Goodbye Robocalls?

Amissville, Va.

A little irony arrived with the two issues of The Nation I found in my mailbox the Monday after the election. Yep, both the November 17 and 24 issues got here together. ‘Course, the ironic part of it is–and I’m sure it’s only a coincidence–even though my county went red through no fault of my own, even though I live on the totally opposite end of the state from Hampton Roads, here was The Nation advising me a week after the fact that I had to get out and vote despite all that Republican hooliganism trying to disenfranchise me.

Oh, ya left out the one about the pile o’ radical pinko magazines falling off the truck only to be recovered a week late, er, later. I got one a’ them Muslims Are Destroying the World discs, too! Life sure is different out here on the farm! Missin’ those friendly ole robocalls.


Full Employment à la Minsky

Los Angeles; Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Our gratitude to Robert Pollin for “We’re All Minskyites Now” [Nov. 17], drawing attention to the ongoing relevance to economics of our father, Hyman Minsky. While he is best known as a theorist of financial crises, in Chapter 13 of his Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, Minsky delineates a plan for full employment adapted from those implemented by FDR. Our father shows how state-generated full employment can operate to provide greater stability for the entire economy. Indeed, the success of Argentina’s post-2001 state-run Employer of Last Resort program (in part conceived by two of our father’s closest associates, Jan Kregal and L. Randall Wray) attests to the feasibility of Minsky’s proposals as a means to achieve full employment, ameliorate capitalism’s tendency to generate severe income inequalities and help stabilize an utterly unstable economy–a strategy we might all do well to keep in mind in the coming months!


Green New Deal / Climate Bailout

Austin, Tex.

Mark Hertsgaard is one of the few journalists who have warned for years of the existential threat of global warming, and in “Wanted: A Climate Bailout” [Nov. 17] he responsibly urges immediate action to avert the impending disaster, even implying it might already be too late.

We’ve been reading about global warming for two decades, yet we still not only add greater quantities of CO2 and other global warming gases to the atmosphere year after year, we’re also increasing the rate of increase of those gases year after year. And the much feared threshold of 350 ppm CO2 has been passed with little concern from our leaders.

The accident of worldwide recession is about the only good news on the global warming front, but every government on earth is doing all it can to avoid recession. Get it? The very basis of modern existence–ever growing industrial production and consumption–causes or dramatically contributes to the global warming virtually every credible scientist says will decimate most higher life-forms on earth. So combating global warming requires rejecting much of the modern Western paradigm, not only entrenched habits of production and consumption but also key elements of the “progressive materialism” undergirding dominant Western ideologies.

But where is that sense of urgency in Van Jones’s “Working Together for a Green New Deal” [Nov. 17]? Jones sensibly suggests we focus more on what to fight for–resolving economic, ecological and social crises on terms favoring ordinary people–than what to fight against. Well, sure, hard to disagree. But this line would have made more sense in 1982, when arguably there was still time for old-fashioned, gradualist coalition- and movement-building. Alas, it’s late in the game for those tactics.

James Hansen, the chief NASA climate scientist Hertsgaard quotes, offers a better sense of what is needed when he suggests prosecuting fossil energy industry executives for crimes against humanity. I worry that the status quo will continue to thwart the green revolution until our political and business leaders fear direct personal retribution. And they won’t fear that retribution until the press whips up public outrage at what that leadership has wrought.


Causes Not Yet Won

Somerville, Mass.

Re Philip Green’s “The Road to Socialism?” [Nov. 17]: I was not shocked by the antisocialist rhetoric used by Republicans against Barack Obama. But those attacks fell on deaf ears among young people. My peers and I (I’m 24) grew up without cold war fears, but we have collectively witnessed the horrendous effects of deregulated capitalism. As a former youth organizer for a democratic socialist organization, I am optimistic that my generation is open to the idea of social democracy, not only because of our affirmation of progressive change but also our exposure to the world. Friends returning from study abroad told me of their positive impression of social equality and benefits in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Unlike Green, they did not make the connection that this was partly the result of organized working-class power, but they did see what government as a force for good looks like. My generation desires our government to work for everyone, not just the privileged few. We want no more Katrinas–or Wall Street bailouts on the backs of taxpayers.

I also have hope for the future because my fellow millennials are not attached to laissez-faire capitalism, but we are to democracy. Obama’s victory gave us the first mass-movement victory of our lifetime. But we all know an election alone is not enough. I agree with Green that democratic socialism can exist only if battles are won to expand democratic control and to curtail capital’s unelected influence on society. There is a long way to go before we see a social democratic United States, but it may be only a generation away. Let people of all ages remember that we are “not champions of lost causes but causes not yet won.”


Fish Story

Gig Harbor, Wash.

As a commercial fisherman, I read with interest Emily Biuso’s review of three books, The Last Fish Tale, Tuna and Bottomfeeder [“Hooked,” Nov. 17], that speak to declining world fish stocks and the disappearing way of life of the commercial fisherman. Biuso uses a quote from Chesapeake Bay waterman William Warner’s Beautiful Swimmers, published in 1976: “These here communities on the island and over to the mainland was all founded on the right of free plunder.”

The idea that commercial fishermen are hopeless overharvesting Neanderthals is as dated as that “free plunder” quote. One would be hard-pressed to find a domestic commercial fisher in 2008, certainly one from the West Coast–or Alaska, where we work–who didn’t understand the value of regulation to the preservation of fish stocks and their coastal community way of life. I would like to extend an invitation to Biuso to join my family on our ninety-foot fish tender, Beryl E, this summer in southeast Alaska so she can meet some commercial fishermen and see them at work.

By the way, if Biuso is looking for a group of contemporary free plunderers who have yet to understand the need for regulation, she might take a stroll down Wall Street with her notepad.