Russell Libby: Beyond the “Roadrunner” Economy

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By lambert strether of Corrente.

As I was shoveling out the man cave in preparation for firing up the woodstove for the first time, I came upon the Fedco Tree Catalog. For non-Mainers, FedCo, a co-operative, is one of the companies at the heart of Maine’s slow, very unheralded, and very successful agricultural renaissance*, and the day of the “Fedco Tree Sale” is a very big deal, like Homecoming except in the mud season and for hippies and others who have trucks. So I searched YouTube for some talks on FedCo, and found this by Russell Libby, of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Association, a key figure in that renaissance (and a member of Fedco’s board). So here’s a talk by Russell Libby on food:

Food, and political economy. The talk is deceptively simple; for example, Libby describes a certain variety of apple that will keep through the winter in a root cellar and be ready for eating in February, without refrigeration. Why, one wonders, would Libby be preparing for a future where the power to freeze at the flick of a switch is no longer a given?

Here’s the last bit of the speech:

So what’s our strategy? I’m kind of with the poet Lou Welch. So Lou Welch was one of the Beat Poets. He wrote this poem, this Chicago poem, about the evils of the industrial city. I’m not going to give you the whole thing, but I’ll give you the end of it:

I don’t know what you’re going to do about it
but as for me, I know what I’m going to do about it.
I’m going to walk away.
Maybe a small part of it will die
if I’m not around feeding it any more.

So part of what we have to do is stop supporting the things that we don’t believe in. We have to just step away. And so what does this new economy look like, the one that’s kind of beyond ‘The Roadrunner Economy’? Well, if we can get Wile E. Coyote to slow down a little bit, and be really clear about where it is he’s going, and, when he starts to fall, when we start to fall, there’s someone there to pick us up? That’s what we all need.

Hmm. “New economy”? “New economy?”

NOTE * I pause here to give thanks that Maine is not cursed with oil.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. hb

    the idea that individuals ‘walking away’ are going to create a ‘new economy’ to replace the old one is a dangerous delusion of the upper middle class, who think they will be secure in the collapse as others die en masse.

    1. different clue

      The “left-behinds” may choose to not die quietly. They may well try to “reach out and touch” the walk-awayers.

    2. psychohistorian

      The necessary first step in real change is to stop what you are doing. The problem here is that some are going to be forced into this sort of genocide and this will cause social unrest….that will then turn to a military state…..wheeee

      Where are the grownup when you need them?

      Lets nationalize the Fed and laugh the global inherited rich out of ongoing control of the class based Western world, starting with America.

      1. Carla

        “Lets nationalize the Fed and laugh the global inherited rich out of ongoing control of the class based Western world, starting with America.”

        To me, that’s not psycho, historian — but music to my ears!

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Heaven knows I’d be the last person to criticize cynicism — or as some may prefer to call it, realism — as such, but you gotta know the territory.

      The “walking away” by the hippie types into marginal places with cheap land like the state of Maine was also combined with significant institution buildng: Fedco and MOFGA are non-trivial achievements, driven by Libby and his cohorts.

      1. different clue

        That’s certainly true. And it would appear that they built FEDCO into a bussiness able to be relevant to the world they walked away from to begin with . . . the world of populations too dense to survive without efficient exploitation of their habitat through specialization of labor exchanged through the medium of generally recognized currency (“money”). In short, these people retreated to their Caves of Yenan and have been able to come back and start adapting society to their will. Which is more productive than just “walking away”.

        I thought I was being invited to approve of the moral gesture of “walking away”. I feel better to discover I am being invited to approve of a civilization-based economically-relevant approach of supporting that which I like and/or appreciate and withholding support from that which I oppose and hope to see driven extinct.

        If that is what I am being invited to approve of or even take part in, then there are several other seed ‘n garden companies in your own region which would seem equally beneficial to our existence and worthy of our support: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Pine Tree Seeds, High Mowing Seeds.
        There are no doubt some others. Oooh! Oooh! Turtle Tree Seeds suddenly comes to mind as well.

