Sunday, April 20, 2014

Recommended Reading, Thomas Piketty’s best-selling new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”...

From: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Purveyor of Truth


Time to shed the right -vs- left, socialism -vs- capitalism hyperbole and purchase Thomas Piketty's new book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century."

PARIS — Thomas Piketty turned 18 in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, so he was spared the tortured, decades-long French intellectual debate about the virtues and vices of communism. Even more telling, he remembers, was a trip he took with a close friend to Romania in early 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet empire.

“This sort of vaccinated me for life against lazy, anticapitalist rhetoric, because when you see these empty shops, you see these people queuing for nothing in the street,” he said, “it became clear to me that we need private property and market institutions, not just for economic efficiency but for personal freedom.”
(emphasis mine)

But his disenchantment with communism doesn’t mean that Mr. Piketty has turned his back on the intellectual heritage of Karl Marx, who sought to explain the “iron laws” of capitalism. Like Marx, he is fiercely critical of the economic and social inequalities that untrammeled capitalism produces — and, he concludes, will continue to worsen. “I belong to a generation that never had any temptation with the Communist Party; I was too young for that,” Mr. Piketty said, in a long interview in his small, airless office here at the Paris School of Economics. “So it’s easier in a way to reopen these big issues about capitalism and inequality with a fresh eye, because I was too young for that fight. I don’t have to justify myself as being pro-communist or pro-capitalist.”

In his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (Harvard University Press), Mr. Piketty, 42, has written a blockbuster, at least in the world of economics. His book punctures earlier assumptions about the benevolence of advanced capitalism and forecasts sharply increasing inequality of wealth in industrialized countries, with deep and deleterious impact on democratic values of justice and fairness.

Branko Milanovic, a former economist at the World Bank, called it “one of the watershed books in economic thinking.”

Skip

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” with its title echoing Marx’s “Das Kapital,” is meant to be a return to the kind of economic history, of political economy, written by predecessors like Marx and Adam Smith (emphasis mine). It is nothing less than a broad effort to understand Western societies and the economic rules that underpin them. And in the process, by debunking the idea that “wealth raises all boats,” Mr. Piketty has thrown down a challenge to democratic governments to deal with an increasing gap between the rich and the poor — the very theme of inequality that recently moved both Pope Francis and President Obama to warn of its consequences.

Mr. Piketty — pronounced pee-ket-ee — grew up in a political home, with left-wing parents who were part of the 1968 demonstrations that turned traditional France upside down. Later, they went off to the Aude, deep in southern France, to raise goats. His parents are not a topic he wants to discuss. More relevant and important, he said, are his generation’s “founding experiences”: the collapse of Communism, the economic degradation of Eastern Europe and the first Gulf War, in 1991.

Read the rest of the article BELOW THE FOLD.

Via: Memeorandum

77 comments:

  1. I don't know if it's so much "untrammeled capitalism" that's been causing the wealth disparity as it is the cronyism, the terrible regulatory burden on small businesses, the thoroughly bankrupt educational cartel controlled by the unions, the fact that government has consistently pushed up the cost of education and healthcare via subsidizing it, etc.. If you look at Sweden in the first half of the 20th Century, for example, you'll see that it was the fastest growing economy on the planet and the wealth disparity was going away on its own, and that it was only when the government got seriously involved that the economy started to tank (and, still, all of the most successful Swedish corporations are the older ones).

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  2. I'm going to reserve further comment until I complete the book. I prefer thinking outside the box and setting old paradigms aside.

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  3. I consider Charles Murray's negative income tax, Ron Paul's idea to audit the Fed, and John Mackey's healthcare plan at Whole Foods to be pretty far outside the box and so I obviously agree with you on that point.

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  4. Paul Krugman seems to really like it. He said, ...Piketty has written a truly superb book."

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  5. Got a very good review in the most recent New York Review of Books.

    Even if it i Krugman

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  6. I'm not letting the fact that partisan Krudman liked it influence my thinking on this. I'll let the book speak for itself.

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    1. To borrow an analogy, it appears our grand experiment in democracy has degenerated into a bad marriage wherein the partners of this relationship no longer respect the rights and boundaries of a spouse - unable or unwilling to distinguish between YOURS, MINE, and OURS.

