The Predictability of Political Extremism

Lambert here: Apologies for the missing original post, but we’ve had technical difficulties (to be discussed later this morning in Links). Anyhow, this is a useful round-up of current thinking on rightward political swings in the depressed economic conditions that follow financial crises, a topic of great interest around the world.

The usual pattern

Alan de Bromhead, Barry Eichengreen, and Kevin O’Rourke write that the danger of extremism is greatest where depressed economic conditions are allowed to persist. Using data covering 171 elections in 28 countries between 1919 and 1939, the authors show that what mattered was not the current growth of the economy but cumulative growth or, more to the point, the depth of the cumulative recession. One year of contraction was not enough to significantly boost extremism but a depression that persisted for years was.

Kevin O’Rourke writes that in August of this year, the inevitable happened: our current recovery was overtaken by that of the interwar period.

Figure 1: World industrial output in the Great Depression and in the Great Recession


Source: Update of Eichengreen and O’Rourke

Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, and Christoph Trebesch write that far-right votes increase by about a third in the five years following systemic banking distress. This pattern is visible in the data both before and after WWII and is robust when controlling for economic conditions and different voting systems. The gains of extreme right-wing parties were particularly pronounced after the global crises of the 1920s/1930s and after 2008. But similar patterns can also be found after regional financial crises, such as the Scandinavian banking crises of the early 1990s. The authors also identify an important asymmetry in the political response to crises – on average, the far left does not profit equally from episodes of financial instability.

Figure 2: Far-right vote shares after financial crises


Source: VoxEU

Francesco Trebbi, Atif Mian, Amir Sufi write that political polarization systematically increase around financial crises. Voters become more ideologically polarized. Government coalitions become weaker in terms of both vote shares and seat shares. Opposition coalitions become larger. Party fragmentation increases across the board. In his 2003 statistical analysis of the success of extreme eight parties in Western Europe between 1970 and 2000, Matt Golder finds that unemployment has no effect on right wing populist votes when the number of immigrants is low: it is the interaction between economic hard times and the presence of immigrants that  boosts extremism.

Using data on OECD countries from 1970 to 2002, Hans Peter Grüner and Markus Brückner find that a one-percentage-point decline in growth leads to a one-percentage-point increase in the vote share for right-wing or nationalist parties. Declining growth rates reduce incentives of poor individuals to shy away from extreme policy platforms. Redistributing away from specific groups is more tempting when there is little prospect for improvements in the future.

The European situation

Paul Krugman writes that economics isn’t the only factor; immigration, refugees, and terrorism play into the mix. But Europe’s underperformance is slowly eroding the legitimacy, not just of the European project, but of the open society itself.

Kevin O’Rourke writes that the Euro has not only locked in a set of distorted real exchange rates, but also a macroeconomic policy mix with a pronounced deflationary bias. If times remain tough enough for long enough, and politicians hear your pain but don’t actually do anything about it, some people will eventually respond by voting for candidates who reject existing constraints on policy making. “Europe” is increasingly experienced as a set of constraints preventing governments from doing what their people want them to do, rather than as a means of empowering governments to collectively solve problems.

Paul Krugman writes that it’s not just a matter of times being bad. It’s also important to realize the way in which traditional sources of authority have devalued themselves through repeated policy failure. Europe, much more than the U.S., is run by Very Serious People, who tell the public that it must accept Schengen, austerity, and regulatory harmonization (the eurosausage!), and that these are the right things to do because those who understand how the world works say so. But if things keep going badly, this authority based on the presumption of expertise erodes, and politicians who offer more visceral answers gain support. The point for Europe is that the doctrinaire policies followed since 2010, and the unwillingness to rethink dogma in the light of experience, aren’t just economically destructive. They undermine the legitimacy of the whole European system, and may in the end lead to political catastrophe.

Going forward

Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, and Christoph Trebesch write that the first five years are critical and most effects slowly taper out afterwards. A decade after the crisis hits, most political outcome variables are no longer significantly different from the historical mean. This is true for far-right voting and also for government vote shares and the parliamentary fractionalisation measure. Only the increase in the number of parties in parliament appears to be persistent. The comforting news from our study is that the political upheaval in the wake of financial crises is mostly temporary.

