Archive

  • PRINCIPLES. I generally...

    PRINCIPLES. I generally agree with Matt 's article today, particularly his conclusion that principles are "only good if your principles are the right ones." But he seems to be contradicting himself here: Lieberman at least plausibly really does think the role of a United States senator ought to be complaining about "Friends"� time slot. If so, that�s all to the worse. Politicians who pander to misguided public concerns are problematic; politicians who genuinely share those misguided concerns and help to feed and create them are worse. I don't get it. It seems to me that the whole point of Matt's article is that it doesn't matter how one arrives at a public policy position, whether it's political pandering or genuine principle. What matters is whether the position they adopt is right. If that's the case, then why does Matt think it worse that Joe Lieberman 's schoolmarmish instincts are genuine rather than calculated? Parenthetically, I think Matt would agree with me that his point...
  • MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN....

    MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN. I've avoided commenting on the apparently deteriorating situation in Afghanistan because I don't understand the dynamics over there very well, but it is worth noting that the situation certainly does seem to be getting bad : "Suspected Taliban guerrillas in the southern province of Helmand ambushed and killed 32 people on Sunday, all of them relatives and tribesmen of an influential member of Parliament, among them a former local government official, the legislator said Monday." The obvious point to make about all this was that there was almost certainly a significant cost to our Afghanistan policy involved in taking our eyes off the ball and shifting attention to Iraq. In part, this is just a question of force size. But it's also a question of money. We've spent a phenomenal amount of cash on the Iraq War -- far, far, far more than anyone would ever have contemplated spending on Afghanistan. And having tons and tons of money to throw around makes pretty much...
  • I COME NOT...

    I COME NOT TO BURY DEMOCRACY , BUT TO PRAISE IT. Like Matt , it wasn't my intent to greet Cherny and Baer 's new magazine with a negative post, it just happened that I wandered into an article that I had to hack my way back out of. So let me take the opposite tack now and highly recommend Gar Alperovitz 's piece on a progressive ownership society. He goes through the usual -- though undoubtedly important -- asset-building stuff, but I'm more interested in his rundown on employee-owned corporations, of which there are now nearly 12,000, with some mega-companies boasting revenue in the billions. Alperovitz notes that "[a] recent survey by Rutgers University sociologist Joseph Blasi, Rutgers economist Douglas Kruse, and BusinessWeek reporter Aaron Bernstein demonstrated that such firms have consistently higher productivity records than comparable non-employee-owned firms. Average hourly pay in ESOP firms is also significantly higher than pay for comparable work in non-ESOP firms. And...
  • WHEN THE BEST...

    WHEN THE BEST IS NOT ENOUGH. Excellent, a chance to tread over some more Iraq/incompetence terrain. Kevin Drum writes : Actually, not everyone seems to have realized this. In fact, it's a point of considerable controversy, isn't it? Sam Rosenfeld and Matt Yglesias made the opposite point explicitly in "The Incompetence Dodge," arguing that "administrative bungling is simply not the root source of America�s failure in Iraq." I made the same argument myself a couple of years ago , though I remain sort of ambivalent about it, largely because of stories like Babylon by Bus . If you're operating at 80% efficiency and your plan doesn't work, it probably means the plan was just plain bad. But if you're operating at 20% efficiency, it seems at least plausible that better execution could have produced success. It may be that democratization by force is a chimera, but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from...
  • HIGHLY EXPLICABLE. It's...

    HIGHLY EXPLICABLE. It's a small point, but one passage in the aformentioned National Review article made me laugh out loud: If Republicans want credit for spending restraint, they also should have some high-profile program eliminations. Corporate welfare presents obvious targets. It seems inexplicable that Republicans haven�t taken up this issue despite the fact that every conservative think tank has pushed them to do it for years. Indeed! It's a bottomless mystery why Republicans haven't cut off the public spigots to corporations. If TAPPED were a less honest enterprise I'd leave the excerpt truncated like that, but duty compels me to point out the authors' next sentence: "But the influence of business lobbyists and farm-state members has preserved Washington�s 'spending for the rich.'" Very true. So what's "inexplicable," again? -- Sam Rosenfeld
  • ADVICE, GOOD AND...

