Thursday, July 21, 2011

note-taking/posted elsewhere. Brad DeLong lets one in, unedited.
And then he removes it a week[?] later. Stupid.
You argue that the urban poor (or non-rich) are up shit's creek as far as access to decent tasting vegetables is concerned, and that this is more or less a truth of nature. If it weren't for the fact that you're a competent economist I'd put you with Henry Farrell's ex-copain, Tyler Cowen: "Don't blame me blame the value free market. Blame reality!"

Bertram of course argues directly from "values"
The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves.
Ian Whitchurch above: "Can we all please accept that right now the main enemy is on the right..."
Read the quote from Bertram and tell me if it's left or right. Then I'll answer.

Neoliberalism sees the market in its adversarialism as foundational to social life. But by that logic the market itself has no adversary, no opposing partner. That's the mistake. You call yourself a social democrat but you're not, because you can't imagine or at least you refuse to calculate with forces other than the market. And social democracy is founded on those forces (family, community) as much as on capital. Its strength is in the adversarial relation between the individual and collective life, collective life without which the individual wouldn't even exist.

As an economist you focus on the lowest common denominators of human interaction, and focusing on universals can strengthen their position. "Everyone's greedy" sounds like encouragement. And like Bertram you argue from values. Optimism is a value, not a truth, and in the time-honored American tradition you do your best to turn the old realist assessment of the ubiquity of avarice into an affirmative defense, to which Bertram responds like a schoolmarmish authoritarian. There are a few of those at "Crooked Timber". You'd think they'd pay more attention to their tag line. But your "nature" is as artificial as their moralism.

All of you focus on ideas and rules, as if they were more important even than people. Ideas, rules, and laws are formal generalizations, by necessity non-contradictory. Individual experience is specific, and the obligations that accrue to people in social life are prone to conflict and contradiction. We live most of life informally, each of us as individuals negotiating informality. Yet informality is the one thing you, Bertram and the rest ignore. And you model the world as dynamic but yourselves as static. Your individualism is textual originalism read into yourselves as authors and actors. You all claim to write as Scalia claims to read. But you're creatures of your time and place. If Elizabethan England made Shakespeare, what made you? Because all of you write as if it's the other way around.


  1. Anonymous7:49 AM

    It's a great comment, well-composed, that opens rather than closes a conversation.

  2. A conversation however, that will not take place.
    Earnest questions ten or twenty years ago ignored became accusations. I'm on autopilot now, but don't think there's any less disgust.


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