Poverty Sucks Too

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Noah Smith is (even post-debate) a Biden fan. But he reminds me why I like him anyway in exposing The elemental foe.

I remember a particular scene out of a book that terrified me when I was seven years old. During an argument, some minor character talks about having been to Calcutta and having witnessed the desperate poverty there. He describes seeing beggars on the street, starving, covered in sores. That mental image stuck in my mind for weeks. Even as a child, having never myself known absolute poverty, I had an elemental terror of it.

To ask why some societies in the world are still poor is the wrong question. Poverty is the default condition, not just of humanity but of the entire Universe. If humanity simply doesn’t build anything — farms, granaries, houses, water treatment systems, electric power stations — we will exist at the level of wild animals. This is simply physics.

Look at pictures of the other planets in the solar system — sterile desolate rocks and poison gases baked by radiation. That is the natural state of most planets. Then look at animal existence in the wild places of the world — a constant desperate struggle for survival, where populations are kept in equilibrium only by starvation and predation. That is the natural state of most life. Then look at how humans lived for the vast majority of our history — indigent subsistence farmers forever skating on the rim of famine. That is the natural state of preindustrial humanity.

When we spin fantasies of our collective past, we write about kings and princesses, because they’re the only ones who lived lives we could even remotely relate to today. Even then, the comparison is only approximate — the mightiest emperor of yesteryear had plenty to eat, but lacked antibiotics, vaccines, flush toilets, or air conditioning.

I recommend his entire essay. The slightly surprising thing is that the word "capitalism" doesn't appear even once.

Also of note:

  • Channelling Edith Wilson… Jim Geraghty is (it's fair to say) aghast at Saturday's comments from Jill Biden: My Husband 'Is the Only Person for the Job'. Introducing him at a Long Island "tony fundraiser":

    “Joe isn’t just the right person for the job. He’s the only person for the job,” she declared.

    JG comments:

    I’m trying to think of a bigger metaphorical middle finger to Vice President Kamala Harris, and I’m coming up empty.

    Joe Biden is the only person for the job if your primary criteria for “the job” is keeping Jill Biden as first lady of the United States.

    Bottom line, or close to it::

    Forget being atop the ticket at the Democratic convention in Chicago; between the president’s doddering performance Thursday night, and the [Axios] description of his limited lucid hours, Kamala Harris should be president right now.

    Even with her brainless word salads, semi-profundities, and inappropriate cackling… she'd at least be more competent than Joe on a 24/7 basis.

  • But about that "metaphorical middle finger"… You have to wonder about Kamala's innermost feelz about Jill accidentally implying the stone cold truth: Dear, we never seriously considered you to be fit to replace Joe; you were just the right sex and color.

    The WSJ editorialists aren't quite that blunt, but almost: The Mess Democrats Have Made, Kamala Harris Edition. They essentially agree with Dr. Jill:

    The path out of this nightmare might be easier if not for another problem the press refused to recognize—that Kamala Harris wasn’t remotely qualified to be Vice President when Mr. Biden chose her. He had promised to pick a woman as his Vice President, and Mr. Biden selected Ms. Harris because she was a woman of color, not because of her qualifications.

    Ms. Harris had bombed as a presidential candidate, washing out after she couldn’t defend her own Medicare plan at a primary debate. She had risen to the Senate based on patronage. Yet she was hailed by Democrats and the press as the first woman of color on a national ticket, as if this were more important than someone who could do the job. Criticism of her failures on immigration, or of her frequent word salads, was said to be racist or sexist.

    It seems that Biden has decided to muddle on with his campaign. Even the MSM might be watching with heightened scrutiny, so I'm not sure if that can possibly work out for him. I guess we'll see.

  • A quick refresher from the Blogfather. Glenn Reynolds, of course, posting on a topic in his wheelhouse: Chevron, The Supreme Court, and the Law.

    Goodbye, Chevron deference. Larry Tribe is already mourning the Supreme Court’s overturning of NRDC v. Chevron, in the Loper Bright and Relentless cases, as a national catastrophe:

    Oh, the humanity!

    Well, speaking as a professor of Administrative Law, I think I’ll bear up just fine. I’ve spent the last several years telling my students that Chevron was likely to be reversed soon, and I’m capable of revising my syllabus without too much trauma. It’s on a word processor, you know. As for those academics who have built their careers around the intricacies of Chevron deference, well, now they’ll be able to write about what comes next. And if they’re not up to that task, then it was a bad idea to build a career around a single Supreme Court doctrine.

    The snark is enjoyably classic, but Glenn goes on to explain what the SCOTUS decisions actually mean without all the heavy breathing from the supporters of unaccountable bureaucracy.

  • Hayek the what now? Among the many things I never saw coming: a New Yorker essay entitled Hayek, the Accidental Freudian. It's by Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin, and he claims this is his "favorite part":

    The great trial of Hayek’s life was his twenty-four-year marriage to Helena (Hella) Fritsch, much of which he spent trying to get out of. Caldwell and Klausinger devote the last three chapters of their biography to the divorce—and for good reason, even if they can’t see it. In Hayek’s anguished bid to end his marriage, we find, just as Freud would have anticipated, the private pathology of the public philosophy, the knowledge problem in practice. That we should discover those pathologies in a marriage is less remarkable than it might seem. From the treatises of antiquity to the novels of Jane Austen to the economics of Thomas Piketty, writers of all sorts have understood the overlap between unions of soul and contracts of need.

    Uh, fine. It will be interesting to see commentary from my fellow Hayek fans about the essay.