C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh: The Great Jobs Disaster

By C.P. Chandrasekhar, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics and Chairperson at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

In the desperate search for evidence that the global recession has bottomed out and the recovery has arrived, the story told by the long-term trend in unemployment levels and rates is being missed.

Early this year, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had noted that the global unemployment rate was close to 6 per cent, implying that 197 million people were unemployed, even ignoring the 39 million who had dropped out of the workforce, discouraged by persistent failure in job search.

But that aggregate figure concealed a picture that was far worse in the advanced economies where the crisis had originated and spread. There were at least 12 advanced economies where the unemployment rate was 8 per cent or more, and seven in which the rate was 10 per cent or more.

In fact the rate varied widely, peaking at 25 per cent or close to that in Spain and Greece. That is the level unemployment had touched in the US at the bottom of the Great Depression.

What is more, during the years in which the world had ostensibly put the crisis behind it, unemployment has risen in many.

There are three countries (Spain, Greece and Ireland) in which the unemployment rate has risen by 10 percentage points (pp) or more between 2007 and 2012, and another three (Cyprus, Portugal and Estonia) where the increase between those dates was between 5 and 10 pp (Chart 4).

Finally, in 14 out of the 35 advanced economies covered by the IMF’s World Economic Outlook dated April 2013, the unemployment rate in 2012 was at its highest since 2007. In terms of jobs, in many countries the crisis is intensifying, not retreating.

And, things only seem to be getting worse over time. According to the most recent figures, the unemployment rate has crossed 27 per cent in Spain, with more than 2,500 firms filing for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2013.

YOUTH BEING BATTERED

The problem is not just that the incidence of unemployment is uneven across the advanced countries. It is also that it is extremely uneven across age groups, or more importantly, generations.

The generation that has entered the labour force over the last five years is the hardest hit.

In a just-released report, the International Labour Organisation has once again underlined the fact that the youth of today are damaged in a way that has not happened for a long time in the history of capitalism.

At 12.6 per cent in 2013, the global youth unemployment rate, which is 1.1 percentage points above the pre-crisis level, is also just short of its post crisis peak of 12.7 per cent in 2009 .

Things don’t change for the young. As many as 73.4 million young people were unemployed across the world in 2013, or 3.5 million more than in 2007. Add on regional differences and some young people are being battered.

In Greece, joblessness among those between 15 and 24 years of age who are not reporting as working at all was 54.2 per cent in 2012. It has reportedly jumped to 64.2 per cent in February. Put otherwise, two out of every three young persons in Greece is unemployed in a strict definition sense.

Even in Switzerland, which reports the lowest youth unemployment among countries covered by the ILO, the rate in 2012 stood at 6.2 per cent as against the aggregate unemployment rate of 2.9 per cent.

HORRIFIC LIFE EXPERIENCE

The worst record of youth unemployment is in West Asia and North Africa, which was seen as partly explaining the “Arab Spring”. But things have been bad there for long. It is in the Developed countries and the European Union that the deterioration has been worst since 2008, with the unemployment rate among the youth rising from 13.3 per cent to 18.1 per cent in 2012.

The problem is that much unemployment is “long-term” in nature, with many having been out of work for more than a year and even more at least for more than six months.

The result is some stop looking for work and drop out of the workforce; others lose the skills or the employment record needed to find work.

These, of course, are just the bare numbers that tell a sad story. Actual life experience can be horrific.

According to reports, the Red Cross estimates that 26 per cent of the Spaniards it supports cannot afford a meal with protein more than three times a week and 43 per cent cannot afford heating in the winter.

For many that is not even the principal issue, since they have no place to heat. In 2012 alone, 91,622 Spaniards lost their homes to foreclosure. With life bad and no reason for hope, responses vary from suicide to anti-state protest and a return to the worst forms of right-wing violence against minorities and immigrants. Underlying the lack of hope is the dominant policy response, which emphasises austerity.

Countries spending less in the aggregate because of the unemployment rises are asked to reduce their spending even more, often by directly slashing public sector employment.