    4. Dan Kervick

      I appreciate the sentiment that there are some harmful institutions and ways of living and conducting business that can be undermined if enough people begin defecting from them. But I fear that the continuing destruction of the planet by fossil fuel extraction and burning will not come to an end soon just because some people who are willing and able to live an alternative fossil fuel-free lifestyle walk away.

    5. Carol Sterritt

      If the Global Elite does manage to get the earth’s inhabitants down to the Kissinger-styled meme of 600,000 people, it might then mean the Elite will have to clean their own bathrooms, brew their own meth, and shake the coffee trees for their coffee.

      Right now, the meme is circulating that there will be all these clever little agri-robots to do the planting and harvesting – but good look with those robots, when several of them break down… There won’t be enough people left to fix them.

  2. hb

    ps: lew welch was a heavy drinker, a diletantte, & a suicide at 45. His poetry is no roadmap to a better world.

    No illusions, no romanticism.

    1. Yves Smith

      Sylvia Plath committed suicide at the age of 30. Ezra Pound had a nervous breakdown and was a fascist. Alcoholism is common among poets, and they have shorter lifespans than the population as a whole. So do professional musicians, BTW. So the fact that they have short and often unhappy lives means we should not appreciate their art?

      1. brazza

        A-men Yves! Is the sober attainment of comfort and fortune more virtuous than the libertine, or the soldier, or the artist? I posit that we have been programmed with a system of beliefs that forces us into quick and (if self-aware) irrational value-judgements based on foundational tenets we never ever dare question … because if we did we might actually have to change … The artist often seeks to communicate the experience of his/her bewilderment at the senselessness of the existence-that-does-not-question, and his/her pain at wading against the current, without the security of a roadmap. Every path in life is of equal potential value – they ultimately lead to the realization that the journey is where the value lies … not the destination. Some of my art …

      2. charles sereno

        Pardon for my length. Some years ago, I got this this “poem” purported to be an unpublished one from Plath. I’m confused about my memories but it seems OK:


        Often in the old tales
        I chanced upon the story of a princess
        Shocking the formality of the court
        By leading on a silver chain
        The tamed black anger
        Of a panther at her heels.

        And now I too
        Though by no means a princess
        Lead on a slender
        All too fragile chain
        Just such a jungle power
        As she of long ago.

        I hear the muffled step
        Behind me
        And I know too
        What others cannot see
        That in those feet
        The long claws lie ready for the spring.

      3. JEHR

        I used to believe, and still do, that some people including poets, musicians, and artists were more psychically sensitive to the world around them, else how could they create such great works. They see reality in a way that most of us could not bear to see it. When I was in University as an adult student, I took a course on Plath’s poetry. The Professor told us that one of his colleagues would not teach Plath’s poetry to young students as she worried about the effects of it on their mental health.

        Most people have only small glimpses of this sentivitiy to reality such as when we feel totally alienated while shopping in a store like Costco so that you have a strong desire to liquidate the whole ugly edifice–and walk away. The glimpse is difficult to cope with so think what it would be like to really See Everything As It Is, not as we fantasize it to be.

        1. Mel

          I think Derrida’s point holds though:

          The only chance those words have to *do* anything is if you understand them. Without you understanding them, they’re helpless.

        2. brazza

          well said! Those Costco-moments are very familiar … and then I too feel like the princess leading the panther …

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      See under Genetic Fallacy.

      * * *

      If you believe that the work of art embodies a personality and cannot be detached from it, then your comment makes sense. If you believe that art lives on long after its creator is dead, then your comment makes no sense at all. I would put the first approach into a bucket called “celebrities” and second into a bucket called “criticism.” I see no point in whinging about the quality of the husk when it is the seed that matters.

      Just saying.