      My point: Government is not merely YOUR property, or MY property, but OUR property; and hyper-partisanship has made conflict resolution damn near impossible.

      The time-honored tradition of negotiation, compromise, and consensus has succumbed to the politics of “my way or the highway” resulting in legislative deadlock and gridlock. These days, our political life is held hostage by special interest groups and their lobbyists who hold our democratically elected officials in thrall. The result: What we used to call “bribery” and “graft” has become standard operating procedure.

      Compared with other modern nations, ours is unique in terms of cultural and ethnic diversity – brought about by waves of immigration throughout our relatively short history. With diversity you have lots of competing stakeholders, each vying for a slice of the national pie. In a dysfunctional marriage, one spouse seeks power and domination over the other spouse. In a dysfunctional democracy, one stakeholder seeks power and domination over all other stakeholders.

      To borrow a phrase from a popular lyric:

      You can't always get what you want
      You can't always get what you want
      But if you try sometimes you just might find
      You get what you need
      .

      Similarly in a successful marriage, you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little by respecting the boundaries that separate YOURS, MINE and OURS. The same goes for democracy when we fail to practice the traditions of negotiation, compromise, and consensus in our public affairs – a tradition first set forth by Thomas Jefferson in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801).

      You have failed the first marriage counseling session among partisans with this:

      … partisan Krudman [sic] ….”

      How can you reconcile conflicts between competing stakeholders - or a dysfunctional marriage - when conversations start with gratuitously partisan sneer and jeer? A wisecrack addiction has no place if you are serious about this discussion.

      Delete
    2. I simply do not recognize Mr. K . as having a wholeot of value, he is what he is. Similar to, shall we say Palin or Coulter.

      There are two sides to this shared absurdity and unfortunately the majority on either side continues to keep the absurdities alive and kicking.

      Our DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC will continue to suffer until such time as the MAJORITY on BOTH sides freely acknowledge they are part of the problem I simply do NOT see this happening. At least not in my lifetme.

      I understand your point (O)CT(O)PUS with respect to Krudman (sic), but I have no desire to include him in anything. There is nothing wrong with being selective.

      BTW, why is it the liberal leaners do precisely the same? I'm sure you are
      aware of a multitude of situations from within liberal blogistan. I'm equally as sure you are aware of my many criticisms of the right.

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    3. I simply do not recognize Mr. K . as having a wholeot [sic] of value ...

      To extend the marriage analogy, when arguing spouses are enjoined in marriage counseling, the first order of business, they are told, is to put down the putdowns and leave them at the door. Gratuitous sniping is counterproductive and offensive – especially when visitors of all persuasions come here to comment in the spirit of friendship and bipartisanship.

      What offends me is the unnecessary and unjustifiable putdown of a world-renowned scholar, a professor of economics from a foremost university (which happens to be my alma mater), and a recipient of the Nobel Price in econometrics. From someone who prides himself on independent thinking, you have demonstrated a closed, anti-intellectual attitude in extremis!

      You don’t have to agree with Krugman to learn from him. HERE, for instance, is Krugman’s review of Piketty’s work, which is just as laudatory as the Erlanger review cited in this post. Had you read Krugman’s review, you would have found a more erudite discussion of r-values and g-values (rates of return on capital versus economic growth) within a historical context – along with charts and graphs that visualize the findings of Piketty.

      Why do you bother visiting liberal and progressive discussion forums, why do you post commentary from liberal and progressive readers, when you close your mind to anything and everything that bears the labels “liberal” or “progressive” – even refusing to read to work of renowned scholars? Are you so steeped in partisan hatred?

      They say a broken clock is right twice a day. Prejudice borne of partisanship will not make you right even once a day. I don’t have to come here and waste my time.

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    4. Point acknowledged.

      I am not married to.PK.

      If you wish to believe I am anti intellectual so be it.

      IMO you need to cast a larger net and work on those in your own sphere as well. My view, hope it doesn't offend.

      Is it really mr that had the closed mind? Mirrors are wonderful devices.

      Sorry you have chosen to respond as you have. It is what it is. Frankly, I am beginning to believe there may very well be no way to find common ground.

