Gaius Publius: Neoliberalism, “Just Desserts,” and the Post-Climate-Crisis Economy

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Originally published at AmericaBlog

Chris Hedges has a terrific piece up at Truthdig that I couldn’t resist showing to you, since we’ve been talking about neoliberalism and also the convulsions that climate change will bring to the world.

This piece has a couple of parts, since there are a couple of intersecting thoughts. I’ll discuss each of those parts in turn (see the subheadings below and also the summary).

But first, a definition. We’ve talked before about how “neoliberalism” is the same as “old (pre-FDR) liberalism,” which is also the same as Adam Smith–style “free market capitalism.” In the context of Adam Smith, neoliberalism is just “liberalism.”

But that’s not where most people today get their words. For most people, “liberalism” means FDR and the revolutionary role for government he brought to the U.S. — a role hated by the rich ever since. In the context of FDR liberalism, “neoliberal” means “not liberal” in the same sense as Tony Blair’s “New Labour” means “Not Labour.”

See how easy? They just name it what it isn’t, pretend it still is, and voilà — they’ve fooled at least half the people. Welcome to Bill Clinton World, where ending welfare is “neoliberal.” Apply our definition and you have it just right.

Now for the pieces of the idea I want to present.

“Neoliberalism” is a “Just-World” Idea; Winners and Losers Deserve What They Get

In Chris Hedges’ piece he writes up an interview with the widely respected economic historian Professor Avner Offer. Here’s his introduction to Offer and his work (my emphasis everywhere and some reparagraphing):

Offer, the author of “The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950,” for 25 years has explored the cavernous gap between our economic and social reality and our ruling economic ideology. Neoclassical economics, he says, is a “just-world theory,” one that posits that not only do good people get what they deserve but those who suffer deserve to suffer.

Another word for a “just-world” theory is a “just-desserts” theory, because once you get yourself into position to get all the goodies, you keep yourself there by stigmatizing the losers. After all, if the losers aren’t getting their “just desserts,” then they should be getting some of what you’re hoarding. Can’t have that. Which is why the winners are always talking about why you (or the person next to you) deserves to lose. If the losers don’t deserve to lose, the winners don’t deserve to win.

Offer lists and describes other “just-world” (just-desserts) theories. This is a fascinating list:

Offer cited a concept from social psychology called the just-world theory. “A just-world theory posits that the world is just. People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.

“Major ways of thinking about the world constitute just-world theories,” he said. “The Catholic Church is a just-world theory. If the Inquisition burned heretics, they only got what they deserved. Bolshevism was a just-world theory. If Kulaks were starved and exiled, they got what they deserved. Fascism was a just-world theory. If Jews died in the concentration camps, they got what they deserved. The point is not that the good people get the good things, but the bad people get the bad things. Neoclassical [pre-FDR liberal] economics, our principal source of policy norms, is a just-world theory.”

Offer quoted the economist Milton Friedman: “The ethical principle that would directly justify the distribution of income in a free market society is, ‘To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces.’ ”

“So,” Offer went on, “everyone gets what he or she deserves, either for his or her effort or for his or her property.

“For his or her effort or for his or her property.” The “effort” part kind of makes sense (but only kind of; think of an Indian tribe and how they don’t starve the weak). But you’re deserving based on your “property”? That’s what neoclassical economics, “free market” capitalism asserts. Yet as we know, every property “right,” if you take it far enough back, rests on a theft.

Offer says the same: “No one asks how he or she got this property.”

Just-World (Just-Desserts) Theories are a “Warrant for Inflicting Pain”

This is the second piece of the ideas I’m bringing together today. Offer says, correctly, that when a theory fails to describe the reality of the world, the only way to reconcile the two is to adjust the theory, or adjust (do violence to) the reality. As a result, all just-world theories inflict pain. Look again at the bolded list in the large quote immediately above. We could add to that list.

Note that this is the mechanical explanation for pain-inflictment …

[Offer] says this model is “a warrant for inflicting pain.”

… as though some mindless mechanism were operating in its own defense. But as Offer says elsewhere in the interview, there’s a second reason for people to hold to this theory — a degree of self-interest and goodie-preservation is involved. Or as Offer more elegantly puts it:

“One of the issues here is when those in authority, whether political, academic or civic, are expounding their doctrines through Enlightenment idioms and we must ask, is this being done in good faith?” he said. “And here I think the genuine insight provided by the economics of opportunism is that we cannot assume it is being done in good faith.” …

“When I hear Republicans in the United States say that taking away people’s food stamps will do them good I ask, what do you know that allows you to say this? … Enlightenment discourse should not be taken at face value. We have to again ask whether it is being carried out in good faith.”

And I’ll offer a third reason as well for pain inflictment — man’s cruelty to man. Almost all societies practice some degree of torture, even some of our noble Indian tribes, and all torture has just one goal — to satisfy the torturers and their audience. It’s why Bush II killed all those Texas prisoners, innocent or not. It’s why he blew up frogs as a child. And drones, well … let’s call them “manly notches” and move on.

What Will Happen in a Scarcity World?

You see where this is headed? We’re in a world where the dominant economic theory justifies the deprivation of the masses. And the worse a theory is at modeling the real world, the more pain it has to inflict to make the world conform back to the theory. Thus:

“Just-world theories are models of reality,” he said. “A rough and ready test is how well the model fits with experienced reality. When used to derive policy, an economic model not only describes the world but also aspires to change it. In policy, if the model is bad, then reality has to be forcibly aligned with it by means of coercion.

“How much coercion is actually used provides a rough measure of a model’s validity. That the Soviet Union had to use so much coercion undermined the credibility of communism as a model of reality.

“It is perhaps symptomatic that the USA, a society that elevates freedom to the highest position among its values, is also the one that has one of the very largest penal systems in the world relative to its population. It also inflicts violence all over the world. It tolerates a great deal of gun violence, and a health service that excludes large numbers of people.”

So these systems, including the “free market” (so called) system, are already inflicting great pain, and that in a world of abundance. Consider, for example, that if food distribution were efficient and based on need, we could feed the world:

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day according to the most recent estimate that we could find.

We live in abundance, yet the “just desserts” (a/k/a the “I’m keeping mine”) theory that the rich constantly PR us with says that the many must suffer to serve the few. So what happens when abundance becomes real scarcity?

Our current economic model, he said, will be of little use to us in an age of ecological deterioration and growing scarcities. Energy shortages, global warming, population increases and increasing scarcity of water and food create an urgent need for new models of distribution. Our two options, he said, will be “hanging together or falling apart.” …

Offer has studied closely the economies of World War I. … He holds up these war economies, with their heavy rationing, as a possible model for collective action in a contracting economy. … “These war economies were relatively egalitarian. These economics were based on the safety net principle. If continued growth in the medium run is not feasible, and that is a contingency we need to think about, then these rationing societies provide quite a successful model.”

His conclusion: “There is not a free market solution to a peaceful decline.” In Offer’s (and Hedges’) view, if we enter a world of scarcity, we will have two social choices — emulate the WWI rationing economies and share what’s available, or stick with the past and administer even more pain and social control.

Climate Will Give us a Scarcity World

There’s more in the piece about the implications of this thinking for the economics profession, but let’s look at one other aspect of his thought. While Offer says that the scarcity world is coming, he doesn’t elaborate how. Allow me.

Aside from the obvious, that at some point population growth will outstrip food production, there’s a factor that perhaps no one but the geniuses in the bowels of the Pentagon have considered. The climate.

Modern human society depends on sufficient production of a number of commodities. Let’s just consider three: food, water, energy. First, there’s no question in anyone’s mind that climate changes will affect global supplies of food. (Click to see how, or search on the phrase “will climate change affect food production?” No one says, “We’ll be just fine.”)

The same with the water supply. In fact, I can almost bet that these commodities will go into scarcity because of one factor alone — the psychopaths in the investment community are giddy over the prospects. Everything from new shipping lanes through the formerly iced Northwest Passage, to opportunities for military contractors, to drilling for even more carbon (oil) in the formerly iced Arctic Ocean, to — you guessed it — profiting from drought and famine by cornering the market on food and water (pdf):

Overview: Why Invest in Water?
Examining the Core Drivers of a Compelling Theme

… [W]ater is still abusively undervalued relative to its real economic worth, so huge room exists for asset price expansion. Combined with the vigorous market drivers, shown below, that are now becoming globally and undeniably apparent, hydrocommerce presents a very compelling investment theme for the predictable future.

Supply/Demand Imbalances

• Available fresh water is less than ½ of 1% of all the water on earth. 6.5 billion people now compete [my emphasis] for this finite resource, with 8 billion by 2025.

• 80% of the global population relies on groundwater supplies that are dangerously depleted, if not exhausted, as they are mined beyond natural replenishment.

Pollution and climate change further exacerbate supply shortages, damaging vulnerable resources and causing drought and desertification at an alarming rate.

• Per capita water consumption has roughly doubled in the last century, a rate that will accelerate as more economies industrialize and populations become more urban.

Criminal in the worst way. Do you see why I use world like “psychopath” with such confidence? The same is happening in the food sphere, with Monsanto’s business practices a driver of scarcity.

But power — energy — scarcity is a special problem, because energy scarcity is also the solution. There is absolutely no question that we’ll enter a world of energy rationing in the next ten years, if not sooner. The question is, do we do it by choice or necessity?

The Zero Carbon economy, a Rationing Regime that Works

I’ll be plain — we can solve the energy crisis with extreme energy rationing now. We need to put the brakes on the carbon car hard and soon. That’s the only way to keep the world below the original +3°C “game over” scenario. That’s the only way to keep the world at or below the newer +2°C “life between the Ice Ages” scenario:

In studying cores drilled from both ice sheets and deep ocean sediments, [James] Hansen found that global mean temperatures during the Eemian period [a prehistoric warm period between two of the Ice Ages], which began about 130,000 years ago and lasted about 15,000 years, were less than 1 degree Celsius warmer than today. If temperatures were to rise 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, global mean temperature would far exceed that of the Eemian, when sea level was four to six meters higher than today, Hansen said.

