The Real Crime
The articles “Juvenile Lifers’ Last Chance” and “Women Without Parole” in the July 3/10 issue broke my heart. I teach in Chester, Pennsylvania, one of the cities used in the past by big business, then left to deal with the subsequent poverty after being abandoned for another community. My students know people in prison, often family members. Many have been approached by gangs, and some actually assume they will end up in jail or dead at some point before age 20. It is so easy to blame kids for the neglect and violence dumped on them by adults. I cry out for the imprisoned souls we put away and would rather forget. Please follow up on this in future issues.
Strunk & White’s Rule 17: “Omit needless words.” Maybe we should quit calling it the criminal-justice system and just call it the criminal system.
Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Naomi Klein wisely writes about the need to change the system rather than work within the neoliberal paradigm [“Daring to Dream in the Age of Trump,” July 3/10]. Yet it’s insufficient to say that Trump is simply the logical progression of a greedy culture dominated by the market and money. One might better say Trump partially represents the natural progression of a system in which political power builds on the accumulation of economic power.
In that same issue, D.D. Guttenplan writes that “our power comes not from…financial leverage” [“A Party for the People”]. But we must ask how we can systematically accumulate power if we neglect the logic of economic accumulation, i.e., control over technology, manufacturing, economic decision-making, and procurement power. Klein discusses “democratic worker co-ops as the centerpiece of a green jobs program” as well as “humanizing and democratizing new technologies and global trade.” Yet larger movements of the left are far more concerned with personalities or identities than industrial policies, citizens’ banks, or consumption networks that might promote economic democracy. Economic democracy is clearly a dependent variable, dependent on various strategies which the larger movements of the left are not very interested in. Rather, the left has helped sustain the very silo politics Klein criticizes.
Thus, deconstructing Trump and market-driven shocks won’t be enough for a left revival. Rather, we have to deconstruct the left as well and how it has failed to integrate political, economic, and media power.
Jonathan Michael Feldman
Naomi Klein suggests that the Trump presidency represents the culmination of a flawed right-wing American mind-set so misguided that it may serve to shock America into a more progressive viewpoint, as evidenced by the growing currency of progressive demonstrations and ideas. She is probably right in the long run, but the long run is only just beginning. A majority of electors in the Electoral College voted for Trump; very close to a majority of voters voted for him as well.
Klein’s article implicitly raises the left’s eternal question: “What is to be done?” Yes, there is widespread advo-cacy of once-forbidden progressive ideas. But the many groups involved are separated by individual leadership egos and differing strategies and tactics. Are these groups also separated by differing objectives? Not so much.
Klein suggests a list of progressive objectives. I suggest a slightly modified list: single-payer health insurance; the use of 100 percent renewable energy; a guaranteed pension; an adequate wage for anyone willing to work and maintenance for those who are unable; 90 percent reduction of the military budget; no foreign wars; revenue raised primarily by taxing wealth, secondarily by taxing income, and never by taxing sales.
Many similar lists could be gathered. My hunch is that they would all be pretty much the same. If so, then clearly the first answer to “What is to be done?” is a manifesto endorsed by all the progressive organizations.
One useful step in the process might be the exchange of “progressive” in favor of “social—democratic” (or, if we dare, “democratic socialist”). And, sadly, taking a lesson from the Bernie Sanders campaign compared with third-party attempts, the only chance for democratic socialism to become a reality is if it gestates from within the Democratic Party.
The Nation’s July 3/10 issue was brilliant, especially Naomi Klein’s article. I wouldn’t use the term “redistribution,” though, as Klein does, to demonstrate the kind of “powerful words” progressives should not be afraid to use. “Redistribution” implies that plutocracy is normative while economic justice is not. The underlying moral principle is plain: No one’s wealth should come at the price of another’s hunger, nakedness, or homelessness. Once that line is crossed, property becomes theft, and the practitioners become thieves.
new london, n.h.
Eating the Environment
Given the recent events regarding the Paris climate agreement, it is not surprising that the July 3/10 issue of The Nation featured several items mentioning climate change and the role of the fossil-fuel industry in carbon emissions. Also not surprising, none of these pieces placed importance on the role that the animal agriculture industry plays in climate change and environmental destruction. I am writing to suggest that The Nation make an effort to educate its readers on the environmental consequences of their dietary habits in addition to those of their fossil-fuel consumption. Aside from the issues of animal rights, here are just a few talking points: Methane gas is a more powerful greenhouse gas and leaves the atmosphere more quickly than CO2; using farmland to grow food for people rather than nonhuman animals would dramatically increase available food production; livestock herding/grazing is a major contributor to deforestation; water consumption in animal agriculture is shockingly high. I hope that these considerations will be included in future pieces on climate change.
A recent edition of “The Score” [“Soaring Prices,” July 17/24] inaccurately described the increase in airfare costs in Canada and the United Kingdom after those countries privatized air-traffic control. Though fares did increase, it was the air—traffic-control fees (a portion of the ticket price) that increased by 59 percent in Canada and by 30 percent in the UK, not the overall fares.