New Issue!


Our November/December 2016 issue is out!  I just posted the cover story, Jerry Friedman’s Nativism: As American as (Rotten) Apple Pie.

Here is this issue’s editorial note:

Liberty in a Time of Crisis

It is both apt and ironic. The most “American” symbol of liberty is an immigrant.

The Statue of Liberty—or, as it is formally known, “Liberty Enlightening the World”—stood assembled in France (see photo this page) before packing, shipping across the Atlantic, and reassembly at its permanent home in New York Harbor. Of course, the pedestal also bears the famous lines:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The irony should be evident in today’s vile frenzy of nativism—the fulminations against Mexican immigrants, the fantasies of border walls and mass deportations, the disturbing calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and registration of those already here. From economic historian (and regular D&S columnist) Gerald Friedman, we have a historical account of America’s long history of anti-immigrant outbursts—from Benjamin Franklin before the United States even existed to the KKK of the 1920s (which, in addition to its white supremacism, gave voice to the ugliest anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, and anti-immigrant impulses). He explains how present-day nativism fits the patterns.

The aptness may not seem so obvious, but Friedman’s account also belies a view of U.S. history as one of unrelenting xenophobia. Between episodes of nativist rage, there were periods of openness to immigration; during the high tides of anti-immigrant sentiment, also noble defenses of equal rights and civil liberties; in their wake, an eventual reopening, and a reaffirmation of belief in this as an “immigrant nation.” Even today, the vocal anti-immigrant minority notwithstanding, most U.S. residents express positive views about immigrants and what they bring to the country.

Of course, the nativist eruption is only part of a wider turmoil gripping the United States and the world. Polly Cleveland reviews Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, the sociologist’s account of her foray into Louisiana Tea Party country. Hochschild’s attempt to understand and empathize with Tea Party supporters, Cleveland argues, reveals people jealously defending their place in the social pecking order—as is typical of high-inequality and low-mobility societies.

Biola Jeje’s “Active Culture” turns our attention to the Movement for Black Lives. This is a country, she reminds us, where Black people’s personhood has often been acknowledged more grudgingly than that of capitalist corporations. Activists are confronting a reality of police violence and mass incarceration, crises of housing and education, inadequate infrastructure and environmental degradation—all of which disproportionately impact African Americans. The disparities, of course, are not new. The movement’s bold vision confronting racism and neoliberalism today is an encouraging development.

Crossing the Atlantic, we see another continent where the future is uncertain.

Alejandro Reuss continues his series on the eurozone crisis and European social democracy. In this installment, he addresses the rise of “Third Way” figures—who turned their backs on class-struggle politics and counseled reconciliation with neoliberalism—to leadership of the social democratic parties in the largest European countries.
Two other articles on Europe explore similar themes. William Saas,

Jorge Amar, David Glotzer, and Scott Ferguson consider the economic program of Spain’s leftist Podemos party, and ways in which it has failed to embrace the changes necessary to pull Spain out of its current crisis. The authors point to the necessity of a universal job guarantee, a “left exit” (or “lexit”) from the euro, and an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in transcending conventional balanced-budget thinking.

Nina Eichacker, meanwhile, considers the ramifications of this past summer’s Brexit vote on the UK economy and especially its financial sector. She weighs factors pointing both toward stability and toward instability. Pro-Brexit voters, she concludes, might not get the populist outcome they hoped for, in an economy heavily reliant on finance and with a state committed to protecting financial interests.

The cover image for this issue shows Liberty under construction. (It is actually a model, on display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.) That is an apt metaphor, in the United States, in Europe, and the world over. The version of “liberty” offered by those in power has been, at best, incomplete; at worst, a cruel hoax.

It’s high time for a redesign.

Cheaper, Quicker, Safer: Green Transportation for All

By Liz Stanton

Cross-posted from Liz Stanton Consulting’s Public Goods Blog.

Getting ourselves, our kids, and all of the material goods of our economy from point A to point B resulted in 1.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in 2015. That’s 35 percent of all U.S. carbon pollution and 6 percent of global carbon emissions—just from U.S. transportation. Worldwide, transportation is responsible for one-seventh of all greenhouse gas emissions. To keep global temperature rise below 2°C (or even below 3 or 4°C) we’ll need a vast, all-encompassing transformation. Incremental changes—a little bit better gas mileage, a few more people taking public transit—aren’t going to cut it. Staying below 2°C, and thereby avoided a climate catastrophe, will require us to completely reimagine our way of getting around.

A new report from the Frontier Group does a good job laying out a detailed agenda for decarbonizing the U.S. transportation sector. The report discusses not just the policy reforms needed to achieve the basics—electrification of all vehicles paired with decarbonization of the electric grid—but also the more transformative, and therefore more difficult and more amorphous, changes that will be needed. Here are the parts that we don’t talk about enough:

· Changing the way we design our cities and towns: Much of the U.S. urban and suburban landscape can be difficult, if not impossible, to navigate without a car. Walkable cities, safe paths and dedicated lanes for biking, and public transportation that makes sense in a suburban setting are all essential to decarbonizing transportation.

· Changing our choices and behavior: Harder still, it won’t be enough to change the built environment. Car travel is the norm in most neighborhoods. Building safe reliable alternatives is a start but getting people to make different choices will require a societal shift in expectations.

Change is under weigh. Today, the cost of an electric vehicle is on par with that of a gasoline-power vehicle, and powering an electric vehicle costs less per mile than paying for gasoline. In a few states, non-profit groups are helping electric vehicle buyers to band together to get significant discounts from car dealers to make these vehicles even more affordable, like Refuel Colorado and the soon-to-be released Drive Green for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. (Stay tuned! Mass Energy’s Drive Green program is slated to begin in early November.)

Changing middle-class families’ vehicle purchases from gasoline to electric is a first critical step of many. To really make a difference in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions electric-vehicle adoption needs work in concert with the other shifts discussed in the Frontier Group report—greening the electric grid, smart urban and municipal planning, and changes in norms and expectations—and also resolve a few thorny issues.

First, to achieve total decarbonization of transportation public policy and technical innovation need to reach beyond cities and towns into rural America. We need solutions that fit the needs and constraints of rural families and businesses. Lower transportation costs would be a tremendous boon to rural communities. But the technologies that work for urban dwellers simply cannot accommodate transportation needs in sparsely populated areas.

The second challenge for decarbonizing transportation is making greener options available to low-income families. Public transportation systems need to reach all neighborhoods, operate consistently and efficiently, and be affordable. Poor communities clustered nearby to highways or industrial sites are some of the least walkable urban neighborhoods, and public transportation systems are rarely designed with the aim of connecting low-income housing with jobs, schools, and shopping. Whether living in the city or the country, driving is often the only or best option for many families, and buying a new car on credit is a privilege reserved for the middle class.

Making public transit and electric vehicles accessible to low-income families is no small task. But it’s a challenge that—if met—holds tremendous opportunity for reducing poverty in the United States. With good policy design, green transportation has the potential to be cheaper, quicker, and safer for all families.