Mark Ames: Why Finance is Too Important to Leave to Larry Summers

By Mark Ames, author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine who writes regularly at The Exiled.

If you’ve been reading Naked Capitalism for any period of time without giving back in donations—and most of us have been hooked from the time we discovered Yves Smith’s powerful, sharp voice and brilliant mind—then you you’ve been getting away with murder. Naked Capitalism is that rare blog that makes you smarter. Smarter about a lot of things, but primarily about Yves’ area of expertise, finance.

By a quirk of historical bad luck, the American Left has gone two generations without understanding finance, or even caring to understand. It was the hippies who decided half a century ago that finance was beneath them, so they happily ceded the entire field—finance, business, economics, money—otherwise known as “political power”—to the other side. Walking away from the finance struggle was like that hitchhiker handing the gun back to the Manson Family. There’s a great line from Charles Portis’s anti-hippie novel, “Dog of the South” that captures the Boomers’ self-righteous disdain for “figures”:

He would always say—boast, the way those people do—that he had no head for figures and couldn’t do things with his hands, slyly suggesting the presence of finer qualities.

That part about the hands—that would refer to the hippies’ other great failure, turning their backs on Labor, because Labor didn’t groove with the Hippies’ Culture War. So the Left finds itself, fifty years later, dealing with the consequences of all those years of ruinous neglect of finance and labor—the consequences being powerlessness and political impotence.

That’s why Yves Smith is so important to anyone who cares about politics and the bad direction this country is taking. In 2008, the Left suddenly discovered that although it could bray with the best of ‘em about how bad foreign wars are, and how wrong racism and sexism an homophobia are, it was caught completely and shamefully by surprise by the financial collapse of 2008. The ignorance was paralyzing, politically and intellectually. Even the lexicon was alien. Unless of course you were one of the early followers of Yves Smith’s blog.

It wasn’t always this way.

Back in the 1930s, the Left was firmly grounded in economics, money and finance; back then, the Left and Labor were practically one. With a foundation in finance and economics, the Left understood labor and political power and ideology and organization much better than the Left today, which at best can parry back the idiotic malice-flak that the Right specializes in spraying us with. We’re only just learning how politically stunted and ignorant we are, how much time and knowledge we’ve lost, and how much catching up we have to do.

Which is why Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism is one of the 99%’s most valuable asset in the long struggle ahead: She is both analyst and educator, with a rare literary talent (especially for finance). One thing that’s protected the financial oligarchy is the turgid horrible prose that they camouflage their toxic ideas and concepts in. Yves is one of the rare few who can make reading finance as emotionally charged as it needs to be.

Naked Capitalism is our online university in finance and politics and ideology. Whereas other online universities are set up to turn millions of gullible youths into debt-shackled Wall Street feeding cows, Naked Capitalism is the opposite: Completely free, consistently brilliant, vital, and necessary, making us smarter, teaching us how we might one day overthrow the financial oligarchy. One other difference between Naked Capitalism and online university swindles: (Stanley Kaplan cough-cough!) Your donations wont end up paying Ezra Klein’s salary.

Which brings me back to my whole “Shame on you!” point I was trying to make earlier. When it comes to fundraising, nothing works like shaming. That’s how those late-night commercials work: You’re sitting there in your nice comfortable home, and then suddenly there’s this three-legged dog hobbling into its cage, with big wet eyes, and then some bearded pedophile comes on and says, “Poor Rusty has endured more abuse and pain than you can ever imagine, and tomorrow, he will be gassed to death in a slow, horrible poison death chamber. And you—look at you, sitting there with your Chunky Monkey and your central heating, what kind of sick bastard are you? Get your goddamn Visa Mastercard out and send money to Rusty, or else his death is on your head. I hope you sleep well at night.”

Now I know that this sort of appeal wouldn’t work on the Naked Capitalism crowd—too many economists here, and as everyone knows, you can’t appeal to economists’ hearts because, well, see under “Larry Summers World Bank Memo”… I can imagine Larry watching that late night commercial with the three-legged dog, powering a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and devouring a bag of Kettle Salt & Vinegar potato chips, calculating the productive worth of the three-legged dog, unmoved by the sentimental appeal. Larry grabs a dictaphone: “Item: How to end dog-gassings? Solution: Ship all three-legged stray dogs to sub-Saharan Africa. Africans won’t even notice. Dogs saved. Private capital freed up. Problem solved.”

So some of you have no hearts, and some of us have no shame. But we all do understand how vital Naked Capitalism has been in educating us. I’m sure that the other side knows how dangerous a site like this is, because as we become more educated and more political, we become more and more of a threat. The oligarchy has spent decades on a project to “defund the Left,” and they’ve succeeded in ways we’re only just now grasping. “Defunding the Left” doesn’t mean denying funds to the rotten Democratic Party; it means defunding everything that threatens the 1%’s hold on wealth and power. One of their greatest successes, whether by design or not, has been the gutting of journalism, shrinking it down to a manageable size where its integrity can be drowned in a bathtub. It’s nearly impossible to make a living as a journalist these days; and with the economics of the journalism business still in free-fall like the Soviet refrigerator industry in the 1990s, media outlets are even less inclined to challenge power, journalists are less inclined to rock the boat than ever, and everyone is more inclined to corruption (see: Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly). A ProPublica study in May put it in numbers: In 1980, the ratio of PR flaks to journalists was roughly 1:3. In 2008, there were 3 PR flaks for every 1 journalist. And that was before the 2008 shit hit the journalism fan.

This is what an oligarchy looks like. I saw the exact same dynamic in Russia under Yeltsin: When he took power in 1991, Russia had the most fearless and most ideologically diverse journalism culture of any I’ve ever seen, a lo-fi, hi-octane version of American journalism in the 1970s. But as soon as Yeltsin created a class of oligarchs to ensure his election victory in 1996, the oligarchs snapped up all the free media outlets, and forced out anyone who challenged power, one by one. By the time Putin came to power, all the great Russian journalists that I and Taibbi knew had abandoned the profession for PR or political whoring. It was the oligarchy that killed Russian journalism; Putin merely mopped up a few remaining pockets of resistance.

The only way to prevent that from happening to is to support the best of what we have left. Working for free sucks. It can’t hold, and it won’t. So donate now to Naked Capitalism. If you can’t afford much, give what you can. If you can afford more, give more. If you can give a lot, give a lot. It will pay for itself, I guarantee you. This isn’t just giving, it’s a statement that you are want a different debate, a different society, and a different culture. Who knows, maybe we’ll win; maybe we’ll even figure out a way to seal Larry Summers in a kind of space barge, and fire him off into deep space, to orbit Uranus for eternity. Yves? Could it be financed?

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    1. okie farmer

      Not so fast, toxy, Mark’s idea that the left was composed of folks other than unions in the 30’s is not what I read in the history of that period. Unions were in a deadly class strugle and sacrificed many lives to stand against the mining and manufacturing industriies that were exploiting them. They had sympathy from many not in their ranks, particularly from farmers and small business, but unions were, by and large, THE left.

      Then, the left left us over the course of about 30 years.

