America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice

By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and Jeffrey L Spear, an Associate Professor of English at New York University where he teaches Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature, and Visual Culture. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

“There is no wealth but life.”

— John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1860)

A chilling experiment is underway in America, with plenty of unwilling human guinea pigs.

Many parts of the country are reopening for business against the warnings of medical experts, flying in the face of grim predictions of sharply rising body counts. Two-thirds of Americans fear that the restart is happening too quickly, and the President himself acknowledges that by easing restrictions, “there’ll be more death.” Yet he presses on, even as his own White House suffers a viral outbreak.

News screens flash with tallies of death and tallies of wealth: New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared that lives must be saved “whatever it costs,” insisting that for Americans the choice “between public health and the economy” is “no contest.” But he did not ask celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who some weeks ago expressed his view that reopening schools could give the country its “mojo back,” and perhaps “only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. (2% sounds conveniently small compared to its equivalent in human lives, 6,560,000. Oz later apologized after public outrage).

Meanwhile Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, offered his own assessment of the trade-off between capitalism and the lives of America’s senior citizens, explaining, “there are more important things than living.”

Since the days of Adam Smith, free market capitalists have held that human beings are rational actors who pursue economic gain for self-interested motives. But here is Patrick, a free marketer if there ever was one, talking about a gift-sacrifice economy model in which people – some people, at least – lay down their lives to keep the economic engines revved.

Patrick’s words reveal an unspoken truth about capitalism. For the system to work smoothly, there have always been requirements of human sacrifice — a certain portion of the population was expected to act not as self-serving homo economicus, but self-sacrificing homo communis, focused upon what benefits the collective at their own expense. If these people can’t social distance at the workplace, they are expected to show up anyway. If there isn’t enough safety equipment, they are declared essential workers who must put their lives and that of their families at risk for the greater good.

But for whom and for what is this sacrifice intended? How much dying will be figured into state budgets and gross domestic product (GDP)? When ranked by GDP, the U.S. is the wealthiest economy in the world, but is a country’s wealth something totally separate from, or even contrary to, the health and life the majority of its citizens?

Wealth v. “illth”

To help us navigate these questions, it is useful turn to someone who offered potent challenges to the economic calculus of his day: John Ruskin, the 19th-century art critic-turned-political economist. He was one of the most outspoken critics of capitalism and prevailing economic ideas of the Victorian era, and his work presciently points to shortcomings that have followed us into the present day.

Ruskin questions the premises on which free market capitalism is based, returning to first principles: what is wealth? What do we value? How should we understand the relationship between people, the economy, and the state?

In his view, economies are, above all, social systems whose true end is to benefit the people, and not, as the Texan politician would have it, the other way around. Anticipating the behavioral economics of our own day, Ruskin rejected the idea advocated by such economists as John Stuart Mill that there could be a deductive science of economics based on the assumption that the human being is “a covetous machine” that when applied to actual situations could take “the social affections,” the non-rational aspects of human behavior, into account. Ruskin recognized that such a system implicitly removed the marketplace from the constraints of religion and morality that are supposed to apply to all human behavior. He compared it to an assumption that humans are essentially a skeleton with flesh, blood and consciousness as add-ons founding “an ossifiant theory of progress on this negation of a soul.”

Ruskin defined wealth quite differently from many of his contemporaries, and ours. For him, wealth is anything that supports life and health, from the supplies in your storeroom to the song in your heart: “There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.” (Unto this Last).

By that definition, America is looking increasingly impoverished. And it is not a virus which is stealing our wealth away.

Playing on the root of the word “wealth” from the Old English word “weal,” signifying health, Ruskin proposed that while wealth was anything life-supporting that could be used and enjoyed, it had a dark counterpart that he called “illth” from the Old Norse word for bad – the things that make people ill, their lives stunted and despairing, their environment polluted. Wealth cannot be produced without illth, but great fortunes have been made by extracting the means of wealth without paying the cost of illth. To take a Ruskinian example, a factory that pollutes the water it uses, fouls the air and pays its workers below what a healthy life requires will be more profitable than a business that cleans up after itself and pays a living wage, but its illth becomes a form of national debt expressed in damage to the health of others and the environment. Think of something like a toxic Superfund site.

