Matt Stoller: Naked Capitalism – “God Is in the Details”

By Matt Stoller, author of Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy and the research director of the American Economic Liberties Project who writes regularly at Substack

It’s a phrase I love, (though its origins are disputed), because it speaks to the essential quality missing from our politics and that you can always find at Naked Capitalism. Substance.

I rely on this site, because I know that whatever is on here is here because of some serious vetting, and the logic is spelled out in detail. Take, for instance, Yves Smith’s pursuit of CalPERS, the California pension fund that is unaccountable, incompetent, sloppy, and corrupt. Nearly everyone in finance and the antitrust world simply takes it for granted that public pension funds must hand over their money to private equity goons, like it’s a law of the universe. Virtually no one is willing to actually cover the nitty-gritty ugly political choices that staffers and board members of these funds make, every day, to facilitate mass theft.

Yves does that. And it matters, for two reasons. First, it makes the bad guys ever so slightly less willing to act as overtly piggishly as they might like. Second, it makes those with integrity act more courageously than they might have imagined possible. As Daniel Ellsburg once said, “Courage is contagious.” I might add, so is truth.

That’s why supporting Yves Smith, Lambert, Jerri-Lynn, Nick and this community, are so meaningful. Naked Capitalism offers the single most important message to all of us, both inside and outside these institutions: You are not alone.And it offers a related message to all of our foes, both inside and outside these institutions: We are not going away.

A donation means we endorse both of these messages. So if you believe, as I do, that a community of truth matters, then give what you can at the Donations page. If you have a lot, give a lot. If you have nothing, then give words of encouragement. It all matters.

It has not been an easy few year for purveyors of truth. I work with people on both sides of the aisle, and the most common problem is not bad faith, or deception, or corruption. It’s total disinterest in details. 80% of the articles on business or politics in the mainstream media are soap opera nonsense. Scratch that. My deepest apologies to soap operas, who at least try to make a pretense at narrative integrity. This choice not to tell stories based on the underlying details is why politicians only care about topline superficial stuff – that’s where the incentives are. Naked Capitalism is changing those incentives, by actually showing the underlying substance. Let’s keep that going with a donation.

If you can’t afford anything, you can still help by spreading the word about Naked Capitalism by telling friends and family, circulating important stories, posting links on Facebook and other social media. Actually, never use Facebook or social media. Just don’t. You’ll be happier.

The other part of focusing on details is that it puts you ahead of the curve. I first came to Naked Capitalism way back in 2006, before the financial crisis, when Yves was noting that problems in securitization would get very bad. She was right then, because she looked at the details how these instruments were put together and played the movie out before it hit the real world. It took four years for the policy world to catch up. It’s been no different ever since, from looking at the business model of Uber to the collapse of Boeing to the Eurozone crisis.

This year, the Naked Capitalism community has been dead-on about supply chain and shipping issues, antitrust, the CDC’s failed ‘mission accomplished’ moment, the aerosolized nature of Covid, and the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions. This kind of content matters. Doctors have set up office ventilation based on what they learned here, from Yves, and from all of you.

So if you want to know what we’ll all be recognizing as problems in a few years, this is where to find it now. That’s why support is so essential, because this kind of reporting and analysis forces them to pay attention.

And of course, it’s not just Yves. Lambert consumes and shares a remarkable amount of research, ranging from Covid research to bogs and mangroves, Jerri-Lynn covers right to repair, antitrust, opioid settlement, glysophate cases, and much else from a legal perspective. Nick Corbishley has extended Naked Capitalism’s coverage of little-noted stories on banking, political economy, and Covid in Europe and Latin America.

I like to give rousing talks about the hope of democracy and its never-ending capacity for renewal. In times like this, it’s very hard to imagine such rhetoric is meaningful. But I take solace in a couple of things. First, much of what you talk about here is actually making its way into policy. In my own particular world of antitrust, it’s been stunning. Two years ago, there was no chance at any change. Today there are five antitrust suits against Google, two against Facebook, one against Amazon, and likely more in very short order. In other areas, like the public health world, the CDC has been forced to retreat into a more rigorous approach, because they have been corrected by people like Yves, and all of you.

And second, even though things look hopeless sometimes, it’s always nice to know that we still have the capacity to annoy some very bad people merely by telling the truth. They know the details, and they know that their power rests on the rest of us not knowing them. So Naked Capitalism is always in the back of their well-manicured if balding heads. Help her keep annoying them! You can donate here.

Plus, this site talks about gardens. And who doesn’t love gardens? CalPERS! That’s who! Ok, that’s a lie.

But give anyway.

