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The trap of the middle

The trap of the middle

Currently a serious, though little recognized problem, is the resentment of the middle classes, a resentment based on their very middle-ness. Take, for example, the book Poor Economics by economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both of whom just won the Nobel Prize for their work. Imagining social mobility as the letter S, they demonstrated that it is easier to move from the very…

One frontier: two different worlds

One frontier: two different worlds

The comparison between the two approaches to American life and values represented by the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie series) and Bess Streeter Aldrich (A Lantern in Her Hand and its sequel White Bird Flying) opens some significant, and possibly uncomfortable, differences that lay at the root of the contrast of the families’ fortunes, despite living in the same…

"A Lantern in Her Hand": an alternative view of the American frontier

"A Lantern in Her Hand": an alternative view of the American frontier

For the last few weeks, I have catalogued the flaws of the American “spirit” as represented in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and the unsuitability of the family as role models. Recognizing the inadequacy of the Ingalls-Wilder family as representative of an ideal American way of life and society is important because, due to a long-running TV show and…

Some further thoughts on the Little House on the Prairie series

Some further thoughts on the Little House on the Prairie series

In the US, especially among those who see themselves as promoting family values and independent spirit, there is a tendency to lionize the Little House on the Prairie series, a sequence of children’s books written by a woman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, who lived on the American frontier and witnessed its transition into the modern era. The truth of the matter is that there was little to admire…

Independence and specialization: part I

Independence and specialization: part I

Despite the contemporary narrative surrounding the decline of low-skill manufacturing jobs, specialization as the only source of stability and career path is the historical norm. During the Colonial era, the standard professional arrangement was tradesman, and with it apprenticeships.  As part of the apprenticeship process the final stage was achievement of Master status obtained either…

Government bloat: societal divide

Government bloat: societal divide

In his writing regarding the ratio of federal employees to federal contractors (1.5 million : 15 million), economic historian and professor Brian Domitrovic argued that the contractor bubble is rooted in a desire to undermine the private sector. His argument is that federal contractors are in reality federal employees under a different name. The root of Domitrovic’s thesis lies in American…

Low entry threshold, or affirmative action: a case study

Low entry threshold, or affirmative action: a case study

Over the 2010s, a pointless drama played out in the American Supreme Court - twice. A young woman, Abby Fisher, filed a personal injury lawsuit against University of Texas at Austin for not admitting her as an undergraduate. In fairness to Fisher, it turned out that the suit was the concoction of adults in her life who wanted it to become the landmark case that would bring down institutional…

Caveat emptor: Or credulity's reward

Caveat emptor: Or credulity's reward

At the end of April 2019, a 28-year old confidence woman, Anna Sorokin, received a lengthy prison sentence for fraud. The sequence of events was cinematic in terms of the audacity of her swindle, which the courts concluded to be well in excess of $250,000. Using the alias Anna Delvey and claiming to be a German trust-fund baby, over the course of four years she materialized for periods in New…

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