Friday, June 24, 2016

Neo-liberalism and the European Social Model

From "The Dysfunctional Nature of the Economic and Monetary Union," Philip Arestis, Giuseppe Fontana and Malcolm Sawyer:

"The policy framework governing the euro can be aligned with a more general theoretical framework, which finds its expression in the ‘new consensus macroeconomics’ (NCM). The essential features of that theoretical framework are as follows:
(i) politicians in particular, and the democratic process in general, cannot be trusted with economic policy formulation with a tendency to make decisions, which have stimulating short-term effects (reducing unemployment); but which are detrimental in the longer term (notably a rise in inflation). In contrast, experts in the form of central bankers are not subject to political pressures to court short-term popularity, and can take a longer-term perspective, where it is assumed that there is a conflict between the short term and the long term. Policy makers’ scope for using discretion should be curtailed and the possibility of negative spillovers from irresponsible fiscal policy must be reduced.  
(ii) There is only one objective of economic policy and this is price stability. This objective can only be achieved through monetary policy, and through manipulating the rate of interest in particular.  
(iii) inflation is a monetary phenomenon and can be controlled through monetary policy. The central bank sets the key policy interest rate to influence monetary conditions, which in turn through their short-run effects on aggregate demand affect the future rate of inflation. Central banks have no discernible effects on the level or growth rate of output in the long run, which is determined exclusively by aggregate supply factors like technology, capital, and labour inputs. However, central banks do determine the rate of inflation in the long run.  
(iv) the level of unemployment fluctuates around a supply-side determined equilibrium rate of unemployment, generally labelled the NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment). The level of the NAIRU may be favourably affected by a ‘flexible’ labour market, but is unaffected by the level of aggregate demand or by productive capacity.  
(v) fiscal policy is impotent in terms of its impact on real variables (essentially because of beliefs in the Ricardian Equivalence theorem, and ‘crowding out’ arguments), and it should be subordinate to monetary policy in controlling inflation. There is allowance for the operation of ‘automatic stabilisers’ as the actual budget surplus or deficit will fluctuate during the course of the business cycle with tax revenues rising in boom and falling in recession, and this provides some dampening of the cycle. The budget should though be set to average balance over the course of the business cycle. 
"The structure of the ECB clearly conforms to all five points. The sole objective of the ECB is price stability, and decisions are made by a governing body composed of bankers and financial experts. There are, and can be, no involvement by any other interest groups or any democratic body. The only EU level policy from controlling inflation is monetary (interest  rate) policy, which presumes that monetary policy is a relevant and effective instrument for the control of inflation. Inflation is in effect targeted by the ECB in the form of pursuit of ‘price stability’ interpreted as inflation between 0 and 2 per cent per annum. The third point is fully accepted and adopted by the ECB. This can clearly be confirmed by the monthly statements of the Governor of the ECB at his press conferences after the announcement of the decisions on the level of the rate of interest.

"The implementation of what is in effect a balanced budget requirement at the national level under the Stability and Growth Pact and the absence of fiscal policy at the euro area level has eliminated the use of fiscal policy as an effective instrument for the reduction of unemployment (or indeed of containing inflation pressures)."

FLEXIT

"If, as a result of Brexit, the economy crashes it will not vindicate the economists, it will simply illustrate once more their failure." -- Ann Pettifor
You can see immigrants. You can't see NAIRU or flexible labor market policies. Most people wouldn't know a NAIRU from a Nehru jacket and have probably never heard of flexible labor market policies.

There is a simple logic behind the "growth through austerity" policies beloved by Cameron and Osborne: "wages are too damn high." But there is also a more technical-sounding  obfuscation. This more convoluted explanation is that there is a long-run, "natural" rate of unemployment that is unaffected by aggregate demand, therefore fiscal stimulus will result in inflation. Thus the only non-inflationary way to reduce unemployment is to fine tune this hypothetical natural rate by removing labor market rigidities.

Sounds plausible? What it means in practice is "wages are too damn high." In the 19th century, this superstition was known as the wages-fund doctrine. Also known as this magazine of untruth.

