Sunday Morning Link Brunch

Society

I haven’t done a whole lot in regards to society lately, so I thought I would link to some really interesting articles I’ve read recently. Enjoy!

And here’s the worrisome thing: what if it turns out that we need ever-growing debt to stay out of a liquidity trap?

There are two common responses to the plight of the low-wage worker. The first is “That’s just the way things are”, a response which serves both to derail empathy and deter people from imagining the way things could be.

The second is “But it worked out for me.” This is the refrain of the tenured to the adjunct, the staff to the freelancer, the rich to the poor: “But it worked out for me; the system is fine, it worked out for me.”

Today the attack on the poor is no longer cloaked in ideology – it is ideology itself. This ideology is not shared by most Americans, but by those seeking to transform the Republican Party into, as former GOP operative Mike Lofgren describes it, “an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.”

These are the people who have decided that poor children should be denied food as a result of elected officials wanting poor people to have healthcare.

The government shutdown only formalises the dysfunction that has been hurting ordinary Americans for decades. It is not a political shutdown but a social breakdown. Fixing it requires a reassessment of value – and values.

The problem with the libertarian and right-wing notions of liberty is not just that they self-implode; it’s also 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 notion, liberty is achieved when individuals have their economic well-being so strongly secured that they can pursue their personal projects without worrying themselves about the potential of falling into utter destitution. True liberty requires, as FDR famously noted, freedom from want.

… When protected against the possibility of economic retaliation, people can speak more freely, associate more freely, and practice their faith more freely. In short, having their livelihoods publicly secured gives people much more genuine liberty to do what they’d like. And that’s what really seems to matter when we talk about liberty, not some property rights formalism.

Seniors in the U.S. still appear to be relatively well off, but that’s because the impact of the 401(k) revolution is just beginning to hit retirees. Pensions are disappearing fast, and many people don’t realize that Social Security benefits were already cut in 1983, leaving those born after 1960 with significantly reduced payments. The horror is coming as baby boomers face retirement without adequate sources of income.

The shiver is already felt in my age group, Generation X. It’s going to be bad not just for the aged: A country full of impoverished elderly people is bad for everyone. Young people will have reduced productivity as they are forced to take time off from work to care for aging parents. Disability rolls increase as the retirement age goes up. Weakened demand for goods and services due to empty pockets stalls the economy.

First, it is just plain stupid to pretend that the Cold War was a fight between Marxism and freedom. Many Marxists supported freedom and opposed the USSR, and many conservative Cold Warriors were enemies of freedom.

Secondly, it’s not just Communists who had some evil ideas in the mid-20th century.

Socialism postulates that an altogether different economic system will in due course come to replace capitalism, and that this economic system will be based on the principle that no person should work for the private enrichment of another and under conditions of enforced subordination; and wage labour … will be taken to be as morally repugnant as slavery or serfdom are now viewed as being. (1994, p.29)

Here’s what the glimpse I’ve given suggests: the state of the Common Wealth is in crisis. In terms of an authentically good life, we’re going nowhere fast. The rev counter is buzzing, but the speedometer’s needle is barely moving. We’re very busy, but we’re not better for it.

Perhaps we should not be surprised that voting habits have not changed much. After all, apart from the gentrifying areas in the centre, populations have probably remained much the same as they were before the fall of the Wall.

The 26 Republican-dominated states not participating in an expansion of Medicaid are home to a disproportionate share of the nation’s poorest uninsured residents. Eight million will be stranded without insurance.

… The states with the highest percentage of people in poverty today also maintained very high levels of slavery. According to the 1860 U.S. Census, the top five slave-owning states included: 1. Virginia, 2. Georgia, 3. Mississippi, 4. Alabama, 5. South Carolina. Meanwhile, today’s poorest states are: 1. Mississippi, 2. Louisiana, 3. New Mexico, 4. Alabama, 5. Texas (Note New Mexico did not become a state until 1912).

new paper by Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen has discovered that the proportion of enslaved residents in 1860 — 153 years ago — predicts race-related beliefs today.   As the percent of the population in a county accounted for by the enslaved increases, there is a decreased likelihood that contemporary white residents will identify as a Democrat and support affirmative action, and an increased chance that they will express negative beliefs about black people.

The overlay of population density statistics makes it easy to see that most of the wealth was concentrated in urban areas in the North: Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; New York; and Boston.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first population and housing census since 1991 will take place from October 1 to October 15.

The census is expected to yield an exact social and economic snapshot of Bosnia which will also reveal changes in the distribution of its population caused by the war that raged through the country between 1992-1995.

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