Politics

How the Middle Class Lost the Election

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Middle-class rage has dominated this election, but ultimately 2016 seems destined to produce not a populist victory but the triumph of oligarchy. Blame goes to a large section of the middle and working class itself, which, in rejecting political convention, ended up with a candidate who never would have served their interests. You can blame “elites” all you want, but in a republic, citizens need to act responsibly. And choosing Donald Trump doesn’t fit that description.  read more »

Culture, Circumstance, and Agency: Reflections on Hillbilly Elegy

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The intractability of poverty has been recognized since at least the time the Deuteronomist wrote, “The poor will never cease to be in the land.” Explanations vary: ill favor of the gods, deficient natural endowments, personal defects, the culture of the poor, external circumstances such as a lack of economic opportunity, some type of oppression—all have been popular options.  read more »

The Perils of Public Capital

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Most discussions of our slow economic growth includes a seemingly compulsory demand for increased public capital spending, so-called infrastructure spending or simply “roads and bridges.”  Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton promise increased public capital spending on their websites.   Larry Summers made perhaps the best case for public spending when he claimed that our failure to invest in public capital creates the “worst and most toxic debts.”  read more »

Trump’s Pitch to Blacks

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After Trump made a recent speech in Milwaukee in which he directly asked for black votes, I was asked to write a about it. My piece is now online in City Journal and is called “Trump’s Pitch to Blacks.”  read more »

Two Views of West’s Decline

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Summer is usually a time for light reading, and for the most part, I indulged the usual array of historical novels, science fiction as well as my passion for ancient history. But two compelling books out this year led me to more somber thoughts about the prospects for the decline and devolution of western society.  read more »

California for Whom?

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“Old in error,” writes historian Kevin Starr, “California remains an American hope.” Historically, our state has been a beacon to outsiders seeking a main chance: from gold miners and former Confederates to Midwesterners displaced by hardship, Jews seeking opportunity denied elsewhere, African Americans escaping southern apartheid, Asians fleeing communism and societal repression, Mexicans looking for a way out of poverty, counter-culture émigrés looking for a place where creation can overcome repression.  read more »

Today’s Tech Oligarchs Are Worse Than the Robber Barons

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Yes, Jay Gould was a bad guy. But at least he helped build societal wealth. Not so our Silicon Valley overlords. And they have our politicians in their pockets.  read more »

A Window Into the World of Working Class Collapse

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Some time back my brother recommended I watch the documentary film Medora, about a high school basketball team from rural Southern Indiana. I finally got around to doing it.

Someone described this film as an “inverse Hoosiers“, which is an apt description. Hoosiers is a fictional retelling of the Milan Miracle, the legendary story of how tiny Milan High School (enrollment 161) won the state’s then single-class basketball championship in 1954.  read more »

What Happened to My Party?

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The nomination of Hillary Clinton has been secured, but the future of the Democratic Party is far from certain. Despite the patina of unity at the end, the Democrats, like their GOP adversaries, seem divided as to their future direction. Each party is being pulled to the extremes by an increasingly unruly base which regards its own establishment as a cesspool of corruption, influence-peddling and naked opportunism.  read more »

Subjects:

Lessons Learned from Long-Term Privatizations

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Is long term privatization of government assets in the form of leases or concessions a good idea?

The answer is not Yes or No but rather What and How.

Done right, long-term privatization can be a great thing to the public. But given the multi-decade nature of some of these deals, the risk of getting it wrong is high.  read more »