The Guardian reviews Joe Stiglitz’s new book:

The ancient Greeks had a word for it – pleonexia – which means an overreaching desire for more than one’s share. As Melissa Lane explained in last year’s Eco-Republic: Ancient Thinking for a Green Age, this vice was often paired with hubris, a form of arrogance directed especially against the gods and therefore doomed to fail. The Greeks saw tyrants as fundamentally pleonetic in their motivation. As Lane writes: “Power served greed and so to tame power, one must tame greed.”

Given shape, fluency, substance and authority by Stiglitz. He does so not in the name of revolution – although he tells the 1% that their bloody time may yet come – but in order that capitalism be snatched back from free market fundamentalism and put to the service of the many, not the few.

In the 1970s and 80s, “the Chicago boys”, from the Chicago school of economics, led by Milton Friedman, developed their anti-regulation, small state, pro-privatisation thesis – and were handed whole countries, aided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on which to experiment, among them Thatcher’s Britain, Reagan’s America, Mexico and Chile. David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism describes how the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in Chile and the Chicago boys brought in. Under their influence, nationalisation was reversed, public assets privatised, natural resources opened up to unregulated exploitation (anyone like to buy one of our forests?), the unions and social organisations were torn apart and foreign direct investment and “freer” trade were facilitated. Rather than wealth trickling down, it rapidly found its way to the pinnacle of the pyramid. As Stiglitz explains, these policies were – and are – protected by myths, not least that the highest paid “deserve” their excess of riches.
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Diverse dining

I find this to be a real pain in the ass. I used to host dinner parties, but everyone has such specific food needs now, it’s too much trouble.

It’s a shame, though. There’s something to be said for the social aspect of eating.

Drones vs. torture

Tom Junod:

As a grizzled veteran of a Catholic education I have, despite an agnosticism that verges on unbelief, an inordinate and ingrained interest in the health of men’s souls. Old habits die hard. One of the things that concerned me about the Bush administration’s commitment to torture in the name of enhanced interrogation, for example, is that Americans were being asked by an ostensibly Christian administration to do it: to commit acts that seemed unjustifiable by any Christian code, and to expose themselves to the risk of judgement, whether in the here and now or in the great beyond.

I know that Andrew Sullivan had the same kind of upbringing, and have always suspected that he has the same kinds of concerns. Which is why it surprised me when in his Wednesday post on my story about “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” he seemed to buy in to the Obama administration’s largest unspoken assumption:

That killing represents a moral upgrade over capture and interrogation — over torture.

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Hard Times: Lost on Long Island

I remember predicting this when talking to one of my daughter-in-law’s affluent relatives the night before their wedding, back in October 2008. He was skeptical, made some comment that anyone who really wanted a job could always find one. “You’ll see,” I said.

I wonder if he watched this.

Drug war

David Simon with the best thing ever written about the drug war:

We do it because we – and the communal reference is not merely to the ruling class, but to the middle- and working-class voters who tolerate such craven dishonor – live in abject fear that if we dare ratchet down our drug war, then drugs themselves will come closer: Closer to our communities; closer to our schools, our children; closer to our America.

The real risk? In the same way that the psychic effect of terrorism on a population becomes disproportionate to the actual probability of being a victim of terror, so too does our fear of drugs and drug abuse produce grandiose overreaction.

Think otherwise? If you believe for a minute that all of the brutality and lost treasure and human tragedy that underwrites America’s drug war keeps marijuana, or cocaine, or methamphetamine, or heroin from your children, you are entirely naïve enough to soldier in Pharoah’s army. Because regardless of where your kids go to school, regardless of who they keep for friends, regardless of whatever shaded suburb or gated community you inhabit, the truth is that if they want to get high, they will. They know where to get it, and yes, it is there to be got. Everywhere. We can’t even keep drugs out of our vast prison complex, much less a junior high school; if we can’t win the drug war inside a maximum-security prison, where in society do we expect to emerge victorious?

Yet to preserve the vague and unsubstantiated notion that this prohibition is sheltering us and ours, we have transformed it into an open war on the underclass. Rather than trust in our parenting, our resources, our values to guard against the actual and proportional risks of dangerous drugs, we have instead been willing to consign the children of West Baltimore or North Philadelphia or East St. Louis to hell on earth. In places devoid of all other legitimate economic endeavor – places where half the adult males of color no longer have employment – we have rigged the game: The factories are gone, the warehouses are empty. Only the corners remain. There, the only functioning industry gives daily meaning to the other, lost America even as it destroys that part of our nation. There, we have found a way to hunt, and persecute, and finally, monetize our poor for the benefit of a growth industry that actually spends profits lobbying legislatures for harsher drug statutes and more prison construction.

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