Polls Schmolls

What I ask in “beware of becoming what you accuse others of,” is choosing only the facts and polls that make your case, being too narrow for any acceptance.

You are combative to the right, arguing that more government programs and regulation are quite simply the solution. You and I can use polls and numbers to make this case. While it is important to choose information carefully, you are right, what matters is what it all means, more than which source. In my opinion, information should be the goal, not information that leads to any preferred conclusion. The value of information increases as it is divorced from any partisanship.

I was driving with a right wing media-loving friend past some Occupiers; she wanted to yell out at them, “Hooray for capitalism!” So that is what some people think of them. Let’s hope they want more than to knock down capitalism. I applaud Nick Kristof, because – if he is right – there are some actual policy recommendations in those tents, beanies, signs and guitars. Several smart people who are not Occupying, as well as the smart Occupying people, say structural change is needed. It seems that unchecked capitalism allows for oligopoly. This was clearly the case in the early twentieth century, when the trust-busters made their case. And that was their solution to the over-sized oil companies, and later to Ma Bell.

That may be a partial solution to our problems now. Kristof looks at the following: “You cannot be a good house in a rapidly deteriorating neighborhood,” he told me. “The credibility and the fair functioning of the neighborhood matter a great deal. Without that, the integrity of the capitalist system will weaken further.” Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist, adds that some inequality is necessary to create incentives in a capitalist economy but that “too much inequality can harm the efficient operation of the economy.” In particular, he says, excessive inequality can have two perverse consequences: first, the very wealthy lobby for favors, contracts and bailouts that distort markets; and, second, growing inequality undermines the ability of the poorest to invest in their own education. “These factors mean that high inequality can generate further high inequality and eventually poor economic growth,” Professor Katz said.

The issue now is not only that corporations are too big, but that wealth is so concentrated among a few that they are sucking the underlying support of them dry. The first response to this should be to discredit the idea that these people deserve it, while continuing to credit the public’s faith in capitalism. These two principles are not necessarily opposed.

However, JP, some of your solutions favor what can be simply labeled as socialist. You have made the case, well, that there are examples of socialism all over in our American economy. Despite your being accurate, I think this is a case too far to make to the wider public. Pick your battles: we live in a socialist world, or we should have some policies that re-empower the 99%. Even if you could do both, I doubt it could be done simultaneously.

And polls would not make it happen; we can agree on that.


About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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