The justification premise here is that most of the world’s economies are overcome by serious macro-economic imbalances in the form of high budgetary deficits and large government debt.

So what is needed, it is argued, is to trim that debt by sharply curtailing deficits.

What is rarely underlined is the fact that debt levels rose because of the need to bail out banks and the financial sector, which were responsible for the crisis in the first instance. Those not responsible are being called upon to bear the burden of that “adjustment”.

The problem is that austerity does not help resolve more fundamental problems. Expenditure cuts at a time when unemployment is high are a sure recipe to increase unemployment further, as experience has shown time and again.

And since high and rising unemployment results in lower tax revenues, meeting deficit reduction targets requires further cuts in expenditure, resulting in even lower employment.

‘DEFICIT’ ARGUMENT

That austerity is being embraced in this fashion is indeed surprising since the lesson the Great Depression taught many is that the principal symptom of ‘internal’ macro-economic imbalance, of “grand market failure”, was unemployment.

Economists bought into the idea, popularised after the Depression by Keynes, that the equilibrium that capitalist economies find routinely is one where aggregate demand and output are not sufficient to ensure that the available labour force is employed in full.

Ensuring internal balance required the state to increase its autonomous expenditure, thereby boosting aggregate demand, output and employment.

Needless to say, in economies that are open, increases in domestic demand and absorption can result in increased imports and a widening trade deficit. The idea then was that such ‘external imbalance’ needed to be addressed by appropriate trade and exchange rate policies.

The new orthodoxy seems to be that the lead indicator of internal macro-economic imbalance is not unemployment, but a deficit on the government’s budget and a ‘high’ level of public debt.

That, in this view, is what needs correcting in the short run, with as many rounds of austerity as required.

Resorting to short-term measures such as enhanced government spending would, by delivering unsustainable deficits and public debt and high inflation, only muddy the water.

A ‘STRUCTURAL PROBLEM’

If austerity does not work, as evidence from Europe and elsewhere makes clear, it must be because countries are not being austere enough.

The result of that perspective has been periodic rounds of austerity that keeps unemployment high and even rising — even after output, though low, has stopped contracting. Keep doing it, even if it does not work and hurts most those who had nothing to do with the mess the world is in, seems to be the neoliberal catechism. What about unemployment then? That, argue the new messiahs, is not evidence of crisis but a “structural problem” that needs correcting in the long term. In other words, there are structural bottlenecks that prevent the labour force from adjusting to exogenous changes such as technological transitions and shifts in tastes. It may require re-skilling to ensure labour mobility from sunset to sunrise industries or from vanishing jobs to emerging ones.

It may also require removing factors leading to wage or labour rigidities that undermine the competitiveness of firms and nations.

The problem is that there are no signs whatsoever of new jobs or new dynamism in the sunrise industries in the advanced countries of today. Countries such as Germany that do create jobs, steal them from countries already shedding jobs, such as Spain and Greece, by invading their markets.

References to the long-term and the structural then become the veil used to cover up the fact that the Great Crisis has not yet been resolved. Capitalism found in World War II a solution after the Great Depression.

Hopefully, we won’t need a war of that dimension this time around.

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About David Dayen

David is a contributing writer to Salon.com. He has been writing about politics since 2004. He spent three years writing for the FireDogLake News Desk; he’s also written for The New Republic, The American Prospect, The Guardian (UK), The Huffington Post, The Washington Monthly, Alternet, Democracy Journal and Pacific Standard, as well as multiple well-trafficked progressive blogs and websites. His has been a guest on MSNBC, CNN, Aljazeera, Russia Today, NPR, Pacifica Radio and Air America Radio. He has contributed to two anthology books, one about the Wisconsin labor uprising and another on the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act in Congress. Prior to writing about politics he worked for two decades as a television producer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @ddayen.

