‘While this book is about Appalachia, it’s a story of class warfare’
Brad King writes: I’m writing a book about Appalachia. More specially, I’m writing a memoir of my family, which helped settled what is now the poorest county in the country: Clay County, which The New York Times dubbed “The Hardest Place to Live in America.” The book, called So Far Appalachia, is almost done. You can sign up for the newsletter if you’re interested in more discussions about what I guess we’re now calling the “poor, white, rural voters.”
That’s the context for why we’re here.
I’m writing this post because since the Presidential election, in which our country choose Donald J. Trump as our next leader, so many of my liberal friends have been struggling to understand why — WHY? — so many working class white folks voted against Sec. Hillary Clinton.
More specifically, on Friday, December 2 I posted this NPR piece “In Depressed Rural Kentucky, Worries Mount Over Medicaid Cutbacks” on my Facebook page. Predictably, the new code phrases that signal disdain for Appalachians appeared. You know them: “low information voters” and “voting against their self interest.”
Instead of fighting on the Internet— which nobody enjoys— I promised that I’d dig into the book’s draft, pull out a few bits and pieces that explain why those white, rural, poor folks didn’t vote against their self interest, and wrap it up with this little introduction.
There are two things to note:
- I’ve left all the social science out of this post. This is the exposition from the book that explains all the social science. I’ll follow up with another one giving my science-minded friends — the evidence-based crowd — the opportunity to stop spinning conspiracy stories, and instead read up on all the social science that’s been done on the region; and
- I’ve written an entire book on the subject. This problem is complex and complicated. This post is really a distillation of some of the larger themes in the book. But really there’s so much more.
Before We Move Forward: A Note
I need to frame this discussion — and the book. What I’m doing is very simple: explaining, not excusing. Great writing and storytelling help us see and understand worlds that are different than ours.
Great stories do not whitewash away the rough edges. I can’t write a book about Appalachian culture without dealing with this important idea.
I love Appalachia, but we’ve got to recognize that racism and misogyny are deeply — deeply — embedded within the culture. Blacks and African-Americans have been nearly wiped away from the history of the region, and so too were women from all backgrounds. This isn’t a book meant to prop up the noble Appalachian working class. Nobility isn’t bestowed on any class. Not Appalachians. Not the working class. Not anyone. Nobility, where it exists, does so within individuals, in tiny moments in their lives. My family — and Appalachians — aren’t noble. My family owned slaves. There is no way around that. We did, and that’s a shame that we must bear and own.
But there’s two points that we need to clear up right now. The first is that neither of those issues is inherent only to Appalachia. The second is addressing issues of race and gender are deeply important to the future of our country. But neither will be part of this book.
While this book is about Appalachia, it’s a story of class warfare.
A Hypothetical Conundrum to Begin
Let’s begin with a hypothetical. Read the rest of this entry »
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 2, 2016
Ace Double D-465: The Martian Missile by David Grinnell, 1960, Cover art attributed to Ed ValigurskyPosted: December 1, 2016
Source: Sci-fi Covers
Mr. Grant confronts the subjectivity of economic measurement head-on in his book in an enlightening discussion of whether the 1921 depression was, in fact, a depression at all.
The Forgotten Depression: 1921 — The Crash That Cured Itself, by James Grant, Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Joseph Calandro Jr. writes: To better understand the current economic environment, financial analyst, historian, journalist, and value investor James Grant, who is informed by both Austrian economics and the value investing theory of the late Benjamin Graham, analyzes the Depression of 1920–1921 in his latest work, The Forgotten Depression: 1921 — The Crash That Cured Itself.
Grant understands that despite the pseudo-natural science veneer of mainstream economics the fact remains that economic value is inherently subjective and thus economic measurement is also subjective. Mr. Grant confronts the subjectivity of economic measurement head-on in his book in an enlightening discussion of whether the 1921 depression was, in fact, a depression at all.
Was It a Depression?
Grant concludes it was a depression, but mainstream economist Christine Romer, for example, concludes it was not a depression. As Grant observes, Ms. “Romer, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, presented her research, titled ‘World War I and the Postwar Depression,’ in a 1988 essay in the Journal of Monetary Economics. The case she made for discarding one set of GNP estimates for another is highly technical. But the lay reader may be struck by the fact that neither the GNP data she rejected, nor the ones she preferred, were compiled in the moment. Rather, each set was constructed some 30 to 40 years after the events it was intended to document” (p. 68).
