More gruel
Link Roundup, 1/23/2018

Link Roundup, 1/23/2018

From Quartz: Treating work as a value is corroding our humanity.

From New Criterion and Andrew Taggart’s blog: Two pieces related to the first. A review of philosopher Josef Pieper’s work on the death of leisure. And a look at how work culture has undermined philosophy.

From BloombergView: Noah Smith tackles the basic income question.

From Jacobin: Real reason we’ll never have a Basic Income? The left fears that it would kill off socialism once and for all. And they’re right about that.

From The Guardian: Right on cue, The Guardian shows up to pour cold water on Finland’s UBI experiment.


  1. Re: basic income.

    I disagree that it’s as simple as that the left wing will kill UBI. Both the left wing and right wing raise very valid points about the UBI, and *both* will have to be addressed if UBI is to succeed.

    That said, even the Jacobin article, in my reading, doesn’t imply that the authors want UBI to fail. Tag me as a socialist if you will, but I think they make a very potent critique that believing in the UBI implies that you believe the market can cure most of the problems of the poor. IMHO, sometimes that’s true, sometimes that’s false.

    Let’s take two pseudo-UBI schemes we have right now: section 8 housing and the ACA. Section 8 vouchers aim to provide a housing “ubi” that allows people to seek housing anywhere they want. This is supposed to save us money by getting govt out of the business of being a landlord, and avoiding the public battles over segregation, etc. by allowing individuals to decide where they want to live. IMHO, even as liberal, I think section 8 is a great program, because the market *does* fundamentally solve the problem of housing for the vast majority of people, and giving poor people enough money to participate in that market will probably lead to a better solution than getting the govt to build more public housing, or forcing builders to include affordable housing in their new developments. There are currently large waiting lists in Chicago to get section 8 vouchers and most liberals support increasing section 8 funding.

    The ACA, I would argue is a pseudo-UBI for healthcare i.e. you get subsidies based on your income to allow you to participate in the private market for health insurance. This is a failure, because even for people who can afford private insurance, it is failing them. The #2 cause of bankruptcy in American (after job loss), is medical illness, and *that’s not poor people*. Poor people get medicaid which provides first-dollar, comprehensive coverage. It’s middle class and others, with high deductibles, co-pays, and lifetime limits who go bankrupt when catastrophic illness hits.

    Therefore, shoving a bunch of people into a private market that fails and costs more, while we have an already efficient, functioning, cheaper govt system that works better (Medicare), is stupidity.

    I think the Jacobin article is correct that for each part of the social safety net, we should carefully consider whether the private market does better (in which case we provide UBI and other supports for people to use it), or whether direct, public provisioning of those services does better (in which case, we don’t use UBI, we simply provide the service to all people).

    FWIW, my ideal social welfare state would include a public healthcare system (the biggest private market failure if there ever was one) and robust public infrastructure, combined with a UBI for everything else. Other liberals might argue some more things should be provided directly (maybe education, etc. although with a generous enough UBI, you could have a true universal, competitive voucher system, with the govt just setting education standards and requirements). Meanwhile conservatives may argue for private healthcare, etc. IMHO, these are healthy discussions to have, and in no way indicate that the left is interested in killing off UBI just because their precious bureaucracies and patronage jobs are at risk.

    I read the Guardian article and also disagree that it’s pouring cold water. IMHO, it was an objective report of Finland’s experiment with very important caveats about how broadly applicable the results may be. It’s actually the type of careful reporting we *want* regarding scientific studies (which is what this essentially is) and what they mean to policy proposals at large.

    Anyway, the UBI is an interesting concept for people along the entire political spectrum. I don’t think it’s constructive to simply dismiss anyone’s (left or right) critiques at this early stage without genuinely considering their arguments. After all, it’d be equally easy to claim conservatives will kill UBI because it gives free money to the poor and makes them lazy. Doesn’t really help us find common ground where actual policies might be formulated…

    1. EJ

      Re UBI:
      I’m not an economist, but there are people here who know much more about it than I do. As such, I have a question.

      Will UBI, as widely envisioned, also extend to resident foreigners, including undocumented resident foreigners?

      It is my understanding that the economic arguments that have been made in favour of UBI, rely upon its universality. As such, it would have to apply even to undocumented resident foreigners. However, I imagine that this may be a politically difficult argument to make, given the rising tide of xenophobia in the modern world.

    1. We are both watching Maddow (-; What was interesting is Maddow’s assertion that someone in Justice is pushing back against the Nunes threats to expose classified information that was provided by the Justice Division under very specfic terms.

      Gig em, Justice! I cannot abide Devin Nunes.

      1. Mary, I don’t get it. They attack institutions (DOJ and FBI) that still have some credibility with citizens besides the military. Some MOC really do seem prepared to blow the whole thing up. Nobody is worth that let alone DJT. I can’t help but think this blows back on them and they are left clinging to their man crush.