      What happened? Well, the unions got co-opted by capital when it appeared they might gain enough political power to change the system. Many moguls thought it would cheaper to buy them off than fight them. The threat of socialism was in the back (or front) of every industrialist’s mind. Communism was not the threat of the Soviet Union – many actually believed it might catch on here. It was only after the unions had been successfully co-opted that Soviet Communism could be used as a political tool to build the great military corporate machine that is now, among other money machines, robbing us of our future. The M/I, of course, was never intended to protect us from Communism, it was to control the world on behalf of US corporations, irrespective of George Kennan’s plea for ‘containment’.

      I think Mark mostly just sounds disappointed that the hippies weren’t political enough to launch a generation or two of left activists. I remember listening to one of my friends in a commune near Taos near the end of the Vietnam war worrying about ‘what comes next?’ and remarking, “its like everybody just declared victory and went home.” The commune by then was down to 3 families, 11 people, from more than 60 at its peak. I’ve always thought he was talking about the political movement that was so important in stopping the war, not just the dwindling of his commune. Maybe he meant both. The hippies were a very diverse lot; it was my era, my people, at least the politically active ones, and fine folks, and, frankly most were not political, but moral and kind for sure and a model for something that got lost in this country – maybe that moral/kind thing was seen by the George Wills of the world as too big a threat, just as communism/socialism had been in an earlier era.

      Mark makes a number of fine points, but I think he over estimates who the left actually was – back when.

      1. Binky the Bear

        Steve Jobs. The hippies discovered cocaine and business and added that to me-firstism and we got the Reagan revolution, a media friendly father figure with a stern backhand.

      2. YankeeFrank

        think you are misreading what he wrote. The last 50 years is from 1961 to now — that is the period where the left abandoned the unions and the importance of understanding finance/economics. The 30s were when we had it right. I know for a fact, as a child of political lefties of the boomer generation, that they never once discussed with me finance or economics in any way. It was always political power, nukes and local union politics. There was a huge disdain for economics. Yves has helped to fill in that black hole in my education. From my experience, my parents are the exception to the liberal hippie crowd in that they did not abandon their principles after the 70s, and became union reps and delegates, and continued to fight for the working person. The majority of their friends never had much truck with unions at all, and none with finance and economics. I think many of them believed that battle had been won by the FDR generation. What they forgot is that the right wing never stops scheming, and they mostly became lazy and “successful”.

  1. dearieme

    The horrible, crooked behaviour of the big beasts of finance closely resemble the horrible, crooked behaviour of the big beasts of the trade unions that we used to see in Britain before Thatcher’s reforms. Her reforms were imperfect but reasonably effective. They had two prongs. First, reduce the power of the trade unions versus the rest of us by making them subject to contract law. (You may find this hard to believe, but the law had been that a union could hold an employer to an agreement, but not vice versa.) The second was to democratise the unions, moving power from the union officials to the membership.

    It’s worth asking what lessons those reforms have for how the financial moguls should be treated. (In addition to jailing as many as can be shown to have acted criminally.)

    1. Cian

      That would be Thatcher who was responsible for was it three unnecessary recessions, presided over a massive increase in inequality, championed corporate raiders who destroyed much of our industry, while a policy of giving the City everything that it wanted destroyed much of the rest.

      The same Thatcher who massively cut public expenditure on things that people wanted (healthcare, parks, education – and yes, I remember schools with leaky roofs), while the public share of GDP remained the same.

      Yeah, it was the unions that were the problem. Right.

  2. Lafayette


    Yet another treatise on “victimization”. If we are manipulated, then there are two factors in play – those who foistered the manipulation and those who allowed themselves to be manipulated. It’s not not always the blame of just one or just the other.

    The truth about corporate manipulations of markets has always been out there, just difficult to find.

    Now, more than ever, it is there for access and analysis. In fact, a great deal of factual information is located in WikiPedia.

    But we remain fixated by the occult or the “non-dit” (as the French say). The French make a difference (as regards politicians) between what they say to a public audience and the “non-dit” is what they don’t say.

    More often than not the “non-dit” is more important, as WikiLeaks has demonstrated. So, it would be nice if there were a WikiLeaks for Businesses and another for the US Government.

    Even the smartest people can be caught in the electronic web.


    Let’s not forget that Bill Gates was caught with his pants down when legal discovery disclosed many an email that demonstrated his intent to manipulate a “natural monopoly”.

    The US government did not dispute the fact that Windows was a “natural monopoly” in the PC industry by means of its sheer dominance. The government did succeed in proving that Microsoft was illicitly benefiting by manipulating that monopoly.


    During all of our post-war years, we have thought in America that “bigger was better” and our market authorities allowed far too easily for corporations to agglomerate markets (by means of buy-outs and fusions) such that they became oligopolistic. Which means prices are largely controlled by a select few of all the market participants.

    This is called “market price manipulation” and is a criminal offense. If prosecuted, that is …

    And if a PotUS, like Dubya, wants to neuter Market Oversight agencies and if the Attorney General is told not to prosecute market oligopolies, then those manipulating such markets have profit cash-cows. (A percentage of which goes to the campaign funding of our precious political parities. Which is how corporations also manipulate politicians.)


    A lot.

    We should demand the adoption of progressive values that re-institute a real democracy “of and by the people” and not corporations. We get corporations out of campaign funding and allow only citizens to fund directly campaign candidates.

    Companies can be allowed, and even given a tax credit, to fund “get out the vote” campaigns – because we’ve also become notoriously bad at getting off our duffs and out to the polls.

    But when the damage is done – we’re great at bitching-in-a-blog. No problem there. None at all.

  3. JCC

    At ease, Mr. Ames. Although the sentiment for NC is in the right place, this is little harsh, I think. Your “hippies” do not make up that large a segment of the boomers.

    Spending 30 years working your butt off to stay even does not mean you ceded anything, and paying attention to your miniscule 401K profits during that time probably helped you learn a lot, including the fact that you are close to powerless to do anything about the “system”. The greed was well-hidden up until the mid 90’s and despite the knowledge gained, still supported by those who have the Political Power today.

  4. Hemeantwell

    What’s with the silly anti-hippie rant? Ignorance of finance was hardly directly related to hair length. Once “let capital be capital” was beaten into the labor movement, there was nothing to prevent the Dems from giving finance capital a pass, endorsing free market mythology and getting on the campaign contributions gravy train.

  5. monkman

    Some ten paragraphs in before we get to the subject of the headline? What poorly written tripe. In the end, you and Larry Summers end up on the opposite side of the of the same counterfeit coin- both, to borrow your word, bastards and both worthless.

  6. Yearning to Learn

    Perhaps I read this post differently than JCC or HeMeantWell.

    one can struggle to make ends meet and still try to push for a ‘leftist’ economic paradigm. One saw this in Europe far longer than one did in America (although Europeans are also now ceding the battle on language in economics… with a time lag).

    Many (most?) Americans who struggle still use the ideology and the language of the American Neoliberal movement. “Free markets” and “rational consumer” and “communism” and so forth. If I hear that the top 1% are “job creaters” one more time I’m going to puke. Not to mention “government is always ineffecient” and “taxes destroy jobs” and “lowering taxes will raise revenue”. One of my “favorites” is how they’ve perverted the works of Adam Smith’s so-called “invisible hand”. But few on the left even challenge these ideas any longer, they just accept them as a given. This is what it means (in my opinion) to have ceded the battle on economic ideologies. To even mention an idea from Marx would be like admitting raping one’s daughter.

