Sunday, October 05, 2008

Does the middle-class need a 'no homeowner left behind'?

I SPENT A FAIR PORTION of Sunday morning reading everything I could find about the bailout, and how various prognosticators expect it to filter down to street levelthat's street with a small s, as distinct from The Street. A couple of those articles have mentioned "stop-gap"* measures that were implemented earlier in this whole mortgage-meltdown mess. One such measure was the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (hereinafter HERA), signed into law with comparatively little fanfare by President Bush this past July 30. The bill's so-called "neighborhood stabilization" provision injected just short of $4 billion in emergency HUD grants into local economies for the purpose of buying up (and, if necessary, refurbishing) distressed properties, which would then be leased or sold back to struggling homeowners.

A couple of things here. First off, reading this material, I'm struck by the awareness that we're going to see the same sad phenomenon here that applies in so many other tragic-event cycles: The earliest victims get screwed. This latest bit of Washington largess may provide some relief for the Joe and Jane Six-Packs whose
homes are currently in foreclosure (though I'm still cynical enough to think that a fair portion of the $700 billion will never move very far from Exchange Place). But one thing is sure: The people whose lives fell apart back in the beginning of this mess are simply SOL. Their homes are gone, their credit is in ruins, and that's that. No one will be riding in on a white stallion; for them, it's over. In that sense, one is reminded of the 9/11 families, who collected, on average, $2.08 million per family for their loss. Leaving hyper-emotionalism out of it, I'm still perplexed about why that particular group of Americans had to be compensated, and so lavishly, when prior secondary victims of terrorist acts at best got a folded flag and the sympathy of a grateful nation. And as I observe in the post linked above, what about the families of the 49 garden-variety homicides that occur in the U.S. on any given day? Where's their two mill? Those lives are worth nothing?**

There's another category of people who appear ripe for screwing, and guess what: It's the very middle class that both candidates manage to work into just about every sentence of every speech. I say this based on the fact that HERA wasn't a no-strings assistance package: To quote my local paper, "the funds must be used to assist individuals and families whose incomes do not exceed 120 percent of the area median income." Further, as I understand the bill, HERA gave states a great deal of discretion in deciding which "areas" to focus on in the first place. The practical effect of these caveats is that a lot of folks who might've breathed a sigh of relief when they first heard about HERA (and now the bailout/rescue) could be in for a rude awakening, because they're simply "doing too well" to qualify for aid. The Greater Allentown area in which I live, for example, is a region of mostly middling wage earners, with a few pockets of something approaching affluence, as well as long, blighted stretches of what is manifestly poverty. The area's median household income is $68,500. This means that under the terms of HERA, the cut-off for assistance is $82,200. Remember, now, this is household income, not personal income. That's not a lot of money in the era of the two-income family. I dare say you'd have trouble buying a home in any given suburban neighborhood if you can't show that kind of income on a mortgage app. So the practical effect here is that suburban homeowners are all but barred from help under HERA. If they lose their jobs or otherwise fall behind in their payments and have nowhere to go...again, they're SOL.

Here, by the way, are some eye-opening facts, figures and perspectives relating to middle-class-dom. The upshot? Middle class may be many things to many people, but overall, the phrase often represents higher income levels than you'd think.

The classic dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats poses that the former serve the rich, while the latter serve the poor. I'm a little concerned that the much-ballyhooed $700 billion bailout may help only those two classes of Americans. I hope that one month from today, regardless of which candidate awakens to the heady thought of being president-elect, he's ready to give more than lip service to the nation's middle class: people who are "doing OK," but are hardly immune to financial disaster, and in too many cases are just a missing paycheck or two removed from it.


* which obviously weren't effective at stopping (or even mitigating) anything.
** Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that the family of every American who dies should get a windfall of $2 million. But I'm asking: Why some people and nothing others?

106 comments:

Anonymous said...

Homeownership has been promoted as "The American Dream" and as a way for poor people to climb into the middle class and to improve their lot in life. And over the past 15 years, the federal government has been making it easier for poor people to buy homes by outlawing "redlining" and other practices banks employed to reduce their risk.

The result has been a huge disaster - paving the road to hell with more good intentions. And that's because homeownership is a sign of personal responsibility and economic growth and not the cause of personal responsibility and economic growth.

As a nation, we tried to thrust responsibility on the poor via easy homeownership. But owning a home should be rather difficult; not everyone can achieve this goal. People who have ignored education opportunities; given birth in their teens; spent significant time in prison; succumb to substance abuse; and those who just do a crappy job working or who are just really bad at living within their means (I've just included about five of my family members) have no business owning homes. Historically, 62% of American adults own homes. Two years ago, that number hit 68%. And it's been a disaster.

Middle-class people don't need a bailout. Rather, they need to take care of their own economic affairs and stop whining. The handouts need to stop.

And I also agree with you that we tend to turn tragedy into winning lottery tickets.

Anonymous said...

I wish Congress had not passed the economic bailout. We are already in an economic social state. We are going to slip further into one with this "bailout." We are just kicking the can farther down the road. The can is still there.

We have a very flawed banking system that uses fiat money. Fiat money is money that is not backed by a physical commodity. The usual physical commodity is gold.

Mark my words, in less than five years there will be another economic meltdown due to this flawed system. Ask any economist and they will explain how we have a fiat money system in the United States. The dollar has no backing and is as good as Monopoly money. It was suppose to be a short term fix after the Great Depression. It was never meant to go on this far.

There is no party or president who can fix the banking system. It's like a building that has been condemed for structural damage that needs to come down. China, who holds so much of America's paper, pushed for the economic bail out.

It may hurt to take the toe off now, but it is better than the whole body.

Steve Salerno said...

Let me clarify something here, though. I'm not necessarily saying that I support the bailout; I see very good arguments on both sides. But I'm very definitely saying that I think we're sometimes unfair in who we include in--and who we leave out--of these massive do-good programs. As I note in the post, the ones I really feel sorry for are the people whose lives are already in the crapper. Where's their bailout?

Stever Robbins said...

Take a look at the video "Money as Debt" (http://r.steverrobbins.com/moneyasdebt). If its description of the fractional reserve banking industry is accurate, then a debt contraction of any sort bodes poorly for the money supply.

In a very strange way, giving out lots of loans--even bad ones--is good for the money supply and thus, the economy.

Eliminating debt, whether by responsible repayment or through default, shrinks the money supply. Shrink too much and the economy stalls.

It's all very strange and mystifying to me. Money, even if "backed" by hard currency, is all in our minds. (What 'backing' money with metal does is provide an arbitrary limit on the total supply and links growth of the supply to the growth of an arbitrary commodity.)

Scenario 1: family lives in house. Takes care of house. Promises to pay bank pieces of paper ("money") every month. Bank is happy. People are happy.

Scenario 2: family lives on street. House stands empty, gets vandalized, falls into disrepair. Same family, same house. But because family isn't giving bank pieces of paper, the asset breaks down, the bank is unhappy, and the family is living on the streets. Yet the physical assets involved are all still there, ready and waiting to be taken care of.

While I understand that money is a convenient method of denoting exchange, I just can't wrap my head around why we're so locked into the monetary model of exchange that we cause pain, suffering, and asset deterioration before we're willing to unbalance the books.

Anonymous said...

"stop whining"

Well, there you have it. The Phil Gramm school of economics. If we only stop whining, we'll start getting well paying jobs, decent medical care and good education for our children. Stop whining and all this will just materialize, presumably out of nowhere. What an excellent idea, Anon.

Anonymous said...

