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

Yves here. Mark Ames wrote this post for our fundraiser four years ago. Last year, we turned into a fundraiser staple, since as long as Larry Summers is with us, this is the sort of classic worth reading regularly. Think of it as our analogue to Christmas perennials like The Grinch That Stole Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. But not to worry, Ames being Ames and NC being NC, this is the antithesis of sappy. (Mark, you are on notice that if by some miraculous bit of good fortune, Summers retreats from the public sphere, we’ll need you to provide an updated slant on elite venality).

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t always this way.

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

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

Naked Capitalism is our online university in finance and politics and ideology. Whereas other online universities are set up to turn millions of gullible youths into debt-shackled Wall Street feeding cows, Naked Capitalism is the opposite: Completely free, consistently brilliant, vital, and necessary, making us smarter, teaching us how we might one day overthrow the financial oligarchy. One other difference between Naked Capitalism and online university swindles: (Stanley Kaplan cough-cough!) Your donations won’t end up paying Ezra Klein’s salary.

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

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

So some of you have no hearts, and some of us have no shame. But we all do understand how vital Naked Capitalism has been in educating us. I’m sure that the other side knows how dangerous a site like this is, because as we become more educated and more political, we become more and more of a threat.

The oligarchy has spent decades on a project to “defund the Left,” and they’ve succeeded in ways we’re only just now grasping. “Defunding the Left” doesn’t mean denying funds to the rotten Democratic Party; it means defunding everything that threatens the 1%’s hold on wealth and power. One of their greatest successes, whether by design or not, has been the gutting of journalism, shrinking it down to a manageable size where its integrity can be drowned in a bathtub. It’s nearly impossible to make a living as a journalist these days; and with the economics of the journalism business still in free-fall like the Soviet refrigerator industry in the 1990s, media outlets are even less inclined to challenge power, journalists are less inclined to rock the boat than ever, and everyone is more inclined to corruption (see: Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly). A ProPublica study in May put it in numbers: In 1980, the ratio of PR flaks to journalists was roughly 1:3. In 2008, there were 3 PR flaks for every 1 journalist. And that was before the 2008 shit hit the journalism fan.

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

The only way to prevent that from happening to is to support the best of what we have left. Working for free sucks. It can’t hold, and it won’t.

There are multiple ways to give. The first is here on the blog, the Tip Jar, which takes you to PayPal. There you can use a debit card, a credit card or a PayPal account (the charge will be in the name of Aurora Advisors).

You can also send a check (or multiple post dated checks) in the name of Aurora Advisors Incorporated to

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Please also send an e-mail to with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ en route in the message) to have your contribution included in the total number of donations.

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

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  1. Stephen Rhodes

    Things have been worse than many realize for a long, long time.
    Here’s a reproduction of a letter to the NYT editor, June 12, 1991. The editor placed the headline Did The Pentagon Papers Change Anything? over it.

    To the Editor [The New York Times]:

    As a postscript to A M Rosenthal’s celebration of The Times’s publication of the Pentagon Papers 20 years ago (column, June 11):

    A few months after the publication of the secret study of the Vietnam War ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert S McNamara, I talked to Neil Sheehan, the Times reporter in Washington who brought the papers to the paper. Wasn’t he disappointed? How did President Nixon have the nerve to go on talking about “Hanoi breaking the Geneva agreements,” since the true story was now on record?

    He answered (I took it down), “As far as I know, no one in this Administration read the P. Papers. A very high official told me that commissioning the study had been a sign of weakness in McNamara. One should simply execute policy, he said.” I asked, “Well, what then about The Times itself?” Sheehan: “What about it?
    I: “Times semantics still depict a war between one attacking country and one defending country.”
    He: “A news story is just a piece of a whole story . The strength and the weakness of daily journalism is its specificness. A journalist cannot turn himself into a propagandist.”
    I: “But he is one now, for a Government line that was exposed, as let us say, unreal.”
    He: “No doubt an American journalist like all other journalists uses terms that reflect his social background. To me the Pentagon Papers help us keep our freedom to publish.”
    I: “Meanwhile, back in Vietnam.”
    He: “The Vietnamese are warriors. They have to do it themselves and they will. They defeated the Mongols. The spirit of man is stronger than all machines.”