Another euphemism for these "flexible labor market policies" (i.e., "wages are too damn high.") is "structural reforms." In a press release from the  Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mark Weisbrot pointed out the connection between Brexit and these so-called structural reforms:
"While the movement in the UK to leave the EU had right-wing, anti-immigrant and xenophobic leaders, in most of Europe that is not the driving force of the massive loss of confidence in European institutions. The driving force in most of the European Union is the profound and unnecessary economic failure of Europe, and especially the Eurozone, since the world financial crisis and recession. 
"It has cost European citizens millions of jobs, trillions of dollars in lost income, and is sacrificing a generation of youth at the altar of fiscal consolidation and 'structural reforms.' It has delivered an overall unemployment rate in Europe that is twice the level of the United States; more than seven years of depression in Greece; more than 20 percent unemployment in Spain, and long-term stagnation in Italy. In recent weeks French workers have been fighting against 'structural reforms' that seek to undermine employment protections and the ability of organized labor to bargain collectively."

Lumps of Brexit

So it turns out the establishment telling people they are a bunch of foolish xenophobes is not an effective electoral strategy. I wonder if the DNC is paying attention? I doubt it.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Brexit Is A Dead Heat

Last night my wife, Marina, and I watched live the debate at Wembly Arena in over Brexit, BBC, with three on each main side. The betting markets have never said Leave will win, with their lowest forecast being 58% Remain.  Now, after the assassination of pro-Remain Labour MP by a neo-Nazi.the prediction markets have gone to 75% for Remain, and on Monday, the markets and the pound surged.  But the 'shpolls remain near tied, with the main one on this morning's FT with Leave still ahead by one point.  Looks pretty close, like a dead heat.

So what may be pushing in the Leave direction after the assassination of Jo Cox, is the debate last night, with 6000 in the live audience, and without doubt most of UK watching.  Behavioral economics comes in here, particularly Danny Kahneman's peak and end point theory. What matters for memory is the peak point and the endpoint.  In this, I am not sure about  the peak point, but somehow the main pro leave leader, Boris Johnson, got to speak last, and he really jammed it up, declaring that tomorrow will be an "Independance Day!" for the UK.  That drew the only standing ovation of the evening.

Dead heat.

Barkley Rosser

Lawyers Guns and MaxSpeak

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Open Up that Golden Gate!

Only two weeks after primary day and California has less than a million presidential ballots left uncounted. An estimated 923,515 ballots as of 11:56 am this morning, June 21.

Gee, it's a good thing AP declared the winner the night before the primary. Otherwise, the suspense might have undermined confidence in the Democratic democratic process.

The Death Of Carl Chiarella

Carl Chiarella died this morning after a long illness, which had forced him to fully retire last summer from his position at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.  Long one of  the leading figures in the  Bielefeld School branch of Post Keynesian economics, he was coauthor of numerous books with people like Peter Flaschel, Willi Semmler, Reiner Franke, and numerous others.  The Bielefeld School takes seriously nonlinear dynamics as well as integrating ideas from Marx, Keynes, and Schumpeter, with Carl being the leading nonlinear dynamicist in this group, having written several books and important papers in that area by himself.

He also served as a coeditor of the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control for several years as well as being an associate editor of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization when I was its editor.  In later years he wrote more on finance, including about speculative bubble dynamics in agent-based models.  For many years he organized and oversaw annual conferences on quantitative finance at the UTS.  He was a good guy who helped many out on many things and had a great dry wit.

The first time I met him was in 1995 when I spent a month visiting at the University of Newcastle in Australia as a guest of Bill Mitchell,which was when I also first met Steve Keen, who used to show up at some of Carl's finance conferences.  I gave a talk at UTS on the invitation of Carl, who had read my 1991 book, From Catastrophe to Chaos: A General Theory of Economic Discontinuities.  In its first two printings, the copyright page mistook me for my late father and had my birth date as 1907 (who had died in 1989, but somehow the Library of Congress had not gotten that point; this was my first book but my old man had published seven in his life and has my name, or maybe it is that I have his, except for the "Jr." at the end).  Anyway, just before Carl introduced me at the talk in his department, he said to me that he had expected me to be much older, and this was due to his having seen this erroneous birth date, which he thought was for real.  His PhD was in applied math.

