Friday, March 13, 2009

Geoghegan Blogging

Cory Doctorow incongruously dropped a very positive review of Which Side Are You On?, which I found particularly welcome since BoingBoing has a tendency to drop an incongruously anti-labor post in there about once every six months. Anyhow, nice quote:

It's hard to love imperfect things -- countries, movements, people -- but it's also fundamentally adult to acknowledge the imperfections in the things that matter to you, and to fight to improve them rather than writing them off.

For everyone who's ever retreated to the pat, easy position that "labor's gone too far," Geoghegan's book is an important, nuanced, gripping and immensely enjoyable rebuttal: proof that in many places, labor didn't go far enough.

Unfortunately, Geoghegan lost in his bid for Rahm Emmanuel's old House seat, spurring some debate over whether or not he was too much of a longshot to rally the netroots fundraising. Hey, sometimes someone you really love runs and you just gotta throw in $100. What are you saving it for, the next compromised half-measure fuckwad?

Also, Geoghegan has the cover story in the new Harpers, which is an updated article length treatment of some of the main themes in his most recent book, See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation. This is handy because I've been having trouble summarizing it. The nut:

... The problem was not that we "deregulated the New Deal" but that we deregulated a much older, even ancient, set of laws.

First, we removed the possibility of creating real, binding contracts by allowing employers to bust the unions that had been entering into these agreements for millions of people. Second, we allowed those same employers to cancel existing contracts, virtually at will, by transferring liability from one corporate shell to another, or letting a subsidiary go into Chapter 11 and then moving to "cancel" the contract rights, including lifetime health benefits and pensions. As one company after another "reorganized" in Chapter 11 to shed contract rights, working people learned that it was not rational to count on those rights and guarantees, or even to think in these future-oriented ways. No wonder people in our country began to live for the moment and take out loans and start running up debts.

And then we dismantled the most ancient of human laws, the law against usury, which had existed in some form in every civilization from the time of the Babylonian Empire to the end of Jimmy Carter's term, and which had been so taken for granted that no one ever even mentioned it to us in law school. That's when we found out what happens when an advanced industrial economy tries to function with no cap at all on interest rates.

Here's what happens: the financial sector bloats up...

We talk about the "business model" of school reform, but there are a lot of "business models." The one Geoghegan's describing is clearly recognizable in our current batch of "reformers." They aren't trying to turn our schools into GM, or even Google. The book is even relevant to understanding issues in ed-tech, which suffers a lot from the fear of lawsuits, which in turn stems from the capriciousness of tort law (compared to administrative and contract law, for example) and tort's prominence in our current legal system (due to an erosion of administrative and contract law). Anyhow, it is a great book (and I'm pretty sure that according to the Achieve standards, I'm not ready to graduate from high school).

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