Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Slate is different from you and me

Posted by Ron Coleman on April 6, 2008

Slate can publish idiotic stuff like this essay by Daniel Gross, coyly pretending to describe the real “problem class” in America — the “dysfunctional overclass,” i.e., the super rich:

There are important differences between the underclass and the overclass, notes Susan Mayer, dean of the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies. The overclass is better connected, and it can cause more damage. “Poor inner-city kids selling drugs to suburban kids can harm people,” Mayer says. “But financial markets can bring thousands and thousands of people to ruin.”

Do they study economics at the University of Chicago? I had thought so, once, when I went there to get a free lunch once. But gosh, what stupid reasoning. “Financial markets can bring thousands to ruin”? “Financial markets” — the ones that build trillion dollar economies? They’re more “dysfunctional” than drug dealers because sometimes some people on Wall Street make a preposterous amount of money, even when they don’t “deserve” it?

I love Slate. It’s the best magazine of thought on the Internet. But ultimately it still plays to deeply-held liberal class envy, and when that’s in gear cold analytical reasoning goes out the window. That’s usually the case whenever economics is the topic, too — unless, of course, the super-rich involved are highly-productive members of the permanent liberal political class (hat tip to Insty for that). Then being super rich is super cool, and of course, in the case of that model couple, Bill and Hillary Clinton… super, duper functional.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.


5 Responses to “Slate is different from you and me”

  1. Chris said

    I am not sure where the idea that liberals are for the little guy or the ‘underclass’ got started. Forever inventing ways for corporations, which ultimately constitute these dreaded financial markets, to comply with their social mandates, they have, through sky high compliance costs, increased the price of products for the little guy and erected nearly unscalable barriers for small entrepreneurs to enter many businesses.

  2. Ara Rubyan said

    I am not sure where the idea that liberals are for the little guy or the ‘underclass’ got started.

    Let’s start with the idea that every business needs to account for all revenues and all costs when calculating profits. Where we’ve gone off track in recent decades is in privatizing profits and nationalizing risk chiefly through the idea that, for private enterprises, some costs do not have to be absorbed or even accounted for. For example, the cost of keeping the environment clean. For decades, businesses were allowed to dump waste into rivers and streams while ignoring (or “nationalizing”) the costs of keeping these resources clean. In those days, a clean river or a clean lake was, how shall I put this, not business’ problem. We have developed a more “advanced” view on that now; do we want to say that this is a bad thing or a good thing? How about if we just say it is a more granular way of looking at the cost of doing business and leave it at that? OK.

    Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But I think it bears re-stating on a periodic basis so that we, you know, don’t forget what the true costs of running a business are.

  3. Chris said

    Well, there is a lot there, and some of it I agree with. There is no excuse for companies to be dumping unprocessed sewage or industrial waste into waterways in amounts that threaten the health and livelihood of other people. But it doesn’t address my point that, in the end, these regulations almost always hurt the little guy more than they help. Added costs of production which are passed onto the consumer can be the difference between being able to feed your family and not. What you demonstrate is that there are benevolent justifications for most of the regulation today. And most of the regulatory legislation today is well intentioned, but, almost universally, has unintended consequences.

    Probably the most egregious example is an environmental one too, and that is the banning of very effective and inexpensive insecticide DDT. The original ban, based on faulty research, was passed ostensibly because of a fear that it was a carcinogen. The unforeseen consequence was that the ban has resulted, by some estimates, in the death of over 50 million people in third world countries.

    Charles Wurster, co-founder of the Environmental Defense Fund, when questioned about the lives that DDT saves lives, responded,“So what? People are the main cause of our problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them…” Seems that for some leading environmentalists, the human costs of their programs are secondary, or even desirable.

    Today, the global warming alarmists want to enact legislation that will result in starving the poor, raise even larger walls to the creating of small businesses, and give an ever expanding government never ending justification to insert itself into our lives. And this is based on research which actually claims to understand and actually predict global temperatures decades into the future! None of this research adheres to the same independence standards required to perform a financial audit or bring a single drug to market.

  4. Ara Rubyan said

    A corporation needs to account for all the costs of doing business. In a free market it doesn’t have the right to choose which ones you and I will pay for and which ones it will bear. That’s what I call nationalizing risk while privatizing profit. That’s simply unrealistic and not acceptable.

    If a business cannot follow this simple formula (revenue minus ALL the expenses) in a responsible way, then government is entitled (in fact, it has a mandate) to do that for them on behalf of the people.

  5. pennywit said

    Gross has some good points, particularly when it comes to some of the financial incentives for taking risk long-term vs. short-term. But I don’t think his “overclass == underclass” conceit holds up very well.


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