Economists have a term for Ruskin’s concept of illth, referring to it as “negative externalities,” even though they are not external to the capitalist economic system, but intrinsic to it. The most daunting problems of the current age, environmental disaster and inequality, are fueled by illth.

The Covid-19 crisis has merely amplified trends of rising illth, of despair, sickness, and alienation, which have been on the rise for decades as globalization, money-driven politics, decimated workers’ rights, and privatization have tipped the economic balance far in favor of the very few. If we are to judge a country’s health not by GDP, which rises in the face of a massive oil spill, but according to the criteria of the World Happiness Report (WHR), which measures things like social trust and faith in institutions, America is in bad shape when it comes to the ratio of wealth to illth. Scandinavian countries top the WHR, while the U.S. ranks a dismal 19th.

According to the Columbia University study of the 2020 WHR report, the key factors that account for the relative happiness of Scandinavian countries — what makes them wealthy in Ruskin’s terms — are precisely those that have been under pressure or cut back in the U.S. since the rise of neoliberalism: “emancipation from market dependency in terms of pensions, income maintenance for the ill or disabled, and unemployment benefits” together with labor market regulation such as a high minimum wage. Of course, no one likes to pay taxes, but Scandinavian “citizens’ satisfaction with public and common goods such as health care, education, and public transportation that progressive taxation helps to fund,” meets with approval at all income levels.

Pandemics are exacerbated by illth. We can see it in communities of color where the coronavirus strikes down those whose resources and access to health care have been limited by discriminatory policies and high contact employment. We can see it in factory farms where broken supply chains have caused farmers to euthanize livestock and plow under crops while people across the country go hungry. Airlines got immediate stimulus aid in the U.S., but there has been no subsidy for the restaurant supply chain that could be diverted for distribution by food banks and favorably located restaurants thus sustaining at least some of our much-vaunted small businesses. No one has to fly, but everyone must eat.

We sense illth accumulating in the comments of Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, who, in her eagerness to get the casinos back in business, told an astonished Anderson Cooper on CNN that she would offer up the city’s workers as a “control group” in a reopening experiment. If they weren’t able to social distance, Goodman was unconcerned: “In my opinion, you have to go ahead,” she said. “Every day you get up, it’s a gamble.”

Ruskin saw the capitalists of his day as gamblers heedless of the costs they foisted onto ordinary people: “But they neither know who keeps the bank of the gambling-house, nor what other games may be played with the same cards, nor what other losses and gains, far away among the dark streets, are essentially, though invisibly, dependent upon theirs in lighted rooms.” (Unto This Last).

In other words, not only do capitalists gamble with other peoples’ lives; they are oblivious to the fact that there are other ways to arrange society, to deal the cards differently, more fairly.

Witness the post-Covid reality imagined by Governor Cuomo. Instead of focusing on what changes could better support the health and lives of ordinary people, he has called in Google CEO Eric Schmidt to head a commission to reimagine New York state with more technology permanently inserted into every dimension of civic life. A better deal for Silicon Valley, to be sure. But what is in the cards for everyone else? When educational platforms and health protocols are mapped by gigantic and unaccountable corporations, who gets lost? Surely the answer is those who can least afford it.

President Trump says that it is time to move on from the coronavirus and get on with economy. Ruskin would have recognized the deity worshipped by country’s leader, which he called the “Goddess of getting on.” Only Ruskin recognized that she tended to favor “not of everybody’s getting on – but only of somebody’s getting on,” — what he called a “vital, or rather deathful, distinction.” For capitalists, getting on post-Covid means executives working remotely while the rank and file return to the factory floor without adequate face masks, and large corporations, not public input, determines the blueprints for our lives.

The issue of worker safety does matter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but not because he fears that some will get sick or die, but for a potential “epidemic of litigation.” In the next pandemic relief legislation, McConnell is looking to solve the problem of worker safety by shielding corporations from lawsuits rather than supporting Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mandated regulations that would both promote safety and sort out what is and is not actionable.