  3. Clive

    What’s going to fix things is an ability to recapture what we’ve lost somewhere, somehow along the way: the ability to have a cohesive, inclusive and supportive society. One where the people who need assistance get it from those who can spare it while not taking advantage of the generosity they’ve had extended to them. One where people who have a surplus willingly give a bit of that to those who haven’t enough without coercion or resentment both because it is The Right Thing To Do but also because they know they are not being taken for a ride.

    What is definitely not going to fix it in anything but the shortest of horizons is where out of a misplaced sense of self-preservation, self-interest or self-pity, various factions splinter off into separatist cliques or enclaves.

    While Russell’s identification of the problem is spot-on (too extractive a society from the natural world, too energy intensive and not ultimately sustainable) his solutions have too much collateral damage for my liking. Okay, bemoan an imported apple from New Zealand. But if you “solve” that problem by not importing that apple, it’s great for the US producer of the substituted product. Not so great for the New Zealand farmer who’s livelihood is impacted. “I’ve got mine”, “my family is okay”, “that’s someone else’s problem” is the kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.

    (this comment is a generalised “Pt. 1”. Pt. 2 to follow…)

    1. brazza

      Clive yes and … there is also a need for those who provide examples of alternative life-choices. We are railroaded by society’s education systems and propagated values to become “useful cogs” in one of Wyle-e’s ingenious and usually flawed devices. Those who choose to “walk away” provide a stimulus by forcing everyone to question the status quo. They may “walk away” but they are still part of the greater eco-system within which our society is also contained.

        1. brazza

          I don’t understand why you are insulting me. Did I offend you or break web-site etiquette/rule I’m not aware of? If so, inform me. If not … what’s your problem?

    2. different clue

      But if we buy the apple from New Zealand to support the New Zealand farmer, we default-boycott the apple from next door to bankrupt the local farmer. And where does THAT leave us?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Now that I think of it, Libby’s story is a direct assault on Krugman’s theory of comparative advantage, is it not? “An apple is just an apple”? No, it’s not, because apples are fruits adapted to local conditions. If you want an apple that is good to eat in February with no refrigeration, you can’t ship that apple from Zambia, because you can’t grow that apple in Zambia.

        1. different clue

          Exactly so. I am not surprised that the pro-NAFTA pro-Free Trade Globalizationist Krugman would keep chattering about “comparative advantage”.

          When “comparative advantage” was honestly used to refer to the fact that Jamaica can’t grow blueberries and Maine can’t grow coconuts, it was a useful concept. But it was misapplied through an oh-so-clever sleight-of-mouth switcheroo to refer to a “comparative advantage” in anti-social anti-standards enforced against people of one country as against another. So Vietnam and Haiti have a “comparative advantage” in semi-unpaid semi-slave labor.
          And that is the whole basis of the Krugmanite theory of Free Trade Globalizationism. And people call Krugman a “liberal”.

          “Buy local” does its best work when it helps keep genuine genetic treasures like the February Apple in existence and in bussiness.

  4. Clive

    Okay, as previously threatened, Pt. 2:

    This is a local example of the dilemma we’ve all got, the subtleties of which seems to be glossed over by Russell. Hopefully for US readers, you’ve got your own example of the same. When in the market I buy the following product:

    This is the same as Russell’s “New Zealand apple”. Fresh produce imported in an energy intensive way. Exactly the sort of thing he was kvetching about. But take a closer look (zoom in on the packaging). The country of origin is a poor African nation (usually Zambia). I don’t suppose for a minute that the people growing these beans are awash with affluence. The ability to get to an international market for their produce lifts them from subsistence existence. The supermarket chain (a company called Waitrose) is the epitome of middle class angst here in the UK and as a result has a highly regarded “fair deal for suppliers” programme. The casualty here is the environment (for the consumption of oil to fly the produce to the market). The beneficiaries are the producers and the country of origin who get much needed ForEx. I get to enable their improved quality of life, not through distorting and unsustainable, undignified charity but by — what I hope to be — fair trade.