'money is a convenient method of denoting exchange, I just can't wrap my head around why we're so locked into the monetary model'

I think most of us have forgotten that money is just a symbol, a token of exchange and have bought into the symbol as a concrete thing in itself, a good, a given.

The money itself has become all important, not what it can do i.e. feed, clothe and house us. It is possible to live fairly well on little money if we are not too involved in status and other material externals.
And I agree with the 'stop whining' If you can do something about it, then do it; if not, then no amount of whining is going to help (unless you're looking for a handout)

Anonymous said...

"if not, then no amount of whining is going to help (unless you're looking for a handout)"

So no whining. I get that. Sounds good.

But how do you propose I pay our rent if I lost my job six months ago, our health insurance with it, and used up our savings to pay off my spouse's hospital bills (and medication)? Oh, and my kid's college tuition went up 10 percent this year.

I'm so ready to, as you said it, "stop whining," believe me. Any other suggestions? Something more concrete maybe, or even more humane? Or is "stop whining" the best you have to offer?

Anonymous said...

Stop whining is a good first step.

Michael Sheridan and Shota Ushio wrote a good piece in yesterdays Sunday Times.

'Don't repeat our errors Japan urges the West'

full text:

http://tinyurl.com/4f3owb

Anonymous said...

Stand-out quote from Sheridan and Ushio:

'Never let amateurs manage economic policies.'

Anonymous said...

"no amount of whining is going to help (unless you're looking for a handout)"

For Wall Street, whining for a handout worked quite well. But if you're Joe Sixpack, whining won't help, that's true. Joe should pull himself by his bootstraps and eat cake.

Anonymous said...

Just to pile on the gloom:

America's darkest fear: Detroitification.

Full text:
http://tinyurl.com/54xv3e

Its not the real nightmare of course, but pretty scary.

Its not my job, Anon 9.29, to do your thinking for you. You have the equipment. But in tough times remember: if you are still breathing, you are ahead of the game.

jeanette said...

I don't always agree Steve but you always make me think . On this blog nothing is as simple as it seems in other places, and though that used to bother me I think of it as more of a good thing now.

I agree that if you're at the extremes, either rich or poor America looks after you, and the middle class gets forgotten no matter what the politicans say. I live in San Francisco where something like 1 out of 100 homes is in foreclosure now. There are developments near me that are starting to look like ghost towns and it's frightening and sad. These people have no one to turn to for help, no rich friends or tax loopholes or tax credits or government handouts. They're just screwed as you put it. Is that "whining?" Maybe, but all I know is they're whining from the curb as they watch a truck take their belongings away.

Brian said...

What is so difficult about:

1. Don't buy things you can't afford.

2. Don't borrow money you can't pay back.

3. Don't spend money you don't have.

Follow those 3 ideas and you won't need a fascist, socialist Obama government to help you.

RevRon's Rants said...

"1. Don't buy things you can't afford."

Like health care (much less, insurance), a home, gasoline, and in too many cases, groceries. And you don't really need that insulin that liberal doctor told you to inject every day. That TV preacher told me so. Or, on a larger scale, multiple wars, risky speculative investments, junk bonds, $50 million bridges to nowhere.

"2. Don't borrow money you can't pay back."

That's right... follow the example set by government, especially these last 8 years. China is, after all, known to be a patient and forgiving lender! And forgo that appendectomy, and trust the HMO's accountant to make your health care decisions, rather than some spendthrift physician.

"3. Don't spend money you don't have."

See #2, above.

"Follow those 3 ideas and you won't need a fascist, socialist Obama government to help you."

Now here, you really need to make up your mind, since fascism and socialism are generally considered antithetic to each other, and Obama doesn't fit within either mold. But that's just the "spin" those intellectual "elites" put on things, and we *know* about them, don't we? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

I actually think the whole economic system has grown so convoluted, and is such a mixed metaphor, that the traditional polar labels no longer apply. And any discussion rooted in same is bound to end up as, well, a discussion to nowhere.

Btw, how long before the phrase "....to nowhere" becomes as tired and tiresome as, say, "the mother of all...." did, a decade or so ago?

Anonymous said...

Read a good article today 'Enjoy it while you can, hard times are coming' sadly, not online.
draws clear parallels between the run up to this crisis and the last Great Depression.
Nick Crafts, Prof at Warwick University (economic historian)
says:
'Until recently I would have definitely said yes to the question of whether we can avoid a repeat of the Great Depression. The trouble is that these things can go horribly non-linear.'
Robert Shiller, Yale Prof:
'It is impossible to predict the nature and extent of the damage that the current economic and social dysphoria and disorder will create.'
It looks like at least two to three years of cold turkey.

Troubling that such times led in the past to the rise of fascism and could do so again if we are not vigilant.

Elizabeth said...

I maybe wrong, Rev, but I think you are dead right here. :)

I'd add to those things that fit "brian's" criteria higher education. Who in the US can afford it, really, right? If you are not rich, don't bother thinking you or your kids should go to college. Simple.

BTW, will have to tell my father that. Because, c'mon, it's time he stopped whining about the cost of all the medications he needs after his stroke and has to pay for on his small fixed income. Really, dad, don't buy things you can't afford. And don't even think that the government should make your drugs affordable for you after all those years you spent working so hard and with such honesty and dignity to contribute to the wealth of this country. That kind of stinking thinking only helps fascists win.

While we at it, dad, you don't really need to eat every day.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Btw, how long before the phrase "....to nowhere" becomes as tired and tiresome as, say, "the mother of all...." did, a decade or so ago?"

How about three months ago, Steve? Unfortunately, the mentality that tried so hard to build that bridge is as popular as ever. Until we change that mentality, I think we need to keep hammering at it... even if that means repeating tiresome metaphors.

Anonymous said...

"I live in San Francisco where something like 1 out of 100 homes is in foreclosure now."

Jeanette, I live in the Bay Area and that is happening in out of the way areas like Brentwood and Pittsburg, CA. San Francisco and Marine are still doing quite well. I live in Oakland/Rockridge and my home is just appreciating. It depends on the area, whereas the poorer parts of Oakland have a lot of foreclosure.

Just to show another side to this when it comes to money. When I in grad school, I had a professor tell me she brought her Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco for about $60,000 in 1966. She went on to say she was not doing too well. Now I thought she was nuts! I knew the her salary was roughly between $75,000 to $100,000 and with the appreciation of property in San Francisco, unless she had a crack or gambling problem (she has no children) she was not doing too badly. This was about two years ago.

I teach now part-time at a community college and the money is not bad. I still have my student loans, but the interest is tax deductible and I saved up to go to grad school. A lot of this is very subjective.

Anonymous said...

Btw, how long before the phrase '....to nowhere' becomes as tired and tiresome as, say, 'the mother of all....' did, a decade or so ago?"

Please put "at the end of the day" to the list of over used phrases. May all end up in the tired catch phrases graveyard with "where's the beef?".

Steve Salerno said...

YES, Anon 2:16, I concur wholeheartedly. I actually caught myself using that phrase ("end of the day") during a radio interview not long ago, and I couldn't believe it...despite my most earnest precautions, I was infected!

JustCallMeKathy said...

To Anon: It's my "party" and I'll whine if I want to.
http://www.livingmiddleclasspoor.blogspot.com/

Brian said...

Socialism and fascism are not antithetic to one another at all. Nazi Germany was certainly both and there are numerous other examples as well.

There are always examples you could give of people who can't afford medication, medical treatment etc. I'm not talking about desperate case.

Most people who have a job, any job can make it if they will just use a simple budget and pay for things with cash.

A college education is not a right. Many of us, (myself included) worked our way through college. Sometimes, I worked two jobs. It can be done.