“The paleoclimate record reveals a more sensitive climate than thought, even as of a few years ago [when he made his +3°C “game over” prediction]. Limiting human-caused warming to 2 degrees is not sufficient,” Hansen said. “It would be a prescription for disaster.”

And it’s the only way to mitigate the +1°C disaster we we’re experiencing right now. We need a Zero Carbon economy — now. Not Obama’s “carbon neutral” (“keep the Kochs in walking money”) economy, a Zero Carbon economy. The following was written in 2011:

Wartime effort reduction path

Emission reductions can still be the route to doing that, Hansen states. Based on these insights an American Environmental Coalition led by 23 high-ranking officials of American energy, climate and environmental NGOs, recently wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao, calling for wartime-like mobilisation by the governments of the United States and China to cut carbon emissions 80 percent, based on 2006 levels, by 2020, in order to reach the 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 stabilisation level [indeed, that’s just nine years – the price of having done nothing before].

The bracketed comment was the author’s, not mine. It’s now 2014. We just wasted three years. The longer we do nothing, the worse it will get, the less time to put on the brakes, and the more drastic the rationing — either voluntary or forced — will be. Let’s look at what that means:

Voluntary rationing means the U.S. government steps in, absorbs all the excess capital from the economy it needs, and builds out a Zero Carbon energy regime at a man-on-the-moon rate, a wartime-rationing rate. It does so with zero-carbon goals, not comfortable-rate-of-change goals. To go to Zero Carbon use in, say, five years has to mean rationing, hard “wartime” rationing. Tough luck, but time marches on. Best to start now.

Forced rationing means that the Exxons, Rex Tillersons and David Kochs are allowed to dump all the carbon they can into the gas tanks and carbon-fueled generating stations of the world at the fastest rate they can, for the highest price they can get. Then die rich.

Meanwhile, South Florida will flood in the next “Haiyan”–scale hurricane event, development will cease, property values will crater, insurance costs will soar, drinking water will go salty, and everyone who can get out, will. That will put fear into the eyes of every other American, and we’re off to crisis time as panic and disaster feed on each other. From that day on, it’s a whole new world.

Water will be rationed by its scarcity — food by the inability and unwillingness of owners to grow or deliver it — and energy by high prices (pricing power, baby!), crumbling infrastructure, and mounting social chaos in a world run by … yes, “just desserts” overlords who won’t give up a thing so the rest of us can survive.

Voluntary rationing means that we’ll have it very hard, World War I and II hard, for five-to-ten years, and then we’ll be carbon-free forever. Forced rationing means that the chaos and the population decimation of the next half century will play out, and most of who’s left will be hunter-gatherers in a post-Holocene world. Forced means “forced by circumstances and our own bad choice of whom to listen to.” Even vengeance won’t be an option; David Koch will be dead.

Two Bottom Lines

So we’re back to where we began. I want to leave you with two final thoughts.

1. How we got here. We’re here because a comfortable American middle class — a frog in water heating ever so slowly — has accepted a “just world” description of why the water is warmer for them, an acceptance based in part on a “just-desserts” explanation of why the water is boiling to death a group of (mainly brown, for now) others who “deserve” to be stewed with the potatoes and beans anyway.

We’re here because the American middle class has been taught by their predators that to be selfish is to be good; and that when everyone is perfectly selfish, the “invisible hand” will make everyone happy (if they “deserve” to be happy). A stupid dream to be sure, but how often each day do you see it sold?

We’re here because the U.S. inherited an economic boom in the post-war world, forged by won-battles by unions against predatory employers, won-battles about taxes on the predatory rich, won-battles about caring for others and the social good against the “dream of the invisible hand” — and won-battles against the world’s strongest economies, fought with armies and bombs, until only the U.S., unbombed and “socialist,” was left standing.

We spent about 25 years enjoying that world, then we took it apart.

2. What we should do. There’s quite a discussion in the actual-left world about how to organize the resistance we know we need, in order to solve our economic woes. I’ll leave them to that for now and focus instead on climate. We can solve the climate crisis with a crash-course Zero Carbon economy, or we can watch our world disappear. The minute most people wake up to that, there won’t be another discussion on the planet, I promise.

So what should we do?

We need to build a broad understanding and consensus around Zero Carbon (it’s why I’m writing this stuff). Hug the monster and act, knowing that there’s only one action worth the effort.

We need to name the Climate Criminals early and often. These people — including the pant-suited woman in the Exxon ads — are making human choices that have human consequences. The next hurricane should be named “David Koch”. The one after that, the “Tillerson Tropical Depression”. “Lying Pantsuit Lady” should have her own typhoon. (Anyone want to finance a Climate Criminals Project? Applications accepted now.)

We need to pray that the “panic when people get it” precedes the “panic when it’s too late.” When people get it, they’ll be begging the government for a solution.

Then we need to pray that the president in office at panic-time is an FDR-on-steroids type with a Zero Carbon rod up his or her spine.

Why a strong-arm president? Because I don’t see another way to organize an effective national response, and the alternative, a government even more deeply enslaved to the “just-desserts” rich, is terrible. A post-crisis government that serves only the rich is a government that will fall, NSA and riot-cops or not.

You can take part in actions, but if we’re pushing for carbon-neutral, that just delays the inevitable by a few years. Let’s start with understanding, by focusing on the right goal — Zero Carbon or Bust — followed by Naming the Climate Criminals. Tell your friends about Zero Carbon, and make that the test in every election you vote in. Then make sure your friends — everyone within your “reach” — know who the criminals are every time there’s a crisis.

We can only control ourselves, but we can do this. Remember, the climate is making its own case at the moment, it’s helping wake people up. We just need to do our part by speeding things along and keeping the direction correct. Zero Carbon all the way; carbon-neutral is a sop to the rich.

I’ll close here. Several of the points I made above, such as the fate of South Florida, will be expanded in future pieces. South Florida may survive longer if the hurricane gods are kind, but you get the idea. If the panic doesn’t start there, it will start somewhere else. The California Central Valley is in no better shape.

I’ll also deal later with an unmentioned subject — why am I only talking about U.S. policy? After all, isn’t the whole world at fault? Short answer: Yes, the world is at fault, but we can only control ourselves. Still, that could be plenty. If the U.S. sets a radical Zero Carbon course, a high-carbon China and India would be global pariahs in a year. The world is that hungry for leadership.

Besides, what’s the downside? If we don’t beat global warming in 5–10 years, there won’t be a “Chinese century” in the next ten thousand years, let alone the next thirty. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by taking the high ground.

Zero Carbon, that’s the secret word. Say it as loud and often as you can.

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  1. Peter DeBoer

    Superb article, thank you, Yves. Several years ago, I decided that this species won’t be satiated till we turn this little blue ball essentially into one big Easter Island. So I see no reason for shouting at this late date.

  2. Hugh

    Well, one important subject left unmentioned in this post is overpopulation. Consider how the US would look if it had a population of 100-150 million. Consider how many fewer resources we would be using. Consider if world population was 3-3.5 billion. Instead world population is expected to peak at 9 billion around 2040. We are way over the planet’s carrying capacity now and in a few years there will be 2 billion more of us. Population reductions can be managed by smaller families and strong social services to make up for an ageing population. If nothing is done, then we are looking at a population crash in the second half of this century with world population under a billion.

    As I have said many, many times we have two sets of problems. The first are the immediate of kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war. These must be addressed before we can take on the second set and these must be thoroughly resolved by 2030 or it just won’t matter very much for what comes next. The second set of problems are truly existential, life and death of the race. They are overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and environmental degradation. Re this last, I am talking about global climate disruption, pollution, and species and habitat loss. If we do not act decisively, we are consigning our children to death and misery through war, starvation, and disease.

    As I have also said many times before, modern economics serves the kleptocratic interests of the rich and elites. Our economy exists to serve our needs as a society. The great crime of modern economics is to divorce the economy from its social purpose for being. The result is, as the author observes, turned into their opposites. Just deserts cover for injustice. Free markets and free trade hide rigged markets and rigged trade. GDP replaces the health of society. Great wealth is the measure of the greatest good, the greatest superiority, not what it actually is great looting, great criminality, and great misallocation and destruction of society’s resources.

    Finally as I have said many times, good faith is not dependent on the strength of one’s beliefs. It is not what one believes. The SS officer believed. All kinds of crimes have been committed by true believers. This in no way absolves them from acting in bad faith. Good faith is rather acting at a minimum according to what any ordinary person might know. That the rich and elites hold themselves superior to us, holding special, expert knowledge, simply aggravates the depth of their bad faith.

    1. Vatch

      Excellent comment, Hugh! Thank you for your honest description of the elephants in the living room that most people try to ignore.

    2. James Levy

      Granted. Another serious issue is the kind of “leader” the Dems have put forward lately. Bill Clinton and Obama saw themselves, with some justification, as having come from nothing and clawed their way to the top. This left them with a serious sense of entitlement and a deeper sense that if they could do it, the system had to be fundamentally “fair.” In short, they were exemplars of the propaganda trope of the self-made man. In this way, they were of great value to the system.

      FDR was too shrewd and self-aware to imagine that he was in any way a self-made man. This, I think, made it a bit easier for him to call out his own class and understand that the game was rigged and that plenty of people were destitute for no fault of their own. He and LBJ were basically of the opinion that the Plutocrats were stupid and myopic and that the welfare state was in their best interests (and that in time they’d come to see that and support their policies). FDR and LBJ, of course, were wrong about the Plutocrats wising up, which is why, along with the population explosion, we are in the bind we are today.

