Sunday, June 21, 2020

Roundtable: "Pandemic, Protests, and a Troubled Economy"


I’ve seen a lot of very angry stuff on Twitter. Someone named Jesse Kelly seems to be making demands of purging “racist history” for example, by attacking ivy-league universities which in the past had connections with slavery.

Plenty of high-minded white (male) college students who have publicly signed on to full support of Black Lives Matter would then have an existential crisis continuing to attend. Maybe their turn to learn to be in the same boat?  Maybe national service?

On the other hand, where does the obsession with statues and names stop?  Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, George Washington (and the University named after him, from which I graduated?) What about the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin?  The Lee House in the Arlington Cemetery,

Dorey Schelmer and Meghna Chakrabarti had an article where Rana Foroohar and Michelle Singletary do a podcast for WBUR, “Economic Roundtable: Pandemic, Protests and a Troubled Economy”.

“Systemic breakdowns are not personal failures.”  Well, they are if you had been inappropriately privileged and then are challenged from beyond the blue. Rana really gets emotional at the end of the 47 minutes.  She rails about people who make policy (that might include opinion writers indirectly) and have no personal contact with the disadvantaged people they make rules for.

The thrust of the discussion was to migrate from accumulated wealth to labor for its own sake.  This does matter more to people of color (which might be many other minorities) than most whites (and she does go through the accumulated affects of redlining and the mortgage crisis in 2008, and then talks about how the pandemic has affected POC disproportionately and their jobs.

My own use of the web for speech becomes an issue, because I can do it with accumulated assets and not as a business that employs people.  In the short run, I have very little to “sell” people or create jobs.  In a longer run, there may be some ideas but it has to be permissible for me to carry them out, despite my “privilege.”

If you really want to address wealth inequality, you have to consider a lot more than race.  Activists are distracted by the statues issue when they really could demand more from (“privileged”) people to account for how they got what they have, and turn this into a personal moral issue. Consider shared risk exposure and proximity (with service expectations).  Consider policies that discourage passing on large inheritances, or even partially surrendering some existing ones, where possible (state laws on trusts would need to change), given the economic crisis.  Particularly if the economic impact continues as long as the speakers say in the podcast, you want to think about “proportional equity” of outcome, where the reward is appropriate for the risk and labor effort made by the person and takes into consideration service.


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