Anonymous said...

We have a Labour/Socialist government in the UK. We still have a huge economic problem, everything is going belly-up today as I type.

We have a social safety net--but it is a an absolute last resort, you can stay fed and housed, just, and healthcare is available to all. Problem is that the general expectations have risen--users of the safety net expect a standard of living that does not drop because they face hard times, that's not a safety net thats a job replacement scheme, money for nothing.

Do the middle-class Americans also expect to be bailed out because they face hard times?

I don't agree with fat cats getting off without penalty, but there were 16 years of economic goodtimes before this, when the middle-class did well, no mention then of fairness/unfairness.

It seems to me that we are all expecting to pocket the goodtime profits while crying foul in bad times and demanding that someone else pick up the tab for the losses.

Anonymous said...

"Many of us, (myself included) worked our way through college. Sometimes, I worked two jobs. It can be done."

I thought we are not talking about isolated and desperate cases here.

If you think that people who cannot afford medical treatment are desperate cases, you are either kidding or deluded. Read up: http://tinyurl.com/4tg62x
There is more of course, but I assume you are capable of doing simple research yourself.

RevRon's Rants said...

"It seems to me that we are all expecting to pocket the goodtime profits while crying foul in bad times and demanding that someone else pick up the tab for the losses."

It is exactly this expectation - by irresponsible financial institutions - that gave rise to the groundswell rejection of the "bailout" plan. They wanted business sans government involvement when such involvement placed restrictions upon profits, yet screamed for that involvement when facing losses. That's not how I run my business. I fly or fail by my own actions.

"Most people who have a job, any job can make it if they will just use a simple budget and pay for things with cash."

Unless something unforeseen happens, such as an illness that their healthcare provider refuses to cover (if they can afford a healthcare provider). Of course, if they ever hope to stay in a hotel, rent a car, buy a house, get a job, or even buy insurance, they'll likely be out of luck if they've followed your advice. Being without credit (which means actually having utilized credit resources) nowadays is, for all practical purposes, unfeasible for anyone who desires anything resembling a middle-class lifestyle.

"Socialism and fascism are not antithetic to one another at all. Nazi Germany was certainly both ..."

The Nationalist Socialist Party was socialist in name only. It's sole activity that could be deemed socialist was the inference of certain benefits upon those who strictly adhered to the party's fascist agenda, the "fit" Germans. In all other aspects, the Nazis were vehemently opposed to socialist principles.

No modern society can function without at least some level of "socialist" organization. Our law enforcement, education, military, and all aspects of our infrastructure require levels of coordination that require some degree of centralized control, and the only alternative to our "socialist" system for regulating these mechanisms would be the imposition of a fascist totalitarian government.

If one looks even a bit past the Rovian talking points, they would realize that Obama is neither a socialist nor a fascist. Of course, that is asking a lot...

RevRon's Rants said...

"Many of us, (myself included) worked our way through college. Sometimes, I worked two jobs. It can be done."

I did the same, but had to drop out a couple of times and move back home & work, due to my father's cancer. I guess I could have stuck it out, stayed in school, and told my mom not to whine about not being able to pay all the bills or get things fixed around the house. I guess I was just too much of a bleeding-heart liberal to tell her to pull herself up by the bootstraps and quit complaining.

Anonymous said...

“Most people who have a job, any job can make it if they will just use a simple budget and pay for things with cash.”

Brian, that is not totally true. If you have a full-time job at Walmart or McDonald’s for minimum wage, I doubt you are making it in the U.S. You would have to have a couple of part-time jobs just to live. There have been numerous studies done on this. Barbara Ehrenreich’ Nickel and Dimed documented this pretty well I think.

”A college education is not a right. Many of us, (myself included) worked our way through college. Sometimes, I worked two jobs. It can be done.”

I agree with you on this point. I worked my way through college and grad school. Certain states are better about college than others. There are community colleges and scholarships too. If a person really wants to go to college, there is a way.

Anonymous said...

Neither candidate can agree what middle class is. What most people consider middle class is really lower upper class. Everyone thinks they are in the middle class, but they are generally working poor or wealthy.

Also take into account job security. Who keeps the same job forever anymore? I am not yet forty and I can’t even count how many jobs and careers I have had. Two of the investment banks I worked for ten years ago no longer exist. The new employment landscape is very fluid. That’s why home ownership might be outdated, because it is linked to job security. Why buy a house if you are going to move in a year or two?

Steve Salerno said...

Re college and who should go: Read this article:

http://tiny.cc/5A7L0

It's quite long, and some of you may be put off by the very idea of who wrote it...but if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind getting beyond superficial assumptions ("Givens") and thinking more deeply than most folks are inclined to in their spare time, you'll find it to be an eye-opening read.

Brian said...

Poverty is usually a consequence of specific behavior.

There are certain things one can do that will almost guarantee they will not be poor.

1. Get a high school diploma.

Only 9.6 percent of high school graduates are poor, compared to 22.2 percent of those without a diploma.
Of those people who complete some college, only 6.6 percent fall below the poverty line.

2. Get a job

Only 2.6 percent of people 16 years or older with full time jobs are poor, according to Census data.

3. Get married and don't have kids unless you can afford it.

Only 4.0 percent of married couples without children are in poverty. Married couples without children have a long-term poverty rate of only 1.3 percent.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve,
I find myself disagreeing with Murray's theory on a functional level, at the very least. Especially given the global competition for skilled and educated workers, I think grade school (K-12) is best structured to either provide the requisite tools for a technically-based career or for progression into a more in-depth liberal education.

We ;earned grammar, spelling, and punctuation in grade school, then got a taste of the power of literature in junior high and high school. At that late point in our state-run education, many people had determined that they were more interested in (and suited to) a life built around a tech-based career. For them, extensive forays into the liberal arts were tiresome. For these people, computer science, programming, and economics-type classes were more desirable, and served to more readily prepare them for whatever they chose to do after graduation.

I think that by the 9th or 10th grade, a student is pretty well aware of the kind of classes that appeal to him or her, even if no firm career direction has been established. I think it only logical to structure an education system so as to incorporate those preferences, both for the students' satisfaction and for the efficient sustenance of a viable workforce.

RevRon's Rants said...

Brian - Not everybody falls within the neat little prescription you offer, and I think it unwise - not to mention wrong - to belittle or ignore the hardship of people who fall through the cracks of our land of opportunity. In short, we learned years ago that "Just say no" isn't a particularly effective philosophy.

To be blunt, your characterization of those who are poor smacks of a "let them eat cake" indifference or narrow insight. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that such is not your mindset, but that's how it sounds.

Also, I'd appreciate it if you could provide a link to the statistics you offer. Not saying they're made up, but I'd like to see the model upon which they're based before I accept their validity.

Steve Salerno said...

Rev, re college: I think the most compelling argument Murray presents is his (seemingly well-grounded) analysis of what actually happens to people who go to college, who shouldn't: i.e., and counterintuitively, that they end up earning less than they would've earned if they skipped college and went right into the job market, sans degree. It's hard to argue with his reasoning in that area. And I think he makes very good points in other areas as well.

Brian said...

Revron, I certainly don't mean to come across as uncaring toward the less fortunate. There are always truly needy people and those who find themselves in bad circumstances through no fault of their own.

I just believe that a large percentage of people with a little hard work, discipline and education could improve their lives on their own and we don't achieve that goal by having a large bloated federal government taking care of people from the cradle to the grave as Obama believes.

