Amid this article about the harms of the cult of productivity, this stood out:
The proletariat, Lafargue cries, “must proclaim the Rights of Laziness, a thousand times more noble and more sacred than the anaemic Rights of Man concocted by the metaphysical lawyers of the bourgeois revolution. It must accustom itself to working but three hours a day, reserving the rest of the day and night for leisure and feasting.”
That sounds nice but why exactly should we do it? It is because: “To force the capitalists to improve their machines of wood and iron, it is necessary to raise wages and diminish the working hours of the machines of flesh and blood.” (emphasis mine) Workers should refuse to work so that new gadgets get invented that will do the work for them. Similarly, Bertrand Russell, in his 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness”, argued that technology should make existing work patterns redundant: “Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all,” he wrote. Somewhere, he is still waiting for that possibility to be realised.
It’s sort of happened in the opposite way, with wages stagnating/falling and hours being lost, and it hasn’t exactly been great. People want (or need) more work (money).
The path we’re on isn’t going to change either. Technological progress will continue to produce machines (and robots and computers) that can do tasks that were formerly something only humans could do, and I doubt that a leisure filled future is what that means for us.
Related to my last post, but on the other side of the aisle, Republicans have no policies to help:
[C]onservatives favor the same set of economic policies when the economy is weak and when it is strong; when unemployment is high and when it is low; when few homeowners are facing foreclosure and when many are. The implication is that conservatives believe there is nothing in particular the government should do about economic cycles.
This is a big problem. Recessions are terrible. They create enormous misery by throwing people out of work and out of their homes. How can a political ideology have nothing to say about how to address recessions?
I’d actually go farther than this. The austerity policies that conservatives champion are not neutral toward unemployment and economic cycles. Europe’s experience with austerity is a large piece of evidence that austerity doesn’t help.
If there is a bright side for Greece, Spain and the like, it’s going to come with a huge amount of suffering attached. Let’s not copy the mistakes they’ve made.
A good profile on Janet Yellen, and how her journal could change Washington. The most important part, I think, lies here:
By a number of accounts, no one feels this more intensely than Yellen, who understands not just the human cost to individual lives and families but also the damage that a demoralized workforce can do to the economy as a whole. One of her most important papers, written with her husband, Nobel Prize winner George Akerlof, showed that workers who feel underpaid will be less productive. “She does see long-term unemployment, massive unemployment, as not only an economic problem or in terms of wasted resources but also as a human being,” says John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, who was Yellen’s research chief when she ran it. “It is very destructive to families.… This is passionate with her. Among economists, you don’t often see that human side. With her, it’s not just an abstraction, and if you try to treat it too much as an abstraction, she’ll react.”
There is a human cost to policy. What the Fed does affects the lives of millions of people, and the fact that five years after the financial crisis we’re still not near full employment is a huge loss of well-being.
I know there are downsides to pushing too hard, but I can’t believe that it outweighs the suffering that 5 years of a terrible labor market have created.
There’s an interesting graph here about Medicaid spending in Illinois whose pattern (I’m pretty sure) applies to all of health care spending:
Most of the cost is centered on a few very sick people. If we want to control health care costs, we have to control the cost of treating them.
As for how, I’m not sure.
Two thoughts struck me while reading this article on Joe Biden as VP.
- The Carter Presidency seems to be where a lot of modern stuff in politics started (today’s political conventions, the President-Vice President relationship).
- It’s a long shot, but if he doesn’t get the nomination, he could stick around as VP for the next administration. I doubt it, but it’s interesting to think about. Looks like this has happened twice before in the US, with George Clinton as VP for Jefferson and Madison, and then John Calhoun for John Q. Adams and Andrew Jackson.
Good read on what most pundits are missing on Senator Warren.
But while Waldman is right, he’s answering the wrong question. It’s not his fault! Most pundits writing about “Warren versus Clinton” are answering the wrong question, because of the political media’s fixation on national elections and presidents. But the “economic populism” fight isn’t about Hillary Clinton and 2016. It’s about the entire Democratic Party and every policy fight and campaign it will be involved in in the foreseeable future.
It’s more about Warren pushing the Democratic Party toward adopting “economic populism”, rather than her getting elected because she holds her views. She has said that she wasn’t going to run for President, but I think that a single-issue (sort of) candidacy focusing on such an agenda would be a good way of pushing that agenda.
Every day I’m blusterin’
Good post on from the Monkey Cage describing how the Senate will function in the future:
Short version: A Senate majority banned filibusters of executive and judicial branch (save the Supreme Court) nominees. Majorities now need a majority– not a supermajority– to bring the Senate to confirmation vote. Long version: Senate majority set a new precedent (by majority vote) that reinterprets the chamber’s cloture rule to require only a majority to invoke cloture (cut off debate) on nominations rather than requiring 60 votes. So, what changed? The number of votes required to cut off debate on nominations. (Confirmation votes have always been by majority vote.)