We will be ten years old this December. So in this annual fundraiser, which is critical for us to keep providing you with incisive commentary, original reporting, our twice-daily news surveys, and a steady diet of cute animal pictures, it seemed fitting to give our longer-term vision for the site. We hope you’ll support our work, and we encourage you to do so by visiting our Tip Jar on the right, which tells you how to give by check, or by credit or debit card.
I started this site in 2006 because there were things that seemed obvious yet were going unsaid. And it didn’t take much insight to recognize that. Any regular reader of the Financial Times and Bloomberg who had a background in finance could see that credit risk was being grossly underpriced across all types of debt instruments, and the ending would be a lot worse than a recession.
Many of the terrific financial websites of that era have either fallen by the wayside or are publishing much less frequently. We’ve been able to stay relevant by following the ever-widening impact of the financial crisis and focusing on areas where we could develop an information advantage. That has come in no small measure though the insights and leads provided by our engaged, astute commentariat. In many cases, like CDOs, foreclosure abuses, and private equity chicanery, readers put us onto these topics and provided us with important insider intelligence.
While it’s impossible to forecast ten years out, Lambert and I still plan to be here at NC. We intend to keep looking beneath the surface of stories to tease out the signal from the propaganda, to use our expertise and research skills to draw out implications, and to keep a vigilant watch on changes in power dynamics.
A seismic shift now underway is that globalization as we have known it is breaking down. After the last era of globalization ended with World War I and efforts to reconstitute in the 1920s failed, Keynes observed that the fundamental defect was that countries had strong incentives to run sustained trade surpluses. These mercantilist policies did damage to their trading partners to the degree that it made the entire system unsustainable. Yet there was no ready method to punish or curb countries that effectively stole jobs from their trade counterparties through running persistent trade surpluses.
The new wrinkle of our current system is the rise of Davos Man, an international elite with no loyalties to nation-states and hence the citizens in them. As a result, mercantilist stresses are playing out on new axes. Before, war was the result when economic pressures super-charged international tensions. While that threat is operative, now we have voters rebelling against elites who have used globalization as a tool to squeeze wages and extract rents for their personal benefit. The elite defenders of the status quo correctly warn that an overshoot in the form of high trade barriers would be destructive, but they still seem unable to acknowledge that they have failed abjectly in their duty to provide enough reasonably-paid work to the populations they rule. Their slow-footed responses, like denouncing populists rather than getting serious about delivering concrete material benefits to citizens, shows that in their cloistered enclaves, they either believe the great unwashed public is just whinging and will reconcile themselves to their eroding prospects, or that any serious discord can be overcome with force. If they test this belief, the outcome is not likely to be pretty. As Mark Blyth has said, “The Hamptons are not a defensible position.”
Another area we expect we’ll cover more regularly is the intersection between technology and governance, and in particular the phenomenon that Lambert calls “code is law.” Unfounded claims of libertarian techno-utopianism are used to justify the gutting of the rule of law, as we’ve seen city after city acquiesce to regulation-shredding Uber. Similarly, in 2012, Matt Stoller warned that insurers would increasingly pressure consumers to provide more information, first by enticing better risks to do so to get better rates, and then when they’d gotten enough of the market to agree to the surveillance, to turn it into a requirement.
And that’s before we get to other festering problems, like the failure to curb the Too Big to Fail problem, the looming disaster that the authorities are addressing only at the margin, climate change, and the One Problem That Now Rules Them All, corruption.
So how do we at Naked Capitalism play a role? We intend to do what we can to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We want above all to continue to give you information and help you build analytical and rhetorical skills so you can be more effective in your own communities. These often heated arguments in our the comments section are good preparation for what you may encounter at your dinner tables, in your workplaces, and in your town halls.
We believe that our biggest impact is through delivering on our overarching mission: promoting critical thinking. The more adept you are at vetting what is presented to you as fact, at testing the logic of arguments, and at parsing propaganda, the more you will be able to do in helping the people around you better understand the escalating struggle among factions in the elites as they struggle to maintain their hold on authority, and chart a better course for political and personal action.
We’d like to do more. We’d like to do it even better. We’ve managed to punch way above our weight with pretty meager resources. Just imagine how much trouble we could cause if we ever got our hands on some real money.
Please support our efforts. Give whatever you can, whether it’s $5, $50, or $5000, via our Tip Jar. Even a small donation helps us meet our fundraising goals. And if you aren’t in a position to give right now, you can help by linking to our posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, and telling friends, family, and colleagues about the site, as well as contributing to our comments section.
In our accompanying kickoff post, we identify specific things that your donations will fund and will tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals. Our first goal is $19,000 for digital infrastructure essentials. That may not sound very sexy, but this is our plumbing. I’m sure you know from your own experience that when your plumbing is not working, you feel its absence acutely. We require more even more than before due to both the size of our database (over 800,000 comment and over 18,000 posts) and rising security threats.
You can give via check made out to “Aurora Advisors Incorporated,” sent to:
Aurora Advisors Incorporated
903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10075
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Again, we hope you’ll support our work in ways big and small. You’ve helped us build a community, and with your continued backing, we aspire to make it even better in the coming decade.