Matt Bruenig

Matt Bruenig is a blogger at PolicyShop. Follow him on Twitter

Recent Articles

Why Do Women Do Market Work?

Super-misogynist Gavin McInnes of Vice fame unleashed an odd hyper-masculinist performance on HuffPo Live last week , complaining, among other things, about working women. McInnes apparently thinks feminism is to blame for women becoming unhappy corporate strivers, instead of domesticated homekeepers. In making these remarks, McInnes refers to women striving to be CEOs, which suggests that when he talks about working women, he has in mind upper-class, highly-educated women trying to move up the economic power ranks. In the reality of most women, working in the labor market is not a discretionary activity undertaken voluntarily for self-liberation purposes. Like men, women work because they have to work in order to survive. There is no option. This is most obviously true for single women, but it's also true for husband-wife families. In anticipation of a piece I am preparing with Elizabeth Stoker on this McInnes blow up, I calculated the following numbers. They all come from the Census...

Sorry, John Stuart Mill Was Not a Libertarian

Libertarianism as it exists in the United States is basically a mid-20th century American philosophy, at least in origin. Owing perhaps to a combination of bad introductory classes and an urge for a longer historical pedigree, libertarians often like to pretend that great canonical thinkers prior to that time were also libertarians. But as that is an obvious anachronism, it turns out to be untrue. There are some lesser knowns here and there along the trail who might come close, but basically none of the big old philosophical names can rightly be associated with this mid-20th century libertarianism. Previously, I pointed out John Locke’s anti-libertarian transgressions , in which he observed and prescribed a solution to the intense coercion of labor contracts made between those with very unequal bargaining strength, contracts he analogized to slavery. To suggest Locke was not a mid-20 century American libertarian was so infuriating that some rather amusing, but ultimately incompetent,...

Heroism is a Symptom of Political Dysfunction

Enron billionaire John Arnold took a break on Tuesday from his long-standing project of taking away the pensions of public employees in order to provide $10 million to keep Head Start programs running during the government shutdown . This is perhaps one of the more depressing spectacles so far to come out of the shutdown mess. The early education of poor kids in America now partially swings on the whims of a man with way more money than he deserves to have in the first place. This development reminded me of a Corey Robin post from April of last year . In it, Robin attacks the media gushing that followed Cory Booker rescuing a neighbor from a burning house. His point is that Booker’s rescue — and indeed many of Booker’s antics — are things that normally should be done automatically by a well-functioning and well-funded set of government services. That Booker even has the opportunity to do something like rescue someone from a burning building is a sign of institutional failure in fire...

How the Left Sees Liberty

Generally, I like to talk about liberty the way that libertarians do. I primarily do that because liberty, as discussed by libertarians, actually makes private property ownership an injustice. Because few people ever bother to think about that, adopting libertarian notions of liberty in my interactions with people of that persuasion is a never-ending well of hilarity. “What do you mean unilaterally grabbing up pieces of the scarce world without the consent of others (whose previously-existing access you steal away) and then violently attacking people who don’t go along with your fiat claims of ownership is aggression?” they say, “that’s just homesteading followed by self-defense!” And on it goes. The problem with the libertarian and right-wing notions of liberty is not just that they implode; it’s that there is a more plausible notion of liberty offered up by the left-wing that is only really achievable through leftist political economy. Under this, liberty is achieved when...

Inequality Is a Function of Political Power

Scott Sumner has become famous in the internet world and elsewhere as monetarism’s most capable defender. Sumner has a lot of things to say, but one is illustrative for my purposes here. Sumner argues that advocates of fiscal stimulus often make the mistake in their arguments of assuming away monetary policy as static or accommodating. His point is that you can’t do that because the efficacy of fiscal policy always depends on what monetary policy is doing in the background. This same basic point also needs to be driven home for those who want to talk about how this or that thing will affect the distribution of income in society. Matt Yglesias’ review of Tyler Cowen’s new book gives us an excellent jumping off point for what I mean. In his book, Cowen apparently argues that coming technological changes will have certain negative effects on median incomes. Yglesias rightly points out (as does Cowen) that this outcome will only come if we fail to implement certain policies that will...

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