By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives.
This column was prompted in part by reading RJ Eskow’s column, which alerted me to Anne Applebaum’s September 13, 2010 column celebrating Britain’s embrace of austerity and the Conservative Party.
I was already planning a piece responding to Applebaum’s Washington Post column about the consequences of European austerity published on July 25, 2012 (her birthday) and the contrast to a Wall Street Journal news story that same day announcing that austerity had, as we predicted, thrown Britain back into recession when I read Eskow’s column.
With the U.K. in a double-dip recession that is the worst in 50 years, the data also add to pressure on Treasury chief George Osborne, who faces calls to ease the pace of [austerity] measures that critics say are stifling growth.
Applebaum’s 2010 column on Britain’s embrace of austerity deserves to live in infamy. Eskow is correct that she takes palpable glee in economically illiterate actions certain to throw Britain back into recession and harm the working class in order to make the wealthiest Brits even wealthier.
LONDON—Vicious cuts.” “Savage cuts.” “Swingeing cuts.” The language that the British use to describe their new government’s spending-reduction policy is apocalyptic in the extreme. The ministers in charge of the country’s finances are known as “axe-wielders” who will be “hacking” away at the budget. Articles about the nation’s finances are filled with talk of blood, knives, and amputation.
And the British love it. Not only is austerity being touted as the solution to Britain’s economic woes; it is also being described as the answer to the country’s moral failings. On Oct. 20, the government will announce $128 billion worth of spending cuts, and many seem positively excited about it. OK, the trade unions are not so excited, but Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats—the smaller party in the governing coalition—is overjoyed. Recently, he gave a speech in which he explained that tough choices had to be made, so that “we will be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say we did the best for them.
As a journalist, Applebaum knows not to bury the lead. She, appropriately, packs here two first paragraphs with her major themes. Those themes include the most vital issues of economics and governance that (modestly) democratic governments face. Britain was just emerging from recession. The nature of the recovery – modest and slow – was accurately predicted by many economists who had noted that the stimulus measures were grossly inadequate, but barely sufficient to make a quick “double-dip” back into recession unlikely. These accurate economic predictions, of course, did lead to praise for the economists or large popular efforts for greater stimulus to build on the modest successes of the modest stimulus.
Instead, the framing became that sovereign debt, even in the midst of recovery from a “Great Recession” represented “moral failings.” Implicit in that framing was the concept that a government with a sovereign currency (like Britain) was just like a private household. From the standpoint of a private household, debt was framed as “moral failings” and conflated with being “profligate” and placing “our children and grandchildren” in dire straits as they tried to dig their households out of the debt burdens we had placed on them. Under this framing, we had not placed those burdens on our progeny for any higher purpose (such as defeating the Bosch), but rather for venal, selfish purposes – we used the debt to buy toys and then, childishly, demanded that the State bail us out of the inevitable results of our profligacy.
None of this had much resemblance to reality. Nations with sovereign currencies (the Brits wisely refused to join the euro) are not remotely like private households when it comes to debt. The simile is one of the classic errors that economists always have to explain to students. Nations adopt “automatic stabilizers” in order to make recessions far less severe and recoveries quicker. The stabilizers work by acting in a counter-cyclical fashion. Austerity during the recovery from a recession is a pro-cyclical policy that makes the recession worse and harms the recovery.
The pro-austerity framing that Applebaum described also means that austerity must represent superior morality and that the greater the austerity we champion the greater our moral superiority. This explains the competition in calling for “savage” cuts and the delight in gore. The more programs that aid the poor that we “amputate”; the greater moral superiority we demonstrate. It reverses the Gospels, but it certainly is an attractive framing for the wealthy.
The Labour Party was not worth discussing. The British had just been repudiated in the polls. It was, in any event, the “New” Labour Party that explicitly repositioned itself as the friend of big business, particularly giant finance. The “Lib-Dems” were delighted to help the Conservatives “take an axe” to social programs that aided the poor and working classes. Nick Clegg asserted that austerity programs certain to cause large numbers of parents to lose their jobs while slashing working class wages for those who did not lose their jobs was essential to help working class children. The program was economically illiterate, self-destructive, brutal to the working class – and wildly popular at the outset. The Conservatives represent the wealthy and are proud of it – they salivated at the prospect of savage austerity aimed at the working class.
Only the unions were left as reliable defenders of working class families, but they were politically powerless to do so. Applebaum, of course, gives them no credit for their defense.
Applebaum then combines faux moral superiority with faux history, to explain the moral virtues of austerity during a Great Recession.
For these [Conservative and Lib-Dem] voters, the very idea of instant gratification is anathema, in theory if not in practice. And they elected this government because they’ve convinced themselves they’ve had enough of it.
Austerity, by contrast, has a deep appeal. Austerity is what made Britain great. Austerity is what won the war.
No, none of this is true. Leaving millions of people unemployed harms the people, their families, and the national and global economy. It is pure economic waste and a terrible social harm that devastates families. Causing people to lose their jobs is not rational under either a “long run” or “short run” perspective. It has nothing to do with a desire for “instant gratification.” The typical unemployed adult spent over 12 years developing his or her skills. They did not rely on “instant gratification.”
Fiscal austerity is not what “won the war.” The opposite is true. In the fiscal policy realm it was massive fiscal deficits – debt – that won the war. Applebaum is falsely conflating household sacrifices with fiscal austerity. Here is a thought exercise. Senior British officials have made the absurd statement that the government is “out of money.” If Germany invaded Britain today would the Brits surrender because they were “out of money?” Of course not, they would run however large a deficit was required to defend Britain from the invasion. That would not destroy Britain’s economy. Instead, it would take Britain out of recession and produce full employment. Self-sacrifice was important during World War II. The U.S. and Britain used rationing. (Indeed, Britain’s rationing continued long after the end of the war.) Households donated silk and metal to the war effort – and their children’s and spouses’ lives. Those sacrifices are moral issues. Fiscal austerity by a nation with a sovereign currency is not a moral issue. In the context of a Great Recession it is simply a self-destructive fiscal policy. A potlatch, (rivals compete in destroying valuable household possessions in order to gain status) involves self-sacrifice but it is simply self-destructive as an economic policy. Britain’s austerity was a massive potlatch in which the parties competed in claiming moral superiority based on their zeal in competing to destroy working class families.
The Conservatives generated a faux “moral panic” among the British. Britain had too small a deficit, not too large a deficit, to recovery quickly from the Great Recession. Fiscal austerity in that context was so self-destructive that it would virtually guarantee throwing the nation back into recession. Recessions are the primary drivers of national debt and deficits because they cause such a dramatic fall in revenues and greater need for services to those who lose their jobs. Here is one of the most common errors people make about fiscal policy. A nation suffering from a Great Recession cannot simply “decide” to end its budget deficit. Consider why this is true. A nation can try to end a deficit by some combination of cutting spending and raising taxes. The problem is that in a recession private sector demand is already grossly inadequate to employ all the people who want to work. Cutting public sector spending (demand) while private sector demand is grossly inadequate is an excellent way to make the recession (and budget deficit) much worse. Raising taxes during a weak recovery from a Great Recession will further reduce already grossly inadequate private sector demand and cause the nation to fall back into recession (and increase the budget deficit). Britain has a sovereign currency. Its debt is not remotely “ruinous.” It can borrow money at incredibly low interest rates. Fiscal stimulus in response to a Great Recession has no “immoral” aspect and is economically desirable. The moral panic was a lie on both moral and economic dimensions. It was lie deliberately generated for political advantage. It has resulted in deeply immoral policies that harm working class families and the national economy. British austerity represents a spectacular “own goal.” Applebaum wrote her 2010 column to deride America as lacking the moral clarity of the British because we had failed to embrace austerity. Her prime targets for austerity were: “Medicare, Medicaid, [and] Social Security.” It is always the most successful, most popular government programs that conservatives are most eager to destroy because it is those programs that falsify their dogmas and pose their greatest political barriers in attacking the 99%. Applebaum was eager to generate the same faux moral panic in America and mimic Britain’s self-destructive assault on working class families.
How would Applebaum react in her July 25, 2012 column to the demonstration that austerity was throwing Britain and much of the Eurozone back into recession? Would she admit that austerity had failed economically and morally? Of course not, she was still propounding the faux moral panic about budget deficits that was crushing European economies and workers’ families. Indeed, she claimed that the “silver lining” of the austerity-induced second recession was the suffering it caused.
Another day, another set of crisis headlines — but there is a silver lining: Finally, Europeans are being forced to face up to decades’ worth of fundamentally dishonest politics. Since the 1970s, one government after the next has spent, borrowed and then inflated its way out of the subsequent debt. Then they recovered — only to spend, borrow and inflate once again.
She reveals again her real target – she wants to destroy the social programs that have improved the lives of the working class. She claims that social programs are merely political bribes to induce the working class to vote for leftist politicians. She glories in the fact that the euro is not a sovereign currency, exposing every euro nation to what is effectively the ability of the bond markets to veto social and fiscal policies. She loves the fact that the bond markets hate higher working class wages and social programs that aid working class families. She recognizes that when nations joined the euro they surrendered a key aspect of their economic sovereignty and that delights her.
