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  • Occupy Chicago “General Assembly” (Outdoor Meeting, Michigan and Van Buren)

    Posted by Lexington Green on October 11th, 2011 (All posts by )

    I went to the Occupy Chicago meeting, which I mentioned in this earlier post.

    It was a magnificent night in Chicago. You could not have picked a better night for an outdoor gathering.

    I arrived promptly at 7:00. There were only a few people there, six at first, with others trickling in. Apparently the main body of the group had been involved in a march somewhere. I got a chance to chat with some of them. They were generally dressed in the style I think of as “collegiate leftist” which has apparently not changed much since about 1969. I was wearing a suit, tie and black shoes. No one seemed to have any response to my attire. Their hygiene seemed fine, though I was prepared for the worst.

    The kids I spoke to — and I use the term because that is what people in their early twenties seem like to me — were nice, and reasonably intelligent. Two were recent college graduates who were not able to get jobs. They seemed to be sincere and sensible young people.

    One girl had a printout of the “proposed grievances.” (I got the list off their site and put it below the fold, since it is apparently a work in progress and subject to change.) It is an interesting mix. I agree with some of it, as noted in square brackets. I was surprised that it was not more Left boilerplate. It seems to reflect an accurate understanding of the seriousness of crony capitalism as the heart of the problem we face.

    These conversations I found enjoyable, though I was as usual saddened by the combination of earnestness and ignorance of this rising generation.

    My hatred of the Boomers, who have brainwashed and wasted these kids is boundless. There is nothing wrong with them. They have just never been taught anything but bullshit. They have been betrayed by their parents and their teachers. It is very depressing. The country has been shamefully dumbed down.

    At some point the bulk of the people showed up and the General Assembly began. The motto of the group is “We are the 99%.”

    It appears that there are some leaders who act as moderators at these meetings, but they do not seem to have formal officers. These people seemed to be older and to be full time activists. I did not get any positive impression from these guys, some of whom seemed to be orthodox leftists. They have a practice called the “peoples microphone” in which whoever is speaking to the meeting talks in short phrases, and the crowds repeats it back in unison. There is a faintly hypnotic quality to this. I don’t like it, and didn’t do it.

    The first speakers were emphatic at the outset that their gatherings are drug and alcohol-free zones, and that they are committed to nonviolence. This is apparently a ritualized introduction that they always do. These admonitions were greeted with almost solemn agreement.

    The meeting was rambling and poorly organized. However that appears to be considered a feature rather than a bug. Everyone gets to participate, but you have to take turns. Anyone can vote. I walked in out of nowhere, and I could have voted. The one vote they had, on whether to adopt an almost incoherent “preamble” was defeated. I turned to the guy next to me and said, “what’s up? It won in a landslide.” He said ten percent opposition defeats any proposal. A prescription for stasis, of course.

    One guy got up and said that people should read the Communist Manifesto which is available “millions of places” online. Another guy said there would be a teach-in by a University of Chicago professor on the myth of the free market. One pair got up and described how they crashed a meeting of the mortgage bankers association and got arrested. This was initially greeted with cheers. But then a bunch of people got up and said that getting arrested is very serious, and should not be taken lightly, and could be used to discredit the movement, and that any action of that sort should only be taken after a vote of the General Assembly. The speakers were emotional on the point. One interesting comment was that the police who arrested them told them that they agreed with them and that they, the cops, were part of the 99% percent, too.

    There was also a somewhat emotional discussion of the need to stay clear of any political party and of politics in general. There was a statement that the movement rejected both the Republicans and the Democrats, which was greeted with warm applause.

    One young man got up and said the group needed to occupy “a field or warehouse” and create their “own space.” This was discussed seriously.

    I left after two hours, with the meeting still ongoing.

    My overall impression is of a large and incoherent community of people with no clear agenda, no actionable plan, but with a few particular and genuine grievances.

    It appears to be composed of at least two major groups. There is an older group of experienced activists, who have experience at organizing and leading protests. These people are orthodox leftists. There is a certain hard quality to their eyes which you can see right away. These people are generally engaged in the same kind of protest they and their predecessors have been doing for 50 years. It is the same old thing and they could do it in their sleep.

    The other group seems to be a large, young and energetic but poorly educated group of kids who have spent their lives on a path to “college” on borrowed money, then a “job.” Now they are facing the derailment of the entire vague program they have always lived by, and they know they owe a lot of money and don’t know what to do now or do next.

    This group of kids seem to be educable, and to have some good instincts. But, they have for now fallen into malicious hands.

    Several impression struck me. One, the purpose of the event seems to be about feelings of solidarity and community, and not about effectiveness in any coherent political way. Many people seem to want to be part of a mass movement, not in a political but in a tangible sense of masses of people moving, chanting, speaking in unison. I have never seen the appeal of this, but it is obviously something many people are drawn to. As an amateur historian I was struck by how this movement is replicating note for note the Left movements of the 1960s, but recreating it all over again from scratch. Rambling, poorly organized meetings, a requirement of unanimity to do anything, a repudiation of politics as usual, a vague call for some kind of deep social transformation, a desire for immersion in mass activity, a call for communal living. It is as if the last 50 years never happened and the past has no lessons at all.

    From this very limited snapshot, I cannot say whether this movement will have any long term significance. But I am going to guess that it will. There is a large mass of young people who have been dealt a very bad hand. The old time Left is aggressively courting them. I think this will lead to very large and aggressive disruptive actions, which will be difficult to stop because there is no set of actionable political demands that can be satisfied to make the protests stop. The feeling of solidarity is its own reward, particularly where ordinary career and work prospects are thwarted. So, my prediction is that the “Occupy” movement will be a significant force, and unfortunately, not a good one.

    Things are going to be messy going forward. I have no idea how it will play out.

    One question to myself and to others is this: What can the Tea Party and others who have better ideas do to reach out to this generational cohort?

    Lenin said power was lying in the gutter and the Bolsheviks just picked it up.

    This new generation has been left in the gutter by their parents and teachers, and left with no intellectual tools at all. They are not stupid, they have the energy of youth, they want to do the right thing. They know they have been screwed, but they are not sure how or by whom.

    Who will pick them up out of the gutter? So far, only the bad guys seem to be trying to do so.

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind of a generation is a catastrophic thing to waste.

    What is to be done? Your sincere responses are hereby solicited.

    (Occupy Chicago grievances, my responses in [square brackets])

    Our PROPOSED grievances
    Posted on October 7, 2011 by occupychiadmin
    These are the list of proposed demands. They will be up for vote tonight at 7pm @ 500 S Michigan Ave in front
    of the horse.

    1.PASS HR 1489 REINSTATING GLASS-STEAGALL. – A depression era safeguard that separated the commercial lending and investment banking portions of banks. Its repeal in 1999 is considered the major cause
    of the global financial meltdown of 2008-2009. [AGREE]
    3. FULLY INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THE WALL STREET CRIMINALS who clearly broke the law and helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. [AGREE]
    4.OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED v. US. – A 2010 Supreme Court Decision which ruled that money is speech. Corporations, as legal persons, are now allowed to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns in the exercise of free “speech.” [DISAGREE]
    10. INSIST THE FEC STAND UP FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN REGULATING PRIVATE USE OF PUBLIC AIRWAVES to help ensure that political candidates ARE GIVEN EQUAL TIME for free at reasonable intervals during campaign season. [DISAGREE]
    12. FORGIVE STUDENT DEBT – The same institutions that gave almost $2T in bailouts and then extended $16T of loans at little to no interest for banks can surely afford to forgive the $946B of student debt currently held. Not only does this favor the 99% over the 1%, it has the practical effect of more citizens spending money on actual goods, not paying down interest. [MAYBE]


    UPDATE: Here is the origin of the peoples’ microphone. Making a virtue of necessity. Very clever.

    UPDATE II: Here are the official minutes of the meeting I attended.

    UPDATE III: Here is the proposed “preamble”, which I find fascinating on many levels:

    We gather in solidarity, as a global movement, in order to express a
    feeling that rises from the recognition of mass injustice suffered by
    nearly all people of the world. Regardless of political, social, and
    cultural backgrounds we are united, by no clear matter of our will or
    choice, in a common circumstance of economic and political depravity.
    As we develop and engage this process, in order to create solutions
    and strategies for a just society, we stand firm in our convictions to
    remain politically unaffiliated and to confront the establishment with
    active non-violence.

