Memo to Readers: If You Want to Beat Big Finance, You Need to Be Able to Take the Fight to Their Terrain

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During the heyday of the financial blogosphere, even when this site’s following was much smaller than it is now, readers were keenly interested in getting to the bottom of hidden sources of risk, chicanery, and other “man behind the curtain” aspects of the operation of finance.

These issues are even more important now. We are 35 years into a finance-led counter-revolution where conservative interests are rolling back not just the New Deal, but are also pushing as far as they can in reducing the political and economic rights of laborers. And “laborers” is anyone who lives off earned income and does not have his pay directly or indirectly tied to the use of capital.

If you care about income inequality, student loan debt slavery, foreclosure abuses, and other products of the success of this effort, it behooves you, as Sun Tzu urged, to understand your enemy. And they have very cleverly set out to make that difficult. As we wrote in ECONNED:

But opacity, leverage, and moral hazard are not accidental byproducts of otherwise salutary innovations; they are the direct intent of the innovations. No one at the major capital markets firms was celebrated for creating markets to connect borrowers and savers transparently and with low risk. After all, efficient markets produce minimal profits. They were instead rewarded for making sure no one, the regulators, the press, the community at large, could see and understand what they were doing…

Viewing the underlying problem as one of bubbles misses the true dynamic. When borrowed funds pump up asset values, the unwind damages financial intermediaries, and that has far more serious repercussions than the loss of paper wealth alone. Leverage offers a strategic point at which regulators can intervene.

Regulators can tackle debt levels surgically by barring certain types of instruments and practices. But this effort can take place only if authorities do not cede control of the financial system to the inmates. Unfortunately, to a large degree, that has already happened.

The crisis and its aftermath represented the largest looting of the public purse in history. Former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson described how financial oligarchs had captured government in his landmark 2009 Atlantic article, The Quiet Coup.

Sadly, it seems that the bulk of this site’s readers is no longer interested in these matters, despite their significance.

As we have moved into open opposition against Big Finance, it’s become harder to straddle the interests and needs of our audiences. Our following among members of the financial services industry not surprisingly has thinned. We have retained and even expanded a strong readership among regulators, people on the Hill, journalists, and others interested in banking policy and economic issues. We also have a larger “social justice” following than in the runup to the crisis. But comments on finance posts remain puzzlingly anemic.

Some readers complain that our posts are too difficult. Yes, we do shoot for Economist-level discussions, a step or two down from insider wonkery but still more technical than USA Today. But to make these posts more accessible, we would have to remove essential information, making them ineffective. Influencers come to NC because we explain accurately how products, markets, and institutions work and draw out implications for policy. That requires that we show that we understand the nitty-gritty details so that we can debunk industry talking points.

We hope that you, readers, can become influencers. And so we are doing what we can to educate citizens so that when you encounter neoliberal or finance industry talking points, you can rebut them effectively. And in finance, that means you need to grapple with how these products work. You need to be a soldier in the war to demystify finance, because its supposedly arcane and impenetrable nature is one of its biggest weapons. It’s easy to dismiss critics if they can be depicted as ignorant. There are costs to citizenship. One such cost is knowing your enemies, their strategies, their tactics, and the terrain on which they fight. That requires not passing familiarity with finance, but knowledge of it.

The lack of obvious reader interest (in the form of comments) isn’t just demotivating for NC posters and our silent allies in other realms; it also reduces our potential to have an impact. We’ve had insiders tell us how specific posts made a real difference in particular battles, although we haven’t made noise about them because it would put our contacts in an awkward position. But when we are working on longer-term campaigns, like our work on foreclosure abuses and chain of title issues, our private equity series, or our focus on SEC Chairman Mary Jo White’s slavish support of entrenched interests, low comment counts on meaty finance posts signal a lack of reader engagement on that topic to the influencers who read our work regularly. In other words, you are telling them Big Finance has won the argument and citizens don’t care.

Here’s an example. In 2012, we wrote two posts on whistleblower allegations of out-of-control bank risk-taking during the crisis that came to light only years later. Our first: Deutsche Bank hadn’t bothered modeling a big risk in what came to be the biggest derivatives exposure in the bank, a so-called “leveraged super senior” trades and had also mismarked its positions. Deutsche was 65% of that market, and the notional value of its book was $130 billion. If the exposure for its “gap option” had been properly modeled and booked, it would have reduced the bank’s Tier One capital, potentially to the point where the bank would have been undercapitalized by German regulatory standards. Moreover, had this risk been measured correctly, this trade would never have been booked at the size it was. And when the leveraged super senior trade got in trouble, it blew up the Canadian commercial paper market, which necessitated a rescue. In other words, as obscure as this sounds, it had significant implications (including looting, since Deutsche showed $270 million in profits that would never have been “earned” absent the deficient modeling, and hefty bonuses were paid that otherwise never would have been entered into absent the deficient modeling). This post got a respectable 22 comments.

Our second 2012 post on the leveraged super senior trade gave a detailed (as down-in-the-weeds technical) account of how the deals worked and why they mattered. It got 23 comments.

Last week, Deutsche entered into a $55 million settlement with the SEC over the whistleblower charges. Our post on the denoument got one (1) comment. What kind of message does that send?

It has been frustrating to see readers take little interest in finance topics like private equity, which are far more obviously connected to an undue concentration of wealth at the expense of workers and communities than CDOs, and where the bad practices are also much easier to explain.

We’ve pointed out of how private equity has played a major role in the growing chasm between the top wealthy and everyone else. The 0.1% consists disproportionately of private equity and hedge fund principals. So it isn’t surprising to see private equity kingpins exhibit a sense of vulnerability, even though they too often lapse into grandiosity and paranoia when they express it. For instance, venture capitalist Tom Perkins compared “the progressive war on the American one percent”* to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. Steve Schwarzman likened the Obama’s threat to close a tax loophole that allows private equity financiers’ income to be taxed at low capital gains rates to “when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”**

Private equity funds buy companies with borrowed money and by virtue of all the fees they take, make money whether the deals do well or not. That gives them incentives to be indifferent to bankruptcy risk. It’s thus no surprise that PE owned companies fail at a greater rate than companies as a whole.*** Private equity owned companies also squeeze headcount at twice the rate of similar, non-PE owned firms. One popular strategy among private equity buyers is “rollups,” as in consolidation in an industry niche. That not only allows them to achieve scale economics and pressure vendors on pricing, but can also enable them to obtain a monopoly or oligopoly position. That in turn allows them to have pricing power, and their market position can also allow them to set product/service standards, such as engage in crapification.

While all these issues help make the case that private equity is an extractive industry we would all be better off bringing to heel, they don’t provide leverage points. We’ve been pursuing an angle that has potential, namely, the belief among investors that they must invest in private equity because it delivers returns they can’t find elsewhere. That is particularly important – what the German general staff would have called a schwerpunkt – since as the first post in our PE investigation, provided by an industry insider, pointed out, private equity is a government sponsored enterprise:

Some readers may know that private equity relies heavily on tax subsidies. Private equity firms engage in debt-leveraged buyouts of public and private companies, and the interest charges on this debt are tax deductible. But most members of the public do not know that close to half the investment capital in private equity funds is contributed directly by government entities. In this respect, private equity is little different than companies like Fannie, Freddie, and Solyndra that are regularly criticized in the media as recipients of government subsidies.

Their decisions to invest government funds in private equity reflect assumptions by government officials that have gone unchallenged and, we contend, are quite likely incorrect….

The single largest source of capital to the private equity industry is governmental pension funds. According to Preqin, a commercial database that tracks investment in private equity, approximately 30 percent of capital in U.S. private equity funds was contributed by governmental pension funds. Governmental pension funds are more often referred to as “public” pension funds, but this can be confusing because it doesn’t make clear the basic reality that, in the U.S., the funds are essentially always administered by government employees and governed by officials who are directly elected by the public or appointed by elected officials. For example, the New York State Common Retirement System is administered by employees of the New York State Comptroller’s Office, and the Comptroller is the sole trustee for the fund and is elected state-wide by the people of New York….

A second major type of government investor in private equity funds is sovereign wealth funds, such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the Australian Future Fund, and Singapore’s Temasek. Preqin estimates that sovereign wealth funds comprise approximately 10 percent of the capital in private equity funds.

Public university endowments play a smaller role as sources for private equity investments, probably no more than a couple of percent.

All these governmental entities are vulnerable to political pressure from, for example, you, dear reader, especially if your pension fund is involved. As you may have inferred from our focus on CalPERS, the biggest public pension fund and also the largest investor in private equity, public pension funds are subject to much greater transparency requirements and public accountability than other investors. They are also responsive to pressure from legislatures. And remember, it is easier to effect change on the state level than the Federal level, particularly since activists can focus on venues that look particularly promising.

It would be in everyone’s interest (well, except that of the private equity firms themselves and their well-compensated partners like top law firms and major banks) to wean public pension funds of their private equity habit. Again, from the inaugural PE post:

Far from being a sort of steroids for weakened investment portfolios there is substantial academic evidence that private equity net returns consistently underperform lower risk public market alternatives….[T}he industry uses methodologies for calculating their returns that result in much higher reported returns than studies that are based on actual cash flows. There are many important implications of this finding, one of which is that private equity managers may receive as compensation more than 100 percent of any net returns they generate relative to lower risk alternatives.

We’ve provided considerable evidence since showing how private equity returns are overstated. Indeed, in a tacit admission of disappointing performance, even private equity stalwart CalPERS has cut its allocation to the strategy from a peak level of 15% to 10% as of July 1.

We’ve also drilled into private equity fee and expense abuses after the SEC exposed how widespread they are. These are important because the extent of embezzlement and grifting shows that private equity kingpins don’t merit the considerable trust that they insist they deserve. Even worse, these revelations show how clueless and complicit the institutions that invest in PE are. This should be of deep public concern as far as government investors are concerned, since every dollar stolen from these investors is a dollar stolen from taxpayers.

And as the SEC’s very much former head of examinations Andrew Bowden stressed in a speech in May 2014, limited partnership agreements do a poor job of protecting investors, belying the notion that they are negotiated on a fair-and-square basis (one big reason investors are overmatched: Law firms are more eager to curry favor with ginormous fee-dispensing PE firms than their putative clients).

We are certain this series is having an impact; we’ve had more discussions with influencers on this topic than on any other we’ve followed. But if we are to carry this effort and other initiatives forward more effectively, we need your active support. And that includes being willing to spend the time and effort to learn more about the topics at hand if some of the terms or ideas aren’t familiar. Readers did that well after the crisis had abated, but that appetite for engagement seems to have dulled.

Admittedly, the problem with fights like this, which turn on changing perceptions and narratives, is that progress is not terribly visible. What Richard Kline wrote in 2010 about protest applies to other forms of political activism:

The nut of the matter is this: you lose, you lose, you lose, you lose, they give up. As someone who has protested, and studied the process, it’s plain that one spends most of one’s time being defeated. That’s painful, humiliating, and intimidating. One can’t expect typically, as in a battle, to get a clean shot at a clear win. What you do with protest is just what Hari discusses, you change the context, and that change moves the goalposts on your opponent, grounds out the current in their machine. The nonviolent resistance in Hungary in the 1860s (yes, that’s in the 19th century) is an excellent example. Communist rule in Russia and its dependencies didn’t fail because protestors ‘won’ but because most simply withdrew their cooperation to the point it suffocated.

And this process explains the hypersensitivity of financiers like Tom Perkins and Steve Schwarzman, who become outraged by even mild criticisms of or attempts to regulate their industry. They recognize that the biggest threat to them is delegitimation. As long as they can maintain the illusion that their profits are fairly earned by their own efforts (as opposed to extensive government subsidies and backstops), that all of their services, as currently configured, are essential for commerce, and that it’s all so complicated and difficult that no one can replace them, they will continue to have the whip hand. Over you. And your pension, if you have one. And your workplace, if they buy it for one of their asset-stripping projects.

That is why it is important to penetrate their veils of opacity and complexity. Pay attention to these men behind the curtain. They don’t have superpowers and their know-how is not as lofty as they pretend. Their secrecy and sleight of hand are meant to disguise that many of their services are socially destructive (like most over-the-counter derivatives, which are used for tax or accounting gaming) or extractive by virtue of being overpriced, which might be defensible in a truly private industry but not one that is even more heavily supported by the government than the defense industry. In other words, your apathy and resignation play straight into the hands of the banksters. Do you really want to make their lives easier?

_____


* If progressive efforts to combat the political and economic power wielded by the 1% have reached the level of effort and organization to be correctly called a “war,” that’s news to me.


** And of course we all know how serious that threat was….


*** That trend has ameliorated somewhat in recent years due to access to super-cheap money, which means more troubled deals are being restructured than going into bankruptcy. However, as Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt recount in their landmark book Private Equity at Work, private equity firms have figured out how to to extract more profit from these restructuring exercises as well.

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313 comments

  1. Josephus P. Franks

    Given that you didn’t mention pageviews, I’m presuming (in a hopeful spirit) that the pageview data does not support the disappointing story supported by comment counts. (If pageviews for in-the-weeds financial stories drop in proportion to the numbers of comments left, then my point is moot.) Obviously I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I find NC’s down-in-the-weeds-technical stories very helpful, regardless of the fact that I never comment on them. For those of your readers who are like me in that they come to NC for a basic education on finance, commenting isn’t a helpful option. I worked for several years at a continuing legal education (CLE) provider, and oftentimes I would feel the need to ask my own questions to prod the audience – comprising lawyers with a fair amount of experience in the field – into asking their own. I quickly discovered how difficult it is to formulate questions without at least an intermediate level of knowledge of the field. That basic or intermediate level of knowledge is the foundation upon which questions can be constructed. (Questions people are unlikely to be embarrassed by asking, that is – anyone can ask “where the hell does the leverage come from for an LBO!?”) Hence, if the pageview data isn’t telling the same story as the comment count, I would wager that what is happening is that there is simply a much smaller audience of people with a sufficient level of knowledge to ask questions or propose discussion points, rather than a much lower level of interest across the board. Certainly, more easily intellectually-accessible material on NC is likely to get more pageviews and comments, in much the same way that a dumbed-down nightly commercial news program will get a larger audience than a PBS newscast. But I wouldn’t interpret comment counts to betoken a lack of reader interest – at least as far as readers like me are concerned.

    Oh yes, and thank you and all the contributors for the work you do!

    1. PrairieRose

      My sentiments exactly, and thank you for the excellent articulation, JPF. I have to believe there many readers of NC who lurk as I do. I’m just a simple worker bee and given the extremely high intelligence of those of the commentariat who dare to share their wisdom, it’s intimidating to attempt to post my comparatively kindergartenish remarks. Many’s the time I’ve marveled at those who write so well. And please, Yves, for you and your posters, your efforts to educate We The Ignorant People are cherished immensely. It’s not for naught, believe me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope I speak for others when I say please do not be discouraged, for you know not how many seeds you’ve planted nor yet where they’ve flowered.

      1. Gussdog

        I have come the game late in life. I trusted my saavy business friends on the nature of capitalism, the street and banking. It is only through sites like NC, that I have come to understand how corrupt, unfair, unbalaned and unhinged the system truly is.

        Sadly, I feel few others of my meager middle class status, share my now seething anger and disgust at the continuing gluttony my eyes have been opened to.

        In my Cassandra like attempt to bring others to see how truck loads of money are being taken out the front door while we focus on welfare and VA spending, I use your very valuable site as a place to begin to unplug from the matrix.

        Please dont give up! The fight is just beginning.

    2. etnograf

      I agree with these sentiments. I am on this site every day but I rarely comment–this is partly a reflection of the fact that I don’t have specialized knowledge in finance, but it is also a matter of personal style and available time. Formulating really good questions and observations is a difficult task. I appreciate that Yves is encouraging all of us to be more involved in the very important details of how financial instruments work. Yves’ observation here has definitely stirred something in me and I read it as a call-to-arms to participate more actively. I’ll try to do so, but like many impassioned pleas for action I think this one overstates the current state of apathy.

      1. Ike

        ditto. However, I go to this site first; every time I go online. And the perspective gained here influences how I see the MSM. I’m at the point where, although I do not comment but rarely, wouldn’t know what to do w/o NC..

      2. Paul P

        Keep the articles coming with all the detail. I don’t always understand all of the points, but I have been willing to wait for the ideas to come around again at a later date. My interest has not been reflected in the Comments.

        1. Eleanor

          I read NC every day, the first thing I read in the morning after my email. As with others, I don’t comment because I don’t feel I know enough. What I — and others — could do is make comments about what we experience. This does not require specialized knowledge, and I find personal stories very interesting. How does the economy look where people are? What is work like? How the hell do you manage savings (if you have any) when interest rates are so low? But there may not be a way to connect those kinds of personal comments to financial posts. The other thing I find useful is direct instructions from NC on calling legislators, though that does not generate comments. People could post “I called my senator,” but that’s about it.

    3. anonymous123

      I’ve been a daily reader of NC for 7 years, and I agree that I often don’t comment because I don’t feel I have anything substantive to add to deep finance discussions. Also, since these posts require so much time to properly digest for a finance layperson, I often leave them until late in the evening (or sitting open on my browser tabs for a few days), and by the time I finally read them it seems past the point of commenting because the news has moved on.

      I do agree with some of jabre’s comments below. In particular, the point about needing solutions. Yves, you’ve definitely increased the amount of ‘calls to action’ in your posts, and I think you could do this even further. I often get very fired up about issues you report on, but don’t know how to use that energy to effect change. I appreciate the times when you’ve urged readers to call or write to specific individuals, as this provides an outlet. More consistent and specific directives on how average citizens can collectively shape these issues would be helpful in empowering and engaging the readership.

      I also very much agree with jabre’s comment on it being difficult to connect the dots between topics. These finance issues are very complex, and for a layperson with little context for why things work the way they do, it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. I would also donate money in support of some sort of wiki that would help readers figure out how all the pieces fit together around the issues you’ve reported on.

      Lastly, I share many of your in-depth posts on social media, even when I never comment. This doesn’t get counted as engagement, but I assure you the message is getting out there further.

      I deeply appreciate the level of analysis NC provides and look forward to many continued years of fearless finance industry reporting.

    4. Larry

      This is well put. I’m a daily reader of NC, but probably comment on about 10% of the posts max. Partially I don’t feel a need to comment on something that educates me the other part is that I find the comments section on NC to not work that well. Perhaps NC could import Kinja over from Nick Denton’s Gawker empire. I rather like a comments section that allows you to engage in conversations easily.

      I would also say that the efforts of NC are clearly paying off. I never read nor knew who David Sirota was before reading NC. Due to NC and David Sirota, I have convinced everybody I know from Rhode Island that Gina Raimondo is to be regarded as a fox within a hen house. And lo- and behold, due to pressures from people like David Sirota and people on the ground level, she is backing down from her no transparency policy on pension investments when she was the state treasurer of Rhode Island.

      http://www.ibtimes.com/rhode-island-pension-transparency-still-long-way-go-1942004

    5. Scott Free

      I agree! My first comment ever though I have been a subscriber for years. Keep up the good work. Illegitimi non carborundum!

    6. Glorious Bach

      Am a retired history professor which would seem a remote land from which to dare a comment on economic “weeds.” It’s impossible to understand any history without economic fundamentals and it’s impossible to understand economic fundamentals without contextual history, even “recent” history. NC is one of three blogs I read first thing in the day (i.e., one on science, one on politics, and the third, this site, on economics.)

      Of course, as a retired college prof, I’m just a wee bit short of that $500,000 yearly income level for which Wall Street folks lust (as described in Black’s post) but Yve’s post lamenting diminished comments spurred me to a modest monthly donation. A friend who hosts a philosophy/current events blog also gets discouraged by thin comments but the “page views” ought to cheer him as they should Yves. “Commenting” is quite a step for a lot of people so I hope that measure of importance is put into better perspective.

  2. Robert

    I think your posts provide a necessary counter-point to WallStreet. I also wondered about page views..

    Please keep up the good work!

  3. Willie

    Definately an avid daily reader of NC, it’s clear I still have lots to learn in areas I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of.

    Thank you for bringing such valuable information in one place where it can be studied.

    This was my first comment ever after reading for at least a year. Keep up the great work.

  4. Jackrabbit

    We have to use the power we have, or lose it.

    I would also urge people to tell their friends and family about NC. Talk about specific articles that you see here. Tweet. Facebook. Whatever. Just get the word out.

    And of course, we can not thank you enough, Yves and Lambert for the time and effort that you put into NC.

    1. Furzy Mouse

      If any of you have the time, I suggest presenting MMT for Toddlers, Diagrams for Dollars, etc, to any and all Rotaries, political meets, social clubs, local newspapers, etc. There is plenty of material on NC and New Economic Perspectives for a short talk on how deficits are NOT scary, we “owe” nothing to China, a sovereign country can always pay its debts, and the banksters should be in jail. Keep it simple, and our citizens will listen. I recently did a PPT on this, and expected flack…nah!! was very well received, was much discussed. We the People need to seize back the governance from We the Corps….go for it!!..grassroots is the most effective way….

      1. HotFlash

        Mme (or M) Mouse, this is such a great idea. I am not able enough either MMT-wise or PPT-wise to do the whole thing, but wouldn’t it be nice to set up a crowd-sourced project somehow? We could end up with a PowerPoint (or whatever) presentation that anyone could download and use. I am part of a Transition group, two residents’ associations, an informal street org and a couple of other local orgs that are often looking for speakers. Hey, a market lack!

        So, MMT for Toddlers, hey, do that on a Professional Development Day and we’d have a great turn-out.

        Srsly, anyone interested in following up on this contact me at MMTforToddlers@thelorekeeper.com

        1. Furzy Mouse

          your email link was rejected when I replied….no such email says my provider….

    2. different clue

      One way to do this is to mention NaCap whenever appropriate on other highly regarded highly visited blogs. I have provided mentions and link-backs to certain posts on NaCap at certain times over at Colonel (Ret.) Pat Lang’s Sic Semper Tyrannis blog. Over time I have seen other people mention NaCap in the comments at SST from time to time so I suspect NaCap is being more read than before by parts of the SST audience. That is a way to do wordspreading.

  5. Sean Atkinson

    I do not often add comments, because unlike most garbage in the common media (NYT et all, CNN et al, NPR, PBS et al, and the rest of the wealth-fawning, corporate propagandists), your blog posts are accurate, comprehensive, scathing and definitive. What do you tell a judge that gets it all right?
    I am not being facetious, I sincerely mean every word I am writing here. Clearly, your readers have similar feelings, or they would not keep coming back.
    There is not enough money in the world to pay you for what you have done in the last ten years.

  6. winslow

    Since the entire infrastructure is corrupt, to whom would I send my complaints? The SEC and their ex-Goldman cronies?

    Your book as well as this blog have been very influential in at least my life, and I am positioning myself to depart this wretched police state called America.

    Yes, it’s nihilistic, but people in the country are becoming stupider by the minute. You seem unaware that you live in a bubble of arcane terms and insight that few have.

    I can’t find anyone in my life who even knows what the term neo-liberal means. “You mean those long haired hippy folks that want to socialize everything?” they reply.

    People are being starved of their free-time as the world becomes ever more complex. Inequality increases as productivity increases. Or has everyone forgotten Henry George?

    No time, no money, no hope. The rent’s too damn high!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m sorry that you are so stressed and I recognize that many people have no bandwidth.

      However, I’ve been told by people in DC that things like writing comment letters on proposed regulation makes a big difference. One person came to a meetup solely to urge me to get more readers to do that. He said not only are specific comment letters on rules that are currently under consideration important, he and other lobbyists mine letters on past rulemakings.

      Believe it or not. I’ve also been told that writing Mary Jo White directly and telling her off would have an impact. SEC chairmen, unlike Congresspeople, rarely hear from the public at large. Having her realize that even Jo Public recognized she was doing a bad job and was so appalled that they’d write would take her aback. She and her husband have plenty of dough by DC standards. She’s too old to have another revolving door turn. So her legacy matters to her, and telling her now it’ll be crap will register.

      1. jefemt

        I imagine you HAVE been told that letters to Mary Jo white directly is effective. I believe you HAVE been told that specific comments make a big difference I would call that ego-stroking mis-direction from a socio/psychopath. We WANT our voices to be heard. We want to have ‘representatives’ act responsibly for the greatest good for the greatest number- locally, nationally, and globally. We in our deepest hearts, care. We drank of the Kool-Aid and still have that oh-gosh innocent belief in the “american” form of republic/ democracy.
        This type of affirming feedback from those courtesans in Little Versailles on the Potomac, or NYC (or, both) is disingenuous horsesheet designed to dull the knife and create a vacuum-filled sense of participation, import, and impact.
        Our local government has ‘citizen advisory boards’, where the most ardent proponents of a given matter (Parks/Rec, Bicycling- intermodal transport, Carbon-reduction, etc) are appointed to sit on a board, review the specific issues relative to their sphere, and advise the City Commission. I have observed the man-hours expended at meetings, research, activities, the recommendations to the commission, and the commission votes– the actual outcome is distressing. Commission rarely if ever votes in favor and support of the recommendation. I have come to the conclusion that it is really an exercise designed to make the most ardent critics with the best knowledge and perspective on an issue have an illusory feeling of involvement, impact, importance, and effectiveness, all for nothing.
        Back in 1991, Bill Bradley stated that a cynic is nothing but a frustrated idealist. Couple that with a ‘follow the money’ approach to viewing how the world works, and that may account for why not everyone is still calling, writing, emailing, texting— either cogent long well-drafted comments, or simple declarative, “Please do/ do not do X” . Sound and fury signifying nothing.
        I mean no disrespect, and I put your efforts on a par with Moyers, Martenson, Hedges, McKibben. I personally will keep writing and trying, simply because I love to see how scabs peel and heal.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Why would it stroke my ego to suggest that letters to Mary Jo White would be effective? It is not something I would be doing but would be urging readers to do. That advice BTW comes from a very well placed insider who would be in a position to know. Similarly, the person who gave me the advice on the comment letters came to a meetup for the SOLE purpose of conveying that information to me, and he did it with considerable urgency, passion, and examples to support his view. Why would he waste his time doing that? And this was a lobbyist, so this was advice came from what he does every day.

