Thursday, May 17, 2012

Radical Enough? Planet Money's Adam Davidson Endorses Jettisoning Democracy

The other week, Adam Davidson had an article in the NYT Magazine about how super rich people are really what's great for the economy. Sure, there were the dissenters in the piece, and it ended up leaving it as a debate between two sides. Voila: what was once an extreme right-wing idea is moved further from the sphere of deviance into the sphere of legitimate debate. The Sunday Review section the following week printed a William Deresiewicz piece that sure reads like a rebuttal (a grumpy, wonderful rebuttal).

In this past weekend's magazine, Davidson went even more extreme: he endorsed the proposal to create a zone in Honduras that functions outside of Honduras's government and democracy.

Don't get me wrong, things are not great for lots of people in Honduras (under this government, but under previous ones too), and I think there are ways that people or entities outside of the country could be a force for good. Setting up a sweatshop zone that's outside of Honduras's laws, though, would be horrible (see more from RAJ, Suzy Dean, Duncan Green). Honduras badly needs more democracy, not less.

My favorite part of the piece is the "other side" section:
Romer told me that the response to his charter city has been polarized. “Some people said, ‘This reeks of colonialism,’ ” he explained. “Other people said that everything we’ve been trying to do has had so little impact, maybe we should consider something different.” There are, of course, countless ways that this charter city could go wrong, but Romer has a point.
That's right: rather than talking to actual critics of the plan, Davidson simply asked the chief proponent about what the critics say. This is middle school newspaper stuff.

Davidson and Planet Money have an incredible knack for taking right wing ideas and pitching them gently to a center -- or even center-left -- audience.

Last year, the Planet Money team actually produced an entire This American Life episode titled "How To Create a Job" without more than one brief, dismissive mention of direct government stimulus. Centrist economics, quietly thrown out the door. There are people on the right who get this.

And earlier this year, Davidson went all-in on his embrace of Wall Street's wonders, earning him criticism from the economic left, and I'm not sure many places else. It didn't seem to create problems for him.

Is calling for removing democracy from part of Honduras finally a bridge too far? Or are the die hard Planet Money fans still on board?


At 10:02 PM, Blogger mjr said...

I gotta say it - what's right-wing and what's center-left changes awfully fast. Ten years ago, health insurance exchanges were a conservative idea. Five years ago, gay marriage was strictly leftist. Until a year ago, not defaulting on loans was something everyone agreed on as a nice goal.


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