Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things June 21, 2012

Samir Chopra: “Misery Needs Company: The American Worker’s Hostility Toward Unions

The correct response to this from a non-unionized worker should be, “Damn, that sounds like a sweet deal; how do I get a piece of the action?” At which point, he responds favorably the next time a union organizer contacts him, fills out the election card, and welcomes the NLRB to make sure the NLRA is properly implemented in his workplace.

Of course, none of that happens. The average American worker’s response is, “How dare people organize themselves into collective bargaining units to resist the almost unlimited powers of employers and ensure a better deal for themselves?” At which point, he throws his weight behind every anti-union force that he can find, thus conspiring against his own economic interests.

Todd Stiefel: “What Do Atheists Stand For?

James Madison, pretty good guy, he has a great quote on this. He says, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christianity, in exclusion of all others?” So, I ask you, if this is a Christian country, this is a Christian nation, is it a Methodist nation? Is it a Catholic nation? Is it a Protestant nation? Which one is it because the reason we have separation of church and state in this country is because the Protestants and the Catholics were killing each other for centuries. And, our Founding Fathers knew that we must protect ourselves from religion so that this Republic can thrive.

So, I would like you all to imagine for a moment what it would feel like. What would it feel like if you were in a court of law and a judge said to you that, “Islam is the one true faith?” That’s exactly how it feels to a Protestant student in a public school when the teacher tells them that the Pope in infallible. That’s how it feels to an atheist in North Carolina when there is a prayer to Jesus in the name of the government given before a North Carolina Senate session. And, that’s how feels for a Catholic who is told by an Army chaplain that Evangelical is the correct form of Christianity. Don’t let any representative of the government tell you that your religious beliefs are wrong. You are not “spiritually unfit!” Your faith is not the wrong form of Christianity. You have the right to believe whatever you want to in this country.

Garry Wills: “The Curse of Political Purity

The independents, too ignorant or inexperienced to recognize these basic facts, are the people most susceptible to lying flattery. They are called the good folk too inner-directed to follow a party line or run with the herd. They are like the idealistic imperialists “with clean hands” in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American — they should wear leper bells to warn people of their vicinity.

The etherialists who are too good to stoop toward the “lesser evil” of politics — as if there were ever anything better than the lesser evil there — naively assume that if they just bring down the current system, or one part of it that has disappointed them, they can build a new and better thing of beauty out of the ruins. Of course they never get the tabula rasa on which to draw their ideal schemes. What they normally do is damage the party closest to their professed ideals.

… All these brave “independents” say that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, and claim they can start history over, with candidates suddenly become as good as they are themselves. What they do is give us the worst of evils.

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  • Magic_Cracker

    The independents, too ignorant or inexperienced to recognize these basic facts, are the people most susceptible to lying flattery. 

    By “independents” does he mean “undecideds” … I admit, there’s some overlap between the two groups, but I’m registered Independent, but I’ve certainly decided. (Then again, I’m not an “in-the-middle” independent, but a far, far left independent, so guess he isn’t  talking about me anyway.)

    I give him bonus points of the Graham Greene reference. More people need to read his stuff.

  • Rupaul

    So how bad does the Democratic Party have to get before we don’t support them any more? If their presidential candidate is just a hair less evil, we are morally obliged to support them? Even if their strategy takes this into account, to eventually dismantle Medicare, Social Security through austerity, just a little more slowly than the Republicans? To push for more fossil fuel use and more “free trade” disruption of environmental regulation, just more slowly?

    American history is full of third parties that either replaced one of the big parties or had their platform copied. It is very strange to suggest that “independents” (a category that seems to include anyone disenchanted with Realpolitik in the editorial Fred quotes) are the ones with the problem, not the oppressive Republicans and Republicans Light.

  • Rupaul

    Arghh, I just looked back at who wrote that quote, and it was Garry Wills. What a disappointment. OK, he’s scared of Romney, I get it, but this kind of airy dismissal of dissent as hopelessly idealistic… where have I heard that before? Garry Wills should know better.