    UPDATE IV: I left a comment on their site, with a link to this post, as follows:

    I attended the General Assembly last night. I came to listen respectfully. I am a libertarian and conservative thinker, but I respect everyone who exercise their Constitutional rights to free speech and peaceable assembly. The economic and political crisis we are living through now requires all people of good will to pay attention and peaceably debate. I posted my observations on my blog. My comments are somewhat critical, but I hope not unfair.


    78 Responses to “Occupy Chicago “General Assembly” (Outdoor Meeting, Michigan and Van Buren)”

    1. foxmarks Says:

      If it is to be forgiven, the value of student debt should be paid from Big Ed’s endowments and other assets. That’s who got paid by selling overvalued goods, that’s who should feel the loss.

      Otherwise, all I see is my same drumbeat. We are headed toward a brief period of violent upheaval. The factions have irreconcilable differences. Some subset of occupiers will attempt violence, just as past generations did. Which side will the cops come down on? Police are neither aging leftists nor unemployed recent college graduates. And they are programmed to defend the established order even if they find it corrupt. Violence begets violence.

      Where is the MLK or Gandhi among the Occupiers?

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      “Where is the MLK or Gandhi among the Occupiers?”

      The Occupiers seem to be saturated by the spirit of nonviolent resistance. So, MLK and Gandhi are like patron saints.

      If there is violence, it will probably not come from this group. That is a positive feature.

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I remember those meetings from the late 60s. They never accomplished anything. They would go on for hours. I remember that one thing they did was put two or three motions on the floor at the same time. It was really tedious.

    4. tdaxp Says:

      A very informative feature. Thank you for it.

      “The other group seems to be a large, young and energetic but poorly educated group of kids who have spent their lives on a path to “college” on borrowed money, then a “job.” Now they are facing the derailment of the entire vague program they have always lived by, and they know they owe a lot of money and don’t know what to do now or do next.”

      This seems about right. The last decade has screwed those who did not have an instrumental view of college.

      Which ties into:

      “My hatred of the Boomers, who have brainwashed and wasted these kids is boundless. There is nothing wrong with them. They have just never been taught anything but bullshit. They have been betrayed by their parents and their teachers. It is very depressing. The country has been shamefully dumbed down. ”

      Well said. Improving your personal human capital is the best investment you can possibly make.

      But this theme I’ve been hearing again and again — “I did the right thing and went to college” — is so bizarre. The right thing is improving your value. College may or may not be the best way to do that.

      The desire of massive looting against the public treasury, future generations, or charitable institutions to forgive student loan debts is nauseating — but being reinforced by the dying boomer generation and their worship of education as an end in itself.

    5. Kirk Parker Says:


      Fascinating report; thanks for taking the time to go, and the further time to write this up.

      I wonder if you’re being a little naive about the potential for violence, though. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to say “no potential for violence right now“? Give the bad guys a year of leading them, and who knows what the group outlook will be then?

    6. Lexington Green Says:

      “… the potential for violence …”

      They seem very committed on the point of nonviolence. It was striking and I found myself a little bit moved by it.

      I won’t attribute something to someone based on pure speculation about what might happen someday.

      Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof.

      I report what I see and hear. I report, you decide.

    7. Kirk Parker Says:

      Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof.

      Can’t argue with that! And I certainly hope that “commitment to non-violence” lasts. It’s just that the way you describe this bunch, as on the lookout for someone to provide direction and focus to their discontent, combined with the presence of the older organizer types, that gave me pause.

    8. Dan from Madison Says:

      Thanks for this Lex.

      Quote of the day/year: “My hatred of the Boomers, who have brainwashed and wasted these kids is boundless. There is nothing wrong with them. They have just never been taught anything but bullshit. They have been betrayed by their parents and their teachers. It is very depressing. The country has been shamefully dumbed down.”


      As for Foxmarks question of which side the cops will come down on, that was made crystal clear here in Wisconsin last winter during the “protests”. They will come down on the side of the protesters/left, at least up here. I imagine that this mileage will vary depending on the state/location. I can’t imagine the “protesters” getting away with the sh!t they pulled here in Wisco in a place like Texas or Florida, but then again, what do I know.

      In the end, if there is some sort of violent upheaval or other problem, there won’t be enough cops anyways and they will protect their own first so you will be on your own as far as that goes. I am prepared, hopefully you are as well.

    9. John Wolfsberger, Jr. Says:

      “What can the Tea Party and others who have better ideas do to reach out to this generational cohort?”

      Precisely what you did. Attend these events, and speak quietly and calmly. As you pointed out, these kids aren’t willfully or deliberately stupid or ignorant. The Boomers, their parents, let them down.

    10. Helen Says:

      May I ask a question: who exactly are these Boomers who seem to be blamed for every ill under the sun? I need to know because I have a strong suspicion that I might be one of them.

    11. Lexington Green Says:

      Helen, don’t worry, you are one of the good ones.

    12. SDN Says:

      “He said ten percent opposition defeats any proposal. A prescription for stasis, of course.”

      Great! They’ve re-created the 16th century Polish Parliament.

    13. Whitehall Says:

      Remember that Dylan line “revolution was in the air”?

      It is programmed into the human spirit for youth to seek the new way, greener pastures, change from their elders. Someone wise pointed out that at any one time in a human society, a quarter of the population is uncivilized barbarians needing assimulation. Those are our children.

      The “Occupy” groups are but a small percentage of their age cohort. Other surveys showing their peers turning conservative. Both groups are looking for change but the Occupy group is slipping off in the wrong direction. Conservatives do need a better, more coherent, more focused message for the young who have lost their way.

      Perhaps a reminder that “the facts of life are conservative.”

      It is a teachable moment – lets not waste it.

      Thanks for the field report.

    14. Tennwriter Says:

      One of the features of the Polish parliameant was how it was influenced by different voting blocs paid for by foreign gov’ts.

      If someone with an evil mind, or just a desire to toy with the clueless were to visit such an event, they might be able to stop well anything from happening.

      This leads me to think that this ten percent rule will go by the wayside, or that conservatives will be too moral or too bored to send in disruptors.

      As to what our host said, this all sounds like a training camp. Its not yet a serious effort.

    15. Lexington Green Says:

      I see little prospect of “conservative disrupters” doing anything.

      Iam not sure this group, or community, or whatever it is, breaks along conservative / liberal lines. It is an amalgam of free-floating worry, poorly-formed youthful well-wishing, some people who are a little off balance, some hardcore Lefty organizers and activists. It has not yet turned into anything tangible, from what I can see in the very limited exposure I had to it.

      I think it will likely end badly, but there is some prospect for something good to come out of it.

    16. Ken Hoop Says:

      What with his preliminary remarks, Green seems to believe authentic conservatives/rightists support the Corporation as Person legislation. Not traditional conservatives.

    17. Lexington Green Says:

      Corporations have been legal persons for a very long time. It is woven into our law. Trying to undo that would be a useless distraction, and is probably impossible. The opportunity cost of trying to do that rather than lots of other things is just not worth it.

      That is all true even if I thought getting rid of corporate personhood was a good idea, which I don’t.

    18. foxmarks Says:

      With the spirit of nonviolence woven through this assembly, I suspect the core group is not comprised of the Progressives I know in the meat world and hear on the radio. I see too much anger wrapped in violent rhetoric. The picture you paint is more like flower children and/or hippies. And the former hippies I know may agree with anti-bankster sentiments, but they’re not socialists anymore.

      Lacking here is an element of deep personal human injustice and suffering. Of the people seen, are any on the edge of starvation? Are any denied access to the public square due to race, religion or class? How many were drafted to fight wars they did not support? The injustice of today is not so deep as a half-century ago. MLK won. This struggle may never have the same weight as those in history.

      The flower children may have helped end Vietnam, but it was the Panthers and rioters that inspired changes to law and culture. The inherent ineffectiveness of being inclusive and worship of passivity will not threaten the Powers That Be. Holding signs and sleeping the sidewalk does not disrupt much of anything.

      Perhaps a deeper aspect of my perspective is that change is inherently violent. Like volcanic or tectonic processes, the change can come in manageable, survivable bursts or as a cataclysm.

      Dan: Agreed, there will not be enough cops if my violent scenario comes to pass. The side they take will determined who gets looted first. And agreed again, they will protect their own before anyone else. We will all be wise to protect our own.

