By Matt Stoller, a Fellow at the Open Markets Institute
Yves is one of the most optimistic people I know. You may not believe it, and I don’t think Yves Smith does believe it, but she is. No one who takes on power the way that she does, and who organizes a community like the one she has, could even begin to do what she does without having a fundamental belief in the power of ideas to effect real change in our lives and in our society. And the thing is, in this attitude, she is right.
Right now, Uber is being reorganized. This is a powerful and important institution, which was set on structuring how people all over the world organize their transportation system. It is going through a management crisis, borne of all sorts of monstrous behavior.
What Yves helped do is provide one important key nugget in this story, which is that Uber doesn’t actually work as a business model. You can look at the sexism, the lawbreaking, and the various mean-spirited attempts at monopolization, which are all important perspectives. But Hubert Horan’s critique of their revenue model showed that this institution had to change. And so that’s what’s happening. At the end of the day, we have to speak the language of finance and the language of morality, together.
There’s virtually no money for someone like Yves to put this site together, and what little in advertising is being quickly siphoned away by monopolists. We know fraud pays. We know stealing pays. We know fake innovation pays. And exposing it doesn’t. Fortunately, Yves doesn’t need much, she just needs us. She needs some donations from some of us to keep this going. You can give here, via the Tip Jar, which tell you how to donate via check, credit card or debit card.
If you can’t afford anything, that’s fine. This economy is pretty volatile. But if you can afford a lot, you should give a lot, if only to help nudge our culture towards a more stable direction. The Tip Jar beckons.
This shift in the view of, say, Uber, of which Yves and this community had a small but critical part, is happening everywhere. Say what you will about the allegations of Facebook and the election, but the fact is that no one in in a policymaking position is acting like Mark Zuckerberg is anything but a political boss with political power. There are no neoliberal bromides about the perils of regulation, or growth versus anti-business rhetoric, or other nonsense. That era is over. Shattered. Gone. That’s partially because of Yves, and all of you.
So keep this going. It’s a good thing you have here. Support it by giving now.
From now on, these institutions, from private equity to banks to Silicon Valley giants, are going to have to fight on a political level for their place.
You may think, well, so what? The answer is that when people stop believing in the legitimacy of a moral system, it becomes much harder to enforce it. When the people stop believing in, say, private equity as a means to do anything but roll up industries and loot, then that industry will eventually be put under a microscope by our political institutions. We may win or lose that fight, but at least we will have it. That is what Yves has helped do. She has let us have the fight, finally.
I used to edit and write for Naked Capitalism. I’ve also worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, during the bailouts, and in the last few years on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. I’ve read this blog on everything from the “subprime” crisis in 2007 to the foreclosure crisis in 2011 to the disastrous legislative approach to Puerto Rico last year to the Uber problems. Yves has organized a community focused on one thing, which is the misuse of financial power and how to correct it.
Puerto Rico is right now a wreck, because of a massive storm, but also because of years of neglect by a set of intertwined political and financial institutions. These institutions are full of people with bad ideas about how to organize the world, but more than that, they are simply not good at anything useful. If you want to rebuild a cell phone or electrical infrastructure, a hedge fund manager in New York can’t help you. All he can do is say no. It’s the same as the foreclosure crisis. Believe it or not, banks once were willing and able to work with homeowners. But now all they could do is say no.
This stuff needs to be corrected by democracy. By elected officials, by outspoken citizens, by communities like this one, willing to put forward confidently the idea that we can manage finance, that we can self-govern. Yves Smith has made it clear that the bankers, that the Silicon Valley titans, that the private equity types, are more than anything else, fools. Just a little heat on, say, CalPERS, can lead to changes in capital allocation. Just a little exposure of Uber losing a ton of money can restructure our policies towards Silicon Valley. And a little bit of democracy? Well that’s coming, after we get through the dreck of the Trump era and decide as a people that we want our liberty.
Yves, and this community, are the beacons in the dark. And oh it has been dark. But I can see that it is beginning to get a little bit lighter. The people have realized something is very very wrong. They aren’t yet clear on what they want. But they haven’t seen democracy, real democracy, in forty years. And I think they’ll like it.
So whatever you can afford, help keep this community going. We are going to rebuild our democracy, and we’re going to need this island of sanity as a place to get credible information, and the confidence, that comes with it. Go now to the Tip Jar and help out.
Yves is an optimist. It’s why she’s here. It’s why she writes. It’s why she organizes. It’s why we’re all here. Because at some level, we believe. I know I do.