The Visible Hand

Instead of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, Ruskin advocated a Visible Hand of reasoned management, a government which could allocate resources effectively and create stores of what citizens most needed in a crisis. In our day this need not be a literal storehouse but surge capacity. The Obama administration, for example, contracted with Halyard Health to design a machine that could turn out 1.5 million N95 masks per day. They were ready to build the machine in 2018 when the Trump administration cancelled the program.

In Ruskin’s view, the Visible Hand was the guardian of the lives of the citizens, especially the poor, whose health and lives were their essential property. Ruskin actually defined an economy as the wise management of labor, applying labor, carefully preserving what it produces, and wisely distributing those products. A country’s wealth is in the people’s strength and health, not their illness and death.

Ruskin’s concepts of wealth and illth help us understand the centrality of ethics and responsibility to economic activity, and how economies are not an assemblage of atomistic human units but whole systems of people interacting, where the activities of some impact the lives of all. His work indicates the need for a whole systems approach to a crisis in which what happens on the beaches of Georgia impacts a nursing home in North Carolina, and visitors to New York City or New Orleans can carry the infection home. The decisions of one business in a complex international supply chain can impact the fate of millions.

In unregulated capitalism, Ruskin sussed out what Sigmund Freud might have recognized as the death drive. Decisions about the economy, he held, must be informed by the essential biologic basis of life itself: “The real science of political economy, which has yet to be distinguished from the bastard science, as medicine from witchcraft, and astronomy from astrology, is that which teaches nations to desire and labour for the things that lead to life; and which teaches them to scorn and destroy the things that lead to destruction” (Unto This Last).

The Covid crisis has exposed contradictions in market and America First ideology. Without federal aid to state and local governments, essential personnel are being laid off even as we declare them heroes. Employer based insurance is failing, but few American politicians are willing to fully embrace single payer insurance. Meat plant workers are declared essential, but still subject to deportation, as if famed Revolutionary patriot Nathan Hale had said, “I only regret that you have but one life to give for my country.”

Ultimately, the most dangerous pestilence that threatens the country is not a packet of RNA called Covid-19 but an economic and political system that does not value true wealth, and promotes the life of the few while condemning the many to literal sickness unto death.

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  1. Santiago

    As an Argentinian, I can tell you we’ve run this experiment for quite a while. The result is we are not healthy, nor wealthy.

      1. Dave D'Rave

        @Joe Well: Argentina has a low infection rate (at this time) because they have a very low rate of international travel. People whose economy collapsed a few years ago do not have money for airplane tickets.
        If you wait a little while, the pandemic will get to them.
        Once the disease arrives in Puerto, we will find out how effective their health care system really is. Most likely, they do not have modern equipment, and will have a bad outcome.

        1. Joe Well

          Did you even read the article I linked to? Argentina had cases early on from travel with Italy and also Brazil, which is right next door and a global hotspot. At the first sign of cases, they shut the country down.

          I have spoken with Argentineans. The control measures early on far exceed anything done in North America.

          And Argentina has something like truly universal health coverage even for the undocumented, which puts it in much better stead to deal with something like this than a certain superpower.

          >>Most likely, they do not have modern equipment, and will have a bad outcome.

          Most likely? That is a falsifiable statement, and it is false. Just Google, FFS.

  2. none

    Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, who, in her eagerness to get the casinos back in business, told an astonished Anderson Cooper on CNN that she would offer up the city’s workers as a “control group” in a reopening experiment. If they weren’t able to social distance, Goodman was unconcerned: “In my opinion, you have to go ahead,” she said. “Every day you get up, it’s a gamble.”

    “This is a dangerous assignment. Some of you might die. But I’m willing to take that chance.” –Somebody

    1. The Rev Kev

      You know that she totally refused to go mix with the crowds at the casinos herself when asked. She said that it was because she had family.

      1. Off The Street

        The Goodman family is a mini-dynasty in Las Vegas. If only they could intermarry with the Daley family, ya know, one with municipal staying power.