    19. Andrew X Says:

      Notable that as soon as the “Just Imagine If Bush Had Done…..” list got to about 50,000 , it has been appropriately replaced with a “Just Imagine If The Tea Party Had Done…..”, a list making it to the 10,000 mark pretty darn quick.

      The “origin of the people’s mic” is interesting, and at least somewhat explanatory of why such a bizarre behavioral trait would pop up in multiple cities, but… let’s face it. Just freeking IMAGINE if the Tea Party had done this! Just take ten seconds and imagine! How many of us highly sympathetic to it would say “what the hell is THIS about?!?!” Now imagine Chris Matthews, Olbermann (not that he matters), the entire leftist media legion, Daily Kos, etc etc. Take ten seconds and IMAGINE what all those people would say about an audience responding to Glen Beck that way. Imagine the viral videos. Imagine the newspaper commentariat. Imagine what the professors would be saying to their classes.. the Nazi/cult references and the like (which would essentially be correct this time).

      The Tea Party would’ve been dead by the end of the next week. Count on it. But of course, now it is merely number 8,347 on the “What If The Tea Party Had Done This….” list, a list so numerous that each individual listing just gets lost in the milieu. (Didja hear the guy calling for literal blood-in-the-streets revolution in L.A.? Rosanne Barr calling for beheadings? What If The…. *yawn*)

      It is also worth noting that this is all happening under not just a Democratic president, but the most leftist president ever, with a huge Democratic contingent in Congress for his entire term. Where go these protests when Republicans take over, a very likely outcome due in no small part to the behavior of so many of these very protester? (Nixon romped in ’68). They will certainly be anti-Republican, but how can anyone take that really seriously when they are out there like this right now?

      Plainly and simply, and I think Lex says this, they know nothing, and what they do know is wrong. And as long as they cling to a life-long world-view sold to them by legions of elders who range from staggeringly ignorant idealists to outright Stalinist monsters who would happily become concentration camp guards in the service of cause, they will remain ignorant and wrong.

      How easy will it be do change their world-view?

      How easy is it to convert a Muslim to Christianity or atheism?

      This may or may not end well, but it will likely be a long and ugly road.

    20. Andrew X Says:

      Five women aged 55 to 80 from the Action Now group were also arrested after they took garbage from a foreclosed home owned by Bank of America Corp and dumped it in one of the bank’s branches, the group’s website said. (What If The…. #5,976)

      Click here or on the image on the right for a map of where the most notable New York City 1%ers—including Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and a bunch of Wall Street billionaires—live, for your protesting needs. (What If The….. #2,115)

      “Let’s remember we are luckier than most where violence is really going to rule the day and effect policy. But, yeah, people can be intimidated by that kind of thing….. Well, you know, if a brick came through Rupert Murdoch’s apartment, yes, I have a feeling Fox News would be a lot more gentle on the Wall Street people.” Bill Maher (What If The… #6,688)

      Gosh, that took all of three minutes to compile.

    21. Kirk Parker Says:

      Ken Hoop,

      “Traditional conservatives” want us all going back to being subsistence farmers?

    22. Lexington Green Says:

      “Take ten seconds and IMAGINE what all those people would say about an audience responding to Glen Beck that way.”

      Ha. That is funny. It would never happen.

      From these kids it still seemed weird, but not out of character.

      It was vaguely liturgical at points, like a chant.

      Again, the desire for the tangible feeling of solidarity. I bet most of these kids are from divorced or otherwise disrupted families. That is my two cent psychoanalysis.

      “It is programmed into the human spirit for youth to seek the new way, greener pastures, change from their elders.”

      True. That is probably why I still left the thing with a mostly positive buzz, despite everything. The good will of most of the people there may find a way to some form of useful activity. I hope so, based on not much except not wanting to see a lot of youthful energy get squandered for nothing.

      Pray for the Occupy movement!

    23. LS Says:

      With their love for useless meetings it seems they would fit quite perfectly as the corporate cogs they so detest.

    24. Cheyenne Says:

      Lexington Green–

      Sounds like you and I are fairly close in age and political leanings as well.

      I too am deeply sympathetic with this movement. I work not too far from LaSalle/Jax and try to take some time out every week to speak with these kids. You really hit a chord in me when you said all they’ve every been taught is bullshit.

      When I explain how Wall Street banks break the law six ways from Sunday to younger protesters, they are eager to listen. While they may not know exactly HOW they’ve been screwed, they know they’ve been screwed. The unemployment among people in that age group is astronomically depressing.

      To the extent the movement can gain traction among the 99% (really 99.9%, but not gonna split hairs), it (imo) focus on what really separates the 1% from the rest of us. And to me that comes down to 3 things really.

      1. The 1% is allowed and encouraged to break the law.
      2. The 1% get bailouts, and I’m not talking just about TARP, but the whole Fed/FDIC etc. ball of wax.
      3. The 1% expresses itself through corporations who buy elections.

      Keep up the good work, LG. Hope I see you around the protests some time.

    25. Andrew X Says:

      “vaguely liturgical”, “like a chant”, about “desire for a tangible feeling of solidarity”…

      I’m not quite sure what that all means, let me ask a couple experts —

      Jim Jones, David Koresh, Tony Alamo, L. Ron Hubbard…. Can one of you give me call sometime?

    26. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Lex: Not all of the barnacles that have attached themselves to the Occupy Some Place Somewhere movement, are as committed to ahimsa as the Chicago gang:

      “Occupy L.A. Speaker: Violence will be Necessary to Achieve Our Goals” by Zombie

      SDN: Close. In the 17th century the Sejm allowed any one member to veto any proceeding. It was a major factor in turning the once mighty Kingdom into provinces of the neighboring empires.

      Helen: After the end of WWII, the US experienced a demographic revolution. In the eras before then, the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, and WWII births had reached 3 million a year only in 1921, and 1943. In 1946, 3.4 million babies were born, 1947 — 3.8, and by 1954 4 million. Births continued at the four million level through 1964. After 1964, the number of births dropped sharply, and did not start to rise again until the 1980s.

      The children born in the 1946 — 1964, were born during a “baby boom”, and their generation was called the Baby Boomers, or just plain Boomers for short.

      The demographic shock produced all sorts of consequences. From 1954 through the late 1960s it produced a flight to the suburbs as the boomers parents looked for safe places with good schools to raise them.

      The “1960s” as cultural phenomenon (really from 1964 after the JFK assassination until 1974 and the sharp rescission caused by the Gulf Oil Embargo) was the era when the leading edge of the boomers came of age. They are very much identified with that eras excesses and the anti Vietnam war movement.

      Financially the boomers are grasshoppers. Their parents were ants, and they have tried to do everything differently from their parents. Their financial motto seems to have been borrow, party, and hope we win the lottery. Their lotteries were the Tech stock boom of the 90s and the house boom of the 00s. We now know fallout from those parties and lotteries. The leading edge of the boom is reaching retirement age (1946 turns 65 this year), and their savings are almost non existent. Expect to see lots of them bagging groceries at the Kroger’s, living on their Social Security checks, and crying about how the US is unfair because they have no money.

    27. Anonymous Says:

      If this video of “Occupy Atlanta” is true – it’s very very bad:
      I wasn’t bale to watch it through, but just a few minutes will do.

      Here’s the antidote for your disgust:

    28. setbit Says:

      They have just never been taught anything but bullshit. They have been betrayed by their parents and their teachers.


      ID: 25232

      Summary: Despite receiving post-secondary education, numerous subjects display almost total lack of historical and economic understanding

      Status: Closed

      Resolution: Not A Bug – As Designed

      Comments: This is per spec. Please refer to Horace Mann et al.

      Well, okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but there’s an unfortunate amount of truth in it. Astute readers of Mann and others regarding the origins and intents of government-sponsored education in the US will quickly discover that the the term “well educated” is functionally defined to mean “people whose attitudes and world view agree with mine”.

      While Mann, to his credit, does talk about individual responsibility, he also seems to have absorbed a lot of utopian socialism. He can’t be held accountable for history that hadn’t happened yet and economics that wasn’t yet well documented, but that doesn’t make him any less wrong. And that has resulted in fundamental flaws and blind spots in institutional education.

      Today’s graduates assume that since they have a liberal education (in the original sense of that term) that they ought to be fully equipped to function and prosper in society. That’s a reasonable, and in some senses laudable, view. But there are two problems:

      1) A broad education, or even a technical degree, is only the starting point for a career, not a guarantee of a good job.

      2) Not only do most of them lack an actual education, they lack any substantive understanding of what an education is.

