Oddly enough, today I was mistaken for someone who doesn't support the Occupy Wall Street movement. While it is certainly true that I am pushing the boundary of heart versus head, I was still taken aback by this mischaracterization. I don't believe that OWS will be the start of any lasting reforms, I don't believe it will tip the scales in any relevant election cycles, and I don't believe that most of its constituents even really understand (much less agree upon) what it is they are protesting. In spite of those beliefs, I think a populist movement advocating economic solidarity between 99% of the American populace can be counted as a Good Thing™.

It is always easy to make fun of people who care, who warm to a topic or movement and expose themselves as uncool by definition. The rebel without a cause would never join any movement that would have him. To be sure, I was among the many who saw the Tea Party protests against Wall Street's partners in crime in Washington and took cheap shots, variations of which are now deservedly aimed at the hodgepodge of conflicting interest groups currently camped out in lower Manhattan. False equivalence aside however, the Tea Party was clearly the product of a sustained campaign by the wealthy influential class, in control of their media outlets for hire, steering, nay shoveling, their avaricious anti-regulatory agenda down the gullible gullets of the electorate via the ever convenient vehicle of class outrage. Occupy Wall Street on the other hand is the typically weak sodded but undeniably grass roots movement of disparate leftist interests succeeding in spite of themselves to steer equally anarchic social media into a virtuous circle of attention that has culminated in something worthy of being called, in the words of Wikipedia, "Part of the impact of the Arab Spring".

Did the true populists in Tea Party think their movement was the one that would be welcomed into the broader global movement for justice? How naive must anyone be to think they've invented the freedom by themselves. Taken together however, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are two sides of a coin that deserves our respect. For all the gullibility, racism, and anarchy of the Tea Party, and all the stupidity, paternalism and ... anarchy of the OWS, there is an endemic problem to be addressed by every society on record, that of power. The concentration of power, be it in the religion wielding, land owning, title bearing, gun toting, gold hording, political office taking, money grabbing, or stock selling class, is the problem every generation must confront. And every generation gets to decide for themselves how they will find their voice to do so. In the immortal words of David Bowie:
These children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds,
They are immune to your consultations,
They're quite aware of what they're going through.


Idiom Watch

  • Generous portion - Maybe I just have a general problem with food-based idioms, but this one also bugs me. First of all, one can only give or receive a generous portion, otherwise from who's overflowing bounty stems this generosity? Greedy portion, sure. Take a greedy portion all day long for all I care. Let the language fit the crime! Otherwise talking about portion sizes in 20XX America can't help but raise the question, are your super-sized soda and fries really the products of Ray Kroc's generosity?
  • His nibs - This Britishism comes to me from a talking bird in the Iain M. Banks book Excession, who used the genderless form "its nibs" to draw attention to actions taken by a sentient spaceship that it considered haughty. Flippant, mocking, and prefuture. Does language get any better than that?


Revisionist History

"I'm just saying, if there is a Heaven, I don't want to go unless or until David Bowie is there." -Me, in a strange little note I wrote to myself in 2011.



This is the most universal argument for intelligent redistributive policies I've heard:
In a democracy if you don't attend to the interests of the poor in an efficient way you'll just end up attending to those same interests in a less efficient way.
It was made by Cornell economics professor Robert Frank on EconTalk, the flagship Hayek-tinged podcast hosted by Russ Roberts out of George Mason University's Library of Economics and Liberty, which is to say in a context that demanded of anyone making arguments for redistribution that they make them as universally attractive as possible. As someone who has longed believed in the moral and fiscal efficacy of attending to the interests of the poor, and who is personally and professionally obsessed with efficiency, it immediately struck a cord with me. Clearly it leaves open the general question of paternalism, but on the other hand it cuts very close to the quick of the immediate situation we face in America. If we must suffer these heated public policy debates, shouldn't we at least be able to count efficiency as common ground?