Successive leaders in all of those countries have tried to “buy” the electorate with elaborate pensions, state-sector employment and other perks. Banks across the continent and around the world have greedily facilitated them.
Now they can’t. Though no one recognized it at the time, joining the euro was like adopting the gold standard: It meant that individual governments couldn’t inflate their way out of trouble anymore nor pass on to the next generation the bill for today’s expenditures — as they still can in the United States and Britain. All along, it has been a mistake to describe the euro zone’s difficulties as a “currency crisis.” In fact, it’s a political crisis, caused by an addiction to debt, and it requires a political solution. Electorates have learned the truth: They are bankrupt. Whatever decisions the European Union now makes, future recovery depends on how much of the plain facts ordinary people can bear to absorb.
Never mind that inflation of general price levels (as opposed to financial bubbles) was actually never severe in nations that had joined the euro zone. Applebaum’s schadenfreude is unlimited. She loves the euro zone disaster her austerity policies generated because she believes that the disaster will destroy the social programs she despises and bring the extreme right to power. I think she is wrong. Latin America has elected some right wing leaders in response to the failures of the Washington Consensus, but it has largely elected leftist leaders who ran on promises to oppose the Washington Consensus.
The Republicans in general and Governor Romney in particular, are (at least rhetorically) supporting extreme austerity. This is remarkable because Romney has twice said that austerity would harm our economy. (Representative Ryan’s fiscal plans are so vague and incoherent that they could actually be stimulative.) Rather than run against insane austerity policies that have proven to be economic and moral failures, President Obama has embraced his own fiscal incoherence. He talks of the government running out of money and being just like a household and is one of the worst of the enablers of Simpson-Bowles’ self-destructive austerity ideas. Simpson and Bowles, along with Peter G. Peterson are the leading American proponents of the faux moral panic. Obama’s repeated embrace of the faux moral panic has made it impossible for him to make a coherent attack on Republican embrace of austerity policies that have devastated much of Europe. Obama will pay a great political price for trying to be all things to all voters on the issue of austerity. Opposing a self-destructive economic policy, premised on lies and designed to harm popular, successful programs created by the Democratic Party to benefit working class families should have been Obama’s signature economic policy. Instead, Obama tries to be in favor of stimulus and austerity. In Europe, Geithner urges the euro zone to reject austerity. In Washington, D.C., he urges Obama to reject stimulus. Obama chose Simpson and Bowles even though everyone knew they would propose austerity and cuts to Social Security. The administration is so incoherent on these issues that no one believes that it has any economic principles. This is not pragmatism, it is dishonesty. It is bad economics, bad morality, and bad politics.
To claim with regard to austerity that “the British love it” is patent garbage. The Conservatives preaching austerity came out of the 2010 election with only 36% of the vote and the Liberal-Democrats were put into power with them in the hope (and belief) that the Lib-Dems would mitigate the worst of Tory excesses, and that largely because of the rejection of Gordon Brown. Clegg and the Lib-Dems followed Obama in betraying the hopes placed in them, for which they will pay a far higher price electorially than Obama will, and the cries against austerity as a patently wrong direction are now almost as loud from the right as the from the left. The only problem is that Cameron and Osbourne are simply incapable of coming up with an alternative.
Not precisely about britain, but anyway
Oh joy! “Banksters in Furs” would be a more apt title. Couple that, (pun intended,) with “The Story of ‘O'” and we have an overriding, corrective description of todays politics. Add to this LBRs beloved “The Iron Heel,” and we have ‘future history’ writ large.
Whip me with wet noodles, please.
As usual, the idiots can expect to eventually pay for their fun with thier skins..maybe that idea turns them on too..
OK, I give up. I know that “The Iron Heel” is a novel by Jack London which is a very believable “future history,” such as Heinlein wrote in the late 1930s and 40s, but I’m stumped. Who, or what, is the “LBR” that loves it?
“Democrats were put into power with them in the hope (and belief) that the Lib-Dems would mitigate the worst of Tory excesses, and that largely because of the rejection of Gordon Brown.”
I love how you categorize spending cuts as “excesses.” It demonstrates a remarkable agility with the English language. Bravo!
On the Continent “austerity” is focused primarily on the hugely bloated “public sector”, i.e. the Socialist based societies whereby ten people are in place to do the job one person can do.
Please back up your claims with actual reliable data, otherwise you are just spouting right wing talking points.
Actually the public sector is comparably efficient as the private sector. But I see that hypocritical Thatcherism is still on rampage: in Europe as in the Internet.
Under Thatcherism/Reaganism we have seen all profitable public companies to be sold at low prices, almost gifted, to private so-called investors (well-connected mafiosi). When these companies and banks collapse, because private managing is also mediocre and inefficient most of the time, they are re-nationalized and the loses diverted to the public budget.
Cry me a river: this is “socialism” like Mussolini: private profits and public loses!
Please give us one defensible reason why your “ten people doing the work of one” is in any way bad; for those ten people, the tradesmen and shopkeepers who rely on their trade, the government which uses the taxes this employment and consumption generates, indeed, the entire moral tone of the nation. I suspect that you are confusing “The Wealthy” with “The Nation.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Agree. I was just going to point out that the super-aggressive capitalism of the last 30 years has destroyed itself because it has become hyper-productive. It has become hyper-productive with militant help from the government who has supported the profits of the corporations at the expense of labor. If corporations had tried to survive in a true market they’d have disappeared long ago. Everything society does to dilute this unbalanced accumulation of wealth by the already-wealthy is a good thing. And I’ll just add once again that what this country and the world need at a time of such an economic stagnation combined with ecological devastation are lots and lots of low-productivity jobs of high social value. I wish those were my words cuz I love ’em.
I have an idea for a job creation program that would:
1) put to work unemployed people
2) requires no special skill
3) is not mind-numbing or soul- destroying
4) has virtually no net enviromental impact
5) is socially useful
It is… the hiring of people to walk around an urban area and smile at people.
Certainly as useful as paying people to sit in glass boxes and stare at computer screens, mindlessly replying to others who are mindlessly doing the same. Thanks for that.
Hmm, can you cite an example of this? Not a ‘commonsense case’ but a real documented analysis?
Here in the U.S. at least it doesn’t seem to work that way. a study by the Project on Government Oversight found that paying contractors cost the government more than hiring government employees. This is no surprise given that a contractor adds their own layer of middle management and contract drafting that is not necessary for an employee.
Hmm, can you cite an example of this? Not a ‘commonsense case’ but a real documented analysis?
A study by the Project on Government Oversight found that paying contractors cost the government more than hiring government employees. This is no surprise given that a contractor adds their own layer of middle management and contract drafting that is not necessary for an employee.
oops, sorry about the duplicate.
Since the Middle Ages, if not before, the rich lived of the labor of others. After the New Deal and even after Eisenhower and Nixon, the upper middle class, e.g. Applebaum, have joined the rich is despising everybody else. Applebaum is just an instance of a malignant disease afflicting affluent societies.
Their thinking is that social expenditures should be reduced to a minimum and the spoil saved this way should be transferred to “them.” Reagan laid the first American policy foundation to that approach and Obama is the latest of its proponents.
The fact that the abuse flies in the face of every moral teaching all world societies have in common makes absolutely no difference to them. The almost certainty that their kids will pay the price for the Applebaums parents folly wasn’t ever considered.
It is always and only about the looting. Applebaum is using the classic class war tactics of rebranding and splitting. Austerity is code for looting. Resources that go to the 99% are deemed wasteful and too expensive to maintain. This frees them up to be transferred to the rich.
The public sector is stigmatised. People who work in it, you know members of the 99%, are categorized as lazy and shiftless. The sector itself is demonized as a kind of welfare program for freeloaders. Of course, this is all a lie. It wasn’t public sector workers or the social safety nets that drove the economy over the cliff. It was the rich, the bankers, and the politicians who did that. But there will always be those in the 99%, deluded or complicit, like stevefraser above, who are willing to be split off and attack other 99%ers rather than their real enemies, the 1% and the elites who service them.
Envy alone can not explain why these people allow themselves to be used in such a fashion. I think it is rather that they prefer an enemy, even if it is a fake, manufactured one, that is more their size. That they feel the rich and the elites are out of their league. So they go after government workers, or unions, or various minorities. Theirs is the mentality of the self-hating serf. It is going to take a lot of effort or much worse conditions, which unfortunately are likely to occur, to change their minds.
I mostly lurk but I wanted to say that I always enjoy reading your comments Hugh. How do you always manage to post what I am thinking :)
Very true Jake.
Vote the OREO out this time, the CRACKER out next time, and demand 8-year term limits for all other “elected” officials.
* Everyone must stop Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley’s push for the White House. He has and continues to destroy small businesses in our State and will do the same to the Country if allowed to continue. Just like the elected “lifetime” officials (pick a party) have done in your State.
Everyone MUST get off their asses, drag their family, friends, and co-workers to an election booth this November and vote them out. “OBAMA” goes this time and “ROMNEY” goes in four years. And, don’t just talk about it, but turn off the “boob tube” and actually FIGHT to implement Term Limits between now and then.