      My point (and I do have one) is that these problems stretch back to the creation of public education in the US. In some ways, we have been losing ground for 150 years. That trend has been masked by enormous social and technological changes, but is now becoming so pronounced that pretty much everyone recognizes it, even if they don’t understand it. (And they don’t understand it in large part because they don’t have much functional understanding about the last 150 years of history. How meta is that?)

      So yes, there is plenty of blame for the Boomers to shoulder, but realize that they were miseducated in their turn, just like these young grads. The blind teaching the blind.

    29. setbit Says:


      Did you see any pattern in the types of grads? Engineering vs. Humanities, Bachelor’s vs. Master’s, etc.?

      I’m wondering how widely distributed the higher-education bubble has become, if perhaps previously useful degrees are now failing to generate sufficient ROI.

    30. Ken Hoop Says:

      So I guess Lex should characterize the corporations as “World Persons” or “citizens of the world.”

      Or dual loyalists, in this case juxtaposing Greed against loyalty to national interest.

    31. Lexington Green Says:

      The few people I talked to were all non-STEM. No surprises there.

      A very non-scientific sample.

      If engineers were involved with this movement it would, probably, be organized. It’s not.

    32. Lexington Green Says:

      Ken, you don’t even understand the vocabulary you are trying to use.

      Outsourcing is a separate question from corporate personhood.

      Foreigners getting engineering degrees is yet another separate question.

      You are making great progress on being civil, and are now off of my sh*t list. So, that’s good.

      But now, let’s get some coherence into these comments from you.

      Focus, man. Focus.

    33. vikingTX Says:

      Contrast the above experience with the following from /

      The author toured the USS Carl Vinson as part of a Navy League program and had this impression of the crew:

      Oh — about that crew.  They are young.  Just eyeballing them, my guess is that about 70% of those 6,000 crew members are 25 or under.  What amazed me was learning that the person on the bridge handling the rudder (that is, steering this vast, nuclear powered ship) is probably 19 years old.  Think about that:  three years ago, he (or she) was getting a driver’s license; now she (or he) is driving a very big ship.
      It’s obvious that our Navy has a tremendous respect for young people.  It believes that they are capable.  It believes that they are intelligent.  It believes that, given the opportunity, they will act responsibly.  It doesn’t coddle them.  It doesn’t flatter them with false praise.  It demands of them their best, and they dig into themselves and discover that they can meet that demand.  These kids are America’s best and brightest because they willingly serve a harsh, but fair, task master, they grow up quickly, and they have the tools to become exemplary citizens, whatever they choose to do with their post-Navy lives.

      Not all the Boomers screwed up their kids.

    34. Lexington Green Says:

      “Not all the Boomers screwed up their kids.”

      True. Many didn’t. But too many did.

    35. 1389AD Says:

      First of all, I am a boomer. That said, I helped to raise my stepdaughter, and she is as conservative as anyone could be.

      Second, a lot of this is astroturf. George Soros is behind it, as is the White House. It is an effort to deflect the anger that should rightfully be expressed at Obama. He is scapegoating not all of the rich, but only those who do not support him.

      Third, the police should not tolerate any more of this. These kids are creating a public nuisance that is imposing tremendous costs on nearby businesses and on the cities they are defiling. The city governments and the police are very remiss in not shutting all of this down. If I had a business that was suffering losses on account of this, I would be seeking injunctive relief.

      Fourth, the college tuition bubble is a huge scam that has been perpetrated on America’s youth and their parents. Making those debts nondischargeable through bankruptcy is a form of indentured servitude. Arguably, a Thirteenth Amendment case could be made against that. The costs should be recouped from the schools that have profited by this inflated tuition. If it means the tenured professors (who are mostly left-wing indoctrinators anyway) lose 90 percent of their salaries, then that’s long overdue.


      Don’t go to college until the bubble bursts and the prices go waaaaay down. And above all, don’t borrow any money to go.

    36. tdaxp Says:

      There are a couple comments about it, so I thought I would address it:

      Talk of a higher education bubble, etc., conflates two very different sorts of degrees: the first, highly technical that require advanced training, the second, SWPL fashion.

      The return on STEM degrees is very high – my impression is that STEM unemployment borders on non-existant(~ 2%).

      BUT #OWS is not full of people who take ownership of their ROI. They ‘do the right thing,’ because that is less scary than going to a small local school, and seeing where they should go from there.

      SWPL is an amazing, eye -pening site. Just mentally replace ‘white people’ with ‘white liberals,’ and it is a stunning work of ethnography.

    37. Mike Long Says:


      Very refreshing to read your views albeit somewhat confusing. I would have expected your average right-leaner to disagree with every single item. You remind me of my brother-in-law – a Republican, a true conservative – a throwback from the days when they still existed in significant numbers. We disagreed but I respected his views and admired him as a person. My BiL would recognise Palin, Perry, Bachman etc. for the half-wits they are. (I assume you agree.) But in today’s Right, one of these or their ilk could actually become president. “W” did. Twice.

      I would like you to elucidate a couple of your comments on the OWS grievances, namely:


      As for # 2 – I remember thinking when the “trickle-down theory” was first being mooted. Let the rich get even richer and they’ll start more businesses and hire more people. Everybody benefits. Even at the time I thought that was exceptionally iniquitous. The theory has since proven itself be be laughable. With their tax cuts, billionaires simply buy another villa in the South of France (benefiting only the French economy). Can you still actually believe this to be economically sound? (Thank God you’re in the tiny minority.)

      As for #9 – I personally consider the CU decision to be the worst, the most potentially damaging in American history. (“In the Soviet Union capitalism defeated communism. In the United States, capitalism has defeated democracy.”) Do you actually believe that corporations (with right-wing CEOs, of course) will not simply BUY elections? We all know there is a direct correlation between money spent on campaigning and election victory. Do you actually not SEE this? Or is it just that you are one of these oligarchs who has no time for democracy?

      No offence intended.

    38. John Says:

      I strongly believe that even most of the “STEM” degrees are over-priced and not paying off in terms of benefits to their holders or their holders employers and that with a decline in easy credit they too will see a decline in price.

      Having said that, I never heard the term “STEM” until about a year ago, and 30 years ago when I was being advised on major areas etc. I am certain there was no such distinction. (My worthless degree would probably be a “Technology” degree I suppose.)

      This doesn’t excuse blaming others, *I* made the poor purchase decision and *I* live with the consequences, but I do feel an obligation to warn others.

      Also, isn’t “advanced training” kind of a misnomer? I can’t remember any training or teaching going on during my college career, especially in technical or mathematical subjects. I think “advanced filtering” would be more appropriate since those courses were mostly managed to wash out as many students as possible.

    39. tyouth Says:

      Cain’s criticism of the occupy protesters makes perfect sense to me. He suggests that the protester’s should be aimed at (I believe he said) “the White House and Mr. Obama”. He may have politicized that a bit too much and it might have been fairer to replace “WH and Mr. Obama” with “the federal government”.

      Nonetheless, it is the elected government which owes a duty of loyal representation to the citizens of this country – not business. The individual’s attitude should be “buyer beware” with respect to big business. The government should be there to protect it’s citizens and that doesn’t seem to be it’s purpose anymore. That is where citizen’s anger needs to be directed.

    40. Lexington Green Says:

      Mike: Civil disagreement provokes no offense here. You are wrong about Gov. Palin. She has said and done more than most politicians to oppose the crony capitalism that is destroying the country.

      John: Good point about filtering. The serious science and math courses at the U of C were graded on a steep curve and meant to be cull out the poor performers. We cannot have a nation where everyone is good at math and science since most people are not smart enough to be good at it. I had my first taste of academic disaster 1st year at the College. I had the very distinguished basic chemistry teacher tell me, in his office, third week of the quarter: “basic chemistry is not meant to be a learning experience. It is a weeding process.”. I was too naive at the time, age 18, to understand that my inability to do the problem set meant I had already been weeded, and should drop the class. U of C in those days was nit a vacation from reality. Our common core bio class was team taught by several senior faculty. They did not like the class’s performance on the midterm. They said we were not working hard enough. They set the curve on the midterm at a D, gave half the class Fs and said if you people dint get with it you will have to take common core bio again or not graduate. They were not bluffing. I hated them at the time, but it was a good life lesson.

      Tyouth: The problem is big business has so thoroughly captured the government, in many sectors, in many ways, that it is not a matter of caveat emptor but of being forced to play in a rigged game.