    How many American working class people take to the streets on May Day? How many Americans even know what May Day means (except the beginning of spring)? Few. Yet when I lived in Europe I’ve taken part in HUGE demonstrations on May Day.

    I’m sorry, but I agree with Mr. Ames here. My only quibble is using the word “left”… that may not be accurate. but the liberals in America have been decimated in framing economic ideologies, and have neglected labor for far too long.

    What Yves helps with is a re-defining of the words and concepts in economics. It helps to take back some words so that one can have a more forceful and effective argument, and hence dialogue. Controlling language controls the outcome.

    Someone above mentioned the French concept of “non-dit”. A more important concept is one they call “culturalisation”
    This word means “to teach” and also “too make cultured” and also “to brainwash”, all at the same time.
    Thus, during colonization of Africa the FIRST thing the French did was to set up “ecoles des fils du rois” which means “schools for the king’s children”. All chiefs/chieftans were required to send their children to these schools. The schools were exclusively in FRENCH and also about French history. This way you brainwash the children of the chiefs… allowing complete domination of the population.

    The french understood how important LANGUAGE is to teaching, and to thought.

    we need to understand the same.

    Even now, many americans know something is wrong. But they can’t articulate it well. That’s the point of this article. We as a culture have lost the language needed to fight the war of ideas against the neoliberal economic dominators.

    Hope this made sense.

  7. banger

    Your piece creates a straw man called “hippies” and then eviscerates it. The fall of the left had nothing to do with hippies who were always a small minority of counter-culturalists who believed that we ought to create a more human society within the ruins of the old. Our failure was that we were decades too early–the old system had plenty of kick. The ideology of hippies went from hard-line Marxism to anarchism and right up to libertarianism so generalizing about that movement is hard. It was a cultural and not a political movement. What you are talking about is the new-left movement which grew out of the civil rights and anti-war struggles and emphasized identity politics over class-struggle. The problem is not and was not hippies–the problem is and was identity-politics and that alienated the conservative working-class.

    As for the working-class,they fell into the culture-war scenario and were perfectly happy to support repression, war, and the hedonistic/materialistic values. I include here the working class of all colors. The left slowly abandoned class-struggle and became obsessed with identity-politics. I always thought that was a mistake and still think it is because all the oligarchs have to do (and they played it perfectly) was play one side against the other.

    I think your characterization of the hippies as somehow causing our current struggles is wrong-headed and ignorant. All sub-cultures in our society lost themselves in the culture of narcissism to the degree that shamed even the most self-indulgent hippies. In addition, I saw among hippies (I was one), the most virtuous people I have ever met and by virtue I mean in the old classical sense of the word. We took chances, we experimented, we faced beatings and persecution and the insanity of our own subconscious unlike most people today who are content to have their subconscious manipulated by the image-makers of society. Those of us who survived know the game and sit here, at lest, “hip” to what is going down. We warned everyone that what we are seeing now would happen if we continued our culture of narcissism and radical, even hysterical materialism. And, btw, “finance” is a tool not anything to glorify or and end. The economy (stupid) and our concentration on that is a sign that we have lost a sense of purpose and meaning. We need to concentrate on what is truly important, not the means to get there.

    1. Blunt

      Very nice post, Banger. Much better than the “wickerman” burning that Mark Ames supplied.

      Indeed, again Mr. Ames falls for the entire identity politics ruse: “put it to the bad ‘uns” w/ no willingness to take stock of one’s self and my “badness.”

      I’m certain the euphoria of upper class kids with the time and money to spend in Russia after the rise of Yeltsin was joyous and invigorating — but, please, wasn’t it simply another notion of “The Grand Tour” this supplied by Long Island based parents? Not seeing a lot of difference between that and some of the more self-indulgent hippies from back-in-the-day.

      There are better ways to grow solidarity between labor and the rest of the people and Mark, you should really get a clue about merging rather than alienating.

      As for supporting NC, as soon as I start getting a biweekly paycheck again I shall. But the reeducation camps in the orbit of Uranus are not very supportive ones. Perhaps Mr. Summers would do better with one in Queens or The Bronx.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        We’ve discussed here at some length about how the Dems are particularly reliant on identity politics. There was an important Dem strategist (I am blanking on his name) who was an advisor to McCarthy who decided the future did not lie with labor (meaning the lower middle class generally) but with what we’d now call the rainbow coalition. This set in motion the pattern that dominates US politics on what passes for the left: socially liberal (based on the confidence that, for instance, gays will vote for a pro gay rights candidate v. someone who is not irrespective of the rest of his policies) and more conservative economically (which was taken to a new level with the pro-bank, Rubinite Hamilton project types).

        1. sidelarge

          That co-existence of social left-leaning and economic right-leaning is particularly striking in today’s Europe, as I would place most of the current European economic technocrats far to the right of Ben Bernanke.

        2. Blunt

          Yes, that has been discussed here in some detail, Yves.

          Perhaps the biggest bs ever perpetrated on both the identity groups and the working class has been the entire ID politics scam.

          Fact is that I have a hell of a lot more in common with African-American males and females who are currently out-of-work and trying to raise their kids in a meaningful way to promote qualities like dignity and compassion as well as hard work than I do with white lesbian suburbanites.

          And at this point could really give a damn less about whether a candidate is gonna maintain my ability to have a less-than civil union in NJ w/ my partner than I am concerned that the candidate will be a shoehorn to rid us of blue dogs and Chris Christie and his henchmen and women.

          Spleen feels good sometimes! :)

    2. Art Eclectic

      I have to agree as well. I’m one of those dreaded hippies and I pay attention to financial matters. It wasn’t just the Left that went skipping into fields of flowers hoping that humans were better than they appeared to be. Over on the right, the same thing happened via culture wars instigated by such luminaries as Rove. The Right bought into financial ignorance in favor of culture wars just as thoroughly as the Left did, while the oligarchs were siphoning away their jobs.

      Eventually, when the Left realized what the Money Party on the Right was doing, they got into the game themselves and courted same oligarchy to keep their power base. Now both political parties have sold out to corporate lobbyists and the FIRE sector. Money talks, SCOTUS walks and delivers a ruling opening up government to even more capture by the rentier class.

      We f’d up the last crisis and failed to act. Will we f-up this next one?

  8. nowhereman

    “So some of you have no hearts, and some of us have no shame.”
    And some of us have no money. Some of us have no Visa or Mastercard. Some of us would like to help out, but can’t.
    Thanks for making me feel ashamed of my circumstance.

    PS. you are sadly mistaken in your assessment of what being a “hippy” was all about. Alas, it has become fashionable to rewrite history to suit our prejudices.

    1. CaitlinO

      Don’t feel shamed, nowhere. Everybody’s feeling the pinch right now, everybody’s on a budget that makes the Bataan death march look like a picnic in the park. It ISN’T your fault, this was done to you by people who would screw their grandmothers for a farthing.

      I’ve gotten some extra tutoring hours in this month; I’ll make a second donation in your name.

      1. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

        I’ll make a third, though it be modest and post dated to Dec.
        We are all in this together and what matters is the degree of engagement and quality of learning that happens here.