          I’ve been involved in policy fights now for a few years, and I have to tell you your views are wrong. I’m not going to give examples because they’d sound self-aggrandizing and it’s 8:30 AM and I’ve been up all night and need to turn in, but I can point to specific cases where things that were done here did have an impact, sometimes directly or as part of a not-all-that large (in terms of individuals helping to orchestrate the charge) group of activists. Now it is true that you have to keep fighting these fights and you don’t always make a dent, but it’s like any type of contact sport. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

          1. Jackrabbit

            He’s suggesting that whomever is asking you to make these requests of your readers is stroking your ego via exaggerated importance of your blog. He is NOT saying that you would get an ego boost from asking readers to write letters.

            His frustration at the tin ear of those in power and the brainwashing of the populace is shared by many. But I find that those that make such self-defeatist comments often have an agenda. Sometimes its to excuse their own inaction, sometimes its to shut down debate. Examples: “Its always been that way”, “what do expect from politicians”, “Americans are uninformed/don’t care”.

            1. Gio Bruno

              I empathize with the frustration/experience of jefemt (Jef EMT?). There are many impediments to change (local, statewide, federal). Some of it is self-induced, some of it structural (status quo ante). Yes, fail, fail, fail, then an occasional success seems to be a continuing narrative; but there are successes. Often it’s incremental. (Most folks aren’t prepared for wholesale change; including me.)

              However, the only way to make economic progress is to understand/learn how the system works (Thanks, NC) and make it work for the greater good. (Not the 1%.) That requires that we engage each other and our political representatives in a direct discussion of things that matter.

              1. readerOfTeaLeaves

                Just to reiterate your point, I think that we live in … ‘interesting’ times, indeed.
                Who would have imagined a mere 2 years ago that several very large cities, as well as at least one Presidential candidate, would be making a business-based, economics claim that a $15/hr minimum wage would be good for the larger economy.

                Who among us realized a mere 5 years ago that PE is basically predatory?
                It was lionized for years.

                And look how much attitudes and the public conversation has started to shift just in the past couple of years. Much of this is from people learning, then sharing information and resources. The topics of conversation have shifted — people are openly expressing utter contempt about campaigns financed by Big Money, and that wasn’t happening even in 2000 or 2004.

                Rather than be defeatist, I marvel that after 35 years of neoliberal b.s., a whole new conversation is starting to emerge. It’s incredible, actually.
                And quite a tribute to Yves in particular, as well as Lambert, other contributors, and some very savvy commenters around this place.

              2. Nathanael

                “However, the only way to make economic progress is to understand/learn how the system works ”

                Goes for the political system too. Look up “Duverger’s Law”, which far too few people know about. Then look up “proportional representation”, which doesn’t have that problem.

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              I understood exactly what he was inferring. Neither person had any reason to do that , particularly the well-placed insider. Neither had any reason for currying favor with me. Moreover, if they wanted to do so, giving me bad advice and having me waste time would lead me to think worse of them, which would accomplish the reverse of what a strategy of flattery would be meant to achieve (make me think better of them). Recall I do have access to people in the Beltway and can and do cross check advice.

          2. BillC

            The dominant reply to this thread seems to be, NC is far and away the most important Web site I know, and I value it beyond measure, but its depth, rigor, and exhaustiveness on technical topics renders any comment I might make useless or laughable. You’ve suggested several remedies for that including:

            * when a detail eludes you, ask for clarification

            * if you understand something someone else didn’t, rephrase the explanation

            * know the arguments, then make sure your congresscritters hear them loud and clear

            * comment in relevant Federal rulemakings

            Unfortunately, the latter two actions are invisible to the NC community. Here are a couple ideas to enhance their visibility and thus engagement: a scoreboard for congresscritter contacts and a coming attractions feature for rulemakings. Links to each could appear somewhere in the masthead or the right-hand column. (And as an amateur website admin, I know well how much harder it is to implement ideas like this than to offer them.)

            The congresscritter contact scoreboard might be a two-level hierarchy (issue, state) that, provides day-by-day bar graphs of NC reader contacts, perhaps with by type (phone, email, in-person, etc.), as provided by radio button input (obviously vetted by non-trivial validation logic). On every post that explicitly or implicitly encourages congresscritter contact, add a link direct to the page that allows the reader to tally a contact.

            The coming attractions feature might simply list in comment deadline sequence any pending rulemakings for which NC reader advocacy might be influential. Each entry would link to the agency Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as well as relevant NC posts addressing the issue and any additional comment coaching deemed useful. A scorekeeping mechanism like the one for congresscritters might encourage readers to do what usually seems like tossing a message in a bottle into the ocean.*

            An ongoing maintenance burden is these ideas’ Achilles’ heel. Both the “congresscritter scoreboard” and “rulemaking coming attractions” would require frequent pruning and updating. That might be enough of a non-critical side task that it could be delegated to a small team of readers; perhaps even hosted on a separate Web site to maintain firm administrative control of NC itself.

            * Here’s why I think rulemaking comments are not quite that futile. I spent most of my spare time 2002-2010 intervening in FCC frequency assignment licensing and rulemaking proceedings in which I and a couple very small non-profit advocacy groups resisted the commercial radio industry’s sustained campaign to rip rural FM stations out of their small hometowns and transplant them into major media markets. It was time-consuming, frustrating, extremely educational, and, after many defeats, partially successful.

            My take-away: citizen pressure on Federal administrative agencies can have an impact, even against powerful entrenched interests who enjoy privileged contact within the agency, if statute, the public interest, and at least a few brave souls within the agency are on your side. Your job is to give those brave insiders the factual, legal, and public-opinion ammunition they need to keep the forces of greed at bay.

            Agencies must have rational support on the proceeding record for the rules they adopt. If nobody on your side provides that support, the other side wins by default. No NC reader would be surprised at how badly public-interest advocates are out-gunned, but you might be surprised at just how thin they are on the ground inside the beltway. Your comment might really make a difference on an arcane but important issue with a thin or lopsided proceeding record.

            1. readerOfTeaLeaves

              What an absolutely brilliant comment.
              I wish it were highlighted as a separate post.

              From my own previous regional-level commission experiences, I can say with absolute certainty that often you are sitting in a meeting and you NEED AMMO. But because of your legal position, you can’t advocate — unless someone gives you ‘ammo’ (i.e., great info, preferably with kickass stats). If you have that, then you can have a grand time. Without that ‘ammo’, you are completely hosed.

              So yes, people have to be strategic, but my experience is similar: the time taken to provide thoughtful, polite, solid analysis is time well spent.

              This is also because a lot of electeds ‘like to be liked’. They’re often big, fluffy marshmallows. They just wanna be liked, and they often don’t actually understand the issues all that well. If you can explain cause-effect AND provide a solution that makes them look good, they’re going to appreciate it.

            2. Josephus P. Franks

              Couldn’t agree more – even the relatively uninformed like me would be happy to be directly pointed to a website wherein I could provide comments on SEC or other administrative agency’s rulemaking.

            3. theidiot

              Thanks for these great ideas and comments. I greatly enjoy the meatier, more detailed entries even though I often feel I’m out of my depth when it comes to commenting on them. There is such a robust and engaging comment section here at NC. It’s often my questions are answered when reading the comments and give and take. I don’t comment very much either, but I consider NC a integral part of my education. Yves instruction to educate myself more about the enemy is well taken.

      2. HotFlash

        Yves-sama,

        The info I have gotten here from NC has been the ammo I have used for my reps and in many, many conversations. Just last night I hand-wrote the NC URL for 3 people that I was talking with at my local grocery store. This won’t show in the comments-count, of course, although it may translate to page-views some day. BTW, the 3 were all social workers, and they were *very* interested in the sort of thing NC talks about, eg, policy and its drivers. They are in the trenches, so to speak, but as is often the case in trenches, have no clue as to what the generals, let alone the kings and presidents, are doing or why. Oh, and the topic on conversation was the link to the Medicine Hat homeless solution. Your reach is further than you can know.

        I think I will need to contribute more deeply since, to paraphrase Pere Teilhard de Chardin, to blog one must eat.

      3. JTMcPhee

        Email addresses for Mary Jo White and other SEC boxes:

        http://www.sec.gov/contact/mailboxes.htm

        Back out a little and you can see the snail mails too.

        Interesting links on Mary Jo from the WSJ:

        http://topics.wsj.com/person/W/mary-jo-white/7173

        Does the site format allow a place to put email links and meatspace addresses for the Power Players to which we can direct our dissatisfactions? Readers can look them up, but the angry energy kind of dissipates while doing so, at least for this reader.

        Thanks and a contribution too, for what you folks do. I hope you never get to feeling it is just a feckless and thankless chore. And a re!under to my fellow readers, money, whatever it is, makes the NC world go round too, not at the same scale and certainly not in the same way it does in Vampire Squidland, much healthier thank goodness. Please let us all do our little parts in that way…

      4. Rrennel

        I have recently become an enthusiastic reader of NC and a fan of your work. I hope to be able to preserve some bandwidth to dedicate to supporting financial reform, fighting corruption (especially as practiced by private equity firms), and to ending inequality. I did notice however that Ms. White was not too happy with a recent letter from Senator Warren. Still, we need to persevere.

  7. Vince

    Personally, it is a sense of resignation that 8 years after the financial crisis none of the crooks will be jailed and nothing has changed for the better despite all the spilled ink.

    Both parties are in on the fix. There’s not a chance in hell I ever vote for a center left Democrat again, even if that means more Republicans in office. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      If the people that I know — including in the top 5% and top !0% — are any indication, a whole lot of people are silently seething. I think the 2016 races for legislatures, mayors, governors, and President are going to be mighty interesting, and it comes right back around to Yves’ point: at the local level, you really can make a difference. It’s not a cakewalk, but if you have your facts straight, you can make a difference.

      1. HotFlash

        It’s not a cakewalk, but if you have your facts straight, you can make a difference.

        Yup. And NC is where I come here for facts.

      2. Nathanael

        2016 will be less impressive than you’d expect at the legislative level due to pro-incumbent gerrymandering. We’ll see mayor/governor/President shifts first, and legislature shifts will have to overcome the gerrymandering so they’ll take a few more years.

  8. Praedor

    I read such pays but don’t comment much because…what’s the point? These criminal enterprises lie, cheat, and steal billions, and when they get caught (by a whistleblower or rare regulator, they get a wrist slap pay a meager fine and continue as before, we have no power over this because the regulators and politicos are corrupted and paid off. No jail time, no loss of a top position in a firm, they STILL make profit off their scheme even after being”fined”. I get very angry and disgusted but nothing happens and I can do nothing so why post? Acknowledge the post, take in the info, now the continuous corruption and move on because there are no chips and no justice.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Stein’s Law: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” The ancien regime could not go on forever. And it stopped. The question, then, is who is doing something, anything, to help it stop, and who is a free rider.

      1. Robert Dudek

        The only real way to stop it at this point is to opt out of the existing system as much as you can, and convince others to do the same.

        1. LM

          Ditto your post; That’s where I’m at.

          (Another long-time lurker/supporter, but first-time poster here.)

          NC stories have informed my emails and phone calls to congress critters, but fellow ‘muricans that I talk to seem particularly stone headed, unimaginative and fearful about leaving this system.

          I am actively looking for, and investing in, alternatives. Hopefully, enough of us may be able to lead by example.

      2. susan the other

        My computer was goofy yesterday so I sat down with Chomsky’s World Orders Old and New to reread my long-ago comments in the margin. I’m still amazed at how clearly he saw the world. But I was almost surprised by how much I had taken for granted – yes, yes, but so what? Chomsky is a genius but he does put me to sleep. Anyway the thing that jumped out was his brief comment about the US finance industry. Clearly a part of the MIC planning department from the beginning. Our banks were the vanguard of oligarchy. And I really don’t think people appreciate just how manufactured US finance was. Makes sense of the mess now because our government quickly threw everyone under the bus in 2008 – except the banks. And has protected them at our expense to this day. Our incomprehension of just how much this is the government’s doing befuddles us all.

        1. susan the other

          And this throws a little more light on the fatuous claim that the Fed is “independent”. Since the banks themselves are not independent, how can the Fed be? The Fed has only one task – to make sure the banking system functions. And in their spare time they prolly cause more harm than good because they capriciously tweak interest rates, depending on who might reap a few benefits; who needs to be bribed a little to keep the ship of state afloat. And we all know that has never been labor.

        2. Clif Brown

          Susan – I have been reading “All the Presidents Bankers” by Nomi Prinz which documents what you are saying. My take-away is that the last 120 years have been a single story, taking the world and putting it into debt. I mean the world in all it’s subdivisions; in America that means states, cities, and individuals.

          Now we’ve reached the end, the government of the country whose wealth put the rest of the world in the shade is now so deeply in debt that there is no sign of ever getting above water.

          Who got the benefit of this? The banks that repeatedly went in for too much risk only to be bailed by public funds. Over and over and over. It’s come to the brick wall now, there can’t be another bailout because the public purse is empty. This means that change must come and I fear it will be through a final collapse from the ruins of which something different will arise.

          I raise all of this because it has happened regardless of the voices raised by the informed. The pressure of greed overcame all obstacles and there weren’t many to overcome because those at the top were all in a position to gain, easily putting any qualms aside (were they in the know) for the sake of cleaning up. The kind of capitalism represented by the United States is unstable because of the false idea that has been deeply implanted in Joe Public that every individual is where he/she is financially deservedly (few complaints on CEO pay, while food stamps recipients are reviled) while those at the top work their monkey business. This makes democracy impotent. The 30’s brought some useful band-aids but the rollback we’ve seen was inevitable.

          So we are nearing the end of the big story that will be THE theme of America in history books to come: self-destruction through lack of self-control. I can’t guess what is next.

    2. Danelle Hills

      I agree. If any of us peons did those actions it would be treated as a major scandal. And many of us out here are still just trying to find legal help who also understands what criminal machine is happening, legal help who has a glimmer of a clue what the crimes are, and have any WILL at all to engage in the fight and help us peons fight back. We are silently seething that our government and our judiciary seems to be aiding and abetting theft and fraud. But we are so busy just trying not to be totally wiped out financially that we cannot find much time to comment. Thank you for the work you do, Mr. Smith, and for the articles by obviously qualified, solid economically educated folks like yourself and Professor Bill Black. You at least give me hope that those of us in the foreclosure fraud fight are not insane or imagining things and we are not deadbeat debtors.

  9. Tom Crowl

    Here’s a quote from a practitioner in the field which may explain the unfortunate reluctance of the citizenry to engage in the ‘civic introspection’ necessary for sustainable good government and a balanced economy. This author was also very popular… until he brought his nation to ruin and disgrace.

    “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”
    -Adolf Hitler

      1. ambrit

        Someone had to lead those pitchfork carrying mobs. Are you suggesting that we become the Vanguard of the Proleteriat? Consider what amount of effort goes into actually thinking. One does not just fall off of a log into the ocean of philosophy. You have to jump, or be pushed.
        The Hitler reference and the French Revolution reference are mutually supporting. Germany after the First War suffered through a massive loss of faith in the institutions of government and society. Likewise, the French peasants lost any faith they had in the ancient regime after segments of the elites repudiated it and made the rottoness evident. (The Marriage of Figaro anyone?) The result in both cases was a social revolution.

        1. Lambert Strether

          No, I don’t believe in vanguards because they tend to be “Meet the New Boss.” My comment was directed only to the “People do not think” meme, which I’m sick of hearing. I cannot cite to sources on this, but if the French peasants were at all like the people E.P. Thompson writes about in The Making of the English Working Class and Whigs and Hunters, they had ideas of their own. I believe the French peasants were not waiting for the bourgeioisie to reveal the rottenness of the ancien regime to them; they were, after all, forced to use the Lord’s mill to grind their grain (mills that they also burned). It doesn’t take some fancy-pants lawyer from Paris, or the equivalent jumped-up local, to make the injustice of that evident.

          1. ambrit

            Fair enough, but, who or what was the trigger to collect the pitchforks and torches and troop down to the Masters Mill and “throw the bums out?” That’s what I’m trying to figure out about todays’ situation. What will be the trigger?

            1. Lambert Strether

              In the nature of the case, we can’t know in advance. I need to go to bed, so I can’t find the quote I want, but the idea is that the system reaches the breaking point — that is, the ruling class is delegitimized — when a very large percentage of the population (my rule of thumb, sans evidence, is 80%) make an entirely reasonable and obvious policy demand the system cannot meet. In 1789, it was for the State to raise taxes. That’s why I focus on policy (to try to sharpen that one demand) and why I look for strange bedfellows coalitions (to get to 80%). Hope that helps. I should find that quote, and if you remind me at a better time, I will.

              1. Nana

                Personally, I keep wondering where all those old pedal wheel-sharpeners from farm auctions are going …

            2. sd

              The French Revolution Was preceded by a famine that was opportunistically used by yellow journalism to attack the monarchy who unlike the starving peasantry, were quite well fed.

              Lack of food is an enormous motivator.

              1. ambrit

                That and perceived lack of food, which can be manifested by accelerated food price inflation. Wasn’t the ‘Arab Spring’ triggered by food price protests?

          2. Nathanael

            I’ve seen some definite evidence in my lifetime that a lot of people do not think… and I’ve started suspecting that it was due to lead poisoning. If that’s the case, we should have more thinking people every year, since we have got a lot less lead in the environment than we did in the 1950s (when it really seems like practically nobody was thinking clearly — though the rampant use of amphetamines probably didn’t help).

  10. Shawnna

    I, too, rarely comment. But I do read.

    And I agree with everything Josephus P Franks posted in the first comment so I won’t repeat it here.

    Your work is vital – and I’m deeply grateful we have you on the front lines.

    Now I will go back to my own struggle as a laborer in this godforsaken economy. :)

  11. Cat Burgular

    Please don’t dumb it down! NC is where I come to get the clear analysis of the specifics that shows how the scams work!

  12. motobass

    Thanks for the memo. Need some basics first. Will search it out. Have, but haven’t yet read, Hudson’s The Bubble and Beyond.

  13. Chris B

    I want to preface what I say with noting that what I say in no way to diminishes the work you do and the message you send. NC was a safe psycho-social safe place for me on the internet and a great resource for those of us who can understand these complex economic issues.

    First, you remarked that the “appetite for engagement has dulled.” So what? Do library books and newspaper articles complain about engagement? This statement worries me because it seems you could lose your focus and switch from writing truths to looking for ways to increase engagement. That would be terrible. I would rather see less engagement on NC and the internet and more engagement on the street and in people’s local communities. I read your site every morning but I am active in undermining these capitalist crooks in my own neighborhood. If I spent time engaging on this site I would not be engaging in my town. So forgive me if I do not comment on an obvious post that “bankers are crooks and use complicated methods to steal money”.

    And on the last paragraph:

    That is why it is important to penetrate their veils of secrecy and complexity. Pay attention to these men behind the curtain. They don’t have superpowers and their know-how is not as lofty as they pretend. Their secrecy and sleight of hand are meant to disguise that many of their services are socially destructive (like most over-the-counter derivatives, which are used for tax or accounting gaming) or extractive by virtue of being overpriced, which might be defensible in a truly private industry but not one that is even more heavily supported by the government than the defense industry. In other words, your apathy and resignation play straight into the hands of the banksters. Do you really want to make their lives easier?

    The way to break the myth of the wizards is to pull back the curtain that they have hanging in your own town, not on the internet. PROTEST! The only people who go to NC are people smart enough to already get it and you are mostly preaching to the choir. We already see behind the curtain.

    Instead we need to live our life like these people don’t matter. It is easy and liberating. Don’t get loans and drive a car and don’t get home internet, suffer a little. When I live like this people notice me and they wish they had my life. That is me shaking the curtain, tempting them to peek behind it. When I practice public acts of civil and economic disobedience people who might not wander to NC will see my actions. That is where change and engagement should be happening. I for one am tired of blogs that just tell us over and over what is wrong and dig deeper into the nest of complexity these crooks create. When men live by weight and measures they will be robbed by weights and measures.

    But people are still too afraid to engage locally and protest publicly in there home town. I tried to get people to stand with me in my very “liberal” small town and protest in front of a Chase Bank asking why we are letting convicted “persons” do business here, but all I heard in response were statements of fear. It never happened. People are still too comfortable with the crumbs they get from these crooks. That will change, and I am ready to make new narratives when it happens. People already have their heads filled with narratives, they will have no room for another until the old ones are no longer useful.

    Your assumption that my lack of engagement on your site is apathy is actually insulting. Maybe you should start focusing on what readers can do to engage locally, get them out in the streets, and make people curious about what is going on. Then maybe you will see your readership spike again.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      To your comments:

      1. If readers do not comment on posts, that is a strong signal that the commentariat is not interested. And you are incorrect in your assumptions about the mainstream media. Journalists I know (this includes big brand name ones with large audiences) care a great deal about engagement, and their managements, even more so.

      2. We stressed in the post that our policy audience also sees reader interest as a proxy for general public interest. If readers at a wonky, finance and economics focused site like NC don’t appear to take interest in the various ways financiers extract rents from the public at large, it seems reasonable to conclude that the people don’t care and are content to be exploited by their banking overlords.

      3. Sadly, our surveillance society has changed the costs and benefits of physical protests. Occupy Wall Street was crushed with a coordinated 17 city paramilitary crackdown. In this day of background checks as a condition to get a job, a misdemeanor arrest for protesting can make you unemployable. I know liberal parents who are deeply opposed to what is going on societally (and this isn’t idle talk, they’ve put time, meaningful money, and in some cases made career changes as part of their effort to oppose what they see as a diseased social order) and they have no idea what to tell their children about physical protests.

      I’m not saying that we don’t think protests can work. The BlackLivesMatter die-ins seem to have been very effective. I am saying that financiers in particular seem able to get cops to come in and round up people on their behalf, and most people today can’t afford an arrest record of any sort.

      1. Steve

        I think comments are too non-specific a measure of people’s interest. How about adding a survey, asking what people read and why, what they get the most out of? If this needs to be more convincing, ask people contributing money to answer a few questions. People who send you money are convinced this is a very useful site–find out why.

        Investment has never been a strong interest for me. I started reading several finance blogs as a defense–losing a bunch of money was very convincing. I quickly centered on NC and Jesse. I read both every day.

        1. Nathanael

          There are an awful lot of posts which I read and don’t comment on.

          If you make a genuinely perfect post, what is there to say?

          By contrast, if you make a really, truly crappy post full of idiocy, the commentariat will pile on.

          Perhaps you need a “plus one” option for posts, which would track reader interest a lot more than comments.

      2. MikeW

        This is a post, and group of comments, that I certainly want to reflect on. Are the recent trends indicative of a real change in both readership, participation levels or “noise”. You don’t present the data so maybe its a little hard to tell – not a criticism.

        I will note a few things:

        1) Like many I find this invaluable, but also in some ways overwhelming as I don’t always have the time to devote to a post. Much less to compose a thoughtful comment.

        2) This is not your fault, the shenanigans in finance are so perverse, pervasive and the deleterious effects on our society are in some ways so numbing and so broad based that they can produce a feeling of utter helplessness against the machine.

        3) Is it also possible that with a certain family of posts that there is almost nothing to add other than amen, I wonder.

        4) As to protests I had an interesting recent experience. I was in a local cafe getting an espresso when the NSA spying topic arose with the teenager behind the counter. I told her it was her generations turn to get out in the streets and protest. Mine did civil rights and Viet Nam — not to say that we should stop protesting to change society for the better — and I had my first FBI photos taken at the UN protesting the 67 Arab-Israeli war. I warned her to beware of Kent State. She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. This is a concern for a senior from an elite, NY area suburban high school to have little or no idea the role protest has played in our nation’s history.

        1. Nathanael

          Those of us who are a bit more aware have figured out that street protest is mostly not very effective at the moment….

          ….which should frighten the hell out of the elites, because the typical next step after street protest is direct action. However, the elites seem to have forgotten this lesson from history.

      3. Chris B

        Thanks for the reply Yves.

        On points 1 and 2; This is the most frustrating part of being aware, intelligent, and ahead of the curve. All I can say is keep singing you song and when the music comes back in favor you will be flooded again.

        On 3; Protests like Occupy are very superficial which is why it was easy for the banking overlords to crush it. Most of Occupy protesters probably went back and continued feeding the beast that enslaves them. But by not participating in their society we weaken them socially and economically. How can the police state force someone to buy produces, use banks, and pollute the environment? And if they figured out a way the stupidity would be so obvious that it will outrage even the most unaware person. (Actually, I think this is what they tried with Health Care, forcing us to buy insurance from a private company) That is the deeper protest and that is how we change the narrative. and it is why the protests in the sixties worked, all these kids were dropping out of the power structure. Once they saw they had that power, not only in self control, but in numbers, the oligarchs started paying attention. The sixties generation did not want to make the system more inclusive, they just ignored it and started their own culture. Unplug and there is just one less battery for the machine.

        The same goes for voting. Stop voting! If there is money being used to dominate you do not give money or participate in that system.

        So, I look around at the ads on your website right now and, of course, all I see are advertisements for banks and investment! The very beast you are fighting with one hand you are feeding with another! Why don’t I see ads for credit unions and coops? By figuring out a way to go ad free or change the ads that show up on your site, that would be a powerful protest.

          1. JEHR

            If I were American, I would vote for Bernie Sanders. He is a bright light amongst many black holes! I just worry about all that he has taken onto his shoulders. I hope everyone will support him in his quest for the American people.

