Lockup that it replaced and was replaced by. Then there was the totally unacceptable firing of Martin Bashir. The network has the same non-offensive air that many people hate about the Democratic Party. It is also the reason that politicians like Ted Kennedy and Alan Grayson stand out.

Well, it would seem that MSNBC does have a backbone after all. It is just the backbone of top management and what they really care about. This was totally on display with the firing of MSNBC commentator Rula Jebreal. Her firing was the result of attacking the network's biased coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. What's shocking is that she said it on Ronan Farrow's show—who would have known anyone actually watches that show? This immediately caused her booked appearances on a number of upcoming shows to be canceled.

Max Blumenthal at AlterNet has all the details, "Witch Hunt": Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate. Jebreal said that she has been complaining in private to the network for the last two years with no change. What she said on the air was not different than what she has been saying privately. Blumenthal continued:

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal's account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors' social media accounts and engaging in a "witch hunt" against anyone who strays from the official line.

When Chris Hayes had her on to discuss the firing, he did not do himself proud. He defended the network and said that of course it was going to protect its "stars." This is in reference to Jebreal specifically mentioning Andrea Mitchell. But as Blumenthal noted, "MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party." Of course, I'm sure that gold ol' Joe speaks for the top management at MSNBC. They have a quasi-liberal network because there is an audience for it; it doesn't make them liberal. And clearly Rula Jebreal got too far outside their comfort zone.

My experience with MSNBC's recent coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict is that at its best, it is even handed. It's usual coverage is highly biased toward Israel. What's especially terrible about this coverage, however, is that it is better than the networks, not to mention Fox News. What is considered balanced coverage in America is that this all started with some extremists kidnapping three Israeli kids and killing them. This eventually led to Hamas firing rocks into Israel, who had to respond and ain't it sad that so many Palestinians are getting killed. So the start of the narrative is arbitrary and picked to favor Israel. And in a horrific irony, the people who killed those kids either did it hoping for financial gain and not as a political act (and thus weren't extremists but just criminals), or did it as a political act hoping it would lead to what is happening right now.

Regardless of any of this, the firing of Jebreal shows a fundamental weakness in MSNBC. She was a commentator, not a reporter or an anchor. She's supposed to have opinions. And she's the only one that was willing to voice this particular opinion. It was a great opportunity to address the issue. But MSNBC, because it is both timid and disloyal, just shut down the conversation. But if you want good coverage on just about anything, but especially the Israel-Palestine conflict, you should be watching Al Jazeera America.

See also: Dehumanizing Iranians and Jews.

26 Jul 2014: Carl Jung

Category: Birthdays
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Carl JungOn this day in 1875, the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was born. When I was kid, I loved Jung. His work was so interesting. Freud seemed so bizarre to me, although there were things I liked about his work. But what I liked most about Jung was that he didn't focus on dysfunction. He provided a description of why people were the way they were without necessarily labeling it as abnormal.

My favorite work, of course, was Psychological Types. Not only does it cover his whole system, but it provides a great deal of background information. He looked at other writers who had classified people into different types, "There are two kinds of people in the world..." What was especially nice about his system was that he didn't classify types as normal and abnormal. That was especially important regarding introversion and extroversion, because introverts had long been labeled as damaged.

Now, of course, with the Myers-Briggs test books on the subject are everywhere. But they've also changed the theory somewhat. I don't mind that, but it is interesting. Jung wasn't some kind of oracle. And Jung thought that women were always (or nearly so) feeling types and mean thinking. That's clearly not the case, although there does seem to be a strong tendency in that direction. I just took the HumanMetrics test and it said I was an INFP, although I am just as likely to come out as an INTP. Not that this necessarily means anything. I know the types are a model of how people are, but I'm not that sure of how fundamental they are. But it does explain to me why many (even most) perfectly nice people see the world so differently than I do.

Jung's greatest work is undoubtedly The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious. But it is overwhelming. Again, I don't necessarily accept it. In particular, I don't acception the notion of a collective unconscious. But we do share archetypes that are ingrained from our evolution. I have no doubt that the other great apes share some of the same ones, and probably also sparrows and frogs. The book itself is very interesting in the the way that Jung uses eclectic knowledge to pull the theory all together. But one must be very careful with Jung, because he was very good at that kind of thing, regardless of the truth. But there is no doubt that there is at least a core truth to it.

When I was young and fearful of death, I took a great deal of comfort in Jung's answer to whether he believed in God, "I know." At this point, I'm not even sure what he meant. He was a mystic. And as a fellow mystic, I could easily answer that question in the same way, without it being in the least bit comforting to my frightened young self. The question is too vague. What is meant by "God"? I would be interested in hearing Jung's answer to the question, "Do you believe a God that loves you?" That's where we would potentially part company. But it is regardless a very good answer to the question, because he took a very boring question and made it interesting.

Happy birthday Carl Jung!

Category: Politics
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Curt ClawsonI have a soft spot for losers and comically idiotic people. That's especially true when they are blissfully unaware of what they are doing and when what they are doing is in no way mean. And so, I do not present Representative Curt Clawson to laugh at but rather with. But laugh you should, because this is like something straight out of Monty Python.