      We either need a mass movement like we’ve never seen in this country, or a cabal of plutocrats who break with their peers and somehow steer the ship away from the rocks. I don’t know which is more or less probable, but neither is likely before we smash into something hard.

      1. Dan Kervick

        Nice diagnosis. By the way, I noticed a press account recently that said Bill Clinton is now worth over $100 million dollars. That’s a big climb for a guy that used to make a lot of political hay over the fact that he was the lowest paid governor in the US.

        1. different clue

          And a well-earned payoff for getting his patrons the NAFTA/WTO/MFN for China which they wanted. And inspiring precedent for Obama as he works to earn Clintons of money later by supporting overclass institutions and people now.

      1. Susan the other

        Ditto Chauncey. Plus this. We have, for all of our time on Earth, lived with a profit imperative. Profit is as sacred as survival – until now. We need to divorce our idea of profit and reform it to mean something like the reclamation of the planet. So that pollution and toxic sludge and radiation devastation are mitigated, and to the degree they are resolved then that is the new “profit.” Including CO2 and climate change. I certainly do not believe in a unilateral (rich guys’) “just desserts” policy; instead, my heart of thoughts thinks the slogan “the opposite of poverty is justice” is pure truth.

        I also cherish this quote (Hedges?) “Every property right, if you take it back far enough, rests on a theft.” Like the Italians say, Every great fortune comes from a great crime. Time to change because there is no time left for crime. Even the US Senate – that bastion of self-serving wishful thinking and procrastination – held an All Nighter on Climate Change last nite. Really. No doubt because the Chinese just said “Enough!” They closed down their own factories even. I think the first and easiest step to take is to surrender and recycle all automobiles. Good-bye cars. To be followed promptly by other sane decisions.

    3. Garrett Pace

      Neoliberal capitalism involves the leveraging of all resources to enrich the elite. I’m not sure the number of poor people matters very much at all, particularly as we enter an era of “surplus” populations whose jobs are now done by robots. I suppose the global economy doesn’t need them anymore, but the existence of such people is not the problem, is it.

        1. Carla

          But it certainly appears that the state exists to enrich Goldman, Apple, Amazon and GE. And therein, I posit, rests the greater danger.

          1. psychohistorian

            The state exists to enrich those people that own Goldman, Apple, Amazon and GE. The corporations, like those hired at exorbitant salaries to run them are just the puppets in front of the curtain.

            IMO, we need to permanently neuter those at the top of the heap and thereby fundamentally change the incentives in our social organization.

            Neuter inheritance so none can control social organization!!!

      1. Vatch

        Poverty is worsened by large families. It’s a lot harder for low income people to survive if they have 3 or more children to support than if they only have 1 or 2. And even poor people use resources. An extra couple of billion poor people will use a huge amount of resources, and they will increase carbon dioxide emissions. We haven’t eliminated poverty at our current population level, and it will only get harder to do so as the population rises.

        Also, it’s not just poor people who have large families, and when prosperous people have a large family, the resource usage and emissions go through the roof.

        Human overpopulation is a huge problem that worsens poverty, environmental problems, and creates social tensions that increase the likelihood of violence. Our planet is finite.

        Of course, if you are simply saying that the plutocrats don’t care about poor people, then you are certainly correct.

    4. F. Beard

      Et tu, Hugh? You do realize you play into the kleptocracy’s hand by buying the overpopulation scare?

      Ironically, unless the world repents, a lot of humanity may be reduced to ashes ala Malachi 4. Will those who think the world is overpopulated escape that fate themselves?

      Hint: Life is a test.

  3. Brooklin Bridge

    Nice to see the climate deniers sleeping for a change. This may be the first post on the subject where they don’t get in first licks in comments. It must be their tax avoidance time again or perhaps Halliburton has them doing centimeters to inches conversions for pipelines.

    Great article. BTW, the Hug the monster link seems to be broken, try it: Fall down go boom.

    Sorry to be glum, Hedges is catching, but which is more likely, that we see articles this or articles about Hilliary having dumped broken glass all over her constituents broken the glass ceiling in the MSM within the next five years? I was wrong in an earlier thread about who always gets first place in comments on climate change, would it be possible…?

  4. F. Beard

    Ha! Ha!

    Not one mention of the government-backed credit cartel whereby those with the most equity can borrow into existence the most new purchasing power at the lowest interest rates. And why? Simply because they are most likely to be able to repay that stolen purchasing power (with their collateral if necessary) – not to the victims of thefts, the general population but especially the poor, but to the THIEVES, the government-backed credit cartel. And that’s justice?!

    Environmental destruction? Look no further than the rat-race and the boom-bust cycle the credit cartel inflicts on us – not to mention usury which REQUIRES exponential growth and not necessarily at a sustainable rate.

    But keep hacking at the branches of evil instead of the root?

  5. JTFaraday

    I don’t see how people living under New Deal liberalism were excepted from this “just world” theory. It may be true that the New Deal helped rig a few more winners amongst the populace, but the failures amongst the populace were still “just.”

    If anything, because there were winners under the New Deal, the failures were more just. The New Deal produced the illusion of justice.

    It’s only now very recently, and apparently mostly because it is perceived to impact white men, that more Americans are starting to criticize the outcomes of our all pervasive economic and social contests.

    Someone is sure to say that this “just semantics” (or something), but I don’t see how you can hope tell the truth about the present unless you also tell the truth about the past.

  6. financial matters

    I think that Bertrand Russell offers some complementary ideas here..

    In Praise of Idleness

    By Bertrand Russell


    “This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

    If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody and no unemployment — assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization. This idea shocks the well-to-do, because they are convinced that the poor would not know how to use so much leisure. In America men often work long hours even when they are well off; such men, naturally, are indignant at the idea of leisure for wage-earners, except as the grim punishment of unemployment;

    The fact is that moving matter about, while a certain amount of it is necessary to our existence, is emphatically not one of the ends of human life. If it were, we should have to consider every navvy superior to Shakespeare. We have been misled in this matter by two causes. One is the necessity of keeping the poor contented, which has led the rich, for thousands of years, to preach the dignity of labor, while taking care themselves to remain undignified in this respect. The other is the new pleasure in mechanism, which makes us delight in the astonishingly clever changes that we can produce on the earth’s surface.”

    1. F. Beard

      Plank 8 of the Communist Manifesto:

      Equal liability of all to labour… .

      Which means to me that if only 4 hours of work per day per able person are needed to accomplish all needed work then the workday should be 4 hours. But the JG proponents say: “No! Every able person must work 8 hours a day EVEN if we have to create make-work for them.”

      L. R. Wray, you’re not even a good Communist which is no surprise since your JG would create disciplined wage slaves for their oppressors – the government backed credit cartel and the so-called “creditworthy.”

      1. skippy

        Wray’s a communist? Good grief beardo from Mexico got sin binned for calling MMT messianic. Whats up with the Austrians and classical’s always resorting to commie or socialist labels when confronted with something that does not conform to their very own theoretically orthodox myopia.

        skippy…. your ripe for being the next guest on between Two Ferns w/ Zach Galifianakis –

        1. F. Beard

          Whats up with the Austrians and classical’s always resorting to commie or socialist labels when confronted with something that does not conform to their very own theoretically orthodox myopia. skippy

          You should ask them, not me. I’m a radical for social justice with the Bible as my guide. The Bible is against usury from one’s fellow countrymen while the Austrians positively INSIST on it. Therefore, if you imply I’m an Austrian one more time I may implore the Lord to give you hemorrhoids!

          1. skippy

            Beardo I’m not alone in that descriptive and the scope of that consensus is not ideologically myopic. BTW take your theology and cram it, separation of church and state thingy ergo your brand of belief has nothing to do with governance, its for you to sort out on your own personal time.

            Skippy…. seriously…. you and the other dogmatic sorts need to return to the holy land and live the dream, do your fellow countryman shtick without dragging everyone else into the nightmare.

            1. F. Beard

              Lord, I’m forbidden to take my own vengeance so I ask you to take it for me. Please give ole skippy here a painful case of hemorrhoids for continuing to slander me.

              Yet not my will but thine.

              1. skippy

                I think you do a disservice to your natural talents, as a, stand up comic. Half the people I show this – on going dialog – to are either rolling in the isles or jaw dropping dumb struck, which ever way you would fill the house.

                skippy… BTW get a calendar and check the date, then reconcile every thing that has happened on this planet, to everything, and the differences between your critical dates out of antiquity’s dark shadow and now.

                PS. When did you start practicing occultist witch craft? Invoking sprints to do your pleading.

                1. F. Beard

                  My baby brother is the natural comic and there’s no competing with his talent or with talent in general, I’ve learned.

                  Keep me informed on the hemorrhoids? I felt a bit guilty and asked the curse be rescinded but added (I think) “yet not my will” so I may get to have my cake and eat it too.

        2. optimader

          I wonder what happened to FMexico? thin skinned I guess, which should be a irrelevant condition for an anonymous poster. I enjoyed his flows of consciousness if for no other reason than diversity of perspective.

          1. F. Beard

            thin skinned I guess, which should be a irrelevant condition for an anonymous poster.

            No, because we all like to preserve our good name even if it is a pseudo-name:

            A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1

            1. optimader

              I don’t think what I read of his thoughts ever “tarnished” his Pseudonym, ever. Brevity may not have been his strong suit but I think his POV was well intentioned.

      2. Vatch

        I don’t think the job guarantee proponents are saying that every able bodied person MUST work 8 hours per day. I think they’re saying that every able bodied person should have the opportunity to work 8 hours per day. And if a 4 hour workday can provide for a person’s needs, then that’s what should be guaranteed.

        1. F. Beard

          Camel’s nose, camel’s nose …

          Wray’s JG is basically to create trained wage-slaves for the so-called “private” sector and/or to keep them too busy with make-work to question why they must earn the money the government-backed credit cartel CREATES for itself and the so-called “creditworthy.”