    Russell was very naughty because he stacked his argument’s deck by citing New Zealand as the exporter of the fresh produce. New Zealand isn’t impoverished and it’s people are very affluent. So in that instance, his argument has some weight. Turn “New Zealand” into “Zambia” and it’s not quite so clear. Hopefully there’s other US-centric examples which readers know that make the same point (sorry, I don’t know what typically gets imported when it can also be home-grown in US fresh produce).

    Apologies if you’ve got fed up wading through my long comments here but I was really peeved by the simplistic and distorted narrative Russell tried to create. Russell, it’s not’s quite that easy I’m afraid.

    1. joe

      There is a problem in Zambia, the Zambian people don’t have enough water and they are not getting the proper nutrition. Do a search on Zambia and Water. Maybe we shouldn’t be encourging the export of thier water, and their food. Local is what it is about. And I doubt that the Zambians get much of the money you spent on the beans anyway. If they did what are they going to buy, a new ipad?

      1. Clive

        Oh, okay, thanks Joe. I’ll put those beans back on the shelf. I feel like I’m channelling a mirror-universe Marie-Antoinette in unashamedly saying “No iPads for those Zambians, then”. “Let them drink water”.

        Great. Problem solved. Oh, wait a minute…

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I see the point. On the other hand:

      1) Middle class Brit angst aside, surely promoting for-export monoculture under the banner of “It’s good for the Zambians!” has its own issues. While this may benefit some Zambians, it’s not at all clear it benefits Zambia as such.

      2) If growing apples that are edible in February without refrigeration is the requirement, then those apples are hardly likely to come from Zambia. So, from some viewpoints, you can participate in the global food chain or you can prepare for a less hydrocarbon-intensive future, but you cannot to both.

      3) If we (as Russell does) focus on the whole chain and not just transactions within it, we might be led to investigate where the raw materials that went into the controller that runs the freezer that stores the Zambian apples came from. We might find the results not so pretty, especially in resource extraction operations run in Africa. Items like these need to be factored into the net.

      So, as Russel points out, it all comes down to the stories we tell. Not a simplistic point at all, though it may be deceptively simple…..

    3. diptherio

      My old Econ advisor had a couple of anecdotes he liked to tell about how the famine in Ethiopia in the 80’s was greatly intensified by the practice of exporting food crops to rich Europeans and Americans, rather than selling it to the locals. In fact, he showed that Ethiopia as a whole was producing plenty of food for everyone, but areas where the harvest was poor were being priced out of the market, since the people who owned the farms in less affected areas (who were often as not anglos) were choosing to export rather than sell their crop inland.

      “I get to enable their improved quality of life, not through distorting and unsustainable, undignified charity but by — what I hope to be — fair trade.”–Clive

      Hope in one hand and spit in the other; see which one fills up first. Does it say fair-trade, or are you just hoping? How much do you trust African fair-trade certifying agencies anyway, even if it does bare such a label?

      1. different clue

        And how does Zambia grow more food for Zambia by shipping the green beans to . . . ta dah! . . . England?

  5. bmeisen

    Love the guy but … is the roadrunner economy the “industrial city”? If so then Mr Libby is wrong. The roadrunner economy, the economy that leads its participants off a cliff, is the American landscape of industrial farming, shopping malls, suburban sprawl, and bipolar transportation, a landscape in which the “city” exists as a disposable diaper.

    In a sustainable future most of us live in green, industrial cities, and I mean “industrial” because we will manufacture those products that we now fly in from China. We will live in passive apartment complexes and shop down in the courtyard at a market that sells produce from local farmers that is transported into the city on light rail systems.

    This was the model used in New England until as I understand it J.P. Morgan got away with cornering the New England rail market and shut down lines that competed with his preferred lines. For example, Conway, MA had a public railway into at least the 30s that enabled local farmers and manufacturers to move their produce and products to a junction at which it could be transported daily into Boston.

