Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Paul Rosenberg writes about the high-priced effort to undermine public institutions and the collective good in the U.S. And Paul Krugman highlights how the Republicans' stubborn belief in the impossibly of good government (regardless of large amounts of evidence that such a thing is possible and desirable) has produced the U.S.' combination of waste and gridlock:
On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. And no matter the issue, it’s the same chunk. If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.

The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?

Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. If you don’t want the government to impose controls or fees on polluters, you want to deny that there is any reason to limit emissions. If you don’t want the combination of regulation, mandates and subsidies that is needed to extend coverage to the uninsured, you want to deny that expanding coverage is even possible. And claims about the magical powers of tax cuts are often little more than a mask for the real agenda of crippling government by starving it of revenue.

And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.
- Meanwhile, Joe Oliver seems determined to sell the same Tea Party hand-me-down lines in Canada. And Michael Spratt discusses Peter MacKay's efforts to make sure that factual research doesn't get in the way of the Cons' tough-on-crime zealotry.

- Michael Harris writes that the Cons' election-year task is once again to push voters to forget the policies they actually support when they go to the polls - or at least to undermine their view of democracy to the point where they'll stay home. And Michael Den Tandt highlights the absurdity of the Cons running on their disastrous economic record.

- Danica Kirka reports on Oxfam's latest study on inequality showing that by next year, the global 1% may own more than half of the wealth on the planet. And the Guardian makes the case for immediate action to reverse the concentration of income and wealth, while recognizing how much work remains to be done in even defining the problem.

- Finally, Barry Eichengreen discusses the blanket of financial regulations which was shredded to ribbons in the name of easy profits over the last few decades - and the fact that restoring economic stability means more than simply undoing one set of cuts.

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