The Baffler,  May 17, 2016

Daily Bafflements

Power, rents, profit

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• Matthew Sweet traces the history of research into whether power corrupts, starting in 1870. It’s fascinating, running the gamut from Piritim Sorokin’s view that “the ruling groups are more talented intellectually and more deranged mentally than the ruled population,” to Sweet’s own contention that “It may be that rich people are better at disguising their true nature than poor people.”

• Who’s looking out for the landlords? That was, we presume, the burning question that prompted new app Rentberry. Surprisingly, Rentberry is not a platform that enables you to mash up fruit in your mouth and spit it out for the next idiot—instead it asks San Francisco homeseekers to bid on properties, eBay-style: 

Tenants would be able to see how many people are competing for the property and what the highest offer currently is. They can make multiple offers before the bidding ends, but landlords would not be compelled to accept the highest bid. For example, they might consider a higher-quality bidder with a lower offer more suitable.

 Sound ominous? Not to landlords. According to CEO Alex Lubinsky: “Property managers, who naturally are looking to expand their cut while enhancing rents for their owners, have been especially receptive to Rentberry.” 

• “Stuff For-Profit College Executives Say.”

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In Psychology 101 you learn of those “false binary” or “false dichotomy” situations that crop up where two viewpoints are so powerful they tend to pull all other options into their orbit. If you're not capitalist, you're socialist. In Chicago if you're not a White Sox fan, you're a Cubs fan. You're either with us, or you're against us. Or, to use an example that upended plenty of Thanksgiving dinner tables, if you think Hillary sucks, you love Trump. But as the modifier in “false binary” suggests, these black-or-white decisions aren't real. There's always another option present. When you see a broken window during a protest, you don't have to “completely condone” the action if you don't “admonish it entirely,” or vice versa.

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Further Reading

 April 27

Without the broader class background furnished by the righteous elite crusade against Sandersism, the miscalled general election comes off as freakish.

 April 26

A refusal to assess damage is tantamount to caring only that a bombing occurs rather than what or whom it kills.