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    5. PS: Your meme that everyone who disagrees with you is steeped in hatred is growing old.

      You are correct, you do not have to come here and waste your time if that is how you feel. Further, if you prefer I will cease visiting your site.

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  7. Apropos of this post, a recently released study concludes: The US is no longer an actual Democracy, quote as follows:

    "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," the authors conclude, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

    Thus, there is a convergence of data, analysis, and opinion on the causes of wealth inequality – and seismic shifts in economic power that inevitably result in commensurate shifts of political power.

    What do these studies mean for us, we should be asking? Here are some of my impressions:

    Dog whistle politics has served as a calculated distraction to divide the electorate. Petty partisanship has allowed the perennial horse to escape from the barn; meanwhile, our birthright has been stolen out from under us.

    If Liberals and Libertarians share at least on attitude in common, it is a fundamental distrust of vast concentrations of power. In view of these studies and their respective findings, what do you perceive to be the greatest threats, and where do you wish to take this discussion?

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    1. Indeed (O)CT(O)PUS, all Americans ought to be asking what these studies mean to our nation at large. After we ask these questions and HONESTLY and without PREJUDICE analyze the data and set a course to put our national interests first and foremost and achieve the promise prior generations of Americans made possible.

      In a nutshell the American Dream remains ours to secure or, as seems to now be a distinct possibility ours to lose.

      Dog whistle politics emanating from both the right and the left (extremes) has as you say served to distract us ALL. Thus the final and overriding question to be answered is does America have the will and desire to acheive that which remains possible and our birthright?

      Men and Women yet to grasp the reigns if government will determine whether or not the nation makes the right choices.

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    2. Greatest threats...1) Special Interests. 2) Jaded Money, 3) Abuse of Power.

      All sources.


      The discussion can go where commenters take it in so long as it remains on topic or a related topic.

      Delete
  8. Holey Moley!

    I am kinda in agreement with the sea urchin...

    Our feral government is the vastest concentration of power on the planet. If it would exercise that power as an impartial arbiter of the marketplace, we would all be better off. As it stands now, the rich and the powerful attach themselves to this fearsome power structure and use it against the rest of us. This is a bipartisan problem.

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    1. Or an arbiter of truth.

      Markets can be controlled and manipulated, even in a free market.

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  9. I see two main choices,
    1. Limit the power of the federal government, essentially make it a paper tiger, neuter it.
    2. Limit the ability of the rich and powerful to buy and influence the government.

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  10. Jerry, then they would just buy local and state gov't, which are already more corrupt than the federal gov't. The only way to get the bribery out of the process is with a constitutional amendment addressing elections. Anyone who think the more devolved the gov't the less corrupt knows absolutely nothing about American history.

    JMJ

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  11. More government has not solved the issue, so why not try less. I say we neuter the beast and see if things get better or worse. I am betting that we roll back government involvement to a minimum of public safety things would vastly improve. We could also cut taxes all around, if we aren't busy regulating and picking industry winners.

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    1. Sandy, good to see you here, it's been awhile.

      I'd be really interested in your thoughts on Jerry's last comment. Has a lot of merit wouldn't you agree?

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    2. Yeah, let's go back to the Gilded Age when less government didn't work.

      You seem to think this Libertarian meme is new.

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  12. //Time to shed the right -vs- left, socialism -vs- capitalism hyperbole//
    SHIT AND BISQUITS !!! nowsa youse talking!!!

    can't read the book,,,failing vision. It does sound like a dispassionate discussion...you may want to peruse another, from some time ago, just for insight, on how Karl Rove and some of the far radical right has tried to stymie bi-partisan discussion and growth.... http://www.amazon.com/The-Wrecking-Crew-Conservatives-Government/dp/0805090908 .... there is much there that I know you will not agree wtih, but there are some nuggets of common sense and plain old journalism that ring true. As you well know, truth is usually in the middle of the creek and sometimes you have to get yoou feet wet to find. it. alla best, you grouch. :hehe

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    1. Grouch? .:-) Some days it is hard not to be a grouch. Then there's beer time, or scotch.

      I prefer waders when in the creek.

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  13. Jersey, I limited my two points to the federal gov't because that is what we were discussing, but the same holds true for state and local,gov't as well.