        2. Calgacus

          Right, Vatch, you got it. Unfortunately a lot of intelligent people – F Beard, Washunate etc simply don’t understand what the JG proposal is & argue against things MMTers do not propose and often argue against.

          But: And if a 4 hour workday can provide for a person’s needs, then that’s what should be guaranteed. No. People have a right to do as much paid work as they want and are able to do. It is tyrannical toward the individual and anti-social to not do so – for economic experts to arbitrarily decide how adults should spend their time, what their needs are.

          F. Beard:
          The Camel’s nose, the (wage)slavery, the make-work, the tyranny is solely constituted by the bare existence of the monetary economy – not the JG. If an society uses money and but doesn’t have full employment, has no JG, it is by that token obscenely unjust, immoral, tyrannical and insane. (Of course it could be all those things even with a JG )

          It has nothing to do with the existence of banks, and the same arguments and adjectives apply to any F Beard proposals without a JG. As I have said before, any unemployed person in such a JG-less monetary “utopia” has an absolute right to simply take some of the property of the geniuses who designed such a utopia that excludes him by not providing him the human right of a job. To “steal” in self-defense from people who do not understand the accounting, do not understand how they are stealing from, attacking him, how they are speaking in contradictions, simultaneously saying he is and is not a member of the society.

          Full employment, the JG is how all human, all social enterprises, all businesses are organized – with the sole, unique example of national monetary economies. This is because people – and other social animals – use common sense, logic and experience to organize everything else. But national monetary economies are fantastically ineptly run by “fuddling ones head for years & years” (Keynes) by utterly unscientific superstitions which make no logical sense and have no empirical use. Unfortunately, they are incredibly well ingrained in modern societies, especially among the non-poor. And encased in pseudoscientific pseudomathematics to fool the innumerate and unphilosophical.

          The JG always increases social welfare. The JG is a job offer. It always increases & is necessary for individual freedom. Has anybody ever heard of “oppression by being offered a job”?

          1. F. Beard

            If an society uses money and but doesn’t have full employment, has no JG, it is by that token obscenely unjust, immoral, tyrannical and insane Calgacus

            What part of shares in Equity (common stock) equals the IDEAL, ethical private endogenous money form don’t you MMT guys not get? Never seen a balance sheet? So, so much for “We need a government-backed credit cartel because endogenous money is necessary for economic growth.”

            The MMT people are trying to save the government-backed usury for stolen purchasing power cartel when they should be trying to EUTHANIZE IT!

          2. F. Beard

            Give people land and a Living Income and they can find their own (by definition) meaningful work to do!

            At the Second Coming, the apparent plan for most humans (those who survive) will be family farms, vineyards, orchards, etc. So why fight the inevitable and justice too?

          3. F. Beard

            And in case people can’t put themselves to work they can go work for free* for those who’ll be happy to order them around.

            Your JG is just a shoddy, insulting, unnecessary substitute for justice.

            You guys are sick since you literally beg to be slaves.

            *Since they won’t need the income.

            1. Calgacus

              Systematically preventing people from “find[ing] their own (by definition) meaningful work to do!” is exactly what a monetary economy without a JG does. And that includes a Beardian one with common stock money, no credit cartel and guaranteed income. Where is the difficulty in seeing that even such a Beardian society is issuing tyrannical – to the point of comical – orders to people that that society prevents from earning money, prevents from doing meaningful work?

              Why – and this goes for all critics of the JG – the fanatical opposition to people getting money when THEY want money? Not when an omniscient planner, an omniscient state, an omniscient money-issuer wants to dole it out to them? Why do people think they are better than the ordinary guy or gal in the street? These dark days, homeless and on the street. Why can’t they have agency? How can putting the disemployed more in charge be construed as slavery?

              1. skippy

                Massively seconded.

                Beardo trots out the “final solution” [always around the corner] and then proceeds to tell everyone on the planet, the position one must assume for a pass or fail [one based on the romanticized horrors of epoch past].

                Skippy… totalitarianism’s breathless evocation at everything not according to his agency… madness has no mirror.

                  1. skippy

                    Your fixation on my posterior is worry sum beardo, not that their is anything wrong with that kind of action. Just saying out of all the possibility’s one could evoke using witchcraft… you went there.

                    skippy…. land redistribution to fix a already over packed world…. shezzz… how much more detached from reality can you get.

                    1. F. Beard

                      Re land distribution objection (not enough land):

                      Don’t be afraid. Next time you fly, look out the window.

                      re your posterior:

                      It’s funny you should go there. Would hemorrhoids put a dent in your sex life?

                      And what pitiful cowardice that an ex-military man would feel the need to be politically correct.

                    2. skippy

                      Yeah lot of land in the desert, tho the water issue is your tipping point. Your screwed there.

                      Knew a lot of LBGT folks in the military, 70s to boot, officers and enlisted, whats your point again?

                      Personally I find you to be a decrepit little man with an intellect to match. Hows that for political correct

                      skippy…. the thing is beardo you don’t care about humanity or the planet. All you care about is bringing forth your theological vision to reality come hell or high water, nothing else matters. Just another proto wanabe chicken farmer on drugs Gestapo Gawd boy masquerading as the sympathetic guy next door.

                      PS. In person I can guaranty your use of phrases like “pitiful cowardice” would not be so easily uttered, when performing your own personal rectal exam, optically.

                    3. F. Beard

                      Knew in what sense? The Biblical sense?

                      As for being a physical coward, I’ve proven to my own satisfaction I’m not.

                      But this has never been about me since I have no aspirations for power or wealth.

                      My only remaining words to you are:

                      Oink! Oink!

                    4. skippy

                      Your losing the plot old boy, bit by bit, as the chances of your wishes desire will not come to fruition. See that’s the problem with creating reality out of whole cloth, then endlessly edit it in a vain attempt to keep it concurrent with the constantly up dated data base. At some point it breaks and something new has to replace it that matches the background data, see the Toynbee quotes and summery I’ve posted recently.

                      Skippy… your now obsessing with my ass, its none of your business what I do with it, tho past conversations should serve. If your memory still functions outside your manic needs.

                      PS. you used the term coward in reference to me moron, so how you cognitively mangle that into you providing personal satisfaction of your manliness, is indicative of not only yourself, but, of your stripes zealots and their psychotic blabbing.

              2. F. Beard

                Why – and this goes for all critics of the JG – the fanatical opposition to people getting money when THEY want money? Calgacus

                What part of Living Income don’t you get?

                Your JG is completely unnecessary since:

                1) With land and a Living Income people can find their own work to do.
                2) Work for someone else for a wage or even for free since they would not need the income.

                A JG is a victim-blaming attempted substitute for justice.

          4. Vatch

            Hi Calgacus,

            But: And if a 4 hour workday can provide for a person’s needs, then that’s what should be guaranteed. No. People have a right to do as much paid work as they want and are able to do. It is tyrannical toward the individual and anti-social to not do so – for economic experts to arbitrarily decide how adults should spend their time, what their needs are.

            I don’t think I expressed myself very well in the italicized quote. I didn’t mean that a person must work no more than 4 hours per day. I meant that in a reasonable job guarantee program a person should have the option of working the 4 hours that will provide for his or her needs. If a person wishes to work more or less than that, that is perfectly acceptable. And a different number of hours may be required to provide for a person’s needs.

            Does that make sense?

            1. Calgacus

              Yes, of course I agree wholeheartedly. I was glad to see someone with a clear understanding, and was being captious for no real reason.

      3. lambert strether

        I dimly recall something about “bearing false witness.” Links, please, on (a) why 8 hours is an essential part of any JG and (b) why JG is “make work.” Look around you. Do you really believe there is no work that needs to be done?

        i really hate to see a Big Lie take root in the comments section. Somehow, through a Goebbelsian level of repetition, the idea has taken root that a job for everyone who wants one is a fascist program people will be forced to join. (You can argue the the system of wage labor forces people to join it, and it is true that the JG wouldn’t abolish wage labor, though it would improve the bargaining power of workers. But so far as I can tell, Beard isn’t making that argument.) Leaving aside the Godwin’s Law violation (“any stick to beat a dog”) the clsim is false.

        Beard’s comment is immoral by his own lights for two reasons:

        1. It’s wrong to tell lies;

        2. It’s wrong to support regulating the economy, as we do today, by the brutal and inhumane practice of throwing people out of work.

        A job for everyone who wants one is a very simple idea that would help a lot of hurting people. I can’t understand the virulence of the opposition to it, nor can I understand the tendentious tactics and outright falsehoods used by those who hate it, unless they’re sfraid, for whatever reason, that it just might work.

        1. F. Beard

          [I’ll dissect your comment slowly since it’s a big feast]

          Do you really believe there is no work that needs to be done? Lambert

          Straw man since the point of a JG is not to do all the work necessary but to pay people to waste their time whether there is necessary work to be done or not. FYI, I’m all for generous spending for infrastructure work (but with bulldozers, not spoons, as Miltie Friedman once quipped to the Chinese who preferred to keep to use shovels to maximize employment.)

        2. F. Beard

          Links, please, on (a) why 8 hours is an essential part of any JG Lambert

          To avoid disturbing the private sector wage structure and to ensure the JG is consistent with price stability, the JG wage rate should probably be set at (or slightly below) the current legal minimum wage. from

          This would also mean that a Guaranteed Income (or government supplements to income) would also have to total below minimum wage x 40 hours for the same reasons: “To avoid disturbing the private sector wage structure and to ensure the JG is consistent with price stability.”

          So who could survive working at minimum wage (at best) for less than 40 hours a week?

        3. F. Beard

          I can’t understand the virulence of the opposition to it, … Lambert

          Then you aren’t listening:

          1) A JG is an attempted substitute for justice. People were robbed of their land and now their jobs via unethical purchasing power creation. They deserve restitution, not implicit blame and make-work.