54 comments

  1. Hugh

    This is where the kleptocratic perspective is so important. Austerity, high unemployment, and increased poverty are not accidents or bugs in an otherwise sound economic system, but features of a kleptocratic one. Austerity is simply the new code word for looting the commons, dismantling the social safety nets, and suppressing the 99% by keeping it poor, indebted, fearful, and confused. These are not well-meaning or ignorant mistakes but the strategies of class war.

    1. allcoppedout

      I agree entirely Hugh. Over many years in the UK we have been urged to adopt “new management” solutions – first from the US, then Germany, then Japan. None were remotely original. Eventually we got the working smarter garbage of the knowledge society. None of this mattered at all and often, where we modernised, we still failed because of cheaper wages (etc. – this isn’t simple), subsidies we could not compete with, dumping and so on. I was often sent to learn the secrets of such as Japanese success – finding only that they were suffering the same problems. “Answers” were often pathetic – like Japanese engineers racing to production problems on bikes in shipyards. We should give up manufacturing and focus on high returns in services and finance – a really dumb idea as any fool could have it. Really important questions such as efficiency for whose ends were to be ignored.
      Class war is the problem with its vile hierarchy and something as a control system that equates with parasite and pack control systems in biology. I think the idea is to render the majority to a state of neurosis, with key discipline coming from fear of poverty. The answer is guaranteed employment across the globe with money as exchange free of control fraud. This would be a move from paranoid-schizoid position to a more ‘depressive’ (realistic) one.

    2. nonclassical

      “Class war” indeed…but let’s define more closely-Reagan changed “unemployment” stats-defined ANYONE who had EVER taken out “unemployment” was NOT a “NEW unemployment claim”…

      also, only 3 of 5 who apply for “unemployment” GET it…

      also, anyone who has run out of “benefits” is not counted…

      also, “contracted workers” are NOT, when “laid off”, eligible for “unemployment”..(as are NOT a whole host of others)..

      what this all MEANS, is actual “unemployment rates” are at least DOUBLE those
      propagandized…

  2. from Mexico

    Chandrasekhar & Ghosh said:

    The new orthodoxy seems to be that the lead indicator of internal macro-economic imbalance is not unemployment, but a deficit on the government’s budget and a ‘high’ level of public debt.

    That, in this view, is what needs correcting in the short run, with as many rounds of austerity as required.

    Capitalism is in moral crisis.

    Capitalistic morality was originally billed as a 100% materialistic, utilitarian ethic whose alpha and omega was the maximization of aggregate utility. It’s a conservative morality which holds that the mass of humanity is driven by crude desires. Perhaps, the capitalists argued, a few great souls act on moral principles. But most of us have nothing more noble in view than bread and circuses. Our appetites for refinements of gluttony and varieties of entertainment remain nearly insatiable, and nothing else really moves us. If our lives revolve around consuming the objects of these simple passions, a benevolent despotism which manages those passions is the best form of government. We care about getting stuff, and distraction from pain; they care about getting it to us. Who could possibly complain?

    This morality, as shallow and superficial as it might be judged to be, nevertheless had mass popularity because it appealed to a part of human nature which is all but universal, because almost all of us want all kinds of plasure and the good life.

    Somewhere along the way, however, the alpha and omega of capitalism seems to have switched from maximizing aggregate utility to maximizing profits for a tiny minority of those who possess “capital.”

    But few capitalists these days speak of their newfound morality, which basically boils down to more for me and less for you, with much frankness. Instead they attempt to float their new morality under three other moral prerogatives.

    One of these is the morality of the ascetic saints of the late and post-Roman worlds, as well as St. Francis of the high middle ages, who have become very fashionable these days. In their lifetimes, the attraction of these saints was their rejection of the material values of their own societies. And our world, which is yet more materialistic and “corrupt,” seems to find them equally compelling. By promoting this morality, however, the capitalists open themselves up to charges of hypocisy, because in reality what they advocate is ascetism for you, and the good life for me.