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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. John Merryman

    Liberalism is social expansion. Conservatism is civil consolidation. If we have neither cultural homogeneity or economic momentum to give some focus to the larger society, it will try to fragment into self contained units. As it is, we have an atomized society mediated by a financial rent extraction process. To get a stronger system of social bonding, we have to learn to store value in public functions, not just privatised notational value.
    Phone and cold making the point brief.

    1. John Merryman

      My larger point being the way these issues tie together and there needs to be a comprehensive overview, otherwise its just Band-Aids on symptoms.

      1. Susan the other

        Learning to store value in social functions. Learning to maintain value in social functions. It’s our next step in evolution. Trond Andresen (Norwegian socialist) was on Max today advocating a new nationalism that is not supremacist but takes care of itself within a global context. He called it progressive nationalism. He also advocated a 2 currency system, one for the domestic economy and one for trade. Maybe I’m manufacturing memories, but didn’t Schaeuble advocate 2 currencies for Greece; and Varoufakis did also but it was too chaotic by then. It’s like Greek theater anyway – there is only tragedy and comedy – hopelessness and giddiness and no in-between. Sounds like capitalism to me. Like the article last week about “science” that all science research seeks a subjective level of beauty (for lack of a better word) which is self perpetuating. We are busy discovering our own genetic understanding of beauty. But back to 2 currencies and progressive nationalism: wouldn’t that eliminate exchange rate destabilizations and all the awful “cures” like austerity?

        1. Synoia

          I’m beginning to believe that our expression of intelligence is an evolutionary dead end.

          Which might explain our inability to detect intelligence similar to ours in the Universe.

          1. Oregoncharles

            In one of his last books, Stephen Jay Gould noted that any particular line of adaptation tends to “hit a wall” – that is, it becomes so extreme that it’s self-destructive.

            Apparently that includes intelligence. We’ve now developed a number of ways to eliminate ourselves; given their number and variety, the likelihood that at least one will happen is high. Not something I like thinking about.

        2. different clue

          Also learning to store value in ecological and biophysichemical systems and cycles.
          For example, if you live in a suburban house and yard, and you install a ten thousand gallon roofwater collection and storage system, how much value have you stored? If you develop a thousand square foot garden of 3 foot deep super-mineralized bio-cycle-active topsoil, how much value have you stored?
          If you install a waterless compostoilet, and learn how to use the compoo in your garden, how much value have you stored?

        3. RBHoughton

          We had two currencies in South Africa in 1980s when the Republic was anathma to the rest of the west and we were trying to raise the ANC to government. There was a Commercial Rand for everyday exchange and a Financial Rand for playing in the casino. The Financial Rand was available offshore, paid a high interest rate, had a different exchange rate and was intended to collect more inwards investment.

  2. Jesper

    Would it be better if people chose revolution instead of voting for something other than the powers that be?

    & by powers that be I include most of the so called opposition, the triangulation and adherence to similar beliefs across the mainstream political spectrum is truly something to behold. If people want change then there are no options but to vote for the new political parties. If the new political parties have less than nice members then many people will look at their options:
    -Vote for someone who has done nothing for them, promises to do more things that will be bad for them
    -Hold their noses, close their eyes and vote for the least bad alternative

    As for the traditional left… It has mostly been taken over by career minded politicians who’re running their own pet political projects over the interests of their supposed voter-base. People with limited means do not have patience for politicians who put the same weight on income-inequality as on gender based affirmative action for upper-middle class women in employment.

    One of the few good things that have been started to be discussed is that it might be better to look at the uneven income as something to be dealt with directly instead of using the indirect method of redistribution through taxation.
    My guess is that the discussion will take 15-20 years before coming to any kind of solution – shorter working time will automatically strengthen worker bargaining power but the workaholics will not see any benefits for themselves so they’ll show their lack of empathy by opposing it. Lets hear all the great stories about people who died while doing what they loved most – being at work directed by others to do something for money….

    1. Vatch

      Would it be better if people chose revolution instead of voting for something other than the powers that be?

      Things need to be very bad before revolution should be considered an option. Revolutions have a way of getting out of hand, and sometimes make things worse. Before considering revolution, people need to actually try voting, which I briefly discussed two days ago. Note that in some elections, the voter turnout is below 50%:

      I agree with you about the futility of lesser-evil voting, which is why people need to vote in primary elections as well as in the general elections. And if the candidates in the general election are inadequate, people need to vote for third party candidates.

      1. DJG


        Most people in the U.S.A. consider the description of revolution in the Beatles song to be about right: Count me out.

