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Morgan Sandquist: Finance in Denial – The Addiction

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By Morgan Sandquist, a member of the Occupy Wall Street Alternative Banking Group. Cross posted from mathbabe

Is it fair to say that because the quality of the denial surrounding the banking industry’s problems is so similar to that of the denial surrounding addiction, that addiction is therefore the root of those problems and our ongoing failure to adequately address them? Perhaps not, but others have come to describe money, debt, and banking as something very much like addiction for entirely different, and far better argued, reasons.

In Debt: The First Five Thousand Years, David Graeber looks deeply into the anthropological record and finds that money and debt, and, by extension, banking, are all essentially the same thing, and they’re not what most of us understand them to be. Money is certainly not simply the objective store of value and medium of exchange that economists would have us believe it is. Because money is created as debt, its use to finance productive activity means that that activity, whatever it is, must then generate interest to be returned to money’s creators in addition to the money lent.

This has given rise to an industry, even a class of people, that derives its livelihood not from any productive activity of its own, but merely from having money. In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein takes this a step further to show that this overhead cost inherent in all monetarily denominated activities means that the value represented by money must always grow. There is no logical end to what must be monetized–natural resources, ideas, time. Nothing can remain unowned and clear of liens, and that will eventually consume any finite realm:

The dynamics of usury-money are addiction dynamics, requiring an ever-greater dose (of the commons) to maintain normality, converting more and more of the basis of well-being into money for a fix. If you have an addict friend, it won’t do any good to give her “help” of the usual kind, such as money, a car to replace the one she crashed, or a job to replace the one she lost. All of those resources will just go down the black hole of addiction. So too it is with our politicians’ efforts to prolong the age of growth.

I don’t hope to make in a couple of paragraphs the full case that those two authors have made over hundreds of pages, so I’ll just assert it to have been compellingly made: namely, that money, debt, and banking have gone from being a tool that we might use to ease social activities to being the purpose of those activities. They have become an addiction, and because they’re an addiction, all of us who are touched by them have developed a rich and pervasive denial of this fact, its history, and its consequences.

In practical terms, what do we gain by perceiving money, debt, and banking as an addiction and the discourse around them as denial? Speaking for myself, it helps me understand the otherwise inexplicable irrationality behind our ongoing financial decline. I can imagine no other explanation for so much of what we’ve seen in the last few years: the failures to properly address the mortgage and subsequent foreclosure crises; the criminal activities of banks, hedge funds, and ratings agencies, and the spiral of consumer indebtedness; the deeply emotional and often militarized response to people sleeping in an otherwise unused square of concrete in a nocturnally unpopulated commercial district; and, most of all, the general populace’s willing acquiescence to all of this.

It appears only that banking must continue as it is, undisturbed, and nothing must disrupt the use and abuse of debt and money. Though an explanation for the full range of symptoms of the banking crisis, or for the full range of symptoms of any addiction, risks being reductive, without some causal dynamic behind these symptoms, there can be no effective response to them. To prevent something from happening, a cause must be identified and addressed.

Understanding money, debt, and banking as addiction also helps me trust myself and seek a constructive approach to the daunting task of resolving this crisis. As anyone who has ever had to face the full force of shared social and familial evasion can attest, the temptation to surrender to that alternate reality despite his or her better judgment, if only for the sake of civil relations, can be overwhelming.

In the case of the banking industry, that evasion often comes in the form of expert opinion that seeks to persuade not through the substance of the discussion, but through a dependence on credentials and ad hominem dismissal. It’s invaluable to be reminded that such a surrender, regardless of expert arguments, will at best only defer the consequences that we fear. Asking ourselves if, at the addict’s eventual funeral, we’ll be comfortable that we did everything we could is a remarkable inducement to focus. It can also be a powerful inducement to anger, so the understanding that it’s really addiction and denial, not friends and family, that we’re fighting can provide a basis for the compassion we would need to constructively approach such an emotionally volatile undertaking.

Finally, this understanding helps me focus on the ultimate goal of any such effort, rather than becoming sidetracked by pointless diversions.

As I mentioned above, one strategy of denial is to hide the connection between the symptoms of addiction and their real cause. It allows the alcoholic to believe that his or her diabetes and other health issues are the result of poor diet and that his or her depression is genetic or the result of poor parenting. It’s not that an alcoholic necessarily consumes a model diet or was well reared, but addressing just those symptoms allows the alcoholic to keep drinking, and other symptoms will follow from that drinking.

