Apparently Michael Moore is less of a union man than he claims to be:
The porcine provocateur is promoting his anti-Wall Street jeremiad by giving free tickets to unions, but the American Federation of Teachers has turned them down because Moore didn't hire any members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
And I thought he stayed out of the gym because someone told him it was a sweat shop!
Poor boy made good, Michael Moore says "capitalism did nothing for me, starting with my first film." In fact, he says, " I had to pretty much beg, borrow and steal," he said. "The system is not set up to help somebody from the working class make a movie like this and get the truth out there."
Hard work, individual initiative, and compeition, isn't that what capitalism is about?
Moore's comments remind me of this essay on "Capitalism After the Crisis," by Luigi Zingales, who writes that:
In a recent study, Rafael Di Tella and Robert MacCulloch showed that public support for capitalism in any given country is positively associated with the perception that hard work, not luck, determines success, and is negatively correlated with the perception of corruption. These correlations go a long way toward explaining public support for America's capitalist system. According to one recent study, only 40% of Americans think that luck rather than hard work plays a major role in income differences. Compare that with the 75% of Brazilians who think that income disparities are mostly a matter of luck, or the 66% of Danes and 54% of Germans who do, and you begin to get a sense of why American attitudes toward the free-market system stand out.
Moreover, ZIngales notes that:
When the government is small and relatively weak, the way to make money is to start a successful private-sector business. But the larger the size and scope of government spending, the easier it is to make money by diverting public resources. Starting a business is difficult and involves a lot of risk -- but getting a government favor or contract is easier, and a much safer bet. And so in nations with large and powerful governments, the state tends to find itself at the heart of the economic system, even if that system is relatively capitalist. . . .
The situation is very different in nations that developed capitalist economies after World War II. These countries (in non-Soviet-bloc continental Europe, parts of Asia, and much of Latin America) industrialized under the giant shadow of American power. In this development process, the local elites felt threatened by the prospect of economic colonization by American companies that were far more efficient and better capitalized. To protect themselves, they purposely built a non-transparent system in which local connections were important, because this gave them an inherent advantage. These structures have proven resilient in the decades since: Once economic and political systems are built to reward relationships instead of efficiency, it is very difficult to reform them, since the people in power are the ones who would lose most in the change.
Finally, and this is the point that gets us back to Moore:
The United States was able to develop a pro-market agenda distinct from a pro-business agenda because it was largely spared the direct influence of Marxism. It is possible that the type of capitalism the United States developed is the cause, as much as the effect, of the absence of strong Marxist movements in this country. But either way, this distinction from other Western regimes was significant in the development of American attitudes toward economics.
Moore doesn't recognize that distinction between supporting the free market and supporting businesses. The danger, of course, is that the more government does, the more conncetions, rather than talent, hard work, and intelligence matter.
Some in that group will even get additional money from the government because they qualify for refundable tax breaks. The
ranks of those whose major federal tax burdens net out at zero -- or
less -- is on the rise. The center's original 2009 estimate was 38%.
That was before enactment in February of the $787 billion economic
recovery package, which included a host of new or expanded tax breaks." Only some of the implications of this are touched on in the story. Interesting, no?
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal Philip Howard makes the case for tort reform, and explains why it's not happening:
Eliminating defensive medicine could save upwards of $200 billion in health-care costs annually. . .
A few thousand trial lawyers are blocking reform that would benefit 300 million Americans. This it not just your normal special interest politics. It is a scandal--it is as if international-trade policy was being crafted in order to get fees for customs agents. . . .
Trial lawyers also suggest they alone are the bulwark against ineffective care, citing a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine that 'over 98,000 people are killed every year by preventable medical errors.' But the same study found that distrust of the justice system contributes to these errors by chilling interaction between doctors and patients Trails lawyers haven't reduced the errors. They've caused the fear.
Howard recommends pilot program to create special medical courts. If they work, they could be expanded.
I have been perusing National Affairs, and am, for the most part, impressed. (The social science is quite sharp, as are the critiques of modern social science, but the political analysis is more predictable). Anyway, W. Bradford Wilcox's "The Evolution of Divorce is well done. He shows how marriage has changed since the introduction of "No fault divorce" in the lat 1960s and early 1970s. Although the divorce rate has declined, it is still much higher than it used to be. In addition, for more and more people marriage is now mostly about finding a "soul-mate" rather than about finding some with whom to make a life. Finally, and most interesting to me just now, is that more an more people are simply not getting married, even though they are having children.
There is a large class divide on this issue: "According to a 2007 Child Trends study, only 7% of mothers with a college degree had a child outside of marriage, compared to more than 50% of mothers who had not gone to college." Nowadays, a USA Today story notes, nearly 40% of babies born in the US are born outside of wedlock.
Here's my question. Might something like common law marriage be reintroduced through the back-door by civil suits that develop a customary law regarding the obligations of fathers and mothers for their children, regardless of their official marital status, and/ or governments with an interest in forcing fathers to pay to support the children they helped to create (and perhaps their mothers too)?
You can drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she always returns.
In public policy, the trick is to mix intelligence with money; a higher ratio of intelligence is usually efficient and preferable, but all too often the entire apparatus comes to a halt when the mixture is too lean in money. The real challenge now is to improve our understanding of policy enough to sustain a higher ratio of intelligence to money.
Now that's some of the best comedy writing I've seen in a long time.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
From philosophy professor Hans Jonas's wonderful memoir, an episode about Leo Strauss to ponder:
With more on Strauss, Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, and intellectual life during Weimar, WW II, and the post-war U.S.
On a fall day--it must have been in 1934--we went for a walk in Hyde Park. We'd walked along in silence for quite a while. Suddenly he turned to me and said, "I feel terrible." I said, "Me too." And why? It was Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and both of us were not in the synagogue but were walking through Hyde Park. That was telling. For him much more than for me.... But for Strauss it was a source of torment. "I've done the equivalent of committing murder or breaking a loyalty oath or a sinning against something." This "I feel terrible" came straight from his soul. [p. 49]
Literature, Poetry, and Books
The Civil War & Lincoln
Both major parties lost in popular votes, but the Social Democrat virtually collapsed when the seats were distributed. The somewhat libertarian-like FDP rose, to produce a 70's-like coalition with the Christian Democrats (no, it's not the German version of our religious right; it's hard to make comparisons with the US). I like this display of the results, and here is another graphic depiction--just click on the tabs in the box on the Bundestagswahl. Ignorance of German is no problem. (It's interesting that the more liberal paper emphasizes the popular vote, the more conservative one the number of seats won, the decisive element.)
For an explanation auf englisch try the NY Times.
Each German party has its own color (as each has its particular flag). Only recently has American politics spoken in terms of a "red" and a "blue" party. Obama's big selling point was his 2004 convention emphasis on a "red, white, and blue America." But we reject not only European social policy but its class-based politics as well. That's the tired politics that put the Social Democrats at their record low level and may bring down our Democrat socialists as well.
UPDATE: This report notes the fall of the conservative CSU and the rise of the FDP in Bavaria, changing the direction of the governing coalition.