Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Selection: "The Case for Big Government" (and for old radio)

As I promised author Jeff Madrick, I read his book The Case for Big Government, and the case is very weak. A mostly-unrepentant FDR-admiring liberal who fears Obama won’t go far enough (as well as a New School economist and former New York Times economics columnist), Madrick does not so much present an argument that government can actually do things more effectively than the private sector as unfurl a wish list of things government could do if, you know, it had a lot more tax revenue or piles and piles of money from magical lands.

Did you know government could spend millions on research into rare diseases? Billions funding all college tuition? Trillions on who knows what? Well, it could, in theory.

In a way, the most revealing thing about this book may be that two — count them, two — Democratic members of Congress (one recently deceased) took the time to contribute glowing cover blurbs to it. Think about that. Madrick, to his credit, is explicit about arguing for making government more immense, and two senators take the time to praise him for it. How generous and literary of them to take time to point out the merit in an argument for giving them more power. (Do I need to stress again which party they came from, rotten though both major parties are?)

I have jury duty starting tomorrow, which is a reminder in itself that we are slaves at the beck and call of government, but there is one way in which I’ve found jury duty in New York City to be an affirmation of the wisdom of one’s fellow citizens: not by bringing people together to dispense justice and all that, but by revealing that even if people start out their stint in the potential-juror waiting room sounding like dutiful children of FDR and patiently listening to instructions, by about day three they all start sounding like cranky anarcho-capitalists, wondering when they can get the hell out of there and get back to work, muttering things like “This is ridiculous.” Right on.


Speaking of FDR, he at least understood how to make effective use of the power of the broadcast — which makes him a better entertainer, in some sense, than the band Broadcast, whose stage show turns out to be painfully noisy and unmelodic in a 1968 experimental synthesizer way, as I learned last night — much as I still love those studio recordings of theirs that sound like real songs, such as “Papercuts.”

But if you want more FDR-era broadcasting magic — without endorsing big government — you should know that the group Friends of Old Time Radio has announced a performance by the Gotham Radio Players, taking place at FoOTR’s convention this Saturday, October 24 — an episode of The Saint (which inspired the later secret agent TV series), live onstage at the Holiday Inn North, 160 Frontage Road in Newark, NJ, from 11:45am to 12:30pm. Gotham Radio Players director Steven M. Lewis (who may still need a job) will deploy special guest star Simon Jones of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ($25 at the door and easily reached via shuttle from Newark Airport — the radio convention, I mean, not the galaxy).

For a more recent radio show with old-timey influences, note too the Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd.

Finally, do read the new blog SeanReadstheNews from Sean Dougherty, who says “it attempts to both review the best and worst of daily business journalism as well as provide tips on media relations strategy from a PR perspective.” And Sean’s not only a PR professional but a member of Friends of Old Time Radio — and a libertarian, so you just might catch him in person tonight at the monthly social/political bar gathering I host, Manhattan Project (6:30 at Merchants NY East bar/restaurant, 62nd and First, back of the second floor), or at one of our future gatherings (not to be confused with the separate Debates at Lolita Bar — for which, by contrast, I desperately need a socialist to defend Che, Castro, and Chavez on Nov. 4, so e-mail me if you have/are someone in the NYC area who’d do so).


Gerard said...

I have a friend who’s empaneled on a grand jury right now. Personally, I’ve never been remotely close to serving on a jury, possibly because of my frank-or obnoxious, if you prefer-way of expressing my opinion during the voir dire process.

The last time I traveled to downtown Brooklyn the case involved what I gathered was a drug transaction gone awry on Malcolm X. Boulevard in Bed-Sty. The upshot being that the defendant was being charged with double homicide for killing two individuals. His attorney admitted that he killed both of them. In fact, that was part of his opening statement!

In any case, when the assistant district attorney asked my opinion, I told him that I thought it would be difficult for me to judge the case, based upon the fact that the public defender seemed like the type of attorney who wouldn’t be able to get a job at Jacoby & Meyers. Shortly thereafter, I was dismissed.

Todd Seavey said...

_His attorney admitted that he killed both of them._

The revelation that the attorney committed the two murders sounds exciting, though — not a bad movie plot idea.

Clara said...

I had jury duty once. The accused had sexually assaulted a complete stranger and admitted to it. His legal defense rested on the contention that “sometimes no means yes.”

Nick said...

Do you really want to be judged by a jury of peers who lack the smarts to get out of jury duty?

Todd Seavey said...

Hey, don’t take if for granted all smart people want to get out of jury duty at all costs — I helped find a thief guilty years ago. As of late today, though, I’m done with jury duty for another six years without having to hear a case.

Sean Dougherty said...

Thanks for the plugs Todd! Steven M. Lewis is gainfully employed as of a few weeks ago. I still am looking for a full time position although I’m booked with freelance assignments through November, which is a good thing.

Sorry I couldn’t make the MP as family issues interceded.

See you in November -