      1. Aquifer

        Shucks – running E-W through Syracuse is Erie Blvd – named in honor of the Erie Canal that was filled in beneath it …

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      bmeisen, such a “local” model thrived in New Orleans, before PetroChemAgriPharmaMarine/Army Corps ruined Earth-Water-Air downriver of the Metropole, before BigOilCorp and Houston OilTrash ruined beautiful *Bohemian* New Orleans, and stripped Canal Street of the finest locally-owned stores. The citrus and tomato growing paradise of St. Bernard Parish got its latest wave of destruction thanks to BP.

      The utter destruction of “local self-sufficiency” – beginning in the early 1970’s was intentional, of this there can be no doubt. TED is a Mask of the Global .01%.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, I disagree with Libby on his views of cities. Suburbs, on the other hand…

      * * *

      Adding, to me (and I am reading this into what Libby says, because here he really is too oblique) the Road Runner economy is one dominated by rent seekers from the financial sector. “It fits the description.”

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Be sure to read the Comments on the Max Keiser site below the videos, to comprehend fully: What’s a Keiser for?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      In general, the sustainability people think that debt is important, because they see the build-up of ecological problems as analogous to the build-up of debt. However, the difference is that ecological “debts” must alway be paid (see under evolution, adaptive traits), but human debts do not (see Graeber and many other sources, going all the way back to Old Testament jubilees). So they have a category confusion based on reifying a human process as if it were a natural one, and that’s not a good basis for discussion. Of course, maybe the FDL thread doesn’t have this problem….

    1. toxymoron

      I did an estimate for dairy products one day, and came to about 1000 km (this for the french market).
      A science paper (found through Google scholar, but lost the reference) claimed that on average, a product on the US market travels around 6000 miles from its ‘origins’ (e.g. milk, plastic, fruit, sugar, .. all enter into dairy products) to its ‘factory’, and 1500 miles more to your fridge.
      I must admit I have stopped eating dairy products ever since.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Indeed, and Mexico has the Globalization Imprimatur on avocados. “Globalization” was/is a Racket. Bring RICO.

      2. diptherio

        Here in Montana we have more cows than people (amazing, I know) and guess where all our beef comes from? You guessed it, Chicago! The Nation’s meat packers. For some reason, most likely the awesome logic of the market, we closed all of our slaughterhouses and meat-packing facilities and now send our live cows by truck and train 1,500 miles so that they can be killed, chopped into meal-sized portions, wrapped in cellophane, and sent back to the neighborhood Safeway.

        I mean seriously, WTF? And this is in a state full of hunters, for Goddess-sake, we know how to kill and butcher us some ungulates.

        1. different clue

          There have been histories written on the abuse of regulationism to “cost-pressure” small and medium size intra-state slaughter-butcher facilities out of existence to advantage politically favored interstate giants. If I could remember the names of those histories, I could tell the names. I can’t remember, but I know I have seen them.

    2. Susan the other

      ES, this is the question. We all know it is a rhetorical question at this point in time, not just because of pollution and global warming, but because we are running out of fossil fuels which is the only source of energy which can do long hauls. Fossil fuels are also a raw material for ag fertilizers and are becoming a more precious resource by the minute. So just walk away. Switching over to wind, thermal, solar, water and clean/safe nuclear is going to happen – regardless of rising sea levels. The use of electric energy will be so expensive it will make global trade a thing of the past for all but the most necessary items. Food is not one. Every country on earth, using proper farming and conservation techniques, can produce its own food. We don’t need global trade, we don’t need Monsanto. And we’ll be healthier. Walking is the best exercise, in more ways than one.

  6. don

    I live in far southwest Oregon where a sustainable way of life among many has been established – dating back to the arrival of back to land ‘hippies’ in the late sixies. Here it is fairly common to find people who have big gardens, can fruit from their fruit trees, who get their energy from solar and micro-hydro, where I can buy goats milk that hasn’t been homogenized just down the road – where community bonds are strong, and where a semi-communal lifestyle still persists. They live sustainably, and what is discussed and understood in the video has been well grounded here for decades.