        Heard from CA friends that the demographics in CA 22nd are interesting and Nunes is playing with fire as the hispanic community there is getting hostile to the anti-immigrant/latino rhetoric from Republicans.

  2. Hey Chris – I remember reading “The Lathe of Heaven” around 1975. It was absolutely mind-boggling! No fan of Chuang Tzu am I though. It is pretty much by definition that one cannot know if a thing is “not understandable” if one does not understand it. The error is to give up.

  3. Meanwhile, in minor little things that occurred outside of the U.S. borders:

    Capetown, an itty bitty town with a measly metropolitan population of only 3.75 million, re-adjusted their water supply downwards to 80 days left. The area is in the midst of a 3 year drought. Good thing global warming is just a hoax.

    Just another canary dying in a coal mine that the U.S. is ignoring.

    The other 11 countries that were to form the TPP, the trade deal that would involve many Pacific countries, the one the puppet tyrant pulled the U.S. out of, well, looks like they have decided to have a go at it without the U.S. The deal may be bad, it may be good for the various signatory countries. But it demonstrates what Chris said in hos previous blog post: The world is starting to move on without the isolationist U.S.

    Imagine what happens when the puppet tyrant, who looks to be initiating trade wars with Canada and Mexico, and now, this week China, tries to initiate bi-lateral trade deals with countries signed on to this new deal.

    1. Personally, I’m fine with all the other enlightened world countries ignoring America. There is a great deal of tension on T’s NAFTA threats…not that Trump has considered the consequences to his hyperbolic statements of intention, but he’s going to face some real push-back on NAFTA…International trade agreements should be reviewed annually by all the participants, but the goal should be to update and enhance the agreements, not use them as sledge hammers.

  4. Alabama is eliminating “Special Elections” for their Senate seats. Not other offices, that process remains the same just for the Senate because you know…freedom or something. Is there a point when a country can spin off a banana republic like an unproductive subsidiary and say good luck to you? Its obvious you are not buying into the democracy concept but we wish you well.

      1. Shouldn’t the criteria be the length of time between when a seat is vacated and the next election? I thought the governors already had the authority within time constraints that were appropriate. Blogovitch abused his authority by trying to “sell” the seat….and, he paid the price. He was dead wrong. But – IMO, within reasonable time limits, constituents should have the right to vote for seats in which the term expiration is lengthy. What defines “lengthy” should be clearly stated and consistent for federal positions across the nation…not a local choice. For local/state positions, these should be locally determined. I do not want the governors to have appointment power that usurps constituent power. Too many abuse it already.

      2. Amendment 17 to the US Constitution states:
        “When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies, provided that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

        The proposed Alabama statute states that the appointment would only be until the next general election. That would be no more than two years.

        In WA State, the governor will make an appointment to fill the seat, until the people vote at the next general election, which would be the following November. We have a general election each year. That is the procedure that was followed in 1983 when Senator Henry Jackson died. In that case a D was replaced by an R, the much loved and respected Dan Evans. Most recently a Republican State Senator passed away in the 45th LD. A Republican was appointed, and a Democratic replacement was selected in

      3. Thanks for providing the actual law…from reading the verbage, it still offers great lattitude to governors via their legislatures with no uniformity as to time left in term as a determinant. Some may consider it splitting hairs, but an appointment to a term that has more than one year remaining offers a nice launch of a campaign for the appointee. I guess the more important factor is competence whether one is appointed or elected (lord knows we have elected members of Congress who do not exhibit competence), but it just seems that the process is rather “loose”.

  5. Going back to the Senate vote to end the shutdown. During the day I saw McConnell’s actual statement that the Common Sense Coalition accepted. It was a typical McConnell statement full of weasel words. The key one was that McConnell promised to move an immigration bill to the floor of the Senate after Feb 8, provided that the Government REMAINED OPEN. That is the key. The Republicans will refuse to negotiate in good faith and there will be no agreement on Feb. 8. The Democrats will not be able to filibuster whatever CR is put forth, because that would shut down the Government and McConnell will be off the hook.

    This is the typical lawyerese and tactics that McConnell uses so often and enables the Republicans can say in good faith that he keeps his word. Technically he does. But, realistically he is a shyster lawyer and politician. Unfortunately, the Common Sense Coalition did not bother to analyze these tactics. They were too eager to operate on “trust” that they did not “verify”.

    Also unfortunately the media never bothers to include the full text of these type of statements. They get edited out. After only a few hours, I have not been able to find that statement despite a number of minutes googling it. At this point, I have to drop it, because I must get dinner, get to bed and be at the hospital in the morning.

  6. What are the “Never Trumpers” saying about Trump’s “accomplishments”? Interesting article about conservatives who remain opposed to Trump. I have asked this question myself given the short-term economic bump offered by the GOP Tax Cut legislation, and the still-strong stock market. Will people for whom the most important measure of a successful presidency (and Congressional performance) be driven by economics without regard for what I feel are critical failings? Mid-Terms will be the first test.