        1. Ian

          Those advertisements help pay for this site and are a very minor concession as I cannot see any of the NC community not seeing them for what they are. I have no issues with Yves doing what is needed to spread her message. Excepting the realities of our situation and trying to build and fight in the ways that we can is essential. We cannot achieve a perfect ideal, but we can work towards something better.

            1. readerOfTeaLeaves

              Well, hey, misery loves company ;-)
              Those e’s for a’s in the English language are a constant tangle of unruly vowels ;-)

      4. flora

        re: ” 1. If readers do not comment on posts, that is a strong signal that the commentariat is not interested. …”

        I read all the financial posts. I am very interested in seeing what’s wriggling under the rocks you turn over. It informs my financial decisions. I usually don’t comment because ” oh, jeez, what a scam! ” doesn’t seem to add much to the discussion. In future I will comment, even if only that much, if it will convince others that these issues are important to people.

        As for financial scammers ‘overly mystifying finance’, someone once told me that if a guy wants you to invest in his business you should ask him to explain it. If he can’t explain it clearly and simply in a way you understand in less than 5 minutes then it’s a scam. It may be very elaborate, have lots of moving parts, lots of contingencies, but it’s still a scam. A simplistic approach maybe, but it makes sense.

  14. crittermom

    Could it be there are many others like me who don’t feel educated enough to comment, yet we DO read NC? (I discovered it not all that long ago)
    I’m still feeling stupid for believing the bank would give me a modification under HAMP, without aid of an attorney (which would have cost me more than I owed), so I lost my home of twenty years. As a victim, I now read many of your articles & continue to educate myself by doing so.
    When you write of investments, I now have none & live on my meager SS check each month, yet I found this article educational to me.
    Yet the more I find out, the madder I am, as well. As a victim, I sign petitions, & scream at the injustice brought upon us citizens & allowed (encouraged?), by a govt that no longer represents us.
    Yes, there are many things that are “over my head” on here, but I continue to educate myself by reading them.
    I suspect I’m not alone in this?

    1. Lambert Strether

      A real HAMP victim. Those bastards. I’m sorry. But and so I encourage you to test your education in the comments section. You don’t have to write the best comment in the world. You can engage by saying “This is my understanding. Am I wrong?” and then make your point. Somebody will be sure to chime in ;-) I mean, sheesh, I’m a humanities major and political blogger who started at Eschaton, and now Yves has me tracking Polish bond yields as a proxy for Greek contagion. So if I can do it, anyone can.

    2. Burnsy

      No, you are not alone. I have been reading NC for 6 years and feel most of it is over my head. But I am still desperate for knowledge and keep plugging away at trying gain understanding. My husband and I lost our family home, or only investment, through the nonsense of HAMP, Wells Fargo and Freddie Mac. They all point the finger at the other guy. No amount of formal complaints or letter writing to politicians brought any justice our way. By our own blood, sweat and tears, we built significant equity in our home. They kicked us and our three sons into the street while my husband was still laid off. Settlement checks came in the amount of 1400 and 6,000. FOIA requests for access to our foreclosure document/file were denied. Attorneys won’t help us either because we have no money or they don’t want to take on Wells Fargo. Filing complaints with the Inspector General resulted in the Inspector General asking Wells Fargo to investigate themselves. Really? We didn’t want a bailout/handout – just a reasonable amount of time to get back on our feet and catch up on or mortgage. I keep reading to try to be informed and am thankful that NC continues to try to help me.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Another commenter screwed over by HAMP. I’m so sorry. I thought you might like this cartoon on “pointing the finger at the other guy” from Gilded Age age cartoonist Thomas Nast. Caption: “‘Twas him!”

        At this point, I don’t see anything wrong with a “bailout/handout” for the rest of us; IIRC, the wealth of the average American, still held mostly in the home, is down 25%. Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon, fraudster and crook, enters the ranks of the billionaries. What’s wrong with making the rest of us whole?

        1. Burnsy

          Thanks, Lambert! The cartoon is great. And so are you and Yves. I really appreciate your efforts and I won’t give in to despair or hopelessness over the corruption, though it is tempting on days when I am missing my home badly. A life well-lived means being a person who is honest, humble, compassionate and generous to others, both materially and graciously. I don’t need much in material things to be this person. You and Yves have educated me and I continue to seek this knowledge and help others to understand. Keep pressing on. Its a good work you do.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        That is so awful. It’s all what was convenient and profitable for them and ignore the consequences for everyone else. And not only were they wrecking borrowers’ lives, they were also screwing the investors in mortgage deals by foreclosing on borrowers where it would have been possible to restructure the mortgage. I’m really sorry.

        1. Burnsy

          Yves-
          I wish I could meet you. I don’t ever want to stop learning the truth, sharing with others, and fighting against fraud. You have motivated me more than ever to be bold and not walk away. I wish there was something I could give back to you for all the good work you are doing. Maybe someday I will think of something.

  15. jabre

    I will state my perspective for what it is worth. Although I was an avid reader of this blog several years ago my attention to it has waned. My disgust at the throated capture of our government by Wall Street has not. But, I find my interest in this blog diminishing for several reasons that I will list in no particular order.
    – Yes, these are complicated issues. Although you, Yves, and other posters live in this domain it is difficult for others to keep the dots connected in their heads through irregular blog postings. I work in an industry that is very technical and complex. Even for the highly educated group that is focused on the issues it is challenging to maintain time relevant knowledge. Our tool to address this is to maintain a wiki by the knowledge leaders that is a living map of the domain. Even those that have superficial knowledge can navigate to the key details that enable them to effectively understand and execute. A living wiki of finance issues your blog addresses would be a tremendous tool. I would be glad to contribute towards the establishment through a user donation.
    – Focus. I’ve brought this up before and been absolutely slammed by many in the NC comment community. But, regardless I’ll state my point again. Susan, Yves – for whom does this blog toll? Yves is the master of the finance domain. Yves is feared and respected in the finance world. But, at times Susan finds there are important issues to delve into that are not finance related. Unfortunately, although they are mostly just as important as Susan believes they are, there is an issue. Susan is not as knowledgeable on these subjects as Yves is on finance. I have at times cringed after reading some of these posts. If Yves degree of insight was applied many would be torn to shreds. This is distracting to the core message and diminishes the credibility of Yves. There are many blogs that cover these subjects. Postings that simply provide redirects to these would suffice.
    – Snarkiness. I watch the comments at times get very snarky.
    – Where are the solutions? Again, this may be transparent to you, Yves. But, as an infrequent visitor it is lost on me. Other than the occasional call to contact an elected representative little is otherwise suggested. This is tough, but how to empower the populace in a political system that is corrupted by the two parties?
    – Message. Today’s post is a good example. I am accustomed to communicating complicated issues in a management brief style. First, detail the summary points and very brief conclusion. Then delve into details. Also, you provide superficial media outlets a level that their readers can digest by reference or redirection thereby broadening your audience.

    I could go on but I’ll spare you. I don’t want this to turn into a rant. Yves, I do respect and appreciate the time and effort that you and your contributors put into this blog. I know you are having an impact. I would like to see your finance message amplified.

  16. Tom Crowl

    P.S. There WAS a significant opposition to Hitler’s rise… but Hitler had the support of wealthy interests in industry and banking who greatly feared the growing power of the ‘lower classes’

    IF there had been rules and mechanisms for meaningful rebuttal to those powerful forces perhaps a better result could have been secured.

    The couple of comments above illustrate a sense of hopelessness… and a belief that there are no tools available to respond. Its NOT a failure to understand that there’s a problem even though the complexity used to mask it may not always be clearly understood by the general citizenry.

    1. Nathanael

      This is also how Mussolini got in power. The existing government (monarchy) was so afraid of the left-wingers that they deliberately installed Mussolini instead. It did not work out well for them.

      This is a mistake made by elites over, and over, and over again.

  17. John Zelnicker

    Yves, I try to comment (mostly) only on those things where I have a reason to believe I have some real knowledge to share. For me, your in-the-weeds articles provide a great education about the details of the issues and I have used that knowledge in talking with others. However, your knowledge is so much greater than mine, that I rarely feel I have something to add to the technical posts.

    On the other hand, if comments are a metric that’s important, I can probably add some that won’t be embarrassing to you or me. There are always questions to be asked and answered.

    Please be encouraged to keep writing these posts. The technical knowledge is valuable and, as you say, it can help us effectively to bring pressure to bear on the government and the pension administrators, etc.

  18. Oregoncharles

    I haven’t finished the article, but I’m part of the problem, so I’d like to offer an I-hope helpful suggestion. The chief barrier to most people understanding the more technical material is terminology and concepts that are unfamiliar (and sometimes, as you say, intentionally opaque). For instance, yesterday I suddenly realized I didn’t know what the hell bond spreads are; someone kindly explained. You shouldn’t have to do that over and over.

    It would help tremendously to have a financial dictionary, with brief explanations (not just definitions) of the concepts involved. Words that are in it could be highlighted, as on Wikipedia. You could build this up over time, so it isn’t too huge an initial job. Perhaps something like this already exists; in that case, a permanent link to it would be the simplest solution. But I suspect you’ll want your own. It would be, in itself, a major contribution to transparency. You’d get people linking to it, or visiting the site to use it.

    I know: extra work. Perhaps a contributor could get it started. I just know it would make some of the weedier articles a lot more accessible for me, and I suspect others. Of course, I might still not comment much, not having a lot to add – I’d second J. Franks’ point, above, that a shortage of comments may not mean much.

    Beyond that: Your site, your audience, and your articles are becoming much broader because, in the end, you can’t really separate finance fom the world. That’s why NC is so valuable. That’s a god thing, Yves, and I think you should be proud.

    1. Yata

      Oregoncharles, What’s helped me in the past when I get lost in financial terminology, was to turn to
      http://www.investopedia.com, in their definitions library. I’m not trying to plug another site, this has been the
      best resource to date.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Bookmarked. Thanks.
        I suspect Yves and her contributors could make a distinctive contribution, if they can find the time.

        The lesson from her and Lambert’s replies: comment even if you don’t exactly understand – it may lead to clarification.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Or, if you think you might understand, but aren’t sure, you can state your understanding and ask for clarification. (Although, as a moderator, this scenario worries me, but let’s for the moment assume that well-framed, intelligent questions whose answers will educate other readers are better than silence.)

          1. Yata

            Priceless. Should I ever forget to value the efforts of Yves et al for the outstanding effort here at NC and the equally valuable contributions of those who populate the comments section
            i really only have to remind myself of this scenario recurring at nearly every open comments section about the web.

      2. washunate

        I’ll echo that. Investopedia, QuickMBA, and Wikipedia are fantastic general info/background context sites.

        Or you can start at google/yahoo/duckduck/whatever if you prefer the search route. Finding basic information is one of the great developments of the internet. When I search bond spread in the google, the top three links are to investopedia and wikipedia. And of course if you want a broader diversity of sources, scroll further down the search results. Lots of info in the corners of the web.

        And to bring it full circle, if you search for more detailed matters, you might end up at an NC article. For example, if I search greek taxpayer anticipation notes, this is the second link:

        http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/02/robert-parenteau-get-tan-yanis-timely-alternative-financing-instrument-greece.html

        The search result is even smart enough to figure out what I want despite taxpayer being a nonsensical term in that phrase. The t in TAN stands for tax, not taxpayer.

  19. Dmaharg

    Read this site regularly, Never comment but appreciate the information that your site and others provide.

    I am sure comments may increase a lot when another round of headline trouble appears.

  20. Kevin

    Dear NC writers,

    I have never commented before but after reading this post I felt I had to.

    I recently graduated undergrad where I majored in Business Economics & Public Policy. While in undergrad I became intensely passionate about financial regulatory policy. I took a few graduate level courses and attended ever symposium, conference and discussion I could regarding financial regulatory policy. I have seen Gary Gensler speak at Georgetown Law, Neil Barofsky, Paul Tucker, Anat Admati, and Tom Hoenig speak at GW Law, and Daniel Tarullo and Sheila Bair speak at the EPI. I have seen Simon Johnson speak at three separate conferences. This is all to say that I have more or less become obsessed with financial regulatory policy.

    Last Fall, I had the opportunity to intern at one of the leading public advocacy organizations for financial reform in Washington, DC. During my time there, I had the opportunity to work on issues mainly relating to bank resolution such as the ISDA Resolution Stay Protocol and an FSB request for comment on cross border recognition of resolution actions.

    I have relied on the views and incredibly detailed explanations posted on Naked Capitalism to help me understand the complex world of high finance. Posters such as yourself, Satyajit Das, Bill Black, and countless others have allowed me to understand topics I could not have without their brilliance.

    This is all to say that, while I rarely comment, the posts on NC do not go unappreciated, especially posts about financial regulation. I am sure there are countless people like me who have intense passions for the topics covered on Naked Capitalism who regularly read posts without commenting on them. Please keep up the vigilant coverage and analysis of our financial system. It is helping more people than you probably realize in their pursuit of knowledge.

    Thank you for all of your work.

    -Kevin

  21. Oregoncharles

    “The single largest source of capital to the private equity industry is governmental pension funds. ”
    And frankly, I’d be a lot more passionate about the subject if I was depending on PERS, the Oregon state pension fund.

    Don’t know if this is useful, but one reason the pension funds may be desperate for return is that they made unsustainable commitments as far as payouts. I know PERS did, and the state’s been struggling to rescue it ever since. I see news accounts indicating the same for other funds. Of course, they’re major victims of ZIRP (which I hope means the low-interest policy).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you seem to have missed a key point about the power and reach of private equity. Private equity funds have more than $2 trillion under management. Assuming normal leverage (30% equity) that gives them $6.7 trillion in buying power. By comparison, US public stocks have a total market capitalization on the order of $26 to $28 trillion. So not only do private equity firms own a huge portion of the true wealth of America, that of its productive businesses, but unlike the diffuse owners of public companies, they control them. And their practices, like financial engineering and aggressive headcount reductions to goose short-term profits, have been adopted by large public companies. In other words, they DO affect you.

      As to underfunding, in some jurisdictions (New Jersey is the poster child), made a political calculation to underfund. But public pension funds for the most part made the same return assumptions that private defined benefit plans did. And they did not derive these forecasts on their own, they came from supposed experts that they hired. So some of that was forecast error, but a big culprit in that has been the Fed’s post crisis policies of negative real interest rates. Investors of all sorts come out losers, and long term ones like life insurers and pension funds suffer the most.

      1. CB

        Whenever I see “with all due respect,” I know there’s none to follow. Sarcasm does not persuade.

        1. BillC

          Often true in most Internet venues, but not always here. If you suspend that reflex reaction and read on, I think you’ll find the response to be constructive and informative.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          “With all due respect” is usually a marker for 180 degree differences of views. It is used all the time in formal settings where sarcasm would backfire. But on the Internet, things can come off as being more harsh than when they are conveyed verbally. Sorry if that’s what happened.

      2. Gordon

        Yes, I agree with you, Yves. I also don’t comment often, but your site is invaluable to me, and I go to Naked Capitalism several times each day. In fact, you have inspired me to begin my own post-legal career as a pro bono public pension consultant. I agree that these public pensions should wean themselves off private equity for all sorts of reasons, one being the moral argument that they shouldn’t be investing in entities which have a game plan of devouring the pensions of employees in the companies they take over. This disease is so deeply rooted that I have even found a pension fund for ministers that has a heavy investment in private equity. Because my own wife is a member of that pension plan, I think the ministers on the board need to understand what they are promoting. So, in the months to come, I hope to get off the ground by starting with some small pension plans, then starting my own website, then working up the food chain. In the meantime, thanks to you for all your efforts.

      3. Skippy

        Or you can just loot the public employees pension funds like Houston, then BK your worries away when the RE boom meets the energy sector black swan and all those tax concessions to bring in Corporations two steps trips over the falling RE sales – land tax collections, then whitewash it away with the business cycle trope.

        Skippy…. Hold me Yves…. is Texas just a ginormous PE firm with geographical boarders…. crap Chicago just floated through my mind…

      4. Oregoncharles

        1) You may want to look into Oregon – the overcommitments here, if I understand correctly, were politically motivated – a poorly designed board, for one thing. That’s a bit aside from your focus on private eqity, though.

        I was told years ago (my father was an investment manager – financial astuteness is not hereditary) that the pension funds, collectively, just about owned American industry, so yes, this is a very large issue.

        2) tO CB: I took Yves’ phrase the way she explained it. I DO respect her expertise, or I wouldn’t be here.

        Truth is, I was making excuses.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for the head’s up re Oregon. I’ll keep that in mind. I may be oversensitive re the tendency to blame pols (even though there is a lot of corruption, as David Sirota’s posts on alternative investing show) when the corporate plans made similar mistakes. But that doesn’t mean Oregon isn’t a New Jersey lite.

      5. washunate

        But public pension funds for the most part made the same return assumptions that private defined benefit plans did.

        Agreed, and to me, therein lies the systemic nature of the problem of malinvestment in our system of political economy. Not that PE isn’t awful, just to me, it distills to three key observations about the behavior of our system:

        1) Everybody uses unrealistic long-run rates of return. Thus no one individual expert or manager is ‘out of line’ with the consensus paradigm. And the important corollary: if someone points out that the rates are unrealistic, the group closes ranks. All the experts can’t be wrong. They’re experts, after all, with credentials and degrees and references.

        2) Public actors have a similar management philosophy to private ones. Public actors are unwilling to take lower returns to allocate resources on publicly desirable projects (because to do so would require higher taxation or lower payouts for highly compensated employees, and nobody wants to tax the rich or cut the pay of prosecutors and police chiefs – that would defeat the whole point of the system…).

        For example, take the list of CalPERS direct holdings (never mind PE). It’s a who’s who of companies and industries and ideas and philosophies about which people love to complain. The CIO letter emphasizes the numeric returns of the paper assets first, not the environmental, social, and governance factors that are so important they’re exiled to some separate report. Instead, they own Countrywide home equity loan ABS and JP Morgan mortgage acquisition ABS and Aflac corporate bonds and Clear Channel corporate bonds and UBS MBS and FNMA MBS and McDonald’s stock and Walmart stock. Perhaps my favorite is the 13.99 million shares of Exxon stock.

        3) Wage inequality specifically and the more general soft corruption of careerism incentivizes everyone with some portion of responsibility to not rock the boat. The powerful positions and comfy lifestyles depend upon it, from the management team itself to the outside consultants to the politicians making the rules to the academics discussing it to the police chiefs and prosecutors and judges who see small scale crime everywhere but look at finance and see nothing but upstanding citizens.

      6. Nathanael

        Is there really a difference between “private equity funds” and 19th century robber barons? Because, having read about the tactics of Jay Gould, I don’t see a difference.

        I don’t really think they should be called “private equity”. Private equity is an angel investor financing a startup, or Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post outright with his own cash.

        The “private equity funds” are something else; the managers are not primarily using their own money, which means they aren’t really private equity, they’re just another scheme where a manager takes money from muppets and “invests” it for the manager’s benefit.

  22. EmilianoZ

    Finance today: Rube Goldberg contraption for transferring money from the 99% to the 1%.

    It irritates me to no end to have to study some Rube Goldberg contrivance set up by some a–hole to make money for his boss rather than something more worthwhile like the laws of nature or somesuch. We should just fight for extreme simplification of finance. Plain vanilla everywhere. All the complexity never got us one point of productivity or whatever.

    I hoped there would be a variety of readers, some engaged in the wonky side, others in the peanut gallery, and that those different species would coexist without harming each other. But it looks like the peanut eaters are discouraging the serious readers. Sorry.

    Maybe there should be a FAQ/glossary somewhere on the site. The FAQ would endeavor to answer questions such as:

    Besides TARP, in what other ways did the Fed bail out the banks and what amounts of money were involved?
    How do banks create money and how does that affect inflation?
    How does a trust fund work?
    How do PE make money?

    The answers would try to give a layman’s overview while linking to past post for more details.

  23. readerOfTeaLeaves

    IMVHO, the fact that this blog does such a remarkable job of explaining ‘how things actually work’ is one of its greatest strengths. In fact, it is invaluable.

    It’s been a wild year, and I find that without the Odiego audio interpretations of the blog posts, I simply don’t have the time to read as much as I would *love* to be able to do. Perhaps all my computer upgrades knocked out the Odiego links, but those were incredible timesavers for me — I used to listen to the Odiego audio versions of the posts and continue my education in finance while driving, or doing other tasks (including unloading my dishwasher).

    Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to read all the posts, although now that:
    (a) I am using the Twitter app on my iPhone daily, and
    (b) I follow Yves on Twitter, where
    ( c) I see specific NC links in my Twitter feed, and then
    (d) click on them and read on my phone.

    IOW, I’m now reading NC on my phone far more often than I had ever anticipated*.
    I’m guessing that I’m not the only NC reader in this situation — the new mobile site really is spiffy, and hat’s off to whoever did the great work!

    However, there is a consequence relevant to posting comments: I’m far (and I mean f-a-r) less likely to comment when I’m reading on the phone. And I read NC on my phone or tablet nearly every single day. But commenting from the phone is too onerous; I only type text messages and quick emails on my phone; it simply does not work for me in terms of commenting on posts.

    FWIW, I happened to spot this post on my phone’s Twitter app, then clicked and read it on the phone.
    Because it was evening, I had time to get to my desktop and type out a longer comment.

    I’m guessing that I’m not the only NC reader in this situation: still reading, but depending on the mobile (even a nice large screen iPhone 6+), commenting is just far more difficult. However, if you are willing to entertain really short comments…. ;-)

    ———————————-
    * Damn, I have to say that the iPhone 6+ really has a great screen for reading. AND I can do it while out on errands, or traveling. Or on a stationary bike.

    1. Lambert Strether

      We’ll be sure to pass on your kind words to our designer.

      That said, is there any site you can think of that handles comments in a way that’s easier for you? If you could submit a comment on a post via mail, would you, if that were possible? Is there some other form of engagement that would work better?

      I don’t think all comments have to be long. Then again, virtual keyboards are pretty bad; I can’t imagine how kidz these days use them…

      UPDATE I’m spacing out on the audio. Would readers like that back? We might give it a try. The plug-in we had just…. stopped working one day, I forget why.

      1. Larry

        I don’t often comment on my phone, and the types of comments required on NC require more typing than most other sites. I routinely comment using my phone on Gawker Media empire posts. But a sentence or two is much easier than a paragraph or two. Also, the Kinja system keeps me engaged with their comments. I can see when posts are recommended or when somebody replies to a post that I’ve made.

      2. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Oh, audio would be AWESOME.
        I mean it.

        One goal of mine for this year is to make time to garden.
        And when I’m out weeding, or watering, I often listen to podcasts and TED Talks on my phone. But if NC had audio, then I could (and I would!) listen while watering, and/or going for a walk.

        Currently, I can read if I’m on a stationary cycle or an elliptical machine.
        But if I walk, I can’t read.
        NC podcasts would be a huge benefit to those of us who still want to get in at least an hour of ‘moving’ each day: I’d listen to podcasts and walk — much healthier than yet more hours sitting at my computer!

        I gather that the conventional wisdom is that us ‘blog readers’ are a bunch of unemployed, unemployable losers who have nothing but time on our hands. From what I can glean, this is not accurate. In fact, we’re a fairly driven bunch: ‘normal’ people don’t carve time out of their days to learn about finance. But driven people — that’s just what we do, on top of the other stuff that we do.

        So anything that enables me to double-task: walk while listening to NC, weed while listening to NC… would be a godsend in my case.

  24. bob

    “You Need to be Able to Take the Fight to Their Terrain”

    Love the blog and the work you do, but I have to quibble with this. It’s a loosing strategy. You’re forced into the king’s english, and you can’t win against the king. He is the king.

    Breaking down this nonsense, and calling it for what it is, theft, is what is needed. You help a lot on that front, but getting bogged down in the details usually only serves to advantage the guy who wrote the details.

    People say Taibbi goes too far with his “course, strong language” and “name calling”. He doesn’t go far enough, IMO. The profanity that Wall st engages in and propagates is a dozen trillion times more profane, and gets called out in “polite” circles even less.

    “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” Sun Tzu

    Don’t bring the fight to them, where they are strongest. It’s a loosing battle of attrition. Make them bring the fight out. Further. Some of the best quotes from the TBTF have been gotten by very simple, “stupid” and “uninformed” questions.

    Understanding the enemy is also important, but it’s not a strategy or tactic.

    Again, I appreciate everything you do and think that it’s extremely excellent, important work.

    Now, before I accuse myself of being a concern troll, have a good night, and keep up the great work.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As you can imagine, I disagree.

      This is in large measure a propaganda war. If you simply say words like “theft” the industry will say, “No, we are earning a fair return for essential services that are provided by the super talented people who need to be paid this much for us to attract and keep them in this competitive marketplace.” You can’t assert that what is going on is theft. You have to prove it. Like it or not, the burden of proof is on our side, and unsubstantiated name calling will be ignored.

      That does not mean we need to use their nomenclature in unpacking what they do and explaining it to third parties, but you do need to get enough of an understanding of it to penetrate their misdirection and obfuscation, and explain to third partied of varying levels of expertise why there defenses are rubbish.

      Going into the mechanics of how the industry works also helps show voters and consumers where and why they are bearing costs and exposed to risks they didn’t even know about.

      And this strategy has been shown to have an impact. The work of a group of activists of which were were a part nearly beat the banks on the “get out of liability free” card called the National Mortgage Settlement. Obama himself had to intervene by flipping Eric Schneiderman with the empty bribe of participation on a Federal task force (as no doubt vague intimations of how this would put him in good stead for the future). The fact that we got that far, with no media budget and no MSM allies, says this approach does work. And the more journalists work with people like us, even informally, the more effective we will be.

