Category Archives: Bob Lord

Book Review: Born on Third Base

Full disclosure: Chuck Collins, the author of Born on Third Base, is a personal friend and a colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies. So, after he gave me a copy at the conclusion of a workshop on economic inequality to which I had been invited only at his urging, it was out of friendship that I cracked it open on the plane ride home the next day.

But that’s not what made me get choked up reading the preface. Out of the thousand odd books I’ve read in my life, I don’t recall that happening before.

Born on Third Base is an important book, and a throughly enjoyable one. Chuck’s perspective is not unique, but it is rare. As the great-grandson of Oscar Mayer, Chuck truly was born on third base. At a young age, he did something remarkable. He gave away his wealth. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his career working against economic injustice. Continue reading

Overcoming Dark Days: Three Possibilities

I hold no hope Trump will surprise us and govern rationally or benignly. The cast of characters he has nominated to high positions, the confrontational tone of his inaugural address, his flaming narcissism, and his hatred for those who dare criticize him tell us all we need to know. Matt Taibbi put it best:

So, you know, I think that, to me, is what really stood out about this last year, is Trump himself, he is just such a unique figure in our time. He’s kind of the perfect foil to reflect everything that’s excessive and vulgar and disgusting and tasteless and cheap and greedy about American culture. He is the perfect mirror to reflect everything about our society.

As Taibbi suggests, it’s not just Trump we need to fear. Those 62-odd million who voted for him scare the crap out of me.

It will get ugly. And overcoming the ugliness unavoidably will entail things getting even uglier in the short-term, a sacrifice I’m willing to see us make. Here are three hopeful scenarios I see as possibilities: Continue reading

Deference to the Founding Fathers: Need It Be Blind?

We Americans revere the founding fathers and instinctively defer to them.

Should we?

At best, the founding fathers were a group of really smart guys (literally, mind you, as no women were included). At worst, they were self-interested aristocrats who sought to create a system that would perpetuate their position (and that of their descendants) in American society.

They were not omniscient.

Their foresight was limited.

Expressions that justify half-assed legislation, such as “politics is the art of the possible” and “never let the perfect get in the way of the good,” all applied to the negotiation of the Constitution. Many, many compromises were required to reach a final product. Which means some of the Constitution’s provisions represent a least common denominator, rather than pearls of wisdom. Case in point: The three-fifths compromise.

Which means when you find yourself deferring to the wisdom of the founding fathers, you need to ask yourself if you’re just being intellectually lazy as a means of justifying the result you like, but can’t otherwise justify.

So it is with the current debate regarding the electoral college, which involves two distinct, yet often conflated, questions: Continue reading

Brotherhood of Decents: Will Enough of Us Follow Them?

An often applied litmus test for a politician is if he or she is “someone we’d want to have a beer with”?

On my Facebook feed, my “friends” proudly post pictures of themselves from “grip and grins” with politicians and other celebrities.

When we seek guidance from opinion makers, many of us turn to the highly paid talking heads on television or the journalists with regular columns in the major newspapers.

I wish it were otherwise. I’ll never trust the politicians, talking heads, and syndicated columnists to lead us in the right direction. Sometimes, I don’t trust their intentions. Sometimes, I don’t trust their intellect. Other times, it’s their judgment. So the size of the crowds following their lead is discomforting, to say the least. I know they never will lead us to a good place.

Which means I’m not interested in joining them for a beer or having my photo taken with them. I will watch them yak on television and read their columns. That’s out of necessity. I don’t see any other way to stay abreast of the information that is shaping public opinion. But does it shape my opinion? Hardly.

Are there influencers out there whom I respect? Absolutely. Continue reading

Sanctions on Russia: Discomfort With Two Minutes Hate?

Captain Arizona, now Censored, has a knack for getting to the nub of things in his comments.

When the first post appeared on BfAZ, prior to the election, about the so-called Russian hacking, the captain astutely asked (I’m paraphrasing): “Let me get this straight. We’re angry that the Russians are manipulating the election by exposing how the Democrats are manipulating the election?”

Fast forward to today. We find ourselves engaged in an Orwellian exercise, akin to the “two minutes hate” from 1984, in which all Democrats vilify Putin and the “Russian hackers.” If I understand the logic, the Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta, the latter through a phishing scam that we’ve all had attempted on us, and made public information about the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. Thus, they “interfered” with our election. Had they not done so, Americans would have been blissfully ignorant of the shenanigans of Wasserman-Schultz, Brazille and others, and elected Hillary President.

So, not to be a downer on the good feeling we get from knowing Trump won by cheating, is a mob mentality taking hold here? Continue reading

Equality for Taxi Drivers and Surgeons?

[cross-posted from Inequality.org]

Those who defend extreme inequality by arguing against complete equality are doing their best to divert our attention from the questions that matter.

By Bob Lord

It never fails. Every opinion piece purporting to counter the voices opposing today’s extreme inequality employs the same sleight of hand: Justify economic inequality in the abstract, without commenting on the actual level of inequality we face.

The latest example appeared in this past Sunday’s New York Times. In Growth, Not Forced Equality, Saves the Poor, University of Illinois professor Deirdre McCloskey can’t even get past the title without swerving into an argument against Soviet-style communism. Continue reading