Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Frank Miller And The Decline Of Hollywood

I usually stay away from articles that try to analyze politics through the lens of popular culture, as I tend to think that they are often a bit overblown. However, I believe that Rick Moody has written a very good piece on Frank Miller's attack on Occupy Wall Street specifically, and on the degeneration of Hollywood in general.

I think Moody is essentially correct in his critique of Miller and Hollywood. The American movie industry was never perfect, but it used to produce some very good, humanistic films. I know the inevitable reaction to this sort of critique is something like, "hey, I just go to the movies to escape reality and enjoy myself, not to receive a lecture in moral philosophy!" Of course a little escapism is fine, but like sugary sweets, it is best to only consume so much. Furthermore, the content of the escapism matters as well. I would much rather watch an old Ray Harryhausen fantasy film than most of the CGI-laden dreck that comes out nowadays.

More importantly, Moody is right to criticize the intensely militaristic and stupidly violent nature of modern action films. He is also right to see the modern, glitzy action film as worse than the more obviously silly action movies of the 1980s, which were often rather hammy compared to the more polished ideological blockbusters of today.

The fact that Frank Miller's tirades about "Islamicism" are not much different from the nonsense you might read in any typical neoconservative magazine is a rather frightening thought given the reality that these ideas are not really outside of the political mainstream, having influenced at least one American presidential administration. We have come a long way from Sylvester Stallone's portrayal of the Vietnam War veteran John Rambo in First Blood, which was at least somewhat interesting, not to mention other, superior films made in Hollywood's Golden Era.

Metternich And Socialisme Conservateur

Matthew Franklin Cooper has a great post on the continuing relevance of Prince Metternich. Definitely worth a read.

Double Dipping

David Lindsay has an excellent post on the economics of a double-dip recession. A must read.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Spanish Pain

David Lindsay has an excellent post on the recent election in Spain. A must read.

When Small Isn't Beautiful

Bill Mitchell has a very good critique of microfinance and other alternatives to direct job creation via state action, here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Austerity Then And Now

While I realize that I have been linking to Paul Krugman a lot lately, he has been writing some very informative articles on the economic crisis in Europe. Prof. Krugman's blog post "Austerity Then And Now" explains why reactions to austerity today are much different than the reactions in postwar Great Britain. It is a great piece, please give it a read.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't Blame The Welfare State

Paul Krugman has been on quite a roll lately. He has a great piece debunking the myth that Europe's recent economic woes are the result of generous welfare states. Definitely worth a read.

Breaking The Spell

I was genuinely surprised to see Mark Skousen's review of Sylvia Nasar's Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, in which he lambastes John Maynard Keynes and Keynesianism generally, getting some pretty unfavorable comments over at The American Conservative. I admit that I don't read paleoconservative publications as much as I used to, but I wonder, are more conservatives starting to see the problems with what has passed for economic conservatism for the last thirty or so years? It is hard to argue that "socialists" rule the roost these days, as the economic right has gotten almost everything it has asked for short of the most extreme libertarian proposals.

Indeed, it was Pat Buchanan's critique of free trade and globalism generally that started me on my path away from typical Republican partisanship to wherever the heck I am on the political spectrum today. Just from an everyday standpoint, I think it is plain to most regular Americans that, where it matters, they are worse off today then they were in the 1950s, 1960s, or even the 1970s, and that this worsening of living standards is not just the product of the latest recession, but a process of decay that has been going on for decades. Now that this reality is being brutally hammered home by austerity and doggedly persistent unemployment, perhaps we will see the end of the era of voodoo economics and the diabolical spell it has long cast over American conservatism.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nationalize Qantas

Bill Mitchell has a good piece advocating the re-nationalization of Australia's largest airline. Definitely worth a read.

What's Good For The Goose...

Michael Lind is in fine form, this time explaining how CEOs, bankers and affluent professionals rig the economic system in their favor, while denying the same protectionist measures to the great mass of workers. A must read.

A Boom For Whom?

Paul Krugman debunks the myth of the post-Reagan boom, here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Debunking Brooks

Alyssa Battistoni does a very good job critiquing David Brooks and his recent article about economic inequality in the United States. Battistoni is right to point out that the problem of inequality is really a political problem and that the growing power of the very wealthy is largely due to their success in obtaining the kinds of laws and public policies that favor their interests.

