Monday, February 21, 2011

Siding with the Corner

I have no totalizing metanarratives, only scattered observations affixed to bullet points:

  • New colors abound on this precious, precious blog. Yawn.
  • I can't even remember how many years (Cf.) I have been making substantially the same point that Matt Yglesias makes here:
    [O]n an adequate level of generality everything is a pyramid scheme. Imagine a country with no Social Security. People would still presumably want to structure their lives such that for a while they produce more than they consume, and then later in life when they’re old they consume more than they produce. The only way for this to work is for them to save money in vehicles that earn a positive rate of return and the only way for that to happen on average is for the future economy to be larger than the present economy. That, in turn, relies on population growth and productivity growth. If population growth slows, you’re going to have a problem. In a pyramid scheme, everyone makes money until you run out of new people to bring into the scheme. Similarly, if you imagine a country with no children and no immigrants then clearly the economy is going to go bust once it starts running out of new workers. But the fact that it would go bankrupt if the country ran out of people doesn’t make Wal-Mart a “pyramid scheme” and Social Security’s no different from Wal-Mart in its implicit assumption that there will continue to be new people in the future.
    Yglesias lost track of the point along the way there, so to clarify: Wal-Mart is a pyramid scheme because all growth- and profit-seeking ventures are pyramid schemes. 
  •  The movie Leaves of Grass combines a number of things I would generally find appealing, or at least interesting -- it features performances by some of my favorites (Ed Norton, Susan Sarandon, Steve Earle);  it is set in Oklahoma, and makes particular mention of places I know well, including Idabel, Hugo, Broken Bow, and, yes, even Ponca City (a brief mention); the Sheriff wears the outfit of McCurtain County, the county containing three of the aforementioned four; the principle character is a bookish guy who left Oklahoma as soon as he could, and who goes back only grudgingly -- something I can relate to -- and talk of poetry was afoot. For all this, it turned out to be less than the sum of the parts, and in some moments, seemed to be grasping a little too much to seem Coen-Brothersy, getting only close enough to call attention to its falling short. That's probably unfair, but there it is. It was a good film, but it could have been better. I have to think "Little Dixie" isn't going to get many more chances at Hollywood glory, so I am tempted to say it should have been better for the sake of a misbegotten sector of Dogpatch (curiously and wrongly labeled "Little Dixie" in this film*).
  • It is a "whose side are you on?" moment and I take the side of the workers of Wisconsin. For that matter I am already on labor's side in the labor-management dispute after next, no matter the time or place.
May all your figurations stabilize.

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* By which I mean: yes, that term is used, but I was taught from knee-high to abjure, reject, denounce, renounce, repudiate, and scorn it. And so I did, and still do.

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