    And yes, any solution will most likely require a constitutional amendment.

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  14. Gee, we are reading the same book at the same time.....

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    1. Gee, imagine that!

      When was the last time you read a conservative perspective book and what was it TAO? If you don't mind me asking.

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    2. Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard Weaver
      The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana by Russell Kirk
      The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek
      The Federalist Papers and the Anti Federalist Papers
      The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
      On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

      I also tried reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead again but just couldn't stomach it because now I realize that most folks don't have a clue what she was saying...

      I would also recommend the following for you:

      The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz

      The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West by Paul Craig Roberts

      Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism by Meghnad Desi

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    3. I also tried reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead again but just couldn't stomach it because now I realize that most folks don't have a clue what she was saying...
      =========

      Or else they do.

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    4. I"m fairly certain you are among those who don't.

      Don't mean to offend but can't help but getting tired of the BS.

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  15. Jerry, I can't even imagine why you would want to "neuter" your own gov't, so...

    JMJ

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  16. Jersey, I didn't say I wanted to neuter my own government, although some people do. These are just the two options I see to greatly reduce the power that the wealthy have in the government. You either cut off the money conduit to government or you neuter the government so that the money has minimal effect.

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  17. I like that Jerry!!! You are on to it and many I am sure agree. Irrespective of which aisle one may be in.

    Great observation. And Thank You.

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  18. I don't see the either/or there guys. What's the choice? Either reform the government to more insulate it from moneyed interests, or roll over and let them run amok. I don't get it.

    I'd go for full on public financing and public financing only at this point.

    JMJ

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    1. There is no doubt, Jersey, that neutering government presents a challenge, perhaps it is not possible. After all, neutering is what the wealthy want at least in terms of government's ability to regulate business and corporations, and government's ability to provide assistance to those of us who are not members of the wealthy class.

      The challenge is to neuter the power that the wealthy exert over government while maintaining the ability of government to provide the services and regulations that the people and the constitution require.

      Granted, the best way to achieve that may very well be to go to the source of the abuse -- money. Treat the cause, not the symptoms. The money to fund the government comes from the people. The money to elect the peoples' government representatives should also come from the people, all of the people.

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    2. I agree as well and it would allow a person of lesser means to be elected to office. There are too many lawyers and magically wealthy politicians in Washington.

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  19. Good to be back, been a little busy fight back the tide of unemployment in my chosen industry.

    Money will find a way to buy power, fundamental truth, so limit the power it can buy. As we all know, we the people are not represented by our federal government and that has been the case for some time. State governments are little better, but have been freed from the people by the use of federal tax dollars. We need to put the tiger back in its Constitutional box and retake the Statehouses. We the People can't do that as long as the federal government is everywhere and fully fueled with special interest money. You roll them back to the enumerated powers and reduce their regulatory fiats, then you have a chance for real change.

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    1. Well said!!! However, because of all the aforementioned, our reality is it likely won't happen.

      Perhaps jmj and Jerry are right. Only a constitutional amendment can accomplish it. Or a second, oh never mind.

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  20. The assertion by many on the left is that Obama is anti corporation and nothing could be further from the truth - Obama to Big Businesses - "Yes, we're going to regulate you, but we're also going to give you subsidies and even give you a seat at the table when we craft the
    damned legislation....AND we'll bail your ass out. Wink, wink, nod, nod."...............................................................................A couple of examples of just how President Obama works - a) He took massive amounts of cash from the big-wigs at Google and alakazam, Google skated on its anti-trust and illegal manipulation charges less than 2 months into his administration. b) He assigned a fellow by the name of Mark Ernst to craft the new tax preparation law which would have had as one of it's side effects the putting out of business of a lot of small guys and did I mention that Mark Ernst was a former bi-wig at H&R Block? c) He had as his main business adviser GE's Jeffrey Immelt and damned if this whole green energy scam hasn't benefited that company immensely (not to mention the fat that they paid zero in taxes). d) For some strange reason he gave Philip Morris a seat at the table in the crafting of the tobacco bill and that legislation quite literally solidified their status as the #1 tobacco company (they apparently already had the new testing equipment and the smaller companies didn't). e) He was totally against the individual mandate but that was before he got gobs and gobs of money from the health insurance industry and the rest, as they say, is history. f) The stimulus package itself was a veritable grab-bag for corporate America; big tech, big energy, big concrete, big pharma, big finance, etc., etc.. To say that this fellow isn't a crony capitalist and that he seriously bleeds for the little guy is uproarious.

