Naked Capitalism: Turning Darkness Into Light

By PlutoniumKun, who lives in Dublin

For those of you who read the comments section, I urged you in September to dig deep and give generously to Naked Capitalism based on its Brexit coverage alone. And this suggestion is coming, as you can infer, from someone who is very much exposed to the consequences and therefore has reason to pay attention. So please go to the Tip Jar and make a contribution. As I pointed out then:

…suffice to say that there seems a slowly growing awareness everywhere that any kind of a deal – even a last gasp face saving transition period one – seems increasingly unlikely. The only ones not to quite get it are the markets – sterling is slipping, but not as much as it will once they realise what they are facing.

So my only comment now in the light of whats been written in so many papers today – and I write this in the context of the upcoming annual fundraiser for NC – is to note that Yves has been consistently, for 18 months now, entirely correct in her predictions so far on almost every single crucial issue (the only minor exception being the December deal, which now seems to have been something of an error by Bernier and the EU). There have been a small number of other writers – such as Jonathon Lys in the Guardian, or Tony Connelly on RTE, who have ‘gotten’ just how difficult the exit would be. But I don’t think anyone has been so consistently accurate in predictions as Yves and nobody has explained in such a cogent manner why this would be so.

So just remember that when the fundraiser comes around :-)

That isn’t my only reason for supporting Naked Capitalism. I suspect my journey to Naked Capitalism was broadly similar to other members of the readership who did time in economics.

I can’t remember when I first found Naked Capitalism or how I found my way here. I was probably following a link from one or other pol/econ sites I was avidly browsing at the time. I do, however, clearly remember the context. It was immediate post-2007 crash, and suddenly I realised I’d been intellectually asleep for a decade or more.

I gained a mediocre economics degree back in the late 1980s – as an idealistic teenager I thought I’d storm the citadel and tell them where they were going wrong. Unfortunately, I discovered that while I was smart enough to see most of what was presented as fact was anything but, I was nowhere nearly smart enough to be able to present a strong counter argument.

My only minor act of revolt to an undergraduate economics indoctrination course was to find my way to a few heterodox economists. There were even, lurking in obscure corners of university economics departments, an occasional Henry George fan, but they were never taken seriously by their colleagues.

While I never fell for the neoliberal line, I could never quite get in line with a standard left wing/progressive approach either – I found most left wing groups to be silent or incoherent when it came to the core questions that bothered me – most fundamentally, how would a fair society actually work in practice? What sort of fiscal and monetary policies would it have? How would it deal with difficult issues like free-riders and immigration and bureaucratic sloth? I wondered why so many left wing parties ended up governing from the right when in power. Was this cynicism on the part of the politicians or something deeper – a fundamental lack of faith that left-wing policies actually work?

I wandered into environmental campaigning for a few years. At least, I thought, Green parties offered some coherent radical critiques of economics which stood up, even in boom times. But as the noughties rolled on, it became obvious that nobody really cared about a dying planet. When it came to the crunch, few voted Green, let alone changed their lifestyles beyond filling a recycling bin.

Like many people, I found my radicalism curdling as a healthy economy led to a steadily more comfortable mainstream life. I began to actually believe that maybe the Great Moderation was a real thing, and that, environmental destruction notwithstanding, globalisation was actually making millions of people’s lives better (at least if you lived in China). I found myself nodding approvingly at proposals to cut public sector waste and introduce market based reforms (yes, an economics education does take years to flush from your system).

Then came the 2007 crash. I was actually very lucky – I didn’t lose my job or find myself behind on my mortgage. But I did realise with a shock that all those things I’d believed two decades previously were actually entirely relevant to the world today, I’d just forgotten all about them. So I began reading frantically to try to catch up. And with good luck I found Naked Capitalism and I’ve been here ever since, first just lurking, then posting, and increasingly spending an indecent amount of time every day reading and posting and just thinking about what I’ve just read. But I’m here not because it is comfortable reading, a group of like-minded people reinforcing each others ideas – but because it is challenging, rigorous, and always intellectually stimulating.

