Daily Trawl: money, party, pope and taboo

Yesterday was filled with many things that weren’t blogging, so a large link dump into which I’ll fold concise versions of the thinking I was doing about some items. Below the jump: macro, deficits, austerians, popes, racists, political parties and the terrible price of Anglo hypocrisy.

This shit right here? This is why I am passionate about the end of prohibition.

Daniel Hernandez Favero: innocent, beaten and left for dead by prohibition.

1. Money that matters.
David Andolfatto has a nice piece on who pays the costs to insulate Germany. VoxEU has a long and wonkish piece on global macroeconomics in an era without a hegemon. Krugman has some more austerian myths to bust, or rather the same zombie myths yet again. Ezra Klein has a good view on why deficits matter to politicians more than they actually matter. And Felix Salmon reviews Cameron vs. Wolf and concludes, along with most observers, that the UK Prime Minister is not only talking rubbish but knows it, and is scrambling for any smoke screens he can find.

2. Partisans.
Jonathan Bernstein writes about parties a good deal. This post is looking at incentives, how to measure and analyse what parties ‘want’, and the risks of doing so in an era of extremely strong informal party networks. This is more of a thing there than here, where a significant informal party actor (the Sun) has changed parties twice in the last twenty years. That’s equivalent in their system to Fox News becoming a Democrat attack-dog a few days before the inevitable Obama win.

3. The Dish of the Day.
Andrew Sullivan and his readers at the Dish have been engaged in some very interesting discussions, including one which started from TNC and Jamelle Bouie about the construction of racism among European whites. A number of good points come up, including one I referred to before: that the triangle trade was operated by Africans selling other Africans to Europeans. White people created a new scale of demand, but the enslavement of other Africans was an established institution in Africa long before we showed up. However, the interesting part is about the difference between medieval and modern racism.

Bouie is correct that medieval Europe cared a lot more about your religion than your skin colour. The infidel were inferior, regardless of which tribal fidelity you subscribed to. That is extremely important, because one can (and many did) change religion. The state of being less-than was by definition impermanent, a matter of choice, and thus not innate. There simply was no structured theory of race. Compare with contemporary theories of wealth and class (nobility). That was innate, was blood-bound, and was extremely difficult to change: it required a deliberate act by an annointed prince of God.

What changed when the vigorous doctrines of Calvin interbred with economic and military expediency in the New World to create the dogma of white supremacy is that we redefined the infidel as irredeemable. Early Modern Europe, in parallel with the Enlightenment, invented and institutionalised a theory of innate and irrevocable skin-colour hierarchy which simply didn’t exist in medieval Europe. Cui bono? The aristocrats of Tidewater and the Deep South.

And while we’re talking about medieval religions, we also have a new pope. Another very conservative one, this time with a documented personal history as a direct and active agent of fascism. That’s not an encouraging sign.

4. Liam Fox nails his trousers to the mast.
The title of Alex Massie’s Spectator column is “Liam Fox shows David Cameron how to lead the Tories to a historic defeat”. Choice quotes include:

[…] the kind of man, frankly, that helps explain why the Conservative party has not won a general election majority since 1992.

It’s not the actual toffs who are the problem; it’s the grasping and thrusting self-made Tories who sneer that the rest of the country could be just like them if only they were prepared to bloody work hard enough. This, of course, is meretricious twaddle. These are the Tories who make Mitt Romney look like a political genius.

Strivers vs shirkers? Give me a break

5. Harm reduction
And for anyone following the Prohibition story, here’s a few more people breaking the taboo. Intersectionality between the War on Drugs and the religious right’s War on Women, in the NYT. Scientific American are talking about routine screening programs, which have an alarming false positive rate for something that is now a fact of life for 45% of US workers. Josh Marshall of TPM has a very interesting look at how gay marriage, cannabis prohibition and small-c conservatism triangulated for him over the last few years. And then there’s this. If you want to understand the price paid by poor people of colour to mollify the petty prejudices and cheap moral indignation of aging Anglos, read this article and look at the pictures. Without prohibition, none of this happens.

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March 2013
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith


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