    (signed) Hans Koning New Haven, June 12, 1991
    The writer is author of “Nineteen Sixty-Eight” (New York, 1987).

  2. Peter Schitt

    It’s not rocket science; nationalize the banks before they kill us all. They are a rampant, malignant parasite sucking the life out of society. We either cut out the putrescence or succumb. Socialism or barbarism, the choice is that simple. If the American people continue to vote for the Bushes and Clintons, they deserve another 911.

  3. Jamie

    Wow, blatant hippy hating and revisionist history.

    Hippies were largely raised to be middle class managers. We were raised to distain manual labor. That was not our decision. That was what we rejected when we went out into rural communities and undertook to live self-sustainably on farming communes and through the cottage industries, food co-ops and worker collectives we created. We rejected the power suits and corner offices, yes, but we reclaimed the dignity of labor in our own lives.

    Moreover, we were a tiny fringe. You can’t lay the failures of the boomer generation on the hippies. I was one of perhaps half a dozen hippies in my high school of 3000 in 1969. If you want to know why things are as they are, look at why the mainstream is the mainstream. We had a disproportionate impact on U.S. culture for our numbers. That’s because we had principles regarding finding out the truth and taking it seriously. But given that we were probably much less than 5% of our generation, how is it that we are to blame for everything?

    Where I grew up, in suburbia in the ’50s, there was no traditional left. The traditional left was so far submerged that it might as well not have existed. We became the left because we opposed the establishment. We didn’t oppose it because we had historical ties with a leftist tradition. We had no such ties. We opposed it because it was discriminatory and brutal, and we decided we didn’t want or need the bribes we were offered to be obedient little cogs in a racist war machine. The failings of the traditional left were not the result of hippydom. More like hippydom was a result of the failures of the traditional left.

    Hippies never defined mainstream culture. We reacted against mainstream culture and our reaction had an effect, but the effect was not to make every boomer a hippy. Hippies are not responsible for the attitudes and politics of the boomers. Hippies and boomers are not equivalent groups. Hippies are a tiny subset of boomers, and blaming hippies for boomer politics is rank nonsense.

    But blaming boomers for the failures of the left is also a non-starter. (Oh it may be persuasive to younger people who don’t know any better, so it may be “politic” in a certain despicable, unethical way, but it is not logical or truthful.) The boomers are not responsible (as a group) for the repression of leftist ideology. The boomers are themselves largely made up of oppressed workers. People who want to blame them for allowing themselves to be oppressed and then pile on the blame by blaming them also for current conditions are raising the art of blaming the victim to new heights.

    Nor is the left to be blamed for failing the boomers (and subsequent generations). “The left” failed to consolidate political power. That’s just a fact, just something that happened. It’s not that the left has some reasonable expectation to win, but lost through poor judgment and negligence. And it’s not that the right had no money and power until the hippies suddenly decided to turn their back on money and power. The right has always had the money and power. The only thing the left has ever had going for it was truth and compassion. This impulse to hate on the hippies sacrifices both.

    Yes, in the ’30s the left and labor were practically one. Then came WWII, television, the GI bill…. A lot changed. General prosperity, mass televised propaganda, and massive consolidation of the military-industrial complex (i.e. money and power) pacified the masses and the corruption of labor unions, racism in some unions, and constant attacks from the right destroyed the left-labor power base.

    Hippies had nothing to do with that. We were dealing with the contradictions in our own lives to the best of our ability. It’s not our fault that we didn’t solve in 1970 the contradictions appearing in society in 2015. And it’s not our fault (who were groomed to be middle class managers) that we didn’t solve the contradictions in the labor movement. We were viciously attacked in the streets by labor, who were at the time so far invested in the status quo that our objections to the war machine were perceived as existential threats by them. “The left” loves and romanticizes labor, and doesn’t seem to notice when organized labor functions for the interest of money and power.