  3. Henry Moon Pie

    Excellent piece by Parramore. Ruskin is an interesting thinker whose ideas have direct application to our situation. This was central:

    President Trump says that it is time to move on from the coronavirus and get on with economy. Ruskin would have recognized the deity worshipped by country’s leader, which he called the “Goddess of getting on.” Only Ruskin recognized that she tended to favor “not of everybody’s getting on – but only of somebody’s getting on,” — what he called a “vital, or rather deathful, distinction.” For capitalists, getting on post-Covid means executives working remotely while the rank and file return to the factory floor without adequate face masks, and large corporations, not public input, determines the blueprints for our lives.

    There’s one thing I hope the Left learns before too long. Human beings have a religious impulse. It’s not as powerful or as central to our existence as the sexual impulse, but it’s there in all of us, even Richard Dawkins. Like the sexual impulse, the real question is where will this religious impulse lead us. For the Right, their twisted unChristian conception of Christianity is a powerful force within their political movement. In fact, it might be said to be what holds it together and provides the energy for their unfortunate efforts.

    Meanwhile, the Left, considering itself too firmly ensconced in modernity to recognize the reality of the religious impulse despite modern science’s identification of it, denies the existence of this basic and potentially powerful human trait. We saw some of the activists and organizers in Bernie’s campaign employ deep organizing techniques which are basically spiritual exercises. We know Thomas Berry’s calls for a new religion focused on humanity’s relationship to the Earth and its creatures. The Left needs to acknowledge our spiritual aspects and work to turn our religious impulse away from patriarchalism, misogyny and homophobia of the Right and toward love for the Earth, our fellow humans and our fellow creatures. That’s where reside the power and persistence necessary to overcome our religiously misinspired opponents.

    1. Bsoder

      There is a gene that creates within the brain a structure that either perceives ‘god’ (my view), or generates a sense of spirituality in [sic] reality. The university of Waterloo has been doing studies on this for at least thirty years. Anything we have evolved has a calorie cost to maintain, so it must serve purpose in furthering life. There have been many debates about this gene but no one can argue it’s not about spirituality, and/or god, and/or what the Druids what call magic. To me there’s always been, that question, we can go back and have data to 1/billion of 1/billion to 1/billion⁶⁶⁷(minus) of a second before the inflation singularity that created this universe. But then, why? As the said in the ‘Little Prince’, ‘it’s only with the heart one sees rightly’.

      1. Susan the other

        The little prince is right. What we call spirituality is intelligence above what is necessary our daily existence. Our “daily bread”. Our sixth sense is probably more accurate and reliable than all our rationalizations combined. But it is a thing that can’t be orchestrated by religion or politics. What happens between people in groups when fear is eliminated is a sudden change toward choices that are the most sensible. As long as the process isn’t interfered with. That’s the difficulty. It’s like leaving nature alone long enough for it to recover from human devastation.

        1. Clive

          What we call spirituality is intelligence above what is necessary our daily existence.

          (although if I was trying to do your comment complete justice, I would have to simply re-quote the whole thing, it was that good)

          Sometimes Susan the other, you’re so profound, it almost hurts!

          Certainly for me, I’ve got very little, comparatively, in my life right. I’ve passed on opportunities which would made me rich beyond the dreams of avarice. And much else besides. Mostly because I’ve overanalysed and rationalised things away. What I’ve got right has been, conversely, down to following my intuition. If humanity could unlock that potential within us, just think what we could do.

          1. Susan the other

            If I’m profound Clive it’s because I look to you and a handful of other VSP for inspiration.

            1. RBHoughton

              That’s what makes NC unique – the sense of honor and respect amongst supporters.

      2. SAKMAN

        If we are talking about VMAT2 here, then its also been implicated in opiod dependence. . . just another example of god I guess? To some for sure.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        The Sun
        mary oliver

        Have you ever seen
        in your life
        more wonderful

        than the way the sun,
        every evening,
        relaxed and easy,
        floats toward the horizon

        and into the clouds or the hills,
        or the rumpled sea,
        and is gone–
        and how it slides again

        out of the blackness,
        every morning,
        on the other side of the world,
        like a red flower

        streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
        say, on a morning in early summer,
        at its perfect imperial distance–
        and have you ever felt for anything
        such wild love–
        do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
        a word billowing enough
        for the pleasure

        that fills you,
        as the sun
        reaches out,
        as it warms you

        as you stand there,
        or have you too
        turned from this world–

        or have you too
        gone crazy
        for power,
        for things?