Anyway, I and many others will miss him.  RIP, Carl.

Barkley Rosser.  

The Iatrogenic and Incoherent "Theory" of Flexibility

In its report on "The long-term decline in prime-age male labor force participation," President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers writes:
Conventional economic theory posits that more 'flexible' labor markets—where it is easier to hire and fire workers—facilitate matches between employers and individuals who want to work. Yet despite having among the most flexible labor markets in the OECD—with low levels of labor market regulation and employment protections, a low minimum cost of labor, and low rates of collective bargaining coverage—the United States has one of the lowest prime-age male labor force participation rates of OECD member countries.
Although it has indeed become conventional, the 'flexible' labor markets mantra is not a theory. It is dogma. An article of faith. The theory behind the nostrum of flexible labor markets is Milton Friedman's natural rate theory of unemployment, which, as Jamie Galbraith pointed out twenty years ago, was constructed by adding expectations to the empirical Philips Curve observation of a relationship between unemployment and inflation:
The Phillips curve had always been a purely empirical relation, patched into IS-LM Keynesianism to relieve that model's lack of a theory of inflation.  Friedman supplied no theory for a short-run Phillips curve, yet he affirmed that such a relation would "always" exist. And Friedman's argument depends on it. If the Phillips relation fails empirically— that is, if levels of unemployment do not in fact predict the rate of inflation in the short run—then the construct of the natural rate of unemployment also loses meaning. 
Galbraith's evisceration of the natural rate theory and NAIRU is incisive, persuasive and accessible. Read it.

At the other end of the flexibility spectrum, intellectually, is Layard, Nickell and Jackman's Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market. In their influential textbook, Layard et al. grafted the dubious NAIRU concept onto the archaic lump-of-labor fallacy claim to create their own chimera hybrid, the LUMP-OF-OUTPUT FALLACY.

Galbraith's "Time to Ditch NAIRU" has 293 citations on Google Scholar. Layard et al's "Unemployment" has 5824.

To appreciate the pretzel logic of Layard et al., one has to first understand that the old fallacy claim is essentially an inversion of the "supply creates its own demand" nutshell known as Say's Law. Jamie's dad, John Kenneth Galbraith, had argued back in 1975 that Say's Law had "sank without trace" after Keynes had shown that interest "was not the price people were paid to save... [but] what was paid to overcome their liquidity preference" and thus a fall in interest rates might encourage cash hoarding rather than investment, resulting in a shortfall of purchasing power.

So, at one end of their graft Layard et al. were resuscitating the old canard that Keynes had supposedly "brought to an end." At the other end of the graft was Friedman's tweaking of an atheoretical empirical observation -- the Philips Curve -- that was  "patched into IS-LM Keynesianism to relieve that model's lack of a theory of inflation. (James Tobin once elegantly described the Phillips curve as a set of empirical observations in search of theory, like Pirandello characters in search of a plot.)" And let's not even get started with IS-LMist fundamentalism

Churchill's "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" quip about the Soviet Union has nothing on Layard et al.'s antithetical and anachronistic graft on a tweak of an atheoretical patch on an unsatisfactory "attempt to reduce the General Theory to a system of equilibrium," as Joan Robinson described IS-LM "Keynesianism":
Whenever equilibrium theory is breached, economists rush like bees whose comb has been broken to patch up the damage. J. R. Hicks was one of the first, with his IS-LM, to try to reduce the General Theory to a system of equilibrium. This had a wide success and has distorted teaching for many generations of students. Hicks used to be fond of quoting a letter from Keynes which, because of its friendly tone, seemed to approve of IS-LM, but it contained a clear objection to a system that leaves out expectations of the future from the inducement to invest.
And by "expectations," Keynes clearly had in mind uncertainty, not honeycomb equilibrium.