    Another morality which the new capitalists promote is that of the greens, the idea that due to resource depletion and degredation of the biosphere that aggregate utility has peaked. Therefore we’re all going to have to learn to live with less consumption. But again, invoking this morality opens the new capitalist class up to charges of hypocrisy since they have made it very clear that curtailing consumption is not something they themselves are willing to do. Curtailing consumption is for the little people, or as the Chinese say, the “ant people.”

    The third morality which I have heard the new capitalists evangelize is that of equality and sharing. Workers in the developed world must consume less so that workers in the developing world can consume more. This morality falls apart, however, because it is based on a false empirical claim. What we have seen is that consumption of workers in both the developed and developing worlds has suffered as the consumption of the transnational capitalist class soars into the blue empyrean.

    1. banger

      I like what you say–but morality and modern capitalism just isn’t even there other than as PR. Modern capitalism’s morality is mixture of the Maquis de Sade and Machiavelli. The crony-capitalists/aristocrats want a society based on dominance submission because the rich, surrounded by an endless supply of flatterers (just hang out with them and see) have no clue what they are, in fact, doing.

      1. ambrit

        banger;
        Having ‘hung out’ with some of the Capitalist class over the years, (and not always wearing a servants uniform either,) I concur with your observation. The root of this dysfunction appears to be, from my worms eye view, a moral failing: Narcissism. I’m guessing that there was, is, and always will be, a reasonable and logical basis to the oft observed phenomena of “Hermit Saints.” The Middle Ages ascetics were right to “renounce the World.” Now the question is, what are the limits to change in human social relations? There’s the pivot point.

        1. banger

          There are no limits to change really. I’ve seen people deal with utterly impossible situations and find the strength somewhere to adjust and to remain creative. Our capacities are astonishingly large–the problem today is a failure of the imagination and of nerve. We live too much in fear perhaps because we are confused and therefore stressed.

          We have, at this time, everything we need to build a sustainable and very happy social structure with parties, creative work, celebration at the center rather than “work” and the stress of worrying whether you will be thrown out of your house, lose your “job” and all the other common fears of families. There’s a hell of a lot of suffering out there most of which can be easily remedied by an outbreak of kindness.

          The rich are living out our fantasies–we believe that being rich is the highest thing a human being can achieve so is it any wonder that the rich believe they are beyond reproach?

        2. Jimi

          Theirs another kind of poverty that only rich men know
          A moral malnutrition that starves their very soul
          They worked all their life on this house of cards to keep it all in line
          And they can’t be saved by money, their all running out of time
          But it’s o.k. ‘cuz i’ve got mine

      2. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

        You really have it nailed. It’s as top heavy, corrupt and vapid an elite as any that rode herd over Rome in the 4th century or the Maya or 18th century China

    2. jake chase

      It all boils down to cooperation between a relatively small looting class and a larger entrenched toadying class, members of which do just fine for themselves by pandering to the looters.

      As for capital, unless you are talking about billionaires, those who have somehow managed to accumulate capital, even a few millions, are now being looted too.

      1. from Mexico

        jake chase said:

        …those who have somehow managed to accumulate capital, even a few millions, are now being looted too.

        I think that’s an indication that the leukemia has reached an advanced stage.

  3. Saddam Smith

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/may/19/driverless-cars-pilotless-planes-jobs-human

    We don’t need humans economically as we did. Jobs are therefore not the answer. A totally new system is required, or we are headed for a most horrible neo-feudalism.

    This is the basic question we must address: why is economic activity more valuable than non-economic activity? Or, why is activity that causes money to change hands more valuable than activity that does not? The only answer I know is that state-based, institutionalised elitism requires it this way. But now that machines can produce pretty much everything we need, why do we need to find jobs for everyone? And seeing as perpetual economic growth is impossible, why persist with it? Why persist with rapacious consumerism if it both destroys the environment and erodes community ties?

    1. banger

      You really got it! Very to-the-point! We need to ask those questions every day in every way. Here we are, living in a an fantastically abundant world where we know for certain that connecting with others brings the greatest joy and this is scientifically the case, yet we live in a world where the powers that be just want to spread misery rather than party.