        Vatch is right in that revolutions tend to become bloody or to lose sight of their goals. In recent times, we have the not-yet-proven Tunisian revolution as a good example. But Tunisia is a small and culturally unified country. And time will tell. We have the example of President Lula in Brazil, and his successors have made a mess of his successes. And Myanmar? Who can tell?

        And then there are the rest. The internally caused revolutions like Iran have produced mixed results, to put it politely. Iran retained its independence, but internally, the situation is filled with problems. The externally caused revolutions like Libya and Ukraine have been a disaster.

        And as Vatch says, people have to vote. Even if they think of it as an empty gesture. It will cease to be an empty gesture if the Democrats or Republicans get thoroughly clobbered. We cannot rely on indictments to produce regime change (a flaw in the current plans for succession in Chicago).

      2. optimader

        Things need to be very bad before revolution should be considered an option.
        We are not even close. Revolutions like wars are commonly overrun by unintended consequences and opportunists.
        (Review Files: Trotsky, Stalin, Guevara, Sankara, Cultural Revolution.. the list goes on)

          1. RabidGandhi

            Thomas Sankara, leader in the revolution that created Burkina Fasao. There’s a decent documentary on him called “The Upright Man”

            1. Vatch

              Thanks. I was thinking about the Hindu philosopher Shankara, sometimes transliterated as Śaṅkarā! Different person.

    2. RBHoughton

      Revolution is seldom the answer.

      Our problem in every country lies in the representation and nowhere else.

      We elect people who then act for others, often against the interests of the electorate. That is what has to stop and we do that by restoring Congress to its proper representative role.

      I doubt we require a guillotine on Capitol Hill.

  3. RabidGandhi

    Am I misunderstanding the two of you? Your choices are (a) elect the right people or (b) violent revolution?

    Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding you, but those seem like pretty lazy options that are practically guaranteed to result in less democratic control. I say lazy because this is precisely what I saw on recent trips to Europe and the US: people (rightly) get upset at injustices and they protest… for a bit. Then they go back home and play video games or enjoy their capitalist tchotchkes. Examples include Occupy, Podemos, Syriza… Because they expect change to come exogenously or at the urns. Otherwise, they’ll just sit tight until they can vote again in 4 years.

    Conversely, I also spend a lot of time in Bolivia, a place that is frankly much more democratic. When Bolivians dislike a policy they make their voices known and make life difficult for the elected leaders until the policies are changed (eg, the Cochabambazo). It’s messy, and it doesn’t always work, and more importantly it takes a lot of grassroots organisation and looooong-term perseverance, something that does not exist in Options (a) and (b) above.

    By all means, vote, but it is a grave error to think that democracy starts or stops at the ballot box.

    1. Synoia

      Oh, you are wishing for a managed transition in a chaotic system, based on some notion of “public good” in the face of a avalanche of greed, which wants the system we have.

      Nice idea. Please tell us all how to achieve that. And provide examples of the process.

      The systems theory, catastrophe or chaos theory, applies.

      Another word for your position is “denial.”

      Oh well, some people get through denial. Some do not.

      1. RabidGandhi

        I did provide an example in my post: the Cochabamba water protests in 2000, where collective action successfully replaced a neoliberal privatisation of water (aka “an avalanche of greed”) with a collective system aimed at the public good.

        I do not understand how this is denial. Please be more specific and I will try to answer.

        1. polecat

          I think geographical scale has some bearing on how successfully positive protest and changes come about….U.S. vs Bolivia….size matters…er..i should say small size matters, and, as i’ve stated in past comments, the U.S. by virtue of size, has become too sclerotic and encumbered to function well for its’ citizenry, relative to D.C. and the larger main!

          1. MikeNY

            Good point, and back to Yves’s point that ‘democracy doesn’t scale well’. If we really mean devolution of power back to the people, maybe smaller is more beautiful. I’d certainly expect it to be less of a military menace to the rest of the world. I think part of the populist appeal on the left and the right is that the US government is out of control in many areas and not accountable to the average voter in the least.

          2. RabidGandhi

            I agree. I am highly skeptical about nation states actually being able to be democratised. Even for a smaller country like Bolivia the scale just seems insurmountable to me. And in Bolivia it’s a neverending struggle, always uphill. But in no way should this mean that victories cannot be won by organising, fomenting community and struggling.