          2) A purpose of a JG is to train and discipline workers for the so-called “private” sector, their oppressors, the government-enabled banks and so-called “creditworthy” businesses.

          Please! Give me some honest Commies who at least dreamed of utopia instead of Wray’s neverending government-enabled oppression by the banks and the rich.

        4. F. Beard

          the idea has taken root that a job for everyone who wants one Lambert

          With a Guaranteed Living Income and land, anyone who wants a job can work for free, if necessary, for someone who’d be happy to order him around.

          It’s WORK that man has a need for – MEANINGFUL work.

          Big Lie? Here’s a huge one: The public’s credit should be available to serve PRIVATE interests, especially those of the rich since they are the most so-called creditworthy.

        5. F. Beard

          Beard’s comment is immoral by his own lights for two reasons:

          1. It’s wrong to tell lies; lambert

          Physician heal thyself! Prove that I’m lying first, huh?

          2. It’s wrong to support regulating the economy, as we do today, by the brutal and inhumane practice of throwing people out of work. lambert

          Straw man slander since I advocate a Steve-Keen-like universal bailout, land reform, an equal redistribution of the common stock of all large corporations, and a Guaranteed Living Income. Who would desperately need a job under those circumstances?

        6. different clue


          If you decide to scrape the FBeard-doo off the bottom of NC’s shoes, might it be well to leave the couple of FBeard-Skippy exchanges still here? So the passing reader can smell how FBeard really feels and thinks?

          1. F. Beard

            Yep, I’m no angel but I can speak the truth about somethings. So is it only the truth you want scraped? What does that make you then? Huh?

            Bottom of NC’s soles? That presumes I’ve been refuted and I see no such thing yet.

    2. Optimader

      Bertrand Russell, fun stuff to read inhigh school . Born into the british aristocracy and never really had a job did he? If only we could all sit around and ponder the common man while waiting for the college butler to bring up a pot of Earl Gray. The pin factory lol!!!

      1. financial matters

        I think that there is an interesting collaboration going on between Jesse Myerson and Pavlina Tcherneva concerning employment issues…

        JANUARY 3, 2014

        ‘We live in the age of 3D printers and self-replicating robots. Actual human workers are increasingly surplus to requirement – that’s one major reason why we have such a big unemployment problem’

        The Social Enterprise Sector Model for a Job Guarantee in the U.S.
        January 9, 2014
        By Pavlina R. Tcherneva

        ‘What kind of jobs?
        Non-profits and SEVs already work to produce sustainable and reproducible low-cost solutions for the most overlooked and blighted areas in our nation, such as low cost urban fisheries, community clinics, farms, aquaponics, youth mentoring projects, veteran services, and many other. Many support community sustainable agriculture initiatives, work to address the dual challenge of homelessness and AIDS, provide internship opportunities for at-risk-youth, or renovate and beautify decrepit urban spaces with murals and art projects.

        As Salon’s Brian Beutler correctly observed, the astute conservatives understand what’s at stake here: not that the Rolling Stone article is advocating for some form of communism, Stalinism, or some other than the preferred –ism, but that young people are beginning to demand a renewed role for government policies that serve the public interest. Worse, that a policy like the JG represents a foundational rethinking of the safety-net in a way that provides economic opportunities to all. It is a call for a bolder New New Deal for the modern world.’

        1. optimader

          Will read later
          I do take issue with this
          “We live in the age of 3D printers and self-replicating robots”

          3D additive manufacturing processes is waaaay oversold in the MSM because it looks cool (in timelapse photography), is fairly unintuitive and easy production value for the 30second impression on TV. We have had 3D “removal” manufacturing processes for decades, the bones of which were the likes of card or tape programed textile looms.
          Self replicating robots? At this point that is noise in the signal of the displaced labor pool..

          More significant I imagine is displaced unskilled or semiskilled office labor, I started in the ’80’s where there were steno pools typing in triplicate and legions of accounting staff w/ lever operated calculators. On the other side of the door, displaced factory assembly and production labor. The former office labor jobs are largely extinct and latter is being chipped away at w/ lightsout automation where applicable.

          Well paid skilled setup guys and skilled machinist jobs are begging right now, but I don’t think most millennial have a taste for this sort of work, or even understand what it is. I was in a factory last week that does stuff like machining 4-6ft diameter rolling mill rolls. Vey well paid intelligent machinists, from Poland mostly, just a few domestic born young guys. This kinda work is catastrophically expensive to get wrong. CNC machining centers, yes, but the operator is programming them. Elements of logic have been replaced in the manufacturing arena, human judgment is still tough nut to crack.

          1. neo-realist

            Re skilled setup guys and skilled machinist jobs, I suspect most millennials (particularly middle and upper middle class ones) were told by their parents that such work was beneath them and they should to go to college to eventually become lawyers, doctors, bankers, etc rather than vocational school to work along side Lil Abner goobers.

            In the Seattle area, we do have a vocational training program or two geared toward aerospace machinist work since we’ve got a cluster industry around here.

      2. Banger

        Really? You reduce Russell to a that? You have no idea what you are talking about. Attack his arguments rather than his person who I am sure you never met.

        1. optimader

          Hardly “attacking his person” just offering historical context, was I inaccurate?

          Frankly none of us control the family or demographic we’re born into. if I were of his day in England I’m sure I’d prefer to be born into aristocracy as well and have an opportunity to engage in intellectual pursuit my whole life, who wouldn’t?

          Actually, as I recall I enjoyed his writing back in the day when I read it. Not withstanding, a 4hr work day isnt any more practical today than it was in 1932 IMO. I come from a 24/7 manufacturing background, six four hour shifts a day? Dream on. Ironically enough many of our guys would prefer 12hr days, 4 days a week w/ guaranteed OT. If I were an operator, I would to.
          Back in 1932 in a more Agrarian economy, even more absurd.

          1. John Mc

            However, I think you have to make the case for productivity over time to construct deeper more critical thought. In a neoliberal world, the chiding of “get a job” rhetoric is an obscenity to those who believe we need more Russell and less Paul Ryan.

            And I think it is a paramount point that we should interrupt here is that the only work worth doing is one where a wage is attached to. I think we can safely say that parenting is unpaid job that is worth doing well as is picking up our contributions to trash. So many others. However, the one hidden point you make is that many of us prioritize our time in such a way as to make changing the status quo an on-going tension between self interests.

    3. Dan Kervick

      One reason that Russell didn’t keep many ordinary jobs is that he was persecuted and sacked for taking dissident political positions. He was imprisoned and blacklisted in the UK for his opposition to WWI, and was chased out of a position at the City College of New York by the moral authorities for his very unconventional and liberal ideas about sex, marriage and reproduction.

  7. casino implosion

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Gaius Publius posting oversimplified history here which reminds me of Daily Kos propaganda. I expect way more sophistication and respect for the readership from Naked Capitalism.

    Neoliberalism is NOT “pre-FDR liberalism”/19th c. laissez faire capitalism. As another NC contributor, the great Michael Hudson, explains in his book “Super Imperialism”, FDR’s Second World War and the resulting establishment of American financial power with Bretton Woods was the beginning of what we call neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a creature of the modern corporate state, for which FDR has as much responsibility as anyone. See also the works of New Left historian Gabriel Kolko on why the Manichean opposition of Big Business to Big Government is bogus to begin with.

    Jesus, I’m starting to sound like a libertarian.

      1. James Levy

        I see neoliberalism as a political economy which combines broad social inclusion with a state-corporate partnership and an ideology that stresses “market” solutions and private gain. It is not the Liberalism of Gladstone and Joseph Chamberlain.

        In politics, neoliberalism separates the liberal impulse of LBJ and George McGovern from the Democratic Leadership Council ideology that started with Carter and came to fruition with Clinton. And speaking of history, to say that FDR was really a neoliberal would be like saying that Clement Atlee was really New Labour just because he wasn’t a socialist revolutionary. There are real differences between FDR and Obama, just as there was between Atlee and Blair. And it was more than a dime’s worth of difference, especially when one considers the guiding impulses. Or, to put it concretely, Obamacare is not Medicare and Medicaid. The differences between them are real.

        1. Banger

          Good point, James. Roosevelt had socialists working for him in various positions. There is absolutely nothing in common with Obama and FDR or JFK.

        2. John Mc

          Chomsky does a good job in profit over people of describing Neoliberalism as series of financialized steps:

          1) Open up – markets, info, trade, resources (sell free market exceptionalism)
          2) Assess profit streams & access points – (economic hit men)
          3) Deregulation – (change the rules in favor of US corporations)
          4) Privatization – (inflate, amplify, reroute and extract new profit streams)
          5) Cut Social Supports – (externalize costs onto public & starve-beast tactics)
          6) Protect Profits (consolidate the oligopoly into a few multinational players)

          This works at all levels. Individually, a doctor asks his/her patient to open up and share their medical history. Doctors have a good idea of how they make their money and why the patient is present. The rules favors the medical system, not the patient. They become a private source of on-going revenue. As prices increase and physicians make more money, they route their resources to insuring their livelihood, thus no single payer. And many physicians are now able to protect their turf in the neoliberal order through expensive tests, invasive surgeries and a mediocre brand of medicine once thought of as impossibility to the doctors who came a generation before them.

          In terms of country, we move in the same way. We want Venezuela’s oil to be opened up to US corporations. We have done the math and know how profitable it would be and many of rules of already favor oil money (since the US hegemony for the last 100 years has been predicated on our ability to find, steal, convert, and pump oil (along with corrupt partnerships in the middle east). This resource is owned and privatized. The cutting of social supports can be seen in the demise of early climate change denial, the planned execution of the electric car and a whole host of delay tactics that would make the tobacco industry blush. They have protected their profits and will so for a long while.