      I think many of us here agree pretty much with what you say and those ideas can be the foundation of a new movement–in fact this is precisely what the Zeitgeist movement preaches not that it doesn’t have its faults. But we need to say something like what you say everywhere and insist that human happiness is something that we can all benefit from.

    2. washunate

      Agreed. I’ve never understood the liberal focus on ‘jobs’. Work is only valuable to the extent it produces something of value. It’s a means, not an end.

      1. nonclassical

        “….the artist loses creative intuition at exact moment he becomes aware of impression about to be made…”

        some might not think this relevant…

    3. jake chase

      Don’t forget that your happiness depends upon a good deal of really shitty work getting done and at coolie wages if those in position to exert leverage are going to profit from it.

      1. from Mexico

        Yep.

        We’ve packaged up a lot of the unpleasant stuff and shipped it off to Mexico or China. Oh well, outta sight, outta mind.

        I’m always reminded of something George Orwell wrote in “Rudyard Kipling,” which is what fills debates like those over Bradley Manning, and soldiers in general, with so many inconsitencies and hypocisies:

        All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy… We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are “enlightened” all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our “enlightenment,” demands that the robbery shall continue.

        1. Malmo

          Left-wing, right-wing. Two sides to the same coin. They both pine for a workerism writ large (only under different management). No thanks.

        2. jake chase

          Forget Montesquieu. All you really need is Orwell. Down and Out in London and Paris, or is it Paris and London? People laughed at 1984 in 1985; I wonder how many are laughing now?

      2. banger

        My happiness does not in the least depend on such things. Love, beauty, truth are where happiness comes from not trinkets and toys.

        1. jake chase

          Your happiness depends on not having to be bothered with such things. Look around at the material basis for your happiness. How much shit is shoveled to keep the food coming in and the garbage going out and the transport hub going and ……

          1. banger

            Ok, we are all part of the system and that’s how our lives are arranged right now but we can transition to local produce, local energy generation, painful and dangerous as it would be–I might die a few years earlier or maybe the opposite–but I’m confident that I’m positioned to survive through networks of people which is the direction we ought to be going in.

      3. anon y'mouse

        it’s not necessarily “shitty work” but being infected with the idea that the pay most receive for doing it signifies some kind of true value of the work, and the person doing that work. in reality, all the ‘shittiest’ work is usually the most vital and necessary, and would not be shitty at all if there wasn’t a slavemaster standing over you harping on about how you deserve to be in the shit because you are so stupid, and please speed-it-up-Johnny or we won’t make as much money. hard work done in a community of people equally sharing the burden, with real rest and celebration afterwards and a share in the accomplishment (both psychological and physical rewards) would eliminate the idea that necessary work=shitty work.

        this peasant mentality, that only bad/stupid/poor/unworthy people have to do Necessary tasks like cleaning, cooking, farming and so on needs to end. those jobs do not have to be conducive of so much misery nor cast a shadow over how a person views themselves or society views them, nor should they cripple you for life or not provide enough compensation to live fruitfully on.

        the most important people in any society are the ones who get the food going, and the ones who -shovel the sh*t- (plumbers, garbage & sanitation workers).

        the most interesting thing I’ve seen in my lifespan is the change in garbage collection. it provides a case-study of what i’m failing to say here:

        garbage collection men (yes they almost all used to be men although it isn’t necessary for them to be so) used to work in a group of 3-4 when I was a child. pickup morning, they would zoom down the street, three guys hanging off the back and one driving in front. the truck stopped, the guys hopped off. almost cheerfully they would hoist these cans, ferrying away an entire an entire neighborhood’s trash in a few short minutes. it was almost an art form to watch, and they were paid decently.

        now, one guy—the same one who has to drive the truck, has to stop, get out, run the stupid machine to hoist each can. he looks wretched. he’s doing (with the aid of the machine, but still) the work of 4 guys, and it takes him an hour to go one city block. he has no company except his radio. who knows what the private company (that has been contracted in place of the former public garbage utility in the name of “lower costs”) company pays the guy. from the look on his face, and his waistline and obvious poor health, it doesn’t seem worth it, whatever it is.

        they aren’t those strong, happy guys I used to see every week, that’s for sure.