    But this same area also has many who are poor, jobs are few, and many are high dependence on food stamps. There is also a high degree of politically reactionary thinking. Nearly everyday I hear gunshots from my neighbors (target shooting or just letting them off). There is a high degree of crime and drug use, while pot growers = some having been growing for years while others more recently – keep the economy afloat, as this time of year sees an influx of pot trimmers – along with the migrating mushroom pickers. So there is nothing homogeneous about the place, and a broader cooperation among these people simply doesn’t exist.

    What is described in the video is a localism that does not lead to radical social change, and what is re-inforced in the presentation of this video is the notion that change comes from individuals actions rather than the collective actions of many individuals, not only on a local basis but nationally, even globally.

    A serious discussion must move beyond the actions of individuals to one of how collective action can be brought about, something for which I have little hope in, especially since this kind of focus is so often missing. So I find this notion of a new economy rather naive, and feel compelled to remind readers here that neo-liberalism has done much to gut any sense of community and the collective aspirations of a people, as mass consumption and isolation has been an outcome of a society that has been primarily organized around market privatization.

    1. McMike

      Don, I agree with your sentiment, however the only way to create (lasting and meaningfull) collective action is built on a foundation of individual actions.

      Hence the word: collective.

      Reactionaries are generaly exhibiting pathologies that can only be unwound if you can get them unplugged from the mass delusions and reactiviate thier own minds by starting to believe their eyes again. Then you find out you have more in common than you thought.

      A primary feature of healthy local food/local economy movements is that they entail diverse groups of people in terms of thier main drivers and analysis. Working both left and right from the outside in; you see this with homeschoolers and vaccine skeptics that attract left and right for different but similar reasons, also yuppie foodies and redneck survivalists (and to a lesser extent occupiers and tea partiers) who come from both ends of the spectrum and share a central critiques.

      The risk, and this plays into your concern, is how to help steer this into a healthy creation of collective alternatives, versus devolution into, say, fascism versus communism (no thanks, already saw how that movie ends).

      The only answer I know of is for indiviuals to reach out on thier own and invite their “opposites” to the table. One person at a time.

      1. don

        The Catholic Workers referred to what you describe as individual action, as opposed to social action. In any case, if individual action is the basis for collective action, then what you are suggesting is that collective action is constituted when enough individuals have been activated. But lets get away from the semantics and the dichotomy. Can we agree that real change will only come about not by the actions of individuals alone (too isolated) but with social action?

        1. McMike


          I think my point is that proponents of collective action sometimes try to skip the first step. Or in the case of (for instance) super large environmental foundations, become disdainful of individual actions.

          Applying collective ation takes a lot of enlightment, otherwise you digress off on tangent into factionalism, elitism, institutionalism, careerism, professionalism, etc etc

          The most effective transformations from individual into collective actions happen when the leadership is in the right place at the right time for the right reasons.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      We have a lot of the same issues up here in The Great State of Maine. Being really only a writer, the only pronouncement I can sensibly issue is “Nobody ever said it was easy,” which is on the par with “It won’t get better if you pick at it.” Oh well.

      That said, I have noticed that the only topic I can almost always discuss with my right wing neighbors is organic gardening and farming. I don’t know what to make of this, but when you think about it Jack D. Ripper wasn’t really all that wrong about our “precious bodily fluids”….

      1. McMike

        In addition to farming, I can talk with them about medicine, schooling, and banks.

        What is fascinating is that we share an analysis but only to a point. On banks, I see corporate campaign contributions, and they see the Community Reinvestment act. The old instinctsa die hard. Hence my comment below regarding the risk of fascism vs. communism: an agreement on the disease, a disagreement about the cure.

    3. Susan the other

      There are communities of walk-aways all over the country. They choose to isolate themselves first and live their lives second. I think of walking away in attitude mostly, but not to isolate myself physically. We all walk away from bullshit. Maybe those of us who are lifestyle ideologues fall into the Jonestown trap. If it’s not a perfection of our faith somehow we think we are not being true to our convictions. I think that’s an excuse to stop learning; a form of masochism, an illusion. What we need to do is walk toward another kind of happiness. Which usually requires engagement with a whole variety of people.