The statistics I cited came from the National Center for Policy Analysis:

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba428/

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that article about college Steve it was great! I agreed with a lot of it, especially about needing a BA to get a job. The BA/BS is just an effective tool for lazy human resource directors. I would go further and say what happened with getting a liberal arts education is happening with masters programs. More and more companies are looking for MBAs and masters, since the BA is so common. A lot of colleges are putting people not intellectually equipped into these programs. My undergrad and masters’ colleges were not intellectually that stimulating except for personality clashes with my professors. No one could believe I read Milton’s Paradise Lost for enjoyment or knew Shakespeare so intimately. These were professors mind you! They wanted to know I would read philosophers for fun or even know John Milton. That was the stuff of scholars, not students! Since they were bored, why wasn’t I? Murray hit the nail on the head.

Elizabeth said...

Brian, which policies of Obama will turn the US into a fascist state, should he be elected?

Anonymous said...

I read this article in New York Magazine and it ties in so nicely with the self-esteem movement/education:

http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

RevRon's Rants said...

"we don't achieve that goal by having a large bloated federal government taking care of people from the cradle to the grave as Obama believes."

Don't where you're getting your info about Obama's intent, but it more closely resembles a McCain campaign ad than Obama's record or public statements.

I do agree that the tit needs to be very selective, but can't see implementing a system that would punish people who *can't* make it, just because others refuse to try. At the same time, we also need to rein in the system of corporate welfare, which costs many times what that of personal welfare, and for which McCain has long been a champion. Endorsing corporate socialism when the corporations benefit, while decrying the evils of socialism when it tries to set some boundaries on corporate behavior is commonplace and unacceptable, especially coming from a party that screams so loudly about individual assistance programs.

And in case you hadn't noticed, the federal government has become more bloated in the last 8 years than at any time in its history... under a Republican administration, supported by a Republican-dominated legislature. I find it funny that the Republican party is now trying to paint the Democratic party as the party of frivolous spending.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve,
Perhaps I just didn't read Murray's theory closely enough... If so, I apologize for allowing my schedule to preclude a thorough analysis of what he wrote.

I think that if kids who were so inclined got a head-start in high school on their careers - be they technical, vocational or more academically oriented, rather than having college so universally stressed, the kids and the workforce would both benefit. It actually sounds like we're more in agreement than disagreement.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 7:21, much thanks for the link to the NYM piece, which I (unaccountably) hadn't seen. But of course, we've been saying that here on SHAMblog (and before that, in my book) for a while now. If you've read the book, you know that we talk in particular, and at some length, about Baumeister and the implications of his findings.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, hey, no prob. It's an awful lot to read, just in wordage, and then there's the thinking component as well (since the piece requires you to approach the subject from an uncommon perspective). I recommend it only because so many of his ideas seem counterintuitive at first, but then develop a definite argumentative momentum. It's worth it if you have the time.

Brian said...

Elizabeth, the behavior of Obama and his campaign and his followers is what worries me about fascism.

The following links should make you understand:

Obama's Missouri Truth Squad

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/09/missouris_obama_truth_squads_2.html

Obama's followers try to censor WGN

http://www.newsmax.com/brennan/obama_protests_wgn_radio/2008/08/28/125940.html

Obama's campaign tries to censor ad

http://tammybruce.com/2008/08/obamas_fascist_heart.php

There are many, many examples of such behavior. I've never seen anything close to this in my life.

I criticized Obama at a site called Republicansforobama.org and quickly had my ISP blocked by the owner from even being able to read the website.

Obama and his worshippers need to understand more about the American tradition of a free press and dissent. When critics are silenced, our freedom is endangered.

RevRon's Rants said...

"When critics are silenced, our freedom is endangered."

Had Bush's worshipers (including McCain) understood or at the very least considered this truism for the last 8 years, we might not be facing the economic crisis and diplomatic estrangement in which we currently find ourselves.

I don't worship Obama; I merely see that he is a highly preferable alternative to a man I once respected, but who has sold his integrity for a chance at the big table.

Dr. Swill said...

Here's an interesting, clearly written piece about the debacle:

http://desicritics.org/2008/10/06/114033.php

And the most interesting thing to me is one of the subheadings (scroll down a bit): The Toxic Power of Optimism.

What? Optimism can be toxic? Paging Oprah! Paging Rhonda! It's so interesting to finally see what could be a blog thread title on SHAMblog work its way into the mainstream.

Elizabeth said...

"why that particular group of Americans had to be compensated, and so lavishly"

Hm. This is an interesting question, Steve. Indeed, why? Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

'I criticized Obama at a site called Republicansforobama.org and quickly had my ISP blocked by the owner from even being able to read the website.'

"Republicansforobama" With respect, Brian, what did you expect on a privately owned site whose leader has made his bias so clear?
Thats not censorship, thats private opinion, why would the site owner allow you to undermine his own, strongly stated views?

Perhaps the site owner has very strong opposition to the way his own party is going, he is a republican I guess, and is committed enough to his cause to go to the trouble of creating and maintaining a website.

Pick your battles-no point in fighting if you are destined to lose, thats just a waste of energy-
Find some chink in the armour first before you venture in, that way you have a chance to accomplish something rather than just wear yourself out.

Anonymous said...

Brian,
Well worth having a pop at fascism wherever it rears its ugly head.

Think 'Trojan Horse' an oldie but goodie.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Well worth having a pop at fascism wherever it rears its ugly head."

Better 4 years late than never, eh? I still haven't seen any actual evidence that Obama is a fascist, and I've been looking.

Anonymous said...

"Obama and his worshippers need to understand more about the American tradition of a free press and dissent. When critics are silenced, our freedom is endangered."

You might want to spred that message to the McCain side too. They have banished people for complaining about Palin. Your argument does not cut it. Web sites can block you if they so choose. The government cannot stop you from free speech. That is protected. I have been banned from enough sites to know this.

Steve Salerno said...

The government cannot stop you from free speech. That is protected. I have been banned from enough sites to know this.

I'm not following this. Is it meant as irony? It sounds contradictory.

Also, people tend to have an overly rosy view of what the Constitution guarantees in the way of free speech. While it's true that the federal government (generally) cannot "stop you from free speech," there are many other restrictions in many other settings (like, say, corporate ones).

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

I wrote at length on a previous blog and it went pfft! Oh well.

I explained my perspective as an American in Australia - the land of socialized medicine - the nirvana of some folks in USA.

And talk about homeownership! It's a dream!

In Australia, Sydney to be exact, occupancy rates are at an all time high. People wait in line to bid just to rent a flat.

If one is fortunate enough to be able to save 10-20% for a down payment on a home, they must have the 10% stamp duty (tax) up front to buy that home.

Plus, interest is not an item subject to being federal tax exempt. There is NO benefit to buying a home here.

Not to mention that an average home in Sydney is currently at 550,000K. I mean that would be a detonate or renovate model. A lucky buyer could get a home maybe a 3-2-2 needing renovation at that price.

Parents with newborns are setting up savings accounts in the hope their babies will have enough money to purchase a home in their 20s-30s.

Now about socialized medicine. My personal experience has been limited. A son with a toe infection, my daughter with a sore throat. One goes to the doctor for a 5 minute visit and it is "free." You give the receptionist your card and she charges the government $40.00. You need a prescription? It is about $40-50 - no discounts. Big deal!

If you need a "surgeon" as my son required for an infected toe for an in-office little procedure, well then you go and you pay $500.

Nothing's free! My husband's income tax rate is 40%. I KID YOU NOT!

Another point - I took my children to the dentist for a regular teeth cleaning and sealant on their molars. Easy right? $600.00 I kid you not!

My step-sons have a dream of moving to the US and studying there and owning a home.

The US is a good place to live.