Indeed, what I like most about Battistoni's article is that she seems to dispense with the common progressive obsession with college education and meritocracy, an obsession shared by David Brooks and other mainstream voices who refuse to discuss the question of political power as the main source of economic phenomena (remember, economics was once more realistically called "political economy" before economists decided that they must ape the natural sciences in order to obtain "scientific" respectability).

Instead, Battistoni points out that a living wage (I prefer the term "family wage") and robust benefits are the keys to combating inequality, and that one should not have to attend college to be able to make a proper income. This is precisely the kind of thinking that we need in this country and around the world. There must be a recognition that an income supportive of a dignified family life should not be based on the cruelties and uncertainties of some "race of life," a race is that is already unfair to begin with.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remembering Giorgio La Pira

On this, the 34th anniversary of the passing of Giorgio La Pira, please visit David Lindsay's blog, where he kindly reprinted my summary of La Pira's life. Also, please visit the website of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, where Father Francis Belanger, O.P. has written a great little piece on La Pira.

Ora pro nobis

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Wisdom of Pope John Paul I

During the 1970s, Albino Luciani, then Patriarch of Venice, wrote a series of letters to various historical and fictional figures for a Christian publication in Italy. In 1976, the collection of letters was published in Italy as a book with the title Illustrissimi, or "To the Illustrious Ones." Luciani would later become pope in 1978, taking the name John Paul. Unfortunately, Pope John Paul I would pass away on September 28, 1978, after a brief reign of only 33 days.

While John Paul I is probably best known for his sudden and tragic passing as well as his humble and friendly demeanor, leading many to dub him the "Smiling Pope," Papa Luciani also had a keen understanding of the world. In his Feburary, 1971 letter to British author Charles Dickens, the future pope makes clear his opinion of capitalism, especially the laissez-faire variety, writing:
"The union of workers in defense of their own rights was, in fact, first declared illegal, then it was tolerated, and finally it was recognized by law. The State at first was a 'policeman-state,' declaring labor contracts a completely private matter, forbidding collective bargaining; the boss had the upper hand; laissez-faire reigned without control. 'Are two bosses after the same worker? Then the worker's wages will rise. Are two workers pleading with a boss for a job? Then wages will drop.' This is the law, people said, and it leads automatically to a balance of power! But, on the contrary, it led to the abuses of a capitalism that was, and in some instances still is, a 'wicked system.'" (Luciani 1978: 6).
While recognizing that workers, especially in the First World, had made important gains in rights and living standards, Luciani still understood that much work had to be done as injustice remained even in the rich countries. He writes:
"But even in these privileged countries there are many pockets of poverty and insecurity. Many workers are unemployed or fear for their jobs. They are not always sufficiently protected against accidents, and often they feel treated as mere tools of production and not as human protagonists." (Luciani 1978: 7).
Luciani also discusses the problems of consumerism, the abuse of the natural world and conflicts between the Third World and the rich nations. What answer did the Patriarch of Venice have for suffering humanity? Nothing less than solidarity between people and trust in God, writing:
"We are all in the same boat, filled with peoples now brought closer together both in space and in behavior; but the boat is on a very rough sea. If we would avoid grave mishaps, the rule must be this: all for one and one for all. Insist on what unites us and forget what divides us." (Luciani 1978: 7-8).
In our age of extreme individualism, the words of John Paul I offer us a great challenge. Can we survive as a civilization when we are willing to ignore the degradation of the weak while concentrating only on our own comfort? Will it take even more economic shocks, wars, and other catastrophes to wake us up to the reality that we have not arrived at the "End of History," but instead, are facing the possibility of a grim future? Hopefully, more of us will listen to the wisdom of John Paul I and see that it is impossible to escape the coming storms without faith and solidarity.


Luciani, Albino. Illustrissimi: Letters from John Paul I, trans. William Weaver (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978).

Krugman On Military Keynesianism

Paul Krugman has an interesting piece on the Republicans and their penchant for Military Keynesianism. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cafeteria Conservatives

While I dislike the term "liberal Catholic" as much as "conservative Catholic," E.J. Dionne, Jr. has a good article on the conservative reactions to the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and its critique of the financial system, here.