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July 25, 2012

the bad arguments of gun control

There's an awesome bit of speciousness on the NYT (like, when is there not, right?) concerning the new invisible elephant in the middle of the room, gun control.  No, it's not David Brooks (he opted for the mental health schtick instead on Monday); it's a guest piece from former NYT editor Craig Whitney that's hopefully titled, "A Way Out of the Gun Stalemate."

Well, hopeful, sure, but already a reason to be leery: stalemate?  I wasn't aware that a stalemate was going on, but rather utter and ruthless one-sided domination of the issue by the National Rifle Association.  But whatever.  Why be suspicious when you can cut right to the heart of the issue:

Shooting sports are important recreation for many Americans. So an outright ban on bulk ammunition purchases, or on “assault” weapons like the AR-15, would be a nonstarter.

One cannot write that sentence and expect to be taken seriously on the issue of gun control.  Because, you know what, heroin use is an important recreation for many Americans, as is bullying, as is binge drinking, as is driving around looking for some queer to beat up.  Recreational importance is a horsehit reason for anything.

So actually I guess what I'm saying is, don't read that.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

July 24, 2012

hamilton nolan's maximum wage

Hamilton Nolan notices the situation at Caterpillar (explained below) and stretches it out into a bit of prescriptive economic wisdom:
So here's an idea: let's just tie executive pay to worker pay, by law. Pick a maximum multiple that a CEO can make. 20 times that of an average worker? 50 times? 100 times? The number is less important than the principle. Once corporate executives are tied to their workers in pay, the low man needs to get a raise in order for the high man to get a raise. The economic interest of the executive class is aligned with that of the working class.

The striking thing about this is how impossible that sounds upon first hearing — cap someone's salary?  Why, that's just un-American.  But it's hardly a new idea.  If you think back to when Ben & Jerry's was making a splash as a truly responsible business (25 years ago?), part of their plan, along with being ecologically sustainable, etc., was to ensure that no executive of the company made more than ten times what the lowest-paid employee made.  So it's not a pipe dream.

Though admittedly the flip side of this proposal is that America has, for the past decade or so, evinced a latent aggression aimed at the working class.  The economic demons of the country are no longer the robber barons of the Gilded Age but rather those municipal union employees making more than minimum wage or, as in the case with Caterpillar, factory workers making "more than the industry average".  You see, Caterpillar's workers are on strike right now because Caterpillar gave a contract renewal offer that called for wage cuts and decreased benefits, and they did this not because times are rough (they're not rough right now for Caterpillar at all), but because they could.  Because they want to break the union.  (Read up on the situation in this NYT feature).

The "maximum wage" is something we should talk about, as the the "virtuous wealthy" really are just the aforementioned robber barons, sucking equity out of the middle class.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:18 AM

July 23, 2012

gun control

As tends to happen when some asshole kills a bunch of innocent people with a weapon designed only for that purpose, gun control is back in the headlines.  And good, I say.  We should all be talking about it, and making it happen.

I'm not against guns — I come from a line of hunters, and would buy one if I wanted one (I don't).  But there was once a ban on civilian use of assault rifles, passed in 1994 and lapsed in 2004.  It made sense to have one and it makes sense to have it renewed.  Not a jot of good has come from these things, and no matter how "rare" the assault rifle mass murders are, assault rifles are just short of explosives as far as killing too many people indiscriminately and quickly.

But don't take my word for it.  Read this, a plea for common sense on gun control by Brennan Keeter, who is an ex-Marine and therefor somewhat knowledgeable on the subject of firearms:

If you're a deer hunter, you need a rifle, plain and simple. If you're a turkey hunter you need a shotgun. Fine, fair enough. No problem with any of that. But who, in the course of their daily routine, needs an assault rifle, body armor, tear gas, and a gas mask? Really think about it and be honest with yourself. I'm not even so much against these things in and of themselves as I am the irrational belief that anyone actually needs them for any useful purpose.

Of course the NRA is dug into the political process like a tick, making gun control issues non-starters, but you'd think that a party intent on abrogating the voting rights of a swath of the population just in case someone might commit voter fraud could be persuaded that impinging the right to own a machine good only for killing vast quantities of people is reasonable in light of the fact that homicidal idiots actually use them.  The NRA can be shamed into compliance on this.

Corollary to this is strange feeling of for once agreeing with Michael Bloomberg.  I'm sure it will pass.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:20 AM