Thursday, April 14, 2011

Yglesias responds

via email:
I'm sorry if you don't like Twitter, but I hardly see how it's done a discourtesy to you to discuss your work in that medium as opposed to an email or a blog post or whatever.

But be that as it may, I stand by the point about policy content. In both your piece on "the fundamental question" and then in that followup you go on at some length about the different perspective your background gives you and your dark suspicion that my own life has led me to some erroneous conclusions, but you don't really say what it is you think ought to be done that "wonky" bloggers (like, say, me) disagree with. Does power matter? Yes, it does, I agree. 


Anonymous said...

You can tell Yglesias is an establishmentarian because he's managed to miss your actual point, to say nothing of your adulation for his work. You complained, and you had to be taught a lesson, he seems to have thought.

You may respect Yglesias, Freddie, that's fair enough, but the few times I've tried to read his blog, and the many times I've seen him referred to on other blogs, it's impossible to escape that unfortunately he's a complete tit.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think I finally understand IOZ's relentless mockery.

Anonymous said...

The more you post about this, the less I find myself agreeing with you. I'm starting to see it as if it's like someone you both loved died and you're angry because you don't think he's crying hard enough, even though you know he's just as hurt, it still bugs.

Weird/silly/creepy analogy, whatever. I'm tired of the Freddie, Yglesias saga. What are you two even arguing about at this point?

Freddie said...

I didn't start it. But, look, more to the point-- just go.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I love your writing, I'm not going anywhere.

Sam said...

I agree with Freddy more often than I agree with Yglesias.

I agree with John Cole more often than I agree with Sullivan.

However I usually read Yglesias and Sullivan first. Why? They are good writers who are well-read themselves. Even though I disagree I learn something. A good blog is grounded in lots of history, lots of information.

paul h. said...

Actually this reminds me of Wilkinson's comment on your initial 'comeback' post ... i.e. that socialism hasn't really produced many good policy ideas. There's nothing wrong with what you're doing, but at a certain point, you need to give like a concrete workable agenda that actually has a chance of being implemented, no? Rather than just saying "labor unions, no exceptions!" or "Debs!"

Plinko said...

I don't get this. I think you've got to forgive your readers here that maybe don't know the rest of the story here.

Let's just accept we know your critique of the G/G/G model of liberalism that we can associate with MattY. Then one day I see you posting at Balloon Juice calling out the prominent advocates (such as Matt) as a huge problem for liberalism, now this. Maybe I missed something?

No matter what the mode of delivery - isn't Matt's crritique perfectly fair? So what should be done differently? He's posting 10 times a day hammering on issues and trying to push the conversation left, which ones aren't left enough for you? What should be said/done instead?

individualfrog said...

Maybe it's just the anarchist in me talking, but I guess I don't see why "policy" is the sum total of human activity. I think this response pretty much exemplifies the Yglesias point of view, which is that the government is all there is. Never mind "policy" for a second, how about just talking up unions? If he wants them to have more power, as he says he does, why not try to rehabilitate their reputation a little, instead of prematurely declaring them dead? You could just as easily say the time of public transportation is over, but he loves public transportation, so he big-ups it all the time. You know?

Freddie said...

Then one day I see you posting at Balloon Juice calling out the prominent advocates (such as Matt) as a huge problem for liberalism

That is simply not an accurate representation of what I've ever done.

I guess I don't see why "policy" is the sum total of human activity.

This. Patient explainers are always patiently explaining away huge swaths of what's necessary for the human experience.

StPaulite said...

I really don't know what Yglesias' problem is with you.

He's said at quite a few times over the years that the language of the left-liberals needs to be much more strident and emotional.

And here you are, offering that kind of language and arguing for its absolute necessity, and he gets all snippy with you for not having enough charts or something.

Plinko said...

Maybe I’m just not being charitable enough in my reading. I know you’re you’ll say you’re just agitating for more focus on labor. But that’s not what it reads to me. It reads as the wonks are selling out the workers and that’s an existential issue for liberalism.