So that's the tangled 'theory' behind 'flexible' labor market policy prescriptions. A regurgitated dog's breakfast of contradiction and amnesia. Layard et al.'s lump-of-output fallacy flexibility chimera thus resembles a sort of a theoretical ouroboros chicken-snake swallowing its own entrails:
To many people, shorter working hours and early retirement appear to be common-sense solutions for unemployment. But they are not, because they are not based on any coherent theory of what determines unemployment. The only theory behind them is the lump-of-output theory: output is a given. In this section we have shown that output is unlikely to remain constant.
This is simply FALSE. Shorter working hours is based on the same theory as full employment fiscal policy: Keynes’s theory. But don’t take my word for it. In an April 1945 letter to T.S. Eliot, Keynes wrote:
The full employment policy by means of investment is only one particular application of an intellectual theorem. You can produce the result just as well by consuming more or working less. Personally I regard the investment policy as first aid. In U.S. it almost certainly will not do the trick. Less work is the ultimate solution.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Radical Leisure

"Radical Leisure" by Eva Swidler at Monthly Review. Interview on radio show This is Hell from Chicago.

The Enemy's Poised to Attack!

The enemy's poised to catch you unaware...


"No wavering now," said the megaphone mouth, "the enemy's poised to attack."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Is "Political Correctness" to Blame for Orlando Massacre?

Well, well, the dear old National Rifled Assholeciation has weighed in with its theory. Assault weapons don't kill people, "political correctness" does. 

"The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Tuesday defended gun rights, two days after a gunman killed 49 people and left 53 others injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando," Jesse Byrnes at The Hill reports:
"In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, President Obama and Hillary Clinton renewed calls for more gun control, including a ban on whole categories of semi-automatic firearms," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, wrote in a USA Today op-ed. 
"They are desperate to create the illusion that they’re doing something to protect us because their policies can’t and won’t keep us safe. This transparent head-fake should scare every American, because it will do nothing to prevent the next attack," he said. 
Cox said "political correctness" allowed for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to take place, noting that the FBI had interviewed the shooter multiple times since 2013 and that he maintained a government-approved security license. 
"Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it," Cox wrote. 
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who the NRA has endorsed, also attacked "political correctness" in a speech following the shooting.
So what exactly is the connection between "political correctness" and mass murder? Let's ask an expert: mass murderer Anders Breivik (the following is reposted from August 2015)
"...voters crave the anti-status-quo politician. They want results. They need a fighter. They need someone to fire all the political-correct police." -- Sarah Palin, interview with Donald Trump
Anders Breivik
In the introduction to his "compendium" manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, mass-murderer Anders Breivik asked, "What is Political Correctness?" and "How did it all begin?" His answer dwelt on the Frankfurt School, and singled out Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization as especially important.  Breivik's text was copied and pasted almost verbatim from a screed called "Political Correctness: a Short History of an Ideology?" by William S. Lind, "Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation."

In turn, the "cultural Marxism" thesis of Lind's "history" can be traced to a 1992 article, "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and Political Correctness,"  published in a Lyndon Larouche cult magazine, Fidelio The article's author, Michael J. Minnicino, subsequently disowned his work as "hopelessly deformed by self-censorship and the desire to in some way support Mr. LaRouche's crack-brained world-view."

Along the way, "conservative" Republican stalwarts Ralph de Toledano and Patrick J. Buchanan have recycled those crack-brained conspiracy theories, documented by abundant footnotes that typically lead either to a source who didn't say what they were credited with saying, to some other hack propaganda recycler or to an "authoritative" emigre like Victor Zitta or Lazlo Pasztor relying extensively on official histories published by the Axis-allied Horthy regime. Martin Jay traced the strange trajectory of this propaganda meme in "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe."

Roger Kimball
This month saw the publication by Roger Kimball's Encounter Books (an "activity" of the Bradley Foundation) of yet another rehash of the discredited crap, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, by Michael Walsh. A credulous review of that book in the Washington Free Beacon presents the book's argument, apparently oblivious to its dubious lineage:
In The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, Walsh argues that the current obsession with politically correct speech began with a group of Marxist academics at the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University in Frankfurt, who would come to be known as the Frankfurt School. The scholars, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, among others, developed a wide-ranging, if often contradictory, critique of the principal tenets of "bourgeois" Western culture—from the centrality of reason and individuality to Christian sexual mores.
As Barkley and I have discussed, the term "politically correct" probably was popularized in the late 1960s and early 1970s by left-wing student activists wary of the self-righteous dogmatism displayed by self-styled Marxist-Leninist political grouplets. But that's not the way the conventional mythology goes.