        I found the post wonderfully humorous, but then Ames is always rigorously forthright, and gives the impression of having looked into the gaping, hideous mouth of hell and does a public service by having the guts to describe it as a warning to the rest of us.

        And in my youth, I was one of those comfy suburban brats who abhorred maths. My father and I did not have screaming fights about who I dated, but we had a few knock-down, drag outs about my superlative skills at dropping, skipping, and flunking Maths classes. He recognized –and tried to warn me — that in contemporary life, to be innumerate was to be functionally illiterate.

        Many thousands of dollars and Thousands of hours later, I give talented tutors and my apoplectic, ancient father a nod of respect. I learned maths as an adult, because it is the language of science and industry.

        But Ames’ points out that a lot of us avoided math, which left us defenseless to the depredations of Big Finance. I think his point is spot on. and I think it is a frequently overlooked point; I know engineers who figured out derivatives rapidly, while attorneys and journalists lacked the math background to work through a derivative, so are still bamboozled and intimidated.

        FWIW, I do not currently have a credit Visa/MC. This is by choice. As a 20+ year customer of what morphed into Wells Fargo, in summer 2010, without paying enough attention, I used a business credit card for several transactions that were billed to me at a 22% rate of interest. Excuse me, but I work too damn hard to put up with that sh! T.. Through the years, WF made buckets of money from me. First, I cannot fathom WTF costs them 22% to service those transactions. Second, why should I screw my customers by passing along the inflated 22% ? FTB, as my kids (and the ancient father) would say.

        I don’t need to support the oligarchs by paying 22% to them. Screw ’em.
        Card closed. End of discussion.

        So rather than be so distressed about not being pillaged by bankers via credit card debt, please be generous enough to allow me to say, “good on you!” Congratulations on not being economically preyed upon in that fashion. The fact that we are even having these conversations is, to my mind, a wonderful thing.

        Ames saw oligarchy in Russia, and he has a keen eye for spotting it.
        We ignore him at our peril, but since our federal government and Congress have been complicit in its emergence here, it is up to us to take individual action.
        You are not caught in the maw of MC/Visa, and these days I figure that qualifies for bragging rights.

        If we had a Congress worth a pile of warm spit that gave a damn about job creation, banks could not charge close to 22% on anything — especially given what they are paying the Fed for money these days. There’s a lot of potential job creation locked up in bank bonuses. At least you are not perpetuating this lunacy; there’s a silver lining here.

        At least you aren’t supporting the kind of oligarchic corruption our current credit card system represents, so ‘chin up’ as my ancient dad would say.

      2. Rex

        “everybody’s on a budget that makes the Bataan death march look like a picnic in the park.”

        I get your gist, but that was quite a bit hyperbolic, especially the day before Veteran’s day.

  9. Norman

    Reading some of the comments here, show me that there are those who were not around in the 60’s, or if they were, had just been born. The idea that the “hippies” were all youngsters, shows a lack of what took place back then. It was more than just lighting up a joint, dropping out of society, listening to “Rock & Roll”, growing your hair long, etc. The spirit back then, could be viewed today as to what the “OWS” is, another “Social Revolution”, “Young & Old” coming together to protest the B.S. perpetrated on the population by the few in power. One can’t escape the fact that it was the boomer generation that sold out the values, as well as their kids too, at least some. The problem today is the lethargic attitude of those who believe the P.R. the Plutocracy spins. Fear has replaced guts in the American psyche. The ones who understand, are still the old folks and the men & women who serve in the Military. All those who side with the 1%, delude themselves that they won’t be thrown under the bus. Just ask any veteran of these past wars that have been failures, just like Vietnam.

    1. Mike S.

      show you that not every comment is that of a boomer?
      here’s the comment I didn’t post in response to yearning to learn (and yes, I am somewhat embarrassed of the truth of it):

      “But few on the left even challenge these ideas any longer, they just accept them as a given. This is what it means (in my opinion) to have ceded the battle on economic ideologies.” – Yearning to Learn

      yes, but then:
      If one is young enough to have been raised during the time when these distortions were becoming common place, to have absorbed them by osmosis…
      To have been a teenager during the Clinton years, to have had no understanding of economics or politics at that time and certainly no deep or useful knowledge on these matters relevant to the years before that…
      To, over the next 6 or 7 years, slowly become aware of the boundlessly absurd falsehoods on which our society is based, not by conscious effort to educate oneself on these matters – after all one is occupied with some other chosen field – but primarily upon the repeated realization that once again one is being asked to accept w/o question the consequence of an idea which doesn’t pass the smell test and whose immediate consequence is detrimental to oneself…
      what then?

      Brought up within the maelstrom of economic lies and national myths have I “ceded” any argument? Or was I simply young enough, ignorant enough, deluded enough, sufficiently conditioned like a pigeon in a Skinner box until finally I awoke, just in time to find that the house of cards has come crashing down around us?

      1. aletheia33

        thanks Mike B. for weighing in. don’t be embarrassed.
        it’s still better to be awake, isn’t it?
        keep your eyes wide open,
        and i hope you will keep us posted on the progress of your awakening.

  10. Sluggeaux

    I believe that Mr. Ames is quite right to exorciate the hippies. In fact, it is their quest for self-gratification and looting while expressing disdain for any sort of labor or mathematical logic that is at the heart of the culture of the American Oligarchy. Hippie anarchism and Randian libertarianism are in many ways expressions of the same destructive and chaotic abyss of self-gratification without morality or limit. As someone intimately involved in administering the rule of law, I read this blog every day, and donated to it first thing this past Saturday morning…

    1. JCC

      I too have donated to this site, well worth it. Bottom line, though, Mr. Ames is excoriating an extremely small subset of a group whose primary aims were not self-gratification and looting.

      The protesters of the 60’s and early 70’s were not looters. The few that advocated “dropping out” of a society that was primarily devoted to self-gratification and War then, just as it seems to be today, is not another form of “self-gratification”.

      And then, just as today, most of the violence I saw back then during the protests was usually perpetrated by the police. For example, during my first week at Boston University “way back then” there was a large group of students gathered that were having a teach-in on some courses that were offered at the University designed purely as propaganda supporting the Viet Nam War and the many Corporations that were making fortunes off that War.

      It was very peaceful.

      About an hour into it, about 15 ambulances rolled up. At least 10 minutes later about 15 cop cars rolled up, a slew of cops rolled out of the cars with batons swinging. It was a very typical scene my first year there.

      I won’t get into the politics or the culture of the hippie “movement”, there is very good commentary elsewhere regarding the revisionist propaganda vs the historical facts that already exists and is far better than any words or experience that I could come up with.

      I also happen to read Mr. Ame’s writings quite often on “The Exiled” and I find that he has a lot to offer regarding his take on American Culture and politics.

      I also happen to think that this particular set of comments is way off-base relative to one single, but relatively important, sub-culture that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in America. It just continues to contribute to the primarily false meme of the uneducated “hippies” as slackers who didn’t give a sh*t about anything but flowers and pot.

      His motive for this piece is good, but he spent way too much time in Moscow dealing with Russian culture and politics… the end does not always justify the means.