Otherwise, you will also be … Enslavedlikeme
*Our founding fathers would have been shooting by now.
And the true beauty of the conservative argument – the great GENIUS of the conservative strategy – is that no matter how much you give them, no matter how many tax cuts for the rich and social cuts for the poor you cave on, the negative overall results will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS(!) result from the remaining social programs or liberal policies that still need to be cut!
It’s a totalitarian mindset every bit as maniacal and uncompromising as anything we’ve ever seen from any recognized totalitarian regime. It brooks no quarter, takes no prisoners, and capitulates to absolutely NOTHING! It’s methods are slash and burn; it’s philosophy is explicitly male, authoritarian, and militaristic; and yet it’s appeal is blatantly emotional toward individual safety and security – the very things it seeks to eliminate.
And our “defense” against such an existential threat to our lives, liberties, and happiness? Neo-liberal Democrats in the mold of Clinton and Obama? Are you kidding me? The fix is truly in. We are all truly and irredeemably fucked until the current system lies in ashes.
And the problem is that even when the current system lies in ashes the reforms put in place must be safeguarded against those who seek to undo the reforms. A victory for the 99% is but temporary if the 99% do not dedicate themselves to preserving it.
Absolutely correct. History is nothing if not cyclical. Tear down one oppressive corrupt system, and more often than not, another more virulent one rises “like a phoenix” from the ashes. All with the appropriate cosmic trumpet flourishes of course. What we’re living through now is nothing more than an updated morality play based on the exact same principles in play in the early 20th century: crony capitalism, robber barons, totalitarian empires, idealistic militarism, the uber mensch, techno-supremacy, etc.
For the 99%, the old American Dream has been reduced to the Responsibility of Competition. Those who remain deluded or complicit are still involved in that competition. A couple of ideas maintain their delusions:
First, they cannot believe that luck has anything to do with their maintenance but that they remain competitive by their own hard work. They can’t even say (aloud) that it is because they are extra-smart because that would then be about fate too, since not everyone is extra-smart.
For them, accepting the power of fate would trash their sense of self-agency. Also trashed would be their carefully constructed POV that the world is organized and always favorably responsive to human virtue. To accept the power of fate would drain meaning from their lives because their POV is structured ego-centrism. And the vehicle of this sort of ego-centric POV is competition. It is essentially the same POV that the PTB have–that’s why there is a reciprocal echo.
Another element that maintains these 99%ers’ delusion is fear. Unlike the PTB, buried in a corner of their brains is the knowledge their own excellence isn’t protecting them. That buried knowledge is toggled every time they go out their door and see friends/neighbors in terrible trouble.
These same people are not having it easy, either, being required to work harder and harder merely to slow (unadmitted) decline. This makes them angry for the usual reasons, but also because of their POV. They believe that anyone who has it less difficult because of the few remaining social contracts, has unfair advantage. The venom with which they attack shows the edge of desperation.
They are almost broken of their ego-centrism. But some never turn from it–thus that portion of the poor who still insist on the accuracy of the old competitive POV while also admitting that they themselves failed. This is the bunch that takes up guns, which is a measure of the unbearability of their cognitive dissonance.
VERY uncommon insights!
Well said,patricia. And the most powerful tool the demonic overload have in their possession. Once destroyed, their money and guns will be useless toys.
Nobody since President Lincoln seems realize that a monetarily soverign government has no need to EVER borrow money. If Obama had been a student of history (instead of the Music Man) he could have resolved the crisis in the real economy through a genuine stimulus without creating a Wall Street gravy train. And the simplest and most effective stimulus would have been a one time issuance of Treasury cash to every US taxpayer sufficient to liquidate the crushing debt overhanging the 99%. Instead, the Treasury and the Fed have wasted over $20 trillion in a futile attempt to enliven a handful of zombie banks which only manage to pretend to survive on continued usury and gambling on the strength of a limitless Fed backstop. Its enough to shake your faith in the overdressed charlatans paraded before us every day on CNBC.
Jake, Obama is not working for us. He never was. ALL candidates for office in the Republicrat system and ALL ” elected” officials are working for THEM.
Only the 99% can address this systemic crisis.
Carla, I shudder to think what Romney would do.
The “Obama” and “Romney” direction can only be reversed if “we the sheeple” stop voting for the pretty faces, (Martin O’Mally is next up on the runway) and put all the trash out of Washington. That means BOTH parties.
Yes, we certainly are screwed. And, it will take another 20 years to correct the mistakes that we’ve all made by watching Oprah, Jerry Springer, or Americas got talent instead of keeping our eyes on our fries.
It’s not a “Dem vs Rep” or “Male vs Female” thing.
It’s a Freedom from Tyrany thing.
Put Obama out this time and Romney out next time. It’s at least an easy to understand plan. And, the most important part of the plan is actively fighting for term limits so we can put the other enablers out as well.
It won’t happen over night, but it is a plan for the 99%.
Or, you can continue being … Enslavedlikeme
I shudder to think, and yet welcome what Romney would do. What Romney will do, Obama will do as well, albeit possibly slower, and SURELY more surreptitiously. The “lesser of two evils” is surely the greater evil, in that it provides the greater evil a plausible foil. Better to REJECT the evil in it’s entirety, than to bargain with it for your very soul/existence.
Nobody since President Lincoln seems realize that a monetarily soverign government has no need to EVER borrow money. jake chase
Yep and the author does not help with this line:
In the fiscal policy realm it was massive fiscal deficits – debt – that won the war. Professor Bill Black [emphasis added]
Professor Black, if a monetarily sovereign government were to deficit spend without borrowing at least some years and never run a budget surplus then wouldn’t the fiat corresponding to those deficits be essentially debt-free since it couldn’t be taxed out of existence? So why do you conflate deficits with debt? Habit?
Professor Bill Mitchell calls borrowing by a monetary sovereign “corporate welfare.” If you wish to attack those who would attack welfare for the needy shouldn’t this “corporate welfare” be exposed and attacked? The best defense being a sound offense? To point out the hypocrisy of those who might be receiving their own welfare?
Keep saying the truth, mate
And if you are not prepared to leave US then might be a good idea to buy a nice warm coat
Britain has not embraced austerity or anything of the sort. Government spending is rising significantly every year. Arguably the government should be spending even more, the idea that Britain is a poster boy for austerity does not sit well with the numbers.
Employment in the UK has now almost reached its pre crisis peak and could possibly exceed it in the next few months if current trends are maintained. In the US employment is still 5 million short of its 2008 peak and job growth is painfully slow.
Government spending is increasing because of the automatic stabilizers. Austerity means a contracting economy with fewer tax receipts and higher social spending. The automatic stabilizers (decreasing tax revenues and increasing social spending) are automatically fighting against the governments austerity programme. Which just tells us that you can’t decide to lower the deficit. Without austerity UK would be growing and the deficit would be lower.
“A potlatch, (rivals compete in destroying valuable household possessions in order to gain status). Britain’s austerity was a massive potlatch….”
Your use of the term ‘potlatch’ is incorrect. It’s absolutely ignorant. A potlatch was far more than you’re describing it to be, and I’m completely incensed at how you’ve descibed it. Your description of this sacred First Nations ceremony is a complete insult to the coastal First Nations of Canada, and I demand you edit your column using terms that will not confuse readers who are unfamiliar with it.
A potlatch is a gift-giving ceremony. The word literally means, ‘to give away’. It is a ceremony where a family who has much to give, gives away much to families that are in need. A better description would be that a potlatch is about the redistribution of wealth.
Sadly, due to the British and Canadian governments’ policy of assimilation (which involved jailing those who practised the potlatch, and seizing and destroying the gifts), the last major potlatch ceremony was held just less a hundred years ago, so its history is still being uncovered and rediscovered. (I would suggest visiting the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology to learn more of the potlatch.)
As for when gifts were destroyed, I would offer the hypotenuse that were a gift to be destroyed, it would have been a major affront to the gift giver. Fights, and even wars between communities, and even nations, could have resulted from such acts.
Again, I reiterate your description of the term potlatch is dsicriminitory and unacceptable, and either needs to be revised or stricken from your column.
Longest side opposite a right angle. Excellent simile.
Need to do a better job ducking the point of the comment, chris.
I for one had never heard of the original nature of the ceremony. Most of us here have internalized the dominant cultures definition of the ceremony, simply because that was what we were taught as children. Don’t be too censorious towards Mr. Black, he is merely using concepts in general circulation within our Anglo-American culture. (Maybe Euro centered would be a better term.) Consider your role as that of re-educator, not moral censor. Thoughtful people will respond to your chiding and slowly shift their understanding. Others never will, no matter how angry you get with them.
Thanks for the history lesson.
(I’m dutch, but I wasn’t familiar with the term until I encountered it in Debt. Suspect it’s mostly American schoolchildren that learn about it.)
Ambrit, I had written the following comment before I noticed yours —
“The “potlatch” sometimes did involve destruction of property. More often it involved redistribution of wealth although not necessarily for the best motives. The authorities no doubt found this aspect of the practice alarming.”