Similarly, it’s not that banks don’t need to be better capitalized, but providing them with capital and liquidity alone allows banks to continue pursuing courses of action that are neither financially nor economically viable.

To effectively address addiction is to prevent further addictive use of the substance. Any effort directed at symptoms will, to the extent they’re effective, simply enable continued substance abuse. It’s only by understanding the nature and extent of denial, navigating its maze, and intervening directly in the use of the substance that one can hope to effectively address addiction, and even then, the odds aren’t in the addict’s favor. And only with a thorough understanding of this dynamic and all of its implications can we hope to intervene effectively in the banking crisis that as of now continues unabated.

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42 comments

  1. Doug Terpstra

    Excellent post. Reminds me of FDR’s inditctment of the moneychangers:

    “Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence….The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization…”

    If only they had fled today; if only their power were limited to exhortations, rather than extortion by threat of martial law. The new breed of “free market” robber barons siezed all the the levers of power and “democracy”; these addicts are mass-murderers who brandish imperial weapons and intervention will not be easy or bloodless.

    This post is also eerily parallel to “Excerpt from ‘Debt Generation’ – We Are All Kettled Now” at Jesse’s Cafe

    “…People like me are angry because exactly the same people who, in 2008, assumed they knew how to run the global economy still assume they, and only they, know what must be done now. And their prescription is as simple as it is arrogant: put it back they way it was.

    “We are told that the debts accrued by those in charge must be paid by us rather than honoured by them. No debate.

    “We are told we must get lending back to the old levels. No debate.

    “We are told we must get the consumer consuming again rather than saving. No debate.

    “We are told that we must agree and complete the Doha round of global free trade liberalization. No debate.

    “To be robbed is one thing: to be condescended to by the people who robbed you is another altogether.

    “That is why many people like me are angry. We are angry because the financial elite are shoving their ideology down our throats. We are angry because we might have wanted to have a say. We are angry because we had different ideas that were never even considered…”

    “Here we are at the point in history when many of us are looking at the imminent threats of climate change and oil scarcity, clearly seeing the dangers of unbridled growth, and yet at this point democratic choice has been kettled. No debate.

    “And that is why this crisis is no longer just about lack of confidence in the markets: it is now about the legitimacy of our governments. The entire political class has been captured by the same ideology. They all, to one extent or another, believe ‘the market’ is going to save us. No other solutions have even been allowed into the debate.

    http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/

  2. Simon

    A good post and I like the idea, but it is somewhat one-dimensional for my taste. When we normally think about addiction we do not normally think about it leading to power and control over others. I would agree that money is addictive, but it is also the route to power and control.

    To my mind, rather than thinking of ‘bankers’ as addicts, and therefore not working toward the social good, they may be better understood as sociopaths.

  3. InternationalMonetary

    “Because money is created as debt, its use to finance productive activity means that that activity, whatever it is, must then generate interest to be returned to money’s creators in addition to the money lent.”

    Money doesnt need to be created as debt. The central bank can create money and deal directly with the citizenry without requiring money to be repaid to the CB. Also it is very important that the private profit oriented banks not be allowed to create commercial bank money.

    Heres a more detailed explanation of how such a system can operate:
    internationalmonetary.wordpress.com

  4. craazyman

    I dunno about this. There’s some mighty queasy reasoning going in in there!

    If it’s really an addiction there needs to be an observable state of normal consciousness that exists as a refuge from the addiction and indication of a higher order of being. If one looks at societies throughout history, even those who don’t use money, it is difficult to see evidence of this– except in the form of individual and small group subcultures. The addiction changes form, but not substance.

    The other clue is the existence of unproductive classes that derive livelihood merely from possessing something. These exist in most societies and are usually associated with religious functions, and their possessions tend to have associations with symbolism and sacredness. The metaphorical connection between the manipulation of money and life force is obvious.

    -Profeser A. V. Airy,
    Director, GED and Chairman of the Board
    Institute for Nonsensically Elucicdatory Transcendentalism

  5. Goin' South

    One place the addiction analogy fails is in the scope of our delusion. For families struggling with addiction, there are neighbors and relatives who are not trapped in an addictive web. These healthy people can serve as evidence that life can be lived without alcohol or oxy or placing a bet.

