disinterested science

Brett Knowlton brettk at unica-usa.com
Thu Jul 30 10:47:09 PDT 1998


Thanks for the statistics. It's curious that the worst decade in terms of GDP growth was the 1910-1920 decade, especially considering the fact that WWI was fought in the middle of this decade. I thought war was supposed to be good for business. Do you know the reason for this anamoly (just curious)?

>annual average by decade
>1890-1900 3.85%
>1900-10 4.56%
>1910-20 1.41%
>1920-30 2.86%
>1930-40 2.72%
>1940-50 5.52%
>1950-60 3.45%
>1960-70 4.15%
>1970-80 3.11%
>1980-90 2.89%
>1990-1997 2.47%

>I meant the Beltway characterization not as a personal slur, but to point
>out the constraints that come from operating within the realm of power.
>People go to Washington with all sorts of good intentions, and after a few
>years they end up talking the most amazing mush. It's kind of inevitable
>given the institutional structure, and dare I say it, the discursive limits
>of DC. Politics gets reduced to forced choices between unattractive
>binaries (Dem or Rep? Gephardt or Wellstone? House version or Senate
>version?). The desire to be part of the conversation means that you conform
>to the dominant discourse, when the point should be to challenge all those
>assumptions. So the whole "debate" on Soc Sec is reduced to fighting over
>the details of privatization. You just have to conform, or no one will take
>you seriously.

I can't applaud this comment enough. This is really the crux of the problem. Our system is nominally democratic, but the reality is that debate is so narrowed before it gets into the public arena that the interests of the powerful are served whatever the public decides. This really isn't too much of an oversimplification.

The second crucial point has to do with institutions - the incentive structure of our institutions make it VERY difficult, if not impossible, to achieve lasting progressive change without also changing the instituitonal structure.

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