      1. McMike

        Yup. Fine line. A battered spouse must leave the abusive relationship. But in the long run, must also once again take a chance on a new relationship.

        I think as a society, our center of gravity is somewhere towards the reject-everything-except-tribal-misery/anger phase.

        Interesting question: is this part of the recovery process, or is it a reflection of the sucessful consumerist nihilism that has trained us to distrust meaning in favor of symbols and simulacra?

    4. diptherio

      Sounds just like Alberton to me. A bunch of “sustainable” hippies living off their gardens, wildcrafting, and food-stamps. Aaahhh, the irony.

      I agree with your dim hopes for a New Economy, or at least one that we will plan in advance. One of the findings of complexity science is that a system cannot move from one highly advanced (i.e. complex) state to another highly advanced state without first descending to a much lower level of complexity. One cannot “jump between peaks,” as it were, but must traverse the valleys of chaos that divide them. And that’s just general systems theory, not even taking into account human nature and the problems of mass-action.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Well, I don’t know about other states, but in Maine the hippies founded two leading heirloom seed companies, the largest organic organization in the country, and have great influence at Unity College and some influence at the land grant university in sustainable ag.

        The stereotyping going on in this thread is pretty amazing.*

        * * *

        That said, the idea that “one cannot jump between peaks” in a complex system is interesting. Links?

        NOTE And what’s wrong with getting food stamps? Not as big as a bankster’s bonus?

        UPDATE * Adding, to be fair, perhaps I failed to contextualize “walk away” sufficiently. But the thread taken as a whole certainly does. As does, thinking about it, Libby’s bio.

    1. brazza

      and … everything from LeonovaBR is laced with vitriol? I refuse to think so in spite of today’s crop … Come-on, don’t spew your personal discontent all over the web-site. Use a filter sometimes!

  7. McMike

    Wow, so much sophistry in a single short discussion thread. Must have hit a nerve.

    The idea that we should import unsustainable foods from African nations simply to support their economies is downright silly. We can do them no good by rearranging deck chairs while we speed off a cliff together.

    The fact that artists & poets often lead lives outside the mainstream of thought and action and also struggle with psychological and social issues therein is not a reason to dismiss them, it is a hint to pay closer attention.

    And the notion that we must continue our unsustainable food and economic systems because a transition might be painful is yet another example of the backasswards logic of an addict.

    The first rule of being in a hole is to stop digging.

    An alcoholic giving up the drink must confront the possibilities of the DTs and of finding a new group of friends.

    Yet the rebuttals above would have us continue digging until we fall out of the other side of the earth, while doubling down on our vodka consumption in order to stay a step ahead of the detox.

    Just as there are means to soften the transition for alcoholics, we must save some of our human energy and devote planning to mitigating the fallout and helping those who are less able to adjust (hello AA).

    There is one thing we can control in this complex and crazy world; out own actions.

    I would emphasize that we do have an obligation not just to check out and turn our backs on our communities and neighbors. We must remain open to them, lead by example, and help prepare the ground for soft landings as consciousness and conditions evolve.

    The first rule of disasters and airplane depressurizations is to save yourself before helping others. Getting our own house in order first is and must be the priority.

    And frankly, the best thing we could do for Africa is get our global corporations, CIA, and arms merchants the hell out of there, in the long term, no better way will be found until those parasites and provocateurs are removed from the equation.

    And yes, the excess of sophistry above has led to my own excess of metaphors.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      McM, would you recommend turning all of those FEMA camps into agricultural collectives? In the manner of Stalin, or in the manner of Mao?

    2. JEHR

      “Sophistry” is a bit harsh, McMike. It brings the conversation to an abrupt end. No one is trying to be deceptive.

