whitman’s i crossed the nevadas, big govmint can be a good thing, workplace mobbing

I cross'd the Nevadas

Walt Whitman’s hand written poem I cross’d the Nevadas…

I cross’d the Nevadas, I cross’d the
plateaus,
I ascended the towering rocks along the
Pacific, I sail’d out to sea,
I sail’d through the storm, I was re-
fresh’d by the storm,
I watch’d with joy the threatening maws
of the waves,
I mark’d the white combs where they
career’d so high curling over,
I heard the wind piping, I saw the
black clouds

This essay manages to weave together some well deserved ridicule and some clear headed observation, Where would you rather live: small-government Somalia or big-government Sweden?

Small-government supporters claim that countries with high levels of public spending grow more slowly. Yet, as the Columbia University economist Xavier X Sala-i-Martin concluded in his 1997 study I Just Ran Four Million Regressions, “no measure of government spending . . . appears to affect growth in a significant way”.

In his 2004 book Growing Public, the University of California economist Peter Lindert agrees – countries with high levels of government spending don’t perform any worse than countries with low levels of government spending.

But doesn’t big government crowd out the private sector? Stifle free enterprise and innovation? Not necessarily. Consider the arguments of Mariana Mazzucato, the Sussex University economist and author of The Entrepreneurial State. “Where would Google be today without the state-funded investments in the internet, and without the US National Science Foundation grant that funded the discovery of its own algorithm?” she wrote in the Guardian in April 2012. “Would the iPad be so successful without the state-funded innovations in communication technologies, GPS and touchscreen display?

“Where would GSK and Pfizer be without the $600bn the US National Institutes of Health has put into research that has led to 75 per cent of the most innovative new drugs in the last decade?”

Critics of big government say it crushes community spirit and civic engagement. Again, the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. “Among the advanced western democracies, social trust and group membership are, if anything, positively correlated with the size of government,” the Harvard academic Robert Putnam observed in his acclaimed book Bowling Alone (1995). “[S]ocial capital appears to be highest of all in the big-spending welfare states of Scandinavia,” he wrote.

Ah yes, Scandinavia. Despite having, I accept, much smaller and more cohesive societies than the US or the UK, the highspending, high-growth Nordic nations continue to baffle and frustrate Anglo-Saxon small-staters. Take the UN’s first ever World Happiness league table in 2012: Denmark, where government spending accounts for 58 per cent of national income, topped the list, followed by Finland (54 per cent) and Norway (44 per cent).

I don’t know that those who agree with this are lone wolves. It is just that the other side, while smaller in number, are very vocal and own a lot of the media. Certainly no one complains about the experimentally expanding military spending and surveillance state that treats everyone as a potential suspect in some wrong doing. Human nature being what it is, most of us probably do have something to hide, even if only some little embarrassing history or thoughts. Yet in some ways, in the U.S. at least, we need specific parts of government to be bigger, not smaller. We need to expand public health care so that everyone can enroll in a Medicare-like program. We need to expand health and safety inspection so we don’t have another fertilizer plant blow-up or a mine leavings slag heap overflow.

Sigmund Freud’s home and offices, Vienna 1939

Sigmund Freud’s home and offices, Vienna 1939. A scan from a book of the same name with photographs by Edmund Engelman.

Workplace mobbing: add Ann Curry to its slate of victims

Whatever your personal opinions of Curry and her work, she was clearly mobbed out of her Today show job. Workplace mobbing is a process of humiliation and degradation of a targeted worker with the purpose of removing that worker from the workplace or at least from a particular unit of it. It is a dark side of organizational life, involves co-workers ganging up on the target, and includes management’s involvement through active participation in the mobbing or through failure to stop it once it becomes known to them. Mobbing in the workplace includes a characteristic course of events that were first described by Heinz Leymann, the psychiatrist who conceptualized the problem in the 1980s.

All the morning news programs tend towards watered down infotainment. They have two to three hours where they could genuinely inform the public about government, the environment, education issues, the almost daily constitutional issues that arise, the sociology of crime, economic issues like the massive income inequality and the redistribution of income from working class Americans to the wealthy and plenty of other issues. It does appear to be true that Curry was still given her contradict salary in her role as special corespondent. So no need for crocodile tears for Curry on that aspect. Though we should all be concerned about how she was treated, and done so with management participation. If mobbing happens at that level it can happen at the level of sales clerk, brick layer, nurse or assistant engineer.

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