I agree that Professor Black could be enlightened without throwing out the thrust of his argument.
Thanks, Troy for correcting Bill Black’s error. Potlatches among the Quinult, the Makah, the Muckleshoot and the Skykomish (to name just a few of the Northwest Nations) was about public generosity. The only competition was to see who could give the most, not who could destroy the most.
I had a professor who attended a potlatch back in the 50’s. He was handed a couple of hundred dollars in currency on arrival, and then watched a bunch of expensive stuff not get given away, but get burned in competitive bonfires of costly goods. I wonder…how does that reality fit with the romanticized social construct you’re defending here?
TBE, a phrase comes to mind: “Times change.” Especially when the societies/cultures referred to have been subject to extraordinary dislocation. To define a long-standing traditional practice by one event in the 1950s is very risky.
Potlatch ceremonies and practices were also part of the earliest Indo-European cultures. Consider that the words “grab” and “give” come from the same root; indeed my understanding is that the two concepts were understood to be intertwined through most of human history and cultures, so that the modern assumption that one can take, and take, and take is in fact an aberration, a pathology at worst, and an emblem of the larger out-of-balance picture we’re hard at work finishing.
In my travels and sojourns in so-called 1st/2nd/3rd-world countries and the various social classes in each, invariably the “poorer” people in all “3 worlds” have been the more generous, IMO the more understanding of there being a balance of give-and-take.
Or, as I finish my last slice of pizza here a quip from a friend who delivered pizzas for a while: “the bigger the house, the smaller the tip.”
Just some observations.
Can you name the professor? The village s/he visited? The reason for the ceremony? Otherwise, I get the feeling you’re acting like kukpi Walking Eagle.
Potlatch’s were celebrated for numerous differring reasons:
just becuase; births; weddings; birthdays; and funerals. There were also others. We now also celebrate Christmas and Canada’s Thanksgiving. Hallowe’en, and Easter. As well as most other European introduced potlatches.
The act of burning a gift could’ve been to send it to the afterlife or spirit world.
During a funeral potlatch, my own people used to burn the favorite clothes and blanket of the deceased. We also used to burn gifts we wanted for the deceased to have. We used to do this before our lands were stolen by the white man, back when we were wealthy.
Now we only burn tobacco and a meal at every every mealtime, and our tears (we burn any tissues that were used to wipe our tears at the end of every day) in the wake fire, which is kept burning for five days until after the buriel is ended.
During the funeral, we also engage in competitions that are designed to financially benefit the grieving family, because funerals are damned expensive, and would be prohibitally so were it not for the potlatch.
A potlach is then held one year afterward by the grieving family whereupon the family returns to the community gifts. Again, four years after, the family again holds one more potlatch to give back to the community.
However, for my people, the only time we burned gift was during the funeral potlatch. As for when your professor visited, why were they burning the gifts? If you don’t know, you need to go to Vancouver’s UBC Museum of Anthropology, and learn yourself some lessons! Cause otherwise, you’re speaking out of ignorance, and are simply perpetuating un and half truths about a ceremony that is far more than you’re allowing it to be!
“Austerity did not ‘win the war’ ”
Very true. What won the war in Europe was the ‘Workers and Peasant’s Red Army.’
And the Anglosphere has spent over six and a half decades propagandizing against that fact.
Look, I know it’s hard to consider multi-variate data, but it wasn’t only the Soviet army, which beat the Nazis in the war, but certainly, the allies at the time included the Soviets– at incredible cost of life.
The most important message from ww2 is that military solutions are terrible and should be avoided at all costs!
I believe what he’s saying when he says “The Workers and Peasants red army” is actually a reference to the underlying grassroots pressure that spurred the social democratic reforms of the great depression. Although the governance is praised for their efforts in making change, it was (in the end) the uprisings of the people and the fear of a revolution that caused the reforms.
In the end (even in the 1930s) Marx was right. Capitalism destroyed itself and Marx was right that reforms were needed. Although the end result was not communism, it was more akin to an economic democracy then capitalism at the time.
The far right has spent the last years attempting to attribute the recovery to the war… and they’ve finally began to succeed. 6 and a half decades of propaganda… 6 and a half decades of propaganda.
Churchill despised socialism because it would make elites just like everybody else. He didn’t despise communism. In fact he boosted it with his iron-curtain rhetoric, making it appear to be an all-powerful monolith. Which, of course, it was not. Probably the one thing Churchill feared more than any other was boredom.
The proper name of the Red Army is the Workers’ and Peasants’ Army. No mild-mannered polite social democrats to be found there.
And the vast majority of German/Fascist casualties occurred on their Eastern Front. For that matter, much of the German collapse in late 1944- 1945 was the result of German soldiers desperate to surrender to *anyone* other than the Soviets and their eastern allies.
In fact, as I have argued to many a Russian, American treatment of prisoners was very sharp and clever. Why die in a trench or a Soviet forced labor camp, when you can surrender to the Americans and get three hots and a cot?
“And the vast majority of German/Fascist casualties occurred on their Eastern Front. For that matter, much of the German collapse in late 1944- 1945 was the result of German soldiers desperate to surrender to *anyone* other than the Soviets and their eastern allies.”
Yes, in 1945, Germans had a legitimate fear of the consequences of initiating a war of racial extermination in the East, and losing it.
As it turned out, the consequences were relatively mild, very limited reprisals and a looooonnng occupation.
“In fact, as I have argued to many a Russian, American treatment of prisoners was very sharp and clever. Why die in a trench or a Soviet forced labor camp, when you can surrender to the Americans and get three hots and a cot?”
The death rate for German POWs in Soviet captivity was about 15%.
The death rate for Soviet POWs in German captivity was over 60%.
Gospodin, strasvy. [sic] No need to flog a dead horse when you’re ahead. The enormities of ‘Uncle’ Joe Stalin are too public and horrific to try and sugar coat them. The Workers and Peasants Army won the Great Fatherland War despite the Central Committees insanity. Being the heirs of the Golden Horde meant that the Soviet Army was all too willing to pay the Facsists back in their own coin. Trying to push ‘revisionist’ history to the readers of this blog site is a losing game. (PS, why do you think Stalins closest advisors, including his personal physician, allowed him to die from his last illness when he could have been saved?)
While I am a great admirer of Bill Black, he’s falling prey to the false choice fallacy here. Like a lot of “left” “liberals” do too. But in fact, the people will be equally screwed over whether austerity or stimulus is implemented. Because that isn’t the problem here.
The problem is that the control fraud criminals at the top of the political/financial system greatly benefit from either austerity or stimulus. The answer is writing down bad debts, including government debts.
Well, and putting criminals in jail couldn’t hurt either, which is why I admire Bill Black.
This is not a “false choice fallacy”, it is a very intentional false choice deception. If Bill Black really wanted to put criminals in jail he would slap the cuffs on himself and turn himself in.
Bill Black epitomizes the old fashioned Vanilla Greed for Profit school (Evilism), that has now mutated into Pernicious Greed for Destruction (Xtrevilism). Bill Black is either selling the Kool aid, as he plays this good cop bad cop game that validates and legitimizes the system in power by giving it his attention, or he is drunk on the Kool aid and this is just another Vanilla Greed lament. I do not think that he is really that stupid.
This is not about austerity or stimulus, The aberrantly diseased Xtrevilist self anointed elite pigs at the top care not about stimulus or austerity. Profit is not their goal. This is a well planned and orchestrated herd thinning effort conducted in tandem with a major rearrangement of the global society into a two tier structure of ruler and ruled with the ruled destined to end their days in perpetual conflict with each other.
Putting any hope in Xtrevilism or its wellspring Evilism is like writing to Santa.
You have one viable peaceful method for change available. Massive proactive election boycotts with a concurrent Constitutional rewrite.
Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.
Well, I do believe that you are a bit closer to the truth than most people are.
The problem is that economic growth is done and over with for good now, and since the pie is shrinking, a very good way for the elites to keep their share is simple by encouraging policies that decrease the population. After all, if you can’t increase the denominator, decreasing the numerator can be just as good, for a few anyway.
Of course those who are relying on the central state and corporations will be the first to be eliminated. And since that is nearly everyone, by the time those most delustional people are gone the population will be small enough where they won’t bother with the rest of us. That’s my hope anyway. If you rely on the government, corporations, or even money itself to live, you’re not going to be around for much longer. That’s the only thing we can know for sure.
Also, Bill Black did personally put almost 1000 corrupt high level Wall Street bankers in prison. Which was a very noble and good deed he did, I have to say.
Sadly the lesson the bankers learned from that is that they should invest more heavily in corrupting the government and rewriting the laws. These efforts came to total fuition under Obama.
The potential for fair and sustainable economic growth is limited only by your imagination. That potential is being stifled by the disease of Evilism and its current mutation Xtrevilism. Eliminate the disease and watch the really good times roll!