That said, the flora and fauna here cannot be beat. I feed my cockatoos every morning!

Steve Salerno said...

Aussie-Anon: Thanks for the onlooker's perspective. I do realize that most nations that once sailed under the Brit flag are far more pay-as-you-go (metaphorically speaking) than the U.S. There are aspects of life in which we are indeed quite spoiled--two of them being taxes and gas prices, even at their current rates. Still, we make decisions about quality-of-life based on what we're used to and, well, we're used to what we're used to. That's why most of us would've always agreed with you that "America is a good place to live." Maybe we're finally getting our wake-up call.

What did you mean when you said your comment went "pfft"?

Anonymous said...

What I meant was that my earlier contribution was a masterpiece :)) (in my mind) and I must have hit a bad button or something and it never took.

It's not your fault.

But it was...brilliant. :)

It was about detachment.

And it was in my circumstance. Having to experience total detachment as a mother as I detached from my son who joined the US army.

It was pretty intense.

In response to your blog, people wrote about detachment from a philosophical point of view, but nobody explained the process.

It was Fear to Faith and Worry to Hope and Hypocrisy to Courage.

That is a mother's perspective of detachment in a nutshell.

Steve Salerno said...

Well, I'm sorry we missed it, Aussie-Non. It does indeed sound like our loss.

Anonymous said...

Brian, speaking of fascism:
http://tinyurl.com/4lst34

Elizabeth, the issue of exorbitant payments to families of 9/11 victims has never been satisfactorily addressed. I think the amount of money is so large to stop the families asking inconvenient questions already.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Aussie Anon found her own way, she's got it, that Glow, or something, you get what you need.

Dr Swill, or is it Dr Shill?

Great article, I skimmed it and will go back for an in-depth study. Some stand out points I cheered were the notions of:

'Perils of a casino economy'

and the astute observation (acid comment) of Ralph Nader:

'there are no significant differences between Democrats and Republicans on major issues pertaining to Wall Street.'

Democracy is an adversarial system, the checks and balances are built into the adversarial part. The two parties have no business agreeing with one another--over anything.
In academe it is considered 'polite conversation' to take an adversarial position-it doesn't mean those are your views but it is considered good form to keep the conversation going and both parties should gain from the debate.

Democratic politics rests on the same ground. When the two parties agree, we the people are in trouble. The parties are then looking after their own interests, not ours as they are paid to do.

All this Third Way, Centrist Stuff (a la Blair) means everything gets dumbed down and the person in power grabs too much power. This is the royal road or slippery slope to fascism.

I didn't go to university btw, so a bit of a thicko, did Open University later but for interest, not as a job qualification.
I was already an ace at my job--could run rings round anyone--tee hee.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, for the sake of expediency here: I outline my thoughts on the 9/11 families fairly extensively in my blog of Sept. 11, 2007, as well as elsewhere (in bits and pieces) on SHAMblog. I've also written op-eds that confront the issue of compensation, but I'm too pressed for time to hunt them down right now.

Anonymous said...

"Also, people tend to have an overly rosy view of what the Constitution guarantees in the way of free speech. While it's true that the federal government (generally) cannot 'stop you from free speech,'there are many other restrictions in many other settings (like, say, corporate ones)."

Corporate and private settings do not guarantee "free speech" as the Constitution does. Brian, from what he posted, seems to think Obama supporters are against "free speech." The fact is, they can restrict speech on a private site, they have the right to do so. If Brian wanted to start his own website bashing the government and Obama, he is legally protected to do so. Now if Obama supporters state they want to change the Constitution and the first ammendment, Brian would have a good argument that Obama supporters are against "free speech." As it stands, they just want to hear what they want to hear and that is most of America!

Anonymous said...

anon 9:47 that is only if you believe in parties. I am with Thomas Jefferson about parties, to paraphrase him, "I don't won't to get into heaven if I have to belong to a party." Jefferson knew people had the tendency to be sheep and follow their on viewpoints instead of doing the work of looking at each issue. Parties were far more fluid in days gone by, now they are the end all for lazy minds.

Brian said...

I understand free speech as defined by the 1st amendment and I'm not claiming any of my "rights" were violated by being blocked from Republicans For Obama. Private web sites can ban who they want.

I was simply pointing out the cult like worship of some Obama supporters who if you dare to be critical of their messiah, they instantly ban you.

This kind of worship of an individual is what worries me about the potential for fascism under Obama.

Steve Salerno said...

Brian, I have to say I think it's a stretch to go from (a) being banned on a pro-Obama board to (b) envisioning the "fascism" that is likely to occur upon the man's election. However, I do think it's most unfortunate that an Obama board, pro or not, would ban dissenting voices. I frankly don't understand that reasoning, and I think it's a sign of the cultism that has taken over politics in this country regardless of which side of the fence you're on (and ideally, of course, politics should be more than just two sides with one fence between; there should be room for many parties and many voices). Now, I don't know what you attempted to submit; perhaps they had other reasons for censoring you. (I'll accept almost anything here on SHAMblog as long as it isn't excessively personal and/or profane.) But if you're accurate in your contention that they're objecting merely to your politics, then again, that's wrong, and regrettable. Even for an advocacy group.

Steve Salerno said...

FYI I have written directly to John Martin, director of Republicans for Obama, inquiring about their policy on dissent. I'll report back if I hear anything.

Brian said...

Freerepublic and some other conservative sites are sometimes guilty of immediately calling someone a troll and rolling out the insults if you even bring up a slight criticism of McCain. So, I agree it is not just on the Obama side.

I just find the left much more guilty of not allowing dissenting opinions. Conservatives usually believe in the market place of ideas and may the most logical viewpoint prevail.

John Martin told me I was posting too much so he had to ban me. My problem with Republicansforobama was not so much that he banned me from posting which would be his right since he owns the site. What I consider unAmerican is his banning of my ISPs from even reading the website. That is like something you would encounter in a fascist state.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10.09

Agree with regard to the parties. In a perfect world we would have no parties and each citizen would weigh the issues for themselves.

We're sadly not there yet, have a two party system and have to plump for one or the other. Neither one is going to be a perfect fit--its a tough life.

Churchill said: Democracy is a lousy system until you look at the alternatives.

RevRon's Rants said...

"I just find the left much more guilty of not allowing dissenting opinions. Conservatives usually believe in the market place of ideas and may the most logical viewpoint prevail."

I guess you haven't been watching the Congress and Senate these last 8 years or so, have you? If a Democrat had offered even a cure for all disease and a clear pathway to peace and prosperity, he wouldn't even have been allowed to bring it to a vote. Of course, the folks in the majority could hardly be called "conservatives," which might account for your perception.

Steve Salerno said...

Brian, if you sincerely think that the right is more tolerant, then never mind Rev's example of Congress--what about society itself? Why are we awash in liberty-killing measures like the Patriot Act, video surveillance of almost all public areas, cyber-surveillance of emails, etc., etc.? And don't tell me "it's necessary because of terrorism." That's not the point. The point is that a conservative-run government (certainly from 2000-2007) took every possible step to monitor what people are saying and doing, and to intimidate those who differ. Also, what about Herbert Hoover's longstanding war against the civil-rights movement and other initiatives on the American left? What about Nixon's attempt to suppress dissent and even steal an election? What about various GOP presidents' attempts to use the FBI as an instrument of political oppression?

On the other hand, yes, we have such things as academia, which tends to be extremely intolerant of right-wing views. And to this day I think the MSM tilt noticeably left (though some on this very blog disagree).

Look, I leaned right for many years, and my publishing history proves it. But I would've never argued that my party of choice (at the time) was any bastion of openness and tolerance. No political party or wing has a monopoly on ideological tyranny. It's just the way it is.