    41. tdaxp Says:


      Excellent comment. Let me try to address it.

      As I understand the term, a solid STEM education typically requires a master’s degree. This is two additional years of school, but the plus side is that they pay you go to — the market for STEM labor is to tight that its economically viable to waive tuition and pay a stipend in exchange for relatively low-value novice labor. Aside from maybe a few institutions which would allow you to short-circuit this process (U Cal, Carnegie Mellon, etc.), I don’t think there’s a real advantage to choosing a more expensive undergrad experience than a less one.

      The ‘real’ school is where you get your Masters. Undergrad is definitely advanced filtering, as I think you said.

      Someone who goes 100k into debt to study calculus at Name Brand U is paying for the name on their diploma, in almost all cases. But as this bill is paid for either buy parents who want to buy bragging rights, or by young people who are hoping for a magical short-cut, so bet it. It allows parents to brag, and sometimes there actually is a magical short-cut. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

      On STEM being a neologism — yup. The old fashioned term probably would be Engineering, if you consider include social and information engineering as part of the definition. But it’s probably easier just to make up a new term (“STEM”) rather than fight all the misperceptions that would come from using Engineering (how can it be engineering if nothing physical is made? etc. etc.).

    42. Ron in SD Says:

      thank you for the reasoned, and thoughtful post on these gatherings. I too, am trying to overcome my initial knee jerk reaction to the Occupy protests. I think the weight behind the protests are these lied-to kids, and it is a shame that they are falling under the sway of veteran bullshit artists. I do like the sentiment that the universities that took the money from these kids (and their parents)should bear some costs of the crushing burden of student debt. But I really don’t see that happening. State and private schools have to face a terrific downsizing just based on the shrinking and changing market for their product. Throwing the debt problem back on the schools will crush them. Despite the poor job they’ve done, our higher education system is a key to us maintaining (or improving) our country’s cometitive advantage. In a perfect world, they would provide an effective team with our military in turning our young people into leaders and productive society members. A few decades ago, our military society was in bad shape as well – the effort, discipline, persistence and good decision making that went into reshaping our military has to be applied to our education system. I just pray the educational leaders and their customers/partners (students and parents) have the right stuff our soldiers, sailors, marines and guardsmen do.

      And employment among STEM graduates is not great, though much better than the liberal arts grads. My anecdotal evidence is my own son (and his classmates) who did not find a job until 7 months after graduating with a Computer Science degree from a good school (Cal Poly SLO). At his department graduation ceremony, I was surprised to hear that over 60 of the CS department grads did not have jobs lined up. So there probably are STEM graduates who may be in the same situation as the kids in the park that Lex spoke with, who may be more pissed off since they probably feel they did make the “correct purchase”.

    43. Kirk Parker Says:

      Mike Long,

      Do you actually believe that corporations (with right-wing CEOs, of course) will not simply BUY elections?

      Should I take this as a declaration that your vote is for sale? Mine sure the hell isn’t.

      And as far as “we all know there is a direct correlation between money spent on campaigning and election victory”, how about some stats? I can give you several recent electoral contests right here in Washington State where the high-spending side lost.

    44. Mike Long Says:

      Kirk Parker,

      There are electorates where a four to one spending ratio would STILL not buy the seat. That’s obvious. It’s the marginals that really count. (No presidential candidate bothers campaigning in Wyoming or Massachusetts.) When it comes to marginals, the people who are “bought” don’t know they’ve been bought. People conveniently forget the bell curve of intelligence. The lower quartile (enough to swing ANY marginal seat) has an IQ of 85 and below. To these people it’s us vs them. US = ‘real’ Americans who love God. Them = communist atheists. These people need help balancing their check books, but their vote counts as much as yours or mine. Using simple “Us vs them”, Madison Avenue can sway these minds with ease – given enough air time (= money). THIS is where the Right excels.

      The Corporations United decision has sealed the fate of America. She is now OFFICIALLY an oligarchy.

    45. Mike Long Says:


      Right ON! Capitalists are doing what they’re supposed to do – making money. It is NOT their job to have a social conscience. It’s the GOVERNMENT’S job to protect the citizenry from corporate excesses. These protests should be on the steps of the Supreme Court.

      Lexington Green Says:
      “the crony capitalism that is destroying the country.”

      I hate to break it to you, Lex, but you’re a liberal. :-)

    46. Lexington Green Says:

      Wrong, Mike. Liberals want bigger government, which gets captured by businesses. The root problem is state power and liberal delusions that state power is the solution when it is the source of the problem.

      Crony capitalism only works when there is an over-powerful state.

      Your problem is you believe in a cartoon image of conservatism.

    47. John Says:


      We cannot have a nation where everyone is good at math and science since most people are not smart enough to be good at it.

      That’s a place where we disagree, apparently on many levels. The colossal waste of human potential that derives from that thinking and the way the university system is structured is, in my opinion, one of the great tragedies of our time.

      I knew more than few very bright people driven out of “STEM” programs (mostly into IT, Telecommunications, and other non-STEM technical disciplines). I believe that with good teaching and education we probably *can* have a nation in which nearly everyone is good at math and science, since most people are indeed smart enough to be good at it. I think you’re arguing very much in the tradition of those who once ridiculed widespread literacy.

      In non-technical areas we wouldn’t dream of treating people this way. Imagine an introductory foreign language class which was taught entirely in that language from the first day and concentrated on reading the literature (Goethe? perhaps) and testing, with no teaching or explanation. Half way through the first quarter they decide too many people are catching on and change the grade curve to flunk half to 3/4?

      For any subject there is a kind of bell shaped curve where a few people instantly grasp the content nearly instinctively, a few never get it no matter what, and the majority can be taught the subject. That is why we have teachers and education in the first place. The “filtering” process could be handled by a simple test like the SAT or GRE, and a lot cheaper. (the upside would be that “social” filtering couldn’t be practiced and the universities wouldn’t be able to collect tuition for it.)


      That Masters business is moving the goal post. Furthermore, since you need a BA/BS to enter those programs, they incorporate the costs of the B. program.

      Also, I’ve heard over and over again about this “paying you to attend” thing. Even though I found it hard to believe, I looked into it and was told that it *can* happen, but it is a rare case in a very few fields. The idea is highly suspect to begin with. What would a university get out of paying a student? That’s not the business they’re in. I have heard of companies sometimes sponsoring a student, that makes a kind of sense since they’re basically improving the effectiveness (they hope, I have doubts) of an employee.

    48. foxmarks Says:

      “Despite the poor job they’ve done, our higher education system is a key to us maintaining (or improving) our country’s competitive advantage.”

      So the only way to avoid failure is to keep failing? It might be a bit semantic, but the evidence suggests the existing “higher education system” isn’t much about useful education. Developing or un-archiving an effective replacement system would help improve the utility of the American worker.

      And it is deeper than Higher Ed. Primary and Secondary Ed are feeding too much garbage into Higher Ed. College is the new high school. But primary ed is funded by government debt already, so there’s nothing we can seize as compensation for the crappy job its has done.

      “The Corporations United decision has sealed the fate of America. She is now OFFICIALLY an oligarchy.”

      I don’t think that means what it used to. The rich of this generation are not the rich of the previous generation. There’s still very much dynamism in the corporate sphere. Even if we accept the premise that people moronic drones too stupid to see through advertising, the corporations buying the ads are themselves being elected by changes in technology and consumer taste. The power is still with the people, and flows to those who satisfy the wants of the people.

      At least until some tipping point of regulatory capture is reached…when better mousetraps are made illegal, the fat cats get fatter.

    49. tdaxp Says:


      Aboslutely right about moving the goal post. No disagreement there. The economy is not the same as it once was.

      I come from a state that completely skipped the industrial revolution. Learning that farming was no longer the preferred professional in a family is moving the goal post, too.

      While to get a Masters you need a Bachelors on the way, there’s no need for an expensive one at high-falutin’ U. Mine was from the smallest public school in a small state.

      Most people who learn about being paid to tend find it hard to believe. You are hardly alone. I think this is a symptom of how divided our society has become: folks don’t realize that the most valuable part of education is actually free (if you don’t count the lost earnings), or at least no worse than genteel poverty.