    Sandquist goes to Graeber’s Debt, which in turn goes mostly to ancient or anachronistic cultures isolated from the rest of the globe. In the “developed” world, we all caught up in this “addiction.” To propose that there is another way to live is to be met with incredulous stares or derisive laughter.

    Humanity needs some positive examples, and those will have to be created by communities of people willing to shed the money illusion and live in a way that rebuilds human trust, compassion and true liberty. The clues about how to do it can be found in those cultures not yet debased by money/debt, but to start living that way will be akin to diving off a cliff not knowing what lies at the bottom.

    1. Cheyenne

      Tend to agree re analogy. While there’s lots of overlap between the behavior patterns of banksters/money and alcohoics/booze, among them: increasing usage and loss of control, severe anxiety attacks and petulance when supply is threatened, absurd denial of cause and effect, playing the victim, etc.

      For me, though, there are two traits of all hardcore alcoholics that I’ve yet to see in even a single bankster: obssessive efforts over time to control use, and genuine remorse over binging. Imagine Jamie Dimon telling his wife over dinner that he regrets the size of his bank account and promising to cut back his bonus. Hard to buy.

      Imo, banksters are closer to psycopaths than to addicts.

      Still, it’s good to see someone publicly wrestle with the question, what is WRONG with these banksters?

      1. Ray Phenicie

        Also agree here; additionally, I dislike the use of the word addiction for so many of our societal and personal ills or situations that are viewed to be a problem: to wit: ‘I’m a choclaholic.’ Cute, but if the chocolate were cut off honey, you would probably not need to be rushed to ER for dehydration and dementia. Dependency is a better word and I am attempting more than mere semantic maneuvers here. When describing social situations we need to be as accurate as possible. The set backs for those in the financial sector who may be putatively viewed as addicts were their ‘fix’ to the supposed substance (money and wealth) cut off would most likely not be life threatening. At least not any more than if any other person in another field (say scientific research or medicine) were to suddenly find themselves without a career choice say because of professional or academic sanctions or having their professional license lifted by the state. Such a scenario could be deeply disturbing and even lead to depression but that is far different than the harsh, life threatening or indeed deadly results of a smack user suddenly unable to ever get another fix without recourse to hospital or rehab treatment.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        The addiction metaphor is too exculpatory. “It’s not really their fault, it’s a disease, they can’t help themselves. They need empathy and help, not judgment and condemnation.”

        Rapists, pedophiles, or serial killers would be more fitting. Rehab won’t work; only prison for the criminally insane can protect society from their incurable predations. And those few eligible for parole must then be registered as “financial predators”, with mandatory notification of communities wherein they are permitted to reside.

      3. Goin' South

        I don’t believe that author WAS only talking about banksters. He is also writing about the rest of us.

        We live in a culture dominated by materialism, profiteering and a survival-of-the-fittest mentality. The likes of Dimon and Blankfein do indeed embody the societal values as Obama’s “savvy businessmen.” We all take advantage of each other in this society. As Khrushchev said to Nixon, “All shopkeepers are thieves.” Dimon and Blankfein just take it to what is the current nth degree.

        I believe the near future will find us living in a bifurcated society. One group, largely because we’re forced to, will have to rely more and more on mutual aid in order to survive. We may discover the benefits of living in a community less addicted to profit. For those still in the “mainstream,” things will continue to get more and more lawless, immoral and wildly unstable.

        1. Ormond Otvos

          Those exemplary cooperative money-free communities will be pillage by the rich. Count on it. You are NOT allowed to exile yourself from the rich. They need your blooooood.
          Vampires, transformed from humans by culture.

  6. A Lincoln

    I don’t like unnecessary analogy, and the addiction analogy is more problematic than most, as addiction itself is something of an analogy or metaphor, as in the condition is “like a disease” (although it is classified as a “disease” by the AMA – they can call anything they want a “disease”). It surely is “something,” and surely is not merely something like a “failure of will,” or “dependency,” but the science of it is still pretty sketchy as the problem itself is so complex. The use I really dislike is “addicition to oil.” Yes, our economy is inextricably linked to the use of huge amounts of energy, the discovery, control, delivery and use of which has all sorts of hidden political aspects that only Tom Friedman understands. But, like over-eating, it is something we can change, re-orient and improve our habits, while never escaping the basic need that goes along with the disorder.

    My my objection to the unnecessary use of analogy is that it is all to often merely the use of something we don’t understand, to help us understand something else we don’t understand.

  7. Dave of Maryland

    Addiction/compulsion/psychotic disorder is a useful framework. After all, what, exactly, is it the super-rich are after?

    There is such a thing as gold fever. I was once in a small jewelry factory on 47th street in NYC when a rabbi entered and produced a glass cylinder half full of 24k gold pellets. (A common occurrence on that street.) I had never before seen pure gold. I had gold fever in an instant. Unfortunately for me, I had only a temp job.

    So there is gold and silver and diamonds and emeralds and rubies. But not enough to go round. The supply of gold is finite. Only a tiny handful of the super rich are gold bugs anyway.

    The rest of them, it seems to me, are number addicts. They want the biggest numbers. The most zeros. Since money is no longer based on specie, since gold coins are no longer circulated openly, money-as-number is a pure abstraction.

    So why not give these people the super-big numbers they crave? Unlike gold, numbers are infinite. “Google” is in fact the name of a very large number. Give the Dick Fulds of the world googles and googles of googles. Give him light-years of numbers. Make him happy.

    But please. Give some numbers to the rest of us. From where I sit, the US economy is not recovering, but crashing even further down. At some point the transportation network will collapse and at that moment, the cities will starve. Unlike the medieval period, unlike the 30′s when food production was still local, food production today is national and international. Keep on with the rentier economy, keep building the banks, keep foolishly pulling money out of society, and before you know it, you will have mass starvation. Foodstuffs at the local mega-mart are in fact becoming dicey, but you have to look closely to see it.

    The Soviet Union, a country with a nationally-based food production system, faced disaster repeatedly during its existence (poor harvests in the Ukraine, Moscow starves), but the Soviets, unlike the US, were a command economy. We are not. We are winner take all.

    1. chitown2020

      I would rather see all of them go to prison than pacify us to please them. Esp. After hearing Lehmans top dogs…and I mean that literally, got 700 trillion in comps before they fake collapsed. They are greedy hogs and they will never stop robbing us. ABOLISH THE FED…ISSUE OUR OWN CURRENCY…U.S. BANK NOTES….BACKED BY OUR OWN NATURAL RESOURCE REVENUES….

  8. Dan Kervick

    This is a very thought-provoking piece, and I strongly support the Occupy movement’s goal of looking for alternative models of banking. However, I have a few issues with some of the theoretical analyses of the institutions that need to be reformed or abolished.

    First, there is no essential connection between debt and interest. Nor, do I think, is there an essential connection between debt and money. To understand the nature of our existing institutions it is best to keep these three concepts separate.

    Debts are created by contracts for exchange. Whenever two parties make a binding agreement to exchange goods or services, and whenever one party to the exchange delivers their part of the exchange before the other party delivers on their part, then after the first part of the exchange has occurred the latter party has a debt to former party.

    This might involve exchange in kind for the same good, or it might not. If it does involve exchange in kind, the thing exchanged might be money, or it might not be.

    Nor does debt essentially involve interest. If you loan me $100, and I agree to pay you back next month – just $100, no more and no less – then the loan is not accompanied by interest. And yet I still have a debt to you once you have loaned me the $100.

    The primary problem with contemporary finance isn’t addiction, which is a psychological phenomenon grounded in the weakness of human nature. The key problem is exploitation, which is a political and economic phenomenon grounded in unequal economic power – the greater the imbalance of wealth and need among the participants to the exchange, the greater the amount the less needy party can extract from the more needy party. The other problems are deceit and thievery, which often go together in the financial world, and are not fundamentally metal health problems, but are – for lack of a better word – sins.

    Can people become addicted to gambling with their own money or with other people’s money? Yes. Can they become addicted to the lure of financial power and domination, and to crawling around in the tangled webs of deceit, exploitation and thievery by which this power is usually entangled? Certainly. But we shouldn’t focus too much on the psychological ailment of addiction and lose sight of the injustice and criminality that lie beneath it and apart from it. Some financial exploiters might be financial addicts as well. But some are not – they are just sleazy crooks.

    1. Ray Phenicie

      I am glad you pointed out that a monetized society and destructive personal indebtedness do not necessarily have to be part of a regulated exchange system. When the regulatory system failed (Congress) in controlling the fiscal policy such that 30-40% of the society was forced into poverty, low paying jobs and poor job skills (paying for more or any college classes or trade school training is not possible if the utility bill has to go unpaid to pay for the training)-when this situation became the norm (and now 50-60% find themselves there)-then destructive, oppressive indebtedness became a way of life in an attempt to survive. This laid the ground work for today’s financial system of vampire banks sucking the life blood from the majority of America’s population. Let us not forget retired and the unemployed who may also be dragged or bamboozled into indebtedness.
      The Vampires of the Financial system love this situation for at least one reason that I can see-forcing a person and the family into a lower credit status works to create a group of near untouchables who can be leveraged into doing more and more work for what becomes a lesser share of the nations’ wealth. Once the yoke of debt is laid upon the shoulders of more people there are fewer who will have time to plan ways to devise a meaningful resistance to the Vampire Empire.

  9. bold'un

    This smells a little of ‘prohibition’, which does not seem to work / be working with alcohol and drugs.

    Addiction happens despite the fact that most of us can use alcohol without getting hooked.

    There is a paradox in usury: in theory any sum, however small, growing at compound interest over time will inherit the whole world. However it never happens – something always intervenes to frustrate the accumulator.

    1. Popov Police State

      Phew! folks who stopped by NC were about to start tee-totaling and forgo their purchases of big bold South American Cab for later today. Cholesteral, cardio pulmonary benefits aside – Guilt, paranoia or prurience are tightly interwoven into the absolutely destructive drug war that feeds Banksters, prison corporations and has destroyed more lives than the original problems ever could.
      Special thanks must also go to Eric Holder for preserving the status quo (of criminalizing addiction) by being even more militant towards a less harmful substance, with the backing of big liquor, big law enforemcement and a total disregard for what the citizens of our country actually want.

  10. David

    replying with a song: Michel Montecrossa’s ‘Talking Banking Solution’ (The Evolver Song) – stimulated by World Economic Forum, Occupy & the People http://vimeo.com/35772461 Michel Montecrossa says:
    “Talking Banking Solution (The Evolver Song) is singing about capitalism that has to change and is singing that true banking is no myth and is singing that the solution is Real Value Banking which is not destroying business and nations through rising interest rates in times of crises.
    This song is linked to what I told the Greek magazine ITHAQUE.GR during an interview: We all need a fundamental change of the world’s financial system, including full debt relief for all EU countries, controlled change from speculator banking to Real Value Banking, a stabilizing Euro reform that makes the Euro the currency of the United States of Europe and all that followed by a fresh, unburdened start of the working hand free for future building.
    There is a Big Consciousness working behind the tough appearances for the True, the Right and the Vast. It is also working in us. Let’s be open to it with hope and courage and a better future will come.”

  11. indio007

    Comparing the banking system to addiction is a cop out.
    What a bunch of pop psychology nonsense.
    These people are predators.
    Remember the audio tapes during California’s energy crisis?
    http://www.democracynow.org/2006/5/26/enron_played_central_role_in_california
    The proletariat rationalize their oppression but that doesn’t make their logic rational.

    Why not just say they are simply like animals and they an’t help it? It’ simply their nature.

    “Why’d you bite me after I helped you across the river?”
    “Because I’m a snake.”

    No , I’m not buying it.
    If they did not know consciously what they were doing is wrong , immoral and illegal they wouldn’t spend infinite amounts getting the laws changed so that they are invisible to it’s reach.

    1. chitown2020

      To be addicted to the World Bank and Wall Street is the same as being addicted to credit cards and gambling. You cant win. Its a rigged game.

  12. jiminy

    Honestly, calling these criminals mere addicts is too kind. They’re sociopaths. Dangerous sociopaths. In any case, a junky who breaks into your house, steals your stuff and burns it down, needs to be restrained by the rule of law. Restitution wouldn’t hurt. Same here.

  13. Schofield

    The name for the addiction is called “Money Clipping.” Here is a quote from Dirk Bezemer’s truly excellent Berlin INET Conference paper “Finance and Growth: When Credit Helps, and When it Hinders” that indirectly helps explain the term:-

    “While money is a category of credit linked to transactions in goods and services, there are other categories also. Once debt tokens are ‘monetized,’ that is, once they circulate without direct link to a specific transaction between two parties it is possible to create debt tokens without the accompanying transactions in goods and services. Since the growth of such liabilities is functionally separate from transactions of goods and services in the real economy, this debt may take on its own dynamic, growing out of proportion with the economy’s ability to service debt.”

    In plain terms the creation of money process can be used by the banks to blow inflationary bubbles that significantly increase the costs of the real economy. Money clipping potentially has the same inflative effect it reduces the value of coins. Here is the Wikipedia weblink on coin debasement and to the one for Dirk Bezemer’s paper:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coin_clipping

    http://ineteconomics.org/sites/inet.civicactions.net/files/bezemer-dirk-berlin-paper.pdf

    Why are some human beings addicted to “Money Clipping”? I think we have to accept they find it hard to balance ego-centric and moral-centric behaviour and a shrivelled or under-developed frontal cortex that in normal form facilitates empathy/sympathy makes matters worse. All the more reason for society to put in place checks and balances that guard against these junkies or free-riders.

  14. Schofield

    Talking of addiction. The psychology and psychiatric professions have made a lot of money over the years helping individuals escape the over-demanding clutches of their egos.

  15. F. Beard

    He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. Ecclesiastes 5:10

  16. Michael Fiorillo

    While I agree that the addiction metaphor is shallow and incomplete – my personal lens is to see the falling rate of profit in non-financial production as a petri dish for sociopathic behavior – this piece does refer to something extremely important: the privatizing and monetization of the Commons and public sphere. This is occurring everywhere: in the prisons, the public schools, infrastructure, etc. It is emblematic of late-stage neoliberalism, or maybe just the form of vicious-son-of-a-bitch Capitalism we’ve developed.

    It now goes beyond the material and into that strange place where the personal and digital meet. Marketing platforms such as Facebook, through the use of data mining, have now opened up to advertising six degrees of personal information and networks, effectively monetizing the ever-growing digital expression of people’s lives. Not only is our labor alienated from us for capital accumulation, so is our digital identity.

    Perhaps one place where the addiction metaphor is apt, is in the connection between financialization and economc models of unlimited growth. Just as you can’t be too rich or too thin (or have enough cocaine), all of this looting is taking place in service of an economic model that is based on mainlining GDP growth by any means necessary. Unless radically transformed,it is physically and mathematically bound to collapse.

  17. craazyman

    My theory is that it’s not a clinical addiction as much it is a parasitic infection.

    The brains of the banksters and banksterettes (and let’s not fool ourselves, there are female banksters out there but they keep their heads down) have been infested by “green slime” — a powerful parasitic substance that produces symptoms in infected individuals similar to those through which addictions present themselves.

    In my lab work , I’ve looked at green slime under a phototropic electron microscope and it looks very similar to nicotene, which explains its addicitve properties, and it covers the entire brain material in an oozy surfactant that prohibits neuronic signals from transitting the occipital/parietal juncture — this is what appears to me to be it’s primary method of attack and suppression of the natural defenses that brains possess, such as thinking.

    what is less clear is why some brains are powerfully resistant to green slime while others are as helpless as a redneck with an unused credit line standing in front of a 56 inch flat screen TV at Wal-Mart right before NASCAR season. I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody does.

  18. Goin' South

    I think most of the comments in this thread have missed the author’s point, which demonstrates how well his argument captures our situation:

    “They have become an addiction, and because they’re an addiction, all of us who are touched by them have developed a rich and pervasive denial of this fact, its history, and its consequences.”

    It’s not just the bankers who are addicted to this way of thinking about what is of value in our society, it’s all of us. And we’re in serious denial about how we all play a role in this. The bankers have their part as villains, but so do we as perennial victims.

    As long as we accept our commoditized culture where, as Sandquist notes, a money value must be put on everything to feed the unquenchable need for profits and growth, then we’re just complaining about the inevitable consequences of a world where, as Graeber puts it, life is a business deal.

  19. Schofield

    Hmmmm…. so now we have “G – Spots” in the brain otherwise known as Green Slime Infestations. The cure may well be the forcible injection of Banksters with stem cell material to re-grow normal brain tissue or indeed enhance it where it was in short supply. There are, however, in certain quarters double ethical objections to such procedures although not as one would imagine from the Banksters who’ve never experienced ethical considerations. Hmmmm….what price morality?

  20. Schofield

    The main point about money for most people is that it buys insurance – survival insurance ( This is the real meaning of hitting your brain’s G-Spot! ). The point about ego-centric behavior is that it’s a very strong drive to ensure our survival and the replication of our genes. The point about moral-centric behavior is that is the weaker and harder to reinforce drive/strategy of cooperation for survival.

    Always you will get individuals who’s empathy/sympathy function is low disposing them to adopt the stronger ego-centric strategy. In between, of course, is nepotism but the societies with the better well-being seem to be the ones that find the right methods for achieving balance between ego and moral centric behavior. This links to the virtue practicing ideas of Aristotle and Alasdair MacIntyre.

  21. craazyman

    that photo looks a bit underexposed and it’s also clear they put a vignette around it. I’d let the highlight blow out on the metal and pull the lights up a bit to give it more chiarascuro. & I see it was shot with a Fuji Finepix x100, which is a very very nice camera. But it’s clear it’s not film. It looks very digital. I hope those cute girls don’t somehow end up as bankster wives in a few years. It could happen when the money gets tight and the stress builds and they realize things aren’t what they thought they were back when they were carrying signs. Then you just do what you have to do, most people do, and you close your eyes and wonder. Unless you’re a martyr or a saint, which most people aren’t. That’s the addiction — haha — the moment you choose safety over what’s behind Door Number 2. Even Jesus said sell all you have and follow me. But almost nobody does because it’s probably not a good plan if you can’t walk on water and turn it into wine, and because you’d probably get lost. So you cozy up to a bankster and think “I’ll follow Jesus in my BMW.”

    1. JurisV

      The tag-team of Schofield and Prof Craazyman have nailed it! The “addiction”, “Sociopathic,” “analogy,” or “metaphor” debate/conundrum has been reduced to wispy tendrils of smoke.

      I bow to your genius!

      However, I do have to mention that somewhere around 95% of my friends in the 99% community respond much more favorably to the “addiction” metaphor/analogy in trying to figure out the amorphous “financial crisis” than by using the “sociopath” description. Addiction is an ill that almost everyone understands to some degree. “Sociopath” on the other hand conjures up visions of slashers and chainsaw murders. Use of the term “addiction” is analogous to a “gateway drug” to real communication. To those of us in class below the 1% intellectual class of Naked Capitalism really freak out when terms like psycopath or sociopath are trundled out on the stage. Maybe, just maybe, Morgan Sandquist and OWS have a better way to communicate to the 99% masses — and to help us understand the $$*tStorm that has hit us in terms that we can digest.

      1. craazyman

        I’m nothing but a blockhead, but I do have to say I love OWS and support it 100%. So whatever yacking I do here, Morgan Sandquist is doing 100 times more worthwhile stuff as a member of the OWS banking group and for that I’m profoundly grateful. As I am for anyone who tries to follow the Gnostic Jesus, even if it’s in a BMW! :)

        1. F. Beard

          As I am for anyone who tries to follow the Gnostic Jesus, craazyman

          Dang! You really are crazy!

        2. JurisV

          As a Zen student who read the New Testament in Junior High, I realized very early that “following Jesus” was nigh unto impossible for us mere mortals. Later in life and after discussions with many Christian fundies, 4 out of 5 agreed with me that following Jesus’ teachings was, indeed, nigh unto impossible. However, 5 out 5 agreed that even trying to follow Jesus in a BMW, Acura (my preference0, Mercedes, or even a Lamborghini was a lot of fun — even if you accepted the decadence of it. The Lesson: Repent! Accept your flawed nature, but drive carefully!

    2. F. Beard

      Even Jesus said sell all you have and follow me. craazyman

      To a rich guy who was hung up on his possessions!

      People really should read a great deal of the Bible before they get hung up on a verse or two out of context.

  22. chitown2020

    Whether we believe in Jesus was real or not, there are valuable lessons in his life story. Jesus was a threat to the money changers of his day. I am a true believer and I believe that God works in mysterious ways.. I believe that even today, the truth being spoken about the money changers makes those who speak it dangerous to them. That is why they are destroying our rights and robbing us blind Those who are behind the banking establishment and their financiers are the only real threat to our freedom and independence.

  23. Fiver

    Would just note that, as a rule, citing 2 books is not typically recognized as clinching an argument, and especially if one of those books is Graebner’s when discussing 21st century globalized, corporate capitalism.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m a democratic, eco-socialist who could not possibly detest our current, craven, ecocidal elites, or the grotesquely imbalanced and lethal global system they’ve created more. But to put how we got here and why down to “addiction” in anything other than loosely metaphorical terms would mean we not only ignore long-known, fundamental, ugly truths re capitalism as a system vs alternatives, but are variously “addicted” to a functioning society, or to culture, or to survival, or to language, or to stability, (or oil, or violence, or greed). In other words, by this reckoning, we are “addicted” to whatever it is we’re doing as individuals or society.

    So used, its explanatory power slips away. But it also allows all those infected by the “disease” off the moral responsibility hook, ie., whereas cessation of heroin use has profound, horrific, physical (and “mental”) effects the AVOIDANCE of which is the driver for continued use, it simply isn’t true that all well-off people, all wealthy people, or even all banksters of the Blankfein/Dimon/Paulson variety would go into a tailspin of unimaginable pain and anguish if their wealth accumulation was, say, capped, or reduced by some significant % in taxes. Where you WOULD get some serious blowback is if you attempted to curb their power, their status, their position, etc. – I can well imagine that telling Dimon he could keep all his money, but was exiled from any position of authority/status of any kind, might just kill him – or a good many of the rest of us in our own tiny realms. But surely that’s a destruction of identity, not withdrawal?

    If you say, “OK, let’s just talk about addiction to power/status” it becomes evident that “addiction” is very widespread – virtually universal in anything other than small, sharing-dependent, pre-industrial, social groups; that there is an apparently a very wide range even within a “high addiction” society (ours) with respect to the “intensity” of the “disease”; that this “addiction” is something we encourage and teach from the earliest years (who do we love? Me, and Winners, that’s who); that “addiction” to power is in this context, as a key to understanding, just a substitute for prior assessments based on “character” – as in Cassius has a lean and hungry look, so I will give him a very wide berth.

    Addicts are tragic figures. Players in the US-based, globalized financial/corporatist, Market State system and the governments/regulators/institutions they’ve absorbed are not. They are at best sociopaths, some certainly shading into the category of psychopath (Petraeus the Christian Crusader Killing Machine, for instance). If anything qualifies as evil, these people do.

    And all those who are in positions of authority of any kind, who by NOT challenging the gross excesses of the powerful do thereby support them and partake of that evil, share fully in the responsibility for it. Addicts, or simply members of a despicable ruling class, of a thoroughly corrupted set of elites? Addicts, all those who see but do not act, or cowards? Or just permanently incapacitated by our now total dependence on the systems we so thoughtlessly constructed?

    Are we all addicted to our I-devices and all the rest, or just lacking the moral character that would recognize the rather obvious, and evil, fact that most of us couldn’t possibly afford those goodies but for the dirt-cheap labour of tens, no, hundreds of millions of poor people? When did developing a moral character stop paying dividends?

    Again, I am entirely sympathetic with the overall spirit of this piece, particularly with respect to the phenomenon of monetization of everything, including “time” itself in the form of whatever sliver of “experience” can be isolated and sold/purchased. But “addiction” lets us all off the very hook of accountability we absolutely must be hung from – the “addicts” are NOT going to seek “abuse of power counseling” at the democratic behest of us non-”addicts”. It is existential for them, and they are not going to give it up – I’m afraid the non-”addicts” at some point either take it, or lose what’s left of their humanity.

    1. Ray Phenicie

      REsistance is FUtile. UNtil we build OURseleves a new HOme and MOve in theRE, we can EXpect to ALways be TAlking about this here PHEnomena.

  24. briansays

    or maybe just your everday ordinary sociopath

    From Wikipedia:

    Common characteristics of those with psychopathy are:

    Grandiose sense of self-worth
    Superficial charm
    Criminal versatility
    Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others
    Impulse control problems
    Irresponsibility
    Inability to tolerate boredom
    Pathological narcissism
    Pathological lying
    Shallow affect
    Deceitfulness/manipulativeness
    Aggressive or violent tendencies, repeated physical fights or assaults on others
    Lack of empathy
    Lack of remorse, indifferent to or rationalizes having hurt or mistreated others
    A sense of extreme entitlement
    Lack of or diminished levels of anxiety/nervousness and other emotions
    Promiscuous sexual behavior, sexually deviant lifestyle
    Poor judgment, failure to learn from experience
    Lack of personal insight
    Failure to follow any life plan
    Abuse of drugs including alcohol
    Inability to distinguish right from wrong

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