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          A response to Oliver’s powerful poem from Thomas Berry:

          The continuity between the human and the cosmic was experienced with special sensitivity in the Chinese world…[A] sense of the sacred dimension of the Earth is involved, a type of awareness less available from our traditional Western religions. This lack of intimacy with the natural was further extended when Descartes proposed that the living world was best described as a mechanism, because there was no vital principle integrating, guiding, and sustaining the activities of what we generally refer to as the living world.

          Yet, strangely enough, a new sense of the sacred dimension of the universe and the planet Earth is becoming available from our more recent scientific endeavors. The observational sciences, principally through the theories of relativity, quantum physics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the sense of a self-organizing universe, and the more recent chaos theories have taken us beyond a mechanistic understanding of an objective world. We know there is a subjectivity in all our knowledge and that we ourselves, precisely as intelligent beings, activate one of the deepest dimensions of the universe. Once again, we realize that knowledge is less a subject-object relationship than it is a communion of subjects,.

          Thomas Berry, “The Gaia Hypothesis: Its Religious Implications” in The Sacred Universe

          1. Susan the other

            I’m reading Rovelli’s The Order of Time right now and every few pages I just stop, my jaw drops and I get lost in the realization.

    2. Rod

      I’m glad you are making this point to acknowledge:

      Human beings have a religious impulse.

      From my direct experience, Native Americans seem to center their activism in a Spiritual Context. Prayer for Guidance–for courage–for wisdom–for compassion–before starting up on anything. imo, it keeps the priorities in focus.

      1. Petter

        I’m posting in this thread even though I’m not sure it fits. The religious or spiritual impulse appears to be universal, there doesn’t seem any doubt about that. Here’s an interesting article on Big Gods, or moralizing Gods.
        Big data analyses suggest that moralizing gods are rather the product than the drivers of social complexity:
        One prominent theory, the big or moralizing gods hypothesis, assumes that religious beliefs were key. According to this theory people are more likely to cooperate fairly if they believe in gods who will punish them if they don’t. “To our surprise, our data strongly contradict this hypothesis,” says lead author Harvey Whitehouse. “In almost every world region for which we have data, moralizing gods tended to follow, not precede, increases in social complexity.” Even more so, standardized rituals tended on average to appear hundreds of years before gods who cared about human morality.

        Such rituals create a collective identity and feelings of belonging that act as social glue, making people to behave more cooperatively. “Our results suggest that collective identities are more important to facilitate cooperation in societies than religious beliefs,” says Harvey Whitehouse.

  4. Amfortas the hippie

    I can definitely recommend Ruskin’s “Unto This Last”. I obtained it(among several others that had been on my list(from NC) for a while) just before Covid.
    short book…wonderfully written.
    and kicks you in the gut like some new revelation.
    turns out that divorcing “Economics” from “Political Economy” was a mistake.
    treating the former as if it were a natural science, like Physics or Chemistry…let alone Pure Mathematics…is deleterious.
    It ignores and neglects all the amorphous and ephemeral things that make this Life worth living….how can you quantify a sunset or a moonrise or the smell of your newborn’s hair or a first kiss?
    the Economists have taken reductive essentialism to absurd extremes….and somehow convinced a great many of us to go along…to our ultimate destruction.

