The TransPacific Partnership and the capitalist revolution

Yes, I understand you don’t have time to read the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) treaty and would rather wait for some expert analysis anyway.  Never mind that. Click here and try clicking on the button. Go ahead. The link will open in a separate window and I’ll wait.[1] Read more

  1. [1]I assume this link will eventually break. At the time of this writing, it opens a page bearing an official-looking logo of the United States Trade Representative and a button promising access to the text of the TPP. As the viewer moves a cursor toward the button to try to click on it, it scurries across the screen, dodging any such attempt. Simultaneously, the logo is defaced with the word Trade crossed out in red and the word “Corporate” offered as a substitute, and an explanation that the agreement is classified and therefore not available to read is offered at the bottom of the screen.

Criminal Foolishness in Iraq

Update, June 12, 2015: Apparently the Obama administration is considering even further escalations in Iraq.[1]

Peter Feaver writes of Obama administration strategy against the Islamic State,

The problem is not an absence of strategy, it is that the strategy that does exist is failing and the administration is not yet willing to admit that fact.

The strategy is pretty self-evident: U.S. forces are operating under stringent self-imposed limitations so as to incentivize local partners (the Iraqi government, Sunni tribes, and moderate rebels in Syria) to do more. The United States is prepared perhaps to do a bit more if local actors do a lot more, but if local actors do not step up, the United States is not prepared to do more. On the contrary, the United States is prepared to accept hitherto “unacceptable” setbacks — the fall of Mosul, the fall of Ramadi, the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, the regional expansion of Iranian-backed terrorist organizations and militias, and on and on — rather than intervene more decisively.

This is a recognizable strategy. There is even a catchy name for it: leading from behind.[2]

Read more

  1. [1]Peter Baker, Helene Cooper, and Michael R. Gordon, “Obama Looks at Adding Bases and Troops in Iraq, to Fight ISIS,” New York Times, June 11, 2015,
  2. [2]Peter D. Feaver, “Obama’s Problem with ISIS Isn’t an Incomplete Strategy — It’s a Failing One,” Foreign Policy, June 9, 2015,

Market value and human value: Time to take it personally

Matthew Yglesias highlights a “Twitter rant” by a certain “KStreetHipster,” who eloquently raises a distinction between the need for things to be done and the availability of jobs to do them. “Lots of work exists. There are endless things in need of improvement. But jobs, those are far more scarce. A competitive resource,” KStreetHipster writes.[1] Yglesias understands KStreetHipster to be raising the issue of public or social goods,[2] those things needed by society, but which, as Friedrich Hayek recognized, the profit motive cannot support,[3] but that misrepresents KStreetHipster, who also wrote, “Look around. Work exists everywhere. There are schools to improve & bridges to repair. Roads to pave, and records to convert to electronic.”[4] Sure, many of those tasks are public goods, but not all of them. Read more

  1. [1]KStreetHipster [pseud.], quoted in Matthew Yglesias, “America’s biggest economic dilemma: private affluence amid public squalor,” Vox, June 8, 2015,
  2. [2]Matthew Yglesias, “America’s biggest economic dilemma: private affluence amid public squalor,” Vox, June 8, 2015,
  3. [3]F. A. Hayek, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, ed. Bruce Caldwell, vol. 2, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents; The Definitive Edition (1944; repr., Chicago: University of Chicago, 2007).
  4. [4]KStreetHipster [pseud.], quoted in Matthew Yglesias, “America’s biggest economic dilemma: private affluence amid public squalor,” Vox, June 8, 2015,

We need to talk

Freddie DeBoer complains that he doesn’t know what to do.[1] Ironically, in the argument over Jonathan Chait’s January article on ‘political correctness,’ I think DeBoer comes closest to getting it right.

As I’m looking at all this, it seems to me that everyone has a point. Far be it from me to deny the litany of evidence that Chait cites in support of his contention that ‘liberals,’ whom he defines as “believ[ing]” among other things, “that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals,” are being evicted from the conversation on social justice.[2] But I think he makes a mistake in labeling this ‘political correctness.’ This label has, since the 1980s at least, been used as a childish taunt by conservatives who object to needing to communicate with any sensitivity whatsoever. Read more

  1. [1]Freddie DeBoer, “I don’t know what to do, you guys,” January 29, 2015,
  2. [2]Jonathan Chait, “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say,” New York, January 27, 2015,

On pedagogy, controversy, and the unintentional road to revolution

Edward Schlosser, a self-identified liberal (presumably of the ‘bleeding heart’ variety) who has been fortunate to find a job teaching college, and who is writing under a pseudonym, complains that he has been forced to narrow his curriculum to avoid offending even similarly-inclined liberal students.[1] What he observes is something I’ve noted in wider society, particularly recently. Read more

  1. [1]Edward Schlosser [pseud.], “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me,” Vox, June 3, 2015,

Who is the hero?

The Jenner children “tell Bissinger they feel both happiness for their father and inspiration at Jenner’s bravery, and they all still see their dad as their dad regardless of any gender label.” Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, will be appearing on the July, 2015, cover of Vanity Fair (figure 1).[1] Read more

  1. [1]Vanity Fair, “Caitlyn Jenner on the Cover of Vanity Fair,” June, 2015,

The TransPacific Partnership as war by other means

Update, June 12, 2015: This post has been updated in line.

Robert Reich writes on Facebook,

I’ve heard from several members of the House that your phone calls against the Trans Pacific Partnership have had an effect. The awful deal’s supporters don’t yet have the votes to fast-track it. Only 17 House Democrats (out of 188) have come out in favor so far; 7 remain undecided. That means House Republicans will have to come up with 200 votes in order to get the authority they need to push the deal through the House without public deliberation or amendment. Republicans may still succeed — and the White House continues to work furiously to corral additional Democratic votes (why the President wants this terrible deal is frankly beyond me) – but as long as almost all Democrats hold the line, it’s a toss-up.

Anyone who still believes there’s no difference between the two parties hasn’t been paying attention.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Robert Reich, Facebook posting, June 1, 2014,