At the end of December 1982, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed, "The Shattered Humanities" by William Bennett, who at the time was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Bennett's complaint was that "matters of enduring importance" -- "the true," "the good" and "the noble" -- had been abandoned because "we have yielded to the bullying of those fascinated with the merely contemporary." By the early 1990s, Bennett's lament about the decline of traditional values in the humanities had swelled into a moral panic about the alleged tyranny of political correctness on campus, fueled by best-selling books such as Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals: How Politics has Corrupted Our Higher Education and Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education: The politics of race and sex on campus. 

Even President Bush I had to get into the act with a commencement address at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in which he railed against "political extremists [who] roam the land, abusing the privilege of free speech, setting citizens against one another on the basis of their class or race."
Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits. 
Isolated anecdotes and broad generalizations can only get you so far. The elusive scourge of political correctness needed to be explained by theory of its origins. Thus the Minnicino/Larouche conspiracy theory, taken up by Lind, Buchanan, de Toledano, Breivik and now Walsh.

In spite of being called out more than two decades ago by a President of the United States, those political extremists liberals on the left have allegedly persevered in their "unrelenting demands... for increasingly preposterous levels of political correctness over the past decade." This, according to S. E. Cupp explains Donald Trumps popularity: "Trump survives -- nay, thrives! -- because he is seen as the antidote, bravely and unimpeachably standing athwart political correctness."


Meanwhile, "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 71% of American Adults think political correctness is a problem in America today, while only 18% disagree. Ten percent (10%) are undecided."
National Survey of 1,000 American Adults
Conducted August 25-26, 2015
By Rasmussen Reports 
1* Do Americans have true freedom of speech today, or do they have to be careful not to say something politically incorrect to avoid getting in trouble?

2* Is political correctness a problem in America today?
Hey, if they keep repeating it, it must be true, right?

Three Stooges: Lyndon Larouche, Roger Kimball, Anders Breivik




Problems with Perspectivism

Totally out of it old white straight male that I am, I have to figure out my relationship to perspectivism.  This doctrine, which many of my students fervently believe in, holds that one’s understanding of the world is determ ined largely by identity.  I see the world as, well, an old white straight male, and therefore I am incapable of understanding the experience of those who are marginalized for not being old, white, straight or male.  I should just shut up and listen.

First of all, the advice about shutting up and listening is pretty good most of the time.  I should follow it more than I do.

As for the doctrine itself, while possessing a kernel of insight, I think it rests on three interrelated misconceptions.  I would think that, wouldn’t I?  Anyway, here they are:

1. Assumptions about between-group versus within-group variation in perception.  To the extent that each of us has various blind spots, an important question is what are their sources and how important are they?  Assume for the moment that the main claim of perspectivism is true: one’s identity does delimit what one can understand.  One could then say, yes, but how consequential is this?  After all, there is a lot of variation in the ability to understand at the individual level.  Some people work hard at it and others just suck in the stereotypes of the moment.  Within any given group there will be a range of openness to and capacity for understanding others.  So the question arises, how important are identity-based differences in understanding versus individual ones?  If most of the variation is at the identity group level, then we are justified in making sweeping generalizations and looking for solutions primarily by addressing group-related factors.  But it may also be possible that group level factors play a minor role relative to differences across people within groups, in which case our time is better spent dealing with barriers that show up in individual thinking and behavior.  From a purely speculative point of view I could see it going either way: this is an empirical question!  But where is the empirical evidence?  My first criticism of perspectivism is that it simply assumes its own premises, when their validity depends on the facts and may differ in different contexts.

