Friday, October 15, 2010

Time Horizons: Jamelle Bouie Edition

Andrew Sullivan asks:
Jamelle Bouie questions my choice of words. Why are so many on the left incapable of acknowledging that many people who are rich - but, of course by no means all of them - earned it the hard way?
FLG is familar with Mr. Bouie because he wrote almost universally awful stuff at the League of Ordinary Gentleman.   Unsurprisingly, FLG blames this on time horizons.

For Mr. Bouie, people are poor because of the material, proximate, and ultimately instantaneous cause that they lack money.  A more sympathetic reading would come to the conclusion that it's the same flaw that a bad reading of Rawls has.   The long run, for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.  Consequently, non-material things that have only a marginal effect on any particular economic transaction, but produce a large aggregate effect over a long period of time are dismissed entirely.

Taxing people like Paris Hilton and Miley Cyrus very highly also creates less incentive for entrepreneurs to create the next Google.  (Likewise, so does financial regulation, but that's a longer and more complicated story.)   And let's even say, for the sake of argument, that the creators of the next Google are Upper-Middle class kids from elite schools, say Stanford, who didn't deserve the great cultural and intellectual endowments they were given according to some Rawlsian moral framework.   Isn't it better to have Google even with the inequality?

 Now, obviously some innovation will occur regardless, but FLG is of the mind it's better to have more innovation rather than less, but that this must be balanced against inequality.  But nevertheless, we are still left with Jamelle massive fucking blindspot to anything beyond the proximate and material.  In fact, FLG isn't quite sure why anybody even pays any attention to him at all.   The way in which he interprets the world is entirely asinine.    Don't get me wrong, he's got a couple kernels of insight.  But the only useful things FLG has ever gleaned from his writing were possible when taking Jamelle's entire way of viewing the world as some sort of hypothetical thought experiment.


Jamelle said...


Though, you should probably save yourself the trouble and stop reading me, eh?

Anonymous said...

I think Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are both two really good counterexamples (who would probably side with Jamelle on this one). Given that they're #1 and #2 in the world in terms of sheer net worth, I tend to give them a fair amount of credit.

FLG said...


Don't worry. I did. Andrew happened to link to you.

FLG said...


I don't quite get what you are saying.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet came from upper middle class backgrounds, certainly not billionaire families, and so created immense amounts of value. If it was simply a matter of wealth being passed on to the next generation, with no real dynamism, then the robber baron's offspring would still be running the world. Many of them are wealthy, but they're not. Gates and Buffett, people who worked hard, are.

Or are you saying that Buffet and Gates are in favor of an estate tax?

The Ancient said...

Jamelle Bouie is also the author of this deathless insight:

[C]ooking isn’t obvious. Unless you’re familiar with the basics of preparation and cooking, the act of taking a few ingredients — some cornmeal, a bushel of greens, an egg — and making a meal is mystifying. Poor people are simply less likely to have access to that kind of knowledge.

Hey Jamelle -- If rich people know shit about cornmeal and greens it's because they've got some poor person doing their cooking.

(Even down at UVA.)

The Ancient said...

Regarding Andrew Sullivan, who writes:

The Bush tax cuts became unaffordable as soon as we launched two wars. They were designed to end now.

No, they weren't "designed to end now." They were designed to be permanent. The fact that they were sunset-ed had everything to do with a dysfunctional congressional budget process and nothing whatsoever to do with legislative intent.

P.S. Andrew -- Who's doing your research these days -- Stephen Glass?

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