What is truly radical and unique about Naked Capitalism is not that it is a left leaning economics blog. Not even that it’s a very good left leaning economics blog. What is radical and unique about Naked Capitalism is that it is never interested in easy answers or endless navel gazing. Our hosts here never fall in line with virtue waving, or surrendering to group-think, or confirmation bias, or avoiding uncomfortable conclusions. It is as unafraid to tackle sacred cows of the left in the same manner as it systematically dismantles the arguments of the neoliberals and neocons. And it’s so much more than just theoretical articles – Yves’ ongoing clinical dissection of CalPERS maladministration and Hubert Horan’s jaw dropping evisceration of Uber’s bezzle (and thanks to Naked Capitalism for introducing me to that oh so useful word) put the entire US business media to shame and are Pulitzer worthy. Lambert’s regular deep dives into topics as diverse as local Congressional races to the NHS or the Canadian health service are worthy of multiple teams of journalists or researchers.

And just as worthy of inclusion are all those BTL commentators, so many experts in so many topics, both willing to share knowledge and to challenge lazy thinking. This is a credit both to the commentators and the excellent site moderation, the latter maybe the toughest task in an online world when everyone thinks they are an expert.

Times are tough for many people, but the immensely valuable information on Naked Capitalism is worth at least the price of a newspaper every day. We’ve become used to getting everything free online, but while free, some things are also priceless. Naked Capitalism is one of these priceless things and if we want it to keep going, we all need to chip in whatever we can afford to keep it going. So please contribute what you can! Whether $5, $50, or $5000, your gift helps keep a light on in the darkness.

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Title inspired by Robin Flowers’ translation of the Old Irish poem ‘Pangur Bán’ written by an anonymous 9th Century monk, toiling away at writing and research.

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8 comments

  1. skippy

    As one of the olds in this lounge room I could warn others might accuse thee of being a hyper intellectual by dint of time spent here – true story.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I love that word too – the advantage of using it in daily conversation is that people immediately know what you are talking about, even if they’ve never heard it before. The ‘bezzle’ needs explaining.

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        Missed the explanation about the bezzle :(

        I found NC through Calculated Risk, where I was attracted by the housing bubble some years ago. If you go to CR’s site you will still find a picture in memoriam of Doris Dungey who posted there as “Tanta”. She was the one who made me visit NC for the first time. But NC is, as many good things, not an easy digestion. NC is quite demanding and it took me some time to be ready to enjoy it.

        Reply
        1. DonCoyote

          That is essentially my story as well. I can’t remember how I found Calculated Risk, but I stayed for Tanta (still revisit some of her stuff once in a while). CR had, at one point, Naked Capitalism as one of it’s side links, and while I visited many of them, NC is the only one I’ve found consistently rewarding (although I stuck with Mish Shedlock for quite a while). It took me years to feel like I was up to speed enough to comment, though.

          Here’s a Tanta column from July 2007 I recently revisited: Stunned But Not Surprised

          How can you recognize a major market shift? Nobody can quite get their stories straight. Everybody was shocked by the rating agencies, but everybody is mad at them because everybody knew all along that this was coming. Everybody knows that the stuff hasn’t even been downgraded enough, but everybody’s shocked over the spreads on new deals of the same caliber. Clearly it’s going to take a while before we figure out how to reconcile our wounded innocence with our seasoned vigilance. Stay tuned.

          Reply
  2. bassmule

    I rarely comment (first as Bunk McNulty, lately as bassmule) but I have to say one of life’s great moments was sitting at the Ten Bells with Michael Hudson to my left and Jerri-Lynn Scofield to my right. Rarified company! I came to the site after someone recommended this new book called “Econned” to me. This was right around the time Angelo Mozilo was making headlines. It was a transforming experience: It blew all the free-market crap they taught me at the Stern School right out of my head. I will be forever grateful just for that. And while I may not post much, I’m here every morning at 7 am (strange to read it at 2 pm while in Europe) and at 2 pm. Thank you, Yves, Lambert, Jerri-Lynn and all your crew, and thank you especially, Commentariat. An island of sanity, etc.

    Reply
  3. vlade

    US Media? Any media, really..

    The only place I find similar level of digging in is FTAlphaville – which has problems of its own though.

    Reply

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