History’s Mysteries

The New York Review of Books has an excellent essay discussing a bit of history that we’ve been quick to forget: that Muslims are hardly the first religious group to be seen as a radical threat to some kind of innately Protestant “Americanism”.  The New York Review of Books also gets a gold star for being perhaps the only site on the entire Internet where reading the comments is further enriching and actually worth doing.  (On an unrelated note, comments are now enabled here!)

I also enjoyed this piece in The New Republic, which has already been savaged by some economics bloggers who take a narrow view of income inequality.  In an earlier post here, discussing a paper by Elizabeth Warren, I posited that a more equitable school system might have warded off the Great Recession — not because a more equitable school system, like reduced income inequality, is itself significant enough to prevent major economic shocks, but because more equitable school systems or income levels are only produced by societies that value — and legislate — policies which are fundamentally different from those pursued by the American government for much of the last forty years (such policies might include, say, an income tax as steeply progressive as under Eisenhower, support for a strong labor movement, and serious efforts for educational desegregation).  The point isn’t that income inequality was itself the immediate cause of the Great Recession, but rather, that if we made comprehensive moves towards a more just and fair society, the mechanisms that allowed for the Great Recession to occur would no longer be available.  Such a world wouldn’t be perfect, and for the very wealthy, it might even be a more difficult place; but for the vast majority, life might be a little bit easier.

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