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Thursday, August 31, 2006


«to put trust in voluntarism, and with much success – look again to the American universities.»

If one does one sees mostly threadbare yet expensive, state universities, or phenomenally expensive private ones whose role is to reproduce a largely hereditary ruling class.

Does this joker read at least The Economist?


«Perhaps one reason why the rise of caste politics raises so little comment is that something similar is happening throughout American society. Everywhere you look in modern America—in the Hollywood Hills or the canyons of Wall Street, in the Nashville recording studios or the clapboard houses of Cambridge, Massachusetts—you see elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain, with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening and a gap widening between the people who make the decisions and shape the culture and the vast majority of ordinary working stiffs.»
«Poorer students are at a huge disadvantage, both when they try to get in and, if they are successful, in their ability to make the most of what is on offer. This disadvantage is most marked in the elite colleges that hold the keys to the best jobs. Three-quarters of the students at the country's top 146 colleges come from the richest socio-economic fourth, compared with just 3% who come from the poorest fourth (the median family income at Harvard, for example, is $150,000). This means that, at an elite university, you are 25 times as likely to run into a rich student as a poor one.»


«At university level, the rise in the cost of education has taken Ivy League universities out of the reach of most middle-class and poor families. The median income of families with children at Harvard is $150,000. The wealthy have always dominated elite schools, but their representation is rising. Between 1976 and 1995, according to one study, students from the richest quarter of the population increased their share of places at America's elite universities from 39% to 50%.
Even outside elite schools, students from poor backgrounds are becoming rarer. The budget squeeze on states in 2001-04 forced them to increase fees at state colleges, traditionally the places where the children of less wealthy parents went. Those children also face increasing competition from richer kids squeezed out of the Ivy League. As a result, a student from the top income quarter is six times more likely to get a BA than someone from the bottom quarter. American schools seem to be reinforcing educational differences rather than reducing them.»

Arthur Eckart

The article states: "There is, of course, much lacking in the American model – the persistence of poverty, discrimination and racism." Does that imply the European model doesn't have persistent poverty, discrimination and racism?


Number of people sleeping on streets of San Francisco, CA (population 750,000) in January 2005: 6,248

Number of people sleeping on streets of England (population 50.4 million)in June 2005: 459



In Europe, England is the exception, not the rule.
As for San Francicso,can it be considerered a really representative sample for America.

Arthur Eckart

Rich, unfortunately, your second link doesn't open. Also, your first link states: "Single night counts may not capture the larger number of people who may have experience of sleeping rough over the course of a year." Anyway, how does that prove the European model doesn't have persistent poverty, discrimination and racism?


I wouldn't argue the Europe doesn't have persistent poverty, descrimination and racism. You see those things everywhere. It's really more a question of degree. To say that Europe hasn't absolutely eliminated these problems in every instance and manifestion is hardly a very fair criteria for judging the success of a society.

My point in posting those statistics was just to highlight an expample of what the "persistence of poverty" really means. I use to live in the San Francisco area and every morning when going to my office in the financial district, I'd have to walk over or around multiple homeless people laying on the sidewalks, many of whom were psychotic and/or drunk or high. Every time you walk by, you wonder, "is this person dead", or "do they have a gun". Unless you're willing to sequester yourself off in a gated community, the amount and degree of poverty really wears one down.

Reading Ringen's review, what struck me was how naive his view of America is. On the one hand, he glosses over the very real difference in the amount of poverty and crime bewteen the US and Europe. At the same time, he holds up American "voluntarism" as a positive attribute leading to greater liberty. Ringen doesn't say what voluntarism really means in the US anymore, but the most significant example of it in the US now is not higher education, but fundamentalist Christianity. Ringen has completely fallen for the fundamentalist Christian argument that their movement is fighting for "liberty" (there's a reason Jerry Falwell named the school he founded "Liberty University") when really what they're trying to impose on the rest of society is anything but freedom.

Arthur Eckart

Rich, giving away a welfare check may reduce poverty. However, I don't see how that reduces discrimination and racism. It seems, you prefer the state to impose its will rather than a particular religious group. However, there are also other religious and non-religious groups, and individuals who help the poor. Perhaps, that's what Ringen means. Also, I may add, the U.S. had a permanent (generational) underclass that was dependent on welfare, drugs, etc. That was changed in the '90s to workfare. I don't know how successful workfare has been. I'm sure it can be improved.

Arthur Eckart

Rich, also, I may add, San Francisco is considered to be the most liberal city in the U.S. So, people are surprised there's so much poverty. I spent a lot of time in Denver-metro area Colorado and Oakland-San Francisco California. Colorado is a Republican-conservative state and California is a Democratic-liberal state. Yet, the San Francisco area has far greater income inequality, poverty, drug use, etc. than Denver. I think one problem is California is anti-business to a large extent. Exxon-Mobil wanted to build a big power plant in California. However, there was so much anti-oil/energy sentiment, that Exxon-Mobil stated it would have to be out of its mind to invest in California (and of course California had rolling blackouts, along with higher energy prices). Taxes are far higher in San Francisco area compared to Denver area (e.g. city taxes, sales taxes, and many other taxes). Yet, there's very little, or really almost nothing, Oakland shows for those high taxes. Denver, which has far lower taxes was able to build professional football, baseball, and basketball stadiums, a new airport, a light rail system, new main public library (where the G-8 meeting was held one year), new convention center, renovate lower downtown, etc., all within the past 15 years. I can only suspect Oakland is corrupt. If you compare houses, autos, and people, you'll find the Oakland area has many run-down houses worth $500,000, while Denver has many $500,000 houses that are much better. The San Francisco area has many old autos, which are rare in Denver, and a large number of people wearing virtually rags in Oakland, while the vast number of people in Denver are well dressed. You'll also find drivers are far more rude in Oakland than Denver, and see wild driving maneuvers in Oakland you'd never see in Denver. Generally, if you look at liberal states, counties, or cities, people are generally worse off, although they receive almost all the public and private assistance. Generally, if you look at conservative areas, there's less income inequality. There are many paradoxes that are difficult to explain.


Arthur, the analysis above of Sf-Oakland and Colorado might be a bit reductionist. There are many other processes, historical, social and geographical, which can also add to the explanation of the differences, processes which are more obvious when American history is more closely observed. I would be curious to read more on your thoughts about this if you were to study the matter further.

Arthur Eckart

When you've actually lived in the areas for a number of years, there's little to overlook. I omitted a lot of info to keep it short. Nonetheless, there's a general pattern, which is reflected in county census and voting data. Denver sells (municipal) bonds and works with businesses to improve the city, while Oakland does comparatively little of that. I've also lived in Southern California. In Los Angeles County (democratic area) there's greater income inequality, poverty, drug use, crime, etc. compared to Orange County California (republican area). However, Los Angeles County has many television, movie, and music stars, along with other people working in those industries and related work. Consequently, there's a large proportion of upper-class in Los Angeles County. In Orange County, there's a large proportion of upper-middle class. I've also lived in the Seattle Washington, Chicago Illinois, and Boston Massachusetts areas, and cities have more income inequality, poverty, drug use, crime, etc. than the suburbs. It seems, republicans are more likely to move further away from the city, into new suburbs. The Denver-San Francisco example above is also somewhat unique, because a lot of people moved from California to Colorado. It seems, most of them were republicans, given the republican areas (e.g. the Denver Tech Center) grew so quickly. In all those areas, there are many more middle and upper class areas, in and around the cities, than poor areas.

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