The government is owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by the corporations, it functions as a ‘human resources’ department for them, as they murder, rape, and pillage at will around the globe. Bill Black put a lot of his competition in jail which was a self serving act. You can’t use present bound thinking when you exist in an environment created in the past. You need to consider AGC — its something the sell out Xtrevilist scribes do not write about. There are no statute of limitations on murder…
“The ultimate macro trend — generational slavery… The development of recent societal evolution; with its struggles of the have against the have not, the rich against the poor, the privileged against the not so privileged, etc., is often likened to a pendulum. The problem is that the pendulum metaphor (promoted by the complicit and traitorous scribes of the rich) suggests that the struggle is always centered around a balanced position and that there is some fairness involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the pendulum metaphor leaves out is the effect of aggregate generational corruption over time (AGC) — the total effects of the combining of all past corruptions over generational time. It is this excessive mass of inherited corruptly gained wealth — passed exclusively to the heirs of those past gangster miscreants — that is responsible for the very tilted and unfair playing field that exists in the world today. In essence, AGC functions as a debt that we are all born into and owe to the heirs of the corrupt wealthy elite of past generations. This immoral debt, created in past corruption, is in essence a form of generational slavery.
Metaphorically, AGC is more like a ratchet than a pendulum; a one way device that accumulates forces and power over time. With the advent of DETODs (Deceptive Externalized Tools Of Dominance) in the recent evolution of humanity the ratcheting effect of AGC becomes far more important in the control of the individual human organism and the evolutionary process itself. Power and control gained in past corruptions are now greatly amplified through control of DETODs that are created in subsequent time. The power of these newly created DETODs then accrues to the still controlling past corrupter. It is for this reason the corruption must be eliminated and the effects of past corruption be mitigated. Debt forgiveness alone and of itself will not work — the stolen wealth must be clawed back and reclaimed and the playing field reset to a balanced position.
1% Law… The extreme tilt in the playing field is a result of the AGC now embodied in the ‘rule of law’. What we have now instead of a rule of law that fairly serves all of the people — is 1% Law. 1% Law is the name given to those laws that are corruptly created by the morally aberrant 1% few to favor only themselves and to exploit and control the 99%. It is the ever growing body of immoral 1% Law — and the AGC now embodied in it — that is responsible for the loss of freedom and opportunity of people here in America and around the globe. It is important to make the distinction between 1% Law and the rule of law. When you call 1% Law the rule of law you unwittingly imply the fairness ascribed to the term rule of law to the immoral 1% Law, and you miss an opportunity to express the reality of the corruption. There is no longer any ‘rule of law’. We now have only 1% Law.
Corruptly usurping the Rule of Law by creating 1% Law has long been a tool of oppression used by the wealthy self anointed aberrant gangster elite. 1% Laws are all crafted with the same general intent; to suppress and unfairly burden the middle and underclasses; to ensure a constant and cheap labor supply for the aberrant rich that create them; to instill fear, ignorance, and divisiveness in the middle and underclasses; to control and eliminate political opposition; to stifle and eliminate business competition; to demonize and herd thin specific target populations; to steal the public commons; and to consolidate the power of the abnormal psychopathic morally depraved evil sick few amongst us who create them. The bumper sticker, “Greedy People Suck!”, exists for a reason.”
Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.
BB did not personally put them in jail – he helped the justice system do its job, that’s all.
He has an excellent fundamental point: the law on fraud is clear; it’s clear that fraud was committed; apply the law.
The political argument in this post is controversial and tired. I have alot of experience with debtors in the UK, and almost all of them are ordinary working people whose real prosperity (including security of accomodation and pensions) has been overtaken by that of people on state benefits and public sector workers.
In my view state support has far exceeded its useful capacity and is positively destructive of the efforts of those ordinary workers.
The point about state finances not being like household finances was made in the Thatcher years, and it’s true … until it’s not.
My experience of debtors tells me that there are powerful perverse incentives at work through state intervention. As far as I can tell the tendency toward dishonesty is a necessary part of this, and I fail to see a distinction from other centrally planned disasters.
The UK system stinks. There was a good line in a BBC radio comedy the other day: “When a rich man spends a penny it trickles down on all of us.” People identify the banks with that rich man, but he’s really the state.
Maybe I’m deluded, but I can’t make sense of the promises put out by people like BB.
Well hold on here. You make a very interesting statement that economic growth is only limited by imagination. But logically speaking, that is an extremely bizarre premise to start off with. Let’s use some critical thinking on that to see if you shouldn’t rethink that.
First, economic growth is an exponential function. For example, if the economy grows 3% this year, then next year when the economy grows an additional 3% you would have to multiply that by 1.03 (unlikely I know, but anyway). And every year you will have a new, larger figure to multiply that % of growth by. Since energy use tracks very well with economic growth, a simple mathematical extrapolation will reveal that the within about 400 years the waste heat generated by our industrial civilization will have raised the temperature of the earth to around the boiling point of water.
So at a minimum, you have to acknowledge that there are potentially other limits to economic growth outside of human creativity, such as the byproducts of industrial civilization incinerating all life on earth somewhere between now and 400 year in the future for example.
Once that point is established, we can start narrowing further where the limits of economic growth are.
Now, as previously pointed out, industrial civilizations and complex societies do, in fact, require energy to function. And right now because of a lack of foresight on our part, we currently do not have the ability to acquire enough energy to feed our industrial civilization. While this may or may not be a temporary problem, the fact is that the net energy available to civilization has been declining since about 2005, and this is indirectly manifesting itself as an ongoing financial crisis and horrible economic depression, where the economy is actually shrinking in real terms.
So, all I can see about your ideas is that at a most basic level they are logically not sound, and at a practical level they are demonstrable not true. I am certain that the elites would love to prod economic growth so that there is more for them to steal. However, since that option is not available, letting most people die through enforced austerity regimes is a viable alternative from their point of view. And that is what’s happening as far as I can tell.
Well hold on here. I said “fair and sustainable” economic growth is only limited by your imagination. I also said it won’t be realized with present bound thinking of brainwashed individuals developed in an environment that is a product of past corruption. Your parroting of shop worn voo doo economic pap that deflects from my main message — that we are presently ruled by diseased sociopathic pig Noble Liars and we are born into it — proves my point.
Use some “critical thinking” on eliminating the diseased pigs in our midst and freeing your mind of their propaganda. Start with your understanding of ‘growth’. Cleaning up the mess that the sick pigs have got us all into through misdirection and defiling of resources — and it was not “a lack of foresight on our part” — will require first getting the aberrant diseased self anointed pigs under control while concurrently deprogramming from the infectiousness of their disease. At the “most basic level”, that idea is logically sound.
Use your imagination and think in terms of GWH (Gross World Happiness.)
Realize that enhancing and broadening perception are the first steps in creating a new reality and that imagination is the wellspring of your future…
To first imagine… imagine a world where all humans respect and honor their alliances and love one another… a world free of selfish corporations and their Noble Liars… a world where all humans have warm and cozy beds, clean fresh water, food on their tables, and the tools to make and build and grow healthful sustainable lives for themselves… and live in communities that welcome others and visit others… communities that celebrate the joy of life, of quiet, of clean air, and art, and fun, and singing and dancing, and just being alive… communities that celebrate their individuality in their togetherness…
Then it is time to exercise your free will… to choose… to choose to take actions that will create that more fair and just world.
Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.
Excellent, often overlooked point. I’m not sure about “equally screwed” (presumably if they actually implemented a bottoms up stimulus they’d allow at least a modicum of prosperity for a time, if only to jack the next bubble and looting phase), but close enough. But like any criminal organization, they’re not far-sighted enough to consider even that. Either that or they realize that the end game has arrived, and that even bubbles are all played out now too. You can only pump and dump so many times before you wear out the elastic.
Oh, and the answer is not only writing down debts, it’s about ending the Fed and the idea of money as debt as well. Fatally flawed concept that guarantees continual boom and bust cycles into perpetuity.
Thanks for this excellent comment, Bill.
“Only the unions were left as reliable defenders of working class families, but they were politically powerless to do so.”
The above and your points about public-sector workers are, in my opinion, the most important politically and economically at the moment. Why they are not forward and center in political debate is a telling indicator about where we currently (still) are in the financial crisis. At a certain level of abstraction, the current crisis will only be solved when we return to a more balanced , ie. equitable, distribution of national wealth.
That and the fact that their leadership is more often than not bought and paid for.
“Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency.”
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
– Lord Acton
“Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.”
– George Bernard Shaw
“Power attracts the corruptible. Absolute power attracts the absolutely corruptible.”
– Frank Herbert
“It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression.”
– Eric Hoffer
“Money is truthful. If a man speaks of his honor, make him pay cash.”
– Robert A. Heinlein
I’m not in a union, but I can see how wealthy nations like the US are in an economic crisis because wealth is not being fairly– not even fairly, but reasonably, allocated. You know, for me it’s both: The work of the so-called 1% is incredibly overpriced, but also the wealth of the nation is poorly allocated, in as far as allowing so much wealth to collect in so few people is starving the real economy of money.
So, to your point about poor political leadership. If I have understood you correctly, I agree, that political leadership has a cost and if that cost can not be met– in terms of fair payment– this leads to malpractice (and corruption, etc.) That’s why the union movement has been decimated during the last 30 years. It has been bled of /funds/ and power. If this is your point, I agree with you completely.