      Having readers carry this effort forward with letters to the editor and op eds for local papers and pitching related stories to local news stations has a big impact too, since Congressmen are very sensitive to news reporting in their district. Similarly, I was buttonholed at the last DC meetup by an attorney who said having people weigh in during the comment period on rulemaking was really powerful. He and others not only used material from current comments, they looked at past rulemakings and minded the comment letters from them too. Similarly, I’ve been told a letter-writing campaign directed at the SEC’s Mary Jo White would be really effective, since she seldom has members of the public climb her frame.

      Remember, as Richard Kline stressed, with activism you routinely look like you are losing, but the other side recognizes that the opposition has support. As the activists gain ground, victories against them become more and more difficult to achieve. Entrenched interests start changing course once they recognize their opponents are parties to be reckoned with.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘This is in large measure a propaganda war … that does not mean we need to use their nomenclature.’

        Control the nomenclature, control the debate. In the 1980s, the term ‘leveraged buyouts’ was widely employed, along with more pejorative ones such as ‘corporate raiders,’ ‘asset stripping,’ and a notorious book title, The Predators Ball.

        But the LBO industry got the bright idea of rebadging themselves as ‘private equity,’ a broader term which includes less problematic activities such as venture capital. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this. Leveraged buyouts, which intrinsically involve slashing R&D and head counts to pay the crushing vig, should be called out for what they are: leveraged, speculative bets run by unaccountable insiders.

        A strong cyclical aspect is also present. The current economic expansion that started in June 2009 has been kind to junk bond investors. Default rates are low; returns are high. But when the next recession comes along, LBOs, junk bonds and ‘private equity’ funds will come a cropper, and likely will be reviled the same way CDOs were in the last go-round.

        Using the time that remains in Bubble III to document private equity abuses will prevent the principals from claiming, when it all ends in tears, that ‘no one could have foreseen this coming.’ Make an appearance at a public pension convention, and put the victims investors on notice.

    2. Chris B

      Bob, I agree with you 100%. This is a very Taoist way to fight power and there are countless stories about it in the literature, not only in the attributed writings of Sun Tzu, but of Chuang Tzu (Chuang Tzu
      ) and Lao Tzu as well. Fighting on another person terms will always leave you at a disadvantage. Living in an unnatural environment is also always bad for the health.

      Fighting on the other’s battlefield also gives credibility to the opponent. I make fun of the “serious” language people use about banking and investment whenever I can. And I have been mentioning to Yves in other comments, that what we fight, we strengthen. By changing the language we change the battlefield.

      This is where protest has to happen first, internally. We can help trigger the protest in people minds by language games and stupid sounding questions questions. For example, when ever someone tells me they are “buying” a house I reply “Wow, you are paying all cash for your house!?” When they then tell me they are taking out a loan I reply, “Oh, so you are renting your house from a bank and you will have a 30 year lease. Me, I prefer to rent from people and only get a year lease.”

  25. lostinamerica

    Yves, I am on your site morning, noon and night and I thank you for this. NC is an invaluable resource for me in spite of the fact that I am not ”learned” in finance. I am fascinated with these complex issues of our time and by lurking here I get a better understanding of how things work. I try to donate each year and I am always recommending your articles to others to read. I can honestly say that I do not feel comfortable posting in the discussions, but I am comfortable as lurker. I will make an effort to get out of my safe mode in the future. Knowledge is a powerful thing, and NC has made me a better educated person than any other blog I’ve been to.

  26. John Hemington

    Like so many others I find NC to be invaluable and frequently re-post the columns with links to my rather extensive e-mail list. I don’t do social networking so I can’t help there. However, I am also guilty of not posting comments on a regular basis as I do not usually review NC until late evening when the comment lists are usually quite long.

    As far as I am concerned this is the best site out there for consistent, serious and solid information about what is transpiring among the criminal class and I regularly encourage those I communicate with to view the site and learn what is happening to them — it isn’t pretty — and far too many folks would rather hibernate in the safety of the msm soft parade than face the facts as they are.

    It is, as I have found, quite difficult to maintain the attention of just about anyone over the long-haul of this gruesome abuse by the criminals of the financial class; but it is essential that this information is provided if we are ever to hope to push back in any meaningful way.

    My focus of late has been coming to grips with the enormity of the neoliberal take over of the world’s political, economic and social fabrics via control of the propaganda machines which are constantly spewing out misinformation, lies, and disinformation. I believe, further, that unless people can come to understand the actual methods and mechanics of the nefarious thought collective, it will be almost impossible for them to understand just what is happening and why. People tend to see events as isolated episodes which pop up and then fade from view without ever connecting them to the underlying cause and those who continuously profit from the neoliberal myths.

    I suggest that everyone needs to read Noam Chomsky’s PROFIT OVER PEOPLE and then Philip Mirowski’s NEVER LET A SERIOUS CRISIS GO TO WASTE as well as THE ROAD FROM MONT PELERIN. The information provided in these excellent book ties it all together in a way that allows the reader to come to understand to overall operation and impact of the neoliberal thought collective on our lives. But most working slaves simply do not have time to digest this material on their own.

    This is the one area where I feel that NC does not provide sufficient insight into overriding ideological constructs which permit and encourage the massive financial, political and economic corruption that now plagues the world. Sometimes the focus needs to shift from the specific, where NC does a great service, to the more general perspective of what it is that provides the intellectual framework for the total corruption of the system in which we all must operate.

    I know the NC and its contributors cannot do everything and it is a difficult subject for one to get one’s mind around; but once the underlying framework is exposed almost everything else becomes clear and comprehensible — even expectable. In my opinion, until people come to understand the overview they will never be able to respond appropriately to seemingly isolated events of corruption which pop up as if quantum particles being born out of nothing — and then rapidly fade back into nothing as the news cycle moves on once more.

    Many, many thanks Yves for all that you and your contributors do. It is so important to so many of us just trying to keep up with the events constantly swirling around us.

  27. JerseyGirl

    I’m a nobody who by virtue of reading this blog, Calculated Risk and NJHousing Report managed to save my investments during the implosion of 2008, buy more stocks cheap when everyone else was freaking out and purchase a home in 2009 – after the housing bubble burst.

    I am beyond grateful for all that you do. I tell whoever will listen what I read here. But, I don’t leave comments because I’m afraid of sounding dumb to the super smart regulars and since I’m just a regular old worker bee, who has nothing to contribute, I prefer to just peruse.

  28. Justicia

    NC has been a “go to” source for me for several years and I hope, Yves, you’ll continue giving us thought provoking articles on finance, politics and economics in all their complexity. I especially appreciate your strategic direction to the readers on how to take action that can have impact.

  29. Left in Wisconsin

    Yves,
    This entire comment may be off topic but here goes.

    I think you are pointing to a lack of enthusiasm. The period of the financial crisis and Occupy naturally led to more enthusiastic behavior because much seemed new and we were all interested in figuring out what was happening and testing the bounds of the possible. In the intervening years, enthusiasm has waned as it has become (again) clear that real change will be very difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, I do think that we are all more knowledgeable than we were then and I think in the long run that is very important.

    I sometimes feel like you give mixed messages. On the one hand, you say early in this post: “In other words, you are telling them Big Finance has won the argument and citizens don’t care.” I am wholeheartedly behind the effort to de-mystify economics and finance, to get citizens to care. But this must mean a degree of simplification/clarification to such concepts as theft, and a political program that ordinary people can rally around, like sending bankers to jail. Later in this post, you say: “We are certain this series is having an impact; we’ve had more discussions with influencers on this topic than on any other we’ve followed.” That suggests a certain frustration that more of us don’t rally around what seem to be very technical reforms that you argue will make a meaningful difference.They might well, but given what seems to be pretty comprehensive capture of the regulatory apparatus, those of us outside “the industry” perhaps tend to be more skeptical.

    Private equity is a good example. I lived through the first (Drexel) LBO era in the 1980s and it did not take long for those of us on the losing side to see it for the sham it was. Lots of very good businesses were stripped and lots of very skilled workers were discarded. It was pure theft, and worse. Yet here we are, thirty years later, and private equity is entirely respectable even though the basic business model is the same now as it was then. In the meantime, how many generations of business school grads have internalized private equity as an entirely appropriate career, business strategy, etc.? I am sure that it would be good to reform PE regulation, improve disclosure and so on. But really, public pension funds should not be investing in PE, period. Regardless of the returns. For that matter, interest on debt beyond cap ex should not be deductible. And PE gains should be subject to confiscatory taxation.

    Maybe these are distinct political projects and you are just trying to motivate the readership to the second, more technical, one. But I think we need to find ways to connect them because it is hard to see how technical change alone is really up to the challenges we face.

    Either way, you are entirely justified in trying to rouse us to action. This is the best, most informative blog on the net and you are totally correct that we readers cannot expect real change if we don’t step up.

    1. diptherio

      My general feeling as well. It’s commentariat fatigue. I read the a lot of the stories here and think–yup, it’s still all f—-d up. I’m sure that there are good people in regulatory agencies reading this blog, but the victories they’ve managed to eek out over the last number of years have been pretty disappointing. A slap-on-the-wrist here, a strongly worded letter or op-ed there…and the same criminals still run our largest financial institutions.

      I’ve spent a lot of time reading this site and explaining what I’ve learned here to as many people as I can, and I’ll continue to do so–but after awhile, it’s hard to keep up the fire. Most everyone I talk to nowadays is well aware that Jamie Dimon and his ilk are criminals and that they are immune to the law, but no one feels like they can do anything about it. The reason is that, despite some minor improvements, everyone knows that the cops-on-the-beat are firmly in the criminals’ pocket. What you’re seeing is deepening despair. The “good” regulators haven’t done nearly enough off-set the captured ones–in this situation, knowing the fine details of the criminality, trying to parse all the steps in the scam, seems like almost a waste of time–at minimum it seems largely academic. The people charged with oversight of our governmental system have been derelict in their duties, and have shown all too few signs of changing that. So what’s the point in understanding all the details of our looting? We know we are being looted, and that itself should be enough for change to happen, but it’s not. In this situation, understanding the fine details seems a bit beside the point (not that I don’t think it’s important, nonetheless).

      There is only so long you can scream about injustice…after awhile your throat gets sore and you shut-up. That doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore, just that you’re waiting for an opportunity to do something more than just scream. I think that’s where a lot of us are right now.

      1. Eclair

        That sounds like me, Diptherio. I read NC daily … and first thing in the morning … for Yves’ and Lambert’s writings and for the commenters like yourself. Often, I won’t read an article, because it sounds too technical for my level of knowledge (not difficult, really), or just due to lack of time. But …. I will read through the discussion that follows. Kind of like Cliff Notes.

        But, each morning I hit the internets: NC, a few news sites, FB for the work being done by my social and environmental justice and indigenous rights colleagues …. and, after an hour am so weighed down by the revelations of corruption … another massive oil spill or pipeline leak, plans to drill in the Arctic amongst melting ice sheets, black and brown children murdered by police, bankers who make more money in one year that whole villages will make in a lifetime yet who whine over the ‘peasants’ being mean to them, Pine Ridge Reservation women desperately fighting against the meth epidemic that is the last stage of their genocide, the one survivor of some once flourishing species quietly disappearing, US drones killing Arab children, African babies starving, bombed Palestinian towns …. that I must go grub in the warm soil of the garden for a bit to ward off numbing despair.

        A small core of ‘friends’ … comrades, really …. agree that the System is so broken that reform is impossible. The vast majority of neighbors and acquaintances and family are happily engaged in buying a third car, renovating their kitchen, spreading pesticides on their lawn. The System is broken and the myths and narratives that sustained it are losing their credibility. We are in the process of developing new narratives …. but how are we going to get from ‘here’ to ‘there.’ I fear it will be messy. Incredibly so. Occasionally, when I want to engage in ‘scab-picking’ behavior, I read the comments on some non-NC news sites or blogs: the level of hate that is out there, against Muslims, Jews, black people, immigrants, the gubbment, is mind-numbing. Bottle it and we could blow up the planet. Or, just blow up the tenuous web of ‘civilization’ and order that is thinly plastered over this seething discontent.

        1. nippersdad

          It looks like we have similar internet habits. I think I could name every one of those stories myself; too depressing but somehow it still feels so important to know about them.

      2. ambrit

        No truer words. That’s why the atomization of Western society has had such a disastrous effect.

  30. Paul Tioxon

    I believe you are having a larger impact, from my perspective, than you might realize, despite some low comment counts. Not that I won’t take my new marching orders from you seriously. An example is the pension funds that were actively managed, some in PE but were then entirely turned over to Vanguard by the Montgomery County, PA Commissioners who were recently elected as Dems and took majority control of 2 of the 3 commission spots. This county has over 800,000 residents. It has a large and wealthy population overall, including the famed Main Line. So, it influences other counties in its best management practices, especially when $10s of millions are saved in money manager fees.

    One of the commissioners is from my township where I get to talk to him face to face several times a year. I specifically congratulated him on his money saving fiscal conservatism by going to Vanguard with the county pension fund. As soon I as I mentioned basis points as the percentage of fees charged, he immediately engaged me in what I could easily see was a conversation where he could further validate his decision. As demystifying as this site can be, taking on policy changes means somebody’s neck is sticking out. In this case, the commissioner got full support for his decision making from someone who knew exactly what he did, exactly how he saved the money for the county. And I learned a most of that right here. And now, with a Dem Gov in PA’s capital, guess where they are looking to save money? The state pension funds. And guess who has been called by the US Senate Dem leadership to run for Senate against the Wall St Republican Derivative Trader from Harvard? The very same county commissioner who figured out how to cut the fat in budget without firing cops or teachers or not paying their pension fund contributions. He declined to run against US Sen Pat Toomey, a Rep who is vulnerable in the presidential election year.

    But your ideas about pension fund management are regularly reported on by the local business reporter and his pieces are regularly forwarded to you and Lambert. The people in power and the business community read him and are influenced by what is posted on his site. Needless to, there may be a reason I am not commenting on finance as much as on solar power. It is because I am carpet bombing the neo-liberal crap that comes out in armored division force each and every day on each and every article about government budgets in the city, the state and even the federal government on the local news site for Philly. And I what I learn here not only demolishes the neo-liberal arguments, it draws out people who support what I say and even post their own arguments in support of what I have written, again, much learned on this site.

    SOCIAL SECURITY-SOLAR POWER-$15/hr

    I’m thinking about having T-Shirts made up with this non-negotiable demand. Si se puede. Yes we can! Obama swiped that from Caesar Chavez and The United Farm Workers. The Teamster swiped Huelga from them for local strikes and organizing actions in Philly during the 1970s. That was during the grape boycott.

    I believe I can show solidarity with posts that may not be a substantive contribution, but letting you know its been read. The very least I can do is leave my new political slogan the same way the teamster sprayed painted Huelga all over the University of Pennsylvania campus walls when they were organizing the women who did house keeping in the dorms and classrooms and department buildings.

    SOCIAL SECURITY-SOLAR POWER-$15/HR

    When you see that, you’ll know that a congress man or a District Attorney or even the Governor will soon hear about the financial dead ends, the savvy moves and the good policy that deserves a hearing. It could be an idea that saves a lot of grief, money and improves the lives of the people living around me. And it starts with reading here every day, first thing with my coffee and high blood pressure meds. Yeah, don’t even ask.

    Yves,
    Here is something that corroborates the slow down in the over all oil drilling sector. It looks like more than tight oil is at risk but off shore as well.
    ————————————————————————————-

    Sikorsky Aircraft to lay off 720 at Coatesville facility

    Sikorsky Aircraft said Tuesday that it will lay off 160 full-time employees and 560 contractors at its facility in Coatesville because low oil prices have cut demand for its helicopters from oil and gas exploration companies.

    The Coatesville facility is headquarters for the commercial division. About 80 percent of its products go to oil and gas companies or firms in related industries.

    “Sustained decreases in oil prices continue to drive significant declines in capital investments by oil companies in offshore oil exploration projects impacting Sikorsky and resulting in reduced production levels,” Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson said in a statement.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150603_Sikorsky_Aircraft_to_layoff_720_people.html

  31. jgordon

    I read the finance type posts in the spirit of sardonic amusement and don’t feel especially inclined to comment on them. Unless an economists wrote the post, in which case I may feel like subtly or not so subtly pointing out that the entire field of economics is a bullshit pseudoscience that mostly only exists to fellatiate elites.

    Regardless, The US has already gone way past the point where increasing societal and bureaucratic complexity has anything but negative benefit to the average citizen. If a “reform” program isn’t aiming at descaling and decomplexifying society in a drastic way then what we have is just another avenue towards collapse. Sure add more financial regulations. Put the criminal bankers in jail. Stop private equity from strip mining the economy. Such measures might extend the life of our system by five or ten years (a result that would be more terrible for the planet than an immediate systemic collapse), but without a traumatic reorganization where nearly every vested interest is stripped of resources and power and corporate state government is radically and voluntarily decentralized, we’re all in for a horrific decline in any case.

    A very useful response to humanity’s current bottle-neck crisis would be to preemptively scale down governments so that they can fit into the new, lower energy and resource envelopes that we’ll have to contend with in the near future. For me personally, seeing stuff like that one NC would make me more engaged with the private equity crusades, etc–since there would apparently be a plan for something beyond merely restoring the corporate capitalist system to a state where it can continue operating right up until it stripmines the last of the earth’s resources. At least with the imminent financial collapse at hand thanks to all the criminals running amok in the system, the system will be abortively shut down before it can reach that end.

    1. different clue

      The entire field? Including work by Frederick Soddy? And Charles Walters Jr.?

  32. Stephen Clark

    Perhaps a comprehension of the terrain on which the banker/bookie coup d’état operates is a necessary predecessor of confronting them. But of equal importance is the sketching out of and plans for the creation of a new terrain in which it would be more difficult for them to operate, a terrain that would make it easier for those who are not simply seeking an avenue for looting. Where is the field that we pension holders can point our pension managers to that will help to starve the beast.

    Naked Capitalism has wed itself to Modern Monetary Theory to the exclusion of other movements that are attempting to create a field in which we can all play. Positive Money, Gar Alperowitz’s co-op alternatives etc. The postal service as an alternative to banking.

    There is a great deal of opposition extant to the practice of Fractional Reserve Credit, an opposition that could be part of a coalition opposing the current financial order. These ideas are not welcome here and are treated as opposition rather than as different takes that could be part of a new coalition.

    Snark and ridicule replace reasoned argument. I attempted once to take the Minsky notion that “anyone can create money, the problem is getting it accepted.” I changed it to “Anyone can create money but not everyone may.” The point I was making is that Modern Monetary Theory holds the notion that created money gains it legitimacy by being accepted as payment for taxes. If that acceptance as payment for taxes is removed then those creators of money may not continue. My comment drew other comments that acted like I had somehow challenged holy writ. I like Minsky and Modern Monetary Theory and was not trying to contradict them in the least. I think University of Missouri Kansas City has done more for the world than the rest of academia combined to address the world situation, but they are not gods. their ideas need scrutiny and they are not owners of Minsky or his legacy.

    Modern Monetary Theory rightly posits the power to create money to the sovereign Government. This means that the sovereign government can never be forced into default. This is the same principle that drives the Positive Money movement.

    Modern Monetary Theory favors government as employer of last resort. This view is not held by everyone, especially those who favor a Guaranteed Income or Citizen’s Dividend. For some Unemployment is the goal, not a disease. A Citizen’s Dividend answers the problems that government as employer of last resort is purported to address. These beliefs should not disqualify readers and commenters from Naked Capitalism, it should be a great opportunity to bring these groups together in opposition to the looting of the world. These are not pertinent to the analysis of what has happened and who has done it. These are potential allies that Naked Capitalism has voluntarily surrendered through some notion of an infallible belief that there is only one way out of the mess.

    There is an immediate need to separate the analysis of what went wrong and who is responsible from what are the many possible options for the future. Do this, keep up your full and complete reporting on what is going on in the real world of finance and make an effort to referee your discussions toward a full and fair hearing for other alternatives for the future and I think you will get more readership and more comment.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      *Sigh”. I’ve gone to the trouble of making a good deal of study on monetary operations. MMT has the accurate description of how monetary operations work. The Positive Money crowd does not. This is not a major focus of this site or this post, so therefore I am not going to go into a lengthy discussion as to why. But we have have very very long discussions of this very issue in the comments section on past MMT posts.

      The implication of MMT providing an accurate description is that we do not live in a world of fractional reserve banking.

      While some of the main Modern Monetary Theory writers advocate a job guarantee, it has nothing to do with MMT per se. We have posted as to why we oppose a guaranteed income. The time it was tried in the past on a large-scale basis, it wound up serving as a subsidy to business and lowering wages, which pauperized those who did want to work (see this post for details).

      In other words, we care about having sound policy frameworks and making good policy recommendations, and we disagree with you as to what is good policy in these areas. We are not changing our stanceo win popularity contests.

      We do not expect to suit everyone’s tastes. For instance, some site readers are unhappy about our continued focus on problems with Obamacare. We assume that readers who like our finance work have the good sense to read past our Obamacare posts if they don’t want to read negative information about Obamacare. Similalty, it is usually very clear when we have an MMT post (they headline and author names are tipoffs), so I suggest you skip them when we post on them, which frankly is not very often (at most once a month in recent months).

      1. Steven

        Until the world gets beyond treating wealth as some metaphysical entity, e.g. as ‘capital’ rather than just an accounting device, we are not going to get beyond the looting. Money’s essence as debt goes far beyond its “being accepted as payment for taxes”. All the looting since 2008 can be explained by Minsky’s “anyone (actually “any unit” but essentially ‘anyone’) can create money, the problem is getting it accepted.” When you can create financial toxic waste and exchange it for debt backed by the ‘full faith and credit of the United States’, is that not getting the money you create accepted?

        I’ve just started reading “Capital as Power” by Nitzan and Bichel. Candidly, I am not expecting much. They seem to be using the rediscovery that economics is inherently political to provide ‘capital’ with a new metaphysical veneer. The problems with money go back much further than 2008 (or 1971). St. Timothy warned the West “The root of all evil is the love of money…”. More recently there was Oscar Wilde’s “They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

        What is missing from the West’s system of political economy is a definition of wealth. Compare Frederick Soddy’s list of the principle ingredients of wealth with Nitzan and Bichel’s definition of ‘capital’:
        Discovery, Natural Energy and Diligence— the Three Ingredients of Wealth.
        If Soddy were alive today he would probably whittled the list down to Discovery and Natural (inanimate) energy. Discovery may be principally the province of scientists and engineers. But it also provides the foundation for the value and purpose of human life:

        The keynote of the age is discovery, and life itself is discovery. Once made, countless generations may use it and live by it without conscious apprehension of the nature of it, without further changing their mode of livelihood, and, indeed, deeming it the only possible way to live.

        Soddy, Frederick M.A., F.R.S.. Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt (Kindle Location 1276). Distributed Proofreaders Canada.

        The modern corporate owner does not view capital as comprising tangible and intangible artefacts such as machines, structures, raw materials, knowledge and goodwill. Instead, he or she is habituated to think of capital as equivalent to the corporation’s equity and debt. The universal creed of capitalism defines the magnitude of this equity and debt as capitalization: it is equal to the corporation’s expected future profit and interest payments, adjusted for risk and discounted to their present value.

        Capital as Power, p. 8

        So if those “sound policy frameworks and making good policy recommendations” are geared to genuine wealth creation rather than just piling up more equity and debt perhaps you should give more attention to suggestions for a guaranteed income. The ‘services’ industry that emerged in post-industrial America has in practice been a combination of ‘military services’ and a meddling government bureaucracy that have consumed rather than created wealth. When you convert those swords to plowshares, when you eliminate all the waste built into the economy so the modern corporate owner can pile up ever more equity and debt, I suspect there will not be a lot of meaningful employment left. The hardest work there is for many of us is finding meaning in life and understanding the world around us. So unless you have a better use for our time I suggest you reconsider your opposition to a guaranteed income.

        1. Stephen Clark

          I wouldn’t jettison “human diligence” from the factors of production just yet. Soddy won his Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on radio-active decay. He took this mind set into the world of finance.

          Soddy rejected Silvio Gesell’s proposal of creating a Money that itself rusted. Gesell at times advocated 1% per month. Senator Bankhead in the U.S. proposed 2% per week. The money system should be rented to all users with the rent distributed equally in a citizen’s dividend. Compound Disinterest. I like the rate of 1% per day.

      2. jgordon

        It’s possible for “money” to derive value from other places than a government making it legitimate. Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are actively being traded in and out of official fiat currencies. That’s not to say that bitcoins derive value because they can be traded for fiat, but rather that some choose to trade them for fiat at semi-stable rates and that goods and services are most often traded using bitcoin between users without first converting them into a fiat currency.

        The main problem with MMT is that it requires that if people don’t like the official currency system and go around it for whatever reason (desire for privacy, disgust for the corrupt political order, simple stubbornness–whatever), someone with a stick has to come out and hit them so that they’ll quit it.

        As far as I’m concerned this makes the system illegitimate, and I have no philosophical issue with taking action that subverts and weakens it. Actually I would consider undermining MMT systems by whatever methods to be a just and moral thing to do, since it is honorable resistance against violence.

      3. Oregoncharles

        Please, please keep posting critical material on Obamacare. Very important politically, and something I count on you for! I’ll try to come up with some sort of comment – if only “Thanks! I’ll use that!”

      4. Furzy Mouse

        I agree with Yves that MMT is the most solid theory of “how money works”. I read up on Positive Money for one, and left feeling it was all about politics, and sentiment, but not the architecture, of our financial world. However, discussing MMT with fellow concerned citizens, I find many are unable to comprehend MMT’s propositions whatsoever, especially the fact that we do not need to borrow in order to spend, or that deficits are not so scary. Alas, these friends have drunk the KoolAid of austerity, harped upon endlessly in the MSM, and cannot see what is in front of them!

        As for the snark, thank goodness!! We need a bit of levity here!!

