Gotham Diary:
28 April 2017

Friday 28th

Amazon has just notified me of a new book, Duff McDonald’s Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite. I feel as if I’ve already read it.

What I have just read is Laura Kipnis’s polemic, Against Love. I remember dismissing it, on the basis of the reviews that it got in 2003, as just too cute. It’s hard now not to suspect a vast right-conspiracy of plotting to deprive Kipnis of readers. Reading Against Love now, fourteen years later, I’m fired by an unwonted revolutionary zeal. For Kipnis is not writing about love, not really; she’s writing about the economic straitjacket from which none of us can think how to escape. If you were to boil down Against Love to one priceless idea, it would be that a society instructed to work at love is being tricked into working for nothing!

Or, at any rate, for not enough. Not nearly enough.

Fourteen years, and nothing has changed. Income equality has simply gotten worse, while meaningful work has continued to evaporate. A few people are getting very rich, unimaginably rich, while the rest of us are desperately trying to maintain the status quo. At some point — will it be when the men and women who voted for Donald Trump realize that in effect they put Michael Pence in charge? — there seems certain to be some sort of outburst, some explosion, some manifestation of the betrayed voters’ rage.

I am almost certain that McDonald’s book could have been written fourteen years ago, give or take a major financial meltdown.

The failure of political imagination is astonishing, really. How can we have failed to progress beyond the squabble about capitalism versus socialism? Are these the only two economic orders that the human mind can come up with? Seriously? Another zombie polarity: government versus business. Has anyone not understood that what happened in 2008 was the inevitable consequence of what happened ten years earlier, with the repeal of Glass-Steagall? If we’re all on the same page about that, why can’t we junk the business/government argument and replace it with a competition between regulatory schemes? If the Democrats have a monopoly on regulatory proposals, then of course those proposals are going to be both stale and captured by the vested interests of current bureaucrats. Does being a Republican mean losing the ability to imagine a better way of keeping bad behavior in check?

Meanwhile, the book that will not go away: Frances Fitzgerald’s The Evangelicals. I’m nearing the end of the hundred-page chapter that covers the George W Bush administrations. There’s another hundred pages after that. It is an awful slog, let me tell you, to read about the dance of DOMA and the compulsion of right-wing politicians to splash in the Terry Schiavo case. I think that Fitzgerald ought to have done two things. Simply, she ought to have called her book The Inerrantists, because that’s what it’s about, not “evangelicals” generally; more complexly, she ought to have tried to pry loose the almost unconscious hold that free-market capitalism has had on the clerics whom she writes about. Is it because the Bible has nothing to say about capitalism (except for the parable of the talents) that conservative Christians can wallow so hypocritically in social injustice?

Anyway, I don’t know how Fitzgerald managed to spend as much time as she did with such unprepossessing and/or unattractive characters.

Bon week-end à tous!