          This is a long winded way of saying that systemic neoliberalism (apart from the different flavors discussed in the Road to Mt Pelerin) in the US looks like series of steps one might follow in a Zig Ziglar motivational seminar. The only aspect of this that is particularly difficult is that the word NEOLIBERALISM is so misunderstood and opaque in today’s society.

        3. jrs

          Yea but were the differences do to differences in personalities of our so called leaders or the other events going on at the time? IOW – yes there was a real left in the 30s.

    1. Dan Kervick

      I don’t really understand this. The term “neoliberalism” has been used by various folks over the past century to refer to various kinds and modifications of classical liberalism. But in contemporary parlance it refers to a very definite intellectual and political movement that surged to the fore in the 70’s and 80’s with Reagan and Thatcher on the right and with the rise of “third way” politics on the center-left. Anyone who was alive during this period is well aware of the successful political assaults on labor, the waves of deregulation of business, trade and capital flows, the reduction in marginal tax rates and the movement toward privatization that took place during this period and have stamped our era. Neoliberalism also came with a kind of cultural revolution that extolled commercial values, acquisitiveness and radical individualism, which in turn has led to a more aggressive colonization of everyday cultural life by the ethos of the marketplace and an antisocial code of ruthless competition. To identify neoliberalism with economic imperialism, state capitalism, the role of large state-backed economic organizations to drain the term of useful meaning, since even countries with a democratic socialist or social democratic orientation could engage in such practices. It is important to recognize what is distinctive about the economics of the past four decades.

      1. Hugh

        We need to distinguish between neoliberalism as practised and preached. In theory, it favors a reduction of government’s role in the economy. In practice, it is simple corporatism. It is for eliminating regulations which place restrictions on markets (and which keep them from blowing up or limit CEO salaries). And it is against regulations which protect workers and their jobs as well as consumers and small investors (the 99% in other words). On the other hand, it is for governmental bailouts for the rich and corporations when their greed and looting produce a crash. It is for absurd intellectual property laws which are nothing more than schemes to extract rent in perpetuity rather than spur economic activity which were their original purpose. And it is for almost any government action which weakens labor.

        It is this co-optation or purchase of government by corporations which invites the comparison to fascism. Under classic fascism, the unions would also be part of this cabal, but the truth is their position in the US is so weak and they have been so bastardized that there is no need to include them.

    2. JTFaraday

      I kind of like the way Naiomi Klein puts it in The Shock Doctrine. Chicago School “libertarianism” was designed to lead to corporatist ends right from the start. It’s just what the basic set up is, and it only masquerades under the rhetoric of the “free market.”:

      From the Shock Doctrine:

      “In some ways, however, the stories about corruption and revolving doors leave a false impression. They imply that there is still a clear line between the state and the [disaster capitalist] complex, when in fact the line disappeared long ago. The innovation of the Bush years lies not in how quickly politicians move from one world to another but in how many feel entitled to occupy both worlds simultaneously.

      People like Richard Perle and James Baker make policy, offer top level advice and speak in the press as disinterested experts and statesmen when they are at the same time utterly embedded in the business of privatized war and reconstruction. They embody the ultimate fulfillment of the corporatist mission: a total merger of political and corporate elites in the name of security, with the state playing the role of chair of the business guild–as well as the largest source of business opportunities, thanks to the contract economy.

      Wherever it has emerged over the past thrity-five years, from Santiago to Moscow to Beijing to Bush’s Washington, the alliance between a small corporate elite and a right-wing government has been written off as some sort of aberration–mafia capitalism, oligarchy capitalism and now, under Bush, ‘crony capitalism.’ But it’s not an aberration; it is where the entire Chicago School crusade–with its triple obsesssions– privatization, deregulation and union busting–has been leading.

      Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s dogged refusal to choose between their disaster-connected holdings and their public duties were the first sign that a genuine corporatist state had arrived. There are many others.”

      I’m sure someone like Michael Hudson could better define what the continuities and discontinuties are between the liberal precursor state that produced neoliberal corporatism (partly on the sly, in other countries) and today’s neoliberal corporatism itself.

      1. Dan Kervick

        And do you think that if they really did support the free market as opposed to “corporatist” ends, that would have been better? What’s so great about these free markets? What evidence is there for thinking that an economy organized entirely around self-organized and voluntary private enterprise and exchange decisions is the best way to promote human welfare?

        All of the libertarian revisionism about neoliberalism is an attempt by libertarians, who are themselves a giant part of the problem, to distort and co-opt a popular line of social critique and ride ill-deservedly on its coattails. Believe it or not, the reforms of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s did indeed make enterprise and markets more free. And as a result they made our society worse.

        We don’t need even more economic freedom and individualism. We need well-governed markets and socially well-organized enterprise. We need a wiser mix of private and public enterprise. People need to start acting like democratic citizens in a democratic polity, and organize themselves like mature, self-governing adults to take charge of their national economy, and organize and run it it for the achievement of coherent social purposes.

        If a political society disbands or dismantles its security and defense system, that is just an invitation for warlords to take over. Similarly if we make our economy more “free” by eliminating rules, disbanding regulatory authorities and dismantling the legal and social restraints on the private control of capital, that is an invitation for private corporations to take over. The contemporary libertarian notion that concentrated corporate power is solely the consequence of political cronyism is wildly naive and runs against any reasonable reading of human history and human nature. Private capital doesn’t need the active connivance of states to constitute itself as despotic power. Rather the tendency for private wealth and power to strive for despotic control is endemic in human society, and only powerful states and a firm rule of law can prevent it.

        1. JTFaraday

          You didn’t get that from that Klein quote. I’m not going to get into an argument with a rigid ideologue who consistently projects things onto others.

          1. Dan Kervick

            I wasn’t responding to the Klein quote, but rather to the statement you wrote introducing it.

            1. JTFaraday

              Yeah, that statement sums up the history of the way Chicago School worked in hand in hand with right wing governments, including a US advance guard within the security state created in the aftermath of WWII, to produce today’s neoliberal corporatism.

              None of this has anything to do with the democracy we don’t have. But it is very much in charge of the government we do have.

              It’s your job as a citizen to deal with that reality, not the preferred reality that lives only in your head. Meanwhile, your fanatically screwed up abuse of me is over for the day.

              1. John Mc

                It’s just what the basic set up is, and it only masquerades under the rhetoric of the “free market.”:

                This idea speaks to the nature of selling free markets on the front end, but using protectionist policies with your own prized assets (China and US oil companies).

        2. F. Beard

          Believe it or not, the reforms of the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s did indeed make enterprise and markets more free. And as a result they made our society worse. Dan K

          Yes because the regulations were removed or relaxed while the implicit and explicit government privileges REMAINED! Are you too blind to realize that that is on its face a recipe for abuse?

          Here’s the solution: Remove BOTH the regulations (such that remain) AND the privileges (the Fed and government deposit insurance instead of a Postal Savings Service) and let 100% private banks with 100% voluntary depositors sink or swim with no more concern for them than for a Las Vegas casino going bust since banking is gambling too.

    3. Gaius Publius

      Thanks, casino implosion. This is getting a bit academic at this point, but “neoliberalism” really is a return to “classic liberalism” of the 19th century and earlier. In the economy-and-government sphere of their thinking, FDR is an offshoot, and a radical one; creating an aggressive regulatory regime was anathema. For more, start here:

      … In the late 19th century, classical liberalism developed into neo-classical liberalism, which argued for government to be as small as possible in order to allow the exercise of individual freedom. In its most extreme form, it advocated Social Darwinism. Libertarianism is a modern form of neo-classical liberalism.[8]

      The term classical liberalism was applied in retrospect to distinguish earlier 19th-century liberalism from the newer social liberalism.[9] The phrase classical liberalism is also sometimes used to refer to all forms of liberalism before the 20th century, and some conservatives and right-libertarians use the term classical liberalism to describe their belief in the primacy of economic freedom and minimal government. It is not always clear which meaning is intended. …

      There’s much more. Offer’s phrase “neoclassical economics” covers much the same intellectual ground. Bottom line and core belief, freedom of “markets” and private economic activity from government.

      But again, this is getting academic, and it’s not really the main point. People today don’t remember pre-FDR economics, so to them “liberal” was what FDR, LBJ and Bernie Sanders were or are. Next-gen “neoliberals” are “not-that” but like to paint themselves (falsely) as heirs somehow. So that’s where I’ll be going from now on.


      1. JTFaraday

        You need to do more research on this. The US government always had a hand in developing its capitalist economy. This history of the US is not reducible to a neo-classical textbook, (or anyone else’s ideological mythmaking).

        1. Susan the other

          But nobody ever counted on climate change. Which has made a mockery of our devotion to profit. Unless the idea of profit is put to use in the effort to reduce climate disasters, it will become just another 6-letter word. As it stands now, profit creates climate disasters because it has always taken easy surplus and reinvested it for even more, exponential, easy (environment destroying) surplus… and here we are. Either we redefine profit or we prohibit it… something tells me that would take care of both climate change and inequality.

  8. Optimader

    Just a quick point , we can all imagine the various future dire consequences of living beyond global carrycapacity (try defining what that is and how population densityshould be distributed), but who realistically buys into a domstic zero carbon emission society in 5-10years? That seems an absurdly unrealistic objective. All the rhetoric is engaging fun , but how about a rough outline on hiw to get there. Start with a proposed US energy balance, the mix of energy infrastructure to support it and a comment on the cost and timline to bring all that online… All while we spike down in agricultural productivity as a result of removing cheminal fertilizers (nat gas) from the food hain.

    “Voluntary rationing means that we’ll have it very hard, World War I and II hard, for five-to-ten years, and then we’ll be carbon-free forever. “

  9. Banger

    I don’t really understand the concept of a “just world” — I guess what it really means is that since the world as it is is already just then there is no justice and if there is no justice how can the world be “just” or anything else? I don’t like the term. I think the issue is copassion–you have it or you don’t.