  • Apocalypse Review

    Hey. That Samir Chopra site?

    Trend Micro OfficeScan Event

    URL Blocked


    The URL that you are
    attempting to access is a potential security risk. Trend Micro
    OfficeScan has blocked this URL in keeping with network security policy.


    Risk Level:



    Verified fraud page or threat source

  • Xian-x

    I often feel like those who employ the lesser evil argument to advocate voting for Obama and those of us who aren’t convinced by that argument frequently end up arguing at cross-purposes. Each of us knows the other’s arguments, and each of us knows that our arguments are failing to address what is most deeply troubling to those who disagree with us.

    In any case, here is The Black Agenda Report with a slightly different take:

  • Yes, please direct us to a site where commentators expresses rage at how Jews-sorry-“Zionists” control the country and Barack Obama.

    While you’re at it, ask those smucks what are the chances we would be at war with Iran right now if Mcain and Alaska Barbie were at the helm. 

  • Xian-x

     You can find hateful comments almost everywhere–even occasionally here. Moreover, Fred himself has linked approvingly to The Black Agenda Report (Haunting Heaven still [April 2, 20120]). Ultimately, though, you shouldn’t interpret a link to an article as an endorsement of every comment left there.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Me too- I got the same Trend Micro warning. 

  • My personal take: (every “you” is the generic you, for whatever it’s worth)

    Every election presents you with a choice, and it’s usually not the choice you’d like, but it is the choice you have to work with.

    No matter how small the difference, if there is a difference you can detect you should always choose the better option even “better” means “slightly less bad”.

    But the choice you have on election day doesn’t come out of nowhere.

    Consider Obama.  He’s going to be on the ballot in 2012.  That journey started in 1996.  Now that’s a pretty fast rise, I think, but even so it shows you a bit of how long it’s going to take to get better options at the top if you start the work today.

    Presidential candidates don’t come out of nowhere, they come from the ranks of senators and governors and congresspeople, and members of state government.  (The last President who didn’t hold a previous elected office was Dwight D. Eisenhower.)  And most of the offices they came out of were not ones people generally get into in their first dabbling in politics.

    Not voting for the lesser evil won’t get better presidential candidates, it will just increase the chances of the greater evil getting in.

    To get better presidential candidates, also better senatorial candidates and better house members, what needs to happen is to start electing better people to the lower levels.  Whether better Democrats, or independents/third party members who are better than Democrats.  Because that’s how change is actually going to happen.

    And if you have the time, inclination, and energy, you can work on that right now.  If a movement did that then it could completely rewrite American politics.  (Actually, a movement is trying to do that right now, but given that they’re a sort of tea-party/Ron Paul coalition, I don’t think it’ll change things for the better.)

    But it’s going to take time.

    In the interm we still bear responsibility for our choices.  That includes doing as little harm as possible.  There are differences between the two parties, and those differences are a matter of life and death for some people, and though I might never meet the people who would be killed by my decisions, it is still my responsibility to make sure those decisions inflict as little suffering and death upon the world as possible.

    But, as I said, that’s just how I see it.

  • The_L1985

     Frankly, I’m just hoping that we end up with an actual Tea Party.  Primarily so that then, we’ll have conservatives, liberals, and the Wingnut Party That Steals Votes From The Conservatives.

    Still not as good as straight up conservatives and liberals (neither of which we have many of in the current political stage, sadly), but still better than the current situation.

  • Only the highly privileged don’t see a difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and don’t see anything good happening from Obama being re-elected.

    The professor has health insurance. The professor will never face an unwanted pregnancy. The professor pays less for health insurance because the professor is a cisman. The professor is white. The professor has a job that pays quite well and even has tenure, job protection so strong that most people can’t even fathom having it. The professor does not have to worry that he will be paid less because of his gender. The professor is old enough to be dead before global warming changes the world drastically and permanently. The professor’s life will not change much no matter who is elected.

    Mine will. 

