Ezra Klein Profile picture
26 Apr, 17 tweets, 4 min read
I think the path followed by electric cars over the past decade are a good way of thinking about this stupid debate about meat, and about the policy that will get us to a good outcome here.
Biden isn't going to ban meat.

He's so not going to ban meat and will be so afraid of being caricatured otherwise that I worry Democrats will err on the wrong side of this and ignore all emissions from animal agriculture, which would be devastating for climate goals.
So let's talk about electric cars. Go back a decade and there's a similar culture war. Real 'Muricans drive Hummers and weeny liberals drive Priuses and Volts and if Democrats win they're going to take your cool cars.
So what happened? Democrats spent a ton of money accelerating and propping up the electric car industry.

They gave Tesla a crucial lifeline in the 2009 stimulus (same program that helped Solyndra). They passed all kinds of rebates and subsidies to drive sales.
Now electric cars are awesome — thanks in no small part to @elonmusk, who has also, helpfully, made a habit of pissing liberals off with his online antics while making better and better electric cars.

So now electric cars are a status symbol, not a culture war.
Say what you will about the Cybertruck, but it's politically coded very differently than the Prius.

I don't want to get into debates about every tweet Musk has ever sent but this is just an undeniably great thing he's done. tesla.com/cybertruck
And because of that, Democrats are now getting more aggressive on internal combustion engines: California has banned combustion-engine cars starting in 2035.

But if electric cars weren't clearly a better technology, they couldn't do that. theverge.com/2020/9/23/2145…
I wrote this piece before this dumb thing about Biden banning meat started, but this kind of (totally predictable) cycle was in my head when I did it.

Don't ban meat. Supercharge the industry making the Teslas of meat. nytimes.com/2021/04/24/opi…
As I say in the first sentence: Humanity isn't going to stop eating meat. Not anytime soon, probably not ever. They're not even going to stop eating animal-based meat.

But no one really wants factory farms. No one thinks commodity meat is great.
What we need are alternatives that are awesome. That are better, cheaper, healthier, tastier. That come in more forms and are actually things people want.

Impossible and Beyond have done a great job showing there's a market here if you can do it. But it's such early days.
There's no conversation to be had about banning or taxing or undermining meat. But you can do what you did with electric cars and start helping the alt protein industry get better.
Conventional meat has had decades of subsidies and publicly funded research. Alt proteins are just getting started. They need to get better, faster, and they can.
And then, if, they do, the politics will change, because people like better products. Marketers are smart, and some Elon Musk-style player will come along and own the libs with an insanely delicious burger engineered to spurt blood every time you bite it or whatever.
And maybe what that lets you do is start removing subsidies from irresponsible meat producers, and this also makes regenerative agriculture more competitive. I'd be very happy with a world where alt proteins own cheap meat and regenerative ag is the rest of it.
We've seen this story before. Don't fight a culture war here. Just make the products better.

If Biden wants to eat a steak wrapped in another steak on national television while signing a bill with billions to accelerate alt proteins and regenerative ag, that's great.
One other thing worth considering as a political strategy is going after the worst and most monopolistic practices of the major industrial ag conglomerates. Booker, Warren, Khanna, and others have a great bill to do that: vox.com/future-perfect…
The politics of being against meat are just brutal but the politics of being for farmers and against the multinational corporations exploiting them AND their animals are a lot better.

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More from @ezraklein

23 Apr
I love this @AnnieLowrey jeremiad against the term "low-skill jobs." Those jobs aren't low-skill. They're low-wage, and calling them low-skill is a way of blaming often exploited workers for inequality and unemployment. theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…
The idea that a 23-year-old at McKinsey is a high-skill worker while a home healthcare aide with 30 years of experience is low-skill is risible.

The latter may be paid more, but they're not more skilled. And the language of skills recasts that pay gap as natural, even virtuous.
As Annie writes, the point isn't that we shouldn't learn different skills as the economy changes. The point is the language of low and high-skilled jobs obscures the realities of power and policy operating behind this debate.
Read 5 tweets
21 Apr
There's some interesting ideas in here, but the underlying phenomena seems much more clearly explained by the sharp rise in age and educational polarization, not an asymmetry in how much liberals and conservatives care about politics. richardhanania.substack.com/p/why-is-every…
*Why* there's been such a sharp rise in age and educational polarization is important, and I don't think there's one dominant explanation. But once that polarization happens, it's going to drive institutions sharply to whichever side is dominating among the young and educated.
Take age. Republicans win retirees. Democrats win the young, by huge margins. Corporations and culture makers worry a lot more the young, who'll consume for decades and whose patterns aren't yet set, then seniors. That alone explains a lot of institutional tilt.
Read 4 tweets
20 Apr
I'm an anxious person. Always have been.

It's a weird, frustrating way to live: There is so much to wonder at or truly fear, and instead I can't stop ruminating over some nonsense from 3 years ago, or worrying about something far in the future.
I know I have better things to be thinking about. I know I should spend the time in gratitude for all that I have. Or I should be worrying about the right problems.

But as the Buddhists say: my thoughts think themselves. So I'm anxious AND annoyed at myself for it.
And then came the pandemic. Reality was objectively terrifying, and many of us were trapped inside, severed from social connection and routine, with acres of time to fret.

It was a bad mix. I know a lot of people who didn't have an anxiety problem before, but do now.
Read 4 tweets
19 Apr
One fun thing about having a toddler is how relentlessly they point out all public services in eyesight at any given moment.

Mail trucks! Fire engines! Playgrounds! Buses! Libraries! Bridges! Ambulances!

And they're right! Public goods are amazing.
It's like walking around with a small @rortybomb, all the time.
Oh my god how could I have forgotten garbage trucks. Garbage trucks! Toddlers treat them with the sense of complete wonder they deserve.
Read 4 tweets
19 Apr
Part of the reason I find the "cancel culture" debate frustrating is it's never clear what the ask is, or who it's being made of.

But if you look at the employer and media incentives that lead to people getting mobbed and then fired, it gets clearer. nytimes.com/2021/04/18/opi…
A lot of the problems right now aren't a speech "culture." They're driven by economics, and the key actors are social media companies, search giants and employers who really could change the decisions they make in ways that would lead to a better speech climate.
One thing that's buried in the column but I want to pull out: I see a lot of people on this here web site who've made being anti-cancel culture their core political identity but they spend their time doing the things that lead to people getting cancelled and harassed.
Read 5 tweets
14 Apr
One thing I've been thinking about since my podcast with @tressiemcphd is the difference between status and class, and how a focus on class often confuses issues of status 🧵 nytimes.com/2021/04/13/opi…?
There's been this debate in recent years about whether class should be measured by education rather than income. Or maybe by occupation rather than income.

Michael Lind wrote a whole book making this argument from the right: penguinrandomhouse.com/books/607661/t…
There's something to this: A tech CEO and an English professor at Berkeley experience more similar worlds, and vote more similarly, than the tech CEO and the owner of a plumbing company in Akron — even if the CEO and the small biz owner have closer incomes.
Read 14 tweets

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