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Archive for September 2007

unsustainable socialism

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Yesterday, the latest in the long-running New York Times series “Why Each and Every Attempt at Even the Mildest of Socialist Programs in the Developing World is Grounded in Very Serious Cheating!”

Usually, it is Venezuela’s oil wealth that makes for the totally unfair and unsustainable advantage co-opted by shady leftists. Now it’s the Indian state of Kerala – which apparently receives some cash from workers who have gone abroad. (The same disqualification has long applied to Cuba, of course).

TRIVANDRUM, India — This verdant swath of southern Indian coastline is a famously good place to be poor. People in the state of Kerala live nearly as long as Americans do, on a sliver of the income. They read at nearly the same rates.

With leftist governments here in the state capital spending heavily on health and schools, a generation of scholars has celebrated the “Kerala model” as a humane alternative to market-driven development, a vision of social equality in an unequal capitalist world. But the Kerala model is under attack, one outbound worker at a time.

Plagued by chronic unemployment, more Keralites than ever work abroad, often at sun-scorched jobs in the Persian Gulf that pay about $1 an hour and keep them from their families for years. The cash flowing home now helps support nearly one Kerala resident in three. That has some local scholars rewriting the Kerala story: far from escaping capitalism, they say, this celebrated corner of the developing world is painfully dependent on it.

“Remittances from global capitalism are carrying the whole Kerala economy,” said S. Irudaya Rajan, a demographer at the Center for Development Studies, a local research group. “There would have been starvation deaths in Kerala if there had been no migration. The Kerala model is good to read about but not practically applicable to any part of the world, including Kerala.”

I think this is fair on the part of the paper. Until a socialist utopia is brought into existence in a state that possesses no natural resources, no industry, no currency reserves, no pre-existing infrastructure, the NYT is right, socialism will remain a debased program that can only win by cheating the system. Everyone knows that things like oil and cash are, by divine right, always already property of international capitalism – any attempt to harness their value for the advancement of equality is not only dishonest, it is abominably perverse.

And the fact that we don’t see articles about, say, the way that the Mexican capitalist economy would likely be unsustainable without the currency Western Unioned home by the folks (no longer) building out the sprawl and cleaning floors or cutting lawns at the McMansions is quite understandable. For capitalism generates the international economic disparities that force these workers to cross the border in the first place – therefore, capitalist economies are playing fair when they subsist on the fruits of the disparity.

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September 8, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Posted in socialism

he never even set up his 401k

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Shit. In the office pool, I had “Video will be announcement of his resignation from the Bush administration due to the fact that he was unable to make ends meet on a mere $168,000 per annum.”

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September 7, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Posted in teevee

thinking man’s conservative

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Big business wants out of the business of providing health care to the American workforce. Fine. There’s an obvious answer out there – check every other developed economy – regarding who should take up this responsibility.

But the right has other ideas. Here’s David Brooks from today’s NYT:

Few have thought about these matters as long or as well as Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation. Butler grew up in Shrewsbury, England, got a doctorate in American economic history in Scotland and became a U.S. citizen in 1996. As a result, he’s acutely aware of what makes American civilization unique, and which policies fit the national character.

{snip}

Butler’s specific health care plan is well-summarized at the Web site of the Hamilton Project. First, he would create tax-exempt “insurance exchanges.” These would be sponsored by trusted agents — unions, churches and other social groups. Organized like the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, they would offer menus of coverage choices and create diverse risk pools.

Second, employers who did not offer their own coverage would oversee payroll deductions and tax withholdings, but they would no longer have to sponsor programs or make choices for employees. Third, Congress would offer a health care tax credit to families making up to 200 percent of the poverty level, and would tighten benefits for the affluent. Fourth, states could come up with their own ways to regulate this system.

This isn’t the laissez-faire social contract of the 19th century. But neither is it the centralized, big bureaucracy contract of the 20th century. It’s a contract that envisions society as a dense but flexible web of social networks, the perfect vision for 21st-century America.

Hmmm… Church-based health insurance… That’s a new one… And if I were to obtain my benefits from my union, seems like a slightly different sourcing of the funds in question (me, in the former case and my employer, in the latter…) And who are the “other social groups” he’s thinking of? Can’t wait to get my Cat Fancier’s Pooled Funds Medical Card in the mail…

The title of Brooks’s article is “The New Social Contact.” The terms of said contract seem to be “figure it out for yourself, or ask your priest, but leave your government the fuck out of it, kay?”

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September 7, 2007 at 9:18 pm

Posted in america

wallstalgie / wallfallstalgie

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Within the course of a few days, Putin gets the Tupolevs circling and circling again, and the the western news orgs give in to their own nostalgia for the X Miraculously Opens in X-Commie Stronghold! story. Can you believe that it was a mere eighteen years ago that history once and for all came to an end, etc etc etc?

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September 7, 2007 at 9:40 am

obsolete forms

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We wait for the image, the conjunction, that will blind us or make us at last see, that will reset the operating system and let us move under a power “not our own” but all our own, just differently, newly, once and for all.

But the right image, the effective conjunction, never comes. We have flags and mothers and cheerleaders, we have the soft core and the hard core, the lynchings, the bombings, and the children.

These clips lend us access to a world that has passed. Nothing does the trick anymore; we must find another aesthetic with which to break ourselves into compliance with our baser, animalian, that is to say human, enlightened, imperatives.

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September 3, 2007 at 1:58 am