    It’s not our fault that leftist ideology was driven out of the unions even as the unions were diminished to insignificance by consolidated money and power. Don’t hate the hippies. Hippy ideology is simple: truth and self-determination. We want the best for everyone: compassion, love, and principled living, free of regimentation and coercion. Sure, some self-described hippies may have been anti-intellectual asshats (as portrayed above), but that’s not what being a hippy was all about.

    Figures played a large part in our consciousness… the numbers of dead in Viet Nam, the number of nuclear missiles we were pointing at one another, the number of martinis consumed by the drunken business class as they made their arms deals and the amount of dollars exchanged… the mischaracterization above is a base smear.

    Hippies did have an “if it feels good, do it” attitude, but we were self-conscious dispellers of illusion in many realms, grounded in reality, in opposition to the web of deceit be-spelling the masses with respect to Viet Nam, the political class and their constant lies, the purity of “our” intentions and actions as a nation…. Yes, in some ways we were naive and idealistic, but that didn’t last for long. But whatever our faults and failings, we are not responsible for today’s chaos or consolidation of money and power. And we continue to fight for truth and self-determination, freedom from coercion, and principled living in everything we do. I won’t apologize for that, even if it falls short of some self-declared leftist’s notion that we should have done more to keep a traditional leftist analysis of finance alive as the conscience of our generation. I am not the conscience of my generation, and to the extent that hippies ever played that role, we deserve nothing but respect and gratitude.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have to tell you this is pretty overwrought. I also grew up in the 1950s, was reading economic literature and research in the early 1970s as part of being a debater, and I see nothing wrong with Ames’ critique of the loss of the competence of the left in economics or his passing reference to hippies. I have to tell you, Ames is one of the very best read people I know on the history of the left, and he has the goods. For instance, at the time, the hippies DID have tremendous cultural influence, even if it petered out fast. Go read Tom Wolfe:

      Even New York society ladies were playing at being hippie-like for a while.

      1. Elizabeth

        Darn tootin’. Point well taken about finance being perceived as beneath their lofty lifestyles. I would add science to that as well. What else am I to think about a generation that was deceived twice about “swine flu”?

      2. Jamie

        I’m not going to disagree with you about the overwrought part. What I wrote is certainly a rant, and I’m grateful that you allowed it to post. I do appreciate your hosting of NC and am a huge fan. And, I’m sure Ames knows many times what I know about the history of the left, however we define it, and the history of labor, both subjects I had no interest in throughout most of my life. And I certainly can’t argue in any rigorous away about a term as undefined as ‘hippy’.


        As a long haired male in a rigidly conformist short haired society, I suffered many attacks, insults and even a few beatings in the late 60’s early ’70s just for appearing to be different, no ideology or politics necessary. However the historians describe things, I know what I lived through, and I know that, for me, being hip was all about owning my own life and breaking the habit of obedience to a set of social norms designed to oppress. I was called “hippy” as an insult, often “dirty hippy”, because of the way I dressed and groomed. But I claimed the term for myself based on deep philosophical principles. I do not recognize Ames’ characterization of hippydom as authentic to my lived experience or to that of my friends. We were outcasts and pariahs because we chose to be true to ourselves and to each other rather than cleave to the duplicitous dominant culture. And I believe there is a great deal more cultural “space” in society today because we created that space back in the ’60s at great personal cost.

        I did read Wolfe, back in 1970. And while New York Society ladies getting stoned and wearing paisley (or whatever else you may be referring to), did have something to do with hippies and hip culture, it’s complicated. There were many parts to hippy culture. Dress, drugs, music, pacifism… a lot that was exploitable and commercializable, packaged and sold to people who wanted to follow the new norm (because it was freeing and beautiful (!) ). But a lot of it was easy to adopt and cost nothing because all it required was a change in habits and an honest way of thinking. The authentic urge of hip was in the opposition to stifling norms, and the early adopters paid a tremendous price (we are still paying it) that the mall shoppers did not pay.