    I think the categorization of the Catholic Church as not believing in justice is caca and undermines the whole argument. Tell that to the many clergy who have died fighting for justice.

    As for zero carbon–that can only happen if the world’s oligarchs collectively decide to pursue such a policy and they are unlikely to do so, mainly because they got, often, through a lack of compassion. Those are the people we need to convince. The average person, at least in the U.S., is used to being led by the nose and will just follow the media which is owned by the oligarchs–you can talk about zero carbon all you want but the media will ignore the issue as they ignore climate change.

    1. HotFlash

      Yeah, the bit abt the Catholic Church hit me as odd/wrong, too. The Church has many, many faults, but in truth, its bread and butter for two millenia has been explaining to good but poor people that it is OK that they get the shitty end of the stick, as they will get their reward after death. Now, Calvin’s line, OTOH, was guaranteed to appeal to the rich and the wannabees — the bourgoisie.

      1. shtove

        The reward after death is the just desserts the OP refers to – whether the perceived justice is pre- or post-mortem, it still distorts people’s actions because they have the belief that those actions have predictable consequences.
        Interesting question is which system has a more desirable outcome – Catholic or Calvinist/Jansenist? And karma?

      1. F. Beard

        The Earth is quite dangerous,
        the Universe too;
        for many dangers
        there’s nothing to do
        (If there’s no God,
        we’re simply screwed).

        But with CO2
        it’s simple indeed:
        No burning of carbon
        and please do not breath!

        Hint: The banks are more likely to end mankind than CO2.

        1. John Mc

          Maybe we should ask a different question? Which of the various bastards is the most lethal to mankind is small potatoes (and fammon).

      2. optimader

        Short Florida/Arizona/Kansas real estate;
        Long Greenland/Iceland real estate, Near term, Saskatchewan wheat farms

    2. James Levy

      If I understand the author correctly, it’s not that they don’t believe in justice, they just think that society acts as a machine that delivers just rewards–thus, if I am rich it is because I am either favored by God or working much harder and smarter than you are. It is Dr.Pangloss in another guise–all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds (or at least in the world that God ordained and gave us). In this formulation compassion is misguided because it goes against the logic of the machine; it counteracts the judgment of God and the Holy Market that creates winners and losers. Just listen to the CPAC talks and you see this theme reiterated over and over again. The most hysterically funny and precise formulation of this worldview I ever heard was Ned Beatty’s speech to Peter Finch in “Network.”

    3. Laurens M. Dorsey

      Agreed. Offer’s ‘just world’ seems a derivative of Leibnitz’s ‘best of all possible worlds’ on which Voltaire’s Candide is still the bomb.

      Philip Mirowski’s investigations of neo-liberalim include an essay on Wikipedia (in The Road from Mt Pelerin, I think) that gves Gaius’s citation of it as an authority a frisson of irony. (Mirowski is also very good on the post-cold-war neo-liberal agenda for the university.)

      Also, struck me that the USSR was not a model existing reality a machine for creating a new reality. A utopianism. On which John Gray is great. (Offer or Hedges pushes the ‘model’ trope too far, and pretty uninterestingly.)

  10. Chad

    At the risk of being an insufferable pedant, the term is “just deserts.” It’s still pronounced like “desserts,” not like the arid region. It’s the same root as “deserve,” hence the spelling.

    1. Gaius Publius

      Not a pedant, Chad, but a friend. Of course you’re right and it matters to me. I stared at that for hours as I wrote and edited, and never checked, even though it nagged at me. Thank you.


  11. WJL

    Carbon has radically expanded the carrying capacity of the planet. If we go zero carbon in a fairly short time, who have you chosen to die?

    i sympathize with your goals, but your methods may not lead to the results you might desire. Show me a plan that keep most of us alive and I’m willing to listen.

    1. Vatch

      Carbon based fuels have only temporarily increased our planet’s carrying capacity.

      Nobody needs to die; rather, people should stop having so many children. This isn’t close to the whole solution, but it is a necessary part of it. The faster this occurs, the sooner we can reduce or eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels. Simultaneously, we also need to expand the use of renewable energy sources, and improve the efficiency of existing sources of energy. In countries like the United States, people should eat less meat. A lot of fossil fuels and fertilizer are used to grow the plants that feed the farm animals, and that is very wasteful. We don’t have to all become vegetarians, but it isn’t necessary to eat meat multiple times per day. High consumption of meat protein has been linked to cancer, so it really isn’t a sacrifice to cut back to meat eating.

      1. Vatch

        Typo fever. I meant to say:

        …it really isn’t a sacrifice to cut back to on meat eating.

      2. different clue

        Also, make the meat we eat strictly pasture and range fed, no confinement corn/soy feeding. Boycotting corn/soy fed beef would boycott all the carbon skydumping used to grow all that corn and soy to feed the beef. Then too, I have read that beef on range and pasture may be carbon neutral or even carbon suckdown positive in that the pasture/range ends up storing more suckdowned carbon in the plantroots and soil than the carbon emitted by the cows metabolizing the carbon they ingested by eating the overground parts of the growing plants. Maybe if enough people started eating enough pasture-range beef and boycotting corn-soy beef the incentive to turn corn-soy land into pasture-range land would increase, leading to even more carbon-suckdown. Corn-soy land sequesters very little or no net carbon so far as I know. (Certain organic farmers may be getting carbon soil-sequestration results). If a billion acres of corn-soy land were converted to pasture under cattle, how much carbon would that billion acres of new pasture land start sucking down and bio-sequestering?

    2. Gaianne

      “Carbon has radically expanded the carrying capacity of the planet”

      But only temporarily. Now that cheap energy is gone, carrying capacity has gone into contraction–returning in a few decades or a century to what it was before coal was ever discovered.

      Nothing can change that.

      Really nothing.

      It is fine to say drill, baby, drill, and let the climate take care of itself, but in truth there is very little left to drill. There is some difficult, high-cost energy. There is no further cheap energy at all. None. All of the cheap energy still on the market comes from old sources that are declining.

      On the time frame of a century the question for humans is: Will the earth support a billion people or a half million world-wide? (Or even less? The ten billion you hear about is pure delusion.) Things we do now will influence the answer to that question then.

      There are certainly many ways we can make things worse than they have to be, and we are already doing some of them. Doing less might be wiser. Thinking small, local, and low-energy might help.

      Nothing we do now can support the lifestyles of the middle class over the long term. Nor for that matter, the lifestyles of the 1%.

      If we are to avoid the Easter Island scenerio Peter De Boer alludes to at the top of this thread, a whole lot of people are going to have to be willing to downsize their lives, including–but not only–their carbon footprint. There is currently no evidence of any such willingness.

      Maybe that can change. Maybe not. Still worth a try.


  12. David M

    Zero carbon is all well and good, but geoengineering must be taken into account too. There’s no way any major country will throw up its hands and surrender vast coastal areas if there’s a chance of lowering the planets temperature with stratospheric sulfate or any other number of harm reduction measures.
    As soon as South Florida (or some equally valuable real estate) floods in a “Haiyan-size hurricane event”, moral qualms and caution will go out the window and governments will turn to climate engineering. In any practical consideration, zero carbon is way down the list of ways to deal with the effects climate change

    1. different clue

      Well then, carbon driven ocean acidation will destroy enough humanly-edible ocean life that many people will die from straight-up no-more-seafood starvation anyway.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    If you sail across the solar sea, land on Europa first before other humans, and claim for yourself that nice little property, is that theft?

    Do we claim now that the whole universe belongs to no one and will never belong to any one, so that even if you reach Europa first before anyone else, you can’t have it?

    Do we claim, alternatively, that the whole universe belongs to everyone, and will always belong to everyone, so, in that case, you still can’t have it to yourself?

    On the other hand, if the whole universe belongs to no one or everyone, by what right do we keep out (space) aliens?

    1. Patricia

      On the third hand, if the planet and all the universe are owned by various someones, by what right do we keep out space aliens, when they do only what we’ve done to each other?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Good point.

        What do we do, then, if they only come for the whales, as destructive humans are not very desirable?

    2. Dan Kervick

      In my opinion, the concepts of ownership and property rights make no sense outside of a political community and legal framework that has the capacity to assign and defend these rights. If we ever come to face these issues as actual political problems, we will have to try to solve them in a practical way through political-decision making. There is no pre-existing universal charter of property rights that determines what the right answer is.

      1. MaroonBulldog

        To which I would add, the concepts of ownership and property rights are circularly referential inside a legal framework, either concept only making sense when defined in terms of the other. Consider these definitions in the Civil Code of California (section 654): “The ownership of a thing is the right of one or more persons to possess and use it to the exclusion of others. In this Code, the thing of which there may be ownership is called property.” The second sentence invites another question: can we distinguish a class of “things of which there may be ownership” but which are not owned? In California, we can’t. Whatever can be possessed and used exclusively by anyone is owned by someone. (Section 669): “All property has an owner, whether that owner is the State, and the property public, or the owner an individual, and the property private. The State may also hold property as a private proprietor.” But what it can’t find an owner or tell who the owner is? For that, there’s this definition in the Code of Civil Procedure (Section 1300(d)): ‘”Permanent escheat” means the absolute vesting in the state of title to property the whereabouts of whose owner is unknown or whose owner owner is unknown or which a known owner has refused to accept ….” State ownership is the default rule for everything. All property comes from the State.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          “Whatever can be possessed and used exclusively by anyone is owned by someone. ”

          For how long?

          The breath of air you inhale – that air is possessed by you (briefly), and used exclusively by you (briefly). So you own that air?

          What if you or your machine exhales that into a bag so you keep the air ‘permanently?’ – a nontrivial question in a trapped room with limited ventilation with others.