  7. One that might interest you, Chris:

    The cook county assessor race is heating up, and it hits a lot of themes that you talk about including machine politics, the breakdown of party infrastructure, and the left wing insurgency.

    Unlike most stories though, this is an optimistic one. I also think it’s evidence that left wing “extremists” are fundamentally not the same as right wing extremists. Painting them as equally crazy is no less accurate than a so-called independent who says that both parties are equally bad.

    Unlike the tea party, we left-wingers actually want good government. That’s not the same as the tea party’s nihilistic stance that all govt is corrupt. That’s the fundamental difference which IMHO will keep the progressive movement from pushing us to anarchy like the tea party is doing. Otherwise God help us 🙂

    1. Given the actions of the Republican majority in Congress (not even considering the contributions of his highness, el presidente), I don’t think we can separate the Tea Party faction from the majority…at least not in terms of their track record.

      I fully agree that Dems want government to work. One can look at the job Dem governors and mayors are doing for perspective. Is their record one of unblemished perfection? No, but they do seem to demonstrate the ability to govern…Look at how Brown has managed the horrific fires and mud slides and Turner managed Hurricane Harvey, for two recent examples.

      It will be interesting to see if the addition of more women to Congress will impact not only the Democratic process but also the efficiency of government.

    2. Berrios is a critical pillar in Madigan’s family business. By making property valuations so opaque, he creates a gray space into which Madigan’s law practice can intervene.

      Let’s just make this crystal clear – the Illinois Speaker of the House has a law practice that makes millions of dollars a year negotiating special property tax rates for its clients in Cook County. And his daughter is the state Attorney General. Having Berrios continue in that job is worth a solid 7, if not 8 figures a year to Madigan. Plus, that property tax scam is also central to Madigan’s power base.

      I think the electoral challenge to Berrios will fail.

      1. Chis – It appears you are doubly unfortunate: you live in a state with corrupt state government; and you live in a country that your former party is corrupting as fast as they can. Felicitations, my friend! (I will expect a quid pro quo for being a liberal in Texas, mind y ou!)

      2. Per the Devin Nunes, et al “Memo” that is being “secretly” promoted alledging FBI conspiracy on the Trump/Russia investigation….a Memo which they have not publicly released, only “dropped ions of spurious references to”…Dems on the House Intelligence Committee (oxymoron extradinaire!) are preparing a counter-offensive Memo that will refute the Republican crafted memo. They want to release their memo but I wonder if the Repub majority will allow it? If not, it needs to be put out there anyway.

      3. For more background on the “GOP Memo”, VOX has an excellent summary. Note: the FBI, though publicly accused in the “unreleased Memo”, has asked for but not been provided, a copy of the Memo so that they can investigate it and refute the charges as appropriate. What is being done to the reputations of career FBI and intelligence professionals is unforgiveable. The national and international implications of this dastardly action is immense. Shame on the GOP!

      4. Even as a Democrat, I agree with you. This is a far worse abuse of power than someone getting their cousin a job driving a city bus. It’s nothing more than a means to siphon a part of the city’s rightful revenue into Madigan and the rest of the Cook Co. democratic party (with their political donors keeping a big chunk as a tax reduction).

        You may be right that the challenger will lose, but I’m going to keep hope alive nonetheless 🙂

        My other point in posting it though is that, IMHO, this is the difference between the left and right wings (at least right now). I think that even the most extreme left winger is still fundamentally invested in making government work. You keep making an equivalence between right wing tea partiers and left wing sandernistas but as long as this fundamental difference holds, I don’t think they’re equivalent.

  8. An old man is fishing in Mexico when an American approaches.

    “Good day there! Do you fish here often?” asks the American.

    The old man nods. “Each morning I come out here and set up to fish, and then leave when I have enough fish to feed my family. I kind of like it, it gives a man time to think.”

    The American considers the old man for a moment, then says, “You know, you should stay just a little longer to catch some more fish, I reckon.”


    “Well if you catch a few more fish than what it takes to feed your family, you can sell it to other families that want to eat fish.”

    “Why would I want to do that?” asked the old man.

    The American got excited, “Because then you can use the money to buy a boat!”

    “Why would I want a boat?”

    “So you can go out in the water and catch even more fish in less time. Then as you made more money on the fish you could hire someone else to do the fishing, and even the distribution and the selling. As you scaled up you could get more boats, and then you’d have a fleet. You could make a really great business here with all this fish.”

    The old man nods and says, “So is that what you did, you built a business?”

    “Oh yeah!” the American enthused, “it went great and now I can retire.”

    “What do you intend to do when you retire?”

    The American pointed at the water. “Figured I’d settle down by a lake and fish, take some time to think.”

      1. Our world moves so fast these days that reflection and introspection are becoming rare. Our world is a special place which we do far too little to protect and spend far too little time enjoying. My father loved to fish. He would buy a big boat for salt water fishing, would tire of that and go back to fresh water fishing. He was a busy man with a big family but he loved the quiet and beauty of water.

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