    2. washunate

      Stephen, I hear where you are coming from, but as one of the commenters who has spoken up about some of the MMT policy advocacy, I want to support Yves here on this. It’s her site.

      She has every right to encourage Lambert and others to propose and advocate the Mitchell/Mosler/Wray view of neo-chartalism. Or to go off in different directions, like those saying that a PSE/JG/ELR isn’t central to MMT.

      It is our responsibility critiquing those ideas to do so in ways that are constructive and engaging.

      But I do think this highlights one of the factors in comment quantity – the posts where there is a larger quantity of comments I would posit are those where there tends to be legitimate differences of opinions, of personal preferences. The more factual, technical finance posts where we all agree it’s horrible don’t have that same dynamic of sharing different perspectives.

      1. Steven

        Apologies if my comment came across as hostile. It was meant to be an explanation of why readers may not want to get down in the weeds all the time discussing or even reading NC postings. Once you understand first principles – i.e. that Wall Street and its banks are essentially ‘printing money’ and foisting it off on the public (is there in essence anything more to it than that?) – unless you are considering investing is there any point (in getting down into the weeds)?

        There is in fact a danger in some of us financial non-professionals coming away from postings thinking we actually understand what is going on. I remember being intrigued with the idea of finding a hedge fund that bought at 10 cents or whatever on the dollar in government auction all the repo’d mortgages and rented them back to the victims. But that was before Varoufakis explained the scam in “The Global Minotaur”.

        Anyhow, apologies if I came across as hostile.

        1. washunate

          Personally, I didn’t think it came off as hostile. I just think it’s something those of us that differ from Yves on a matter that means a lot to her are well suited to keep in mind, that the burden is really on us to communicate a dissent in a way that resonates. To remember this should be fun :)

          This tension of walking on egg shells is why I don’t bother commenting at NEP, for example. Being difficult there just feels like crashing the party. But I think the reason Yves posts some of the very same articles here is that she wants to get perspectives from people who aren’t on board.

      2. Jim

        Washunate, if we presently had a highly decentralized political system where power is concentrated at the bottom (a real federalism–not our contemporary federalism as simply administrative units of a highly centralized nation-state) and where this real federalism endorsed the principle of subsidiarity (doing as much as possible on a local level) then I would be more willing to consider MMT as a possible solution–with the tradeoff/restraint being genuine political decentralization vs the perhaps necessary centralization of monetary authority.

        Unfortunately, from my perspective most MMT supporters seem extremely comfortable with maintaining a powerful centralized State beyond simply monetary policy–which to my mind is extremely unsettling taken the increasing power of the surveillance/military side of the State.

        I also believe that the Yves/Lambert focus/hope for the success of an inside/outside strategy of political mobilization should be put under critical scrutiny because if it is not really viable then it seems to end up simply tinkering with the status-quo–another failed attempt at social democracy where the only real winners are the influencers and not the general public.

        1. Furzy Mouse

          I refer you to my earlier post suggesting that you go out to community meetings and present the basics of MMT…it has nothing to do with centralized government except that the sovereign nation can issue its fiat currency, and everything to do with empowering citizens to be unafraid of deficits, refuse to accept cuts to SS, urge central and local govs/pols to create jobs, restore the infrastructure, improve schools, etc.

          Yves and Lambert can deal with the brass, and have gotten some Congresscritters to pay attention to the financial follies circus. Perhaps it is our job to bring some clarity on these issues to our everyday citizens.

          In that light, let me offer my PowerPoint presentations on MMT to anyone who wishes to use them…with hopes that Yves and Lambert do not mind, send them a request for these PPT’s to them, and I will forward my material to you.

          1. washunate

            We are getting a little off topic here from Yves post, but I think it helps illustrate the dynamic Stephen was describing. The “basics” of modern money’s descriptive observation – that a sovereign state can create an infinite number of its own currency units – is of course not controversial. For some reason, MMTers seem to think that’s some kind of unique insight. But everybody knows that, from neoliberals to gold bugs, from unfunded wars to unfunded tax cuts, from bank bailouts to GSE bailouts. The deficit ceiling has never not been raised.

            The issue is the prescriptive nature of MMT, the policy proposals. MMT presents matters of personal opinion as if they are factual observations, and often times in ways that carry some pretty biting judgments and sarcasm. That’s why Wray is great – he tells you what he really thinks. Yet when people respond in kind, with a similar level of intensity, it is sometimes not appreciated. So people simply withdraw from the discussion (because it ends up not being a discussion of equals, but rather a lecture from the authority figure to the audience).

            MMT is consistent with a warmongering, bank bailing out, centralized state. So for some of us, the relevance in terms of offering solutions for our present predicament seems questionable. To try and minimize this is to sweep aside the JG and SFB advocacy that is at the heart of so many posts.

            1. Furzy Mouse

              There are no “deficits” with a fiat currency…MMT demonstrates a balance sheet of debits (the Fed) and credits ( the citizens and their benefits). We owe it to ourselves, not China, not the bond holders. The deficit ceiling is completely unnecessary, as well as issuing bonds…these are relics from the gold standard. I fail to see where this is merely an opinion. Sure looks like hard cold facts to me! and where in the world does warmongering come into MMT? Just because the USA is a warmonger does not prove that a fiat currency is as well.

              1. washunate

                If you’re not familiar with where the national security state fits in then I’m not sure where to start without completely losing track of the original intent of talking about commenting and engagement and so forth.

                Modern money roughly can be thought of as having two components: describing how state money works, and prescribing policy solutions that take advantage of how money works.

                Many (most) MMT proponents argue that the prescriptions follow naturally from the description. As professor Wray has said, “Personally, I think it is absolutely reprehensible that anyone who understands MMT would choose to oppose JG.”

                So I actually agree with you that one can accept the ‘cold hard facts’ of fiat currency but not the specific policy proposals for deficit spending and increased employment and so forth. However, most of the MMT author posts on NC would disagree with that sentiment. They argue that bigger government is not simply technically possible, but that it would solve our problems. Which is what Jim was addressing. This advocacy seems unwilling to take into consideration how powerful the government already is or how broadly the management philosophy of hierarchy and inequality is entrenched. Warmongering is at the very heart of that.

                Or to put it simply, if you say MMT is just the cold hard facts, what wage would JG workers make?

                1. Furzy Mouse

                  Thanks for your reply washunate…I guess I’m a dyed in the wool Keynesian…and believe we should spend some dough, yes, lots of it, to create jobs, repair and improve our infrastructure, vastly improve our education system, raise SS, create good inner city housing, CUT military allocations, and so forth…this would raise everyone’s standard of living and income…velocity of money, etc….I agree that most of the gov/bidness systems seem quite corrupt, and hell-bent on aggrandizing the .01%…perhaps the MMT advocacy is a bit timid, in face of this massive Leviathan, and or fears losing its small bit of influence if it “goes too far”.. it is academia, after all, not even the Fourth Estate…and dependent on their institutions…

                  Again I urge all citizens to present MMT’s propositions to civic groups during this election cycle…change will happen by We the People…don’t forget your pitchforks!!

  33. Si

    As many others have commented – I visit this site and read selected articles every day. This issue re commenting , I believe, is one of resignation and powerlessness. In a profoundly corrupt system those without power are better off spending their energies on surviving. There is a sense of ‘spiritual exhaustion’.

    Whilst I can appreciate that NC gets air in DC, cynically I wonder if it is only because they want to see what the proles are discussing.

    A good example for me is the hoopla around the FIFA corruption. All of a sudden the US justice system is in gear around a measly $150m of corruption, for a game!. The trillions looted is off limits for career minded lawyers and so we are entertained with an Onionesque theatrical farce to keep our minds on the trivial.

    Si

    1. Eclair

      Thanks for mentioning the FIFA scandal, Si. It’s classic misdirection. Or, a scream that, look, we’re fighting corruption! The deflated football scandal got no traction, but those evil soccer players, ruining the world for Democracy, we’ll take them down. And, just one more example, in a long long list, of the total imbecility and corruption of our justice (hah!) system.

  34. Fiscalliberal

    I am retired (73 years old) and Naked Capital is the first blog I read daily and often print articles for later non computer reading. I condense & write to Senators and Congress People often referencing NC articles. My view is to let congress people know there are people out in the fly over states who know about the lawless shenanigans. You seem to have attracted a group of writers, capable of explaining issues to the serious non financial person.

    My training is Electrical Engineering with a minor in Economics from UW Madison. When 2008 came, I knew some thing was wrong but did not have a clue what was wrong. I think in your book, you use the use the term High Priests who speak in a language all their own and deliberately obfuscate the discussion.

    May I suggest that it is now up to your readers to take the argument to their government representatives with logic and rationale. I often start the discussion with “Our Military is fighting two bungled wars while the Financial Community Raped the country“. Strong words but it gets peoples attention in public town halls. Naked Capitalism gives me the basis to substantiate the discussion.

    WE NEED TO COME TO THE UNDERSTANDING THAT DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT. RATIONAL DISCUSSION WITH FACTS IS THE ONLY WAY TO PLAY THE GAME.

  35. Jim

    As our financial/economic/political/cultural crisis incrementally accelerates important choices are being made by blogs like NC and their respective commentariats as to how to conceptualize and then attempt to mobilize who they consider their friends and demobilize who they consider their enemies.

    It is, of course, inevitable that as you moved into open and genuine opposition against Big Finance, especially those “among members of the financial services industry” they, (thank-goodness) have offered less and less support and your attempt to keep many of them in your straddle is no longer possible.

    Apparently,you have. perhaps quite recently, also made some important decisions about the benefits of mobilizing what you call “influencers, who seem to be primarily made up of “…a strong readership of regulators, people on the Hill, journalists and others interested in banking policy and economic issues.”

    These influencers according to your analysis come to NC “because we explain accurately how products, markets and institutions work.” And, of course, Yves, this is an area where much of your granular brilliance shines.

    You appear to be trying to develop a delicate inside/outside game where you are attempting to create your own leverage (through mobilization of a significant portion of your readership) to influence who you label as the influencers. (“We’ve had more discussions with influencers on this topic (private equity and how it operates…But if we are to carry this effort and other initiatives forward more effectively, we need your active support”).

    But the frame you presented at the beginning of your essay is not the only way to characterize this ongoing crisis. If you want your mobilization attempts to bear more fruit i would suggest you need more discussion and critique about the strengths and weaknesses of your own framework and political mobilization strategy–my guess is that this kind of self-reflection on your part would really get the conversation and comments going.

    .

  36. cnchal

    Pirate Equity. That’s what I call them, after you waved your blowtorch at their wallets, and $millions melted out of their hands, while exposing them.

    It’s hard to be private, when anybody can have their top secret “EXECUTION COPY” and see what the highest paid bullshit job lawyers dream up, and the copy I have even has the nice highlights of what the Pirate Equity swine (CARLYLE PARTNERS V, L.P.) were trying to hide.

      1. Jerry

        I like it, too! My wife once asked me what private equity is. I answered using what I had learned on this website–that PE means corporate raiders, a more familiar term from the 1980’s. But it’s not as colorful as Pirate Equity.

  37. Winston Smith

    Yves,

    Please don’t stop publishing technical articles related to finance and the in-depth analysis that you do with regards to these crooks!

    Interestingly enough, it was a trader at an investment bank that I worked at in Tokyo that introduced me to your blog and I’ve been a devotee every since. I don’t post often, just a snarky comment here in there, but I do read as many articles as I can and not nearly as many as I would like.

    I would comment more, but I feel that comments would not be as educated as other readers and followers of your writing are as I am not quite educated enough in the realm of high finance and economics, not to say that I can’t follow, my background is computer science and physics.

    But please, please, please keep the articles coming!

    Though articles that would help non specialists deal with this industry would be helpful. That is, what can we do, exactly? Continued letter writing to our quasi elected officials?

    Thank you for all that you do here!

  38. Mw

    I read a lot of the stuff here and have for a while. Especially the articles on Greece are very interesting. But I rarely comment. On anything on the Internet. I don’t assume people come to NC to see what I have to say as I don’t know that much about the subjects. But I don’t believe that is the same as disengagement. I understand that as a web based medium you need the legitimacy provided by likes, tweets, retweets, comments, shares and the like. But I believe that legitimacy should come from intellectual consistency of arguments and I believe NC has that.

    Also Im interested about page views *winks knowingly despite constant state of mild confusion*

  39. ambrit

    I’m one of the commentators with a less than stellar grasp of the technical side of finance and economics.
    My comments are often banal and ‘snarky.’ Somehow, I do not think that an increase in the number of low power comments from the peanut gallery would do the NC ‘brand’ much good. I appreciate it very much when commentators give first hand accounts of their experiences relating to the posts. The immediacy comes through. The nebulous concept of “authenticity” comes into play.
    As some comments above have noted, the site runs two parallel programs. The primary program deals with pure economics. As with any speciality, the technical side of it of necessity limits the volume of informed comment. If I, for instance, were to comment on Polish bond yields, I would show myself to be a poseur, and an egotistical fool to boot. The second program deals with political economy, and the philosophy of governance. This ‘feels’ more accessible, and, I believe, gets much more engagement thereof.
    As for the ‘complaints’ of the insiders concerning comment volumes for ‘wonky’ posts, well, what do ‘they’ want? Do we see them doing the hard work of setting up their own ‘listening posts’ in the wilds of public opinion?
    We must first determine what a ‘legitimate’ comment is. Then filter for that class of comment. Given the nature of the internet, except for obvious trolls, this filtering has to be internalized by each individual reader. Since comments come in all shapes and sizes, a large noise to signal ratio is almost guaranteed. The fact that many ‘wonky’ posts generate few comments is not in any way an indicator of the posts actual ‘worth.’ Commentators above have explicated the reasons for this. Being a ‘dim bulb’ in technical economics does not bar me from reading the posts and trying to work through the complexities. It does bar me from essaying a “learned” comment. On technical posts, my comments would be in the nature of questions, or inanities.
    Take to heart the words of Isaiah: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way…”
    You all are preparing the way. Thank you for that thankless task.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I respectfully disagree. Sure, your comments would probably be more general and might occasionally be questions, but they would not be from a poseur, and an egotistical fool. For that, You would have to lick your pencil -a lot- and really put your shoulder into it (and then it would still be too well thought out to qualify anyway, ha,ha,ha,ha).

      1. ambrit

        Thanks for that, but you should see how badly ‘licked out’ my commenting pencil is.

      2. notjonathon

        In Japanese, the term “lick your pencil” refers to the practice of getting creative with your expenses at tax reporting time–I learned this when I was working as a translator on the side in addition to my regular academic job. It wasn’t for translation purposes that I learned the term, however.

        Another lurker for Yves, by the way.

        1. ambrit

          Ah ha! I learn something new every day. Thanks for doing what this site is so good at, the dissemination of knowledge.

  40. timotheus

    Never occurred to me that comment-count was so important, but it makes sense. I join the many people who say they do not weigh in when the material seems way above their grade but who do read it with interest. I feel I have taken an entire course in banking by reading Bill Black’s highly engaging (and funny) posts. (P.S. They are repetitive enough that one gets the picture through the steady reminders. I can now chant “Accounting fraud, warrants and reps, appraisal fraud”, etc.) Some of the econ theory discussions are beyond me, but the example of the Deutsche Bank doings I did read with interest, though never dreamt of trying to discuss. The series on HAMP and other housing scams was devastating as one could see the impact on the victims at the end of the food chain and the grotesque illegality at each stage. I take this entire discussion as an invitation to pipe up and say, Whoa, could someone explain X?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It is completely fair to tell us, “whoa, you said that in the post, that part does not make sense to me” because sometimes when we think we’ve unpacked something sufficiently, we might have been unclear on something critical. It’s particularly gratifying when other readers step in to help by making the explanation before we’ve gotten to the comment thread.

      That sort of feedback helps us refine what we do so as to get our communications clearer on topics we write about regularly. Another thing that helps is if you have seen an article on a similar topic to throw that in, either as an addition or a question. And we like clever phrasemaking too. Sometimes readers do terrific stuff like “Shorter:…..”.

  41. vegasmike

    I read Naked Capitalism everyday. Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal from your posts. Sometimes, the post are a little too technical for me. But I think I get the gist of the matter. I also talk to my grandchildren about modern political economy. Out here in Vegas, many people in their 20s are libertarians. I’ve given my kids the tools to debunk their main arguments. The reason, I rarely comment is that I don’t have any real expertize in finance or international politics. The only people I influence are my grandkids. Since they are in their late teen and 20s my supplementary education should stay with them

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Great to hear that you are corrupting the young and combatting libertarian thinking! :-)

      Seriously, though, this is how opinions get changed, by presenting people with counterinformation and challenging them (nicely) to explain their beliefs.

      1. Kokuanani

        I wish there were a way that we could show how widely we non-commenting readers nonetheless disburse NC articles.

        I don’t do Facebook or Twitter, so neither “tweets” nor “likes” would reflect my support, but I do forward NC links far and wide, usually with my own encouragement to read and further disseminate, and often to contact their Congresscritters. I get LOTS of positive feedback for this, and I think NC gains many new readers.

        To me, I’m doing my part in providing “counter information” so that my pals can challenge those of opposing views they come in contact with, or perhaps pull their own view a little to the “left.”

        But unfortunately, there’s no way to “count” this.

  42. Falcemartello

    Being raised a marxist and having had a grandfather who was one of the founding members of the Italian communist party, my arguments are going to be from left side of the political equation. It basically comes to this, neo-liberal economics works like this privatize the gains and socialise the losses. Neoliberals luv socialism only when they are loosing , when the economy is growing we have to privatize all services reduce the cost of government. What happened after 2007 was a perfect example and well documented to happen 100 years before. Marx and Engles wrote extensively about it. The whole capital shift to the oligarchs and the further concentration of wealth. Destroying the economic gains of the rest of us the 99%. Let us look at the arguments that the neo-liberals use. we have a deflationary crisis. . I recall in the mid seventies inflation was a tabu . I recall Jack Lalonde the finance minister of Canada of that time had actually introduced a budget that would reduce the inflationary costs on the general economy it was called the called the6% and 5% inflation budget. I am not an economist and have followed ur blog for over a year. I find some of ur arguments above my levl of understanding but I do get ur gist. My argument is this from a marxist point of view. REGULATIONS. Not one human being from the financial oligarchies has been charged or sent to jail. in 1968 it took a blue collar worker 16 to 18 months to pay off a car loan . The annual income of a similar worker was roughly 1/4 the value of a dwelling. Today the same worker to pay of a car if he is lucky it will take him 36 months. Their annual income is more like 1/10 to 1/15 the value of a dwelling . Thats basic accounting and economics from this old marxist. The trend is very similar to the crash of 29 from what I can gather. The USA economy is virtually running on a Military industrial complex form. Eisenhower did warn us. after all. as the saying goes yesterdays news gets wrapped in todays fish. My grandfather used to say when governments /Empires start living thru carnival and circuses its sign of a declining power. MSM is all about circuses and carnivals. They printed money and recycled it racketeering just like the mobsters.

  43. F. McGee

    I am a long-time reader, long-time contributor, and first-time commenter. This site is immensely valuable to me.

    What would be helpful to interested non-specialists like me would be a section organized like the card stacks at Vox with titles such as “11 things you need to know about private equity”. These card stacks can then link, where appropriate, to long-form articles in the NC archives. These card stacks would help new readers to get oriented, and provide them with ‘talking points’ when discussing these issues with friends and other concerned parties. It would also give them a place to send people who want to learn more so that they, too, can get up to speed as painlessly as possible.

    I would love some of these card stacks to be addressed to the concerns of free-market conservatives (“9 ways private equity undermines a real market economy”), so that we can begin to build a broader coalition (where applicable on an ad-hoc basis) with ‘principled insurgents’ on the Right. (I’m a leftie, but I have been struggling to explain to populist conservatives that I know that these issues go beyond the tired left-right division and that we need to unite on some of them.)

    Thank you, Yves (and Lambert, too), for this invaluable site.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Hmm. We don’t take assignments, because the day-to-day work of “hitting our marks” is so all-consuming. Anybody want to take this on? It’s not a bad idea, similar to the idea of a FAQ.

    2. Larry Morgan

      I agree. One drawback of the blog format is that brilliant contributions can get left behind as time presses on and new issues arise.

      I wonder: Is there any NC reader who has the technical know-how to put together a structure that could be populated by bullet-points or card stacks that would ultimately link together into a massive multi-level index of NC’s archives? Each node of a tree-like structure could have, say, 5 or fewer bullet points. Each bullet point would link to another node with 5 or fewer bullet points, and so on. Each node could also have links to key NC articles that address the issue at that level of analysis – including by providing an introduction, overview, or definitions as Yves often does. Links to outside resources (e.g., Yves’ and Matt Taibbi’s appearance on Moyers, which I found very helpful) could also be included.

      Populating the structure would be a massive undertaking but perhaps that could be crowdsourced somehow a la wiki (or via nomination and up-voting, although I realize that may not always work out as desired), with perhaps some well-informed moderators or key contributors.

      A resource like this would be immensely helpful to non-specialists like me. It would help both as a tool for learning about a topic and as a way to visualize how all of this fits together.

  44. Dan

    Another long time avid reader (7 years or more). Maybe 20 total comments. Understand the issues. Forward articles from here and encourage many to read – if only the links section for the best spectrum of sources on current events.

    The TPP topics were a case where I used posted information to follow-up with online. Other cases, not so sure where to start. I am tired of re-run politicians as much as re-run movies. However, the big issue is how to get our opinions noticed? I write my rep and senators regularly. Feinstein/Boxer appear captured. Mike Honda seems responsive, but focuses on ‘winnable’ battles. Only true politicans appear to be Warren and Sanders.

  45. dayanemes

    The issue here is assuming that a blog or anything else on the web for that matter is the same thing as authentic community organizing.

    There is little to no authentic community organizing any more. Foundations don’t fund it, and neither do private donors to any great degree either. What passes for organizing today is largely a marketing exercise designed to rally people to a cause designed by someone else. It is no longer the gathering together of people based on their sense of themselves as a community, with legitimate interests born of their experience, reflections, and cooperative resolve.

    Restoring authentic community organizing to its proper form and place would go a long way to being able to make web-based communications politically effective, because there would be an incontrovertible link between the web-focused interactions and an engaged polity.

  46. cheale

    I have been reading this blog for more than five years. It is the only website I make an effort to read every day. It is the best thing about the internet. Just keep on doing everything you are doing now, you’ve got it right….

  47. craayman

    Donn’t be such a fukking primadonna. I mean really. The worlds creators create. That’s what they do. The creation is born and it lives independetly of the creator. It worms its way into awareness and People are changed in the silence of their minds. And then over time there’s a phase shift. First invisibly and then suddenly everywhere, You can’t measure these things by “comments’. Did Van Gogh worry about comments when he painted in the cornfields, did Beethoven worry about comments, did Rimbaud worry about comments when he wrote Drunken boat? Did the Lesbian, Emily Noether, worry about comments when she did her equations? Did Emily Dickinson worry about comments sitting there in her dad’s house? Did Einstein worry about comments in the patent office writing his nobel prize papers? Faaak. Comments. What a joke, worrying about comments. But worry about revenue, that’s serious! That’s why every creative person needs a 10 bagger. Or at least donations. That’s something to worry about. But comments. hahahahahaha ahhahahahah. I mean really

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is not about being a diva although I will confess having to hit my marks every day does lead me to fall into that type of behavior more often than I care to admit. Van Gogh actually was in despair over not selling any paintings. And mathematicians and physicists do care about the views of colleagues.

      As we stated, comments are seen by audiences that have clout as an indicator of public interest in financial reform. We aren’t just trying to entertain readers. We are, to the degree we can, out to help change public perceptions and policy. None of the people you mentioned had that as an aim.

      In addition, a point I did not make but is just as valid is that comments sharpen our work. They give us more information or tell us about aspects we have missed (even if we differ as to whether they matter, for instance, in our posts on Greece, where sadly we think what is happening in Greece is not as important as what is happening in the creditor organizations because it is the creditors who will decide what and under what circumstances they will give to Greece). They also let us know if we’ve been sloppy in how we’ve made an argument and help us improve how we convey information over time.

      1. craazyman

        Maybe if there aren’t any comments, you’ve hit a bulls-eye and there’s nothing left to say.

        I need to send you some money.

        Money talks and bullshlt walks.

        1. grizziz

          “Money Talks”, Craazyman? What has happened to the world when you re-affirm the Supreme Courts’ Buckley v. Valeo. By analogy to electromagnetism one could see that comments are like wavelengths. Yves would enjoy greater frequency and only then to calculate that amplitude is a second order derivative of money. Speechwise, that is.

          1. craazyman

            It’s not the only thing that talks. Nor is it the most eloquent thing. Or the most valuable form of speech. I’m not on the Supreme Court.

            But you can’t live by virtue alone and Yves has to pay the rent. She can’t do that with bullshlt from guys like me and you. Send her some fkkkngg money!

      2. Ivy

        Yves and Lambert, thank you for NC. I learn a lot from you, the authors and the commenters.

      3. susan the other

        NC should do a Creditor Thought Experiment. (really) We should start with the most extreme point and work backwards. A huge comet has just hit the earth and caused massive destruction on a global scale. (or the western ice sheet just launched itself off into the ocean) The world is instantly devastated. None of the ancient institutions can even function. Death is everywhere and blah blah blah. And the surviving oligarchs step forward to offer emergency loans for 20% for three years. What happens next?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          One of the reasons Optor succeeded in Serbia was that they used humor to discredit the regime. That was explicitly their main tactic. I wish I were better at it because it really is powerful.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Will Rogers > George Carlin > Jon Stewart >¿ ? As shame evaporates as a corrective, whither the effect of trenchant humor?

            What are the contours of a decent person? Community? Institution?

