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It’s exciting to have charismatic leaders. But often the best leaders in business, in government and in life are not glittering saviors. They are professionals you hire to get a job done.

David Brooks on Mitt Romney and the unsung appeal of the technocrat: via NYT

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You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work—and much of the profits—remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work—and masses of unemployed?

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel. He goes on to quote Alan Blinder, who wrote, “as TV sets became ‘just a commodity,’ their production moved offshore to locations with much lower wages. And nowadays the number of television sets manufactured in the U.S. is zero. A failure? No, a success.” Grove, however, warns, “…abandoning today’s “commodity” manufacturing can lock you out of tomorrow’s emerging industry.”: via Bloomberg BW

Arguably, the most important economic trend in the United States over the past couple of generations has been the ever more distinct sorting of Americans into winners and losers, and the slow hollowing-out of the middle class. Median incomes declined outright from 1999 to 2009. For most of the aughts, that trend was masked by the housing bubble, which allowed working-class and middle-class families to raise their standard of living despite income stagnation or downward job mobility. But that fig leaf has since blown away. And the recession has pressed hard on the broad center of American society.

Don Peck: via The Atlantic

It’s sad that Woolworth’s is closing. Where will all the chavs buy their Christmas presents?

Owen Jones, quoting a tittering dinner-party participant in his recent book, CHAVS The Demonization of the Working Class

Dwight Garner opens his review of Chavs with Jones’ story of the dinner party. Perhaps a dozen people of many walks and both genders, with no obvious predilection toward snobbery, nonetheless quickly and casually snap a whip of derision toward the hapless chav. On which Jones asks, “How has hatred of working-class people become so socially acceptable?”

The word chav has come to convey a thuggish conception of the working class in England. It describes the flash of zirconium-encrusted pendants and track-suits, perhaps dressed up with an edging of Burberry plaid and encircled with a pair of bug-eye, imitation Prada sunglasses, that festoons the imagined ignorant and menacing prole. What may have begun as a criticism of poor taste came to qualify an entire class of individuals, and somehow, it was ok. But why?

Garner collects a handful of answers. He suggests that it may have to do with the increasing degree of wealth and privilege that characterizes the political and cultural elite in England. Much is made of David Cameron’s Concorde-arranged, super-sonic commute to the New York birthday party of Peter Getty, the scion of John Paul Getty.

The Labor Party is no less to blame. Once the guardian of England’s working class and a symbol of upward mobility, they “didn’t really like these people very much” anymore.

But Garner misses the main shift that has cultivated the notion of and the attitude toward the chav. Touching on the culpability of the chav, he quotes Jones: “Those who were poor or unemployed had no one to blame but themselves.” But he doesn’t assign its origin, which sits in the shift toward a market-based meritocracy.

A market-based meritocracy registers one’s merit on the basis of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Wealth will accrue according to one’s merit, and in a market, wealth is the measure of success. Those titans of industry, those John Galts, are each the envy and the measure of success, and success and standing equates to wealth, doled out or denied by the machinations of the market, but in a market-based meritocracy, some poor working slob has only themselves to blame for their station.

What Garner misses is the drastic acceptability of what’s bubbling beneath the surface, “If they were worth a damn, they’d be rich.” There’s no room for respectability among the working class in a market-based meritocracy. The notion of and attitude toward the chav, however appalling, is a necessary outcome. That’s why hatred of working-class people has become so socially acceptable.

Citizens’ Semi Centennial, offering the Native American origins of the name Paramus: via Google Books

George Washington happened to encamp in Paramus on many occasions, including following his victory at Monmouth.

A colonial soldier recorded a startling sense of difference in the area in 1778 that persists, though in a different way, to this day. He remarked on the Dutch influences and idiosyncratic architecture. The homes combined two wings through an overhang set on columns and extending to a minor piazza. It gave each home an airy sense to the visitor. But the remarkably level ground, he observed, was almost preternaturally suited for agriculture at the time and would be similarly suited for strip-mall development later – beginning with the Garden State Plaza in the 1950’s.

Modern-day Paramus derives from the “New Paramus Patent,” which was also known, in perhaps a punning-premonition of things to come, as the “Wearimus Tract.” Unlike many concessions, Paramus did not have a colonial origin. It was a gift from the Native Americans.