FYI, I have heard back from John at Repubs-4-Obama, and I am comfortable with his version of events and his overall description of how the site is administered.

Anonymous said...

"Conservatives usually believe in the market place of ideas and may the most logical viewpoint prevail."

You gotta be kidding... Show me one conservative site--one--where "may the most logical viewpoint prevail" rule is observed in a discussion. (Good luck.)

Brian, sorry, but your biases painfully show. I too am curious to find out what the policy on posting for the Republicans for Obama is, hope Steve gets the feedback soon and shares it with us. Somehow I don't think they have banned you just for "posting too much." Will find out, I guess.

Brian said...

How many times have you seen "liberal" protestors trying to shout down conservative voices at conferences and protests. I've never seen a conservative resort to that sort of thing. Conservatives usually think liberals are wrong, liberals always think conservatives are stupid. Just read almost any thread at the Huffington Post for proof. Watch how quick Obama supporters will call McCain supporters idiots after being presented with facts on Obama's record.

John told me via email, the reason I was banned was for posting too much. If he told you anything different Steve, then he didn't share that with me. I was always respectful in my postings. You can browse the forum for posts from Brandon, my username at RFO for proof.

I still think it is very weird to ban someone's ISP from even accessing the site, but I'm sure he didn't address that issue.

RevRon's Rants said...

"On the other hand, yes, we have such things as academia, which tends to be extremely intolerant of right-wing views."

Steve, isn't the study and encouragement of progressive ideas the very foundation upon which academia is built? Not to merely regurgitate the status quo, but to push beyond it? Inasmuch as this has been antithetical to the goals of conservatism (at least, in recent times), it should come as no surprise that academia shows little tolerance for "conservatism." As a matter of fact, it would be worrisome if this were not the case.

"And to this day I think the MSM tilt noticeably left (though some on this very blog disagree)."

Perhaps that tendency - if it is there as you claim - is a direct result of the right's assaults upon the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. One need not look too far into the past to recall the MSM's appetite for skewering the left. Clinton couldn't sneeze without being accused of ties to a corrupt tissue industry, and the press never missed a chance to turn vague questions into plausible scenarios of guilt.

I tend to lean to the left, primarily because I can see how much damage is done by the far right whenever they are given the opportunity. Perhaps the MSM takes the same approach. And don't forget that virtually all of the MSM outlets are either owned or controlled by conservatives. *Their* agenda is clear, and their true collective mission statement speaks of an unalterable oath to their bottom line.

Anonymous said...

' a conservative-run government (certainly from 2000-2007) took every possible step to monitor what people are saying and doing, and to intimidate those who differ.'


Not to stir up the partisanship, but would like to point out that right/left leaning administrations, internationally, have both been guilty of this due to the war-on-terror paranoia. Brit Labour (socialist) gov one of the worst offenders. Sarkozi's French right, Berlusconi's Italian, the Spanish.

This is about a blurring of political principles rather than a US partisan party issue.
Western democracy is at stake.
We need to haul all our gov's back into line.

RevRon's Rants said...

"I've never seen a conservative resort to that sort of thing."

Don't get out much, do you, Brian? :-)

"Conservatives usually think liberals are wrong,"

And evil, unpatriotic, traitorous... the list goes on.

"liberals always think conservatives are stupid."

Not stupid, Brian. But in the context of current events, I don't think that descriptions such as self-serving and unsympathetic would be inaccurate. I personally only think the ones who swallow the party line (*either party) without question qualify as being stupid.

"Just read almost any thread at the Huffington Post for proof. Watch how quick Obama supporters will call McCain supporters idiots after being presented with facts on Obama's record.

And you honestly don't see the same kind of reactions from the Rush, Coulter, and Hannity supporters? C'mon now! *Nobody's* blinders are that thick. I'd really like to see McCain's supporters do a fact check on the charges leveled againstr Obama before accepting the accusations as fact and jumping on a bandwagon. For that matter, I'd like to see them do a fact check on McCain's claimed accomplishments before canonizing the man. But we both know neither is going to happen, and that doesn't speak well of their objectives and motivations.

Anonymous said...

“We're sadly not there yet, have a two party system and have to plump for one or the other. Neither one is going to be a perfect fit--its a tough life.

Churchill said: Democracy is a lousy system until you look at the alternatives.”

We will never be there and don’t ever expect us to get there due to the nature of humans. We do have more and more Independent voters registered. That does warm my heart quite a bit. I think this idea that all we have is a two party system is where we get into trouble. We have a two party system, because that is what we expect and accept.

Democracy has nothing to do with a two party system by the way. Democracy is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. Nowhere is a party system mentioned. Democros means “people” in Greek. We, in the United States, live under a modified republic, which is a form of democracy.

Brian said...

Anyone ever read the book, Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg?

Elizabeth said...

Sorry to be so long here, but this particular soapbox was too tempting to resist.

I disagree with the statement that (higher) education is a privilege (though acknowledge that it is indeed so in the US).

Access to higher education, education in general, like access to health care, is a human right and should be considered such, especially in a civilized society that strives to call itself a democracy.

This does not mean that everyone should go to a university, not anymore than everyone should get a cancer treatment (whether they have a need for it or not). Even though I have not read his article yet, I do agree with Murray's general idea that not everyone should aspire to higher education, simply because not everyone has the prerequisite intellectual qualifications (his reasons may differ).

But in a system where access to higher education is a privilege (e.g., the US capitalism) the selection of those who achieve this level of education is not based on merit, as it is in countries where higher education is free, but on financial means and opportunities. In the US, higher education is considered just another consumption good to be purchased and used (and displayed) for the purpose of advancing to a higher class and social status. Thus we create a plutocracy through our educational system -- and effectively dumb it down. For when education is just another for-profit sector, with goods sold to the highest paying consumer, then in addition to the problems I describe above, the "educators" have a clear incentive to, first, admit as many students (consumers) as they can, and, second, prolong the "educational experience" of the consumers which, after all, is the source of their profit. So you have four-year colleges with their useless bachelor's degrees, where the level of education is, from the POV of this writer, dismal. What is being taught in four-year colleges should be already covered in the K-to-12, if the system functioned effectively and was not bastardized by its for-profit status.

This (free higher ed) is the way it is done in most European countries whose students outperform American pupils year after year. I'm personally familiar with both the US and several European educational systems and I can tell you that the educational standards in countries where higher ed is free and available to those who really should pursue it, rather than those who have money to pursue it, are much higher, on all levels, than in a great majority of American schools.

Many European countries have the tracking system where kids are placed in appropriate programs early on, depending on their intellectual acumen. But regardless of the presence of tracking, the brightest (and not the ones who can pay) kids go to universities, the less bright choose other career paths (and are not looked down at for doing so).

Additionally, the intellectual elites in those countries are respected for their, well, intellect, without the sneering and put-downs and smears so popular in the US (a tendency which is another by-product of education being a for-profit enterprise, btw). Intellectuals there are not necessarily among the richest, nor do their intellectual achievements translate into monetary gains; oftentimes the kids who get tracked into vocational schools from fourth grade on end up much better off, financially, than their university-schooled peers.

It helps to have national educational standards, it helps to make higher ed free and accessible to those who qualify, and it helps to remove the for-profit aspect from education.

We can bemoan the sorry state of the American ed till the cows come home, but until the three conditions I mention above are introduced to the educational system here, we can keep "whining," as one Anon said, forever but nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3.41

Agreed with most of your comment, was using the term democracy in its commonly accepted usage so will not nit-pick over that.
Interestingly, the Greek inventors of the concept had even less of a (common usage of the term) democracy than we do, eliminating slaves and women from the debates and swathes of men who also did not measure up to the elite requirements for the participants of classical democracy. Quite a small and rarified sector of the populace, then, hardly democracy.