The fact is, working people need representation. Without representation they will be exploited by their employers– another form of corruption.
There are many reasons for the decline of labor unions in this country during the last 30-40 years. But the heart of it lies in the class collaborationist stance of the misleaders at top.
In exchange for decent pay and benefits for a privileged section of industrial workers, there was the ideological purges of the 40s and 50s, the support for U.S. imperialism instead of international solidarity, the racist and sexist organizational orientation, an overall policy of class peace, and a slavish devotion to a party, the Democrats, that continually takes their money while spitting in their face.
If the labor unions are interested in survival, and desperately hope they are, they will ditch the corrupt business unionism model of the last 60 years and go back to their heoric roots in real class struggle.
Certainly there has to be a recognition by now that shoveling money at the Democrats is getting them bupkis.
That money needs to go towards organizing and strike funds and movement building rather than throwing it down the D-rat hole.
What labor needs, even more than representation, is actual unity and solidarity. Absent that, representation means nothing – although it does present nice opportunities for a corrupt few to cash in on the illusion. And thanks to the “wonders” of globalization (“Always Low Prices – Always!”), how in the world will they achieve that? Think globalization was an accident? Think again. Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer.
Good point, James.
Only Eric Hoffer explained how weak the powerful are.
Have to disagree about being politically powerless – think they have been making the wrong political choices – consistently and reflexively backing Dems has been a losing strategy for some time ….
I like the very end of Bill’s message, “The administration is so incoherent on these issues that no one believes that it has any economic principles.”
Indeed, comparing BO’s talk, that got him elected in the wake of the Bush debacle, with the sum of his actions since, the ONLY principle he seems to have is, what, in the near term, can beneficially position the Barack Obama enterprise in the ego or power realms. He is either a willing lackey for those with the money or a moderately well spoken schmuck.
He is either a willing lackey for those with the money or a moderately well spoken schmuck.
No need for either/or. He’s both.
BO = charismatic huckster. A carnival barker views his marks with contempt.
I like the very end of Bill’s message, “The administration is so incoherent on these issues that no one believes that it has any economic principles.”
. . . or actually, any principles at all.
This administration has no leadership, no discernible policies, no reason, no direction, just a blind, blundering ambition to stay in power for its own sake.
An interesting point of view, but I think your chewing the crust off a stale piece of bread.
If a society wants social democracy the big question before the society is: how shall they pay for it? The government can tax, it can borrow, it can print money, and it can do all three. It’s a pick your poison choice. The solution lies in how you choose to promote economic growth that provides enough revenue that will support the social programs.
How about some kind of reform where all property is made public and can be rented by the populace (from the government) for extended periods of time. The rental fees that the government collects can be used in conjunction with a combination of the above options.
This would completely cut out the parasitic part of the economy and also allow the government an entire new host of tax breaks to promote productivity and such. This can also be combined with making banking a public utility and using the surplus from the banking sector to patch up the holes caused by the banking sector.
Of course, that would never happen.
This is wrong:
“The solution lies in how you choose to promote economic growth that provides enough revenue that will support the social programs.”
James is right.
One more time: government does not need to tax OR borrow to “raise money” if it is a monetary sovereign. IT SIMPLY CREATES ITS OWN. Government can simply spend money into creation, and tax it back out of existence again.
And the only thing “poisonous” about that proposition is that private banksters wouldn’t get to be the beneficiaries in that process. Hence their resistance to that concept ever getting any wide recognition.
And “economic growth” is a lie to. Without a debt based money supply and it’s concurrent usury interest fees to keep up with, no “growth” is even necessary, nor I would assert, even desired in a mature and stable economy. The clue? Perpetual growth, just as perpetual motion, does not exist in nature.
I’ll add that common stock, a non-usury based, ethical private money form, allows growth but does not require growth.
And I’ll add a hearty Amen to your comment below. Allows but does not require!
Hudson, Wray, Black, back to back to back.
Doesn’t get any better. Best blog on the web, bar none.
Note: When all is said and done, who will have proved to have provided the most human enlightenment to unenlightened humans, Yves or Socrates.
Let’s see. I am plugging the question into my Theory of Relative Things Machine, which factors in stuff like time, space, reach, depth, breadth, continuum! Doric, Ionic, iconic, hemlock, Sherlock, gadflies, barflies, Corinthian, roustabouts …ohhh… technology, Xerxes, Darius, Pius, Gaius, God (and/or the absence of), Big Finance, nude Olympic wrestlers, the Stoics, the Cynics, the Kardasians, the austerians, the unbeatable phalanx, and antidotes de jour.
Wait, I hear my Relative Things Machine grinding to halt. It’s spitting out a tape. Let’s see… hum diddle dee, he diddle dum, ear diddle dear, what do we have here … ah, the answer is!
“Yves over Socrates, by considerably more than a horses hair. Note: caveat on back.”
Let’s flip this puppy over.
Ah … the caveat. “Yves, relatively young. Socrates, long time now bye-bye. Interpretation, relative gap betwixt two should only widen.”
Yes, the talent is definitely there to put in place a more equitable economic system. To these 3 for some seasoning I would add Stiglitz, Naomi Klein, Ellen Brown, Nicholas Shaxson and a dash of Nicholas Taleb
Unfortunately, it’ll take a whole lot more than talent, although that’s certainly a start. Add about 4x more times influence and maybe… Of course then it will be watered down beyond recognition as well…
From reading the comments here there seems to be a growing idea that throwing Obama out in the next election and replacing him with the crazies of the republican party will result in a backlash against them in 2014. This is akin to handing a madman a loaded gun and hoping he will misfire and shoot himself. You only have to look at some of the right wing governors elected in 2010 to see how well this has worked out.A lot of damage can be done in two years.
Better to be strangled by Democrats than shot by Republicans, in other words? Well, some of us are looking at a third option.
No, my certainty is that the raping, pillaging, and plunder will continue no matter who is elected. My preference is that the blinders be pulled off so we can see the evil in all it’s awfulness and call it by its name, and my hope is that by doing so we can begin to implode the current rapacious and corrupt system once and for all.
What will we replace it with if all that were to happen? That’s certainly a valid concern, but one thing’s for certain: we can’t even begin to ask such questions until we first deal with the existential evil before us now. And simply “fixing it from within” is no longer possible either.
If a republican is voted in and the economic system is in ruins by 2014 (Although… I get the feeling we’d get a war before the system lies in ruins… it would be too profitable and it would provide stimulus to potentially elongate the reign of the current looting class) then perhaps grassroots pressure by mid term would cause a worldwide economic revolution.
If the United States faces a scenario akin to what Russia faced during the Red Revolution the pressure would drive the rest of the Social Democracies to make reforms or face similar end results. The fear of a revolution is the only thing that will drive change.
An escalated war involving multiple countries would be the only way out of making reforms in the face of uprisings. The enemy at home would be forgotten if an enemy in a far off land (Probably Iran by then… I’m sure Syria will eventually fall victim to foreign intervention) is demonstrated as a greater threat.
I feel that I’m being over-dramatic… but I can’t help but feel that this scenario is a possibility.
Yeah. Or, well, maybe there’s only so many times you can cry “Islamofascist menace!” after all.
Time will tell, I suspect. Since we don’t seem inclined to drop the practice.
Do you believe it will continue if Greens are elected? if so, what is the basis for that claim? If not, then why not elect them?
“What will we replace it with if all that were to happen? That’s certainly a valid concern, but one thing’s for certain: we can’t even begin to ask such questions until we first deal with the existential evil before us now.”
Disagree – if you have no idea or plan for what to replace it with, rest assured there are those who do and the light at the end of your tunnel is likely to be an oncoming train ..
Not only CAN we begin to ask such questions, but we must. I can testify by learning the hard way that – though it is necessary, it is NOT sufficient to “throw the bums out”; you had better have a pretty good idea of who/what you are replacing them with …
OK, I’ll accept your premise. WHAT then, is our alternative?
Door #1: An attractive multi-cultural candidate of modest upbringing – a veritable “self-made” man (not coincidentally JUST LIKE his party’s predecessor and current patron saint, albeit with the decided added advantage of mixed racial heritage) – whose main appeal thus far has been to deliver big rhetorically and not at all in actuality, or…
Door #2: A somewhat less attractive, old-school, decidedly Northern European candidate of somewhat less attractive and questionable religious affiliation (no doubt enabled by his opponent’s altogether tenuous links to an altogether unfairly smeared faith, based on an altogether completely manufactured “War,” based on an altogether completely manufactured Casus Belli), whose main appeal seems to be his physical and pseudo-philosophical resemblance to a certain dead president who was effectively dead on his feet during his actual presidency?
Door #3: Be a “Refusenik.” As the Nebraska college football team ’95 said so well: simply “Refuse to Lose!” Withdraw your support from the losers and look elsewhere!
To make a long story short, get out there and look around. The local/regional alternatives already presented will SIMPLY AMAZE you! Then come up with your own! FUCK the status quo, and do it JOYFULLY! In your rebellion you will FINALLY find the only thing you’ve ever been TRULY looking for – YOURSELF!