Albert Zaborowski, having arrived in 1662 via the Dutch ship, Deb Ves, or “The Fox,” became a job-creator and accumulated significant land-interests in Hackensack, which was then called Ackensack, meaning the silent union of two waters. Zaborowski married the Dutch Miss Van Der Linde, who bore him five boys. Their progeny would later be known as Zabriskie, but not before their eldest, Jacob, was carried off into the forests by the Indians while still young.

The Native Americans who had taken Jacob returned fifteen years later with the son and a simple explanation. They had absconded with him if only to teach him their language and ensure their ability to communicate with the colonial interests. Along with Jacob and the explanation, they granted Zaborowski two thousand acres – the New Paramus Patent. This is not to be confused with the Paramus Estate, which was later purchased for a quart of whiskey and a pound of tobacco by Garrit Hopper in 1812, one of three brothers who emigrated from Amsterdam and settled in the area.

another Adam Curtis classic, named after the Richard Brautigan poem, along with a rockin’ soundtrack from Pizzicato Five.

I’m sympathetic to the protest movements and to challenging power in society, but youre not going to do it through self-organizing networks where you all sit around and there are no leaders and there is no guiding vision except self-organization. It’s a retreat, and in many respects it’s a cowardly retreat on the part of the left from confronting the fact that power is getting more and more concentrated in our society, but they don’t have an alternative, and they retreat like bureacrats, like librarians into process…processes of organization, without actually inspiring me with vision of another way of organizing the world.

Adam Curtis, interview in Little Atoms

we must force the people to be free.

Louise Antoine Saint-Just, articulating a naked assertion of Isaiah Berlin’s notion of positive liberty

Those who assert that taxes are rising or are at confiscatory levels simply do not know what they are talking about.

Bruce Bartlett, former adviser to Reagan, Bush (41), Jack Kemp, and Ron Paul: via NYT

Simply give them what they want. Freedom isn’t for anything in particular, only an assurance of non-interference with any individual’s needs or wants. Start with market democracy. Destroy the elite institutions that instruct individuals on what to do and how to behave. Allow individuals to determine their own needs and wants. And the market will rise up to satisfy their needs. This would fulfill Isaiah Berlin’s notion of negative liberty and his concern that freedom for something, some ideal, to make the world a better place, would lead to tyranny.

It’s the subject of the The Trap, three part series by British documentary film-maker and antagonist, Adam Curtis. Parts one through three are linked below.

More on the documentary, The Trap, by Adam Curtis at google video, overview

Part One – F**k You Buddy, (11 March 2007)

Part Two – Lonely Robot, (18 March 2007)

Are the markets a means of consent? –Thomas Frank

Part Three – We Will Force You to Be Free (25 March 2007)

The third film in the series provides an astonishing analysis and indictment of Paul Bremmer’s transitional government program in Iraq. Remove the government apparatus. Immediately privatize all state assets. Encourage reconstruction through the efforts of multinational corporations with the promise of tax-free profits. Unfortunately, rather than coalesce into a shining economic and political success, Iraq erupted with violence and burned its immediate economic prospects as a result of Bremmer’s policies.

it is pictures rather than propositions, metaphors rather than statements, which determine most of our philosophical convictions
–Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Metaphors in law are to be narrowly watched, for starting as devices to liberate thought, they end often by enslaving it.
Benjamin Cardozo

We exist in a free marketplace of ideas, or so we might say. The Supreme Court’s recent opinion on Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission sought to protect that marketplace by curbing regulations on corporate spending on political speech. As the Court opined, these regulations constituted censorship, and “the censorship that we confront is vast in its reach.”

The majority opinion of Citizens United v. FEC has been framed in many ways. President Obama observed in his State of the Union, “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests.” Lawrence Lessig characterizes it as indicative of the progressive and now explicit capture of our elected institutions by corporate interests. And perhaps more sinister, Ronald Dworkin, writing for the New York Review of Books, speculates that the majority repositioned the case, accelerated its consideration, and designed the decision to aid the Republican party in the 2010 election season.

The Supreme Court’s majority countered that these concerns are moot to hysterical. Instead, they asserted that the proper function of the free marketplace of ideas relies on liquidity, and what better way to increase liquidity than to throw out the McCain-Feingold bill, undermine longstanding bans on direct campaign contributions that date back to 1907, and otherwise tear down the restrictions that had kept corporate spending in check. The free marketplace for ideas, after all, would yield the fittest through rude competition. The question before the court was only whether that marketplace was free. From there, the Roberts Court could presumably “call balls and strikes.” Read the rest of this entry »

the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers

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