  11. Mike M

    By the “left”, I’m assuming you’re talking about all of those “hippies” who never left school and became modern academia?

    Some of us actually went out into the real world, and, believe it or not, joined unions. We also read the business section, too.

  12. Ian

    Love this site, but it’s a little odd seeing multiple Bank of America adverts juxtaposed to much of the writing.

  13. Jack Straw

    “Hippie” is a poorly defined term, therefore I can argue for my own use. The “hippie-ness” I know includes “trustafarians” of varying degrees of good will, but who ultimately have the financial means to do as they please, and don’t have to be terribly realistic about how they view the world. It includes people trying to hide out or find an identity outside of whatever dreary circumstances they came from. It is also an alternative skid row for all sorts of degenerates. But, it is definitely not just that.

    The hippie-ness I find compelling includes people whose understanding of finance is comparable to anyone I am aware of. It’s worth pointing out that it’s not anti-labor to want to avoid a life with a job that is obviously a target to be eliminated as soon as it can. In other words, I think it is elemental to the hippie consciousness that no one is in business to provide jobs. Jobs come about because no one has figured out how to get something done without a person doing it. Anybody who says otherwise is mad.

    While this is maybe just appear a reiteration of the conservative saying “nobody owes you a job,” it’s a little different. It’s more, “what is it that I can do, where people I really would rather not have messing up my day, my air, etc., can’t screw with me?” And as someone with no particular means other than an ok education, ok health, and better than average abilities to learn, what “sacrifices” follow? Not taking on tons of debt? It’s killing me!

    I don’t see what’s so bad about people believing that 1950s industrial America isn’t what they have in mind as the good life. I gotta say this idea that Walter Reuther’s America is 1) the way it should be; 2) was anything other than a relatively short historical interlude; 3) something that could be again; and 4) THE “dominant” feature of what “left” should mean, is a fantasy.

    Look, I would love to unionize. I’m in a traditionally non-unionized industry, although it essentially the kind of commodity piece work system where unions were first successful. I have pretty good credentials for what I do, but I’m no better than middle-of-the-pack, being in a pool of many Ivy-league-rs with equal or more experience (in excess of 10 years, oftentimes 20).

    This industry, near as I can tell, is union-proof. And, it is not alone.

    All politicians lie about job creation. The right’s “job creators” are nothing more than “job conceders,” “hiring” when all else fails. The left, in my opinion, is rightly held in suspicion for being unduly enamored of featherbedding and “make work,” which if you really think about it, is about as monstrous an idea as was ever thought.

    I really like Mr. Ames writing, but he shares a viewpoint with Michael Lind about this idealized time in American economic history that I don’t see happening again. It’s not that I want to be right, and I hope I’m wrong.

    But, in the meantime, I gotta do my own thing.

  14. Jack Straw

    I gotta add a reference to hippie community with which I have some (that is, not a lot, other than friendship) connection: it houses about three dozen severely disabled adults and includes them in it’s for profit activities, which are in an extremely cut-throat competitive market. I find very little fault with this.

  15. BarbaraNH

    What’s with the rant against the left of the 60’s? Ames wants to blame hippies for abandoning class struggle? What is that, adolescent rebellion or something? Get a grip.
    It’s the neoliberal crowd of later generations that allowed themselves to be co-opted by the business model, not their lefty parents and grandparents.

    In any case, whoever can donate to NC should. It’s a great site that pulls no punches.

    1. j m kochevar

      ames was born in 1965. i guess every generation has a need to diss the generation preceding it…kinda like establishing your own ground or something. but by the time one reaches age 46, one should probably let it go.

      the 1930’s populace that ames lauds had the benefit of the populists and henry george close in their rear view mirror. i was born in 1948 and the after-war victor’s glow didn’t provide educator’s any felt need to inform us young’uns about the parasitical power of high ‘finance’ in political economy.

      i’m fine with ames goin’ after the Koch brothers…the hippies not so much.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      See The Century of the Self on Google Video. It describes how the 1960s anti-establishment movement/aesthetic (which you can call hippies or see as something broader) led to a rejection of a lot of types of big institutions. It spurred the human potential movement, which was then to a significant degree quite deliberately co-opted and channeled into individualistic politics, which fed into Reganinsm-Thatcherism.

  16. Susan the other

    By 1967, Haight Ashbury, and Woodstock it was already all she wrote. We boomers have spent our entire adult lives struggling with a dysfunctional economy. The Hippies were just our Ghost Dance. This great American failure happened, ironically, because our American model of markets and capitalism was too beneficial to people in power. Debt made no difference as long as the model could grow, could be exported with some success. But the underlying problem always was that growth was fully subsidized by the taxpayer, either directly with special deals or indirectly with Korea, Vietnam, South America, etc; wars and conflicts. I bet you could do a research project that demonstrates we haven’t had any significant “economic” growth for a century. Its too bad we Americans never made a coherent plan for this rainy day. Or did we? Did the puppeteers plan to turn on their own country with a vengeance when the going got tough? Strange democracy.

    1. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

      Actually, if you look at data for fisheries, timber, and other basic resources, they began to decline noticeably in the 70s. At that same time, lifespans were lengthening, the population started to surge.

      Many so-called hippies were from families of 2-4 kids, whereas their parents were generally from families with as many as 8 or more siblings.
      In other words, the underlying economics of US life was shifting post birth-control, in an era of widespread public education.

      The social shifts took place against a background of resource stressors.
      Arguably, policies since the late 70s have basically been one slow, gigantic resource grab.

  17. EmilianoZ

    LOL! Actually Chris Hedges also indulges in some hippy-punching. He calls them “hedonists”.

    Here’s a paragraph from his past column:

    “The divisions between the poor and the working class on the one hand and the white, liberal middle class on the other reach back to the Vietnam anti-war movement. The New Left in the 1960s was infused with the same deadly doses of hedonism that corrupted earlier 20th century counterculture movements such as the bohemians and the beats. The antagonism between the New Left during the Vietnam War and the working class and the poor, whose sons were shipped to Vietnam while the sons of the white middle class were usually handed college deferments, was never bridged. Working-class high schools, including many high schools with large numbers of African-Americans, sent 20 to 30 percent of their graduates to Vietnam every year while college graduates made up only 2 percent of all troops sent to Vietnam in 1965 and 1966. Anti-war activists were seen by those locked out of the white middle class as spoiled children of the rich who advocated free love, drug use, communism and social anarchy.The unions and the white working class remained virulently anti-communist. They spoke in the language of militarism and the Cold War and were unsympathetic to the anti-war movement as well as the civil rights movement.”

    However, having read that, I think the hippies were right about the war.

  18. shame!

    Funniest NC post ever, with gratuitous crippled-puppy cruelty, pedophiles, and obsessively precise brand-name gluttony, and all you people can do is latch onto hippies?

  19. davver

    If your a regular working class white guy, what has the left had to offer you for the last 30 years?

    If the answer you come up with is “not much”, then you can understand why its been a failed movement.

    1. Yearning to Learn

      but isn’t this precisely the point of the article?