        So, dressing like a hippy did not a hippy make… but then, dressing like a hippy did put one in opposition to existing cultural norms (until that became the cultural norm), so dressing like a hippy, did a hippy make. That’s a partial explanation of the transformative power of hippydom and goes a long way to explaining its influence. Acting boldly, colorfully, was hip, no matter who did it, where or when. And it felt good. Spending a lot of money wasn’t hip. So society ladies couldn’t “buy” the hippy experience at Saks, but they could experience it simply by doing something fresh and contrary to expectations. Hippydom is open to all.

        Ames claims the left is in a shambles because hippies didn’t care about finance. But hippies are not “the left”, and if “the left” forgot about finance, it has nothing to do with me or my friends being hippies. We knew then the system was rotten and we did our best to create alternatives for ourselves and anyone who would listen and wanted to join us. Those alternatives are still out there. So how, exactly, is it our fault the left is in shambles? It seems to me Ames is just blaming “hippies” for not being the revolution he wants, but is powerless to affect. He’d rather talk about our failures than his own challenges. He’d rather blame us for not being what he wants rather than credit us for what we actually accomplished, which was no small thing. It was never my job to fight his battles so whatever difficulty he has fighting his battles cannot possibly be my fault. And although my politics are ‘left’, my commitment is still to seeing things as clearly as possible and acting with as much principle in my life as I can muster. It is not to fulfill or pursue any particular leftist ideology.

        I’m in my sixties now, still with long hair, still living communally and still arguing with my ultra conservative father weekly about all the lies he has accepted, but I’m not waiting around for the revolution. I think I understand finance just fine (not that I’m done learning about it or will stop reading NC anytime soon). It’s a rigged game, just like it always has been (but we knew that in the ’60s). The public is massively misinformed just as it always has been. I don’t think the problem is that hippies don’t understand finance. I think the problem is that capital (hence power) tends to concentrate and we as a society (not just me and my hippy friends) have failed to sufficiently curb that over the last few decades until concentrated power is threatening to undo our very democratic institutions themselves. It’s tragic, and I will continue to raise my voice against it where I can, but I’m not going to blame myself for it because I didn’t take an economics course back in the ’70s. I really don’t get how Ames thinks that blaming the hippies furthers his analysis or his goals in any way.

        1. Peter Schitt

          What Ames wants us to be, but of course we cannot, is to fly jet airliners into Wall St. to prove our credentials. Either that or ineffectual postings on fringe websites. Ames and Co. had a great site at the ExiledOnline but they have now defected to the NY Times of Silicon Valley, Pando. What a humiliation for those guys who worship Mark E Smith, Hunter S Thompson and Victor Olegovich Pelevin.

          1. jkl

            i definitely miss exile/exiled. nsfwcorp wasn’t as good, but I would be happy to pay the reasonable fees to get it back. not every news outlet has to be run along 20th century bureau lines. there was a lot of ancillary non-exiled fat on those pay rolls. not bad blokes, but not much value added.

        2. Oregoncharles

          ” hippies are not “the left””

          They certainly weren’t. I was in college during that era (late 60’s); one thing that was very clear was a near-gulf between hippies and the left-wing movements of the time. It was exploitable: Gov. McCall of Oregon defused a potential confrontation in Portland by sponsoring a rock festival nearby – the only state-sponsored rock festival ever. I was there; I have photos from it. It was a beautiful scene, compared to some of the later ones, but it did indeed defuse the confrontation (with a meeting of the American Legion) in Portland. Most people preferred the festival – and McCall, a Republican, disinvited Nixon, the real provocation.

          There was a lot in common and a lot of crossover, but the two movements, “cultural” and “political,” were consciously rivals. The Yippies were an attempt to bridge the gap, and fairly successful. I suspect that rivalry is what Ames is referring to.