      4. Saddam Smith

        I though you were making a joke, Mr Chase. Subsequent posts suggest otherwise.

        What you describe makes me deeply sad, not happy. You don’t know very much about me, and if you mean that comment seriously, you have not understood my comment at all.

    4. Susan the other

      Having been disillusioned for a lifetime, I’d like to make this observation without optimism. Done that been there. But this: The “sunset to sunrise” labor market is an interesting global concept. I’m sure our new immigration laws will accommodate this idea, probably to the detriment of our own labor force. But the real thing that has me interested is not this new concept (because I’m not crazy about gobalization) but the tidbits we get now and then from the US Military. The Navy and the Army (nothing yet about the nasty Airforce) are using environmental technology, doing pollution prevention and cleanup and using clean energy in all their operations. This really is pretty revolutionary. And just like the cold war, the military will develop these applied technologies and sell them off to the big capitalists. Who will then try to squeeze every dollar of profit out of them that they can. But the jobs will be there because the planet is one big clean-up site. Thanks to all the previous misadventures of the big capitalists.

      1. jake chase

        Yes; instead of wearing orange beanies and doling out fast food, the coolies will be wearing orange jump suits and (hopefully) masks and vacuuming up toxic sludge, and they won’t even have to make change or worry about memorizing corporatized feel good speeches.

        Progress is our most important product.

  4. banger

    We may be moving towards a post-job world. Wouldn’t that be kind of cool? We do need to ask questions like–what’s the point of this system–do we really need to subject ourselves to being ordered about by a class of bosses who love to watch us squirm? Why do we like that?

    Much depends on our definition of human nature. Do we need the whip or the hug?

    1. allcoppedout

      Good to see the recognition that “jobs” aren’t the answer – though I’d argue they are short to medium term (there’s actually a lot we need to build).
      My metaphor here is Robot Heaven. How could anyone justify human work being needed or against reasonably equal wealth distribution if all the work was done by robots? The question is how far we have got towards this 100% situation. I can only guess, but there are some guides, such as agriculture being only 7% of world GDP and 75% being what we term “services”. Lots of work is chronically inefficient – from third world farming to the standard delivery of higher education. The majority of financial services is some kind of waste of space squared.
      Currently one could hardly dare to do something sensible like rationalising third world farming or even food waste at 50% because surplus labour would be killed off.

      Somewhere down the line we have to consider how the general me could be encouraged to drag himself to teach business finance 101 if not in need of money to keep the wolf from the door or whatever it is that really needs doing. And what the positive aspects of very different discipline would be.

      We need a re-evaluation of all values – but clearly something not of the pathetic Nietzsche’s conservative lunacy when swayed (like me reading Biggles at 12) by a marching band and military bristle. The arse-lickers around the rich are well explained by socio-pathology and the terror mechanisms they operate through (governmentality etc.), but not the antidote or what a more reasonable society would be.

      1. banger

        Our guide to changing values should be based on the twin poles of science and what Huxley called the Perennial Philosophy. I believe, like Heisenberg believed at the end of his life, that the next important study in science should be mysticism.

    2. jake chase

      When the jobs become unnecessary the concentration camps will bloom like a million flowers. Be careful what you wish for.

    3. jake chase

      Veblen anticipated you by about ninety years. He understood that industry is vital to human life, but business is toxic. He saw business as the purposeful sabotoge of industry for private gain. It was impossible for the economics profession to answer his arguments, so they ran him off from one institution to another and marginalized him for alleged moral failings. He had a habit of attracting married women bored by their husbands. He died in 1929, just before all his ideas were validated by events. Without him, the best we could get was Keynes. It wasn’t enough.

  5. washunate

    Remember when it was controversial to talk about being in a depression? Ah, quaint times, we miss thee.