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    1. What you say is true Will. After initially thinking Obama was a hard left socialist observations over the past five years has convinced me my original assessment was in error

      He is a statist. one who believes in the power of the state to do good, but so have most of our nation's 20th and 21st century presidents.

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    2. @Will - Obama to Big Businesses - "Yes, we're going to regulate you, but we're also going to give you subsidies and even give you a seat at the table when we craft the
      damned legislation....AND we'll bail your ass out. Wink, wink, nod, nod."

      Now there I quote I would like to see. How about a link, Will? Or did you just make it up?

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    3. Jerry is being consistent with his requests for links when quoting, particularly when someone quotes the President.

      It is hard to argue such rigid standards. One should support them as it guards against the tendency of some, certainly not you. taking creative license.

      Too bad we demand less from our government.

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    4. It was tongue in cheek, Jerry. But don't you get the feeling that that is more or less his philosophy based upon his actions?......Not that Bush was any better, mind you.

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    5. I have not problem with tongue in cheek, but if it is, don't make it a quote.

      And I agree, Obama is a corporatist. He is not a progressive or even a liberal.

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  21. State gov'ts are a "little better?" Really? What makes you say that?

    JMJ

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    1. Jersey you missed the point you have added "a" which is not in the original, which changes the context. States are little better means they aren't. It is true that some states have backbone and actually attempt to stand up against the Feds, but federal money buys a lot of votes in a lot of state houses and even local governments. In my own local government they were pleased as punch to spend $3M of federal grant money on a new not really needed firehouse\cathedral. Boosting the entire time the it didn't cost the residents a single tax dollar. The scary part is a vast majority of the local voters actually believed it.

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    2. If I may interject. Nothing in life is free. Someone or a group of someones eventually must pay the tab. Consider this, in the end we all pay, one way or another, regardless of the path we ultimately take as a society.

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    3. Let me explain as it is my whole argument, who controls how the money is spent is very important because if we are ever going to regain control of the spending we must control who decides how it is spent. As we have all seen, we do not control how our money is spent on the federal level because they don't fear us, the same is true of most statehouse, and truthfully for most local governments. We must change that model, we must make them accountable to us for every one of our dollars they spend regardless of source. My local government wants to keep growing and growing and providing more and more services (stated intention on several occasions), but where does all the money come from? They claim businesses, but who in there right mind would want to do business with people that just want to take their money? If business doesn't come, then it is the tax payer that foots the bill for these lofty dreams. But the fundamental question is why such lofty dreams? The become responsible for a bigger town, more money to line their pockets, etc. I for one say no. I say I am happy living in a low tax area with minimal services. I don't need a fiber optic web for the entire downtown area to attract business, save the money and let a private enterprise supply fiber optics to downtown businesses.

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    4. In the large cities, private businesses put out a lot of money for development. Don't kid yourself. Those many great cities are what made this country an economic powerhouse and envy of the world. America was not built to it's great heights by country folk enjoying the fresh air of the country all day. God bless the country folk, but don't pretend you can run a whole nation with no one but them.

      JMJ

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    5. Oh, and those cities put out a lot more tax dollars for the country folk per payer than the other way around.

      JMJ

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  22. Maybe local governments are a "little better?"

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  23. Are they?

    I think all this argument about which level of government is better or worse is silliness.

    JMJ

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  24. Just asked a question for you to consider.

    My view is that American government is corrupt at ALL levels. It.is just the nature of the beast.

    Power equals Control. Money follows power and buys influence so as to further the interest of money.

    Political party preferences, in the end are of little consequence. Money, Power, Control.. the continuum that all political ideologies ultimately fall prey to.

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    1. It's been my experience that the more localized government the more corrupt. For corruption to be avoided, you need as many eyes as possible on the levers of power.

      JMJ

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    2. That sounds like a plan. Put more corrupt bureaucratic eyes on the already corrupt system so it will be... More Corrupt?