In contrast, Mr. Grant surveys economic activity as it existed prior to and during 1920–21 and as it was evaluated during those times. Therefore, five pages into chapter 5 of his book, which is titled “A Depression in Fact,” we read that:
A 1920 recession turned into a 1921 depression, according to [Wesley Clair] Mitchell, whose judgment, as a historian, business-cycle theorist and contemporary observer, is probably as reliable as anyone’s. This was no mere American dislocation but a global depression ensnaring nearly all the former Allied Powers (the defeated Central Powers suffered a slump of their own in 1919). “Though the boom of 1919, the crisis of 1920 and the depression of 1921 followed the patterns of earlier cycles,” wrote Mitchell, “we have seen how much this cycle was influenced by economic conditions resulting from the war and its sudden ending. … If American business men were betrayed by postwar demands into unwise courses, so were all business men in all countries similarly situated.”
So depression it was … (p. 71)
- War finance (the currency debasement and credit expansion associated with funding war) has long been associated with economic distortion including World War I, which preceded “The Forgotten Depression.” Such distortions unfortunately continue to the present day.
- Scandal is also associated with booms and busts; for example, the boom preceding “The Forgotten Depression” had Charles Ponzi while the boom preceding “The Great Recession” had Bernie Madoff.
- The booms preceding both financial disruptions also saw governmental banking regulators not doing a very good job of regulating the banks under their supervision.
- Citibank famously fell under significant distress in both events.
- Both eras had former professors of Princeton University in high-ranking governmental positions: Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States at the beginning of “The Forgotten Depression” while Ben Bernanke was chairman of the Fed during “The Great Recession.”
- On the practitioner-side, value investor Benjamin Graham profited handsomely from the distressed investments that he made during “The Forgotten Depression” while his best known student, Warren Buffett, profited from the distressed investments that he made during “The Great Recession.”
The Crash That Cured Itself
Despite similarities, there are noteworthy differences between these two financial events. Foremost among the differences is the reason why “The Forgotten Depression” has, in fact, been forgotten: the government did nothing to stop it. Not only were interest rates not lowered and public money not spent, but interest rates were actually raised and debt paid down. The context behind these actions is fascinating and superbly told and analyzed by Mr. Grant. Read the rest of this entry »
In an item this morning from Ed Driscoll…
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. Read the rest of this entry »
Can someone from Appalachia become upwardly mobile? Is it a disadvantage to have a southern accent in American society? Charles Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at AEI, interviews author J.D. Vance about his experiences in leaving his “hillbilly” roots behind.
Obama Reckons with a Trump Presidency
Inside a stunned White House, the President considers his legacy and America’s future.
Source: The New Yorker
In an unbroken chain of best-selling and page-turning thrillers featuring special-ops agent Scot Harvath, Brad Thor has created a fictional universe that reflects our chaotic contemporary world.
Enemies are everywhere and up to all sorts of evil, but there are good guys who are not only principled but even victorious most of the time. His books are also chock full of philosophizing and political and economic commentary from a “conservatarian” perspective. 2013’s ‘Hidden Order’, which revolved around attempts to assassinate nominees to head the Federal Reserve, quoted extensively from libertarian economics writer Henry Hazlitt and histories of the Fed. Thor notes that he was raised in a part-Objectivist home and exposed early and often to the works of Ayn Rand. That upbringing infuses his fiction with a love of ideas and his education at the University of Southern California with acclaimed novelist T.C. Boyle helps imbue his work with literary flourishes.
Thor’s latest book, ‘Foreign Agent’, engages the threat of extremist Islam and provocatively argues (amidst the action scenes and plot twists) that the truest form of the faith isn’t practiced by contemporary reformers but by fundamentalist Muslims and the terrorists in ISIS and Al Qaeda. A native of the Chicago area, Thor talked to Reason in his adopted hometown of Nashville. During a wide-ranging interview with Nick Gillespie, he says,
“I believe that if Mohammed came back today…and handed out trophies for who the best Muslims were, ISIS would get them. Al Qaeda would get them. They’re practicing Islam exactly the way he told them to practice it. So they’re not perverting the religion. Technically, its the people that we like, the moderate, peaceful Muslims, who are actually perverting it.”