  6. PQS

    Those not responsible are being called upon to bear the burden of that “adjustment”.

    It really is that simple. And everybody knows it except those not responsible. Oh, perhaps some of them know it, deep down, but the vast majority of them, and their handmaidens in power, actually think they deserve what they have, and that we out here have no idea what’s being done to us. They are wrong. People know. Young people especially know this isn’t what they were promised all their lives.

    1. Dave

      In nature “Those not responsible” suffer. Why are we any different? The young in our incredibly affluent society have indeed been promised more of the same all their lives. Not only that, they have been promised that they don’t have to do much to get it. Might damage their self esteem you know.

      Things change and life is not fair. Some people will always have far more than others. Get over it and stop blaming someone else. Only a fool would think that we as a society can forever have more than the rest of the world combined. Part of the problem is that the rest of the world sees this on TV and is getting pissed, and is not likely to put up with this situation forever.

      Believe it or not, folks in the US have lived a decent life with far far less in the way of material comfort than people now expect just for breathing. Since I’m over 60, I’m one of them.

      1. banger

        When people are poor in this society they are tossed about and become virtual trash in the street. Because we believe, falsely, that this is the land of opportunity we believe if you’re poor there is something very wrong with you so into the trash you go–we don’t need you. We are, of course, humane so we give some pittance to people for a time. When you know the stories of people and the human cost of perpetual stress of those who are poor or close to it and see the anguish, anxiety, disease (most disease is caused by stress) and so on you don’t have the callous attitude of “life’s not fair.” Really what does that mean exactly? What I say it means is that we’re not fair–we choose as a society to not be fair. We are in a position to help those who are in pain instead we punish them. If someone is taking drugs, for example–why do you suppose they do that? Because they’re “bad.” A deeper look will tell you that these people usually have been sexually and physically abused in ways you can’t even imagine and they f!ucking need to medicate themselves.

        1. jake chase

          I have always found it odd that the only time our institutions care a damn about people is when they are sick and have one foot in the grave. Of course, the ‘care’ is too often about turning a profit on them, but an impressive number of doctors and nurses don’t seem in it for the dough and are the only real heroes I have come across in seventy years. For my money they should get the baseball tickets and the accolades now thrown away on jackbooted soldiers in those nauseating seventh inning flag waving rituals.

      2. PQS

        You are wrong if you think by “people” I mean pampered Westerners. I mean all of us, the world over.

  7. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

    After a million words, it boils down to this: Monetarily non-sovereign governments devolve to depression, unless they have a positive balance of payments. Period.

    The euro nations gave up the single most valuable asset they owned: Their Monetary Sovereignty. I predicted the current state of the euro, way back in June, 2005. (http://mythfighter.com/2010/05/12/the-meteorology-of-economics-speech-at-umkc/)

    There are two, and only two, solutions for the euro nations. Either:

    1. Abandon the euro and return to Monetary Sovereignty, or

    2. The EU continually give (not lend) euros to member nations ala a “United States of Europe.”

    No other long-term solutions are possible. Meanwhile, the situation will worsen.

    1. Massinissa

      #1 probably wont happen, and if it does it will be late in the game. We are talking 4 years+ from now.

      But #2 pretty much CANT happen (within realistic political boundaries).

      Europe is pretty screwed. The best case scenarios are very very very bad. We are probably witnessing a crisis of both capitalism and modern liberal democracies of historical significance, even if noone realizes the implications at the moment.

      1. banger

        As I say often–with fiat currency any fiction can be created if the Eurocrats and the international financial elite can agree on a plausible story–that’s the trick–because, after all value is whatever they say it is. If they agreethen the Euro will remain intact with perhaps private currencies here and there.

        Long-term, I think conventional money may be less important, or so I hope.

  8. LillithMc

    Friends who moved to India were kept unexpectedly busy putting solar panels on poles so rural villages could run their computers for their small businesses. We need to keep our land free of pollution and able to grow crops. No way to shrink ourselves to health through “austerity” while the fat cat loots. Perhaps the blend of agricultural and business will rise in the rubble of the looting, but not without clean water or on soil full of petrochemicals. Don’t let nature be patented so Monsanto destroys your crops. Not only are “jobs” disappearing, but conditions for workers are rarely humane.