    The professor is wrapped in privilege so extreme that nothing can really touch him. He can therefore imagine moral purity as a thing that is possible or even desirable in the real world. He has more in common with right-wing Evangelicals than he thinks.

  • Rupaul

    Llira, Unger is certainly a professor, and gets health insurance. Be careful of not falling into the same trap as the anti-union workers. He deserves health insurance, and so do you.

    By the way, Unger has worked in the slums in Brazil, so he is not a cliched out of touch Ivory Tower type.

  • Tonio

     I would have been tempted to ask how unions could be non-Christian, but I suspect the answer would have just made me angry. (The pastor might have been thinking of the NEA,)

  • Rupaul

    X-ian X, I shouldn’t have sounded so definite; my own Vote For Obama Or Not switch keeps flipping every day. Today, pretty Not, but that will probably change if the election stays this close. 

    I know that Obama vs. Not won’t be settled by discussions between people who pretty much know what the arguments are each way (and war with Iran looms pretty big in my thinking, along with health insurance.) I was mostly upset at Wills’ strawman Purity Thing.

  • Rupaul

    Lliira, I’m sorry, I ready over my comment to you and it was rude. You are quite right to point out Unger’s privilege (I have a lot of the same privileges).

  •  Honestly, the current Tea Party is made up of ordinary Republicans who occasionally attend rallies while wearing funny colonial costumes. They vote pretty much lockstep Republican, and only really cause trouble in primaries for certain incumbents. Their views aren’t really divergent from the mainstream GOP though, as far as I can tell.

  • PJ Evans

     The current Tea Party likes to think it’s grass-roots, at the same time as they’re handed professionally printed signs and hats and stuff at each rally (along with the bus trips that they were taking a couple of years ago). They can’t seem to put those together to realize they’re being subsidized by someone else with money.

  • PJ Evans

    Some days I wish I had the option to join a union. Not because I want more money, or more hours, or a different boss, but because one of my co-workers is very much anti-union, even while having been a member of it for several years.

  • Tricksterson

    HAve you asked him why he’s anti-union?  Myself I breifly belonged to one and the experience I walked away with is that Management pays you for the privilege of exploiting the shit out of you while a union makes you pay it for the privilege  pf exploiting the shit out of you. you.

  • Lori

    Unger is certainly a professor, and gets health insurance. Be careful
    of not falling into the same trap as the anti-union workers. He deserves
    health insurance, and so do you.  

    Lliira isn’t falling into any trap, but you may be. The issue is not about who deserves health insurance. It’s about who has it and knows he isn’t going to lose it, and who does not. Failing to understand that is failing to understand privilege.  (Also, people don’t deserve health insurance, they deserve health care. Health insurance is merely one, seriously flawed, means to that end.)


    By the way, Unger has worked in the slums in Brazil, so he is not a cliched out of touch Ivory Tower type.  

    Working in the slums of a foreign country doesn’t have any necessary relationship with understanding the realities of income inequality and privilege in the US. There isn’t even any necessary relationship between working in the slums of a foreign country and actually being a good person, but that’s a whole other discussion.

    ETA: This was probably unnecessary. Not to self: read to the end of the thread.

  • Skyknight

    I can’t exactly say that Mr. Tuttle’s comments on the site Wills is posting on are much fun. Of course, I’m the sort of person who has VERY little use for the corruptions that are yang precepts, whether anger or greed. There must be some way to fix the debacles of society that happens to be pure yin.

    But with regard to voting, the point of choosing the lesser of two evils (at least with regard to a winner-takes-all voting system like ours; let’s try to remember it was largely sculpted when no one was expecting the country to extend past the Mississippi, yes?) is that it leaves you with a government that is at least a little easier for the general populace to sculpt and sway. Granted it may not look much better than the difference in hardness between diamond and corundum, but at least it’s something to work with.

    Not that I get WHY corporate archons are so obsessed with profit, though. The question keeps popping up in my head: What do they plan to DO with all that money? What plans, artefacts, desires, etc. are they aiming at that requires so much money? All that’s coming to mind is that they equate liquid wealth with glory, and anything other than the highest pinnacle of glory is unalloyed shame. Which means that what we need to do is convince the archons that there is, in fact, a neutral point between shame and glory, and that it’s not going to be deleterious at all.