            As daunting as it may seem, it should also be borne in mind that nation states are human creations, and there are no institutions we can create that we cannot likewise dismantle.

            1. Jim


              I am also worried about democratization and the nation-state.

              But part of that worry is that the topic itself tends to be downplayed or largely ignored.

              For example, for all MMT advocates, what is the exact nature of democratic oversights that need to be built into our existing political structure so that the advocacy of a more overt monetary financing does not become simply a technique that can be hijacked by our present financial/economic/political elites to stabilize(in a future crisis) a highly unstable and corrupt financial/economic system?

              It appears that the new book by Turner is prepared to advocate just such a move by our contemporary elites, if the future demands it.

              1. RabidGandhi

                I don’t know the answer to your question, but I hope someone more knowledgeable here will chime in.

                One thing that I think we can bank on though, is no matter what type of transparency or democratic oversights are put into place, there will always be a concerted effort by a minority to try and game them or obliterate them. It will be a constant battle.

                I’m not familiar with the Turner book you mentioned. Got a link?

        2. Synoia

          Provide examples of peoples in countries performing as you infer over the last 1,000 years.

          As far as I recall the only orderly handover of power was in the dismantling of the British and most of the French Empires.

          1. RabidGandhi

            There are too many to cite, since no effective popular progress is ever made unless there is organisation from below, but here’s a few examples, just from the last century:

            Argentina, 1946, 2001.

            Venezuela, 2002

            Korea, 1945, 1987

            Cataluña, 1936

            All of these are examples of concerted efforts by grassroots organisations who were able to effectuate change by organising and struggling against entrenched power systems.

            And frankly, I wouldn’t necessarily put the dismantling of the French and British empires in the same category, because they generally did not entail changes in power structures– just passing the baton from one élite to another.

          2. Robert Dudek

            Orderly handover occurred in Poland in 1989. It was a negotiated settlement with a transition phase before full parliamentary elections. There was a similar bloodless transition in other Warsaw Pact countries.

    2. DJG

      Occupy was highly successful, which is why the Democrats were instrumental in getting rid of it. It is the old paradigm: The “liberals” will get rid of the radicals. The right wing doesn’t even have to lift a finger.

      That said, in the USA, the proliferation of guns and the militarization of the police force mean that people are leery of fighting in the streets. There would be massacres here, making the Republic Steel Strike look like an appetizer. I recall demonstrating on Michigan Avenue in Chicago and drifting toward the end of the marchers. The Illinois State Police were tailing the march, and they were dressed up like Darth Vader carrying long sticks that looked like the police version of 2x4s.

      One more argument for fewer guns: Safer demonstrations and protests.

      1. optimader

        Occupy was highly successful, … instrumental in getting rid of it
        the operation was a highly successful but the patient died

      2. RabidGandhi

        While I mainly agree with Optimader’s point, Occupy was in fact successful in at least bringing inequality into the public dialogue. But the lack of follow through and its being co-opted by the DNC has pretty much neutralised that benefit. BLM is on the threshold of the same tragedy.

        Secondly, I find the “proliferation of guns” argument to be weak tea. Can you seriously make that argument to Nicaraguans, Vietnamese, Egyptians, Turks… who have managed to standup in spite of a guarantee that state-backed terror would be used against them?

        1. Oregoncharles

          Occupy is a lesson in just how useful “moving the Overton window” is. Institutional and political change are necessary for it to be any more than window-dressing.

          Occupy’s big limitation, IMHO, was that most of the participants didn’t really understand what they were doing. They were imitating the “occupations” of the Arab Spring – which were attempts to overthrow the government. There was also the small problem of starting encampments in the fall, rather than spring. And none of the encampments, mostly in parks, put effective pressure on the government, as, say, Tahrir Square, the crossroads of Cairo, did. They were also up against an election they refused to address (because they couldn’t.) That’s critique, not criticism. It was the best thing that’s happened in a long while.

          Next time….

      3. jsn

        It’s important to remember what ended Occupy: a multi city, multi state coordinated police/FBI/private security, extra constitutional assault.

        1. RabidGandhi

          Tell that to the people of Cuba.

          What really ‘ended’ Occupy (is it over?) was the decision to back-down in the face of a multi city, multi state coordinated police/FBI/private security, extra constitutional assault.