      As I said above, I would have worded Mr. Ames argument slightly differently, (the use and attack on “hippies” has derailed an excellent article IMO).
      I think his ideas have merit.

      the Leftist movements of the 1960’s did challenge many long held beliefs. Part of (not all) the leftist movements included challenges to the economic paradigm of the time. (hence the emergence of communes and co-ops as example).

      but as time went on, the economic Leftist ideals were neglected in favor of other policies (for instance minority, women, abortion and environmental issues to name a few).

      worse, many (most?) of the Leftist communities stopped engaging in the economic ideals brought forth by the conservative and neoliberal pundits. Thus, over time they were accepted at face value.

      there is no either/or. The Leftist movement could have continued to espouse a different economic platform WHILE CONTINUING efforts in the racial, sexual, and environmental fronts.

      But they didn’t. and this is the problem. So now we have decades of people who see a problem, but don’t have the tools needed to quantify the problem.

      as for your question Davver
      If your a regular working class white guy, what has the left had to offer you for the last 30 years?

      the answer is: A lot.
      however, they have failed miserably at showing and explaining this.
      worse, they are readily losing ground because the average middle class white guy CAN’T EVEN SEE who is “on his side”

      Working class white people benefit from
      -environmental laws that help keep your air/water clean
      -anti-war policies that keep your kids at home instead of half way across the globe fighting and dying
      -labor laws. they are fighting to keep you earning a livable wage and also a safe work environment.
      -health insurance. the left wants you to be able to have basic medical needs met
      -Social Security

      This is just to name a few.

      But don’t take my word for it. Just look at what the right has to offer you
      -pollution in your back yards.
      -terrible working conditions. near slave labor if possible
      -high priced private insurance that working class people can’t afford (30M and counting)

      the rightist ideal is China. Working in near slave labor conditions in abject poverty with no worker rights, then cheering as you die without medical insurance as example.

    2. gog

      If you’re a working-class guy of any color who depends on what passes for the left in America, well, naturally you’re SOL. Fortunately, the international left has arrived to show discerning people the ropes (in the wider world, it’s not the left, it’s just the overwhelming majority.) Internationalism from below is going to undermine the kleptocratic police state you submit to, so cheer up.

  20. steven


    one quirk in the tip jar… least for me. when i click “donate” it takes me to paypal to log in, but then it directs me to my account history page.

    it should be bringing up an “invoice” automatically for a payment to be approved. instead i had to go thru the regular process of entering email address of who i wanted to send money to.

    i gave up. then went to the monthly donation. this one worked the way i would expecct it to.

    thanks for all the efforts yves! currently reading your book and enjoying it.

  21. Jack Straw

    And the Civil Rights movement, too. Now, I think it’s a (somewhat) fair criticism that hippie-ism held politics at arm’s length, even though that’s not the CW, and maybe an over-generalization.

    I do find it interesting that hippies are really hated (and have been all along). IMO, the OWS feature that seems to enrage the most is the hippie-esque “no demands,” mere occupation “being there” part. The mere fact that they’re there really drives the (obvious) critics insane. There’s is a ton of inchoate meaning to the occupation itself, not least of which is the neutering of the standard “get a job!” taunt.

    This is anecdotal, but related. I’ve known people who really get bent out of shape over “art cars.” It’s funny, but it’s a vehemence that I can only describe as a reaction to a perceived desecration of the holy automobile. One the one hand, expression of “individuality” is central to auto marketing. And the auto is a real mobile unit of property, and the folks I’m describing would usually be your “you can do anything you want with your property” types. But not this. The reaction is a version of Maj. Frank Burns’s “it’s ok to be different, just as long as you do it like everybody else.” Tocqueville described this as the illusion of free expression in America. Expression is extremely free within certain parameters, but transgress those at your extreme peril. The car as your personal expression is totally unambiguously ok within the prescribed bounds of the factory color chart, and do-dad stripes, etc., but it is most certainly NOT your property to do with as you wish, for it is sacred space belonging to … I dunno. Like I said, this is anecdotal, but was always fascinating.

    Now, I happen to think OWS is seriously off track on the issue of corporations and campaign finance, mostly because it’s a problem that can’t just be legislated away. It’s a far deeper “constitutional” problem of how to reconcile one-person one-vote, with huge disparities of wealth. But whatever. Different conversation.

    The OWS-ers, IMO, exhibit something else about free expression or the lack thereof, though: they’re not observing the conventions of acceptable protest (even acceptable unpeacable assembly). Instead of it being transactional – we do this, you do that – it’s performance art, and that’s just not ok.

  22. PQS

    I’m too young to have been a hippie and my parents were the Silent Majority….

    Yet Ames’ accusation resonates with me….I, too, ignored Wall Street for most of my adult life until they crashed the economy. Then I realized I had to Get Educated on what in the world they were doing and why we were all in this handbasket.

    Private capital forthcoming.

  23. rotter

    The word “Hippie” gets thrown around too much. It was not “hippies” who were responsible for the failure of the “The New Left” it was all of you twats in the academic ivory tower. Many of you are STILL there, demanding that the lefts highest priority should be getting the letter “N” be stricken from the English language and that Isreal should be Allowed to Nuke Iran.

  24. don

    “It was the hippies who decided half a century ago that finance was beneath them, so they happily ceded the entire field—finance, business, economics, money—otherwise known as “political power”—to the other side.”

    Lets put aside the NC self-promotional fundraising for a sec, and dwell on the above.

    Clearly you know nothing about hippies. Fact is, hippies have over the years been small business upstarts. Retailers, artists, skilled laborers, pot growers . . . and the list goes on. How do I know this? Hell, I live among them, here in the Great Pacific Northwest.

    As for the Left having little grasp of economy (forget finance) and labor. Well, I guess you’re talking about the liberal, cream puff left. The real left haven’t turned their backs on labor or economy, nor have they been sideswiped by culture wars. How do I know? Hell, I live among them.

    Do you live in Manhattan?

    1. rotter

      Don I think “hippie” is used (incorrectly) as a catch-all phrase to mean “anyone – from – the – 60’s- without – a -buzz – cut – who – didnt – work – for – george – wallace”.
      It now means anyone who opposes unchecked police state millitarism and evil unregulated freemarket insanity. OH! also anyone who still questions the heroic anti communist crusade in Vietnam, according the pap one finds on the History Channel.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      You actually proved Ames’ point. Small businesses are not part of the power structure. Look at how they regularly get lip service but are bypassed in policy measures. Do they have any clout in DC, compared to, say, the health care industry, or the banks, or military contractors? And have small businesses had any concern about Wall Street and the the big dealer banks before the crisis? Were they even aware of the debates over derivatives (the 1994 fixed income derivative train wreck, which destroyed more value than the 1987 crash), the slow erosion of Glass Steagall, the debate over CDS? Nay, in fact they probably thought the Greenspan put and the stock market was their friend. Look at how many people got rich, or seemed to, in the dot com bubble.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Wrong. The donations are up VERY big today, both in $ and in #s and that is not at all typical for this late in fundraiser. Just because you were offended does not mean what he said did not resonate with others.

          1. Goin' South

            Defending this obviously controversial decision by referring to one day’s data? Short term thinking, much?

      1. don

        Of course, you raise a straw dog by referring to small businesses in general, when I specifically said HIPPIE small business owners.

        So what do you know about hippie small business owners, when living in NYC/Manhattan, the anthropocene center of the universe?

