peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I've been on a mental dive down the ant hill lately. Ant hill? Don't I mean "rabbit hole?" No, I do not. I strongly suspect we get that term "down the rabbit hole" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and if so, that would mean that a logical, rational exploration of a topic would be simply to run along with the Red Queen; the faster you run, the slower you get; all logic gone. So, while I love the deliberate whimsical suspension of logic for purposes of allegory and entertainment, I'm leaving the rabbit warrens unexplored. Go read Watership Down if you want to dive into a bunny nest.

Ant hills, though. That's another story.

They are complex, far more complex than most realize. So, I shall explore. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Ever since the "New Democrats" have installed themselves in the political scene, many of the standard rallying calls of the Progressive Movement have been sidelined into being mere tropes and tall tales. The problem, as I see it, is that these New Dems are, rather than the raging bull liberals of our past, merely steers who mewl rather than snort with rage and charge into the breeches. They have adopted meek standards, weak tea compared with the heady strong stuff of former years, and have in pursuing these standards continued to survive the increasingly competitive political environment forced upon all potential candidates.

What might these weak standards be? )

X-Posted to [ profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I very recently finished a pretty darned good book, Henry George's Progress and Poverty from 1879. In it, he asks some serious questions of the class of scholars then known as "political economists," specifically why more people starve where civilization is most developed, and not less.

This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain. . . . So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe. To educate men who must be condemned to poverty, is but to make them restive; to base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal, is to stand a pyramid on its apex.

(Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879, Book I, Chapter I, Paragraph 5.)

NB: Since Mr. George's book is available online in its entirety, I have decided to reference not the page numbers, but the Book, Chapter and Paragraph to make cross-referencing that much easier.

This might be the first any of you have heard of this connection between progress, also known as the development of civilization, and poverty. But throughout his book George points out example after example supporting his initial observation. Where civilization goes, poverty and want follow.

The reason? The fact that property is allowed to be held in private hands. Take this section from Book X, Chapter V, Paragraph 19: "In the very centers of our civilization to-day are want and suffering enough to make sick at heart whoever does not close his eyes and steel his nerves." Is there something we could do? How about a full-blown miracle?

Dare we turn to the Creator and ask Him to relieve it? Supposing the prayer were heard, and at the behest with which the universe sprang into being there should glow in the sun a greater power; new virtue fill the air; fresh vigor the soil; that for every blade of grass that now grows two should spring up, and the seed that now increases fifty-fold should increase a hundred-fold! Would poverty be abated or want relieved?

Any bets out there how a sudden increase in the harvests would be met by us, we mere civilized people? I doubt the answer will surprise. )

X-Posted to [ profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Not long ago, I mentioned Henry George and my desire to find his book, Progress and Poverty. I did! And now I am plowing through it as I can. George's writing can best be described as Victorian; long sentences with a flow quite unlike today's more preferred writing style. You'll see for yourself in some of the excerpts (should you continue reading).

Before you click away, he let me know about a controversy dating way back to 1887 of which I had never heard, but which tells me that the state of economics education/dissemination has not really changed that much. I've made it past Book III of P&P, and much of it has been dedicated to George's hating on a name still quite familiar today; Reverend Thomas Malthus. Decrying that Malthus was wrong or whatever is not the anomaly here; George is pointing out what errors he finds in Malthus because of a unique reading of Malthus apparently quite popular in ways I had never, ever heard. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Some years ago, I asked myself a question: What is an investment, and how does it differ from an act of speculation? I'm getting closer to an answer, especially after hearing Seth and Justin interview two authors on the topic of a man who has become largely myth, and about whom we know almost nothing: Henry George.

It turns out Mr. George. . . . )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.


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