Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just reviewed “The Predator State” at SBR

with 2 comments

Folks, before I forget, here’s the link to my review tonight for James K. Galbraith’s THE PREDATOR STATE, which is up at Shiny Book Review right now:

I wanted to point out that in addition to the examples used in my review, I believe current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fits Galbraith’s definition of what a predatory person can do with regards to government, and that he should perhaps be evaluated in that light as well.


Written by Barb Caffrey

March 14, 2011 at 3:47 am

Posted in Book reviews

2 Responses

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  1. The “predatory state” described by Gailbraith is, in essence, crony capitalism — a practice that has been recognized for quite some time. In the case of Wisconsin, I do not see the parallel. Walker sought to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees only; unionized private concerns were unchanged. I don’t see money flowing from this to predatory capitalists. Of course, Gailbraith might argue that the union bill would have the effect of cutting the tax burden, which would benefit high-income people the most. This seems too remote to me — certainly not the “easy money” type of predatory behavior criticized by Gailbraith; also, the anti-union bill still allowed collective bargaining over wages.

    Jeff Jones

    May 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

    • Hi, Jeff. Thanks for coming to my blog, reading, and commenting.

      Scott Walker isn’t the world’s best example of a crony capitalist in some lights. He seems to sincerely believe that he’s cutting costs, which is what “the people” want, and in that sense he’d not be accurately described as a predator by Galbraith’s lights.

      However, what bothers me is the whole issue of what’s good in the short run isn’t what’s good in the long run. Wisconsin was the first in the nation to allow public employee unions, so to take those rights away was deeply troubling (and still is, two years later). Wisconsin had a good deal of growth, excellent schools, good economic development and a host of other things such as a bipartisan spirit of governance that actually worked for many, many years — and while Scott Walker isn’t the one who broke the system, he certainly has helped to speed that wreckage up.

      What’s good for Wisconsin in the long run is economic development, a stable economic climate, good schools, a solid environmental policy, and many other things that go to create a high quality of life. Right now, Scott Walker’s economic policies are, at best, a mixed bag. The jobs he’d hoped to create (250,000 of them) have not arrived. The environmental policies he and his cabinet have espoused have been deeply flawed — such as a mining bill that’s currently in the court system as it may violate treaty rights with Native American tribes, something that was delayed significantly by opposition among Walker’s own political party, the Republicans. And certainly the voucher system for schools in Wisconsin — which has been piloted in Racine, Milwaukee, and a very few other places — has been a colossal failure. (The public schools aren’t educating kids well. But the private schools are doing even worse.)

      Now, is most of this Scott Walker’s fault? No. But he hasn’t helped, either.

      One thing that definitely is Walker’s fault is cutting one billion dollars from the state’s education fund. Doing this, then funding the voucher system/pilot program, was certainly an example of Galbraith’s idea of predation — those Walker knows will benefit, those Walker doesn’t know or doesn’t care about will suffer, and the public doesn’t really matter because we’re too weak to stop him. (And considering many Wisconsin voters, myself included, recalled him and tried to replace him — the recall succeeded, the replacement didn’t, as he won his recall race and is obviously still Governor — well, that just goes to show how weak the public truly is these days.)

      At any rate, government as a whole was what Galbraith was discussing, but most of Galbraith’s arguments dealt with the federal government. In that sense, Walker doesn’t have the power to systematically award contract after contract to predators . . . but what he has been able to do (such as deregulating the power system, trying to sell off the old power plants unilaterally, and of course the voucher system) has been, at best, extremely disquieting in this quarter.

      Again, thanks for reading, and commenting.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm

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