        I’ve known lots of small business hippie owners over the last several decades, and allow me to inform you that many of them are organic farmers, successful artists (not defining success hear necessarily by how much money they make), an other such skilled and talented individuals who, contrary to your condescending attitude, are not right wing, ignorant slobs who don’t have a clue. No, and this will surely come as a surprise to you, they are every bit (if not considerably more) intelligent than you are.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Wow, are YOU thin skinned. Did you even read what I wrote? Your reply was 100% projection.

          The post is about how the left abdicated finance and how finance is a nexus of power, ergo, the left ceded tons of influence. I get a comment on how a lot of hippies are small businessmen. I reply (longer form) that that actually proves the point, since small businesses have pretty much no real policy clout in DC.

          I said nothing re the right wing and was not condescending.

    3. sheepdog

      Thanks. You probably understand that a successful hippie commune was the last thing the finance world wanted to become a model of what could be.
      Ames does not understand that hippie’s were so thoroughly demonized because any modeling success of the movement could have led to others raised in the 1950’s McCarthy era educational system questioning the values and idea of that brainwashing.
      Currently the same demonizing is being done to the Occupy model as was done with the hippie model. It worked in the 70’s to overcome the hippie model so the oligarchs must figure it will work again.

  25. Goin' South

    It must be the hippie in me that empathizes with such a nasty X-er as Ames. Coming of age under Reagan, when Rick Springfield and Olivia Newton-John passed as music, had to be rough. It’s easy to understand their envy of the Boomer’s vanguard.

    If hippies abandoned finance, then X-ers like Ames must have abandoned history. The hippies led the Left to discard Labor? That’s hilarious. The Labor led by Nixon-hugging George Meany? The Labor that fought against an end to employment discrimination? The Labor that pissed on the antiwar movement, sometimes literally from atop the girders?

    We don’t need to blame the hippies for “Labor’s” woes. The AFL-CIO unions did a fine job of fucking themselves by selling the inheritance they received from the great battles of the 30s for a bowl of go-along-to-get-along porridge.

  26. indio007

    As the child of a so-called “hippie” have you people learned nothing. Your still arguing over meaningless labels and stereotypes 35 years later. I think people that grew up in that era have under estimated the efficacy Psy-OP that was run on them via “Pop Culture”. I know it’s hard to accept that y’all where a victim of a concerted effort of brainwashing.

    Maybe you should start asking yourself why Alexander Shulgin went to Bilderberg meetings hanging out with Alan Greenspan and why Tim Leary was a CIA informant.

    In that era almost every single reported/journalist had Military intel or CIA ties.

    I mean c’mon … hippies don’t know math or finance and that’s why the world is screwed up?

    Anyone that believes that has yet to come down from that orange sunshine they took in 1973.

  27. sidelarge

    I think some of the readers are overreacting to the author’s use of the word “hippie”. It’s probably indeed a catch-all word used for convenience, but it’s practically impossible to deny that something terribly wrong happened between the counter-culture era and the rise of Reaganites, and that a significant part of the “left” should bear some responsibility.

    It’s actually well-documented that some of the “hippie” elements contributed even to the rise of the likes of Michael Milken. They even found some “counter-cultural” elements in off-beat finance, which would be absorbed into the traditional American finance later.

    Even outside those extreme examples, I would mostly agree with Mark Ames on the thesis that the left largely stayed complacent or blissfully ignorant of the big shift rightward in American economic matters.

  28. skippy

    Sigh… Right Hand of God… Left Hand, well you know what that means… Its almost a willful, self inflicted wound…methinks.

    Skippy…some things are as old as the hills. When this dynamic can be mended, a *Paradigm Shift* occurs. For long as the debate is framed in good and biblical evil terms, in Gods Country well…

  29. Justicia

    “One of their greatest successes, whether by design or not, has been the gutting of journalism, shrinking it down to a manageable size where its integrity can be drowned in a bathtub.”

    Ditto: the environmental movement. It became the corral for a few national green groups that focus on policy and litigation and get the vast majority of media attention, foundation funding and corporate support. Big Green groups now “partner” with corporations on “sustainability”; they supported corn ethanol subsidies and lobbied (to no avail) for “market-based” solutions to climate change — even though they had no framework to address “subprime carbon”credits (i.e., credits for future greenhouse reductions that are less than promised or nil.)

    This has come at the expense of on-the-ground environmental organizing, person-to-person, neighbor-to-neighbor, that community-based organizations that fight dioxin from the local incinerator and odors violations at the sewage treatment plant.

    Like the labor and civil rights movements, the professionalization of environmentalism has weakened the movement.

  30. Paul Tioxon


    If that sounds as stupid as hippies who can’t add and unions that were caught flat footed and nobody did anything as important as you did Mark Ames, Yves, Phillip and the rest of you that thinks you’ve personally invented morality and political courage because you know more about Forex, balance of trade accounts and synthetic CDS, well, good for you, here’s a cookie and a gold star.

    Is this the ladies auxillary of the American Enterprise Institute masquerading as an independent voice of reason, because I can’t tell anymore when the finance experts and people who can count and do calculus open their mouths about anything vaguely political. The anecdotal pronouncements about American history, Marxism, the left, hippies, drug culture and all of the other lame memes from a 1969 dentist’s office collection of Reader’s Digest indicates that there is absolutely no understanding what so ever about what went on this country and who fought tooth and nail against deindustrialization, much less the wars and discrimination, which leveled entire cities like Detroit and made the term rust belt an after thought and shrug of self satisfied suburban moderate soccer moms and Nascar dads.

    While you still can, aim your big guns against MERS, call for grand jury investigations that you can document as criminal fraud in fiance. I really don’t want to hear how stupid the votech biz majors are when it comes to understanding human behavior when it reaches the complex levels beyond the well documented and thoroughly debunked 100 plus years ago Adam Smith failures. Of course that crap is obsolete, what was written 230 years ago that has any validity? Almost any rap song, country music hit or any Bruce Springteen album will tell me more about wage suppression than anything I’ve ever read here.

    So, folks, stick to your core business, stop the hippie punching, the Marxists gives me the creeps, the I feel so sorry for Joe sixpack who was betrayed by his union leadership meme. We all feel sorry that you had your Wall St Occupied. You must be so violated and feel so betrayed by the glass ceiling at Goldman and Morgan, the failure of the rule of law, and the inability of Eric Holder to arrest one big potato that you all used to respect. I find it interesting that there is never any mention of the monumentally outrageous plans of Paul Ryan but plenty of advice for Liz Warren, plenty of Obama is a Hitler, trojan horse, the destroyer of worlds, social security, medicare and will call for the genetic mutation and elimination of the opposable thumb making us useless as tool makers, but the statutory dismantling of collective bargaining, union bashing, is always prefaced with the condescending smugness of the know it all pedant. If you want to know the main reason for the reactionary right wing turn around, let me explain it to you in purely emotion terms, they killed John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Jackson State and Kent college students as well as thousands of others to put down a tidal wave of change. Power has always flowed from the barrel of gun, not the pen during Econ 101 lectures. This is just a pathetic piece of writing that does not even rise to the level of pseudo intellectual.