      No jmj with all due respect it is time for term limits and the electorate must elect honorable people and fire the dishonest after one term.

      Perhaps putting the apparatus of the federal buraucracy in the managerial hands of a businessman with IMPECCABLE honesty rather than political hacks would go a long way to solving corruption.

      Not all corporations are run by bastards.I know, I worked for one.

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    3. You go with term limits and we'll have NOTHING BUT corrupt bureaucrats. And if you can find me this glorious "honest business man" I'll put his name in with the Pope for beatification.

      JMJ

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    4. Just come out and say it, you are all for 100% state ownership of ALL property and a communist government apparatus not unlike the old USSR aren't you jmj?

      When ya got something intelligent to discus let me know.

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    5. Okaaaay... Look, I don't see what term limits does to help anything. And this notion that "government needs to be run like a business" makes no sense either. What business? You mean by some business standards? Does any business actually follow business standards?

      I see these as simplistic soundbite answers unsuited to complex problems.

      As for capitalism, it's all we have now, and we just have to be sure that the convenient interests of capital never take precedent over the fundamental interests of the people.

      JMJ

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    6. 1) What we have now, career politicians hasn't worked either.

      2) Didn't say government should be Run like a business. Reread what I wrote.

      3) IMNHO anything you, as well as most progressive, don't like has no merit right out of the chute.

      4) You evaded my question. In that evasion I shall discern your honest answer.

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    7. No, I'm not for Soviet Communism, or any Communism. I am simply for a government that backs contractual obligations and makes and enforces rules of the road so we don't have Mad Max capitalism run amok.

      You can dismiss progressives out of hand, if you like, but remember - most all the great strides in American history were progressive endeavors.

      JMJ

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    8. You jmj have ABSOLUTELY NO clue as to what I dismiss out of hand. But by ALL means continue deluding yourself that you do.

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    9. You forgot about number "3)" Les. ;)

      JMJ

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    10. It seems to me that generally progressives propose changes that are new and are attempts to move things forward. Conservatives propose changes to go back to the ways things were...generally.

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    11. No Jerry, what you described and attributed to conservatives is really what a reactionary is. A conservative in the conventional sense is a person who prefers slow gradual change but is not adverse to positive change change. Change simply for the sake of change is of course foolish and I assume reasonable progressives are as adverse to that as are reasonable conservatives.are.

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    12. When I say conservative I am talking about today's republican positions, generally considered conservative.

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    13. I know Jerry, just had to state what was at one time understood. You of course are correct in regards to present day republicans.

      Compromise, as difficult as it can be for both sides at times, is really the only way an evolving and civil society can effectively function. Few things are etched in stone.

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  25. I really think that the sensible libertarians and the sensible progressives need to strike some sort of grand bargain. Charles Murray, in particular, has put forth what I consider to be an excellent compromise. We (and, yes, I consider myself a small l libertarian) give the progressives the big spending but they have to give us the freedom. This entails beefing up the earned income tax credit (and giving it to people monthly) while at the same time eliminating a lot of the government programs that micromanage the current welfare state. This way, we're helping to take care of people but we're also (as Jerry says) neutering the state to a very large degree. I mean, I know that the devil's in the details and all but I do like the overall approach.

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  26. Will: “I really think that the sensible libertarians and the sensible progressives need to strike some sort of grand bargain.”

    A welcome overture, indeed; but first I think we should focus our thoughts on exactly what we are dealing with.

    More than three decades ago, the eminent political scientist Theodore J. Lowi authored a ‘themed’ textbook titled, American Government: Incomplete Conquest. I believe its main ideas have special relevance today:

    If the first problem facing our cave-dwelling ancestors was survival, the second, according to Lowi, was government. In this context, government is viewed as a form of social organization whose purpose is to enhance the survivability of a group against all adversity. The next question: What kind of government? Absolute monarchy? Dictatorship? Capitalism? Democracy? Which form of government best serves human needs?

    No matter how enlightened any form of government appears in theory, Lowi reminds us, all governments have a primordial mean streak, an instinct to lash out and violate their own laws and principles - especially in times of war or national emergency. Consider the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the concept of eminent domain, as examples. Make no mistake. All governments – no matter how large or small or seemingly benevolent - have the power to violate your rights and confiscate your property. Furthermore, no matter whom you elect, someone will control your life; and your choice at the ballot box is a choice between competing visions of governance.