        3. different clue

          Mr. Ames’s article would have been quite on point and entirely useful without the gratuitous hippy-hating and boomer-blaming. I wonder what deep psychological pain drove Ames to seek relief by punching a hippy and blaming a boomer?

          I was in junior high school when that hippy anti-hippy stuff really started heating up. Based on what I have read since, the Union Members were indeed pro-Vietnam War for the most part. I remember reading at the time about “Nixon’s hard hats” beating up peace marchers. Of course, those marchers weren’t hippies. They were political activists/protesters/etc. So they learned to hate the Union Members with a hatred rare and true. Union Beatings will do that to you, I suppose. I think Bill Clinton was one of those political leftists who hated Labor for supporting Nixon over Clinton’s beloved McGovern. I think part of Clinton’s motivation for pursuing Free Trade was to get revenge on the union workers who broke his heart by voting for Nixon. I wonder if Mr. Ames has studied that angle of it?

    2. flora

      Yes, in the ’30s the left and labor were practically one. Then came WWII, television, the GI bill…. A lot changed. General prosperity, mass televised propaganda, and massive consolidation of the military-industrial complex (i.e. money and power) pacified the masses and the corruption of labor unions, racism in some unions, and constant attacks from the right destroyed the left-labor power base.

      I’d add to your critique the Army-McCarthy hearings and the McCarthy HUAC hearings that destroyed many peoples careers in govt., education, entertainment. It became a witch-hunt. Anyone expressing economic leftist leanings could become the target of a ‘he’s a communist sympathizer’ whisper campaign. Actual economic leftist were driven from academia, from unions, purged from the body politic in the 50’s and 60’s.

      1. flora

        In the 80’s I knew some West German graduate students who were studying in US universities. A couple of conversations made it clear they had no knowledge of much of German’s WWII history. They knew there had been a war, Germany had lost. But the precursors, the basic history and generalities of the 3rd Reich, they were taught none of that in their grade schools or high schools or even at undergraduate school. They were very sincere, not trying to avoid the topic. I was dumbfounded their education hadn’t included what US schools taught as the basic generalities of WWII.

        1. Peter Schitt

          My aunt was a high school teacher in Ireland. She was paid by the Japanese govt. to edit Japanese high school history books. The were afraid to write their own history. I have taught briefely in Germany; I suspect they wish to do no harm, rather that obscure anything. Indeed, my own school knowledge of German history far exceeds my wives.

    3. Elizabeth

      You forgot narcissism in this list of hippie attributes. Exhibit A, self-aggrandizing ruminations to nobody in particular, above. It really IS all about you, isn’t it?

      1. I, I, me, me, my

        “Hippies had nothing to do with that. We were dealing with the contradictions in our own lives to the best of our ability.”

            1. Jamie

              Hippy and libertarian are not the same. Hippies lived in collectives where we shared just about everything with one another. We were not, as a group, self-centered individualists. There were some really big egos running around seeking media attention back then that are probably properly described as “hippies”, but we didn’t let the media define who we were and you shouldn’t either. You clearly don’t have a clue. How old are you? I have no idea how you go from “make love not war” and putting our bodies on the line in anti-war protests to “F*ck everyone else”. The later is no part of any hippy philosophy that I recognize.

              1. different clue

                You know what might be a really unsettling slogan for our time?

                “Make love, not money”.

      2. Jamie

        Defending oneself from gratuitous attacks is not what I call narcissism, it’s what I call self respect. Do you have anything other than venom to offer?

      3. neo-realist

        Self-Aggrandizing ruminations is a feature of present day life on the internet—twitter. Add to that the narcissism of selfies on instagram and snapchat. The more things change, the more they remain the same. I appreciate the fact that many of the boomers put their bodies and lives on the line to end the Vietnam war and fight for civil rights. More outwardly directed action at the system as opposed to the present day inward behavior of social network narcissism and the escapism of gaming and cosplay (not that it’s all about that today on the Net and the American scene).

    4. Vatch

      From the article:

      the hippies’ other great failure, turning their backs on Labor

      Maybe, but I think it was more a case of people in the labor realm rejecting the hippies and anyone who remotely resembled a hippy. Archie Bunker was fictional, but he was based on reality.