Clawson just got into the House, having replaced Trey Radel who was forced to resign because he was arrested for cocaine possession. Now he's a Tea Party guy, and a businessman who I'm sure will tell you, "I did build that!" And I'm sure in the future I will have many bad things to say about him because he probably does hold the vilest of opinions. But yesterday, there he was, the newest person on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And testifying before him were Nisha Biswal from the State Department and Arun Kumar from the Commerce Department. But Clawson was confused; he thought they were representatives from India.

Now, it is true that they are both Indian-Americans. Indeed Kumar clearly was not born in this country. But Biswal just as clearly was, based upon her casual American accent. But Clawson was actually very sweet. He waxed about how much he loved India. According to John Hudson of Foreign Policy, "During the hearing, he repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies." I just want to hug him!

The interesting thing though, is that no one contradicted him. But when the ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel, got to speak, he pointedly said to the two administration officials, "Thank you both for your service to our country, it's very much appreciated." But the best part is when Clawson asked Biswal if India would be as open to capital flows as the US is to capital from from them. She responded, "I think your question is to the Indian government. We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the US." Clawson was not at all moved from his delusion. He smiled and said, "Okay, we'll see some progress!"

There is, of course, the possibility that he's drunk. He certainly looks it. I don't mean really drunk, but just far enough gone that the world seems like a damned fine place. And if he was drunk, I don't think it takes away from the beauty of the moment. (If you don't know what I mean, watch this skit from That Mitchel and Webb Look, The Inebriati.)

More seriously, however, it does show just how clueless rich people are. They so cut themselves off from the rest of the nation, they don't know that it isn't 1820 anymore. It reminds me of an episode of the television show MASH where some tribunal is taking place and the judge says to the prosecuting officer who is African American, "But first: a song!" The judge is so out of it that he thinks the officer is a minstrel.

Today, Clawson released a statement apologizing, "I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize. I'm a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball." Clawson played basketball at Purdue University from 1981 to 1984. Go Boilermakers!

H/T: Ed Kilgore

Category: Politics
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Dylan MatthewsAs regular readers know, I idealize economist Dean Baker. But there is one issue that I have a frustrating disagreement with him. He argues that technological advances will make the economy better for everyone. This is true if you assume that the increased productivity that is brought about by these advances will be somewhat equally shared. Baker, of course, knows that they won't. But he's committed to making the argument that the problem is not the technology but the government policy (such as patents but also taxes and an almost endless list of other things) of taking or keeping money from the poor and giving it to the rich.

He is absolutely right about this. My frustration comes from the fact that he constantly attacks those that note that increases in technology are putting people out of work and making the lives of the poor even worse. The technology will continue to improve. Nothing is going to stop that and we can all be glad for that. But the fact remains that in the existing political-economic system, this is making things worse. And an end to patent protections won't even begin to deal with the problem.

Another solution he's fond of is work sharing. This is where, instead of laying people off in a recession, a company just cuts back on everyone's hours and the government makes up the difference in pay. This seems to work rather well in Germany. In the United States, it has always been suffocated with so much red tape that companies rarely use it even when it is available. Regardless, it too isn't going to solve our problem.

This has lead me to be in favor of something that Baker never talks about: guaranteed minimum income. And although I think Baker would be in favor of it, I think he also would consider it pie-in-the-sky and Loser Liberalism. But I was very pleased to see that Dylan Matthews over at Vox is taking the idea very seriously, A guaranteed Income for Every American Would Eliminate Poverty—and it Wouldn't Destroy the Economy.

Pascal-Emmanuel GobryUnfortunately, the article is mostly just a response to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry. And his argument is just that a negative income tax wouldn't work because in the hand full of small tests, people didn't work as many hours. Matthews responded with two main points. First, it wasn't even true in all the tests. Second, the "not working as much" was basically just people staying unemployed slightly longer so they could get better jobs. Gobry seems to think that if everyone were guaranteed $5,000 per year, they would all stop working because, wow, with $5,000 per year, you're riding high! Gobry is known for making big proclamation based upon nothing. And note what he's actually saying here: giving workers more choices is a bad thing.

Matthews big point is that a guaranteed minimum income would not actually cost the economy that much: between 5% and 15% of GDP. Of course, it would mean that rich people would not be quite as rich and, let's face it, they don't need people like Gobry to stop this from ever happening. But the truth is that an end to poverty is available right now, and we don't need any of Paul Ryan's new bag of tricks to do it.

Matthews also made the point that people working less is not necessarily a bad thing. Let me take that further: people working less is the point of productivity growth. This idea that paid work is the only thing of value in the economy is madness. What especially makes me angry is that social conservatives should be in favor of this. Providing a guaranteed minimum income would necessarily mean that employers would have to pay people more because they could get a basic income by doing nothing. People making more money would allow, for example, one member of a marriage to stay home, manage the house, and raise the children. That's a good thing!

Also, much of the greatest art and science ever created was done so by people who (because of the circumstances of their birth) had some kind of basic income. This is why advances in art and science have not traditionally been made by plucky youths born into poverty, even though there have always been a whole lot more of them. Gobry, like all conservatives, only ever wants to look at the down side of such policies. I think fathers and mothers being able to spend more time with there kids would be a great improvement. I think more great artists and scientists and thinkers would be a great improvement. Of course, so do conservatives. They simply aren't willing to stop their immoral shifting of money from the vast majority of people to those who already have far more money than they can ever productively use.

< Previous 10 Items