    Marx called this sort of thing Reification….giving something a Quality it doesn’t truly possess. Money as the Holy Cracker in the Temple of Moloch.
    or, the morality of a Serpent: I shall Devour.(see: Joseph Campbell:”a serpent is a “motile alimentary canal”)
    we’re expected to feed ourselves and our children into the flaming bronze maw of their idol(
    as if “The Economy” is some thunderstorm or Holy Mountain, instead of a Human Creation.
    “There is no such thing as Society”….and “TINA”….and these moronic “protesters” holding signs that say “Arbiet macht frie”…apparently unaware of the provenance of that phrase….after all , we stopped really teaching the Humanities…like History…quite a while ago.
    we forget that “They” require our assent and consent to this “sacrifice”(L:”to make holy”)…that without that consent, they have nothing…not even their precious wealth(which is what, these days? electrons moving in a database, somewhere?).

    now, “They” have as much as admitted that things like the Stock Market are disconnected from Reality…that the Casino doesn’t need Main Street and Human Beings to function.
    This, after decades of training us to believe just the opposite. Why else put a stock market ticker at the bottom of every cable news channel…as if all that mattered to us’n’s?
    One of my favorite words is Eudaimonia (…but you only learn about that from the Humanities.
    another of my favorite words is Thaumazein…”Wonder”, or “Awe”…also from ancient Greek Philosophy…
    we’ve allowed the most withered souls to define the Good for us…
    Now, when all their works lie in ruins around us….and their narrow and anti-humanist, mechanistic absurdity and cruelty are on full display…has there ever been a better time to turn away? To sit and think about what matters?
    Withdraw your Consent.

    ” O happiness! O happiness! Wilt thou perhaps sing, O my soul? Thou liest in the grass. But this is the secret, solemn hour, when no shepherd playeth his pipe.
    Take care! Hot noontide sleepeth on the fields. Do not sing! Hush! The world is perfect.
    Do not sing, thou prairie-bird, my soul! Do not even whisper! Lo- hush! The old noontide sleepeth, it moveth its mouth: doth it not just now drink a drop of happiness—
    —An old brown drop of golden happiness, golden wine? Something whisketh over it, its happiness laugheth. Thus—laugheth a God. Hush!—
    —’For happiness, how little sufficeth for happiness!’ Thus spake I once and thought myself wise. But it was a blasphemy: that have I now learned. Wise fools speak better.
    The least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a whisk, an eye-glance—little maketh up the best happiness. Hush!
    —What hath befallen me: Hark! Hath time flown away? Do I not fall? Have I not fallen—hark! into the well of eternity?
    —What happeneth to me? Hush! It stingeth me—alas—to the heart? To the heart! Oh, break up, break up, my heart, after such happiness, after such a sting!
    —What? Hath not the world just now become perfect? Round and ripe? Oh, for the golden round ring—whither doth it fly? Let me run after it! Quick!”

    1. McKillop

      Hey Amphortas the Hippie!
      I enjoy reading your comments and the slices of your life served up to us – you are an interesting guy and a good antidote to me whenever I am disheartened by the stuff I am bombarded with by the exceptional Americans foisted upon the world as typical.
      Who would believe that I read Thus spake Zarathustra ’cause of your comments? I sent the link on to my son who is 16 and has been physically separated from us for months caught in this vortex. We’ll see how it is taken compared to Mnm.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        Aww. Thanks, dude/dudette.
        zarathustra is very accessible.
        i’ve noticed that lots of people(like my wife) have been taught somehow that they can’t read stuff like that, so don’t even try.
        just another crime against us all.
        aristotle can be pretty dense…as can a lot of the more familiar philosophers(hegel=ugh–)…but Nietszche is pretty easy to get into, due to his style….although some translations are better than others(I like the translation linked above for Zarathustra…the KJV Tone works for me.)
        One shouldn’t be intimidated by Marcus Aurelius, Herodotus or Boethius, either.

  5. rob

    Isn’t it ironic, that ruskin was able to see our issues… and spoke to people with such force as to effect our lives… and in a sense is partly responsible for the world we have today.
    When he spoke at oxford in 1870… cecil rhodes was so impressed he supposedly carried a copy of it with him in the future.
    The ideas expressed by ruskin convinced rhodes that he needed to save “good english society” from “the masses”(the poor english and all the rest of the savages who wouldn’t understand how to be proper.”
    Rhodes and his cohorts,in the british upper crust and media establishment created “the british rountable” in 1891. These roundtablers… did lots of things..Both through official channels and by ways of running the largest newspapers who really perfected propaganda, decades before goebbels. Eventually they formed in 1919, “the royal institute of international relations” in britian. and “the council on foreign relations” in new york”
    Generations of these members have really “made” the world that exists today. Which is why the “conspiracy theories” exist…. when people look at the lists of who…
    Personally, I think there ought to be study in the relationships these people had with each other and with history. As with any family, they may be related, but not always on the same page… but still have the power of the family name… and the prestige.
    The council on foreign relations is the wellspring of “neoliberalism”… neo consevatism… too , for that matter. Their place in history is central. This is the axis of the “anglo-american establishment”

