Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hackery

FLG has always considered Bob Herbert a hack and anybody who says anything different is always suspicious in FLG's eyes. Today, he talks about the labor movement. FLG thinks the labor movement was the vessel through which many good changes occurred, but he's generally skeptical of its present incarnation pretty much everywhere in the developed world. (The developing world is a different and more complicated story for FLG.)

Anyway, Herbert writes this:
[Bob King, President of the U.A.W.] promised his members last month that the U.A.W. would be marching and campaigning and organizing — for jobs, for a moratorium on home foreclosures, for civil and human rights and against the mistreatment of immigrants, and for peace.

Herbert then writes a few paragraphs later:
This is not the way that prominent leaders in any segment of our society have spoken for a long time. The pragmatists and cynics, who have gotten a stranglehold on the culture, will scoff. But the pragmatists and cynics, with their hubris and half-baked ideologies, have handed all the wealth of the nation to a favored few and left the rest of the society a ragged mess.

The issue FLG has here is the accusation of half-baked ideologies on the part of pragmatists and cynics. Many articulations of social justice are more half-baked than any other ideology he's seen. Ask ten people what it means and you'll get ten different answers, at least three of which will be completely contradictory. Consequently, Herbert seems to be accusing other people of having half-baked ideologies while writing a column is support of something as half-baked as a social justice agenda, with ideas like a foreclosure moratorium, of a union, that was at least partially responsible for ruining the auto industry, and all this reads like a self-parody to FLG.

Herbert also writes:
It’s no accident that the great progressive successes of the labor movement, the civil rights movement, a variety of other social justice movements, and the emergence of a vast and thriving middle class all converged in the early post-World War II decades.

FLG would humbly submit that the causality is wrong. Labor, civil rights, and other social justice movements were not the cause of the thriving middle class in the post-WWII era. ALL were a consequence of WWII. Various forced social interactions between races and individuals in the military created a more collective focused and less racist population among the returning GIs. The success of the American economy was also a result of the destruction of Europe. American workers received little competition and much demand from a rebuilding Europe.

Just to be clear, FLG isn't saying that labor movements cannot manifest change or have an impact. Or even that they are always wrong. He's saying two things: labor movements and economic success in post-WWII are both consequences of the war, not a causal link and labor unions are often wrong in developed economies.

All that is to say that Herbert's contention that the cynics and pragmatists are arrogant and follow half-baked ideologies is itself arrogant and half-baked. It wreaks of the naive, smug self-righteousness of a young idealist. Plus, his understanding of economic is severely lacking. FLG should probably just stop reading his columns altogether because he never learns anything new. Like Harold Meyerson, Herbert is just a straight Leftist with little conception of economics or even politics beyond some sort of vaguely socialist, or in the case of Meyerson actually socialist, ideology.

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