          1. jrs

            good point, I think those arguing with you are mostly used to arguing with those who don’t acknowledge the crackdown. But yes the crackdown existed and was very real, but in historical context what is it really …

      4. jrs

        Well maybe but the main thing we need to disarm then is the cops. I do suppose cops and citizens are in kind of a mutually enforcing arms race at this point in the u.s., but cops arms are the far more effective of the two at preventing protest.

        1. jrs

          And while proliferation of guns probably does contribute to police militarization, is it really truly the main cause? Wasn’t the militarization of police that was FEDERAL POLICY after 9-11 about the “threat” of “terrorism”, not random gun nuts, who don’t help any, but don’t really seem to be what drives it. Haven’t police been heavily armed in SWAT team gear against globalization protests for years? Doesn’t the use of violence against the left have a really long history?

    3. Inverness

      I couldn’t agree more with RabidGandhi. Real change has happened in the West, and not so long ago. It’s time to go back to the Civil Rights/Women Rights playbook and see what they did correctly. And yes, Occupy is child’s play compared to what Bolivians were able to achieve.

    4. different clue

      Occupy didn’t voluntarily “go home”. Occupy was stomped into submission by a co-ordinated multi-city multi-mayor Democratic Party establishment conspiracy to stamp it out. I don’t know about the other examples you cite. Did Syriza just go home? From ten thousand miles away it looks like yeah maybe it sorta did. But from ten thousand miles away it looks like the reason for that is that the Greeks insist on viewing themselves as being CultureWhite Europeans . . . and they will endure infinite humiliation from their Evil Enemy Europe in order to beg and plead their way into Europe.

      If the Imperial British thought the Greeks were so very White, would the Imperial British have looted the Elgin Marbles in broad daylight the way the Imperial British did?

      1. RabidGandhi

        Sorry, but what did they expect? That they would confront a huge entrenched power system and the power system would just throw up its hands and go away?

        Matt. 13:5-6

        1. Inverness

          Who do we need to consult: the wise elders who know about organizing, whether they are the Bolivians who organized against water privatization, or those who organized the bus boycotts, or Chomsky (who knows a lot about organizing, and has the historical experience and references to guide us…) Just a few suggestions. Seek those people out, and listen to them.

          This is important, and the fact that Occupy didn’t lead to real, lasting change isn’t a reason to throw our hands up in the air. Activism in the west isn’t nearly as dangerous as it is in the many developing countries. We are blessed, in this sense. So there is more to be done, and it requires sustained effort.

  4. Jim

    “The comforting news from our study is that the political upheaval in the wake of financial crisis is mostly temporary.”

    What if the financial/economic/political/cultural crisis is ongoing?

    What if, in Europe, for example, a new political/legal/constitutional order based on neo-liberalism is now embedded in its institutional structure? (How did that work for Syriza?)

    What if, in both Europe and the United States, what passes itself off as the left lacks any imagination and new ideas about what is necessary to solve this ongoing, and I believe, incrementally accelerating crisis?

    1. different clue

      Then one looks somewhere other than “the left” for solutions. And one looks for “solutions” in realms beyond and outside the strictly political. ( Though one may continue to spend some energy on the strictly political at the same time).

      “Permaculture” is not inherently “left”. But permaculturism may offer some pathways to survival solutions for some people and communities in some contexts. Then there is something called Survivalism, which can also offer pathways to interim survival solutions.

  5. cnchal

    The comforting news from our study is that the political upheaval in the wake of financial crises is mostly temporary.

    This is equal to no hope at all. It means those that profited mightily from the fraud induced financial crises, win and everybody else looses, and there is no way to correct this.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Speaking of political extremism, yesterday 0bama signed the CISA Act (a/k/a Patriot Act II) into law.

    Having paved the way for a corporate takeover of health care with ACA, 0bama now has enabled the final takeover of the constitution by the spook agencies.

    While the article above views political extremism through an economic prism, one might also question to what degree political repression breeds extremism. For instance, while the former East German economy was bad, being spied on by the Stasi doubtless upset folks too.

    Today, political repression is a pertinent issue both for U.S.-backed middle eastern dictatorships, and for America’s Potemkin democracy itself. How did a vaguely liberal, lefty, antiwar state senator morph into a Drone Messiah and Big Brother? All we know for sure is that they’re doing it again right now.

    1. NeqNeq

      I thought it was funny that its basically the same (some parts are slightly worse) than the bill he rejected earlier. Which just shows that he thinks funding gov’t is more important than privacy concerns.