            The rich folks have an ethos ( big concept word) that they feel good about hewing to. Do most NC participants value comity, and would they be satisfied with “lagom,” the Swedish word you introduced recently, “enough”? What might be the elements or simple statement of an ethos that 7 billion humans or what’s left after what’s coming could agree on and figure out how to bind themselves to? ” We” can’t state simply what we want, let alone what we NEED, and what we will put into the common pot that all will have “lagom.”

            The Predators, Parasites and Tumors have a simple creed: “We get it all, you slave and die, and if science allows, we will now live like Gods, and essentially forever.” That’s a hard act to beat, by trying to follow their tracks and understand what they did to you, how they did it, why opposition is so often ineffective. Terribly important work, especially as part of an effort to find a better path and avoid more detours into rampant More-ism. But what are the tenets of “better-ism?”

            1. flora

              “…whither the effect of trenchant humor?

              “The devil, that proud spirit, cannot bear to be mocked.”
              -C.S. Lewis, ‘The Screwtape Letters’

    2. Chris B

      Crazyman! I made this same point though I like how you said it! In most places you would be banned as a troll. Love you!

      1. ambrit

        He may not live under a bridge, but he sure can sell you one. (He would do a great commentary column in the ‘New Yorker’ magazine.)

  48. AQ

    I try to read and comprehend all of the posts at NC. I don’t comment much because I don’t always feel I have anything to add to the discussion. Sometimes I need to let the information sink in. Other times, I’m reading other posts at the same time and I just lose track of what I’ve commented on and even which site I’m at. And then of course, there are times when I just can’t grapple with what’s laid out in a quick turnaround fashion or I go into information overload aka link articles. Sometimes by the time, I ‘catch up’ the post is a few days old and feel like everyone else has moved on to something new. NOTE: It would be a full-time job to read everything you link to and keep up on this site as well.

    So if it is important that I personally comment on certain posts then I guess I need more of a heads up on a post which is truly important as opposed to merely important. I guess I’d also question what level of commentary is important. It’s easy to add a ‘thank you, NC, for the brilliant, informative post’ comment. Not so easy to add a comment which adds to the depth of the post. Or maybe the mistake is internal to me feeling that the post is outside my purview and I don’t have the expertise to either get through the post or to leave an intelligent comment. Which of course, works to the current system’s SOP.

    I need to think on this and will try to do better. I will say that this site is responsible for me coming round to Professor Wolfe’s thoughts on why the system needs to replaced rather than ‘reformed.’ Which may not be what you want to hear. I’ve also mostly stopped the ‘if only’ way of wishful thinking.

  49. AQ

    PS. It’s also annoying that some days, my comments go into moderation and sit there. Other days they appear immediately. I get it and understand but that also makes it difficult to remember which post one has commented on when there are many posts or links to get through.

    Which is really more of a personal problem I guess since low comment posts are easy to see and should be self-evident that I haven’t commented on it. I will also admit that if I’ve been off of the internet for a while and come back to the site, I always look for the posts with the highest number of comments first to see what I’ve missed so Yves, you are absolutely right.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, and sometimes those high comments posts have terrific discussions and other times a few people have gotten into a very long, heated argument, often on a pet issue not central to the post.

  50. Tom C

    If you truly want to make the argument about ‘spoils go to the winners’, you need to consider creating a database showing how on a generational basis, certain families place members with-in these organizations and then revolve through others. Its a small group, and even name changing via marriage makes little effort to hide their lineage.

    Also, if you want to encourage discussion by those ‘involved yet troubled’ by what they see/hear, you need to have a mechanism for protecting them.

    Just a few thoughts to consider.

  51. Northeaster

    “Some readers complain that our posts are too difficult.”

    This.

    I’m fairly active in both local media and local/state politics in my neck of the woods. However, when I dig into an issue that involves nearly anything financial, I am told I have to dumb it down so that “normal” folks can understand it. I chuckle because I’m a person who seven years ago didn’t know the difference between a CDO and a CDS.

    “Naked Capitalism” is my very first read before the start of the work day, I’ve read “ECONned”, this site is the only website I’ve ever donated money too, I’ve attached copies of letters to “Yves” that I’ve sent to various pols, and of course posted here, abet sometimes under the influence, leading to incoherent posts, but the passion and involvement never diminished.

    Are there posts here that are beyond me? Yes. I do try and understand some of the issues that are new to me (PE is definitely not my forte’ in that realm), the other “stuff” I may actually use, but may not post here. I reach out directly to various professionals for issues I “don’t get” for clarification and continue to carry on. This site is an invaluable reference tool, run by someone who worked in the business, which of course in the web of things, is an invaluable thing to have outside of MSM.

    The battles will continue, but due to apathy, disinterest, or just life being sucked out of people, the war may be lost. I will continue to fight for now, within the realms of the rule of law, even if the rule of law simply does not apply to those I’m after. If it gets a lot worse, then a new means of warfare may be necessary. For now though, as The People continue to be sold out and crushed by a powerful few, I wish I had an answer as how to better get the message across of what is being done to not only our fellow Americans, but our fellow humans. The two-Party system, as Washington foreshadowed, has failed – and The People will continue to suffer due to confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, or outright brainwashing through their media outlet of choice. And no, not everyone can be right all the time, except for the narcissistic sociopaths.

  52. Steve H.

    I don’t send messages to LeBron telling him how to dunk.

    NC is the cherry on top of the cream of the cull. I checked predictions and explanations on many websites. Some sounded good and were just wrong. Some (Calculated Risk comes to mind) were right in the numbers but unsound on the reasons. Like many above, this site is my first pass on what might be called ‘news’ for those with short attention spans. The sarc/snark provides a context, a surge of smile in an otherwise spleen-twitching revelation of for whom the system works.

    The Editor of the Fabius Maximus website went through a, uh, not cycle, perhaps a ‘heroes journey’ when he realized his calls to action were having little impact in the grand scheme, as he framed ‘impact’ at the time. It is beyond rational to render an unreinforced behavior extinct, it is evolutionarily selected, and to keep a behavior going it may be necessary to reframe what the reinforcement is. (See ‘The Matching Law’ for specifics.)

    So, three things:

    When a million people marched against the war, in NYC in 2003, with no effect, it was demoralizing. Plunkett of Tammany Hall described ‘when we took the reformers biggest hit and kept right on going, that took the fight out of them’ (pure paraphrase as I can’t find the original quote). Howard Becker described the ’60’s protests as having a purely social function, thats where the girls and boys and music and fun were. Social media is now fulfilling these functions in a way that is more efficient, in not requiring physical travel, but the book is not finished on how to effectively use it.

    Lately, in both posts and comments, there have been specifics on how to be effective in pushing back. For example, sign-online mass petitions are less effective than an actual phone call to a congresscritter, and a short specific phone call is better than screaming fbombs. Better reinforcers increase desired behaviors.

    Your most important work has been in exposing cognitive capture. Everyone want to blame the psychos, but the ones who make the system work are just turning the crank and validating Upton Sinclair. Someone once criticized Alan Watts for being repetitive, and his reply was along the lines of, ‘It takes a few times for some people to get the point.’ Long-time readers have been inundated by examples, but I’ll conject that for every post, there is someone who gets the sudden shock of realization. Unless ‘new reader’ is in the metrics, that is who you’re not seeing.

    1. Steve H.

      To be more specific:

      The weight this site carries is built on a foundation of competence in dissecting financial matters. That is the prior from which all the rest flows.

      “Sadly, it seems that the bulk of this site’s readers is no longer interested in these matters, despite their significance.” “even when the site’s following was much smaller than it is now”

      So your readership has expanded beyond the narrow audience you had when it started.

      “Our following among members of the financial services industry not surprisingly has thinned.” As the focus has expanded, the data-to-ink ratio has decreased for those narrowly seeking quarterly returns.

      However, members of the finance industry are most likely to be able to understand fully what you are saying. It is upon them that you have your greatest impact. Those few that read NC should be better oriented to reality. It is those happy few who may compose the “less than one percent model of action for justice.

      It is important to remember that the active one percent or less, with the exception of a handful of full-timers, are committing no more time than do serious hobbyists, such as stamp and coin collectors, or members of bowling leagues and bridge clubs, or birdwatchers.

      Why is all this important? Because in a demoralized society full of people who have given up on their government, on themselves and are out of the public civic arena, learning that one percent can be decisive, can be hugely motivational and encouraging, especially with emerging Left-Right alliances.”

      counterpunch.org/2015/05/25/the-other-one-percent-2/

    2. knowbuddhau

      Hurray for the Alan Watts reference! My own preference is for the articles that debunk the misbegotten ways in which economics is conceived, showing it to be more religious than scientific. ISTM that the groundbreaking work of Joseph Campbell, on the power of myth, was duly noted and amply weaponized.

      We say it’s a propaganda thing, right? It’s not just the quotidian distortions, obfuscations, misdirections, etc, but the BS way in which the world we live in is conceived.

      And now a guy is here to fix a dryer. And so it goes (or not ;) ).

      1. ambrit

        “And so it goes..” Then there’s that great scene in Larry Nivens’ “Inferno.”

    3. Furzy Mouse

      I joined the ’03 protest in NYC against invading Iraq with a girlfriend, where we met up with mounted police herding us up to Harlem, preventing many from getting to the staging area near the UN. Clearly the cops were in cahoots with los federales in preventing a good, publicized demonstration. When we did get to the staging area (a couple of horses could not stop me) it was practically empty, with many men in black on the roofs. I knew then that we had lost our democracy to the bushbabies…and we saw even worse results for the Occupy protesters. Again, if you have time, I urge grassroots activism and presentations in your communities, especially during this election cycle.

  53. Jerry

    My education and experience are so far from the world of finance that you would not even expect me to be reading this blog for hours every day, and you are better off that I don’t try to comment while I’m still learning from you.

    My anti-Wall Street attitude has been born from reading Naked Capitalism and I am passing it on as best I can. I do comment to those even less knowledgeable than I am.

    I have made my own tiny adjustments–much less use of credit cards so as to reduce bank fees; moved money to a credit union; invested locally rather than through a mutual fund; contacted Congress or others when advised to do so.

    Now to go read the Links post and see what else I can learn!

  54. Skippy

    Yves for what its worth you might have to orphan the pink and put on the boardroom black ensemble, naughty boys will play up endlessly with mommy, yet still have nascent memory’s of the sisters and brothers at school.

    That people have forgotten how to fight has been part and parcel of the grooming received since they were indoctrinated as individualistic consumers, and consumers don’t want reduction of price, only a good sale. The MPS mythology is some wicked powerful monkey goo applied with full immersion cortex injections, from damn near birth, that’s a massive environmental hurdle to over come with just adroit analysis.

    The difference between thousands of hours of reading, across a broad spectrum of topics, endless introspection, review, discourse with others to check biases, fact checking, etc and following the call of the herd responding to its handlers machinations whilst constantly put in mental stress positions.

    Skippy…. The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – metaphorically speaking

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRtW1MAZ32M

  55. John Merryman

    As a regular, but sometimes time constrained reader, I would say NC is one of those sites where the comments section can be every bit as informative as the articles and this does go to a high degree of intelligence and participation.
    I think the issue is much larger though. Finance is a massive train wreck in the process of happening and while there are many on the inside who think further damage can be avoided, there are those on the outside, myself at least, who think the momentum is far greater and long overwhelmed any viable restraints, that the most effective option is to wait until after the ultimate crash and then pick up the pieces.
    On a side note, I think of the sociopaths currently in control, as being unwitting accomplices of the radical environment movement, in that they are bringing the industrial behemoth to its knees, through their short sighted greed and not seeking to sustain it as long as possible. It is big old Oak tree, but it appears hollow and rotten in the center.

    1. Rhondda

      I agree. The System of the last 30-40 years is succeeding quite well at ripping its own guts out and chewing on them. (And yes, I am aware that “we” are part of the guts.) I don’t believe any tidy and reasoned reform can save this beast. It’s going down.

      Like others here, I read NC consistently, learn a lot and genuinely appreciate what Yves and Lambert do. But about the only thing I feel qualified to comment on is gardening ;-). And I feel like just posting “Hell yeah! Get ’em Yves!” is not the sort of thing other readers want to have to wade through. I guess I also feel a bit intimidated. But I will take your request for more comments to heart and try to be more substantively participatory.

      I should also mention that I have learned a lot from commenters here. Kudos to the whole NC community.

  56. Bunk McNulty

    I can’t remember now whether I discovered ECONNED first or the website, but that hardly matters. I went to NYC’s graduate school of business for a year (before it was the Stern School) in the misguided belief that I could make it in the world of banking/marketing. I took Arnold Sametz’s course in financial rates and flows. I still have the notes from that class. Once in a great while I look at them and shake my head: What was taught in 1981 is almost completely irrelevant now. All that cheerleading for “free markets”! Years later, ECONNED opened my eyes to that huge lie. So I owe you.

    I rarely comment on financial stories. I just don’t have the intellectual chops for it. I do, however, post stories from NC links on facebook. Lately, I haven’t posted quite so many on finance topics, because I get feedback that what I post is too depressing to read. It’s hard not to agree. Look at what we’re up against: The Treasury run by bank alumni; technology that has made the Surveillance State a living nightmare; an out-of-control Pentagon that sees everything as a nail, and hammers away regardless of the consequences; and media outlets that have perfected divide-and-conquer tactics to keep the 99% at each other’s throats while the 1% cash in.

    Yes, I need to pay more attention to the evils of private equity (as a musician I’ve followed the story on the degradation and gutting of Guitar Center with great interest, and at least some knowledge). But it’s hard when you feel battered from so many sides.

    Thank you again for your work.

  57. Glorious Bach

    Addendum to earlier comment: Yves, members of your un-targetted audience toil in other fields. A younger generation nephew will enter his last year of medical school this summer. He not only reads NC but also re-posts articles on his friends-heavy “Facebook” page. So, not only page views but friends of page-views need to be remembered.

  58. tim s

    Our following among members of the financial services industry not surprisingly has thinned. We have retained and even expanded a strong readership among regulators, people on the Hill, journalists, and others interested in banking policy and economic issues. We also have a larger “social justice” following than in the runup to the crisis. But comments on finance posts remain puzzlingly anemic.

    It seems that the heart of the issue lies here. If you have lost financial service industry readers, then it only makes sense that there will be a loss of comments on the finance-heavy posts. Do you have any idea about the comment rate per the regulators, etc, that have been retained/expanded? Perhaps ask some of them what may have changed over time. Finally, and probably most importantly, the larger social justice component. What brings these people to this site? All of the non-financial posts, of course. If there has been a focus-drift at this site, then you have to take responsibility for the shift in the comments as well. There is very little chance that the person who comes to this site for coverage of social justice issues will also have a sufficient financial background to comprehend, much less comment, on your financial posts. Chiding them will do no good. On a positive note, perhaps they will pick up a thing or two along the way, which may be the seeds that sprout into a tree in the future.

    It does not seem that long ago that you had a post similar to this, resulting in much of the same type of comment – “I rarely comment, but always read and take something away from it and am becoming wiser with each post. Maybe some day I will know enough to be able to add something to the discussion. Thank you” … or something to that effect. I sense some despair in these posts – welcome to the club. I hope that you can find some peace in knowing that you are doing all that you can to the best of your ability and that you cannot carry the world on your shoulders.

  59. Eclair

    OMG, I’ve done it again. Read all 108 comments. Well, 106, I made 2. Learned at lot. Felt solidarity. Yves and Lambert , you both have the gifts of inspiring heated and civil discussion. This is how we change things. Thank you.

    1. knowbuddhau

      That’s how I feel. Every morning I visit NC first. I heartily endorse the principle that citizenship isn’t without costs. I come here to learn about things I’ve neglected all my life. I’ve learned that I have lots and lots to learn.

      I don’t know the terms for the anatomy of finance, much less the anatomy itself and forget about the physiology. I don’t know far more than I do, so I don’t think my comments will add anything.

      I read NC, especially the comments, religiously, until I’ve spent too much time here and not enough getting my day, as a vacation rental caretaker, started. Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be the teacher everyone said I should be. Now that I’m on fallback plan N, O, or P (been so many I’ve lost track), it takes all of my mental energy to do work I never expected to. I have to keep my head in the game at hand if I’m to keep myself sheltered and fed.

      The greatest gift I get from this blog is, as you mention, Eclair, the solidarity. I live in a small Navy town, and I work almost entirely all by myself, both here and at my 4 other jobs. It’s wonderful to know, it’s not just me, very erudite people see that the system is a fraud and are working mighty hard to change that.

      I’m sorry you’re not feeling that you’re having sufficient impact. God, do I hear that! Thanks for letting us know how important a metric reader engagement is. Generalizing from a paucity of reader comments here to the whole population is, IMHO, invalid. But there it is. Maybe a way to like or vote up or some other quick way for us to show we’re here and we care is in order.

      And here I am, exactly where I didn’t want to be: late. Sure, this is highly important and necessary work as a citizen. Tell that to the owners or the vacationers or the grass or the rhodies or…. You’re not the only one who wishes they were having more impact.

      FWIW, I bow, deeply and with great respect, in all y’all’s virtual directions.

  60. Dan Lynch

    Normally I only comment on NC for 2 reasons: 1) to correct what I believe was a error in the article or 2) to give thanks for posting a particularly useful article.

    I don’t engage in friendly chitchat on NC because there are usually too many comments and who has time to read them all and respond?

    Back to the battle against extractive finance: “Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.” ~ Lucy Parsons.

    It’s good to know about the financial shenanigans, that’s why I visit NC. At a personal level, knowledge is power. But at a national level, we’re not a democracy and I have zero power. The elites control the government and perhaps just as importantly, they control the media. No, the elites are not going to simply get tired of fighting and give up.

    Ian Welsh explains: “Public opinion is irrelevant ….. Until politicians fear you more than they fear the rich and covet the favors and money of the rich, they will continue to serve the rich first.”

    Read the whole thing.

    1. Vatch

      Actually public opinion does matter, but almost always, if a particular opinion is to convince people in the government, there must be some oligarchs who share that opinion. Then the politicians must choose which oligarchical faction to obey. If public opinion is heavily on one side, it makes it easier for them to choose, and that’s why we must take the time to contact our elected representatives and to vote.

  61. Dana Smith

    Thanks Yves
    Longtime reader… prepping next novel set in Napa Valley. Much of what the wine business does happens behind the curtain… complexity, water graft, spoiled uber wealthy elite getting their way. I have become an activist because climate change and capitalism is on a collision course in the Napa Valley. And like you I MUST find the means of sounding the alarm without shutting minds down… This is the highest challenge to speak truth that penetrates minds, engages imagination and brings emotional power to the misery that the neoliberal model poisons the world with.

  62. Parker Dooley

    Any recommendations for a “Finance for Dummies” reference? My sense of outrage is in full flower, but I don’t want to sound like an ignoramus in comments. Your site is daily reading for me.

  63. Enjointhis

    Please don’t dumb things down. I’d written a somewhat longer post (which seemingly evaporated into the ether) with the following points: 1) I don’t comment unless I can ADD to the conversation; 2) I read ALL the comments (even the silly ones) because they illuminate other perspectives; 3) I’ve learned SO MUCH from reading NC, much of which I can translate into day-to-day activities.

    FWIW, I’m a lawyer who does less-than-NC-value commercial litigation. Big firm, nice pedigree, classmates w/some of the players, etc. First-hand experience w/CDOs, robosigning, etc. I don’t comment mostly because of time (& technological improwess) considerations. But I DO value your time, insight, and depth of reporting.

    Tl;dr: You do God’s work really well; I’d happily pay to keep reading.

    -ET!

  64. drichmann

    I feel your pain. Reading your article I was moved to comment, something I have not done before and I apologize if my response has already been covered by others as I did not have time to read all the responses but I will. I read a few weeks back that the average attention span of internet devotees has now shortened to something on the order of 8 seconds, one second shorter than a goldfish. The wildly populated sights (many of which are conservative) seem to thrive in this environment posting e.g. a picture of a looted shoe store in Baltimore with the caption “Guess how many workboots were taken.” These are uploaded into Facebook and other social media receiving far more attention then such an inanity deserves. I’m not recommending such tactics but wonder how we can get readers (voters) to focus on important issues even just 10 minutes at a time.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Visualizations, if they could be produced without a lot of effort and then propagated, e.g. by the Twitter or Instagram, and there’s a revenue model of some sort. Readers?

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Ding!
        Ritholtz does one of the better jobs of finding great ones, but I don’t have time to read him these days.
        But yeah, the future belongs to visualizations.
        Will email you, Lambert —

          1. drichmann

            I too was thinking about visualizations along the lines of Ritholtz (ironic and to the point that readerOfTeaLeaves doesn’t have the time to read him anymore) but was also thinking about brief video vignettes possibly embedded in a manner similar to how TurboTax addresses complex tax issues with short videos. The difficult truth is that you need to be informative and entertaining in nearly equal measure to sustain an audience.

      2. Skippy

        My own mother has become an agent of Eaglerising.mob and recently she posted a Goebbels-esque propaganda poster on her FB page. Which showed a photo frame of bikers marching on DC, the caption read – one million Bikers march on DC – no property or persons were damaged.

        This coming from a person with degrees, rookie trader of the year, yonks of T1 CPA experience, own businesses, collage lecturer, back sliding conservative, you get the drift.

        When I unpacked that in a more inclusive historical social context wrt long term social costs she retreated into the libertarian narrative of the individual – not all bikers are bad, I’ve known some that have done good things. To which I pointed out that was my point, one cannot broad brush with simplistic memes about singular events with such cognitive bias that it excludes every other piece of information.

        Sadly I’m seeing an increase in the desperation of a broad swath demographics seeking simplistic narratives to assuage their fears via romanticism, good old days, exceptionalism buffing, esoteric doona peek a boo, govenment et al ev’bal, everyone else is a crook save me and mine, authority which validates my ownership of stuff is good, yet is ev’bal if I “believe” its perceived as a threat, etc, etc.

        Sadly it has been my observation over the last 8 years that more time and energy is expended on refuting, unpacking, providing accurate historical context, dispelling out right lies, illuminating rank ideologues posing as reasonable actors, et al, that little time is left for examining the alternatives- solutions, consequences be damned.

        Its like a bloody 8 lane highway with a 100MPH speed limit covered in black ice chocker block with memes and tropes… all waiting for the right moment to start vehicle pin ball…. all whilst those in traffic control are watching CCT monitors thinking this will be interesting… what data can we extrapolate for later use….

        Skippy…. just a defective Suedehead’s opinion….

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AvuweztG4Q

        PS. its getting absolutely ludicrous down under, what a shite show….

  65. Armchair Revolutionary

    I have been thinking a lot about how you cut through to have an actual impact inside someone’s mind. I have come to the conclusion that this cannot be done with reason alone. The vast majority of people have mental defenses which prevent them from even considering any reason if it does not fit with their personal views. I have experimented with this by having very focused discussions with people who hold views that I believe can be clearly outlined with reason. As I have tried to keep the focus of the discussion very tight, my perception is that as they begin to realize an inconsistency in their thinking they will try to change the topic, bring a lot more ideas into the topic or perform some other kind of mental gymnastics in their mind; so that they can keep believing that they were “right” all along. No amount of reason by itself will effect change.

    Two things seem to be required: the reason itself and the ability to deliver that reason to the rational portion of the mind. For me, it is the second piece that is elusive. So I find myself asking questions like: is it the matter of presentation? Should I attempt to deliver the reason in a form that says “See you are right … look at this piece of information”, even though that piece of information clearly contradicts what they believe? Then, I find myself asking the question: “Why should I care?” If people are so wedded to self-defeating beliefs, am I just wasting my time trying to show them some different ideas?

  66. nippersdad

    FWIW, I am here every day and have the utmost respect for the work y’all are doing but lack the background to comment intelligently on your financial posts. I see from some of the comments above that that is not an uncommon viewpoint amongst your readership, and I hope that it gives you a sense of just how much your work is valued by those who are unversed in your field of expertise.

    Just an idea, but if you could append action statements or petitions to some of your columns, you might find that they would show more of an effect than mere comment counts from such as myself.

  67. RUKidding

    I just messed up posting a longish reply. To be brief… I read NC almost every day. Sometimes I comment ‘intelligently,” sometimes I’m snarky. The snark is really my defense mechanism against the bald-faced criminal thievery daily shoved in our faces by the PTB and their minions in the District of Criminals. It sometimes feels like my only recourse is pointing and mocking these crooks.

    I’ve been reading NC for at least 5 years and have learned a lot, both on the macro and micro level. I refer people here routinely but have no idea whether others come here or not. A lot of people are too easily amused by their various Social Media accounts where they share their photos and whatever. Coming to sites like NC may seem like too much work for them, but also a lot of citizens are checked out – as is the goal of the PTB – bc they don’t see what they can actually “do” to make a difference. Some still believe that voting matters – ha! Well votes can matter sometimes at the state and local level and for ballot measures, but at the Fed level? Pull the other one.

    I digress.

    Keep up the good work. I’ll keep commenting when I can. And a huge THANK YOU for all you do, plus especially for great work in nipping at the heels of CalPERS (and other public pension funds). I read ALL of your pension fund articles in detail bc it does affect me personally. And I have shared a good number of your CalPers articles with my co-workers (many of whom shut down out of sheer fright – that’s the issue, and again a goal of the PTB).

    NC is a great site. Anything you can do to point us towards actual ACTIONS to be taken is very helpful, as I’ve grown so cynical and jaded that I don’t see it as worthwhile to bother writing or calling anyone anymore. Perhaps I need to back down on that and start doing that some more.

  68. Jackrabbit

    Suggestion: A “similar posts” list at the end of each post or on the sidebar.

    This would help some readers to get a better understanding of issues that they may not be well acquainted with. And better informed readers would probably lead to more commenting.