          1. MaroonBulldog

            You may have a thing in your possession, and be using it exclusively, but that doesn’t mean that you own it, if you do not have the “right” to possess it and use it exclusively. Every word in the definition is important.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              That is maybe where your circular referencing comes in, as I don’t see where ‘a right’ is defined

              So, for air, who does one ask in order to be declined a right to own it (no one has a right to own air)?

          2. MaroonBulldog

            Why should property in air be governed by different rules than property in other fluids? If you can own the helium or the propane in a tank, why not the air? If you release such fluids into the environment, so that you relinquish control, why should they not then become part of the common property of the state?

        2. Banger

          I like what you said about property coming from the state. Also the state exists to guarantee property rights and the functioning of markets. Without a fully-functioning state none of these things can exist.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That’s quite a way from when people got together to form a state, before the state existed or possessed any properties.

          2. MaroonBulldog

            Agreed. Markets exist so that people can exchange property rights, including right to use and possess physical things, and the contractual rights to receive performance under agreements to do certain things in the future, which are also property rights. So markets could not exist without the power of the state behind them.

          3. Vatch

            The irony is delicious. A government is required to protect people’s property rights. Such a concept must cause vertigo for the more strident of the tea partiers!

            1. MaroonBulldog

              Something else for them to chew on: The right to possess and use a thing, to the exclusion of others, does not imply that the persons who have this right may do whatever they want with the thing they own. The state has independent power regulate what may be done and what may not be done with things; the property right is only the right to say who may do whatever the state’s regulations allow.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We will probably face an actual problem as soon as a billionaire lands his ship on Mars, before the rest of us can organize to defend (future) Martian rights.

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    A question on definition.

    If we believe that a healthy person should help a sick person, because the sick ‘deserves’ helping, is that also a ‘Just Deserts’ World? If so, we need another word.

  15. Brooklin Bridge

    Climate science is so vague (and most studies spend inordinate amounts of space explaining just that) that there is virtually no consensus even by experts as to exactly when we hit a tipping point or even what that tipping point is. Everyone including the most dry scientific based analysis ends up being more or less an academic way of saying we need to act fast. Zero Carbon in five years is just a way of saying we need to act fu*king fast and use that language with to our politicians as it just might get the point about urgency accross. Frankly, it’s a refreshing change.

    More measured and academic articles make claims that may be more sober, more defensible in terms of quantifiable inputs and outputs, but they are equally (and correctly) criticized here and elsewhere as being utterly impossible -pie in they sky- assessments in any practical sense – policy we can expect to see as a result – given our current political and economic reality, here and globally. And one of their draw backs is that they don’t convey a sense of urgency. One gets the sense that the author wants as mild a presentation as the numbers can realistically be made to depict to provide a sense of feasibility and “there’s still time”.

    But this has its own very obvious weakness, especially when put up to politicians who would barely notice a meteor flying over their heads in their fury and fixation on extracting rents from their constituents for the benefit of their corporate masters.

    1. Banger

      It’s vague because the earth’s biosphere is a complex system. That you cannot measure or observe just through linear thinking. As for tipping points they are well-understood and easily observed.

      What most people don’t understand is that eco-systems are stunningly complex with intertwined feedback mechanism like the human body itself. Since most Americans think stress is a sine qua non of life and that, in fact, if you aren’t sufficiently stressed you’re lazy and immoral, then it’s hard to argue that stressing Gaia might be a bad thing. So let’s take Gaia out tonight and do shots and have her drive home in her cherry red Corvette through the streets of Manhattan and see how that works–she might get home just fine but do you really think it’s worth taking that chance?

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Nice analogy! Lacking only in stressing that stress Getty worse with time. Gaia hasn’t been home in two hundred years; there is urgency.

        By what a tipping point is, I mean above, what are the consequences of reaching a particular average temperature such as 2 degrees Celsius, not how to measure it. For instance, I do not sense a consensus as to the exact tipping point at which we can say lights-out-extinction-time, or 90% of humanity, or major inconvenience, etc., and I sense even less consensus on just how soon we can expect to arrive at those points. And the estimates we do get change, overwhelmingly by less every two or three years.

        1. Banger

          A tipping point may be hard to predict but tipping points as a “law” of nature is very well known and studied in a variety of fields. Generally, nature operates systems within certain boundaries when those boundaries are breached a tipping point occurs and disaster follows.

          Tipping points can be predicted in some econsystems but when many “catastrophes” occur during a close time-period they cause, just by themselves, other systems to lose equilibrium and there’s a cascading effect–that is what some of us worry about.

      2. F. Beard

        Whatever happened to Gaia?
        Can it be she’s not?
        Or did she leave the kitchen
        cause it got too hot?

        I never believed in Gaia
        but she kept the ignorant quiet.
        Now, a little heat or cold
        and they nearly riot.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        :-) Alright, alright. Any turn of phrase to describe urgency verboten: in that case, I prefer “Carbon – Yes We Can’t”

    2. Malmo

      “Climate science is so vague (and most studies spend inordinate amounts of space explaining just that) that there is virtually no consensus even by experts as to exactly when we hit a tipping point or even what that tipping point is.”

      I’ve was a strong proponent of AGW UNTIL I recently discovered that there were only 79 scientists included by the UIC researcher in her often cited 97% number of climate scientists claiming AGW.

      Her original survey was sent to 11000+ scientists, of which only about 3500 responded. Only 79 of the 3500 were selected of those who responded to comprise the survey. Thus the 97% comes from 79 scientist, not 11000. 97% of 79 is laughable given the whole universe of scientists originally sought out by the researcher. Trotting out that 97% number sounds impressive until you peel back the onion. So much for overwhelming consensus.

      I then read a 2009 story in the NYT Magazine on eminent AGW skeptic, Freeman Dyson (who forgot more than anyone here knows on the subject of climate change) which really had me shaking my head.

      Looks as if I’ve harbored a bad case of confirmation bias in my desire for AGW to be reality. It might be true still, but the science is unsettled on the matter–very unsettled. I’m going to pursue other avenues for the transformed world I desire rather than tilting at unscientific windmills such as AGW–at least until science catches up to the myth making of the Gore’s and Hanson’s of the world.

      1. TimR

        Yeah, I’ve seen montages of media talking heads citing that 97% cudgel — you know how they do, for a few days across every TV station, pounding some meme into the sand. That’s always suspicious. If I were an AGW adherent I would be uncomfortable to find myself in line with that crew.
        I only scanned Publius’s article, but one thing that jumped out at me was his calling for a “strong man” president.. What was it, something about an FDR with a carbon rod up his ***…? Did I dream that? Didn’t notice anyone mention it in comments. I shiver a little bit reading stuff like that — there’s this sort of angry tyrannical side to the AGW movement, that’s so convinced it’s right, it’s ready to dispense with niceties of dialogue, any respect for the other side, any skepticism of its own righteousness, etc. Full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes.. (is that the phrase? as in “damn the other side’s torpedoes” I guess. hm.)

        1. Malmo

          Appears that Camille Paglia was right. The push to advance the idea of AGW is a lot more religion/ideology than science.

          I admit, the 97% number sucked me in. Now that I’ve caught on to the bs in that number I’ll no longer worship at the AGW alter. Don’t like being deceived, and won’t be fooled twice by agenda pushers.

    1. F. Beard

      Born that way individually, and unless there is a God, as a species too cause:

      1) Yellowstone Caldera.
      2) wandering planets.
      3) wandering black holes.
      4) wandering asteroids.
      5) wandering neutron stars.
      6) gamma ray blasters.
      7) phase change which destroys entire Universe.
      8) other unknown dangers.

      It hasn’t caught on to Progressives that God MUST exist or we’re doomed anyway cause dey be not so smart.

  16. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    People should read Bob Black’s Abolition of Work for a needed counter discourse to the assumed glory and nobility of ‘work’.

    Calvinists have poisoned the discourse so badly that everyone just assumes a priori that hierarchical and coercive systems are necessary to maintain any kind of civilization.

    1. F. Beard

      Calvinists have poisoned the discourse so badly that everyone just assumes a priori that hierarchical and coercive systems are necessary to maintain any kind of civilization.

      Yes! And if Progressives wish to ape God they should not assume that Calvin knew what he was talking about and read the Bible themselves.

    2. Calgacus

      Sure, work should be more like play, yadda, yadda, yadda. Sure, probably most of what is called work is useless and idiotic & a great deal is destructive, and everybody would be better off if those doing the “work” (often the highest paid) – just stayed home and didn’t bother anyone else. (And who is talking about the glory & nobility of work?)

      But Black could think about the real world a bit instead of just daydreaming. How about changing children’s (& adults) diapers? How about fixing plumbing? That ain’t play. It ain’t fun. It’s work. And people doing that & other kinds of shitty work deserve something good for doing it. It’s not Calvinism to observe that good things don’t happen just by wishing for them.

      The JG incorporates reciprocity into monetary economies. The same reciprocity which is already always present in “primitive” societies. Which is why there is no unemployment in non-monetary societies – they understand the economics of their societies and therefore the monetary economics which is “merely” a development of such basic human social principles better than the nonsense, the bad accounting, of commodity money theories. If things are small and tribal and thus easily graspable, being as big an asshole as the state is in a JG-less monetary economy is inconceivable, beyond standard human capacity to be an asshole, to do accounting badly.

      Money, even Beardian daydream money means hierarchy & coercion. (Them’s that gots are higher in the archy, and if you don’t got, you might get coerced if you try to use your five finger discount.) Having money without a JG means keeping the hierarchy & coercion. But refusing to give the lesser people, which the daydreamers insist cannot exist in their oppressive utopia any way of escape, any way of dealing with the hierarchy and coercion.

      By the way, thanks for mentioning Black. He refers to Marshall Sahlins & I had been trying to remember his name & the title of his book on Stone Age Economics, which he had diabolically fogged my memory by entitling it “Stone Age Economics”.

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