      Now that the money is handled, those congresscritters who didn’t want CISA to pass should be working on legislation that removes it.

      What’s that you say? Neither the reigning majority, nor thier identical twins in the minority, are going to do that? Well, the true colors always shine through eventually.

    2. different clue

      He never was the least bit liberal, lefty, antiwar. It was all an act on the way to advancement. Didn’t Adolphus Reed write about that when Obama was still active in Illinois?

  7. two beers

    I think this piece misses the forest for the trees. Ian Welsh said something like the following a few years back, and I can’t find any flaws with the argument:

    Conditions for the middle and working classes (99%/masses/workers), never improve, unless the ruling class (.01%/oligarchs/plutocrats) either has reason to fear the lower classes, or perceives it has something to gain from improving conditions for the lower classes.

    The disembowelment of US labor, along with the rise of identity politics and complicit media vigorously misrepresenting or simply ignoring economic and social reality, has obviated the former. As for the latter, we are in a New Gilded Age, so not only does the .01% see no benefit to itself in improving conditions for the 99%, but it has never been so handsomely rewarded for pushing for greater increase in inequality.

    So, unless and until the .01% have reason to fear the 99% if it doesn’t improve conditions (or stop impeding the attempts of others to improve conditions), we’re pissing in the wind.

    Political extremism? The only political extremism on the horizon would be an even greater boon to well-being of the .01%.

    1. different clue

      Left-wingism is itself an Identity Politics. Left-identified people are invested in their self-ascribed Identity as the movement-load of people with the best and truest understanding of society, economics, etc. This self-percieved superiority IS the left’s Identity, and the constant burnishing and re-burnishing of the Left’s investment in the superiority of its analyses and prescriptions IS the essence of Identity Leftism Politics.

      Left wing complaints about “Identity Politics” are an expression of Left-Wing jealousy and envy over the visible cultivation by “other” people of those other peoples’s own identity outside of the Left. The Marxist Left, for example, is not against its own Marxist Identity Image Burnishing. It is only against OTHER Identity Politics formations which might attract people away from the Marxists’ OWN Identity Politics formation. For example, the Marxist and Socialist Left didn’t oppose Zionism out of any concern for “injustice”. They opposed Zionism out of jealous and envious spite over a bunch of Jews daring to walk off the Leftist Plantation.

      In more modern times, big bunches of the Left were very offended by a speech given by Russell Means at some kind of conference where Russell Means pointed out this very same fact about the Identity Left’s demands that everyone subordinate their own separate Identity in obedient subservience to the Identity-Massaging Ego-Needs of the Identity Left. Here is the speech which got the Identity Left ohhhh sohhh very offended.

      1. two beers

        You’re quite bonkers.

        Your brand of politics apparently ends at racial, gender, and sexual rights, which is great, especially if you’re in the 1%, because then you won’t have to worry about things like income, job security, medical care, housing, education, raising a family, healthy food, retirement…

      2. JTFaraday

        “Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other forms, seeks to “rationalize” all people in relation to industry–maximum industry, maximum production. It is a doctrine that despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, our cultures, our lifeways.”

        I agree. You can call it an identity politics, of the submit or else sort. This is why I am not a Marxist.

        I’d rather vote for the real Republican.

  8. Jim

    Two Beers:

    It seems that both the working and middle classes may be experiencing an incrementally accelerating deterioration in their present general conditions.

    From my perspective it appears that the financial/economic/political/cultural conditions of the working class are going even further downhill(i.e. see the recent Deaton/Case analysis which shows the mortality rate of whites 45 to 54 years with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014).

    The ranks of the middle class are now also deteriorating at an accelerating pace(on the economic dimension alone, see numbers which indicate this grouping has shrunk from approximately 62% of the population to 49% because of largely stagnant or decreasing wages as well as the increasing difficulty in starting and maintaining a small business that is able to pay a middle-class wage).

    This is the type of economic cauldron, combined with a contemporary cultural climate that offers little sense of meaning or identity, that has the potential to produce even more dramatic politics than we saw in the 1920 and 1930s.

    What passes for the left in both the U.S. and Europe is largely unprepared for such developments–since they seem generally unwilling to seriously evaluate the inadequacy of their own cherished economic/political assumptions as well as being apparently content to largely ignore the necessity of formulating and articulating alternative cultural messages beyond an artificial multiculturalism which changes nothing.