    =
    =
    =
    H O P

  69. washunate

    The lack of obvious reader interest (in the form of comments) isn’t just demotivating for NC posters and our silent allies in other realms; it also reduces our potential to have an impact. We’ve had insiders tell us how specific posts made a real difference in particular battles (we haven’t made noise about them because it would put our contacts in an awkward position).

    That’s really good info. For me, I often feel I have little to add to the nuts and bolts pieces of finance. I (naively?) assumed that people ‘in the industry’ were interested in the posts themselves, not the comments of random peeps on the internet. I heartily agree that we benefit from some understanding of the enemy (and indeed, one of my core critiques is that leftist thought tends to focus narrowly on a subset of convenient corporate villains rather than the broader system of public policy that supports, enables, and protects them). If people want the basics, the lay of the land, Wikipedia and QuickMBA and other sites are great resources if you’ve never heard the term double entry bookkeeping or want a quick rundown on perspectives on money or weren’t around when Glass Steagal was overturned or didn’t know that the FBI itself was even warning about an epidemic of fraud or whatever. NC is for exploring information assuming you already know that stuff (or can figure it out yourself).

    So instead of silently echoing Franks’ initial comment, I thought I’d post a separate one.

    Thinking about this logistically, maybe there could be a note or tag or something at the beginning (or end, if that’s more graceful) of a post where an author (or their target audience) is specifically interested in feedback? Another logistical issue is the etiquette of being late to the party. Maybe some explicit guidance on that front? The author is interested in your feedback for the next, say, 3 days?

    An additional decorum matter I have found is the difference between when an author is posting something where they are just expressing their opinion to put it out there, and where they are genuinely interested in receiving critical feedback. The latter is absolutely essential for making an idea better – that’s how we advance human understanding in the reality-based world – but it can be a little tasteless when that’s not really what’s desired.

    I will say one other general impediment is that so much of the terrain is now known, in the sense that it feels a bit like repeating the same points over and over again. Until there is a paradigm shift where we return to rule of law – or formally drop the facade of pretending to adhere to rule of law – the feedback is going to be rather similar at a thematic level, even if the details vary:

    1) Responsible actors have a responsibility to take action. “You knew or should have known”
    2) If those responsible actors fail to act responsibly, then the actors responsible for ensuring that the responsible actors follow their responsibilities need to act.
    3) All the fancy technical shenanigans and intellectual hypotheses in the world cannot circumvent 1 and 2.

  70. Stephen

    As a regular reader (once a day minimum, usually more) and a sometime comment poster let me say my main “problem” with the site is that, unlike the vast majority of news or magazine style sites I visit, the comments section is invariably worth reading alongside the primary articles. So many sites are closing comment sections due to trolls and mindless comments that add nothing but column inches to the debate.
    So every “read” on NC is a long read, often a very long read, and I only have so much time and attention!
    Having said that, I’d rather feel guilty because I couldn’t give an article/issue the attention it deserves, than feel like I just wasted a couple of minutes on a shallow analysis that leaves me wondering why I should care.

    For what it’s worth, I did, for the first time ever, write all my representatives urging them to vote against fast track for the TP trade agreement after NC encouraged all to do so.

  71. vteodorescu

    Hi, Yves, hi everyone!

    First of all congratulations for an excellent blog, keep up the good work! The info, article subjects and their quality and depth make it a daily stop for me, and a delight as well! :)

    On the subject of comments – please take this as a constructive criticism of your blog software, and not of the excellent content:

    1. The comments are not that easy to enter, when contrasted to other blogs

    2. There is no follow-up to your own comments. One is not emailed automatically if one wants to follow the comments to one’s own comments. I found that if the article disappears of the head of the site, the comments kinda die off pretty quickly. An automatic follow-up email (that you have to opt in for) will keep the discussion going past that, and also tell you if people are replying to your comments, and make us feel engaged.

    3. Additional to point 2, If you want to see where the discussions got to, the search process is quite tricky, in essence you have to re-read the whole thread.

    4. No way to upvote/give credit/like, or to downvote, express displeasure, neither to the main article, or to the comments. This will increase the participation for people that just lurk, or of those that cannot contribute anything other than saying “right on!” via an upvote. For reasons of time, situation, or modesty or whatever. Also it might give a more realistic number of people that read the article.

    Just my two cents.

    Keep up the good work!

  72. dingusansich

    A few points for Yves:

    If you’d like your posts to influence influencers, and you believe comment numbers influence your influence on influencers, how about asking, first thing in would-be influential posts, for comments, both to support and critique data and arguments, and to demonstrate engagement?

    On the tone of rebuttal: I hesitate to say this, but commenters may be reluctant to post because of your not infrequently harsh responses. I can see the utility of a certain native ferocity and conviction in fighting lonely battles, but if you’re concerned about demonstrating engagement through the number of comments, you might consider that it’s not simply a reader issue, but an author issue.

    On everyone an expert foot soldier: As Lambert says, na ganna happen. Readers have other lives. That doesn’t mean lack of interest in, support of, and gratitude for what you do. It’s simply asking too much. We do what we can. However if you ask for specific help (see the first item above), you may get it, each according to his or her means.

    Government pension fund investment in private equity: As I understand it, typically a fund is run by a board, and a political official influence board member appointments, which means that board members serve at the pleasure of the political officials, who serve at the pleasure of financial backers, some of whom surely come from the financial industry, including private equity. Thus pension fund investments in PE may have less to do with ostensible reasons (outperformance) than with covert reasons (political favors). Please go on addressing the myths and malarkey around performance, but bear in mind that they may also be simple cover stories. Whatever else it may be, government pension fund investment in private equity may be good old-fashioned corruption.

    Final point: You’re not flawless, but readers, as you can see, truly appreciate Naked Capitalism’s work and admire you, Lambert, the contributors, the commenters, and the behind-the-scenes members of the crew. Thank you for your work.

    1. dingusansich

      One further thought: Blog posts are ephemeral. They briefly appear on then quickly disappear from the front page. That can limit the number of comments on important posts that take days, weeks, or months to construct. To counteract that effect, which you believe affects influence among the influencers—particularly with respect to dense, complex posts on technical topics—you might experiment not only with reposts but com-posts: Posts that take comments and work them into follow-ups that extend and enrich the conversation and keep the topic alive over days or weeks. That might help counteract the here today, gone tomorrow nature of the medium.

  73. Mattski

    A salute to the site’s hard and informative work. But we can agree to differ about the response–the call here, consequent upon the analysis, is always for reform, even as the evidence piles up everywhere of thoroughgoing system failure. The conversation above about how going into the streets just can’t work because we’ll all get hurt is both germane and telling. Poor people have no choice but to live ‘in the streets,’ and to be brutalized there on a daily basis. The practical bridge–built through efforts like local food-growing–is not much in evidence here. That’s okay, but demonstrates the limits of the activity taking place here.

    Also, unless I’m missing something, there has been an increasing amount of less bracing stuff posted here; diluting the “product” might or might not prove a good idea. I’d like to see more analysis of union activity, for example, of worker-owned corporate activity. And of the rest of the world outside the US and Europe.

  74. JEHR

    I was sad to hear that Yves and Lambert are worried about the responses to their information in NC. They have worked so hard to bring us such pertinent information about the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and its ongoing perversities. However, I was cheered up mightily seeing how many people commented on this article (118 so far).

    I have been following NC since about 2005. I have learned more about money and finance than I ever thought I would want to. I have been writing my federal political representative every time my government does something stupid, which unfortunately is often. That MP has not been convinced by any of my arguments and instead has answered me with ideological talking points almost every time. I had to quit reading his responses in order not to be too depressed with his non-answers.

    When NC was explaining private equity I became very interested because our CP Railway recently became beholden to Pershing Square private equity. Because of the information I received in my reading of NC, I began to follow the CP saga. I watched while the new owners proceeded to make the company more “efficient” through layoffs–then came Lac Megantic. The search for efficiency came with too high a price.

    Thank you, Yves and Lambert. I will continue to follow your blog and learn as much as I can.

  75. OIFVet

    I hardly ever comment under finance posts, but I read them because they definitely help me to understand the nitty gritty of the various scams being perpetrated on the global public. I find it hard to comment because I feel that my lack of any relevant expertise would detract from the very thoughtful commentary under these posts. What the comments lack in volume they more than make up for in quality. I understand that in this day and age volume has become ‘quality’ in its own right, but I still find myself reluctant to contribute to this phenomenon knowing my own severe limitations in understanding finance. It’s definitely reassuring that the content won’t be dumbed down in the pursuit of more comments, I found NC through links to such finance content on other blogs and lurked in the background for a long time before I ever posted a comment. I think that there are legions of such readers, and I would argue that by doing such a stand up job of breaking down these complicated issues NC encourages them to contact their congresscritters on relevant legislation and also educate their circles of friends. FWIW I forward links to articles and use the knowledge I gain from these articles in arguments with others, but it’s still a slog trying to convince some people just how big a problem we have. It could be that so many of my friends are lawyers, they are particularly invested in the belief that there is such thing as the “rule of law” in the US. Still, I think that all of this helps to build critical mass, and I don’t see the comment volume as the best metric to quantify the effect of your hard work. In a way, its almost annoying that the influencers and regulators you speak of are so fixated on comment volume Be that as it may, I will make more of an effort to be involved in discussions under these posts.

    1. HotFlash

      Right on, gentlepersons. Some of the articles here are so dense and jam-packed with new material that even after what, six years? seven? it takes me a full day to read due to having to look up so much, and that leads to more looking up — Mme Smith, the reading here is certainly equivalent to a degree in poli sci plus an MBA. I can say that with some confidence since, thanks to you, Lambert, NC and the NC commenteriat, I can not only hold my own in conversations with people in the finance and policy fields but have (blushes modestly) been mistaken for an economics professor. Well, once, and that was an especially good day, but still.

      I have to echo many of the prev commenters, I have not much faith in the usual methods — I do vote (as Noam Chomsky says, it’s only 20 min and then you can get on with real activism), I write to my elected reps. Not sanguine here, they have another agenda and I don’t have the coin to get on it.

      My L’s to the Editors of our larger newspapers are totally not published, but ones to the local ‘shopper’ weeklies are much more likely to get printed and, I think, at least noticed. Protest marches, activist groups, petitions and such I have come to think of as largely coopted by the elites as pressure valves — they get you to march around for a couple of blocks or click a button and you can feel you have done something and probably you won’t do anything more. In short, I don’t think that taking my voice to policymakers by whatever route is anything other than a drain on my time and (finite) energy. So what do I think is worth doing?

      Re-arranging my life, talking to my neighbours, setting an example (food-bearing periennials in my front yard, foraging, helping to plant food forests in my local parks and schools, converting my house to solar power (and that’s 12volt DC, not 60 cycle AC into the grid) but most of all, getting to know my neighbours and setting up networks there. Bicycling, auto-sharing, talking to my neighbours (did I say that already? Can’t say it enough!) I cannot believe the govt will save us when it all goes pear-shaped, but if we have some kind of local communication in place, however informal, that will provide the basis for re-establishing a civil society.

      And finally, it may be that those people thinking that comments are the measure of reader interest are just plain wrong. I spend a *huge* amount of time, energy, and a good chunk of my PDP (personal domestic product) on acting on what I read here (and elsewhere, but mainly here). If you think that more comments are better I would be fine to oblige, but I am sitting at your feet, Ma’am, and would hate to dilute the quality of the comments here with what, for the most part, would be mere pompom waving. Frankly, this and emptywheel are the only blogs where I feel it is worth reading the comments at all.

  76. Adam Eran

    Holy mackeral! Yves complains about a lack of comments and the blog fills with them!

    One item of note not mentioned: Complication is often a way for elites to maintain power. This is an old practice, too. In Sumerian times when literacy was tightly controlled by the elites (“guild literacy”) alphabets that competed with cuneiform, like Hebrew, were simpler. Nevertheless, official documents were in cuneiform, and its scribes conspired to make that type of writing just a little more complex to prevent competition with this class of elites.

    You can see workings of complexity enshrining elites even in today’s city planning codes. The standard “dumb growth” planning document is a thick book, filled with obscure terms that must be deciphered by an elite priesthood of planners. Meanwhile, Haussman rebuilt Paris for Napolean III using a code only six pages long…and he got Paris!

    Says planning expert, Jane Jacobs: “The psuedoscience of planning seems almost neurotic in its determination to imitate empiric failure and ignore empiric success”–which says something about the corruption in even our “education.”

    Unsurprisingly, land use is one of the mainstream sources of corruption in public policy. According to David Cay Johnston, 75% of W’s net worth comes from scamming a stadium out of the Arlington Texas voters.

    So…don’t lose heart, Yves and others. Losing is going to be a pretty constant experience if you know a thing or two about the topic, especially if it challenges entrenched interests.

    Life isn’t easy. As one of Buddha’s four great truths says “Life is difficult.” Once you accept that, you’ll no longer be troubled, and can get on with the work at hand.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      O.M.G!
      This is the kind of analysis — clearly from a widely read person of broad interests — that makes the comments section at NC such a pleasure.

      1. washunate

        Right on. Complexity seems to have become an end goal in and of itself. I’m reminded of the quip that if you can’t succinctly summarize an idea in a few sentences, you probably don’t understand the idea.

        ***

        Just for fun, I thought I’d apply Eran’s planning metric to social policy. According to the Social Security Administration, the original Social Security Act of 1935 was 32 pages long. Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care and Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Acts) is 961 pages, a multiple of over 30. And then of course there are thousands of pages of regulations created by the executive branch based upon the legislation. Four years after the original SSA passed, they were already passing amendments to add new benefit categories to it. Five years after PPACA, the regulations aren’t even finalized yet.

        One tidbit I had forgotten from that episode, which is why it’s kind of fun poking around to refresh the memory: the pro-choice, pro-science, pro-women’s rights Democratic President actually issued an executive order making doubly super duper sure that federal funds don’t pay for one of the most common medical procedures performed on women in the US.

        https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-acts-consistency-with-longst

  77. Tim Solanic

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this website, all it stands for …. it’s wide open engaging topical discussions and impact it has no doubt had.

    It is rare for me to hate anything. Hate isn’t a very productive emotion to engage with.

    I hate the design of this website. Me thinks the large amount of advertising banners and their design and WHO they come from really detract from the readability of the site AND more importantly dilute the amazing brand everyone here has helped create.

    Fortunately I can read it using “Reader View” so I am not distracted by the adds.

    ( Disclaimer: I know you’ve been trying to update the site, and add a better mobile experience AND get a lot of feedback from very well meaning people Yves. )

    Me thinks you’d be better served with ads more related to companies, people, services that help solve income inequality, student loan debt slavery, foreclosure abuses than from TradeStation, banking and ads that follow your readers across the web.

    Love,
    Tim

    p.s. Seriously. Love. This site is my first read every morning.

  78. Toni Gilpin

    I’ll chime in to join the chorus here of those who find NC invaluable – especially the detailed financial posts – but who rarely comment. If had not occurred to me to presume that the number of comments might be connected to how important or influential a post might be, especially because (to be honest) I often don’t even look at the comments, and when I do, I find that they sometimes spiral into off-topic arguments that don’t interest me (though they may well be compelling to other readers and I don’t find such digressions necessarily problematic.) And – another process-related observation – though I look at NC twice a day, I often don’t have time to comment when stories first go up, and by the time I might, readers seemed to have moved on to other posts and so commenting becomes pointless. Which is not at all a complaint – that’s how the internet works – but you should recognize that your thoughtful and lengthy posts often take time to digest, and to add a response hours (or days) later seems like wasted effort. That might be less true if the site somehow flagged new comments better than it does now (new comments on old posts will quickly be edged out of place in the “recent comments” section by active discussions on more recent posts.) I’d agree with those who have indicated that it is not so easy to follow the discussions on this blog and several readers have offered some useful suggestions that might enhance their readability. That might serve to engage more people.

    I’m a labor historian currently working on a book that deals with the International Harvester corporation, and thus focuses on the earlier era of finance capital when trusts like IH were formed with the active assistance of the House of Morgan. What I read on NC informs my historical thinking every day. Please keep it up.

    But as someone who studies workers’ movements and has also been involved in political and community work I am loath to equate commenting on blogs with actual organizing. The information you put forth provides ammunition for actual organizing to contest the power of capital, but back-and-forth on a blog among people who are in general accord is no substitute for political engagement (and in fact if that’s all people do with the knowledge and energy they have it inhibits real change.) So I’d like to see more practical suggestions from Yves and Lambert, or from NC readers, about how to take the info provided here and use it to challenge the powers that be, especially on these financial questions, where the ways in which that might be done are not so obvious. I’m a citizen of Illinois – infamous for our public pension problems – and this post, for instance, prompted me to spend some time delving into how much of our public pensions are invested in private equity. By virtue of the unexpected death several months ago of the IL comptroller, we’ll be having a special election here for that office soon. Perhaps the issue of private equity investment, and all the related topics, could be made an issue in that race. But I would be more likely to invest time reading NC comments if I knew I’d be finding more details from folks who were engaged in their own community struggles on such issues and were reporting from the field. I know that has happened with some NC topics – like the recent mayoral election in Chicago and there have been repeated calls to action on TPP – and I for one would like to see more of that (but maybe that’s just me.)

    The bottom line, though, is that NC is a nonpareil and an irreplaceable resource, and I am inspired by your dogged efforts. So just know that you have a lot of silent support out there, and perhaps some of your fans are just too busy fighting the power to write in.

  79. susan the other

    We might want to start submitting emails directly to the Senate and House Banking/Finance Committees. To the chairman and the minority person. Just override that constituent-representative hurdle. We are all constituents now, right? Since “stability” is threatened by the plunder of us all by Pirate Equity (great moniker), we might want to politely send a chatty email to Stanley Fischer – (Mr. Prosecute-Criminal-Bankers himself – because PE is just as criminal). If public-private-partnerships pose similar threats to the common good (and I’m assuming they do because corporations are going to have another banquet while they impoverish workers), then we should write the captured policy wonks at the White House. Etc.

  80. Minkus

    Sorry to pile on (not sure you were looking for this post to draw a bunch of short, assuring comments), but I am a quiet follower of this blog, and lessons learned here have been responsible for multiple life changes (and a pretty big career decision), with plenty more to follow.

    Contrary to what some others have indicated, the power and clarity of your commentary has fed my urge to act on these problems. In fact, I dropped out from being very politically active soon after Obama’s election, mostly due to the increasing political relevance of very complex financial issues. I had the feeling, but not confident knowledge, that mainstream “liberal” commentary was not adequately addressing these problems, and I basically withdrew in confused apathy. This feeling turned to knowledge when I started reading your blog a couple of years ago (along with a few others – Dean Baker in particular). Consequently, my political apathy turned back into intense interest. Thank you for that.

  81. mac gretz

    Your columns have increased my understanding of finance and markets exponentially. I will never approach the grasp of other commenters, but the kernels I do pick up and share are grist for discussion and action. Keep sending ’em and I’ll keep reading ’em..

  82. Fool

    The comment section needs catch up to the second decade of the 21st century.

    Comments express not only the impulse to learn or to contribute to others’ learning, but also to engage with others. On Disqus or Kinja, for example, you can like and reply to others’ posts and, most importantly, you can receive notifications which thus catalyzes the dialogue. Don’t underestimate people’s desire to be acknowledged by others (and duly notified of this accordingly).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The likes are gamed heavily for political reasons (as in they are a backdoor means of trolling and amplifying trolls) so our conclusion is that the downside is greater than the benefits. In other words, we have considered adding that feature and decided against it.

      1. RUKidding

        Thanks! Good to know. I am wary and dislike the Disqus/Kinja approach to commenting mainly bc of opening the door to trolling and such. Hope you can avoid it.

      2. Paul Spring

        Yes, but you missed Fool’s point I believe. There is a desire to feel heard and engaged with. A notification of a response to one’s comment is one way to enhance that.

        1. ambrit

          I have to observe here that the basic purpose of a comment, in the fabulous “perfect world,” is to make a point, not to gather ‘strokes’ for ones’ ego. (I fight this demon more often than I like to admit to myself.) The results of the Like/Dislike system I have seen on other venues does not endear it to me. (I can imagine an auto tag system to astroturf a comment easily.)

  83. John Oakes

    I have made exactly one previous comment on NC, but I start my day reading it, I link to it occasionally, and recommend it to others. It is the only blog that I have contributed money to. I understand banking & finance, have a JPM Chase pension, and read most NC finance posts. I have lobbied DC as a banker and as a CEO of a division of a S&P 500 firm. To your point about judging interest and marshaling influence by the numbers of comments, I have the same problem with my blog, yet when I survey subscribers, they say they are very interested in the content, but, They. Just. Read. I think the question is how to move public opinion on PE, Trade, TBTF, prosecution of banking executives and straightening out Mary Jo White’s head. Blogs won’t do it, our job is to lay out data and arguments that can be translated in the public square. I know that Yves and Lambert know this, but someone in the public square has to create a story that fuses with the public, and can be the leader who communicates the message. We are seeing that pieces of the message now work on both the right and the left, so I think the message is to attack the TPA and the TTP, to attack corporate subsidies, to attack privatization of profits and socializing of losses, to attack inequality. These things matter to main street, and what matters there can bring about change far more easily than comments directed at government agencies. The role of the blog should be to outline the facts and create the context for these attacks.

  84. Weirhaus

    This will be painfully redundant to the other testimonials at this point, but it still seems appropriate to add my voice to the list of dedicated readers who nonetheless feel unqualified to offer up comments when so many others have the chops to do so more eloquently (well, most of the time). The closest I ever came to formal economics training (other than my family’s austere jaunt through the Great Recession) were a couple of audited courses on Critical Theory from a Marxist professor at the University of Oregon (go ducks!) … which is to say, not all that close.

    I discovered this site via pragcap.com (following a conversation in which it seemed better to pretend I knew how the hell MMT worked). That was about three years ago. I credit the incredible work that goes into this site to my increased awareness of, and dexterity in discussing, global financial capital (of course, that’s not always a good thing — see my last two group camping weekends).

    As a daily reader of this site (and a handful of others which I discovered as a direct result of this site), I often suffer along with many others a feeling of crippling resignation in the face of the slag heap of evidence that conditions are irredeemably rigged in favor of the oligarchs, banks, and neoliberal government regimes. Your years-long coverage of TPP, however, recently spurred me into action for the first time in ages. I knew that letter-writing alone – particularly with Ron Wyden as one of my Senators – would not tip any scales, but I decided it could instead be a first step in modeling citizen involvement for my two young children. I shudder to imagine the political-economic environment in which they will be coming of age, but I want them to at least be better prepared to understand and fight than I was. We’ll see where that goes.

    Finally, it seems clear at this point that the storm clouds never really passed; when the next crisis hits its stride, I expect you’ll find significant increases in comment and page-count stats. In the meantime I’m pledging to do a better job directing my friends and colleagues over here.

  85. Heliopause

    What a very strange post and discussion.

    Well, if your goal is comment count then here’s my offer: $1 per.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      So does that mean that you expect to be paid to vote? If you want your community to be better, it involves work. Or is this your statement that you prefer to free ride on the effort of others?

      1. Heliopause

        Sorry, only the first one was free. You now owe me a dollar. Please remit in USD, I don’t accept drachmae.

  86. Jerry Denim

    Dear Yves & Co.

    Thank you for your service and please keep the technical articles coming! I whole-heartedly agree with the other readers that believe a lack of comments do not necessarily equate a corresponding lack of interest in finance nitty-gritty. The inside world of high finance is beyond most people’s experience, and as as such most readers will feel they have nothing particularly valuable to add to these kinds of posts regardless of how engaging they may find the material.

    Admittedly there is a good bit of truth to the fatigue element as well. Regular non-finance citizens can study rotten derivative deals and wade neck deep into the swamp of private equity until one becomes a bonafide expert; One may proceed to explain their heart out to their co-wokers, in-laws, barber, friends, significant other and anybody else that will listen, but after years and years of shouting in the wilderness and seeing people start to avoid you at family get-togethers while the same perps from ’08 are still walking free and up to their criminal shenanigans despite robbing the country of trillions and perjuring themselves under oath in front of Congress, devoted fans of justice and haters of financial criminals may began to wonder if getting wound-up reading left-leaning finance blogs and writing letters to Congressmen is an efficient use of their limited time on earth. I’m not saying its all for naught, it’s not, I don’t believe that. I believe this blog has made a huge impact and continues to be a force for good, I’m just saying its hard on the reader end as well. It’s hard to keep up the fight and some burnout is to be expected waging the long war against an enemy so powerful and entrenched. Perhaps Naked Capitalism should focus more on new fresh recruits to replace the cynical, increasingly apathetic old-time burnouts like myself. The message and the reporting is still just as important and just as relevant, especially the high crimes in high finance beat. It’s what makes Naked Capitalism so important and special in the crowded, knee-deep, eco-chamber of the blogosphere. Please keep up the good work and don’t let the inevitable burnouts bring you down, recruit more fresh meat for the fight and march on! I believe financial reformers are beginning to make very powerful gains in the public opinion department. The reform will follow hopefully.

  87. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    More comments, more better.

    Write what you genuinely feel or sincerely believe.

    Never too old or too educated to ask any questions.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      At least one or two more persons out there in the whole world who are also in the dark, for everything question you have.

      That’s my glass half full assumption. It gives me courage to inquire.

  88. hermes

    While I agree on the general premise that the key to taking on the baksters you must know the banksters, I am a little puzzled by the need for more commenting. Why comments, aren’t there other, better, ways of capturing reader interest? I know for myself I rarely comment anywhere, never feeling like I have anything of substance to add. And not only that, I generally read this blog (and others) is for the information, not to give input on what I see.

    So I think you would be better off finding another way to gauge read interest. If you cannot find one, maybe make it easier to actually leave comments (do I really have to “subscribe” to leave a comment?)

  89. PQS

    Wow, I feel like my head is as stuffed as when I eat too much and my stomach is stuffed….so many comments – and very good ones, too!