    ADVICE, GOOD AND BAD. The latest National Review cover story by Kate O'Beirne and Rich Lowry offers a blueprint for Republicans to save their congressional majorities. Much of their advice, I think, is actually (unfortunately) pretty sound, including their forthright endorsement of the renewed GOP efforts to make a lot of noise about security issues and the Iraq War in spite of the war's unpopularity. The authors say that the "the most important point to make" regarding the war is that "the cost of failure is dear" and that a pullout would create more problems than it would solve, and indeed, I think it's clear that George W. Bush and the GOP retain the ability to capitalize politically on the abject failure of their own war initiative, with the quagmire they've created serving the function of a gun pointed at the heads of American voters. (" Of course the war's a disaster -- vote for us if you don't want it to blow up in your face. ") The piece gets less and less persuasive as it...
  • MAKING NICE. Just...

    MAKING NICE. Just to avoid the appearance that Ezra and I are waging some kind of anti- Democracy jihad, let me say I liked these two book reviews a great deal, and nobody can accuse Jedediah Purdy of failing to put forward bold, outside-the-box ideas here . Indeed, that's so bold and outside the box I really can't think of anything to say about it at blog-speed . . . perhaps after some consideration. I'll have to give the rest of the issue a read and you should too. --Matthew Yglesias
  • SHOULD I JOIN...

    SHOULD I JOIN THE ARMY? If you haven't heard , the much-rumored Democracy: A Journal of Ideas is now up and running, with all content seemingly available online for the low, low price of a somewhat cumbersome registration process. It "will serve as a place where ideas can be developed and important debates can be spurred." So let's debate. Kathryn Roth-Douquet writes "The Progressive Case for Military Service," but I don't understand what she's trying to say. The article starts out with a Tomasky - esque tour of the difference between rights-based liberalism and civic republicanism � la Michael Sandel , except she unhelpfully uses the term "civic progressivism" instead. What's more, she rather bizarrely identifies John Locke and Immanuel Kant with the civic republican side of this divide rather than the rights-based liberalism side. Idiosyncratic history of ideas aside, it at least seems clear where we're headed. Communitarianism + pro-military = conscription, � la the Carter /...
  • DEMOCRACY: A JOURNAL...

    DEMOCRACY : A JOURNAL OF IDEAS? Congrats to Andrei Cherny and Ken Baer on the coming out party for their new journal Democracy . It's long been a frustration to me that I can enter a bookstore and find the shelves dotted with serious -- which is to say oddly sized and densely written -- conservative journals, but can't pick up anything save the occasional copy of Dissent when I'm in the mood for some lefty wonkery. That said, I'm a bit confused by the wonkery on display. Explaining the "why" of their magazine, Cherny and Baer write that "Progressives too often have come to eschew bold ambition, preferring to take shelter in the safe harbor of 'realism' and 'competence.'" As a result, Democracy will "not seek to publish policy papers or political plans; we�ll leave the budget line items and electoral strategies to others. Rather, Democracy will serve as a place where ideas can be developed and important debates can be spurred. We see our role as upsetting accepted assumptions and...
  • ABOVE THE LAW....

    ABOVE THE LAW. An informative but odd Washington Post editorial about detention policy notes all the ways the post-9-11 Bush administration has violated pre-9-11 rules against abusing prisoners, then notes all the ways the Bush administration has sought to evade post-Abu Ghraib efforts to get them to comply with the law, and then concludes with . . . suggestions for more stuff Congress might do. But Congress has already banned torture -- several times, depending on how you count. The only way to get the administration to conform to the law would be to replace the personnel -- starting with the President -- with different people, people willing to obey the law. Alternatively, Congress could try and use the power of the purse to force the administration to start following the laws it's already passed. But simply trying to pass new laws won't change anything. Worse, it seems to involve implicitly conceding that it was somehow okay for the administration to have been breaking laws in the...

Pages