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  1. Opinion

Here’s what to read from the left and the right this week

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
San Francisco has benefited from the growth of nearby Silicon Valley. That metro area added 30,000 jobs in the past year.
San Francisco has benefited from the growth of nearby Silicon Valley. That metro area added 30,000 jobs in the past year.
Published Jan. 19

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.

FROM THE LEFT

From “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” by Lia Russell in The New Republic.

The context, from the author: Low pay, soaring rents, and cities littered with e-scooters. Welcome to the future. The excerpt: The indignities of the gig economy are well established at this point, as the laissez-faire labor practices of companies like Uber, Instacart, Door Dash and Lyft draw more critical scrutiny. (Gig) shoppers are among the millions of precariously employed workers who rely on part-time jobs or side gigs to scrape together a living, all without the safety net of employer-based insurance.

But what is less widely acknowledged is how the gig economy interacts with other trends in California and forces unleashed by Silicon Valley—rising housing costs, choked infrastructure—to make life hell for those who live at or near the epicenter of America’s technology industry. Together, they constitute a nightmare vision of what the world would look like if it were run by our digital overlords, as they sit atop a growing underclass that does their shopping and drives their cars—all while barely able to make ends meet.

From “Idolatry in the Twenty-First Century,” by William T. Cavanaugh in Commonweal.

The context, from the author: It seems that there are two sides to our economy -- a rationalized, disenchanted side typified by heartless efficiency, and an enchanted side still filled with charged objects and magic. In fact, these are really two sides of the same coin. Each of them implies the other.

The excerpt: As commodities take on life, life is drained away from actual people. Hungry people don’t count in the market unless they have money, and workers are regarded as “labor costs,” which need to be minimized. Commodification also hides the conditions of work. All the consumer sees in the store or on Amazon’s website is the commodity and its price. It takes a Herculean effort to uncover the people who actually made the product and delivered it, and the conditions in which they worked.

From “Capitalism Is Killing Liberal Democracy,” by Max B. Sawicky in Jacobin.

The context, from the author: The claim that capitalism goes naturally with liberal democracy has never been more discredited. Today, capitalism’s liberal form is increasingly challenged by a statist authoritarian model — and in many places it’s buckling under the strain.

The excerpt: An irony of (the current) state of affairs is that it was made possible by the success of Communist revolution, particularly in the Peoples Republic of China, which liquidated feudal institutions and then dutifully self-liquidated its socialist principles to clear the way for foreign direct investment, including the crucial transfer of technology. The historic stages of economic development, from feudalism to communism to capitalism, fly in the face of the older Marxian view which expected communism to launch where it did not — the advanced capitalist countries — and thought it would not, or should not, appear in underdeveloped nations.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “The New Post-Trump Constitution,” by Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: The new normal (will be) impeachment as a routine partisan tool, endless investigations, lying under oath with impunity, surveillance of political enemies, zero accountability.

The excerpt: his is the new political climate. It is obvious that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama could easily have been impeached under such protocols after they lost their party’s majority in the House of Representative. From now on, their successors will likely enjoy no such exemptions. We are now on new anti-constitutional grounds, and the United States will probably never return to the constitutional customs and traditions of its first 233 years. The architects of this revolution were not arrayed in sunglasses and epaulets, or in business suits and wing tips, with briefcases. They were hip, cool, and progressive, and they boasted that they did all of this for us, the proverbial people, to cheers from cultural icons, media heavyweights, and those with advanced degrees.

From “When Elites Forget How To Talk About Politics,” by Matt Purple in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: We (in Washington) chide the rest of the country for their lack of liberality, yet many of us are intolerably close-minded.

The excerpt: It’s our elites who need checking, while your average Arizonan or Kentuckian isn’t nearly so swivel-eyed. There’s plenty to dislike about the populist movements currently sweeping the West, but less than airhorn nationalism, they seem to be a reaction against elite extremism, an attempt to restore some of the common sense that our political class is supposed to practice. No, wars can’t go on forever. No, we can’t take in everyone from Latin America. Ask Trump’s voters why they backed him, and their most common answer is simply that they didn’t like his opponent. Ask Washington’s royalty, and you get crackpot Russian conspiracy theories.

From “Here’s Why I’m Not Going Back To The Women’s March,” by Libby Emmons in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: It felt weird to sense that claiming my actual female body as female was offensive to people. It was like I was an undercover female at the Women’s March.

The excerpt: Much of what I’d seen at the march made me question what we were marching for. I couldn’t get behind pro-abortion sentiments, nor screaming down people you disagree with, or the vitriol of the Me Too movement, which framed every woman who had a bad date as a victim of male oppression. Trans ideology had pushed women to the back of the women’s movement, so the idea of inclusive feminism upheld the rights of biological men over women. What began as a moment of optimism quickly turned to something closer to dismay. The feminism I had grown up with, of equality under the law and rights to self-determination, had changed.

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