    I confess to not reading them all….but here’s my two cents:
    1. Love NC. This is my Go-to for news and information, finance related or not. Read it all day – first thing in the morning and at lunch. On the way home if I’m on the bus.
    2. With that said, I do not comment as much for many of the same reasons as others have noted: I’m not a finance intellectual, don’t have much to add, I also read on my phone and am not a good texter, and also,
    3. The sheer volume of posts and links is often too much for me to absorb AND have the bandwidth to post comments on.

    Suggestion: Slim down the links, OR maybe on days when a “meaty” post is coming, slim down the links even more. I know, it’s Sophie’s Choice….

    Also – Providing information on contacting people and the best people to contact (such as SEC Chair – I would NEVER have considered such a thing) is a helpful call to action. This is the information non-professional activist types such as myself can use and will use.

    Thanks SO MUCH for all you both do and the whole (unseen) team at NC, which I always imagine as a bunch of oompa loompas (but much cuter than the ones in the movie) and cats.

  90. Lauren

    Just want to let you know I’m reading. Like the other readers, I don’t feel I have much to add (and honestly I usually avoid reading comments on all sites, and never thought to check them out here).

  91. J-Ho

    I post comments next to never but that’s a function of me being a jackass phlebotomist from Wisconsin with a degree focused on political theory and international relations, so I really don’t have anything substantive to contribute the overwhelming majority of the time. I prefer the comments section when it’s mostly killer, very little filler so I try not to contribute to the static.

    I do appreciate all of the posts about finance, although I don’t have much knowledge or training to follow the willful complexity of what’s going on (as I said about derivatives at the time of the crisis, “That sounds like some kind of Mafia scheme…”). It’s not that I don’t prioritize it, so much as I only have so many mental resources to devote to more areas I want to engage with than I’m capable of.

    I’ll try to re-focus my efforts since I appreciate everything you do here. But I wouldn’t expect many comments from me since anything I say would be pretty ignorant and derail any meaningful exchange in progress.

  92. ScottW

    Great site.

    One suggestion–a “solutions” heading for links and long-form pieces that provide solutions to the problems that are so eloquently described on this blog. For example, it is well-documented that students are drowning in student loan debt, yet I see very little written about how to revive debt free higher education.

    The masses will not reject the current bad narrative unless they are offered a better alternative narrative. I can say, “we need debt free higher education,” and the person on the street is going to reject it out of hand as raising their taxes. I grew up in Calif. and we had debt free higher education in the ’70’s. But most people believe it can not happen again in 2015.

    A lot of what I read are excellent critiques of the system that fail to offer any specific alternatives. Hopefully, those pieces exist and it would be nice reading them on NC.

    Keep up the great work and thanks.

  93. MarcoPolo

    Guilty. But I have been following you on Greece. I’m better on that macro stuff. And I haven’t commented more because I haven’t agreed with you a lot. And there seems no point in me taking that on over and over again. We’ll know more about it tomorrow.
    And I read Econned which is really good on derivatives and mortgage finance and its abuse (and CR’s Tanta). It’s the basis of my limited understanding.
    Anybody can see what private equity does to companies. You don’t have to be a genius. The hidden part, where the money comes from and the way in which they take advantage of their investors, isn’t apparent to everybody. I credit you for pointing that out and making it possible for Calif., for example, to cut their exposure. I don’t do business with those guys; no private equity, no mutual funds, no money managers. I’ll do my own driving, thanks. You don’t have to tell me. So, OK. I’ll try to keep up with that. But don’t expect me to have anything to add. Today’s post, Warren and White – already known. It’s hard to find good people.
    I think where we differ, you seem to want to chip away at these little issues bit by bit. I want a new dynamic top down. But, I don’t know how to get that. Maybe you have to chip away. Anyway, you do what you do. There’s no substitute for persistence. Anything I’ve accomplished isn’t because I’m so smart. Au contrair; too dumb to quit. You lose, you lose, you lose, they give up.

  94. Saito

    I’ve been reading this blog since I was in high school, and while some of the articles are pretty heavy, I don’t think they’re out of reach for any of us. I see that many others who’ve commented feel that they have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the heavier discussions. I think that might be a poor way to think about it though. It’s fine to express your feelings on the topic, even if you don’t completely understand the technical aspects. I think the comments on the Greece coverage have been a great example of this. It’s a very complicated issue, with plenty of technical details buried in it, but many are willing to post a comment just to express their outrage at the situation. Even if you misunderstand something or are factually incorrect, someone else will usually pipe up to fix that. (Although it will probably look like they’re flaming you, chances are they don’t mean to. Many regulars here are just really passionate.) Some of the topics here are really intimidating, but that’s just the kind of thing we have to stand up to if we want to effect any real change in the way things work.

  95. Chuck Roast

    Hi Yves:
    Don’t give up the ship dear.
    You make a difference to people’s lives, even if we are all not sharp enough to always comment.
    Or, maybe if others are like me, they might just have financial PTSD. Like the other day when White hired the GS tool as head of enforcement. Really what can one say. I wish that there was a FPTSD Clinic I could check myself into.
    Best

  96. P Fitzsimon

    I’m just a retired engineer but I do read NK regularly. I use the info from articles to enlighten my Congressman and Senators. I also complement them when they do something good. Right now I’m sending a note to my senator, E. Warren, to let her know that she has support for reprimanding MJW.

  97. Kim Kaufman

    I don’t remember exactly when I discovered NC and when I stopped reading other finance blogs. But I remember when Yves first went on Harry Shearer’s radio show and I knew it was the place to be. :)

    Up until that point I was reading in a vacuum. I live in LA and between reading a few things about the real estate market and living across the street from a realtor, and seeing people “flipping” houses like crazy all over, I just knew this was not going to end well. In April, 2008, while driving up to San Francisco and listening to the radio, I heard Michael Greenberger on “Fresh Air” several times as I moved through different NPR signals up the coast. He totally laid it out: the CDOs, CDSs, the entanglement and enabling of the insurance companies, etc. So when the sh** hit the fan in fall 2008, it wasn’t a surprise to me. Even though I didn’t really understand the complexities, I understood more than most in my social groups and could see straight up: this was now only a Follow the Money story. My opinion hasn’t changed. And I think Yves and Lambert both see it that way.

    Reasons why I don’t comment more than I do:

    1. I have nothing new to add.

    2. I feel an obligation to read through the comments first so I don’t repeat anything – and that’s sometimes more time consuming than I have time for.

    3. I sometimes miss a couple of days but do go back and catch up and by then it’s too late to comment.

    4. On the more wonky posts, I assume there are readers who this is for and can do something with it. I do what I can do with my strengths/weaknesses and being a real wonk is not my forte. I don’t mind being rude and upsetting people and not everyone can do that. :) 

    5. Some stories, like PE, I don’t know what to do with. I’ve known for a while that PE was just another big hustle and glad to see Yves bringing it out for more scrutiny. But then… what to do about it? How to get people talking about it? And, again, what is to be done? Legislation? Regulation? Public shaming?

    To the last point, I’ve watched the pushback on TPP for how long? A year or two? And in the next few days we’ll see how that went. After being on the fence, we finally got our Congress Critter, Adam Schiff, to finally say he’d vote against fast track. There has been a lot of resources for this and the messaging was always very clear about the problem and solution: stop it and stop it through fast track. How can we stop PE???

    A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a very high-priced lawyer who was bragging about the work he does and mentioned some PE deals. What am I gonna say to him? You’re a shi*head, you’re ruining many peoples’ lives and the general welfare of this country?

    I welcome the discussion. It certainly got a lot of attention. And I’m a devoted reader.

  98. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Sheesh, when I came back here on Wed there were 206 comments, and when I was done with the comment queue there were 228!

    If you have the analytic tools to see how the rise of mobiles has synched with the reduction in comments, I do think you’re going to find a correlation. I’m not sure what it will be, but I’m guessing there’s a fairly strong correlation to the increasing viewership on mobiles and the reduction in comments. Should prove to be some interesting stats.

  99. Carolinian

    Just want to say as someone who is graciously allowed to comment here that we appreciate the opportunity even if some of us may not be the audience you’d prefer. While I am skeptical of the internet’s power to change things in our society, I do passionately believe in its power to inform and that’s why I read this site and have done so for a long time. We live in a world of lies and the truth is precious.

    So long may NC’s flag wave. Some great websites have come and gone over the years and it can’t be easy to make such an effort. Whether or not blogs like this really can change the world we are all here to learn and, speaking for myself, I’ve learned a lot.

  100. David

    Guilty as charged. I’m lazy, and overcommitted, and much of the time NC is selling past the close – I’m already well convinced of the main themes shared here and in your book.

    A propaganda war is necessary, but probably not sufficient. The entrenched powers are beyond the reach of reason. All we can do is build support wherever we can find it.

    I am of the generation, perhaps the last, that believes in the power of the ballot. Silly me. But if ever the time arrives to really use it, then I hope Yves and her crew will have a programmatic agenda ready to go. Progressive consumption tax? End to fractional reserve banking? Auctions for all public security offerings? Beats me. I know just enough to be dangerous but would aggressively support a real alternative to current laws and regs on finance and taxation. Putting it together may be your job.

  101. Paul Spring

    Begs the question – why comment? Is it just to throw out a pithy observation to the aether? If indeed there is a desire to have non-economist types like me to become knowledgeable, how can that possibly happen unless there is a give-and-take in response to comments? Questions I’ve posed just sit there – no light is shed as the next commenter elbows in to deposit his or her 2 cents.
    I see a flaw in the theme of this blog. How many examples does one who is already convinced that the system is a farce need to hear? This organ-by-organ autopsy, exposing one pathological element after another – what is the purpose?! The hand-wringing is exhausting. I want to hear the solutions, the elements of an economic system design that really does the job of uplifting humanity.

  102. dbk

    Just read all 234 and counting comments – I read all the comments on nearly every post, and agree with others that the posts + comments on NC are both deeply informative.

    I feel hopeless at the moment, quite frankly – the Big Picture is by now clear, and the more I have read over the past 8-9 years here, the more I understand how it’s all, well, connected.

    Not a finance person, but willing to read all the finance posts if not for the details then for the takeaway message. I will try to comment regularly on the financial-content (wonky) posts if this will help.

    Also very happy to do research / communicate with players (not necessarily elected officials, I’m not entirely persuaded that this particular captured class really cares much about constituents) / provide links where I find them (although I think many of the sites cited in, e.g. the Links are the same ones I read).

    Didn’t we sorta kinda have the discussion about the falloff in readership/comments from the Financial Class some time ago? Iirc, a number of people said that they want exclusively-focused finance day in, day out in order to feel it’s worthwhile to visit the site at all, much less comment. They didn’t seem interested in the Social Justice posts and links, even though as I said “everything’s connected”. It’s ALL relevant.

  103. Z80

    First off, I apologize for not addressing all of your questions or sticking to topic; I simply don’t have time and lots of other users are doing a good job of getting to the bottom of things.

    You have out grown your current format. You need to re-establish your objective. Are you a news site or a blog? Personally, I think you are too big for a simple WordPress blog style site and should adopt a site that resembles a modern news site. Separate content into news and editorial sections. Your site slogan boasts “Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics, and power,” but I don’t see links for any of them. I don’t have a clue what is going on with your Documents section but I recignize some of the players. Furthermore, categorize things into sections that make sense. You’ve got a “links” section that links to what? You need to answer the what question before someone clicks on the “links” section. Don’t call the news section the “links” section, call it news. If you want to comment on news, you could link to the news accordingly. I have no clue what the water cooler section is. I guarantee you that lots of your readers don’t know what the water cooler section is either. Most of your content titles are great and I really like them. If you want to get your message across you have to remember that you are selling a product.

    Based on my own experience, some of the most important tenets of internet marketing are:

    -It has to look awesome!! Your site has to be friendly and inviting to new users.

    -Most internet users have very very low attention spans. There is a reason that most internet videos are under two minutes and a large portion of them are 10 to 15 seconds. I know keeping things brief is something you struggle with, but you could make it easier to read with topic summaries, etc. I’ve made a suggestion below for large and complex litigation topics.

    -Keep it simple. If users want more, they will find it if you make it easily accessible. Some of your side bar topics have over 4,000 links available. That is a serious deterrent and it makes your site look like an epic post-graduate level endeavor.

    -Entertaining content will sell itself and go viral. I just watched a video that some silly folks made with other peoples money. Somehow, they managed to crowd source nearly $1,000,000 to make a short CGI film about a surreal 80’s Kung Fu cop that travels back in time to kill Adolf Hitler. So far, they’ve gotten over 10,000,000 views on Youtube in under a week. If they can sell such a crazy short film, you can sell your story just as well. Creative Marketing!!!

    -Take advantage of modern web tools and professional opinions. Websites are cheaper and easier than every to create. it really isn’t that difficult or expensive to hire some consultants that could design a custom site just for your purpose. Do your best to work well with IT professionals and listen to their opinions. There’s companies out there that have designed hundreds of sites and they can tell you exactly what will make it or break it. You have some of the most entertaining content on the internet.

    I found your site while hunting for the AIG bailout story. After 5 minutes, I could not find a docket (an interactive docket would be a home run) or brief synopsis, figure out the status of the case, figure out your position, the parties involved, or what to do if I wanted to make a difference. Even with the setbacks, I still read everything that you posted and check back frequently to see what else you are up to.

    If you want to get the word out, lets make a bailout movie. I’ve been thinking about how to wake people up for years and this is the only thing that will even come close. I’d love to make an amazing move about the bailout with all of the key players, opulence, sub-stories, flashbacks, perps and victims, love, lust, greed, etc. Heck, just a small sub element of the whole fiasco is worthy of a movie. This is probably some of the most important and rich subject matter in the past 100 years. Average folks love movie night. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources or I’d do it.

    Keep up the good work. Thanks for everything.

    1. z80

      A few more things.. Posting pictures relevant to the topics will help readers feel more at home. It has to do with the way our brains are wired.

      How about a book review section?

    2. Paul Spring

      Totally agree. Sadly, because of the current format, your comments will go unheeded – just floating in the aether.

  104. mattie

    Please don’t dumb down this site or your posts. I’m a public servant inside the beltway, and I can assure you, we’ve had more than enough dumbing down from leadership lately.

    I also want to thank you for redirecting me to Simon Johnson’s 2009 Atlantic piece today about the Quiet Coup. Prescient.

    You must understand, that had it not been for people like you, Niel Barofski, Elizabeth Warren, David Dayen, Das, Adam Levitin, and others, including more humble folks on the ground like Damian Figueroa over at StopForeclosureFraud – rubes like me – who got caught up on the suckers’ side of the obscenity Johnson describes – would still be complete rubes about what happened to us and why.

    A bunch of us were not so lucky, and ended up sick or suicided for believing the slanders and derision hurled in our direction. I might have ended up that way too, had it not been for you-all. After 7 years of pure, nasty hell, I have survived to become to my Servicer, what my attorney describes as “annoying.”

    Thanks very sincerely to all of you. I could not have survived this without you.

    PS – please also do not diminish your daily antidotes. They are very good medicine. In return, I’d like to share a tip, courtesy of the Boys over at HuffPo Hill, because you’ve read this far: Here’s a hamster monster, http://link.huffingtonpost.com/4dcc217d52366d356313d2672o9w8.8×33/VW4gAUmOyhuyPMc_B25ef .

    1. ambrit

      Yaay! Go, go Tiny Hamster! This is a great feature. Thanks for introducing it to us.

  105. cnchal

    What am I gonna say to him? You’re a shi*head, you’re ruining many peoples’ lives and the general welfare of this country?

    It is a political economy, after all. Next time you talk to him, and he starts bragging, let him have it.

  106. Lune

    Hi Yves,

    I’ve been a loyal reader for many years, and your technical posts were my finance education (minus the $100k tuition, although I’ve contributed a little back during your funding drives :-). But I’ve been commenting less on the technical posts and more on the political posts, and I think that has been the trend.

    My own reason for doing so is that in the beginning of the financial crisis, I naively thought that all we had to do was expose the corruption, and the authorities would take care of it. After all, no less a laisez-faire free-marketer than Reagan shut down the S&L industry and jailed crooked banksters. Even Bush jailed the CEOs of Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia, etc. and forced them to disgorge their personal wealth when the overwhelming evidence of their fraud was uncovered. And that was a *private* affair (i.e. no govt money was involved).

    I can’t tell you how floored I’ve been that despite efforts like your blog’s to show without a shadow of a doubt how deep the corruption, fraud, and outright criminality has run throughout the entire finance industry, not a single person has faced punishments. Forget perp walks and a life spent in Rikers Island. Most finance criminals have had to pay less in penalties for their ill-gotten gains than the rest of us pay in tax for our hard-earned salaries.

    So personally, I’ve felt the “fight”, as it were, isn’t to expose or understand corruption. It’s to force the political apparatus to deal with it. No one, finance expert or not, doubts Wall St.’s corruption (not even Wall Street’ers, as your post about Sorkin’s survey article points out). So trying to expose or understand the corruption even further is, IMHO, ineffective. Better to focus on how to force the political establishment to do their jobs.

    After all, when Congress and the Administration accepts that multiple TBTF banks (most of them, in fact) have been involved in money laundering and financing for the very drug cartels and nuclear regimes that our soldiers are shedding blood to fight on the field and yet do nothing, do you really think that pointing out how private equity steals billions from pension funds is going to provoke them to action?

    1. Paul Spring

      Yes, does one have to examine every rusting car in a junkyard to know its a junkyard?! What are the pathways to solutions?

  107. participant-observer-observed

    “Sadly, it seems that the bulk of this site’s readers is no longer interested in these matters, despite their significance. ”

    ~236 NC comments on this posting!!!!

    That’s some pretty impressive non-interest!

  108. Elizabeth

    Yves/Lambert, I read NC every day because I love it and I have learned so much about so many topics, especially economics. Some of the posts take a lot of time to read and fully understand what is being said. I don’t comment frequently because the comment section is filled with very intelligent/astute remarks, and I feel that I don’t have anything to add. Mostly, I am overwhelmed by all of the corruption in every aspect of our lives, and a lot of people I know feel beaten down by the system and are just trying to survive.

    Your posts on the “trade agreements”, Obamacare, banking corruption and Lambert’s water cooler are information that is nowhere else (at least I haven’t found it). Please don’t “dumb down” anything – I feel like this is a continuing education class.

    Thank you both for everything and your hard work. I honestly don’t know how you do it and keep your sanity.

  109. Odysseus

    Sometimes reader, very rare commenter. Calculated Risk is really my home on the financial internet.

    Even though I am an engineer by profession, I have a longstanding interest in finance and how it is practiced at all income levels.

    There’s no need for finance at any level to be opaque. There’s no need to invent new jargon for old concepts. People still reference the Ten Commandments for a lot of reasons, but they cover a lot of ground with not a lot of text. Distilling down hundreds-of-pages of documents into tl;dr commentary is helpful in a lot of ways.

  110. Cujo359

    Since I’m not an economist and I don’t work in the finance sector, I don’t often comment on the more technical articles unless I have a question. On the other hand, I feel adequately qualified to comment on pictures of cute animals.

    Really, I visit NC for the articles, not just the pictures. ;)

  111. Deep Thought

    Count me as another person who reads most days (please keep the RSS feed going!), but doesn’t comment. I have little to add to most stories except “I concur, wholeheartedly”.

  112. Oguk

    OMG, waiting a day to comment is deadly! So many good comments already! That is usually the big dissuader to commenting for me. I barely have time to read the articles, often a day (or more) late, and the comments are so long, it makes that much more to read – and it’s usually worth it (at least a good skim). So it’s good to hear that we should comment anyway, and noobie comments are ok. I agree with those who feel outclassed knowledge-wise. Finally, I heartily agree that the deep-dive financial posts are what make this site unique and extremely interesting. My general comment (which I’ll post more often) is: “Didn’t know anything about this, but now I’m gonna read up on it! +1000”. If I have a purpose reading here, it’s to be able to distill what I’ve learned for my Dunbar’s number (heh see what I did there, I learned about that from a finance blog!).

  113. BudinPA

    I started to count all the comments…but gave up. Thank you NC readers for letting Yves know she still has an avid following and NC matters.

  114. Jon Claerbout

    In my town there is a free newspaper containing a small bit of news, and page after page of advertisements by realtors. Many towns have such a short-on-content newspaper. People who buy and sell houses care about money. The situation cries out, does it not, for high-school level rewrites of the news we read at Naked Capitalism? Seems to me like good student projects, even maybe a money maker for someone.

  115. BobfromAccounting

    I have been a NC reader for less than 8mo. I thoroughly enjoy NC and it is one of three sites I will visit that do not accept TOR proxy’ed connections.

    Until recently I have ignored the comment sections because it is (generally) a sound practice on the internet. I will echo some of the earlier comments about lacking sufficient knowledge to feel comfortable commenting on many of the important topics. Moreover, by the time I have done preliminary research and put in the time to think through the assumptions,limitations, and implications the thread is days/weeks old. Which brings me to my query regarding commenting:

    If comment sections are meant to be a way to discuss a certain issue, what value do people who are slow on the uptake (I.e., me) bring to the table if the contribution is made after everyone leaves the conference call?

    Yves (iirc) brought up the point that DC influencers look at comment volume. So when comment count is low, they take it as a sign that the issue/case is unimportant. Assuming that comments into the void are still useful on this point, we a still might ask if pain-point management is really what we want from policy makers. Relieving pain points is not identical to/ necessary/ sufficient for fixing a flawed (or corrupt) system.

    1. ambrit

      A lot of the ‘regular’ commentators check back for a day or two to read replies to their comments. Some good back and forths get going that way.
      Pain point management makes perfect sense when dealing with short term goals. Fixing flawed and or corrupt systems takes time, which, paradoxically, is in short supply in our ‘modern’ system.

  116. Jon Claerbout

    The word “June” occurs 288 times above this line. Subtract a few for Yves, and you have your count of comments.

  117. David

    Yves,
    Fantastic blog I do read along with your book! I do not comment for many of the reasons others have listed. Still learning finance. I did close my Chase account and switch to a local bank and the same is going to happen to my Wells Fargo mortgage.

  118. Jeremy Grimm

    I’ll add my small contribution to the flood of comments above, for what it’s worth. Add my appreciation for the depth and comprehensive analysis of difficult economic issues which I have consistently found here at NakedCapitalism. I regret not offering more comments to those analyses and can only claim a level of ignorance for my reluctance to comment. I will amend my reticence by assuming the right, privilege and obligation to ask such questions as come to mind and to express opinions however ill pinioned by my lack of knowledge. Like many commenters above, I have felt chastised. or more accurately, anticipated chastisement.

    I am old and I have been chastised before and lived to tell about. I have been foolish and age and such wisdom as I hope to claim has not kept me from acting foolishly or appearing foolish. I will take Yves lamentations as license for my curiosity. But let Yves be warned. I am a slow learner and if my free reigning curiosity becomes a nuisance — my admonishments needs be blunt and repeated. I will receive my punishment grudgingly but it will help make my comments sharper.

    As for other commenters — remember age makes no exclusive claims to curiosity or folly.

    On a different note, like Diptherio I grow ever more pessimistic about the impact of understanding the details of how the vehicle is broken and what to do to initiate repairs. Like Diptherio I am inclined to junk the vehicle and look for a better one. [If I misunderstand Diptherio’s view, I trust Diptherio will clarify them.] However, I will attempt to apply the same interest in such details as I once applied to my efforts while gainfully employed. I can drive my interests. Just as I drove them while working, I can drive them now to attempt understanding and expression — though too often it seems completely futile. I did it while I was paid. I suppose I could do it again, paid with hope and striving for its own sake. I like to win, but if I lose a battle … let it be a glorious defeat.

    Today’s post (04JUN2015) “Wall Street Journal Questions Fed Beige Book “Rosy” Take on “Recovery” – 06/04/2, particularly the comments made in the Wall Street Journal are most heartening. The discontent and analyses on NakedCapitalilsm are reaching the conservative mainstream. I may have to amend my pessimism.

  119. Arizona Slim

    One of the things that holds me back from reading every post is how they’re formatted. Simply put, there isn’t enough spacing between the lines of type. Makes the words look crowded.

    The solution? Edit your style sheet and increase the line space.

  120. H. Alexander Ivey

    Heavens, what happened! I miss 3 days of posting and only by Yves referring back did I see this.

    Haven’t had the time to digest the post but two quick points.

    1. I do read and understand the more technical posts, so count my vote for more detail postings.

    2. what I think is missing is more work flows, diagrams of who and what goes where, and especially more RSA Animate style stuff like Crises of Capitalism or excerpts from Economix by Goodwin and Burr. In other words, more graphics to balance the words.

  121. Nathanael

    Frankly, we’re having some massive success delegitimating and shutting down the fossil fuel industries. We are working on the banksters… but there’s a natural tendency (and an appropriate one) of focusing effort on a pressure point which is already starting to crack, to “get it over the top”, and we’re doing extraordinarily well (by historical standards) in the energy industry.

    Meanwhile, as others have said, the issue with the banksters is political corruption (they’re blatantly criminal, it’s been proven in court, and they still are getting away with it). The political system hasn’t been responding to pressure on this stuff lately. We’re looking for new pressure points on the political system.

    1. Nathanael

      I’ll also note that we’re in the midst of an enormous fight against the military-industrial complex, which is currently trying to establish a Stasi-style regime, and we’re making genuine progress. We’re also making progress at dismantling the drug war, and making progress against police brutality. And the movement to replace ‘car-centric’ sprawl with walkable cities & functioning rural areas is large, growing and effective.

      …well, again, I think one reason people aren’t spending their bandwidth on jailing the bankers at the moment is because we don’t seem to have an effective pressure point there, and we *do* have extremely effective pressure points on several other huge issues, things where we were previously making no progress at all for decades. So take it for what it’s worth.

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