      STEM is in very high demand in this economy, and has been for years now. A lot of the demand is for professionals, but a lot is also for high-skill ‘gigs’ (Can this test measure both the skill of teachers and achievement of students? Where is the optimial location to place a new warehouse? &c &c.) Public and private organizations that either cannot afford an on hand team to do this for them, or else want to select the very best team each time, will issue ‘grant funding’ to universities to solve this question for them, using the latest methods.

      I know of one problem in which the funding is worth $3 million. Of this, the university gets about 50% off the top, leaving $1.5 for the actual problem solving. The professor designs the actual study, meets with stakeholders, and takes final responsibility for the quality of results, but hires 4 graduate students to do the actual work – paying them a stipend plus all their tuition. Rest of the money goes to equipment (none of the $3mil directly goes to the professor),

      Students get paid, a free ride, and an apprenticeshp out of it, the outside world gets the benefit of world-class knowledge, professor is almost certainly going to get tenure out of it. Win-win-win.

      Half of the assistantship / free grad school works more or less this way. Other half is based on teaching undergraduates.

    50. Whitehall Says:

      About Masters in STEM programs.

      In engineering, a master’s seldom pays for itself. After a few years of real experience, an MBA can be helpful but you need the right opportunities to raise yourself out of what has become an engineering ghetto in many companies.

      I see the root cause as immigration. An American kid, facing college major choices has to think – where am I most competitive? In STEM classes, he faces competition from around the world, both in college against foreign students, and in the workplace where H1B visas and deliberate promises from our politicians to make it easier fro engineers from abroad to enter our labor market.

      Or, a kid can play on his cultural advantage – he is already an American growing up immersed in American culture. That is an advantage in political science and marketing, sales and teaching.

      Hence, the common complaints of Americans not wanting to become scientists and engineers! The American kids know the deck is stacked against them in those fields.

    51. Kirk Parker Says:


      I come from a state that completely skipped the industrial revolution.

      Which one is that?

    52. tdaxp Says:


      The Mount Rushmore State.


      A lot to unpack in your comment. I’ll try.

      Average starting salary after undergraduate in ‘Engineering’ is 60k, so depending on supply/demand cuve, there may be little marginal benefit of going farther in that.

      Re: H1B, you have sub-issues of the global labor market (if you prevent Indians from working here, the company can just move to India), the job killing aspects of skill scarcity, etc. But salaries definitely indicate a graduate is better off with a STEM than non-STEM degree.

      In my experience native-born STEM majors have better outcomes than foreign-born STEM majors, because of the cultural advantage you mentioned. Companies will pay a lot for you to design their gizmo. They’ll pay even more if you can sell your design to your manager, instead of sitting passively for work to emerge (as seems relatively more common for foreign-born engineers).


      Don’t mean to pick on you, but I hear some variation of “isn’t much about useful education” a lot from my fellow Republicans, but don’t understand it. We have a free market. You want a useful degree? Work & pay for it? You want to go 100k into debt for puppet theater? Have a blast.

    53. Mike Long Says:

      Wrong, Lex.

      “Liberals want bigger government, which gets captured by businesses.”

      Well, half right. Liberals DO want bigger government; but “captured by businesses” is the very DEFINITION of conservative politics. Liberal want more government to PROTECT its citizens AGAINST Big Corp. Its the right-wingers, starting with Regan, that dissolved these protections resulting in the oligarchy we have now.

      “liberal delusions that state power is the solution when it is the source of the problem”

      Oh dear. Another tired, baseless, silly Reganism. (The guy was an ACTOR, for God’s sake.) In a democracy, the government is under the control of the people. Corporations, on the other hand, can exercise their greed to whatever extent allowed by the government. They are answerable to NO ONE – except government. Since you guys dissembled all government regulations, corporations, quite naturally, raped the economy for every cent they could gather. Ergo the situation we’re in now. The 1% TOOK IT ALL. And I don’t blame them. That’s their job. That’s the nature of capitalism. I blame a government that has allowed itself to be castrated by lobbyists and special interests.

      “Crony capitalism only works when there is an over-powerful state.”

      Utter nonsense. Cronyism works WHEREVER there is corruption and there is insufficient will or power to stop it.

    54. Mike Long Says:

      The Citizens United decision says quite clearly, “You corporations may now pay your politicians whatever the market will bear.” Nobody sees this as a recipe for corruption??????

    55. Lexington Green Says:

      1. Drop the “you guys”‘ crap. I speak for myself. I’ll assume you do the same.
      2. The good news is we are closing in on the key issues.
      3. The bad news is you are fundamentally mistaken about those issues.
      4. The worse news is I am doing this on my phone before a meeting and cannot tell you why.
      5. Stand by for more, later, maybe a separate post.

    56. renminbi Says:

      Because one votes for politicians doesn’t mean they will represent you. Why should they,if because of ignorance (rational or not) on the part of the voter they can vote their own interests? The idea that representatives govern in the interests of the public is absurd on the face of it. The evidence of this betrayal is all around you from schools that don’t teach to a president paying off campaign contributors from the public fisc. Not to mention a real estate bust ignited by Fanny and Freddy.

      Expecting much good from the gov’t is not any better than believing in the tooth fairy. Get real, Mike.

    57. foxmarks Says:


      I don’t see much of a free market in education. Big Ed is all about subsidy, and discouraging innovation or competition in education services. College is credentialism.

      How much of primary education is devoted toward empowering kids to understand the economic value of their choices compared to programming them to desire worthless things like most liberal arts degrees? If there is going to be education, shouldn’t it militate against puppet theater in favor of stuff that actually enriches both student and society?

      The subsidy cycle also drives up the cost of all education, including useful degrees. Even if a kid chooses wisely, he pays for everyone else’s folly.

    58. foxmarks Says:

      @Mike Long

      The alternative proposed by opponents of CU is “Let’s have a cadre of elitists restrict how much can be spent on each form of speech, with the amount varying by the claimed intent of the spender”. Isn’t that a recipe for corruption? How much would you bid for a seat on the spending-limit committee?

      Corruption follows from votes being too valuable. Nobody spends millions to elect a dog catcher. The only way to limit corruption is to limit the power subject to a vote. All other schemes just push corruption around.

    59. Mike Long Says:

      So Renminbi, I guess (from you comments and your name) that you’re proposing that we all simply bow out of politics and let our “superiors” tell us what’s good for us (as is the case in China). Sorry, the Chinese culture is to bow before the elite. That system could never take hold here.

      Voters are SUPPOSED to vote their own interests, so I don’t understand what your point is. If representatives DON’T act in the best interests of the electorate, they vote him out.

      There are a lot of gaping holes in that system. Firstly, when elected officials are paid ten times their salary by corporate lobby groups, whose interests are they going to protect? Big problem. But we COULD fix it. We COULD outlaw all such bribes. If special interests want something, let them lobby the electorate directly.

      Which leads to the other big problem – campaign financing. By the nature of the billions spent on financing campaigns these days, the process is completely out of the hands of the people. Only corporates can play a significant part (and, for them, these billions are just pocket change). Only rich people get elected – massively swinging the political landscape to the right, and, in turn, by using hugely emotional and factually empty ad campaigns, easily convincing most of the lower (IQ) quartile to vote with them and against their own interests. We COULD fix that problem, too. We COULD limit campaign spending to a small fraction of what it is now.

      The FIRST thing to do is to elect enough progressives (and I’m NOT talking Blue dogs (pretend Democrats)) to strengthen the government and, by extension, the people.

      Representative democracy is not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better the oligarchy we now have in both the U.S. and China. (Except that in China political office-holders are not generally half-wits like “W”.)

    60. Mike Long Says:


      CU says corporation are people. This is patently stupid. Corporations have no conscience. They don’t feel anger. They don’t feel regret. They don’t FEEL anything. They don’t have families whom they love. They don’t get sick. They don’t starve to death.

      Corporations are simply man-made structures – no different than office buildings. Every single INDIVIDUAL in the corporation or in the office building, from the CEO down to the doorman has a human voice and is entitled first amendment protection. The building (or any other structure) has NO such entitlement. To dream it does is the height of blatant cronyism.

      More importantly MONEY is not SPEECH – which also follows from the CU decision. This decision CLEARLY tells corporations they can now BUY the government – and, for a change, they don’t even have to do it surreptitiously.

    61. Mike Long Says:

      I haven’t heard of any “alternative proposed by opponents of CU”, nor is one necessary. The decision should MUST be reversed or democracy is dead in America (which is, of course, what corporate America and the right wing WANT).

