Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Chris Dillow discusses how a shredded social safety net may turn into a vicious cycle - as voters are more prepared to cast ballots based on resentment when their own livelihood is less secure:
Marko Pitesa and Stefan Thau first manipulated subjects' perceptions of their income by inviting some to compare themselves to high incomes ($500,000 per month) and others to low incomes ($500 per month). They found that people primed to believe they had low incomes then expressed harsher judgments about violent acts than those who were primed to think themselves rich.

This, they say, supports the idea that when people feel themselves to be poor, they feel more vulnerable to others' harmful acts, and this caises (sic) them to make harsher judgments about them. If you can afford to replace your iPod you'll be less censorious of muggers than if you can't. If you're driving your children around all the time, you'll be less hysterical about paedophiles than if your kids have to walk everywhere. And so on.
I say all this to make two points.

First, moral judgments are influenced by our economic positions. Marx was right to say that "the mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life." For more evidence of this, consider Matteo Cervellati and Paolo Vanin's discussion of how moral norms are shaped by family wealth.

Secondly, when liberal leftists complain about working class illiberalism, they should remember that the failing here lies not (just) with the working class themselves, but in social democracy itself. This has - so far - failed to sufficiently reduce the sense of vulnerability among the poor which produces illiberal attitudes.
But of course, the "so far" in the final sentence carries plenty of weight. And the flip side of Dillow's point may well make for a reasonable summary of the goals of progressive politics: to ensure that all citizens enjoy enough security (in terms of both income and protection from social harm) to be able to participate in public life based on positive goals rather than aversion to the type of vulnerability exploited by the right.

- Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt comments on the massive income gap within Toronto Centre (which is being exposed to light by the federal by-election). And Alice discusses how the current set of by-elections seems to reflect the Libs' final step toward realigning themselves as Mulroney-style PCs - even if Chrystia Freeland can't afford to admit it when it comes to Keystone XL.

- Huffington Post takes a look at the drastic gap between Canada's energy exports, and its massive trade deficit covering everything else. And Brent Patterson notes that imbalances in production will exacerbate the added prescription drug costs the Cons want to impose under CETA.

- The Mound of Sound points out that Boeing offers one prime example of a business built on exploiting public-sector connections. But Digby (citing Colin Crouch) looks at the problem more generally:
Outsourcing is … justified on the grounds that private firms bring new expertise, but an examination of the expertise base of the main private contractors shows that the same firms keep appearing in different sectors … The expertise of these corporations, their core business, lies in knowing how to win government contracts, not in the substantive knowledge of the services they provide. … This explains how and why they extend across such a sprawl of activities, the only link among which is the government contract-winning process. Typically, these firms will have former politicians and senior civil servants on their boards of directors, and will often be generous funders of political parties. This, too is part of their core business. It is very difficult to see how ultimate service users gain anything from this kind of managed competition.
To me, it seems obvious that the "contractor state" cannot be defended on democratic or capitalistic grounds. It certainly shows that simply outsourcing various necessary functions inevitably leads to corruption --- as any 7th grader should be able to predict.  That this concept of "reinventing government" was pushed by certain New Democrats on the basis of gibberish makes it even more astonishing that it's taken so long to be exposed for what it is: patronage for rich (mostly) white guys who all know each other. How sad that health care reform had to be the ultimate guinea pig.
- Finally, Haroon Siddiqui muses that "fraud politics" may be the undoing of Rob Ford and Stephen Harper alike.

1 comment:

  1. To all,

    To avoid confusion, the reference to "certain New Democrats" is a quote from Digby. It refers to 1% panderers within the American Democratic Party. They caucus as the "New Democratic Coalition". They are outnumbered by their betters in the "Congressional Progressive Caucus".

    I must admit, the passage was presented in such a way...I thought Greg had found us some Canadian New Democrats in need of disciplining.

    Spare the rod - this time,
    Dan Tan