I don’t think you can just say you don’t have to have policy prescriptions here. You’re talking political problems. The solution to political problems are necessarily policies, otherwise they wouldn’t be political problems.

How should we get workers a real voice and a real seat at the table? What must we do to preserve what unions have done for us and ensure they can continue to act as counterweight to the business elite? How does the labor movement get it’s message to resonate with the lives of the majority of American workers that aren’t unionized?

I agree the American Labor movement has a woefully insufficient voice in American political discourse, but I don’t think it’s because the wonks are insufficiently enamored of labor unions as the main vehicle for the improving the lives of the great majority of people. I think it’s because in winning the political battles of an earlier era, the Big Labor in America has boxed itself in to a role that can’t deal with demographic and economic changes, yet remains powerful enough within that role to resist the changes necessary to become relevant in Southern states and among white-collar workers. Of course we can disagree on this and my version is very superficial as stated. But the key difference to me is it leads to discussion of what actions are needed to remedy the situation.

If you’re not pushing for concrete things to happen – if you’re just saying we need to respect labor more, aren’t you just doing what you said doesn’t work? Aren’t you asking for the establishment to give you what you think you deserve instead of fighting for it?

scott said...

Jesus Christ, it's not hard to grasp. After a few too many years of reading Yggie and keeping my gorge down, it's pretty clear to me that he finds nothing wrong with a neo-liberal model in which Rubin, Geithner, Paulson, and Jamie Dimon run the economy for their benefit, and we get a (fraying, cut, cut, cut) social safety net funded by the (dwindling) taxes of these elites. Should we maybe break up the banks or take another look at our economic model, where productive labor is idled and so many resources are funneled into a parasitic financial sector? Nope. Yggie is openly agnostic on these issues, indifferent to if not hostile to efforts to organize labor, and famously declared that we couldn't make any more significant commitments to the social safety net. It's all about technocratic efficiency, man, working smarter, not harder, etc.

Yggie, in other words, is not the man to talk to if you're concerned about the 30-year rise of a model of capitalism (see link below) that's about short-term profit, beggaring workers, and destroying the communities associated with them. If you didn't go to Harvard and become a full paid-up member of the "creative class" like him, or at least a "knowledge worker," you are part of the past, so dig a hole and get buried already, son. Other people, like Freddie, think we ought to give a shit about static or declining incomes, lost jobs, fraying families, and all the lovely social dysfunction (crime, suicide, depression, health crises, spousal and child abuse) that happens when you squeeze ordinary people where it hurts. That's the difference. Yggie lives in an economy of wonderful abstraction where none of these ills seem to register on him and/or animate him, while Freddie cares about the world where we actually live, work, eat, love, fuck, etc.

We can talk about specific measures to address this problem (reforming the labor laws to make it easier to organize, hiking the tax rates on the rich, tightly regulating corporate governance and financial "innovation," spending money on productive infrastructure investments that would spin off paying work, etc.). But first you have to recognize that it's a serious problem, THE serious problem facing us as a country, with all the urgency that entails. I see no indication that Yggie does. So part of the effort that has to happen before we can discuss concrete measures (that some of the commenters were chiding Freddie about so knowingly) and get both popular and elite support for them, is for our liberal opinion "leaders" to wake the fuck up about this and not shit on anyone who insists that it's a problem and needs to be dealt with, urgently, now. But if Yggie and Ezra and Kevin Drum and all the rest continue to use their role as highly visible gatekeepers of "the left" to limit the discourse to bloodless, technocratic, trickle down, "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and 10%-less-shitty talk, we're not going to get anywhere. So why not make a start and call them out on their blinkered view of this problem, and insist that they (and everyone else) not ignore it? That kind of agitation is the Lord's work, and we need more of it, not less.


scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler said...