No stranger to stirring the political pot, the “conservatarian” author also discusses his discussion with Glenn Beck about the hypothetical removal of a President Donald Trump. Thor’s #NeverTrump call to action got him in hot water with Sirius XM after a vociferous exchange last May on Glenn Beck’s radio show, with some listeners claiming he was talking about assassination (a charge Thor absolutely rebuts in this interview).
His discussion of his early development as as writer is of interest to his many fans. A writer who can turn the Federal Reserve Bank into a nail-biting thriller – as Thor did in ‘Hidden Order’ – has valuable lessons to share in the arts of espionage and storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »
As we survey the toxic environment in which we are soon to elect the forty-fifth president of the United States, many of us wonder: Why? Why is it this way?
James Rosen writes: As we survey the toxic environment in which we are soon to elect the forty-fifth president of the United States, many of us wonder: Why? Why is it this way?
The partisan among us will cite one of the two major-party nominees and blame him, or her, for overtaxing the system with his, or her, singularly odious baggage.
Economists and political scientists, less interested in the specific than the general, will point, perhaps more accurately, to a confluence of developments over time – the corrosion of public trust after Vietnam and Watergate, Supreme Court rulings on election laws, the twin apocalypti of globalization and the digital revolution – as the decisive factors shaping our modern political culture, with its unbearably heavy traffic of nasty primary challenges, leadership upheavals, scandals, hacks, leaks, attacks, and – gridlock.
To these explanations, I propose adding another, imparted to me by an unlikely source: Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Making conversation at one point, I asked Kerry if he had ever met one of my literary heroes. ‘Mr. Secretary, did you know William F. Buckley?’ The answer – and its forcefulness – surprised me: ‘I loved Bill Buckley.'”
We were on his first foreign trip as America’s top diplomat, in February 2013, with the traveling press corps enjoying an off-the-record wine-and-cheese event with the secretary in Cairo (to disclose this story on-the-record, I later sought and received permission from the State Department). Making conversation at one point, I asked Kerry if he had ever met one of my literary heroes. “Mr. Secretary, did you know William F. Buckley?”
The answer – and its forcefulness – surprised me: “I loved Bill Buckley.” Who knew that for the founder of National Review, the godfather of the modern conservative movement, a legendary liberal from Massachusetts harbored “love”? Why was that? I asked. Kerry resorted to Socratic Method. “Do you know who his best friend was?”
Now for those well versed in the Buckley canon, in whose ranks Kerry seemed to count himself, this amounts to a trick question.
The Buckley family and some outside observers – including this one – would cite Evan (“Van”) Galbraith, Buckley’s Yale classmate, sailing crewmate, and longest-standing friend.
A graduate, also, of Harvard Law School, Galbraith would go on to serve as a Wall Street banker, chairman of the National Review board of trustees, President Reagan’s ambassador to France, and president of Moët & Chandon.
“Buckley’s maintenance of “trans-ideological friendships” in his life reflected what some have called a genius for friendship.”
The last eulogy ever published by WFB, a supremely talented eulogist, was for Van, his friend of sixty years. Indeed, when WFB marked his eighty-second, and final, birthday, Van was one of two friends on hand, having just completed his thirtieth radiation treatment for cancer, with only months left for both men to live.
In the public imagination, however, the distinction is usually reserved for John Kenneth Galbraith (no relation), the Keynesian Harvard economist who served as President Kennedy’s ambassador to India, and who coined some enduring terms in the American political lexicon (e.g., “the affluent society,” “conventional wisdom”).
“WFB and Galbraith had met on an elevator ride in New York’s Plaza Hotel, escorting their wives to Truman Capote’s famous masked ball, the ‘Party of the Century,’ in November 1966. Buckley confronted Galbraith, right there in the elevator, about why he had tried to discourage a Harvard colleague from writing for National Review. ‘I regret that’ said Galbraith.”
This Galbraith, a skiing buddy of Buckley’s during annual retreats with their wives to winter homes in Gstaad, Switzerland, conducted the more public friendship with the era’s leading conservative. With unmatched wit and erudition, and equal instinct for the rhetorical jugular, they debated on college campuses, on the set of NBC’s “Today Show,” and of course on Buckley’s own show “Firing Line,” where Galbraith made eleven lively appearances. Read the rest of this entry »