      Again from the article:

      the Boomers’ self-righteous disdain for “figures”

      The baby boomers benefited from the post-Sputnik surge in science and math education in the United States. It’s subsequent generations that lost their way with “figures”.

    5. Oguk

      OK, I have no particular creds here…not old enough, not accomplished enough. But Jamie’s rant resonated with me. Ames may be well read and all, but to start out with chalking the ignorance of the Left in matters finance to “historical bad luck” seems remarkably un-analytical. It’s as much of a rant on his part. The politics of the 60’s were shaped by the cold war, the civil rights/Black-nationalist movement, the Vietnam war, the women’s movement, liberation struggles worldwide. Keeping up with what might be happening with finance was not on anyone’s agenda. Perhaps the decline of the Old Left had something to do with that, and the New Left’s disinterest in Old Left economics had to do with the class base of the New Left, but how does that really help? Moralizing against the New Left for not being more working class? That’s about as anti-materialistic as you can get.

      Why should the hippies be the scapegoat? Jamie’s defense of what hippie-ism meant to him seems quite reasonable. We can point the hypocrite finger at each other forever if we want to. Narcissism is an american tradition, it didn’t start or end with hippies.

      1. Jamie

        Thanks Oguk. There’s just one more point I’d like to make, then I’ll shut up. There are real intergenerational issues that arise in politics, but not very many that are not ginned up. I remember quite clearly when the mainstream media started the “generation gap” meme. There was no generation gap, and then, all of a sudden one day there was. I never claimed that my generation was any better than any other generation. It is the media that names the generations and characterizes them. I remember a lot of old folks joining us kids on the protest lines. We didn’t think of it in terms of our generation against our parents generation. We though of it in terms of right versus wrong… or of what we were going to let the actual “them”, the oligarchy, do in our names and what we were going to refuse to assent to… at least at first. Eventually the media had its way and now, it seems it’s every generation pitted against every other generation. Ames seems to enjoy exploiting that from what I’ve seen of his writings elsewhere.

    6. joecostello

      Hah, never trust a hippie, but even more how this is awash with the Boomers’ perpetual whine and inability to take responsibility for anything.

      But lets make one thing real clear on fault, that old dead white men political/election system which the boomers had so much fault with since they whinged their way into it in the 60s and fifty years later as they die off, the corrupted, dysfunctional dangerous mess they will leave it to their progeny, pretty well proving the boomers had even less regard for what came after them then what came before them, but then it was always all about “me.”

      Now in the last act of generation’s too long political charade, elect Hillary, Bernie, Donald or Jeb and let the farce come to its conclusion.

      1. Jamie

        Well since you would never whine… oh wait.

        Well since you are responsible, unlike my entire generation, and have such a huge social consciousness and are so very not what we are, I suppose you will stop Hillary, Bernie, Donald and Jeb and put everything right. Then you can continue to look down on us whining failures and untrustworthy elder humans in your perfect society. And won’t that be a huge relief.

        What astonishing depths of ignorance condemns and entire generation for failing to not be oppressed. Why, if only the boomers had got it right, we wouldn’t have all these problems… yes, that’s taking responsibility. Sure thing. Show us how it’s done Joe.

        So let me get this straight… your political program starts by alienating 70+ million older people and defining them as the problem. But that’s not just strategic brilliance, it’s required by your deep sense of responsibility. Why didn’t I think of that! I bet if I’d taken that tack back in ’68 there wouldn’t be any corporations left by now and justice and equity would rule the world. Damn how could I have been so stupid? I was just so caught up in my own sh*t that I couldn’t see the value in blaming others or just how important it is to get the blame thing right. Wow, if only we’d blamed ourselves for everything… the road not taken. Well, I guess it’s never too late… but oh, wait, you’re not talking about blaming yourself, so maybe we should have been blaming someone else back in ’68. I’m confused… how is this supposed to work exactly?

