September 17, 2014
August 15, 2014
We often think of the typical segregationist politician of yore as a genteel member of the white upper crust. But the more common mode was the fiery populist.
The Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 and the Tulsa / Greenwood massacre of 1921, two of the bloodiest massacres in white supremacist history, were led respectively by Josephus Daniels (Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy and Roosevelt’s Ambassador to Mexico) and Tate Brady (one of Tulsa’s founders and a Democratic National Committeeman).
And while there were unquestionably populist-style bigots, there were also populist-style anti-bigots: Ralph Yarborough, Estes Kefauver, and Huey Long (who incidentally was Huey Newton’s namesake). Even LBJ was called a populist by elite liberals.
As far as I can tell, after 1896 everyone was racist, including the Republicans. (Another instigator of the Tulsa riot, which killed at least a hundred people and probably many more, was Richard Lloyd Jones, a progressive Republican). The Wilmington Insurrection overthrew the legally elected, mixed-race Republican government of Wilmington, N.C., and along with it the N.C. Populist Party. (Ben Tillman, another leader of the insurrection, was populist “in style”, but a loyal anti-Populist Democrat).
July 6, 2014
Sex Life of the Nineteenth Century: And Autobiographical Approach to the History of Western Civilization
(Includes “Why Did Henry James Kill Daisy Miller?” and
“Could Friedrich Nietzsche have Married Jane Austen?”)
“The Sex Life of the Nineteenth Century: An Autobiographical Approach to the History of Western Civilization” is looking for its audience. In this apparently random assemblage of egregious code-switching, extravagant whimsy, pedantic smut, and tidbits of obscure trivia, an argument of uncertain affiliation and insidious intent reveals the dark side of truth, love, and seriousness. A perfect book for the right person.
July 3, 2014
About 80 posts, mostly from Haquelebac and Idiocentrism. Whimsy, hyperbole, excess, smut, and philosophy. Each title is preceded by an asterisk *, so if you don’t like what you are on you can always page down to the next one with ” find * “.
None of my political, philosophical, or economic polemics are included, not are my more straightforward pieces on Chinese philosophy and inner Eurasian history.
Suggestions consistent with the basic concept of the book are most welcome, and while it would be wrong for me to hope for serious proofreading, reports on bloopers you happen to notice would be appreciated. emersonj at gmail dot com.
May 8, 2014
The main reason why Piketty has made such a big splash is that he strikes at the heart of liberal Democrats’ first principle of political economy: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. This may be a neoliberal principle, but it’s not at all recent. During the 1940s and 1950s Democrats came to believe that there was no conflict between rich or poor or between labor and management, and that just by “growing the economy” (Clinton’s later slogan) it would be possible to improve the lives of the poor and labor without demanding anything from the wealthy, and that for this reason a large part of the Democratic political tradition could be jettisoned without really losing anything. From this point on Democratic “populism” (much less radicalism) was discouraged and almost disappeared, and in 1960 the “rising tide” slogan was a Kennedy campaign slogan.
And wasn’t just a political slogan. Mainstream liberal economists were committed to this principle. In his “Introduction to Positive Economics” (ca. 1950) Milton Friedman claimed that the only differences between liberal and conservative economists were about means: both sides agreed that increasing the size of the economy was the economists’ main (if not only) goal. Few liberal economists disagreed, and by and large this consensus survived until very recently.
Piketty’s “r>g” formula denies specifically this point. And not only did he disprove the liberal economists’ fundamental principle, he did it using the tools of liberal economics. For forty years or so American workers’ incomes have been stagnant or declining, and as the years have gone by this tendency has intensified. But there has been no theoretical explanation for these very evident facts, and without a theoretical explanation liberal economists felt that their hands were tied; these were things that everybody knew, but no one knew it in a proper scientific way.
What Piketty did was to accumulate an enormous amount of data which could be presented in forms acceptable to economists, and then to develop a proper orthodox theory, based on this data, which was not based on heterodox economics or (God forbid) anecdotal data and common sense. At this point, liberal economists, like Nixon going to China, could finally acknowledge the existence of the 500-pound gorilla that had been tearing things up for a few decades.
P. S. You might also ask: “Did the Rising Tide Theory ever have to meet the rigorous standards required of Piketty’s thesis?” The answer is “No, of course not! The Rising Tide Theory was the null hypothesis — the default position that made economists happy, happy, happy! for sixty years.”
P.P.S. Why now? Because the economic growth part of the Rising Tide Theory failed too, five or six years ago, and the lag time built into professional economics to prevent hasty action is five years.
March 22, 2014
I’ve been reading about Ben Hecht recently. He’s almost forgotten, but he scripted some great movies (Scarface, Front Page, Barbary Coast, Wuthering Heights, Monkey Business) and, because he was a complete master of Hollywood cliches, script-doctored a lot more (Stagecoach, Gone With the Wind, His Girl Friday, Roman Holiday, Angels with Dirty Faces). Hecht started out as a Serious Author who wrote novels which tried to be decadent on the European pattern. He also was a newspaperman and his reporter’s cynicism was equal to Mencken’s. In general he thought that film was a debased, stupid medium. And that’s why he was so great! When he finally decided to switch teams and prostitute himself, his sharp awareness of the trite, cliche-ridden crappiness of film meant that he already knew the business. A sharp mind + cynicism + decadence + a complete contempt for the mass + a mercenary attitude = a genius awareness of what is commercially viable. Hecht was not the only decadent in Hollywood, of course. Mercenary European decadents flocked to Hollywood by the boatload. Hollywood’s sophisticated, decadent mixture of puritanism and prurience, with happy endings often tacked on to the end, is one of the wonders of world culture.
Ben Hecht, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, Bibliobazaar, 2006 (1923).
Ben Hecht, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, Google Books.
Ben Hecht, Fantazius Mallare, Frugoli and Taylor, 2001 (1922).
William MacAdams, Ben Hecht: A Biography, Barricade Books reprint, 1990.
March 17, 2014
My pop psych self-help book, Stockyard Fever will be at least as good as the average self-help book! This disease is mostly diagnosed in livestock in pens waiting waiting for the slaughter. It is characterized by an attitude of dejection and is almost always fatal. The only cure is to break out of the pen and escape, and this rarely happens.
Do you suffer from stockyard fever? My simple test will answer that question, and if the answer is “yes”, my book will tell you what you can do about it! $100 cheap!