    If you even use the term hippie as some sort of valid category of political analysis, you are an idiot. It was a perjorative term of derision used by people who were hip to what was going on to describe the week end warriors in their Sears ponchos who would show up in the city on the week ends to play beatnik and then go back to their privilege lives of prosperity.!

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      You go, brother. A righteous screed.

      And if you want to look at another reason for the “turn around”, you need to think of the consequences flowing from the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. Johnson knew at the time that the South might thereby be lost to the Democratic Party, and that the coalition might be shattered. And Nixon was right there to take advantage of this with his “Southern Strategy”. Conservative Democrats they might have been, those Representatives and Senators from the Solid South, but there was a lot of New Deal Populism still flowing in their veins. Johnson did the courageous and the correct thing in spearheading this legislation, but the price was steep. Racial equality before the law, in education, and in the workplace was the third rail in that region of the nation, and a realignment proceeded apace.

      The labor unions made the strategic error of thinking that they had a seat at the table. Heh. The knives in the hands of Capital/Management were always out for them. As soon as the technological means were available, and the trade had been liberalized to permit large scale importing from abroad where massively favorable labor arbitrage worked in their favor, the old-school industrial unions were toast. Couple this with the rise of the corporate raiders, completely uninterested in the perpetuation of ongoing enterprises, only in the money to be made from leveraged buyouts and asset stripping, and workers, unionized or not, were in for a rogering that they would never recover from.

      I could go on with thoughts on the rise of the Religious Right and such, and the pernicious influences from other quarters that had major effects.

      Everybody got lazy. Everybody got accustomed to the Imperial mindset and the prerogatives that they felt entitled to. Civic education was gutted. Citizens were slyly manipulated into considering themselves as “consumers”.

      Did that boomer generation shit the bed? Why, yes, and those of us whose aspirations were higher are disappointed, particularly those of us of the Hippie persuasion.

      But let’s lay it off on the Dirty Fucking Hippies. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      1. Fiver

        I’d say more than just “disappointed”.

        Us Boomers are going to go down as the most despised Generation of all time having utterly folded in the face of the greatest crises in US and world history now underway.

    2. Fiver

      Now just a second. It is TRUE that the “left” in whatever form you wish to describe it post-WWII, essentially folded up shop (not when Vietnam War ended, but when the US began to draw down its forces), and went either home for good, or got lost in the Maze of Stupidity, the search for the Ultra Specialness of Me not just of single-issue/identity politics but along with the rest of hyper-consumptive Boomers, wallowed in Self as the One and True God. The “public good” no longer resonated.

      But the pivotal change was media. A thriving, increasingly knowledgable counter-media that had evolved to challenge the War and corporate criminal behavior generally was snapped up one after another once the War was done, and revenues tight – they were either shut down completely, or turned into MSM clones. It really, really mattered that good people with solid intellectual credentials had no outlet to get their ideas out. Most of the people on the “left” I know (and that’s many) have no interest in finance at all. None. No matter that I saved a number of them from ruin via the Internet and housing bubbles, they simply go blank.

      That is a HUGE disadvantage if we are to do anything whatever to convince the broad public to abandon it’s knee-jerk fealty to whatever idiocy spews forth from the Admin or CNN or the New York Times.

  31. Jeff

    What’s the mailing address to send checks to
    Yves Smith?

    Who is the payee?

    We don’t do Paypal, it’s owned by Wall Street
    Bastards that skim a percentage.

    We’d send cash but that’s kind of risky.

    1. Jeff

      “When all else fails, read the directions”
      (posted elsewhere)

      I’m answering my own question for the benefit of others who foreswear Paypal and credit cards:

      “If you are allergic to PayPal, you can send a check (or multiple post dated checks, if you want to spread out payments) in the name of Aurora Advisors Incorporated

      to Aurora Advisors Incorporated,
      903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor,
      New York, NY 10075.

      Please also send an e-mail to with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ en route in the message) so we can count your contribution in the total number of

  32. We can be heroes

    “Your donations wont end up paying Ezra Klein’s salary.”

    I’m still laughing over this line. Mark Ames is a master at this sort of very funny and precise polemics–I’d love to see his take on NPR.

    And I agree with his high praise of Naked Capitalism; he’s correct to note that this site is an important educational tool in interrogating and countering neo-liberal ideology, which is transparent and ubiquitous, in compelling and useful ways.

  33. John Steinsvold

    An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”. She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

    John Steinsvold

    Perhaps in time the so-called dark ages will be thought of as including our own.
    –Georg C. Lichtenberg

  34. Sam

    This is just a rant and not why we read and support NC. Maybe he should probably post before cocktail hour.

  35. MisterG

    I am a great fan of this Yves and this site, but I am profoundly disturbed by the sleazy hippie-punching in this diatribe. Has the author been taking lessons from Obama and his minions? Yves, I think you owe your readers an apology.

      1. Kathleen4

        Skippy, ths one’s for you…eh


        I gladly donated, but your comment on B of A supporters being dumb enough to support the opposition is childish. Get some R&R and maybe give a thought to a hippie from the early 1900s:

        “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.”
        “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
        -Albert Einstein

        You, myself, and the rest of the human race might do well to adopt a less self-satisfactory form of individualism; one that would allow everyone to admit their own lack of intelligence rather than pick on the “dumb ones”. That’s smug.

        Best of luck with your donations and the purposes they serve. I truly appreciate the NC site.

  36. Karen W

    I learn from Yves every day. She is the first and possibly last blogger that I will support monthly. I’m still a neophyte trying to figure out what the hell is going on but know enough to know that this site is invaluable. Thank you, Yves and thanks to all of your avid readers for their incisive comments.

  37. Fiver

    I find it really ironic how often I see the word “meme” used here (and increasingly elsewhere) given it came from one of the most politically destructive books on genetics ever written – The Selfish Gene.

  38. Fíréan

    Investigate journalism is why I have been reading this blog ; an education into, and exposure of, the wrong doing otherwise not covered, or covered up, by mainstream and other media formats. An education into the economic and financial world has been necessary to understand the environment in which this corruption has taken place, continues to take place and how.

    I do not come here for ” . . . politics and ideology”, ( though accept that it is here), and the education in that respect is of how others are stuck in an old paradigm of marching to the left-right concept, seemingly the author here too.

    The author’s predominant reference to the left wing of the political spectrum in this posting gives rise to concern, on my part, that there may be a political agenda here of which i was not previously aware (?).

    As for the denigrating of hippies, it’s too ridiculous to comment on and time has been spent already by others on that straw man.

  39. Anarcissie

    I don’t want to spoil everthing, but I just read a well-reasoned article by a known hippie on good old Usenet from 2002 or 2003 analyzing various monetary facts and concluding that the real estate market would soon crash. Of course that’s not 1983 or 1993, which would have been more prescient. But it’s not so bad, considering what everyone else was saying.

    As for labor, as I recall it was the labor union leadership of the 1960s and ’70s who chose to despise hippies and the New Left and to support the War in Vietnam and other imperial exercises, plus capitalism at home.

    On the whole, I think the ‘hippie’ concept as an element of politics has now been beaten to death. It is true OWS are ‘hippies’ but (in part due to the prejudices and canards recited by Ames) it will soon be efficiently eliminated, I am sure.

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