  9. jsn

    It is beginning to boil down to clear principals. If your view of the economy is that it is a tool to maximize financial wealth in the hands of financiers, austerity works best because it maximizes the value of what financial wealth is concentrated with financiers. This view explains most dominant policies here and in Europe.

    On the other hand, if the economy is about maximizing real benefit, the Keynesian approach optimizes real long term growth and a more equitable distribution of gains. To the extent that policy makers give a shit about anyone other than financiers you see these policies.

    There was an austerian farmer who had all is land under the hoe to maximize his yield. As a consequence he had to purchase hay to feed his plow horse and this became his main expense. So each month experimented with feeding the horse a little bit less. His profits kept improving. Just when he had the horse living on nothing, though, it up and died.

    1. banger

      Yes, nice story–of course the modern finance oligarch leaves the farm before the problems show up–he sells when the bubble matures and he’s off on his big boat with his big-boobed ladies for awhile until the next deal.

  10. Jim

    A serious examination of the nature of culture, values, traditions and the dynamics of internalization as well as the creation of identity and self is something the left has largely ignored since their major theoretical reductionist lenses have tended to argue that such irrational, superstitious and mythological encrustations are not really necessary for a functioning society or individual human happiness.

    But if increasing nihilism, alienation and anomie are the major social-psychological consequences of our presently accelerating financial/economic/political/cultural crisis then such flippant dismissals of the importance of role of culture in politics are tragically mistaken.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks, Jim. I agree that your observation about the importance of culture and values is very true.

      In Native American societies on the Northwest coast, where dentalium shells were once used as money up and down the coast, the tribes held celebrations known as potlatch. During this time, tribal chiefs competed with one another to see who was able to give away the most items of value. Through this vehicle, resources were distributed among all members of society.

      I contrast this with the prevailing values of our own time.

      1. nonclassical

        “contrast with values of our own time”; based upon resource extraction (and now rentier-financial extraction)…

  11. The Rage

    It will implode sooner or later. The Euro will die along with the EU. Whether war comes and what sides are drawn, is still TBA.

  12. Casteelk

    Its simple. Everyone that has simple thought as much as a 2nd grader knows that you can’t continue to exponentially grow. Its not possible, corrections have to be made. Is there enough oil in the ground to continue forever? Of course not. Is there enough food and water on the planet to feed an ever growing population? Of course not. Corrections will be made, regardless of the money tricks, and the theiving and lying. One day many, many people will end up suffering and dying.

    Oh but technology will save us, maybe.

    1. anon y'mouse

      “we can rebuild him, we can make him better, faster, stronger than he was before.”

      we have enough (perhaps barely) resources to take care of everyone’s basic needs now, and just need the distribution to make sure that it gets done.

      if everyone on this rock were to realize that THIS IS IT and “no one gets left behind” and these xyz are the steps necessary to make it a better place for all (including ramping way down on the breeding to a much more sustainable level) we could do so even with current technology. I agree that we couldn’t support ever-growing numbers with ever-rising living standards.

      since some people own everything of value and most people buy into the money theory of value (including value of individual human lives), we probably won’t accomplish any of this. it’s not the tech that needs to change (unless we all decide that it should, because it actually IS better and will improve the lot of all of us, animal & plant life included) but the paradigm or something.

      1. Casteelk

        I get the feeling a land grab is going on. Those with the resources, will and knowledge are getting everything, in preparation of the inevitable. Those people are the .1 %, and the 1% at their feet. The rest of us, especially the poor, are in for a rough ride.

  13. nonclassical

    …scene in “Missing”, when general tells father-Jack Lemmon searching for his son, his “lifestyle” depends upon “what we’re doing down here” (sept. 11, 1973-Alliende’)..

    most ignored history, at the time…

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