      My son asked me recently in a local matter, “how could they pursue this direction when it is so obviously the antithesis of good governance?” My response, “they’re not interested in good governance, their ultimate aim is NO governance – except enough military to protect their gated communities.”

      Ever wonder why, in this MASSIVE fiscal crisis, not ONE WORD is being uttered by those in power concerning a full 50% of our expenditure – the military – while there is NO THREAT?!?!

    62. setbit Says:

      Mike Long,

      Liberal want more government to PROTECT its citizens AGAINST Big Corp.

      And that’s pretty much the core of the issue.

      Believe me, I know where you’re coming from. I was a progressive myself, up until somewhere in my early-to-mid 20’s.

      And then I came to the realization that the fairness and opportunity that I so desperately wanted for this country to have — that I still do want, passionately — was never, ever going to come from the government.

      Maybe, possibly, there is someone out there who could be trusted with power broad enough to fix numerous social and economic problems by executive fiat. I doubt it, for a number or reasons: the fact that power corrupts, people’s natural resistance to being told what to do, and the simple fact that even small real-life problems are complicated, never mind problems that involve 300 million people.

      But suppose that such a person or persons existed. How is that kind of candidate going to be elected in a free, representative government? Anyone wise enough is going to have to do some very, very unpopular things. Anyone honest and incorruptible enough is going to tell the complete truth about his or her plans during the campaign.

      What are the chances that such a person could win a general election, in this or any other country?

      Corporations, on the other hand, can exercise their greed to whatever extent allowed by the government. They are answerable to NO ONE – except government.

      That, sir, is pure, pharmaceutical grade hooey.

      Can corporations do bad things and cause all sorts of trouble? You betcha. But there is a natural, inexorable limit. Money requires customers, and customers can always go elsewhere if push comes to shove. GM used to be the big bad monopoly that everyone worried about. Today, it wouldn’t even exist if it hadn’t been bailed out with your tax dollars. Same goes for the investment banks.

      If it weren’t for the federal government handing out money to these turkeys, they would be gone. That’s not perfect accountability, but it’s a whole lot better than what happened when they were called to “answer” to the government.

      So go ahead, keep looking for the political messiah that will finally bring corporations to heel. Personally, I’ve decided that the job actually belongs to me and other sensible people, whether we want it or not. I believe the technical term for that transformation is “growing up”.

    63. renminbi Says:

      Five minutes in the voting booth every two years is supposed to protect us from the depredations of a parasitical ruling class? What planet are you living on? Are you really that dense?

      The best way I see would be picking responsible (not on the dole and NOT employed by the gov’t-taxpaying citizens) to serve on special panels to examine and nullify bad legislation and to close down or curtail wasteful agencies.. Bye bye Ethanol, Obamacare NLRB and many other abortions. It should be possible to sue government agencies on behalf of the public- those bringing such actions should get a portion of the money impounded back to the treasury. That would be real democracy, not the dysfunctional and unsustainable sham we have now. Europe is even worse-their rulers don’t even make believe they respect their publics. It helps if you control the airwaves and subsidize the newspapers and have a substantial population on the public teat. Bet it gets very ugly when the money runs out.

      Great book on the subject of rent seeking is Rise and Decline of Nations by the great Mancur Olson.

    64. Lexington Green Says:

      “… Rise and Decline of Nations by the great Mancur Olson.”


      His first book, The Logic of Collective Action is even better. In my case, it was life-changing.

    65. foxmarks Says:

      Mike, you sound like Progressive radio. Those blowhards make that same fuzzy claim about corporate personhood. And that same assertion that the spending of money on speech is not inherently speech. If you truly have not heard claims for campaign finance limits to be set by a handful of bureaucrats and electeds, nor heard the claim that unions and other non-incorporated collectives should be treated differently than both individuals and ordinary corporations, I suggest you listen to Thom Hartmann or Stephanie Miller for a few days. You’ll probably hear a lot you like.

    66. setbit Says:

      There’s an interesting on-the-scene report from Occupy L.A. posted here.

    67. Anonymous Says:


      Truly incredible!!

      “special panels to examine and nullify bad legislation and to close down or curtail wasteful agencies”

      and IIIiii am living on another planet!

      I’m talking about living in the world we ACTUALLY inhabit. Our system is pretty pitiful, but how do you suppose you’d get the power to COMPLETELY TRANSFORM the entire system. Please grow up.

      As thing ACTUALLY ARE right now, the ONLY choice we have is whom to vote for (leaving out the alternative of going postal).

      Go ahead and bitch and moan. But PLEASE at least try to contribute SOMETHING sensible.

      Vote LEFT. It’s our only hope.

    68. John Says:

      A simpler way than the repeal panels idea, and one that could work, though not easily. Is to pass a constitutional amendment stating that all legislation expires after a certain period. At the end of that time a minimum of some small percentage, say 10% of the members of the house have to sign on to a renewal bill, and one of their number has to stand up, read the original legislation, and make a brief case for extension, followed by a voice vote.

      Murder (in Federal jurisdictions) : 5 minutes and it passes unanimously.

      Ethanol subsidies, regulation of buggy whip manufacturers: Fades quietly from the scene.

      Obamacare: Big long drawn out argument, and our representatives get to express the will of the people one way or the other.

      In all cases the assumption is change and progress rather than stasis. As it stands, circumstances change, technology changes, legislation is effectively forever.

    69. Anonymous Says:


      Thanks for the great reply,

      “I don’t see much of a free market in education. Big Ed is all about subsidy, and discouraging innovation or competition in education services. College is credentialism.”

      I’m not sure how to respond to this. Academia on all levels is one of the most relentless competitive industries in America.

      “How much of primary education is devoted toward empowering kids to understand the economic value of their choices compared to programming them to desire worthless things like most liberal arts degrees? If there is going to be education, shouldn’t it militate against puppet theater in favor of stuff that actually enriches both student and society?”

      Education is a free market. It’s not the ‘job’ of banks to teach financial literacy, why should it be the ‘job’ of universities to wage an ideological struggle?

      “The subsidy cycle also drives up the cost of all education, including useful degrees. Even if a kid chooses wisely, he pays for everyone else’s folly.”

      This is true, though the question of whether or not a kid could go as far in a less educated society is an important question, too.

    70. tdaxp Says:

      Sorry, that’ Anonymous’ was me, tdaxp. Feel free to edit the name, delete this post, whatever’s most convenient.

    71. renminbi Says:

      The basic problem is that people become entrenched in power and think of it as theirs by right, rather than held in trust for the public. You get a Lord of the Flies situation. The fact that the public has the franchise, which is of very limited utility, gives these people an even bigger sense of entitlement-they can even pass bills without bothering to read them; they can have Air Pelosi to fly them around and they can get their semi-literate wives 300k gigs for a Chicago hospital for “community relations”. And,if people object,well, “you voted for us”.

      Of course the gov’t is NOT your friend, but people won’t see that until it all collapses around their ears, as it eventually must, and then it is too late.

      Expecting good governance from professional politicians is as realistic as expecting love from a prostitute.

    72. Jeff the Bobcat Says:

      Mike Long

      “Corporations are simply man-made structures – no different than office buildings.”

      No. Buildings are assets. Corporations or companies are groups of people who combine their time, talent and resources to pursue an economic activity for profit or some other purpose (i.e. a not-for-profit). As a small business owner, I have always found it peculiar that people don’t understand this.

      “Corporations, on the other hand, can exercise their greed to whatever extent allowed by the government. They are answerable to NO ONE – except government. Since you guys dissembled all government regulations, corporations, quite naturally, raped the economy for every cent they could gather. Ergo the situation we’re in now. The 1% TOOK IT ALL. And I don’t blame them. That’s their job. That’s the nature of capitalism. I blame a government that has allowed itself to be castrated by lobbyists and special interests. ”

      Wrong again. I own a trucking company, which until deregulation was fully implemented in the 1980’s was one of the most regulated, or government controlled, industries around. Every year the rates went up, payrates went up (to union workers, no less), customers had few choices and the industry was pretty profitable. With Deregulation came competition and very difficult times. Many companies went out of business. No government protection from regulations did them in.

      Competition is the limit to the greed you talk about. It forced efficiency and lower prices. Just for fun I re-rated a shipment from 2001 at today’s pricing. Guess what? The net rate is the same 10 years later before fuel.

      You miss the point with regulation. Regulation by the government IS what can be controlled through lobbying by companies and industry groups.