“From reading the comments here there seems to be a growing idea that throwing Obama out in the next election and replacing him with the crazies of the republican party will result in a backlash against them in 2014.”
There is also the possibility that the Congressional Democrats would oppose, nay, possibly even filibuster, measures from Robama that they would roll over for if proposed by Obamney.
The Dems prevented Bush from wrecking Social Security. Because that’s Obama’s job! Only Nixon can go to China, and so forth.
* * *
Normally, I’m not a fan of 11-dimensional chess (I’m going to vote for the best candidate, not tactically) but there’s something to be said for the idea that if Romney gets in, it will take him awhile to get his bearings, while the Ds, and the career “progressives” will fight him tooth and nail, which they wouldn’t do with Obama even though Obama’s policies are Republican policies (Exhibit A: [RomneyObama]Care.
So how’s your strategy of voting for evil been workin’ out for ya?
It is always noticeable that the people calling for austerity and sacrifice so often exempt themselves from that sacrifice. When people are hurting financially and hungry actually they want yet more. If you haven’t eaten today you can do it again tomorrow but I’m not going to go hungry or do without. You suffer but I have no intention of suffering. Somehow this misses Jesus message to us to care for each other especially the most helpless. If they claim to be a Christian that faith seems at most to be a very thin veneer.
Socialism for the rich, austerity for the poor!
It’s amazing how some right wing Christians compare taxation to theft. They claim that taxation is against the bible and justify their hatred for the poor with that rhetoric.
I thoroughly agree that there is a lot of victim blaming going on. I just think it’s probably counter-productive to talk about people “hating the poor”. It’s more a cognitive bias known as the “just world hypothesis” that’s at work here:
I’ve never heard of that bias but am glad to learn of it’s existence. I’ll try to keep it in mind!
A government backed/enforced usury for stolen purchasing power cartel is NOT a “just world.”
Neither, btw, is a gold standard, your so-called “solution.”
My personal “academic theory” (I hold an MBA from a reputable US university, and thus qualify as a legitimate “academic”) is that while the “just world hypothesis” is emotionally appealing, it’s mostly just another form of cognitive “bullshit,” in that it only re-states what would seem to be patently obvious to an average “everyman*,” and repackages it as “revealed wisdom” only obtainable through years of ivory tower academic study. I call BULLSHIT on the term “just world hypothesis,” and call it by it’s REAL name: JUST BULLSHIT!
*Someone you would pick at random off the street. See, I can EVEN use footnotes (of a sort).
The dead silence from the church(es) is damning. They have no more value to the ruling overclass. What use are gate keepers of morality in a culture which has escaped morality. Their only hope for renewed relevance would have been to switch their allegiance wholly to the poor (as Christ calls on them to do in the words of the scriptures)
“Liberation Theologists” saw and understood this until the chrch moved to stamp them out.
The TV “prosperity” preachers and the remenants of calvinsim in the rural swamps and backwaters arent really a Christian church. They are a bizzare backward looking cult, obssessed with old Testament, Jews and apocalyptic end times “revelations”
obssessed with old Testament, rotter
Not really. The Old Testament teaches kindness to the poor, periodic debt forgiveness and many things counter to the current order. If ONLY they read the Old Testament!
Well, but we do live in a country that limited ecclesiastical authority to that of gatekeeper of personal morality, so today that’s what they (or most of them) do. They just want to gatekeep everyone’s personal morality as part of their grand bargain.
Spanking people who don’t pay their bills does not technically violate the boundary of the personal morality police line, that they are not supposed to cross, as liberation theology arguably does in the global south.
In other words, it’s arguable that the character of contemporary American protestantism can be seen, in part, as a byproduct of the church-state arrangement.
And there were plenty of democratic protestant sects out and about and making noise around the time of the American revolution. There was no real guarantee that Christian religious adherence was going to be reliably conservative at point in time.
at THAT point in time, (as opposed to this point in time).
They claim that taxation is against the bible… Adam
And the Left is so Biblically ignorant that it does not counter with Romans 13:1-7?
Professor Black, I appreciate the candor. It gets a few things out in the open.
First, while I’m sure you’re correct that this is the wrong time for moralizing against the weak, it goes quite a bit too far to say that there is no moral component whatever to fiscal deficits. Governments are not households, but issuing your own currency does not amount to an exemption from the laws of nature. The bill still comes due. Somebody still has to pay it. It can be put off with a promise, but if the promise is an illusion there is still something fundamentally wrong, and that is as true for a government as it is for an individual.
I am also troubled by the demonizing of opponents here. I can understand that austerity is a ridiculous idea at this point, and there may be some willful ignorance at work among its proponents, but to portray all of these people as malicious sycophants of the wealthy who hate the working classes and their government programs is, well, rhetorically excessive and basically unfair. Your prosecutorial zeal and sanctimony are getting the better of you.
I’ve reached out to you before to no avail. Lawyers aren’t active enough in this crisis and it’s too bad we’re not getting together. I might be able to check some of that urge you have to identify the prosecut-able enemy and attack. You may be falling prey to the adage that to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Frankly, my proposal for a constitutional amendment providing for a jubilee and a moratorium on non-payment evictions is not only a lawyer’s solution to what is at base a legal (not economic) problem; it is also far better than anything you are likely to come up with if you continue unchecked on your current path – chomping at the bit for the chance to prosecute evil-doers. You can read about it here:
I’m easy enough to contact if you ever want to talk.
The “bill” need be no more than some level of inflation — which can be seen as the equivalent of ‘rot’ in commodity stock such as food, clothes, and everything else. Why should you expect money to behave any other way? It is a pipe dream to think it possible to save large portions of a good which only has value so long as it is circulated.
Governments are not households, but issuing your own currency does not amount to an exemption from the laws of nature. The bill still comes due.
And to WHOM must it be paid? The central banks with whom we’ve (“we the people”) entered into an “unholy alliance?”
Our “promise to pay” (in our own, purely “fiat” currency) is guaranteed by nothing more than our “guarantee” that it’s worth exactly what we say it is. So exactly WHOSE bill and at exactly WHOSE pre-configured rate shall it be payable in?
And FINALLY, if indeed “someone must pay” as you assert, WHO THEN must it be? Those who have promised much and delivered little to none (guess who?), or those who have worked hard to deliver, but yet been denied (world wide)?
You make an intelligent comment, but in a sense you’re being too intelligent. It’s like you’re outsmarting yourself.
You’re overly impressed with the fact – which you recognize, which is why you’re ahead of the curve in the first place – that all these claims upon the efforts of others are discharged at the will of the claimee(s). So the promises are illusory. You seem to regard this as a trifle. I assure you it is not. The promises may not be real, but the demand for someone else’s effort is, and in particular the effort itself is. The collision between what is expected (because it has been promised) and what can feasibly be delivered is the stuff of social strife, and war, and revolution. Waving a magic wand and saying “It’s paid, because we say so.” is nothing more than throwing down the gauntlet. It is wildly irresponsible.
Do not confuse abstractions with real things. This is a temptation and a foible of intelligent people.
‘I am also troubled by the demonizing of opponents here… Your prosecutorial zeal and sanctimony are getting the better of you.’
Well, if you’re not with us you’re against us, as that sage Dubya once said. And whether your opposition to sheer common sense comes down to knavery or foolishness doesn’t really matter in the end, you are an obstacle in both costumes and need to be bulldozed out of the way, more or less politely.
The fastest way to get the fools on board (forget the knaves, nothing will sway them bar a better offer) is to ridicule their myopic fealty, their complete lack of personal intellectual agency. Their operating system requires a command centre outside of themselves and they will sit in whichever camp their social radar tells them is dominant. Blow their current campsite (where uber-knaves like Anne Applebaum make and enforce the rules) to smithereens and they may wander over to yours looking for shelter, and someone else to for all this thinking and deciding.
But don’t for God’s sake pretend their weakness deserves respect, it doesn’t. I don’t care how well-meaning such people might be, their foolish embrace of elite knavery stands in the way of relief and eventual recovery and they are fair game.
‘I’ve reached out to you before to no avail… You may be falling prey to the adage that to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail… Frankly, my proposal for a constitutional amendment providing for a jubilee and a moratorium on non-payment evictions is not only a lawyer’s solution to what is at base a legal (not economic) problem; it is also far better than anything you are likely to come up with if you continue unchecked on your current path – chomping at the bit for the chance to prosecute evil-doers…’
Why does it have to be either/or? Why can’t Black do his thing and you do yours? Isn’t it at least possible that they could complement each other? Sorry, but many of us feel that our Reform Movement needs a prosecutorial spearhead who is not interested in taking prisoners. Bill Black is that sharp end, and I can’t see how his efforts at his coalface need to conflict with you at yours, which by the way sounds excellent, positive, encouraging, etc.
There is more than one path to the goal and in fact we are better off having expertly hoed roads all over the hill leading to the promised sunlit upland than one true way, where we are more likely to picked off en masse. Travellers on any of these routes should realise that their shared destination means that they have more to unite than divide them (these Iraq war era bromides sure do come in handy) and so, unless the efforts of others positively impede yours and by extension the whole project of reform, then, even if you personally find the Other’s approach a tad distasteful, give them good cheer and wish them well.