      1. McMike

        You are probably correct JEHR about the conversation stopping on my part, but that is also exactly what sophistry (in the modern form) tries to do: derail the conversation.

        Which is what I saw in some of the initial responses: not necessarily deceptive per se, but perhaps disingenuous.

        “dangerous middle class delusions” “drinking suicidal diletante” “naughty stacking the deck” sheesh.

        But yes. I could have edited my own response.

  8. docg

    “So Lou Welch was one of the Beat Poets.”

    So what’s with this “so”? So why am I now seeing and hearing this pathetic “so” everywhere? So if the beat poets were still around they’d be beating this “so” to death, really hammering it, so it would be so hammered so damned flat so we couldn’t hear it any more, so it would just so be some sort of muffled “s”.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Some of us still use “So” OUTSIDE of the CODE of the same old Anglo-American Establishment Victorian Reich .01%DNA+.99%Agency, which employs “So as the first word of the Global Message for hoi polloi to digest.

      Today’s “So, …” is yesterday’s “Look, …” OxBridgeSpeak/Newspeak.

  9. kevinearick

    Labor vs. Capital / The Fed

    Plato: The orator has in fact the ability to speak more persuasively than experts on a technical matter before a crowd of non-experts. Since he produces ‘conviction-persuasion’ and not ‘teaching persuasion,’ the orator is required neither to know nor to speak the truth, and hence can easily afford to be indifferent to the truth.

    Zeyl: Hence oratory was, and was recognized to be, an extremely powerful instrument for attaining one’s ambitions.

    Lewis: Stan O’Neil, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, was fired for the same reason the lower-middle-class family in the suburban wasteland between Los Angeles and San Diego may have lost its surprisingly nice home. Both underestimated the likelihood of an unlikely event: a financial panic. The man on the street, for the first time (NOT), acted on the same foolish principles that have guided the behavior of sophisticated Wall Street traders…When a market is crashing and no one is willing to buy (enter the Fed), it’s impossible to sell short. The math was too advanced, the theorists too smart; the debate, for anyone without a degree in mathematics, was bound to end badly. The theory underlying all insurance…falls apart in the face of an actual panic.

    Taleb: You guys are just parasytes. You’re not bringing anything useful to the market. You are lecturing birds on how to fly. You’re watching them fly. And then you’re taking credit for it.

    Lewis: events that are meant to occur once in a millenium now seem to occur every few years…the financial system was built on an idea that badly underestimates the risk of catastrophies…and so conspires with human (middle class) nature to create them…

    Krugman: My story about a basically sound bank (the Fed) beset by a crisis of confidence…


    The dominoes continue to fall and the explosions just get bigger, inside a PLC controlled digital universe, in which the Nobel is embedded and replicating…good luck with that; keep betting against me. Funny how the physical PLC problem in NY keeps expanding…

  10. Sufferin' Succotash

    After awhile I begin to confuse walking away with survivalism.
    And I start confusing both with a sentiment which, in brief, goes like his: Fuck You Jack, I’m All Right.

  11. different clue

    You know . . . Mr. “Green Beans” Clive upthread sounded vaguely familiar, and then I remembered. I read his entry wayyyyy back there on the Naomi Klein Bill Moyers thread. Here is a part of what he said . . . the part to do with windfarming . . .

    Clive says:
    November 17, 2012 at 10:23 am
    “Yeah, but… I still don’t want a big ugly wind farm in the beautiful countryside where I live. Not, as the saying goes, in my back yard. Doesn’t matter if it is centrally planned or locally ordained. Sorry Naomi, I think you’re wrong on that one.”


    His concern about an ugly old windfarm spoiling his pretty country view reminded me of the same concern being voiced about windfarm projects in this country, so I left a link for Clive wayyyyy back there on that thread. But since these threads die before they have a chance to grow up, let alone grow old, I doubt he or anyone else got to see
    my little linkie. So here it is again: The Daily Show covers the Windfarm Proposal off Nantucket.—nantucket

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