    1. two beers

      It seems that both the working and middle classes may be experiencing an incrementally accelerating deterioration in their present general conditions.

      No! Go on!

      From my perspective it appears that the financial/economic/political/cultural conditions of the working class are going even further downhill

      Next you’re going to tell that things are even hard for the impoverished, unemployed, and fixed-income seniors!

      What passes for the left[..]

      There is no left, left. The anodyne pleasures bestowed on the middle and working classes post WW2, when nearly everyone saw improvement in their standard of living, wiped away the audience. Who wants to hear about justice and equality when you’ve got a nice house, two cars, two kids, a good mortgage, and a color tv? This was the strategy of FDR, the aristocrat who saved the plutocracy: if you give most people a taste of a decent life and some hope for the future, you obviate political change that wrests power and wealth away from the elites. And with enough time, the elites can claw back their former full power and riches once again, because there is now no one to stop them. And that claw-back – the rise of the zombie oligarchs – is the essence of politics and economics of the last thirty years.

  9. Decker

    File under “captain obvious”. What is it about economists that make them believe that what is obvious to a first-grader qualifies as a “finding” based on rigorous analysis of data everyone was born knowing?

    I can’t wait to publish my detailed findings showing scarcity of supply in a stable demand environment leads to price rises. Call the Nobel committee!

  10. kevinearick

    Operation Twist

    If you were looking, I told you how to energize a building with no wires, and how to transfer between vertical and horizontal systems. All I did was add an AI controller. Gravity is just a tool.

    All of History cuts off the leading edge and places it in back, swapping fashion. The majority can go nowhere, because it shorts its own brain into a bipolar dc machine for the sake of popularity – good and evil, rich and poor, republican and democrat. Accordingly, it devalues work and values leisure, as if they are opposites, leaving discharge as the only possible outcome, with no input.

    In a relative blink of the eye, machines replaced humans running the markets, and humans are systematically being replaced across the economy, in a rigged lottery built for the purpose. America was fashioned after Rome, the irrational market of engineering leisure to feed financial engineering to feed war, for more of the same, ignoring the radiator created by the increasing vacuum.

    If the Fed wanted to reboot the economy, it would simply reissue anonymous money, to reconnect labor. As you can see, bitcoin is not anonymous and is simply a path by which the corrupt seek to escape, in a positive feedback loop with only one possible outcome. There is nothing rare or inherently valuable about money, or control.

    Legacy issues money to the middle class, which processes natural resources for legacy, of which legacy grants the middle class a minority share, revocable at any time. Like paper gold, fiat and now digital wealth is just leverage, slowly boiling the frogs as they say. Of course legacy breeds a middle class as stupid as possible, seeking real estate inflation, and penalizes those who do not, by placing them at the back of the line, calling it labor.

    Regardless of government incorporation, it’s linked to feudalism, which is just another way of saying that it’s linked to History. Of course the majority will follow Trump or Hillary, whichever way the wind blows, because they are the temporal beneficiaries. With the entire Internet at its disposal, do you see the majority diligently working toward the future, or arguing over the past, to brand the narrative as property?

    The majority in America doesn’t want to lose control with central generation any more than the majority in Russia, or any other nation/state. The only question in Cuba is who will operate the local monopoly. A robot makes no more economic sense than Amazon.

    The most amusing comments are those suggesting that government, the public corporation, or its derivatives, the private and non-profit corporations, can actually do anything, other than more efficiently replace themselves with more disastrous results. If you ever calculated the relationship between a counterweight and a motor in an elevator, you would see why. If you think about it, the elevator business prints far more money than the Internet bubble.

    Funny, I was talking to a customer about diagonal elevators that could change direction at any speed, and the other mechanics looked at me like an alien with multiple heads. To program an operation successfully, you have to strip away the mythology to see how it actually works, and then replace the worn-out dress, with anything the majority will accept. Like the legacy it follows back into the past, the majority says one thing and does another, doing nothing and calling it work, hoping you will do it for them, from the back of the line.

    What is FANG, other than the latest and greatest dress, so threadbare it no longer serves the purpose, following IBM and others, which were just the latest and greatest dress yesterday? Of course the critters are going employ family common law feudalism to kidnap your children, and assign you debt in the exchange to compel propaganda, if they see you. Why would you expect anything else?

