Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dying in the Streets

I've added the link to the comment stream at "Killing Peter's Pig," but it's good enough for a post of its own.

Tom Scocca has a great post explicating in more depth the kind of frame change I'm looking for. He puts less emphasis on the destructive rivalries among the have-nots than I did with that story.

A sample from Scocca:
The debt—the runaway debt—has nothing to do with morality. Casting the debt as an object of moral concern is the work of minds that have come detached from human experience. The debt is an epiphenomenon. It is the side effect created by the specific moral decisions about what the country wishes to see funded, and how it is willing to fund those things.

Talking about the deficit is a way of cutting morality out of the discussion. Waste! Mismanagement! Incompetence! Unaccountable earmarks! These things are noise. The actual questions are: is money to be spent on people who do not have money? And where is that money going to come from?

There are people who do not have money. Some of them do not have money because they are children. Some of them do not have money because they are old or sick or otherwise unsuited for the labor market. Some of them do not have money because the labor market has stopped paying for the work that they know how to do in the places where they live. Robots and other machines can approximate the things these people used to do.

There are other reasons, too, which can seem less sympathetic. Some people prefer to spend their time obtaining and using mind-altering substances. (Other people may or may not classify that as being "sick.") Some people—some people—lack the personal initiative to get work. And so on. These people, nevertheless, also do not have money.
Read the whole thing.


MT said...

The runaway debt is context ala the ticking time bomb or the sinking ship. Arguably, there are even more fundamental technical questions that go unaddressed in the debate, which are about how economies work and the consequences that economic changes will have on people and the status quo. Whether the ship is sinking or whether what's ticking is a bomb is in the nerdy details we'd rather moralize than talk about, so the smart populist takes the answer as a given, or works hard covertly to keep it so. Yet the moral questions we're to mull may hinge on the assumption. Often we call it fear mongering to assume the worst, but it's the smart bet at least some of the time. We have a higher tolerance for hope mongering, cheer leading and naive optimism, I think, because non-mongering is not an option--we look so much to each other--and what we say and believe can not only sweeten pills but make them effective about 30% of the time, at least according to blind-controlled clinical studies.

troutsky said...

Today I will practice non-mongering.Deep breath.
Seriously though, it is easy to make fun of Ayn Randians (I do it all the time) but the contradictions of classical liberalism are also front and center. Will we extend those same moral injunctions to all people? Send ambulances to pick up the worlds sick? Tick tick.

Also, I would argue with the author that the "agreement between workers and their employers" he makes sound so gentlemanly was actually paid for with the blood of workers. Violent struggle.The post war "Bargain" is what is now unravelling because those same workers stopped short in that struggle.