      You seem to want to control the PROFITS of companies through regulation. Why? Fairness you say. Fairness to whom? Not for the people who do the work apparently….

    73. foxmarks Says:


      It feels like we have the difference between an insider’s and outsider’s view of education. From the inside, everyone is competing for grants and tenure. From the outside, grants and tenure are paid with coerced money channeled into politically preferred departments. Students compete for admission and admissions compete for students, but that exchange is grossly distorted by laws governing scholarships (trust favoritism) and legal bounties (quotas) of particular demographics.

      As long as I keep hearing about how reducing taxes will raise tuition, keep seeing extravagant new buildings constructed on tax-free property and keep hearing about legislatures granting money to help people pay tuition (or borrow for it on sweetheart terms) I will have a difficult time seeing a free market in education.

      At the primary and secondary level, Big Ed is actively and aggressively anti-choice. Let me know when the NEA starts boosting vouchers and charter schools.

      I can agree that the job of education is not to wage an ideological struggle. But they have. It has become so much of their mission that they may not even know they’re doing it anymore. I suggest at some level, high school or undergrad, the curriculum should include basic/household economics. Is it ideology to suggest that price and value are different quantities, and that supply and demand effect both in very predictable ways?

      “whether or not a kid could go as far in a less educated society is an important question, too”

      This, too, feels like we’re coming at things from opposing ends. A society where everyone knows what patriarchal oppression is but nobody can run a machine shop may be highly educated, but it is ineffective. The content of education is at issue, not just the quantity or credentials issued.

      At the root, the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” breeds a vain and flaccid society. Staying alive is work, not recreation.

    74. tdaxp Says:


      Excellent comment. I agree we’re viewing the same thing from different angles — that’s good, hopefully we can get a 3D view of it together. :-)

      I’ll use Academia to refer to those large institutions whose primary aim is the discovery of new knowledge, and which also teach large numbers of students and participate in university service. At the large end of this spectrum you have Harvard, near the bottom you have Texas Tech.

      So I am not referring to our system of small colleges and tech schools (Who does a fine job) or K-12 education (Which is terrible beyond description).

      With that understanding…

      “From the outside, grants and tenure are paid with coerced money channeled into politically preferred departments.”

      In most cases, grants are issued competitively by large public and private funds based on prevous productive research in the area. This creates a winner-take-all system (if you get one grant, you have more resources, more likely to be productive, etc), but it’s not really political favoritism as I understand that term. There is often a broad mission associated with the grant (“minimize harm from IEDs,” “minimize hard from alcohol intake,” etc.), so some research questions are definitely prioritized over others.

      The biggest exceptions I know of this are Department of Agriculture grants, which are decided by the bureaucracy instead of expert reviewers.

      “but that exchange is grossly distorted by laws governing scholarships (trust favoritism)”

      I don’t think this is a ‘distortion’ any more than any market force is a distortion. If a market player wishes to purchase future outcomes, that is fully legitimate.

      “and legal bounties (quotas) of particular demographics.”

      This is true. It’s true in a lot of lawsuit-adverse organizations.

      “about how reducing taxes will raise tuition”

      I understand this, but for states that raise revenues through rolls, lower taxes will lead to higher tolls. This is not a phenomenon unique to Academia.

      “keep seeing extravagant new buildings constructed on tax-free property ”

      In most states, non-profit institutions do not have to pay real estate tax. We could change that politically, but I think a major strength of the Anglosphere is its history of a vibrant civil society. If you look at what happens when the State does away with these protections (the end of the Arab Golden Age in the 1940s, etc), the results aren’t pretty.

      “keep hearing about legislatures granting money to help people pay tuition (or borrow for it on sweetheart terms) ”

      This is also fair, but again not unique in the economy. Generally, conservatives have been in favor of ‘equality of opportunity’ measures such as making college accessible, though of course libertarians tend to be more skeptical.

      “I suggest at some level, high school or undergrad, the curriculum should include basic/household economics. ”

      There is in fact an entire major devoted to that: Home Economics (sometimes called Family & Consumer Science). A free market is not a nanny-state, however, and no one is forced to take such remedial insructions.

      “A society where everyone knows what patriarchal oppression is but nobody can run a machine shop may be highly educated, but it is ineffective. The content of education is at issue, not just the quantity or credentials issued.”

      Very true, which is why it is important not to break the price system by forgiving student loan debts. There is a reason that the vocal minority in the humanities gets the media time. Everyone else is working.

    75. foxmarks Says:


      Fantastic! We may have it down the the level of government meddling that we will allow within the concept of a “free market”.

      As one toward the anti-state pole, I am heartened by the ascendance of distance learning, and by the successes of charter schools (see New Orleans). The less gov’t screws with our choices in general, the more likely education will teach stuff that has sustainable value. Mr. Market cannot be fooled forever.

      Our ideas about the vibrance of a civil society probably reflect our tolerance for gov’t meddling in choice. I hold that the civil society is what exists outside of state coercion. Less government leads to greater civility.

      I can even tie that back to the original topic. The OWS assembly was convened without coercive gov’t and was reportedly so civil that it may not be effective. The desire to play nice is one the competing human impulses. Let’s reward education that encourages both playing hard and playing nice?

    76. tdaxp Says:


      We’re close to forming a mutual admiration society. :-)

      I think we’re narrowed our disagreements to three areas.

      1) The relationship of Government and Civil Society
      2) The nature of large universities
      3) The nature of the free market

      When government grants tax-exempt status to certain institutions but not others, then there is a real concern about the role of government power. Perhaps we would have a more free country if churches, private schools, and universities had to pay real state tax. I doubt it, but it’s a serious & important question.

      I admire distance learning and charter schools. Academia does this better than anyone. Every large university is even more free than a charter school, as less than 100% of revenues come from taxes, and the realm of competition for a university is much larger than for a charter school. Likewise, there are excellent and innovative distance ed programs. Contrast this to the for-profit college sector, which has an abysmal ROI for students (higher cost, lower value).

      Regarding the free market, I’m not anti-state any more than I am anti-fire or anti-gun – to crib Tom Hobbes, the state is a dangerous tool we created to wage war against things that will kill us. Economic development is important, and historically saves more of our population from a loss of their rights — including the right to life — than even defense spending. I have little patience with wealth transfer programs, but the government has a real & historic role in supporting public goods, the infrastructure needed for success (dams, railroads, universities, etc.). This tendency should be balanced against a skepticism of the institutional power such spending creates. Unfortunately, there is no pro-infrastructure party — when liberals talk “infrastructure,” they mean union jobs, which is an entirely different beast.

      I agree with your final point. That’s why supporting academia is so rewarding — and most university foundations allow you to ‘warp’ the market with targeted giving, so you can know how you are having an impact. :-)

    77. Ken Hoop Says:

      Lexington Green Says:
      October 12th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
      Ken, you don’t even understand the vocabulary you are trying to use.
      Outsourcing is a separate question from corporate personhood.
      Foreigners getting engineering degrees is yet another separate question.
      You are making great progress on being civil, and are now off of my sh*t list. So, that’s good.
      But now, let’s get some coherence into these comments from you.
      Focus, man. Focus.

      Let me try again, Lex, because focussing is the antidote to deletion. It’s all globealoney and if anybody construes the grouping of related globealoneys which are of one now frayingly yet seamless garment as incoherent, he doesn’t get globealoney.

      Pete Murphy says:
      October 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm
      Perhaps, but this movement isn’t going to shame corporations into ending their lobbying efforts. The only way to end that is through legislation, and such legislation is consistently deemed an unconstitutional violation of free speech. It’s the vague wording of our constitution and its amendments that need fixing, so that global corporations aren’t construed to be “the people” and advertising that’s sold to the highest bidder isn’t interpreted to be “free speech.”

      As an economist nationalist, Murphey has developed an original theory which says don’t allow globealoneyists to enact free trade deals especially with population dense countries, an original alternative to globalism.

      Finally,Money Power, enabling the rootless “highest bidder” of Murphey’s reference, is inherently Multinational, axissed in New York and Washington and as Spengler said,it takes Blood Power to defeat Money Power. Let’s hope Occupy evolves into a coalition grouping of Blood Power which helps defeat the Globealoney of Money Power, not least because Beef-or even natural veggie- is more nutritious than globealonegalitarian baloney.

    78. Lexington Green Says:

      Ken, while I don’t actually understand your comment, I do concede that you were polite this time, hence no deletion. Be civil, and more or less on point, and you get to have your say around here.

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