I made some criticisms, but you may have missed the part where I said we should talk. I wouldn’t rule out some role for criminal prosecutions, but I certainly don’t think that by themselave they are an answer.
You could probably prosecute everyone on Wall Street, but you’d need an ungodly amount of lawyers and investigators and you have to consider the history. Remember Ivan Boesky? Michael Milliken? That’s close to 30 years ago. Were those prosecutions much more than a speed bump on the path to wholesale financial degeneracy? I think not.
“She reveals again her real target – she wants to destroy the social programs that have improved the lives of the working class. She claims that social programs are merely political bribes to induce the working class to vote for leftist politicians”
Heres the rub – except for the “leftist politicians” statement (there are no “leftist politicians” in britain or the US who are passing laws)- Within the context of limited,bourgeouise,capitalist, democracy, The bitch’s comments are true…none of the the “lib dems” or any other kind of capitalist politician has any goal other than continual reelection. They never really believed in the value of the reforms, and so when they found they could lie the cheat their way out of them, they did. The choices are removing the threats the overclass represents to democracy, or aloow Democracy to die.
Prof. Black, thank you for all you have done and will continue to do for We the People. Your magnificent constellation in the firmament is guaranteed.
Labor’s Market Position, Drilling Rabbit Holes
“…99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” Does that sound like capital or the middle class? Why would you accept capital’s definition of labor? They cannot re-boot the economy without your children, trained by you.
Legacy capital may convince the willing middle class socialists that labor is a derivative of capital, and therefore replaceable, as many times as it likes, but the result will always be the same, system bankruptcy. That is History.
Wait until government may no longer pay robots to breed robots, and then have your children. At that time, you will recognize the bridge components, and capital demand will far outstrip your supply.
Increase the frequency of external reality polling in your algorithm, step forward into the fear created by empire TV in each iteration, and you will see why others are unsuccessful over time. The only question is which laborers will make the cut, same sh-show, different dress.
Creating effective leadership is a process of example, but allow others to write as many laws, talk, as they like. When you net out empire, it’s all about developing seed, on the implicit side of the looking glass.
The empire is always in check, in the prisoners dilemma of its own constitution. Mate when you are ready to see the empire for what it is.
Capital, leverage in all its forms, is a derivative of labor. The former cannot exist without the latter’s interaction with nature. Socialism, all unearned distribution, is a derivative of capitalism. The former cannot exist without the big banks created by the latter.
Convicting capitalists or socialists for their operation is like yelling at your children for doing what you do, instead of what you tell them to do. Buy whatever you want, but caveat emptor. Labor is all about the process of price discovery.
The US citizen chose do declare war on Labor. That’s unfortunate, for the US citizen. Because the global economy is dependent upon the US citizen for artificial demand, it is also unfortunate for the global economy.
Because the empire certified a substitute teacher it called labor, to implement the Pavlov swap, and linked it to a dc electricity feedback loop, to deflate currency and inflate its balance sheet with a monetized tax base for the purpose, in a buffet-style utilitarian derivative Ponzi system, does not mitigate the responsibility of willing participants, now scurrying for cover, in the same proliferation of social law enforcement. Despite all the talk, the majority has not changed its behavior.
Because the empire thinks it is stealing Labor’s fruit does not mean that the tree of Labor is any way impaired, nor does it mean that the root system is in any way impeded from migration.
All elected and appointed representatives willingly participated in taking Labor’s children, through Family Law, to the benefit of artificially growing the middle class and capital. No problem; we were expecting the outcome. Have a seat…right on the X.
When gravity reaches your design threshold…
Every empire rests upon the relatively precarious foundation of Nature, which requires constant tending. If the majority wants to pay its labor $10/hr to buy a house for $300k, to grow additional finance and insurance revenue jobs for itself, that’s its business, but expect FIRE.
Every weapon has at least two edges, including a dc computer. War, between good and evil, is for teenagers at a horror matinee, but do as you like. The empire watches itself, growing its own prison, of willing masters and slaves, on TV. Life is a function of doing, exploring the unknown, which no law may be drafted to impede, and it is the business of Labor.
Do and learn. Free will is not rocket science; it’s fortitude. Democracy is counter-intuitive relative to empire TV feedback. Human behavior is largely a function of peer pressure. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, move, change the channel. If the shoe fits…tyranny of the majority it is.
A job should set you free of empire, not imprison you to its credit feedback cycle, and it should only require 10% of your time, leaving 90% for the real work, raising a family effectively. Focus on strangers, orphans and widows.
Enterprise architects are not employable to troubleshoot the system by a corporate piece of paper, public, private or non-profit, standing in for the individual as a strawman. Only you can do that. Don’t shoot the messenger, with the increasing securitization of perceived anonymity, and expect a happy outcome.
That’s currency for you, just a war bond by another name. A battery is a batter is a battery.
Bottom line: Both Romney and Obama are GARBAGE.
This is all our fault for not working harder during the primaries. We could have voted for and contributed to people like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich. But we didn’t, and now we are screwed.
I offer no magic solution, but only one thought: Romney vs. Obama is a false choice, it is political theater. Despise them both, publicly revile them both, right now that is all that is left to us.
The few brave non-sheep individuals who voted for Nader are the real heroes. Pity that heroes are in such short supply.
There were no Democratic primaries this year. So what are you talking about?
If you are talking about 2008, people DID work VEry hard through those primaries. Those very hard working people elected more delegates for Clinton than the Obama people elected for Obama. Apparently the DemCon 2008 gathering was rigged and manipulated to deliver an illegitimate unearned “minority-of-the-delegates” nomination to Obama in ways I never knew or imagined until I began reading hints of it years after the fact at a blog called The Confluence.
The things which The Confluence’s blogkeeper Riverdaughter writes about deserve to be studied and covered and mainstreamed by Brand-Name investigative journalists so as to cause maximum pain and shame and embarrassment to the DemParty elites. Millions of words have been written over there just as millions of words have been written over here and it is pointless to try synopsizing millions of words into a commenter’s paragraph. I would suggest going over there and reading some of the material written on the subject of Nomination 2008.http://riverdaughter.wordpress.com/
That blog is also suggesting an effort to torture and terrorise the Democratic Party into removing Obama from the 2012 ticket in favor of somebody else. Riverdaughter herself most prefers Hillary Clinton but she has mentioned Sherrod Brown or perhaps others as being a tolerable replacement.
I will again bring up the name of Matt Stoller. Matt Stoller affects to be “displeased” in some way with Obama’s performance. Is Matt Stoller REAlly displeased with Obama’s performance? Is he displeased enough to lend his high-visibility name and reputation to a real-world effort to decontaminate the 2012 DemTicket of Obama’s presence and
scrape Dog Shit Obama off the bottom of the Democratic Party’s shoe? Or is Matt Stoller too good and too pure to get involved in real-world real-outcome real-risk real-committment politics of that sort because it would get some very real world people very angry at him in ways that could threaten his well-payed present and future career?
Because if Dog Shit Obama is on the DemParty ticket for 2012, I PROMISE that I am voting for Romney.
How does the God Damned Shitocrat Party feel about that?
Bwahahaha… i laughed so hard, i fell out of bed .. Oh please! .. PLEASE! keep on with these wonderful nuggets! hahahaha..
Thank you sincerely ;-)
Know who the chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee was? The Committee that took delegates Clinton won and handed them to Obama, in violation of its own procedures?
That’s right. James Roosevelt, CEO of Tufts Health Care, a major beneficiary of ObamaCare.
It gets old after awhile, ya know?
Adding that on Stoller, I think his posts here at NC have burnt his bridges with that crowd. On Obama, I don’t think Stoller actually used the words “lying weasel,” but the content is there. Definitely in the “transgressed the unwritten law, so he nailed my head to the floor” territory.
If he has indeed nailed his head to the floor, why will he not take the final step in the time remaining and visibly join genuine efforts to remove Obama from the ticket in 2012? I am just some anonymous tax paying nobody, but he is a high profile somebody, and the leadership stand he refuses to take at this fateful Eleventh Hour may cause the Default Loss of a crucial Battle of Extermination because the battle is never properly joined for lack of leadership by visible leaders with visible followings . . . leaders like Matt Stoller.
(By the way, while I don’t change my feelings about Nader and the Greens for a moment, I am sorry for the personally nasty way I expressed myself, and I will say the same thing more nicerly in future if I even say it at all).
We are in trouble in the US. We are so confused and stupefied.
Are we thinking thoroughly this austerity topic?
The untold truth on this board ha that the thieve stole in your face and you, your local, state, and federal gov official were aware and complicit in the theft.
The thieve is long gone and there is no way to get it back. Never mind getting it back, our officials don’t have the balls to put known thieves in jail.
And all you feel that it’s ok to take from your neighbors? I don’t care if you call it austerity or whatever, your neighbor is paying. Not the rich, not the unions, it’s your neighbors. It won’t be pretty when your neighbor gets mad.
In other words, exactly.
Those looking to get some benefits from the government better start asking younger workers to get their assess out of bed and OWS and start working.
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