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I find myself highly troubled by the ongoing class wars is the United States, mostly because of the amount of effort and energy being wasted on it.  America is an enormously wealthy country by international or historic standards.  Neither the American middle class nor the American upper class are oppressed group, yet each frames its argument as if the fate of the world depends on their getting a larger piece of the pie.

Scott Sumner makes an interesting argument about means testing.  Union-workers make a compelling case to defend their negotiating power.  No one wants their taxes raised or benefits cut, and its fairly easy to argue persuasively that your case is special.

And all I can think is, stop whining.  Deal with it.  There are serious problems in the world.  There’s a large budget shortfall, and the only way to address it is to cut spending or raise taxes.  There are honest arguments to be had about how to do so, but any argument that can be accurately summarized as “Don’t take my shit” is going to get mocked.  Here on this blog.  By me.

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2 Comments

  1. You made an interesting point a few posts back; it’s easier to comment when you disagree with the blogger. For example, I agreed with you on the discussion about philosophy as map not territory… but I saw that you had it covered and didn’t spend my twenty minutes this morning. Instead I’m commenting here, where I disagree!

    If you look at a strictly qualitative comparison of the standard-of-living of one group as compared to another, of course it’s easy to say “stop whining.” But I have always thought that is a very weak argument — almost a straw man. If you’re going to take on a subject of this gravity and immediacy, take on the strongest points, not the weakest.

    On a theoretical note: What is really at stake is what belongs to whom and how questions of ownership, negotiation, etc. are settled. And it’s ridiculous to posit that what happens in one region or situation is isolated from what happens elsewhere. Public sector employees ought to care about the conflict between NFL players and owners, because if nothing else, it addresses a more fundamental issue of what profit is accorded to whom for the efforts of whom. And for the same reason, workers in the developing world should (and often do) care about what happens in American labor disputes. I have made the argument that if we — an electoral democracy — cannot uphold civilized rules for the settlement of labor/wage/benefits disputes, than we certainly cannot expect other regimes to follow suit. If we set the bar low, the rest of the world is going to fall considerably lower. Plus, to be honest, one should fight for what he or she has earned, whether it’s an athlete payed a fraction of his owner, a postal worker whose wages have been cut (significantly not to reduce a budget), or a Mexican autoworker making a fraction of the modified income of her American counterpart.

    On a practical level, these issues are central to the future of the U.S. Now I don’t think of myself as a raging patriot, but I remember a quote I read awhile back (sorry, can’t remember the exact source) in which an Indian scholar pointed out that, in terms of global leadership, the U.S. is certainly preferable to China. Well right now we’re not the ones aggressively investing in our infrastructure, or as you would probably point out, tackling our budget. We’re circulating more and more wealth upward where it is not being invested back into economy in any sort of practical way, but is sitting in distant bank accounts or rolling around on some sort of a financial roulette wheel. Interesting, today’s union strikes aren’t about productivity depressing concessions; they are about the right of these unions to exist, and to function effectively as unions.

    So I disagree. It isn’t whining. Today’s labor issues are questions of profound ethical and practical importance, both here and abroad. And it looks to me like you really tackled a strawman of a position on this one instead of facing up to the tons of legitimate, and even formidable angles on this subject.

  2. I wrote “the rest of the world is going to fall considerably lower.” I meant to write “much of the rest of the world is going to fall considerably lower.” Two words make a big difference between a decisive statement and an asshole comment. 😛


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  1. […] on by Connor’s lengthy response to my post on Wisconsin unions (I was waiting for someone to take the bait), I will wade into this issue, rather than sweeping it […]

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