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Re: #6:

America has plenty of corner neighborhood pubs. None of them are in sprawling, soulless places like DC or high-rent, fast-moving places like NY. Try Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Pittsburgh for a vast selection of small neighborhood dive bars that shouldn't tax an I-95-bound soul too much.

Regarding pubs - I wonder if the difference he's noticing is a pub in walking distance? I know there are pub-like places near my house, but all are at least 2 miles away.

Regarding identity, what the author - and Paul Graham - seem to be saying is that any men who make decisions, including especially politicians, shouldn't have souls. In the case of John Kerry and Al Gore, as well as Obama, too much soul was hardly their problem. And George Bush clearly had a religious identity that helped him immensely. Too few soulless rationalizers is hardly the problem with the modern world.

America has corner pubs! Sullivan mis-titled his post. Examples such as NY and DC are not useful as they are not representative of a "usual" American city. Seattle, my hometown, has numerous "corner" pubs, that are not too crowded, filled with locals, have micro brews from all around the NW including Seattle, and have great food. I dare say you could find one in most neighborhoods of the city.

Two related causes (among others) of lack of pubs in the U.S.

* Zoning ordinances pretty much prevent anything within walking distance of a house other than other houses.

* Cheap gas: cities designed for cars (not people).

I think prohibition plays an important part of #6. Even in a city like Chicago, made up of many small neighborhoods with many corner pubs, I believe there are less than 2,000 bars today. I think there were over 5,000 before prohibition.

I'm not too well-versed in this area of law & regulation, but I think it might have to do with post-prohibition regulation & the custom coming from it. The scene where you have people standing on the sidewalk drinking beer - I'm pretty sure that this is illegal in the US, let alone not really socially accepted. Also, the fact that many US cities are built around driving discourages neighborhood pubs - drinking & driving is illegal, let alone frowned upon.

The dissonance between some parts of US culture are interesting. On one hand, we take alcohol very seriously - you need to present valid ID in order to purchase alcohol, whether you look of age or not. It always surprises me how in other countries, like Japan, I was never "carded" when buying alcohol in a convenience store. Heck, they even have beer vending machines. Yet on the other hand we have college and high school kids getting drunk to the point of recklessness every day. It's no secret that the current method of enforcement is ineffective at best, and in fact may be malicious - I wonder how many underage drinkers are driven to drink mostly because of the perceived "taboo" of alcohol?

Until the prohibitionist side of our culture resolves its differences with the regular alcohol users, many inefficient policies & regulations will continue to exist.

Where are America's corner neighborhood pubs? Wisconsin. In fact, they're everywhere in Wisconsin.

While most of the action takes place in Virginia, Edward Jones's "The Known World" is a world-class piece of fiction that ends in D.C.. Most of his short stories occur in D.C., and he is supposedly working on a new novel. He is the most likely to produce a great novel (in the Tolstoyesque sense) set in D.C.. In genre fiction, D.C. has George Pelecanos, whose novels capture the danger and class/race divide at the core of the city.

Why has DC produced so little great fiction set in its environs? My guess is that a lot of it has to do with the fact that a huge percentage of the important non-fiction in the world over the last eighty years has occurred there.

"...breweries are allowed to own pubs in England, and are prevented from doing so in America..."

Clearly this man has never been to Denver.

Why would identity be implicated by a choice between two bad options? And why would an identity that is as anodyne and nearly contentless as some of those Packer identifies be problematic? They seem more likely to offer comfort than to guide or lead to decisions.

There's an identity problem here, just perhaps not where diagnosed.

"'...breweries are allowed to own pubs in England, and are prevented from doing so in America...'

Clearly this man has never been to Denver."

Or Washington DC.

"'...breweries are allowed to own pubs in England, and are prevented from doing so in America...'

Clearly this man has never been to Denver."

Or Washington DC.

Or Seattle.

Re: Inequality Is Not the Issue

Very odd essay.

Money is not so important for happiness. Somehow this point is put forward by the ordinarily sensible Mr. Cowen to suggest higher inequality is okay. If anything, it would suggest to me that society should consider sacrificing potential GDP growth in exchange for more equality and encouraging healthy families and leisure.

"Large numbers of working Americans pay no income tax." This is relevant? There are many types of taxes at all levels of government. All working Americans pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, park fees, and indirectly pay for regulations and business taxes.

"Taxpayers in the top five percent of income already pay for about 43 percent of the U.S. government and that burden can only go up so much." So? In 2007, the top five percent earn 32.3% of income and 29.3% of after-tax income. This argument always seems odd to me: the high-earners make so much money that they pay most of the taxes, therefore, they should pay lower taxes. ???

"Those are exactly the same individuals who are most adept at lowering their tax burden by clever accounting and tax schemes." Another very odd argument. Isn't the answer to simplify taxes and close loopholes? Alternatively, if this statement were true, shouldn't taxes be raised to off-set this problem? Shouldn't we invest in more audits and reviews to find cheats?

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