    The moment that bug opens its mouth, you can see the bipolar axis upon which it operates. Like its derivative empire, the brain is inherently self-obsessed, insecure and fearful, until it’s not. You have to provide the imagiNATION.

    Operation twist turns the subject, in a house of mirrors, a gravitron.

  11. Maxfield

    I believe the comments and article miss the true problem & solution? What we lack is TRUE leadership. Leadership that comes out of surviving personal strife and inner challenges. Ala TR and FDR? Were are the champions of empathy and humaneness? Me thinks Capitalism and Ayn Rand are today’s real terrorists?

  12. Quantum Future

    Susan the Other – In my journal is a notation:

    ‘Logic craves love for its creativity. Love craves logic for its security.’

    As for change, scale of a society does matter. The Russians and Indians led by Ghandi just pretended to work for pretend pay.

    I did a short film at Occupy. I am small fry but I was told me being there in media and camera guy kept the cops much nicer. The good news was Occupied was permitted at all. Yes they faced opposition like not permiting food donations or curtailing of power. People got hungry and it got cold but as far as an exchange of ideas, demonstration of the power of solidarity and public awareness it was a great success.

    Rabid, you quoted Christ. Another visionary that changed the world by creating a movement that simply worked part time for food, spread it around and other than that checked out.

    Meanwhile, consideration of deeper lifes meaning can add a little value and plant seeds for the future and gives a lot of satisfaction.

    Also, the chicks really dig a thinker as an aside, something I wished I had figured out 30 years ago.

    Our Founders were wise. They built the Constitution knowing our Republic would falter or fail. When free speech on the 1st Amendment fails, the 2nd one kicks in by natural recourse. Hopefullly the majority wont have to understand the wisdom of that framework.

    The only reason I still live in this country is we can at least openly mock our individual or collective absurdity for the reasonings for colonialism and looting.

    I am grateful I can still come here say what I wish freely. I appreciate it the effort here. Many people want to say but so few want to do. Asking a supposed liberal to fund a public utility on the Internet, like a power amp is like asking a Guerilla for one bananna out of a thousand trees of them. And you wonder why there is no change.

    How fortunate for the leadership to know they can spend a few billion, recoup it all plus profit to dominate the narrative.

    Look in the mirror if you want answers and decide if you want to really become Mexico because we are 90% there or you want to live in real security without armed guards to protect the kids from kidnappers for ransom.

  13. Quantum Future

    True story – Met a well known WW2 vet from a great family in Boston. His last acts were to write a book which summarized the horror of war and what brought us to that place back then. He write it seeing the same patterns.

    This triggered PTSD from those horrors which triggered or accelerated Alzheimers. He choked to death. A true hero to me.

    Now his wife did a lot of things for the environment, fighting fascism in her own way. At 89 her work could have continued but she wanted me to put up 1/2 the investment which I no longer had by already putting in nearly every dime I owed and showing a very successful beta. At 92 she is going to die with her ideas and life work sitting on millions.

    Meanwhile the Koch brothers can raise billions with a financial plan it takes a few intern a couple weeks to write. Collectively as a group, this could be balanced with millions and innovators will donate time and make sure it pays for itself. So if you dont smarten up you get WW3 and die. It is a pattern of evolution that the people who can fund change first tend to do it last, that is because such times personally effect them last.

    If some are always too ignorant to care at the literal expense of a life or families lives should I continue to care?

  14. sierra7

    “Democracy” does not exist in “political flux”.
    Democracy is messy…
    Powerful moneyed elites nowhere give up power willingly…..without bloody resistance.
    All the social gains won over the decades (and centuries) were won in the streets.
    Without winning in the streets, the common people will not gain anything.
    Power rests with power…..The moneyed elite own the power, both police and military.
    Without neutralizing that power, the common people will never be able to wrest back any of the “commons”.
    The ballot box is the crutch that we use to lean on when we don’t understand how political power works.
    All the rest is just talk….nothing more…..
    When the common people in general here in the US have “suffered” enough they will take to the streets.
    Not until then.
    There is still too much (faux) “prosperity” out there……
    (France and Britain were forced to give up their “empires” because they were flat broke…….and…..the “give-ups” were certainly filled with blood……India and Algiers are good examples…….not even mentioning SEA….[France])
    Globalization that is embraced by the leading elites in Western countries will continue to devastate common labor; automation will finish them off……..then you might consider to take shelter from revolution and it’s fatal aftermath, civil war.
    Good luck to all…..

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