Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robert Reich laments the indecency of gross inequality (and the economic policies designed to exacerbate it):
(F)or more than three decades we’ve been going backwards. It’s far more difficult today for a child from a poor family to become a middle-class or wealthy adult. Or even for a middle-class child to become wealthy.

The major reason is widening inequality. The longer the ladder, the harder the climb. America is now more unequal that it’s been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

Rather than respond with policies to reverse the trend and get us back on the road to equal opportunity and widely-shared prosperity, we’ve spent much of the last three decades doing the opposite.
(T)he underlying issue is a moral one: What do we owe one another as members of the same society?

Conservatives answer that question by saying it’s a matter of personal choice – of charitable works, philanthropy, and individual acts of kindness joined in “a thousand points of light.”

But that leaves out what we could and should seek to accomplish together as a society. It neglects the organization of our economy, and its social consequences. It minimizes the potential role of democracy in determining the rules of the game, as well as the corruption of democracy by big money. It overlooks our strivings for social justice.

In short, it ducks the meaning of a decent society.
- And Ian Welsh points out that an economy built around unnecessary scarcity only facilitates negative outcomes in both absolute and relative terms:
We, in the West, live in scarcity economies.  The key bottleneck resources are scarce, and the decision has been made to keep them scarce.  Our entire economic policy from about 1979 can be summarized as follows: ordinary people cannot be allowed to have a real raise which translates into spending on oil.
When you live in a scarcity society, it’s almost impossible to receive permission to do anything real, and you have to put up with how your boss treats you, unless you have a very in-demand skillset, because the next job isn’t a sure thing.  Infrastructure isn’t maintained, new institutions aren’t built, and every old institution tries to create a rental stream (thus the huge increases in tuition and the huge decreases in grants.)  You can’t build high-speed rail, heck you can’t even maintain the freeways properly.  Bridges start collapsing, and so on.

This isn’t just about resource shortages.  A resource shortage may start the sequence, but it is the deliberate refusal to deal with the resource shortage which turns it from a challenge into an era, which turns a rich society into a scarcity society.
- Meanwhile, Alison's latest Dilbit takes a look at the lack of thinking behind the NEB's Gateway approval. And David Suzuki points out the lunacy of approving a pipeline based on future research to figure out exactly what harm it figures to cause:
"Spills will happen, there is no question about that," the Vancouver-based broadcaster and scientist told The Vancouver Sun. "The question, is what do you do about it?"
Among the panel's 209 conditions recommended Thursday, Enbridge should: research programs into oil-spill cleanup and the varying physical and chemical properties of the oil intended to be shipped, including studies into dispersion and remediation; conduct pre-operations emergency response exercises and develop an emergency preparedness and response exercise and training program.

"It's absurd to say we have to do state-of-the-art research and all that after the pipeline is allowed to go through," Suzuki continued. "There is no known technology that can clean up the mess once it occurs. They can't sop up most of the oil; it's simply dispersed into the atmosphere, water or land."
- Finally, both Andrew Coyne and Stephen Maher discuss the Supreme Court's ruling striking several Criminal Code provisions related to prostitution.

No comments:

Post a Comment