I think Y's recent article about the Federal Reserve is precisely about finding policy keys to empower labor (which is in distinct contrast to the Rubin/Greenspan 1990s neoliberal consensus). Compare Konzcal's followups about the transcripts of the FOMC's from that period specifically going the *other* way from what the AFL-CIO said. I think there's a lot to dislike about Y's policy ideas, especially his apparent ambivalence about collective bargaining and public employees, but I don't think it's actually true that his goals don't include empowering labor as such. I think he's skeptical that there are paths to that outcome, but that's not the same as not desiring it, and that's also why it's in his favor that he's digging into things like Fed policy as obscure but real triggers to meaningfully change that balance.

So I tend to think this critique of Yglesias is largely off base, and is focusing on a narrow set of disagreements rather than worldview issues. His repeated synergies with Konzcal, who apparently is trusted as a labor liberal with policy/finance interests, seems like evidence in his favor.

Freddie said...

Who ever said my Balloon Juice piece was about Yglesias specifically, besides Yglesias?

ovaut said...

Yglesias is a technocrat. He looks at Washington like an engineer would look at a broken machine, and sees his task as suggesting ways to fix it.

He is most distorting when he tries to fit questions that are not at all amenable to being considered in technocratic terms into this frame, just to be able to generate a 'solution'.

To a technocrat, American politics looks like a broken, fixable tool. Technocrats prefer to talk about it as such: in fact, they live for it. They're capable of discussing it in other ways, but the solutions they are able to produce in these regards they find less enchanting; they convince few. So their advice is only good for fixing the aspects of American politics that are like those of a tool.

Let's judge how like a tool is American politics by how successful they prove to be.

matthew christman said...

I read and enjoy Yglesias, but the salient point for me is that his vision of employment in a post-industrial American economy heavily emphasizes yoga instructors. This is not encouraging.

Chris_ said...

Less taunting of est. bloggers, more convincing people of your points, please.

99.9% of those reading this post get how MY sucks *and* how he's good. This is not new.

We need more voices arguing for actual lefty positions, not more voices saying "that guy over there sucks!" Only a tiny slice of America are blog readers, only a tiny slice of that read lefty blogs and know MY, and only a tiny slice of that want to finally resolve the question: "Are the policy positions of Matt Yglesias 100% correct"? If not, what factors led him to such positions? (could it be that he works for a think tank that is one in the same as the Obama admin!?!?)

I vote more focus on "true" lefty issues -- you're an awesome writer, put your skills to use on things more people care about so we can change minds about issues, rather than wasting our time and energy bickering online.

Freddie said...

Again-- aside from Matt Yglesias, who said all this is about Matt Yglesias?

Michael said...

You have in your own blogging singled Yglesias out as representative of the kind of liberalism you want to challenge (though by all means you didn't say your critique was limited to his expressions of it alone). But in any case, it seems to me you made your post considerably more "about" him by responding to his tweet that merely questioned your idea, by not just substantively responding, but by calling on him to "stand up and be counted!" Now you want to pretend you haven't made this about him, whether in this exchange or in your explicit linkage of his name to the liberalism you resist? Why are you bothering to play this game?

Myles said...

One thing I didn't like about the whole "Yglesias was a private school baby" thing was that it's morally agnostic. Rich people (such as Yglesias's family) who insist on sending their kids to a normal public (not a plush Long Island public, but say, a normal NYC public) are basically setting their kids for serious mental problems. They're going to be identified in school by chiefly their wealth rather than intrinsic qualities.

Any schooling environment in which the presence or non-presence of personal wealth is a notable thing is basically an environment that creates psychological problems down the road. This is why I want to bang my head every time this issue comes up: the price is (serious) psychological problems for innocent kids. The ones that don't become druggies become monomaniacs who have to "live up" to the expectations of their background.

Freddie said...

Awful lot of patient explaining going on here.

Tyler said...

Is this a trick question, or a pop quiz to make sure we've been paying attention? Um, *you* said it's about Yglesias, Freddie:

"April 12th, 2011 at 9:32 pm [...] As for who I’m talking about, if you check out the two links you’ll see who I’m talking about. Yglesias is certainly the most open and enthusiastic in this regard, but there are many others. Ryan Avent, Dylan Matthews, Brad Delong."

In the comments to the original post.