The Contingent Workforce and Comprehensive Labor Policy Reform

20 03 2013

First of all, thank goodness for Seth Ackerman. Ackerman saved me a day of writing and a not trivial amount of frustration by writing a response to Matthew Yglesias’s latest bit of masked vulgar libertarianism. You all were saved from my less concise writing style by Ackerman’s neat and tidy takedown of Yglesias’s assertion that the economy suffers not from stagnant wages and income but a lack of productivity innovations sufficient to bring down prices of goods and services (e.g., automated cars so it’d be cheaper to…take buses, I guess?).

Ackerman does the Econ 103 (I assume 101 usually just glosses on labor markets) homework that Yglesias seems to not care for; if incomes were to go up but productivity remain where it is–in other words, if workers were getting paid a larger share of the fruits of their already historically high productivity–then runaway inflation wouldn’t necessarily negate those gains, because all that would be happening is that income would be redistributed, just not by the government, but in the workplace.
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Last Words on the Subject — On that Show, Girls

20 03 2013

Probably one of the most flummoxing things to happen in pop culture in the last year is the expectations laid on one young woman’s shoulders, for some reason that I am unable, in my limited intellectual capacity, to identify. Lena Dunham made a tv show, part drama but mostly comedy, about the women who fall “in between” Gossip Girl and Sex and the City. The show is bohemian-stylized, and strives for a sort of naturalism in how its characters express themselves and relate one to another. The comedy is “cringe-y” in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with the grittiness and pathos of the U.K. version of the Office. Layered on that cringe-y comedy is a general darkness and willingness to tell frank, and often painful stories, about self-exploration and its unhappy trailmate, self-loathing. The show’s sexuality is frank and naturalistic, in the nature of mumblecore movies going back at least to Puffy Chair in 2004*, and more recently HBO’s own Tell Me You Love Me, a show which made the news for its “realistic” and unidealized sex scenes.** I suspect that, like the IFC sketch show Portlandia, if you identify with the portrayed milieu in a positive way, the show is more viscerally enjoyable for that reason. The main characters are treated with affection even when they’re being held up for ridicule (again, not unlike the hipsters of Portlandia). If the jokes and situations in the show make you laugh, it’s funny. That seems to be the long and short of it: elements not unknown or even uncommon in contemporary culture–mumblecore/naturalistic sexual aesthetic, cringe comedy, women-in-a-group–but set in a particular age cohort and social milieu. That milieu, possibly not coincidentally, of late-20s-early-30s white people in creative fields living in a major city with little at stake economically or socially, is fairly coextensive with cultural critics, which may explained what happened before Girls even aired widely.
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