dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Readings

William Deresiewicz on the tyranny of freedom:

The only thing we seem to believe in anymore isfreedom.Freedom has become the be-all and the end-all of our political expectation, the full meaning of the American experiment.Justice is gone, and even more conspicuously banished is that term of terms for movements from abolitionism to feminism, for Lincoln and King:equality.

Eric Hobsbawm on Tony Judt:

Tony has been presented as another George Orwell. This is wrong, because while both were enormously gifted and profoundly polemical, they were very different. Tony lacked Orwells combination of prejudices, forward and backward-looking Old Testament prophecy and imaginative denunciation he could never have written1984orAnimal Farm. And Orwell, the more powerful writer, had neither Tonys remarkable range of knowledge, nor his wit, intellectual speed and manoeuvrability: there is no way he could have doubled as an academic.

Nicholas Lemann on the politics of inequality:

Even if you think that all a good society requires isaccording to the debatable conservative mantraequal opportunity for every citizen, you ought to be a little shaken right now. Opportunity is increasingly tied to education, and educational performance is tied to income and wealth. When it comes to social mobility between generations, the United States ranks near the bottom of developed nations.

And Timothy Noah on the same topic:

Academics have been studying income distribution for a century; the National Bureau of Economic Research was founded with the avowed purpose of producing objective, non-ideological research on this topic. America's ruling class used to worry quite a lot about income inequality because it feared it might lead to the radical overthrow of the U.S. government. When it discovered, in recent decades, that all growing income inequality did was boost sales of crystal meth, increase out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and lead to a variety of other self-destructive behaviors on the part of an ever-more-despairing working class that no longer had much of a labor movement to defend its interests, the plutocrats lost interest in the subject.


About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.

3 comments
Close

3 comments

Commenting Guidelines

  • All

From the Lemann piece:"Since rich people are poorer in votes than they are in dollars, youd think that, in an election year, the ninety-nine per cent would look to politics to get back some of what theyve lost, and that inequality would be a big issue. So far, it hasnt been."Naturally, the role of big money influencing election outcomes by funding mass media campaigns (and targeted media campaigis) is a ripe topic in this vein. I would also point out that the American system of geographic representation is such that, if the poor are overly concentrated geographically, their influence doesn't extend as far as their raw numbers might suggest they should.I've read an analysis of the post-2010-census congressional redistricting that may bear this out. Democrats controlled many state legislatures and were able to control the terms of redistricting in those states. Democrats used this power to redefine districts that were formerly rather evenly split into solid majority-Democratic districts, which seems to directly benefit the party. But an unintended consequence of this policy is that, by concentrating Democratic voters into a single district, a number of surrounding districts became more solidly conservative than formerly was the case. The prediction of this analysis is that redistricting, on the whole, won't benefit Democrats very much in the 2012 congressional elections.

Jim P. --One thing the southern states learned generations ago is that power in Congress is largely determined by seniority. So we kept electing the same members over and over and over whether or not we really like their ideologies. This discouraged better candidates from running, but it sure gave the southern states power beyond their financial means. As the southern states have made economic gains this isn't so true anymore, thank goodness. I expect the rust belt will learn this lesson soon if things don't improve for them.

The Noah piece contains this link: http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/10-25-HouseholdI.... Clicking on it takes one to a CBO report. P. 18 of that report has a very interesting (at least, I found it interesting) discussion entitled "What explains the rise in income for the top 1%?"

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment