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Naked Capitalism Fundraiser: Another World Is Possible

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This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 355 donors have already invested in our efforts to shed light on the dark and seamy corners of finance. Join us and participate via our Tip Jar or read about why we’re doing this fundraiser and other ways to donate, such as by check, on our kickoff post or one discussing our current target.

By Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can follow him at https://twitter.com/matthewstoller and he can be reached at stoller at gmail.com.

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then they can actually just keep cycling through those, turns out. – James Adomian

This is a somewhat unusual post, because I’m going to explain why I think you should put a few dollars towards this site and Yves Smith. I’m plunking down $100 myself because what this site, its readers, and this community mean to me and to the possibility of social change in this country. You can give here, or you can read on.

I’ve been in politics for ten years. What got me into the fray in the first place was the war in Iraq. In 2002, I was not an opponent of the authorization to use force, I in fact supported it for the worst possible reason. I thought that Democrats should vote for authorization because it would “take the issue off the table” for the 2002 elections, and give Democrats a better chance of winning back Congress. On the policy merits, I didn’t trust Bush, but there was no question Saddam had WMDs. Surely the New York Times, the Harvard Institute of Politics, Thomas Friedman, John Kerry, Colin Powell, and the imprimatur of many of the institutions I had trusted in my life, all of whom uniformly supported this vote, couldn’t be openly dishonest. That would be too difficult to even consider.

Oops.

My time working in politics started from that ghastly error. I first worked in elections and then in policy, and my time has largely been about understanding the modern architecture of discourse and power. What I slowly realized, over course of several years, is how America’s institutional fabric is largely set up to tell myths and lies to the people making policy, so that they make policy congruent with the interests of financial elites. Most of this is done by recruiting gullible elitists to serve as bureaucrats, and then feeding them a steady diet of news stories and social and financial rewards reinforcing their preconceived ideas about themselves. You know the talking points – cutting Social Security and programs for the poor is brave, whereas standing up for the interests of the rich means having the courage to reach across the aisle. Energy independence, private enterprise, public-private partnerships, etc. When you hear these, thousands of times, over the course of years, it’s overwhelming.

And those that can’t be persuaded, are bribed. Those that can’t be bribed or persuaded, are given a whole series of treatments to neutralize them. The most important is actually that of isolation. It is extremely lonely to be a sole voice in the room, when the entire weight of opinion within your agency, bureau, company, legislature, etc. is against you. You feel crazy, like perhaps you can’t possible be correct. If you are young, you change your mind, and contour yourself to what your superiors think, much as I did when I thought that the authorization vote must be correct. If you are a careerist, you bide your time and your tongue. Without backup, there is little even the most dedicated person can do. Naked Capitalism is that backup. It’s the place where thousands of us come together, some experts in finance, some experts in politics, some just having problems with foreclosures. We talk, we dish, and we explore what is going on, and the right way to solve public policy problems.

When the bailouts came, I recognized the discourse immediately as identical to the foreign policy discussions prior to the Iraq war. I had experienced the doomsday prophecies already, the various establishment organs lying to push policy. But I didn’t understand the details, how to think about the banking system. Naked Capitalism helped provide both the quality content and the confidence of a group to that problem. It seems like a dark time now, because as much as we tried, we didn’t succeed. But, and here’s what we know for sure, there are more crises coming. And every time one hits, whether it’s Sandy or the financial crisis, more people become radicalized, more realize that we must change our policy models. The content and community produced here become more important.

In that way, Naked Capitalism, like Occupy Wall Street, is a threat to the establishment. I wrote of Occupy as a “Church of Dissent”, because it was a space, a place where people could come together to build a different narrative about our society. Right now, Occupy is embarrassing the government through its phenomenal work serving the victims of Sandy, while also showing that a different way of organizing our social resources is possible. And that too is what Naked Capitalism and this community really has done, for financially oriented elites. Yves has created, through tireless (and I do mean tireless) work, a credible place to discuss the shape of the world that is being created. It may seem like a financially oriented site, but finance is essentially an abstraction, a representation of how we use resources. Naked Capitalism, through the extremely high standards Yves has laid out in terms of the accuracy of the content, has helped us to puncture through this abstraction, to the consequences of the predatory financial framework in which we find ourselves.

This is a key step in building the new world we know is coming. It’s to get us, together, to talk to each other, learn from each other, and recognize that mobilizing our collective intellectual honesty is the only way we will get there. Naked Capitalism is a community. Yves is obsessed with listening to your comments, to your emails, to your thoughts and ideas. And she genuinely cares, to an extent I’ve never seen, about getting every single detail on the policy right. I pretty much know that if it’s on this site, it’s probably correct.

This is essential for taking on an elite gone mad. When every institutional power center is leaning on every policymaker to push more carbon into the atmosphere, to cut social programs for all of us, to ratchet up the war machine, to empower the TBTF banks, dissent becomes more and more difficult. But the irony is that it is times like these when the system is weak, when the lies become even more important. Naked Capitalism is the antidote. It isn’t the whole solution, obviously. But do not underestimate the importance of having a consistent top quality community discussing financial regulations, politics and economics with social justice as the goal. This stuff is actionable, it can and sometimes does turn into policy.

And I guarantee you, that putting a few bucks (or more than a few bucks if you can afford it) will come back manifold, in the form of a new world that is more humane, that is more just, and that we can be proud of.

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45 comments

  1. john bougearel

    “And she genuinely cares, to an extent I’ve never seen, about getting every single detail on the policy right.”

    Matt, you are right to notice that Yves ‘genuinely cares.’ But it goes much deeper than geting every single detail on policy right for Yves.

    I have felt that care in my bones for years. It’s the kind of protective care you tend to only feel from your mom or dad. So, that is how Yves has and continues to bless all of our lives (well beyond this blog community), in a very loving, particular manner.

    Hugs to you, Yves.

  2. Eric Patton

    Please no. I hate the “another world is possible” crap. Even the right wing believes another world is possible.

    Describe the world you want. What does it look like? What are its defining institutions? What are people’s daily work lives in it like? Does it have a class of people who own the means of production? Does it have a managerial class making the decisions while most people generally obey? How are worklife tasks parceled out? Is there one class of people doing all the hard work, while another class sits in offices and makes decisions?

    Only a liberal or a coordinator would go around saying crap like “another world is possible.”

    1. TK21

      “Describe the world you want.”

      Fair enough. But if you read this site frequently, I think you’ll get an idea what kind of world we want. It’s one where retired people are taken care of with Social Security, and everyone is covered by Medicare or something similar. It’s one where the environment is nurtured for long-term benefit rather than plundered for short-term gain by a few. And it’s a world where Tim Geithner is known as “Foamy”.

  3. seabos84

    I get paid once a month … so … in December I’ll kick in 25.

    I wish the communications / policy part of my union dues was donated through an online menu system, so I could send it here and 2 seattle education blogs – the money the Washington Education Association gets to defend education against the lies of bill gates & the waltons is pretty much completely wasted on DLC Third Way style sell out-ism, AKA “compromise”.

    rmm
    seattle.

  4. Aquifer

    Not being a sovereign government, sigh, i have to live on a budget, on a fixed income (and boy the fix is in …) So I find it easier to send a small amount every month, as sort of a “fixed expense” – mini money time, or MMT, for short. Luckily there are no neoliberals in my house, so I should be able to continue this, unless of course, the Grand Bargainers bargain it all away ….

  5. Quintus25

    Hi all,

    This post is a continuation from a discussion on the recent Peter Orszag post. Here is the link http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/peter-orszag-of-bank-welfare-queen-citigroup-is-selling-catfood-futures-hard.html#comments.

    My comments are directed to Lambert and Chris Rodgers but all are welcomed to participate. I believe my comment and questions matches the spirit of Matt’s entry:

    First, thank you all for responding to my questions. I am taken aback and humbled by the amount of thoughtful responses. I am a working class kid and never did I imagine the interest my comment would generate. I am truly honored. Lambert, this site has tremendously aided me in my growth and development. There are so many wise people to learn from.

    Chris Rodgers, your comment shook me to my core and I am deeply grateful for it. Like many in my generation, I was educated to venerate globalization, the free market and view the Soviet Union as complete and unmitigated disaster. Marx or Marxism was never discussed in the curriculum and socialism or even social democracy was viewed as impractical. The implosion of the housing market, October 2008, and the subsequent job crisis has radically changed my view on capitalism.

    I am not the only one in my generation who feels this way. Our future is bleak filled with low paying service jobs with no benefits, a degraded social safety net, increased income inequality police state USA and a looming environmental nightmare. There is quite a number of us seriously interested in alternatives to capitalism – look at the polling data. We want the dignity of work and a democratic government that responds to the need of the common person.

    The problem is my generation doesn’t know where to start. We lack the imagination of a world beyond capitalism and a truly democratic form of government so many retreat to video games, partying, shopping, fantasy football and reality TV. Those millennials who view themselves “progressive” believe non-violent civil disobedience as the only viable route for change. The idea of armed struggle against an oppressive and reactionary political system is NEVER mentioned or assessed. My own opinion is whether we like it or not, events may lead us to a dire situation where open revolt or armed struggle is the only appropriate course. This is why the question what is to be done is so important to me. There is class struggle and I am sick of being on the losing end of it. I am hoping to both evolve my mind and meet individuals who imagine a different and better world.

    I have two questions that I’m hoping to answer. If fascists use populist or revolutionary rhetoric to increase corporate dominance and implement reactionary social and economic policies, then is President Obama a fascist? Second, why was central planning such a failure? From my reading of history, there was a period between Khrushchev and Brezhnev, where real political and economic reform could have occurred in the Soviet Union. Leonid Kantorovich, the eminent economist and mathematician, advocated for optimal allocation of resources through central planning. I read somewhere that he believed the computing power needed to implement this was 20-30 year in future from the 1970s. My Galaxy Nexus is many times more powerful than the computers used in both the US and USSR in the 60s and 70s. Is there anyway to rehabilitate central planning? David Harvey has stated corporations with large supply chains (Walmart) use a type of central planning. Is this true? Personally, I am for worker owned enterprises but am intrigued by the idea of central planning.

    1. Aquifer

      Maybe a short answer is that it depends on who’s doing the planning and for whose benefit. We have “central planning” now – the 1% are doing it for their benefit ….

      Even if you want to “centrally plan” for the 99% – 99% of what, humans? If you don’t think about “stuff” in a planetary context, you may sort of forget about the centrality of “sustainability” which is something neither “capitalism” nor “socialism”, as economic theories, nor even “democracy” as political theory, seriously considers at all, IMO, let alone as a founding tenet. And then, of course, there is the issue that both C and S are conceived and function, ISTM, as materialist philosophies – that life is about increasing the size of the pie, the difference being how the pie is sliced up ….

      But that is just my take –

      So, what to take away – being an iconoclast and, I like to think, a pragmatist in the Jamesian sense, I would say hang all “ideologies”, figure out what is needed to produce and sustain welfare for all, then sample and chose whatever works in any particular instance ….

      1. Aquifer

        Upon reading this again – i realize this is academic heresy – shucks, whole dept’s would be decimated if everyone behaved in this way, except that perhaps they could be repurposed as practical “how to” manuals, instead of didactic “why we must” bibles.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Quintus25:

      Hastily, alas, I’ll say that I don’t know why “planned economies” fail. (Though if you think of a FIRE sector with money to borrow at zero percent and lend at X% as a plan, it seems to be working out pretty well for some.)

      Ad far as the question, “Is Obama a fascist?” my answer — surprisingly to some — will be No. I believe, and hope shortly to have the time to finally emit the long form posts that show this — that we are in a transition (a la Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles from the constitutional order known as “the nation state” to the constitutional order known as “the market state.” Since Fascism is a nation-state construct, Obama cannot be a fascist. QED.

      However, for such a resonant phrase, “market state” is surprisingly ill-defined in Bobbit’s book; I hope to remedy that (ha ha). But an example is mentioned here “I Feel Like They’re Trying to Kill Me!”, where a perfectly functional ride service for non-emergency care, coordinated by the state and run by volunteers, was replaced with a privatized service provider that profited by denying service, which of course they did. That is the transition from the nation state to the market state in miniature and it’s going on all over the country (see under charters, corruption, privatization (which turn out to be synonyms…)). Personally, I don’t think the market state as our elite conceives of it is sustainable even in the short term, even though people are very adaptable. It’s also evil.

      * * *

      I wanted to write a whole lot more about youth and (relative) age. One thing about being older is that you remember how things used to be: Youth today, for example, undergoes a level of demands for security theatre and compliance that I find literally unbelievable. I mean, I used to ride my bike to school, alone, and after school go over my friend’s houses to play — unsupervised and without checking in!!!! (Now there’s a name for that: “Free range kids.” It used to be normal.)

      It would be nice if the elders could hold teach-ins. But I also think, as with Occupy, it’s for youth to listen but lead, and elders to share but serve…

      NOTE One point of real inter-generational difference I’ve noticed in college classes is that the young seem rather unwilling to criticize others’ ideas and work; they seem to regard that as impolite or as some sort of assault or boundary violation. Very very unfortunately, that makes critical thinking hard to do in collaboration! One thing at least some in my generation understand is that “your argument is not you” (well, up to a point, like holocaust denial, say). So it’s OK to be wrong as long as one learns. It’s really the only way to display adaptability (i.e. survive) given the discourse.

      1. Aquifer

        “I’ve noticed in college classes is that the young seem rather unwilling to criticize others’ ideas and work;”

        LOL, not to worry – they wait to do that outside of class ….

        The young folks i have come across seem to have NO problem with mocking us “old folks” just as we did our elders –

        I do agree that our (old fogies) institutional memory is valuable – but i think even more valuable than that is our role in explaining why it is GOOD to preserve some of that “old” way of thinking – all “progress” is not actually valuable or even useful ….

      2. Aquifer

        Methinks we all, or most, anyway wind up worshiping, one way or another, something “bigger than ourselves” and these days the prevailing theology is that of the market ….

        Somebody, probably more than one, wrote that we could figure out the prevailing ideology by checking out our architecture – who had the biggest buildings – for a long time it was the Church, then the State, and now the Market (malls) – but methinks that ideology might be the shortest lived (one can only hope) so maybe you could write about it’s rise – and fall ….

        So the question is – can we finally go back to “worshiping” in the woods where the biggest “structures” are not man made – the trees and the mts?

    3. Brooklin Bridge

      Yes, Obama’s a fascist (at least until Lambert clarifies his Market State vs. Nation State comments). Look at the mandate. That is classic fascism; creating a destructive coercive relationship between the citizens and monolithic private for profit enterprise where the government acts as the “enforcer”.

      Another question (they arise irrespective of age I can assure you); is Obama aware that he is a fascist? Is he, or particularly the lower downs in his administration, aware of just how heinous the cuts to the social safety net would be? (for one example). I would argue that he has all the training as well as the mental capacity for such awareness. He is supposed to be, after all, a constitutional scholar who had the mental ability to graduate from one of the most reputed schools in the country. He knows that illegal foreclosures are illegal. He knows they ruin not a few, but thousands upon thousand of lives. He has the ability to know that what he does (and studiously doesn’t do) is corrupt by any definition of a “representative government”, but that also, it is causing lethal harm to huge numbers of people. And he seems to sleep just fine.

      Note that like Bush and his revenge war, if Obama were facing a court of law the way we would, that is without a free-pass-for-any-behavior due to elite privilege, for his judicial process free assassinations of non combatant humans (never mind US citizens), for instance, any “cool-aid” hypnosis or other excuses would elicit guffaws or a stern rebuke by any competent judge.

      Matt makes some very interesting comments on awareness in his post above, and for normal folks, I think that is a pretty good assesment of where a lot of us were at the time. But I don’t think Obama would be able to use any of these excuses. By the time one get’s to run for President, they have to be aware, more or less, of what they are doing, who they are selling out, and what is going on around them. One might argue that jock-strap-junior was used and manipulated the way a chimpanzee might be (I would argue Bush was perfectly aware), but certainly not Obama. I think Obama’s awareness goes without saying.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Even Obama’s own speeches show awareness of these issues by his heavy reliance on the liberal catch phrases to mask his ruthless intent, such as the unfairness of making students and seniors pay while the rich pay not even a dime. But it is all sham as his intention is clearly to make the rich pay exactly a dime and the poor pay through the nose.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      Open rebellion seems unwise in this age. In the 1930′s they had thugs and bully cops and the natiional guard. Nowdays our government has trained folks like the ex-soldiers who work for Blackwater. I doubt whether the people with great wealth, power, and a complete lack of moral sense would have any qualms about employing deadly force against open rebellion. I believe they will use and have used force, even deadly force against open non-violent protest.

      As for your question whether Obama is a fascist — why does it matter what label you give him? Fascist has too many meanings. I don’t like what he’s done, and I’m opposed to what he seems intent on doing. [And yes, I did vote 'for' him against Romney. Not a lot of difference between them, but it was my impression that Romney would tear things down a lot more quickly. We need all the time we can buy.]

      What about central planning being a failure? Galbraith pointed out that in time of war our government uses centralized planning for production. I hope that we might have more choices than a choice between centralized planning by the ever growing monopolies and oligopolies we enjoy and the choice of central planning by some Politburo. It would be nice to find a place for individual freedom and enterprise.

      Aside from this reply — I agree with all the enthusiasm expressed regarding nakedcapitalism. I’ve learned and continue to learn a great deal from reading the posts and comments here. I’ve contributed but after reading Matt Stoller’s appeal I’m inclined to contribute more. I remember the appeals that public radio and public tv make, asking how much would you miss them if they weren’t there on the dial. I would miss nakedcapitalism far far more.

      1. Qunitus25

        Jim, I think you may have misunderstood my questions. I’m not whimsically labeling the President a fascist. I’m asking if Obama’s rhetoric coupled with his economic policies is analogous to fascism? It’s not an easy answer and I am looking forward to Lambert’s analysis on this matter.

        Additionally, in no way am I advocating a return for the Politboro. I explicitly stated my support for worker owned enterprises or to put simply democratic control in the work space. One of the first acts of the CCCP was to demolish the soviets that flourish before and after 1917. If you read my first post, then you would know that I’m interested in alternatives to capitalism. Central planning was tried and deemed a failure. With the computing power at our disposal, however, can it be successful without needing Politburo appointed managers?

        I am for freedom and individual liberty too just like Karl Marx. He was very much influenced by the French Revolution and the mantra of Liberte, Egalitie and Fraternitie. I believe the global capitalist system is hinderance to these ideals and unfortunately, the Soviet Union had its problems regarding freedom and liberty. I am not a blind ideologue but to paraphrase Bill HIcks, I’m not interested in the global capitalist gangbang either.

  6. Jim Haygood

    ‘If you are a careerist [in DC], you bide your time and your tongue. Without backup, there is little even the most dedicated person can do.’

    The scary thing is that this statement applies even to most Members of Congress. Tens (probably hundreds) of billions are spent in secret black budgets, with only a handful of Members (majority and minority leaders, intel committee chairs) even told about it.

    Any resemblance of this macabre scene to constitutional government is entirely coincidental.

    As ol’ Garet Garrett used to say, ‘The Revolution was …’. It’s least eleven years back in the rearview mirror now, and martial law [the Patriot Act] has been made permanent. Forward to the Brave New World!

  7. Aquifer

    Matt,

    Sounds like you have come a long way in a short time – who knows where you will be in a few years – running for Pres. on a Green Party line? :)

  8. don

    I simply can’t read thinking like this anymore. By the time I got to where the author wrote of his support for invading Iraq, I realized I was feeling much older than my 57 years (and many decades of social activism), so just went down to the comments section.

  9. digi_owl

    “What I slowly realized, over course of several years, is how America’s institutional fabric is largely set up to tell myths and lies to the people making policy, so that they make policy congruent with the interests of financial elites.”

    Where have i seen that before? Oh yea, Leo Strauss (thank you, Adam Curtis).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Strauss

    1. Aquifer

      There is nothing new under the sun – all possible thoughts have been thought, just by different people at different times in different languages – e.g. the language of the shaman has become the language of the physicist. ISTM our problem is not new “thinking” but better translation ….

  10. Susan the other

    I’m still waiting for the day people stop shopping. En masse and almost on cue like a flock of starlings. Did Marx ever consider that it was not a material dialectic but a moral one?

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      It would be interesting to plot out the two arcs, one where we stop buying altogether due to disgust, and the other, where we attempt to buy frantically due to starvation.

    1. tiger

      Lambert,

      As I said a few times before, we need new media to host the messages + discussions that nakedcapitalism hosts. A blog format is not good enough in my opinion. We need a comprehensive suite of media forms.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Could be. The long form is precious and truly irreplaceable, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be… Well, I can’t think of a really good metaphor, so I’ll say outbuildings round the temple.

        What did you have in mind, exactly, as a strategy?

  11. TK21

    Matt Stoller, if you happen to see this comment, thank you for your writing here. You’re the only person I’ve seen in my endless travels around the net who put together proof that inequality has grown worse under Obama than Bush, for instance, which is incredibly valuable insight. Keep up the good work!

    1. Lambert Strether

      Not only that, but “93 cents of every dollar” is easy to propagate.

      It is necessary to speak the truth.

      It is also necessary to speak the truth so that it can be reasily understood.

      That’s one of the things that great blogging is all about.

        1. Lambert Strether

          180 degrees wrong. Paraphrasing Pascal: I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one.”

          Yves compresses a treatise into a long form post.

          It takes even more effort to compress a long form post into an epigram or a talking point.

          UPDATE Adding… Maybe I missed the point, and the comment isn’t directed to writers but readers/listeners. I still think the comment is wrong. Normal people have, like, lives. They have hostages to fortune. It’s really not right to ask them to do work that we, as writers, should be doing. This is what dulce and utile is all about when the opportunity cost of leading a life is figured in….

  12. Bev

    Yves is brave, intelligent, tolerant and truthful. I am thankful. I pledge $100. to you to continue. I will send by check in tomorrow’s mail.

    And, for those who have any to spare, consider Palast also as he is living on credit card fumes, and his office is underwater from the hurricane.

    http://www.gregpalast.com/starting-today-no-charge-for-my-bestselling-book-no-joke/

    A personal note from Greg Palast

    Call me crazy. The Palast Investigative Fund is dead broke and our office in New York is under water. No kidding.

    But America is drowning and I can’t stand by and watch.

    While they are still counting votes on Florida and Arizona,, you can download a complete copy of my New York Times bestselling book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.

    Stone cold free.

    ……….

    Oh, what a whole to have such people in it.

    That makes me thankful.

    1. TK21

      That stinks. Palast is one of my favorite journalists. With all the books he’s written, I would have thought he was doing better. What a world.

  13. Patrick

    Thanks Matt, Yves and Lambert and the commentariat. My experience with NC has been instructive to say the least and look forward to more insight.

Comments are closed.