    7. jkl

      What you describe, boomer hippie, for lack of better nomiker, is a club, not a counterweight, Left-project. Granted, it sounds like a fun club I would have hung out in, but I would have been bringing the Great Thinkers of the West with me as a discussion group.
      The late sixties were great; even blue collar kids could chill during the summer. Non-economic issues may have been paramount in such a context…

  4. Synoia

    I grew up in the UK. Mostly privileged, although with much sacrifice from my parents, in a very class ridden society.

    I went to a non-hippy private School. And a very Conservative Army University. I never was on the left then. I am now.

    I believed the then UK meme that Labor, workers, were bolshie, aggressive, and difficult. although when working laboring jobs in school and university vacation never net any bolshie, aggressive, and difficult workers.

    Then I graduated, and when to work for a major London Bank, on their payroll product. And had an instant education that the reputation the workers had earned did not include any discussion of what management did to make workers bolshie, aggressive and difficult.

    I left the UK, and have not worked their since. I have now discovered that management get the union it deserves, when unions are allowed. In addition management generates in works a syndrome I labeled “Malignant Obedience.”

    Malignant Obedience is what management receive when they have no labor participation in problem solving and corporate governance. Workers do what they are told, even if it is clearly the wrong thing to do, and let management fail.

    My first recollection of Malignant Obedience I saw when ! was 5 years old, and saw the interactions of a foreman (white ex -pat), and worker (Black, Nigerian), which ended up in a broken culvert, which to my 5 year old eyes was 100% the fault of the foreman.

  5. Whine Country

    Someone posts a call to action to support this fine site, articulately presenting the many blessings we all receive from Yves’ efforts and what?… it is a chance for some to focus on their own individual beefs with our less than perfect society and start a verbal food fight. While I truly enjoy the educational information that Yves makes available to us, this kind of dialogue makes me want to stay away because whatever valuable information is overwhelmed by the true result of the dialogues: We’re just going to keep arguing with the trees because the forest is too difficult to comprehend. My definition of a hippy is a person who complains about a lot of things to others, and then expects others to fix them.

    1. Vatch

      No doubt some of the commenters here only engage in the verbal food fights, and don’t do anything constructive to effect change. But some of us really do write to our elected representatives and to our local newspapers. We also encourage our friends and family to do the same. Here are a few NC articles in which the author explicitly encourages action and provides links or addresses:

      Occasionally a commenter such as myself will provide some contact information for people who want to take action:

      So yes, the verbal food fights sometimes get out of hand, but there is also good information for people who want to really do something.

  6. ckimball

    These characterizations of the hippy identity do not seem accurate
    or complete to me. I was there, in San Francisco, at the beginning.
    I have never identified with a label however I did and do identify with
    some of the values and attitudes those who were called hippies
    My experience started when I was told that if I took some LSD I could see a new color. I went in search of a Hippie on Haight Street in the Haight district to buy LSD.
    I didn’t see a new color but I did watch the inside of my mind as I tried to blow myself up in many different ways. The resolution came when I came to an understanding that life was a closed system, that there was no way out and that energetically I would return over and over and that every thing was alive, a living breathing universe. I was not aware of ever thinking about these things before.
    The draft and the Vietnam War and LSD should not
    be left out of the equation. The dress code was a bi-product which
    was interpreted as rebellion but seemed really like a relaxing of the required regimentation in appearance and the opposite of an army uniform. It was very threatening to parents or the older generation. A common LSD experience was to realize the essential connection
    between all human beings. The so-called hippie wanted to see generosity and caring demonstrated among strangers. They wanted
    to believe in a world of peace and love. It was a release of an
    incredibly creative time for poets, artists, writers, musicians and more. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

  7. ckimball

    One other thing. When buses arrived in the Haight/Ashbury district
    bringing tourists to see the hippies, a funeral was organized with
    a coffin and a march down Haight Street and it was declared that
    the hippy was dead. But the seed was sown and after that came
    the “love children” and different kinds of drug dealers too.

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