    Finding a balance between Freedom versus Order is the subject we struggle with – as Liberals, Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans.

    We assume these are honest arguments – but not necessarily. As George Orwell stated in simple terms: “ Some animals are more equal than others.” Some stakeholders think they are more deserving of power than others and will employ lies and deceptions – not always noble and pious – to connive a larger share of the community pie for themselves. The default condition of human beings has always been one of chicanery and corruption.

    Everyday in the news, we read about inequality and injustice, abuse of our public institutions, the lies and deceptions of persons who aspire to positions of power and authority over us; of legislative deadlock and gridlock, and a public abused by political hacks and henchmen. How often has the public interest been held hostage by special interest groups and their lobbyists who hold our elected officials in thrall?

    Before we prescribe and prognosticate, perhaps we should be asking ourselves: What kind of country do we really want? Perhaps a conversation starting with the ‘basics’ would cut through the complexity and help us find common ground.

    One word of advice: If you are serious about this discussion, i.e. serious about bridging the partisan divide, now is the time to put aside labels, talking and stalking points, and mutual finger-pointing, and keep an open mind.

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    Replies
    1. Unsolicited and accusatory ("talking and stalking - hey, he can rhyme! - points", "mutual finger-pointing", inferring that I have a closed mind - ME, a person who has voted 5 times for an Independent for President, 3 times for a Democrat, and twice for a Republican) advice/platitudes/sophomoric term paper crap (quick, let me throw some Durkheim at you, or some Goffman). Thanks but no thanks.......Where do you find these people, Les? They're straight out of central casting.

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    2. Will, central casting? I see the point you are makong, sadly it is true. It is also true then there is another central casting which stands in opposition. Or to use less confrontational terminology serves as a counter balance. Take away this dynamic and I'm not sure where we might find ourselves, but it may very well resemble the old USSR, Red China, Nazi Germany, or some other variant of the totalitarian, tyrannical, and maniacal tendencies of some humans seeking absolute control over others because they after all know best.

      Isn't it getting all so tedious?

      I've been accused of many things by (O)CT(O)PUS, and without going into detail suffice to say we've had more disagreements by far than we've had agreements. I suspect that will continue to be so.

      Yet, without allowing the progressive liberal juggernaut to "reform" me I realize there is value in liberal thinking, and merely reinforces my advocacy for Classical Liberalism.

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    3. Realizing there is something to be learned from everyone does not require you to accept another's views or premise in total, or even in part. But unless a person keeps a active mind they are stunting their own growth. I use s example Dervish Sanders, enough said? And yet, on the other hand, ole Derv with his beating dead horses, social response pages and parody blogs has paid us the highest compliment.

      It is pretty obvious the political wars will continue, as the have throughout time. The worst may be yet to come. Or maybe we've seen the worst. I suppose it depends on ones historical perspective.

      It's late, I'm beginning to ramble, and so I take my leave.

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    4. I apologize, Les. From now on when one of these people talks down to me (in this instance it was this that pissed me off; "One word of advice: If you are serious about this discussion, i.e. serious about bridging the partisan divide, now is the time to put aside labels, talking and stalking points, and mutual finger-pointing, and keep an open mind"), I will simply ignore them and try my best to stay on topic.............P.S. Please read the Tyler Cowen rebuttal to this Picketty fellow. He carves him up (civilly though) rather significantly, I think.

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    5. Thanks Will.I know how damn hard it can be at times, belive me, I know.

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  27. A brief look at several reviews (left, right, center,etc) of Picketty's book can be found at Brad DeLong's blog . DeLong is an economics professor and Chair of the Political Economy dept. at Cal-Berkely (and sometimes succeeds in making the 'dismal science' sort of interesting)

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  28. Thanks BB Idaho. Since I've been under the vweather for going on five days I'll have plenty of time to check it out.

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  29. And this, a fairly devastating rebuttal - http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141218/tyler-cowen/capital-punishment#cid=soc-twitter-at-review-capital_punishment-000000

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