2. Assumptions about internal versus external perspectives.  What is knowledge about the circumstances of human life, and who is in a position to acquire it?  Some knowledge is purely subjective: how something feels or what something means to the individual who experiences it.  Other knowledge has more of an objective character, such as the social processes that cause events to occur or influence how people feel or make sense of them.  There is something to be said for both: surely there are aspects of subjective experience that can’t be fully communicated to someone who hasn’t had the experience.  In a society in which non-whites experience racism and whites don’t, there is a core set of experiences that non-white people, and only non-white people, have access to.  At the same time, sometimes we are too close to an experience or event to understand what causes it or what alternatives to it are possible: an outsider, less captive to the moment, may have a better vantage point.  This is well known at the level of individual emotion: no one really knows how I feel but me, but I need friends and sometimes relative strangers (like therapists) who can look at me from the outside and see things I can’t.  The same kind of problem arises in anthropology.  People in a local culture understand themselves in ways the anthropologist is likely to misunderstand (and therefore need to speak for themselves), but the foreign scholar who lives in their midst for a year or two can tell them some things about their culture they could scarcely have imagined on their own.  Both perspectives are not only valid, but necessary.  What perspectivism seems to say, however, is that only the first is valid, while the second is counterfeit and even an instrument of oppression.

3. A theory of belief versus a theory of truth.  Perspectivism is very close to the classical theory of ideology.  Marx’s view was that one’s class position strongly influences how one interprets the social world, and in recent decades we’ve come to understand that it’s not just about class.  Ideological processes can be seen in any division or stratification of society—in gender, nationality, age, physical ability, sexual orientation, anything.  Contra the claim in the previous paragraph, there is no true “outside” perspective, since all of us are inside some social position or set of experiences.  To put it another way, there are relative outside vantage points but no absolute outside position.  It’s all impure.

But ideology is a theory of belief, not truth.  It’s a theory of why a person in a given social circumstance is more likely to believe one thing rather than another, not what belief is more likely to be true.  The criteria for truth have never changed, and they never will: it’s all about reasoning and evidence.  (These criteria have been refined over the centuries, but they can still be summed up as reasoning and evidence.)  As an old white straight male I am more likely to believe some things than others because of my social position, but that has no bearing on whether what I believe is more or less justified.  Or it might in a statistical sense, but you won’t know it aside from the criteria derived from reasoning and evidence whose validity is separate from and above all ideological divisions.

Yes, I realize some peope have ideologies that cause them to reject what I’ve just proposed as unarguable criteria for validity.  No, I can’t argue with them, because my arguments are based on reasoning and evidence, so they only work with people who accept these criteria.  Most perspectivists, I suspect, are unwilling to go that far—but then they have to distinguish between factors that influence the likelihood of belief, which absolutely include the identities they center on, and those that govern the likelihood of truth, which don’t.

As an old white straight male I believe lots of stuff because of my relationship to the world around me.  Whether that brings me closer to or further from a valid understanding, or both in various respects, can be determined only by applying the criteria for validity that are the same whatever identities you are slotted into.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Still Pissed Off at Weatherman After All These Years

There’s a review in the New York Times of a new book about the radical times of 1969-70 that devotes a lot of space to recollections of the Weather Underground.  The usual suspects are interviewed, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Mark Rudd.  There is some contrition, some bombast.

But listen to this quote from the review by Jon Wiener:
Reading these interviews, it’s not hard to understand what you might call the Weatherman temptation. S.D.S. had held the first antiwar march on Washington in 1965, but four years later the war was bigger than ever. Over those four years, Bill Ayers says, “we had tried everything that we could think of: organizing, knocking on doors, mass demonstrations, getting arrested, militant nonviolent resistance.” None of it worked to end the war — and the Weathermen understood why, as one of its leaders, Mark Rudd, explained: Ordinary Americans, especially white workers, were morons — except that’s not the word he used.
And this is the part that really, really got me at the time and gets me still.  Many, maybe most, of the Weather honchos came from upper income, corporate families.  They grew up thinking workers were stupid, and when they became “revolutionaries” they still thought this, although now they had new reasons.  The apple doesn’t fall very far, does it?

Those of us who came from less exalted stock and still dreamed of a majoritarian, radical movement were simply plowed under.  The media, transfixed by glamor and violence, ignored us, and before long we had become invisible even to ourselves.

Incidentally, in the mid-70s I had occasion to look at my (heavily redacted) FBI files.  In it was a claim that I had harbored a Weather fugitive earlier in the decade.  I can remember how upset it made me that I had been targeted on the basis of a supposed act that I never would have committed,  since I regarded the Weather folk, pound for pound, to be more reactionary in their political effect than the most violent cop in riot gear.