Monday, September 27, 2004

Two weeks, too weak

It's been two weaks since I last wrote. And I am not too weak to write, as the title might suggest. At least not physically. I've been busy, what with school starting up.

I just finished reading the New York Times Magazine article about the bloggers at the DNC. It was interesting stuff. Of course, all the bloggers getting the attention are topical, politically divisive (though often insightful), mostly liberal writers. There doesn't seem to be much demand in the blogosphere for ummm "thoughts" or "ideas" about things other than politics, which tends to cast a lot of doubt on my whole project here. Which, as the two week lag might show, has become a half-hearted one. I have been holding myself to a high standard; only write when I think I actually think I have something intellectually interesting to contribute. Ideally, some of the things I write are at least tangentially related to what's happening in the world (it's really impossible for them not to be, since they came out of my head, and I am fairly engaged).

Maybe it was the article I just finished reading, but I feel inspired to be a bit more divisive and topical. When you look at the New York Times map of where states stand in the election, four of the solidly blue states are Massachussetts, New York, Illinois, and California. That is no accident. Those three states also contain four major American metropolises (perhaps THE four major metropolises). Cities have become the centers of liberal politics around the country. Some world argue that is thanks to more minorities and impoverished within cities. And of course that has an affect. But more important, cities are the centers of economic growth, new ideas, innovation, the arts, and culture in our country. In the grand ideological divide between progressives and conservatives, cities are progressive headquarters because they are fundamentally about change, growth and dynamism. As Jane Jacobs has written (an economist I've cited before), cities are where new work is created. All the inefficiency of cities--high transportation costs, dense populations--serves the purpose of innovation.

Of course this observation has some ironic implications. Local Republicans, who are far more likely to also be suburbanites and dependent on the city for their economic well-being, resist efforts to bring suburban tax dollars to bear on urban problems. "Pro-business" Republicans cripple the economy's ability to create new businesses by preventing the dense communities of entrepreneurs and consumers (the city) from thriving. Tell this to Republicans, especially the fiscal conservatives that enjoy "the Republican lifestyle" and spout pseudo-economics, and they will talk about the macro-economy, federal tax rates, venture capital, interest rates. But how do you talk about the macro-economy without talking about the cities that make it vibrant?

Maybe we should not only weight states in the electoral college for their share of population, but also for their share of GDP. In that scenario, it would be Republicans running to the left instead of Democrats running to the right. The prosperity of the country--the prosperity of the metropolises that are centers for progressivism, free speech, the arts--has allowed winners to move into the suburbs (or stay there), where they begin to protect their high incomes, vote Republican. And the irony continues. That has always been a central irony of fiscal conservatives, especially ones who pride themselves on pulling themselves up. Once they've achieved, they close the door behind them based on the fact that they have achieved, they know what it takes, and they know it doesn't take taxing their wealth.

Maybe we don't need to re-weight the electoral college. Maybe we should just do away with it altogether. In that scenario, too, Republicans would have to start running to the left. And national policy would more accurately reflect the desires of the most number of people it affects, and by definition, it will assure the highest welfare for the nation. As long as the losers in redistributive schemes control national debate, the nation suffer. Once their grip slackens, redistributive policies that can increase the welfare of our country can come into being.

All of this oversimplification, all of these generalities, gives me pause. But it's the fad in blogging, and it's what everybody else is doing. Maybe one post that follows the trend won't make me a poser. And maybe being a blogger won't either. (Chuckle)


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