I do not know of any place on earth that has come closer to a true democracy that the current common usage of the term 'democracy' and would be interested in hearing if you have come up with any.
Lots of small tribal societies have
quite a democratic tinge with extra weight being given to elders
opinions but I'm not sure that would qualify.

Elizabeth said...

isn't the study and encouragement of progressive ideas the very foundation upon which academia is built? Not to merely regurgitate the status quo, but to push beyond it? Inasmuch as this has been antithetical to the goals of conservatism (at least, in recent times), it should come as no surprise that academia shows little tolerance for "conservatism." As a matter of fact, it would be worrisome if this were not the case.

Well said, Rev.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, you really can't comment on Murray unless you've read the piece; he comes at the topic from a totally unconventional direction in which he demonstrates--among other things--that it actually does harm to many people to go to college, so it is in their best interest (and, by extension, society's) to not go. You can agree or disagree with his thesis and his evidence, but this is one case where you can't attack his premise on a sort of generic basis, because it just doesn't fit the argument.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, c'mon, Steve, where do I attack Murray here? I simply mentioned that I agree with only that very statement of his that not everyone should go to college (and added that I did not read his article and also added that his reasons for saying that likely vary from mine). My post is all about my thoughts and experiences and has nothing to do with Murray (other than that brief agreement I state early on).

Anonymous said...

Eliz,

Perceptive. If I read you right you are saying that higher ed in the US is just another form of SHAM?
Egad, a veritable Hydra.

Elizabeth said...

Ahem. I re-read your comment, Steve, and am even more confuseder. Did you take my post as an attack on Murray's premise...? Why?

Steve Salerno said...

I assumed that Murray was the launching point for the entire second half of this thread, or at least the college-related part. Murray's the new card in this deck; other than that, it's all been said before. Look, the blog is an open blog, and if people want to air their feelings on higher education premised on the CW, that's fine. I just thought it would be interesting for people to see what someone else says on the topic--especially since it strikes me as "fairly new thinking"--before they climb on soapboxes of their own design. That's all. But I shall now recuse myself and leave it to others to sort out.

Anonymous said...

Aon 6 pm
I was commenting on your comment that democracy seemed to have something to do with a two party system and it does not. I think the party system is something a lot of people do not question and maybe they should.

The United States is unique and did have slavery, like Greece and Rome, at the time of its conception. Women and slaves could not vote in the United States until many years later.

Thomas Jefferson, major architect of the Constituion, was greatly influenced by the classical ideals of Greece and Rome.

No democracy has been perfect and no democracy will be, since "people" are not perfect. That was the connection I was making about the Greek word "democros."

Would I say it was the best? Depends on the society. I do not think democracy works for all societies. That is a very American idea. Kind of like, "I like coffe and so should you." China does not think democracy works and neither does Saudi Arabia.

A lot of great empires have fallen. Greece (Athens), Rome, and Great Britain to name a few. What must go up, must come down.

Steve Salerno said...

"People are not perfect" is the key here, to me. The proper functioning of many systems (including the stock market) assumes a degree of human perfection/altruism that can be hard to find--and certainly is not universal. That may be the fly in the ointment.

Elizabeth said...

My (long) post on education was a response to Brian and 4:55 Anon who said that higher education is a privilege (actually, they both said it's not a right).

To the last Anon ("the higher ed is another form of SHAM"), I have not thought about it in those terms, but certainly such a critique may apply to at least some of its aspects (though not all, I think).

Anonymous said...

As a professor and as a student, I can honestly say not everyone should go to college. I went the first years at a community college transferred to an expensive private undergrad university (on scholarship) and a public college for my masters (I paid for). If it were not for so many employers making it nearly mandatory for employment, I am sure many would not go to college and should not go to college. Murray has my total agreement about that. In both my undergrad and masters programs, I had classes with people just there to get better jobs. I saw very little curiosity or love of learning. I actually was a freak for wanting to engage my mind in college. That was the main reason I went back to school after years of working.

I decided to be professor due to the horrid professors I had at a community college. They were basically people who were overeducated and trying to pick-up a paycheck. I had some good professors, but quite a few lacked the ability to teach and only cared about the state quota of students per class. I had one professor who kept everyone up to the point of the state funding and then turned vicious so he would not have to grade papers! He had a whole system worked out. This did not happen when I transferred the private university. There were no quotas to meet.

I am an autodidact, which means self-taught. It cracks me up when someone describes another as a self-taught autodidact. There is no other kind of autodidact. As Murray so accurately pointed out, people like me would find a way to learn.

Murray was spot on Steve. Maybe I have been living under a rock, but why was Murray such a problem as the author?

Anonymous said...

"'People are not perfect' is the key here, to me. The proper functioning of many systems (including the stock market) assumes a degree of human perfection/altruism that can be hard to find--and certainly is not universal. That may be the fly in the ointment."

The ancient Greeks would not agree with you. Man was the height of perfection. From the perfect human (male) form to the building of the Acropolis, which used the golden mean for its building. To the classical world, man was perfect.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 7:33: Murray was the headline author of The Bell Curve, which was roundly denounced for positing a formal hierarchy of intelligence that goes: 1. Asians, 2. Caucasians, 3. Blacks.

Anon 7:40: It makes me all warm and tingly that the Ancient Greeks believed that, but it is manifestly false. (I place in evidence Charlie Manson, John Dillinger, Ken Lay, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and a cast of many, many millions.) This is the problem with designing systems based on theories that do not consider the human element. This is why, for example--though I would love to see total nuclear disarmament--it also scares the hell out of me, because I know there are some folks (possibly including our own gov't) who'd lie about it and/or get hold of the last remaining nukes and use them to take the rest of us hostage.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the last part of this discussion--or are there posts that did not make it to the blog? Eliz says she agrees with Murray, but Steve chastises her for attacking Murray (which she didn't), and then Anon comments on her/his agreement with Murray and Steve. Are there missing posts or is some of it a misunderstanding?

Anonymous said...

"Anon 7:40: It makes me all warm and tingly that the Ancient Greeks believed that, but it is manifestly false."

That's exactly my point! If we have a democracy that is based, more or less, on the classical ideal, are we not doomed to fail? The ancient Greeks and the Romans that followed them, had this misguided belief that man was perfect. So is that ideal not linked to our ideas of democracy and ultimately the American government? That is something that I always thought was the, pardon me, the Achilles heel, of Thomas Jeffersons' ideas and the ancient world. Alexander Hamilton knew better.

Anonymous said...

"Anon 7:33: Murray was the headline author of The Bell Curve, which was roundly denounced for positing a formal hierarchy of intelligence that goes: 1. Asians, 2. Caucasians, 3. Blacks."

What about Jews? I have been reading a lot of data about Jews having superior intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Systems seem to work very well for machines, it is the surprise human element that seems always to throw the system. We are not mathematical equations, thankfully.

I think the Greek elevation of man as the height of perfection had more than a little to do with the homoeroticism that was widely practiced. Women were for breeding, men for companionship.

Steve Salerno said...

I guess I didn't get the same linear argument out of Eliz's initial comment that others did. This whole thread has taken some confusing turns, actually, and I regret my own contributions to same. The bottom line is that I don't understand how people can claim to agree or disagree with Murray if they haven't read his specific reasoning, because he comes at the topic from a whole different perspective. But anyway, we'll just go 'round and 'round. Again, I apologize for my contributions to the mystery.

