The Vulgar Empiricist


“The Shift From the Unions”

A Twitter-friend and I have been batting around an analogy between the 1920s and the era we’re living through now. There’s the brief rise of a white Protestant right-populist movement (the KKK then, Tea Party now).

(verokitschy / flickr)

The Twinkie Defense, or What Does “Uncompetitive” Mean?

Comrade Frase offered his thoughts on the Hostess collapse the other day, and while I have my differences with his take, that’s not what I want to talk about here. What fascinates me about the  the bakery workers’ strike are all the reactions to it, and what they reveal about the worldview underlying our free market in labor.


On Strike Debt: An Exchange with Andrew Ross

Dear Andrew,
One of the things Occupy has been criticized for — and I’ll admit, I’ve been one of the critics — is a lack of focus on strategy or organizing. The debt campaign seems like a real effort to grapple with those problems — to figure out how the movement can expand its numbers and strength so it might force some material changes to the social balance of power.

Liberals and Teachers: An “Examination on the Merits”

Matt Yglesias has a judicious take on teachers unions.
Responding to a post by Doug Henwood asking why it is that liberals seem to hate organized teachers, Yglesias denies anything of the sort.
what baffles me about these discussions is the tendency of labor’s alleged friends to simply refuse to look this reality in the face and instead insist that any hostility to specific union asks must secretly reflect the skeptic’s hostility to the existence of the union or its members.

Good Debt, Bad Debt

Let me inaugurate this, my blog, my very own blog, by pointing you to this excellent comment thread at Crooked Timber — which is such an ideal speech community that it actually features somebody named “Substance McGravitas” — where Mike Beggs’s review of David Graeber’s Debt is being debated as we speak.

capitalism no thanks

Anarchy at the Fed!

Doug Henwood has the story:
The central bankers [staff economists at the New York Federal Reserve] recently had David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, down to talk to them, where he told them about the need for debt relief.

 . . . And a Tea Party Coda

Fifteen years ago, it was observed that a major proportion of those who supported the reactionary position of Senator Robert Taft were people over 60, people who were still able to regard the graduated income tax, for example, as a wicked innovation.

The Tea Party Revisited

Back in 2009 or 2010, I often found myself ranting about the things the Left would say about the Tea Party. No, the Tea Partiers aren’t some Astroturf mirage, I would grumble. Nor are they a mob of downtrodden sans-culottes, a band of fascists, or a generic herd of populists.

The Eurocrisis: What Lies Beneath

More news from the left-neoliberalism front!
Ezra Klein draws our attention to the fact that austerity isn’t the only thing the Euro-enforcers are trying to foist on Southern Europe. They’re also pushing an audacious agenda of “labor-market reform.

Everything Old Is New Again

Matthew Ygesias, today:
I had a very interesting dialogue this morning with Ned Resnikoff, starting with his tweet, “shorter The Economist: Life ain’t fair, so let’s force workers to bear cost of shoring up crumbling financial system.