    Not that I get WHY corporate archons are so obsessed with profit, though.  [..] What plans, artefacts, desires, etc. are they aiming at that requires so much money?

    If I have a lot more money than Joe, I can often get Joe to do what I want, and I can usually prevent Joe from making me do what Joe wants. If those things sound good to me, then I may choose to have a lot more money than Joe. If those things sound good to Joe, then Joe may choose to have a lot more money than me.

    That dynamic seems adequate to explain most of what you’re asking about, although there are other factors in play as well.

    Which means that what we need to do is convince the archons that there
    is, in fact, a neutral point between shame and glory, and that it’s not
    going to be deleterious at all.

    The corresponding conclusion, if I’m right, seems to me that we could convince each other, or ourselves,  either that: (a) having more money doesn’t actually achieve those ends, or (b) those ends aren’t actually worth achieving.

    I’m not confident in our ability to do that. (Not least because I’m not sure either of those claims are true.)

  • SkyknightXi

    I’m thinking more in terms of diminishing returns. After a certain point, what can extra money get you, other than prestige, once you’ve warded yourself and your kin from every woe imaginable (and preventable)? Perhaps the point is more that “prestige” and “worth” aren’t perfect synonyms.

    More than that, unlike what seems to be the case with Tuttle, I’m working on the belief that the archons aren’t necessarily willingly and intentionally malicious. What monstrous thing do they think will transpire if they aren’t high plutocrats? And how to convince them that their fears are unfounded? There seems to be an all-or-nothing mindset among them–either you’re first, or you’re worthless–that’s been doing a rather nice (?) job of seeping into humanity at large. {hopes his enmity towards the yang doesn’t fit into this}

    (Yes, that was me above; I thought the log-in system had changed. Not quite…)

  • LouisDoench

     My inner Driftglass agrees…

  • LouisDoench

     My wife works for a Fortune 500 company. She’s in management, and while she admits that she never wants to be that high up the ladder, she’s in the class of people who can end up as vice presidents and ceo’s. She contends that one of the big factors in why ceo pay keeps rising is that companies made their pay public knowledge. So whenever a company is trying to negotiate a new contract with a senior officer, they have to play a game of one-upsmanship with every other company out there. And there is a huge ego boost from being in the “top paid” class. You see the same with pro athletes.

  • SkyknightXi

    {squirm} And I suddenly wonder where the CEOs’ sense of fealty to a particular company has gone (should that have been common in the first place).Of course, this is coming from someone who finds the association of major league sports teams with particular cities a bit aclash with the largely mercenary attitude of the players. Mercenary wanderings don’t fit too well with city associations.

    Although…how is it that a CEO doesn’t start somewhere near the bottom of the position cadence in a new position? I suddenly get odd visions of fresh business graduates, with no non-intern experience, STARTING OUT as CEOs and/or CFOs. Not a pretty vision…

  • LouisDoench


    Of course, this is coming from someone who finds the association of
    major league sports teams with particular cities a bit aclash with the
    largely mercenary attitude of the players. Mercenary wanderings don’t
    fit too well with city associations.

    Sports franchises have tended to work best when identified with localities. When they introduce the local nine, they always announce “Your Cincinnati Reds”. That connection of team to city is an important part of the business model.  And it’s a really successful model, sports makes a lot of money because we like to watch, and follow, and gamble.  Considering the buckets of money at stake I don’t know how you can characterize the players as being “mercenary”.   Most players don’t get any choice of employer (at least in American sports leagues) at the beginning of their careers. Many are never lucky or good enough to actually enter free agency and cash in.  I certainly don’t begrudge Albert Pujols taking the Angels money, he didn’t owe the city of St. Louis anything. 

  • Tricksterson

    It’s toatally in sync.  Teams foster that association so they can hit the cities up for things like new stadiums and so fans won’t complain when prices go up.