I do not agree that intolerance in academia can be justified on the grounds that it serves some supra-moral "progressive" purpose. To my mind, any and all viewpoints, including those that are inflammatory and advocate illegal acts, should, and must, be tolerated in academia. (If not academia, then where?) To ban a Ward Connerly or a Shelby Steele from appearing on campus--simply because such men fail to represent the "authorized" minority perspective on life--is abhorrent, in my view. To have an "educational" environment wherein just about every professor in, say, the poli-sci department has a poster on his office door that openly satirizes a sitting president or describes an ongoing war as a criminal act--especially when there are few or no office doors that showcase opposing viewpoints--runs counter to the goals of higher education. (And please understand, I say these things even as someone who basically agrees with those posters. I didn't always. But I do now.)

Steve Salerno said...

Um...I think most Jews are lumped in with Caucasians.

(?)

Nor should we forget that Judaism is a religion, thus you can also have black Jews (Sammy Davis Jr. comes to mind) and Asian Jews, though I wouldn't imagine you'd find too many of the last grouping.

Was that a serious question? Or did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

"Nor should we forget that Judaism is a religion, thus you can also have black Jews (Sammy Davis Jr. comes to mind) and Asian Jews, though I wouldn't imagine you'd find too many of the last grouping."

I was talking about Jews as an ethnic group. Here is a link to one of the many articles on it. They separate Jews from other caucasians. Here is the link form National Geographic on it: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0718_050718_ashkenazim.html

Anonymous said...

"I think the Greek elevation of man as the height of perfection had more than a little to do with the homoeroticism that was widely practiced. Women were for breeding, men for companionship."

Actually, it had to do with man's ability to think. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, you get my drift.

Elizabeth said...

OK, Anon, none of my posts are missing.

And, Steve, at the risk of being redundant, I stated that I agreed with Murray's major point that not everyone should go to college. That is it. I also added that I did not read his paper and that I assumed his reasons for saying that not everyone should go to college are likely different from mine. I brought up Murray in my post to acknowledge that you have recommended his article and not to give an impression that I was coming out here with an original idea (that not everyone should go to college). Other than that acknowledgment, my post was in no way intended as a critique or support of Murray's reasons for stating what he did (that not everyone should go to college). Which is a premise, btw, that I agree with.

Sigh. Now perhaps we can unruffle whatever feathers have been ruffled here and, if nobody objects, move on to more pressing topics (not that this one isn't). I hear John McCain on TV...

Anonymous said...

I think Steve needs a whole grain muffin today...

Anonymous said...

Would I say it was the best? Depends on the society. I do not think democracy works for all societies. That is a very American idea. Kind of like, "I like coffe and so should you." China does not think democracy works and neither does Saudi Arabia.

Anon 7:03

Excellent writing. Politics students should have that tattood somewhere and maybe they will come up with some improvement to the current version of Democracy.

Also - I loved Murray's article and think that he makes a lot of sense. University's have become a right of passage rather then for what they were first intended. What do we replace them with?

Londoner

Anonymous said...

'Actually, it had to do with man's ability to think. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, you get my drift.'

Actually, how do you know that Anon 9.07, actually?

No reputable scholar in the world would make such a definite statement about antiquity, lost forever in the mists of time with just a few potsherds and bowdlerised writings left behind. Unless, of course, he had a book to plug.

Anonymous said...

"No reputable scholar in the world would make such a definite statement about antiquity, lost forever in the mists of time with just a few potsherds and bowdlerised writings left behind. Unless, of course, he had a book to plug."

Quite a few scholars make those claims and most of them live in Britain. Michael Grant who passed away in 2004. The London Times gave him a nice tribute. Myles Burnyeat and John Sellars just to name a few.

Anonymous said...

Fools then, caught in their own need to be right, dismissable fools for anyone who doesn't buy second hand goods. Each to his own.

Brian 4.57:

I had a look at your book, not my taste but well-liked by the National Fronts everywhere. Preaching to the converted I'd say.

Know your enemy is good advice, know him better than he knows himself is even better.

Try fishing from the other side of the pond, just taste it and see, for balance, you can always change your mind at any time, and change it back ad infinitum.

Fascism is a funny thing, no clear definition, different faces at different times.

Meet it often enough though, be on the receiving end and you can smell it a mile off, a bit like real, hardcore kimchee.
I'd stay downwind of it myself, but hey, its your choice.
Each to his own.

Anonymous said...

The only problem with the argument about free higher education is not everyone gets in at an undergrad level. Harvard, Stanford, and Cal are not just accepting anyone. You have to have the right test scores and various components to get in. Even if you spent two years at a community college, that does not mean you will get into the best schools. Stanford and Harvard have excellent scholarship programs for people who cannot pay for college. Sometimes it is who you know and where you are from too. I am sure no college would have rejected John F. Kennedy Jr, even though many who knew him and went to school with him, honestly state he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Maybe the same could be said with W Bush.

Elizabeth said...

Anon, I'm not sure I fully understand your point -- and if I don't, I apologize.

In countries where higher ed is free, there is fierce competition and tough entrance exams to universities (believe you me, been there, done that :). To be admitted, you have to pass the sweat-inducing multilevel exam (4 part, in case of my uni: 2 parts written (essay, not multiple choice) and 2 parts oral, in front of the uni professors, who not only determine the extent of your knowledge, but also your overall suitability to be their student).

This (the process of applying to uni) comes only after you successfully pass challenging "maturity exam" at the end of high school -- this is the rite of passage into responsible adulthood that Londoner asked about. You could very well live happily ever after (i.e. find a good job) with the maturity exam only. (But high school education meant something then.)

So, going back to the uni entrance exam, you had to pass it well enough to ace out the competition (which meant at least several prospective students for one admission slot).

In that system, intellectual merit matters every step of the way. Yes, you could say it also matters in case of the best US schools, where the admission is based on test scores and HS grades (and other factors, which, IMO, are ridiculous -- i.e. extracurricular activities). But the first and primary concern of any prospective student is financial -- and this concern scares (rightly so) too many intellectually qualified students from pursuing higher ed*, while it allows less stellar, if not downright intellectually inept, but wealthy ones (e.g., Bush) to glide straight to their degree.
Plutocracy, I tell ya.

*Again I speak from personal experience as a mom of a very bright and well qualified student who, three years ago, was accepted to several Ivy League schools, but we were/are not able to pay for it, so he had to go to a state uni. Not complaining, just saying. (The availability of scholarships is greatly exaggerated. And we are still paying obscenely for the state school. Not complaining... Wait, I am complaining! Doggone it...)

Anonymous said...

"*Again I speak from personal experience as a mom of a very bright and well qualified student who, three years ago, was accepted (The availability of scholarships is greatly exaggerated. And we are still paying obscenely for the state school. Not complaining... Wait, I am complaining! Doggone it...)"

I hesitate to answer you, but I got a full scholarship to Stanford due to my financial circumstances, but I chose a different school due to distance. I got a full scholarship to that one too. I was over 35 years old. I got plenty of free money via scholarships and grants. It took a lot of homework, but I found them. I have a friend who went to Harvard that way too. Sounds like you and your husband make too much money to qualify for the aid. I am going back to Stanford for my Ph.D next year. There are ways to do it if you really are motivated to do so.

Elizabeth said...

You are right, Anon, we do make too much money to qualify for scholarships, and yet not enough to pay comfortably for our kid's state school tuition. And another one is coming up next year... I'd say we are in a large chunk of the American population in this respect.

BTW, congrats on your scholarships -- and good luck with your Ph.D.