    1. rob

      oops, that is “royal institute of international affairs” or as people refer to it “chatham house”

  6. Off The Street

    Upon first reading the headline about America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice, I wondered: Which one?

    Now back to Ruskin.

  7. shinola

    Dan Patrick’s attitude is a prime example of a principle that regular NC readers may have seen a time or two:

    Because Markets / Go Die

  8. anon2

    Hence the folly of an economy based on debt rather than equity: it must continue to run or risk cascading defaults.

    Then why do we have government privileges for private debt creation in the first place? Because subtle theft is easier and more “efficient” than honest sharing?

  9. Alex Cox

    Perhaps science is the religion of the PMC. An unquestioning belief in anything scientists/big pharma/tech wizzards throw on the table, whether it’s GMOs, vaccines containing mercury, thalidomide, social media, driverless cars or trips to Mars.

  10. JBird4049

    I use to go to Nevada regularly and mostly via the Donner Pass. Just a roundabout way of suggesting that some might consider the Donner Party as the right way to have a society. They almost made it over the pass, missing it by a couple of days, despite taking a shortcut that was actually a longcut using bad information from a book, IIRC. They were told repeatedly by those who had gone West before not to do so, but…

    They remind me of today’s times.

  11. Dwight

    In Nashville, TN last month, a masked protester at the state capitol carried a sign “Sacrifice the Weak.” I was shocked when a local news show reported on protesters and filmed this sign along with other signs and protesters, and the reporter did not comment on this horrible, Nazi-like statement.

  12. p fitzsimon

    Have there been any prominent religious leaders who have given counsel on the sacrificial nature of a return to work to save the economy. At what point is the risk to human life and health compensated by an economic return?

    1. Hepativore

      Come to think of it, does it not seem odd that with many prominent religious figures, none of them seem to be willing to speak up on how greed is destroying the world and all of the wealthy owners of capital that are its promoters? Greed is a major sin in almost every religion, yet you hardly ever see any religious clergy give sermons on how widespread and dangerous greed is or publicly admonish Wall Street if they hold themselves up to be the moral leaders of society.

  13. Henry Moon Pie

    The great way is low and plain,
    but people like shortcuts over the mountains.

    From Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation of the Tao te Ching #53

    It’s an old problem.

  14. Chris

    The fundamental problem we have with all the “very smart people” who think economics is a science is that I can’t write an equation that will convince these masters of the universe that they shouldn’t be @$$holes.

    I can’t tell anyone that even if it doesn’t profit you there’s a reason to choose to help your fellow humans.

    I also can’t define a relationship that explains why even if you can figure out how to stay within the letter of the law and exploit a loop hole to make more money but only in way that hurts other people, you shouldn’t do it. Or why you shouldn’t write a law or lobby for a law that exists only so it can be abused.

    These guys will never accept the concept of illth because it challenges their concept of wealth. And so it goes…

  15. eg

    One of the best educated persons I know shared this with me: the most valuable thing is a hierarchy of values.

  16. DHG

    I dont gamble with my life. The shrewd will take the necessary precautions and keep themselves concealed as much as possible. The stupid will not take these precautions, likely get sick and some will perish….

  17. Karen

    It amazes me that protesters and policymakers are still treating this as an impossible tradeoff—a false dichotomy—between life and money, when it’s clear that success lies with practical solutions, of which there are many, to achieve both. Starting with masks!

    I love the idea of billionaires leading the way, demonstrating the efficacy of their reopening plans through personal example.

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