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  1. BeliTsari

    Wake up, and as coffee is brewing; see what Eve’s posted. It’s simplified dealing with Orwellian, hive-minded, echo-chamber, cage-rattling Murika. SEO, PropR’Not, Correct The Record… one blog-aggregator after another, abruptly goes all Kos, MoJo, Alternet, HuffPo, Guardian as journalists are all blacklisted, whistleblowers arrested, dissidents silenced. But we’ve helped amalgamate a compendium of surviving worthwhile blogs, by linking to some extraordinary sources, in the comments. And just as ot feels cozy & comfortable and complacency dulls our cantankerous outrage; damn, if somebody up and posts something original, astute, prescient or pertinent to annoy us out of our drooling stupor. Thank yunz nudniks, one and all!

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    The truth has always been a problem.
    The Enlightenment was a complete nightmare.

    The Enlightenment revealed far too much.
    We have been running away from reality ever since, and we’ve come a long way.
    We can’t find our way back.

    Any serious attempt to study the capitalist system always reveals the same inconvenient truth.
    Many at the top don’t create any wealth.
    That’s the problem.
    Confusing making money and creating wealth is the solution.
    Some pseudo economics was developed to perform this task, neoclassical economics.

    Rentiers make money, they don’t create wealth.
    Rentier activity in the economy has been hidden by confusing making money with creating wealth.

    Our knowledge of banking has been going backwards since 1856.
    Credit creation theory -> fractional reserve theory -> financial intermediation theory
    “A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence” Richard A. Werner

    The upward flow of Adam Smith has become today’s trickle down.
    “The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers.”

    Losing touch with economic reality never does you any favours.
    We now have economists who don’t know what wealth creation is, and central bankers who don’t know how the monetary system works.
    An exercise in self harm that is being felt around the world.

    Why have our policymakers tried to drive our economy into a Great Depression?
    That always happens with neoclassical economics.

    Neoclassical economics is the economics of the Roaring Twenties, the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression.
    Policymakers sooner or later use the economic growth model of the Roaring Twenties, oblivious to where this is leading.
    Japan had the financial crisis in 1991, and were left facing a Great Depression.
    We had the financial crisis in 2008, and were left facing a Great Depression.
    The Chinese have been using the economic growth model of the “Roaring Twenties” since 2008. Their problems are just beginning.

    1. BillS

      Just a quick note to say that before we dump on the Enlightenment too much, the Feudalism and superstition that it displaced had its share of rent extractors – shall we call them Counts, Dukes, Lords, Kings, etc. City-state oligarchies and the Papal Principate were also expert rent extractors. Let´s try not to forget the debt that all dissenters owe to the Enlightenment´s search for truth, difficult and flawed though it is. I do not consider contemporary economics to be in the spirit of the Enlightenment. It is more of an obscurantist priesthood that deserves to have much light shone on it.

      Swallowed my distaste for rent-extractors PayPal and Mastercard to support NC in its mission of enlightenment!

      1. Duke of Prunes

        Yeah, I agree. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of dumping on the Enlightenment which, while not perfect, was definitely better for the “common man” than the feudalism it replaced.

        If you don’t believe me, just wait, as it seems our masters are trying to take us to a new feudalism.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          My criticism of the Enlightenment is not in preference to feudalism nor to the Late Middle Ages culture but to Eastern and aboriginal cultures and intellectual orientations. Francis Bacon’s predilection for torturing Nature for its secrets now finds its expression in a culture bent on torturing the planet to the point of our extinction.

          Cooperation instead of competition. Harmony instead of dominance. Holism rather than breading down into parts.

          The Enlightenment has led us intellectually into a lot of bad places. The current cliffhanging comes from a twisted understanding of our relationship to Nature and economics.

          1. BillS

            Bacon, Pascal & Decartes were notorious for their philosophical callousness (animals as machines, etc.) and I despise them for it. I like to think that Michel Montaigne’s musing on his cat is more in the spirit of enlightened humanism. Moreover, many of the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment come from a deeply religious and humane tradition that the early French Enlightenment thinkers did not exhibit. There is more than one “Enlightenment” and it was not evenly distributed. The French Revolution and the Terror were guided by one form, and the social contract and Adam Smith’s Moral Philosophy came from another.

            Anything that is “evidence based” has its roots in enlightenment thought. In my opinion, the evidence indicates that our extractive behavior is destroying our only home and by consequence, us. Nature cares not if we live or die. A romantic view of nature will not save us, although I agree that we need to put an end to the stupidity of endless competition and rely more on cooperation.

      2. Jim Trutti

        I read somewhere that tax rates during medieval ages weren’t higher than 10% in average. If that was the case, all was not bad after all.

      3. Sound of the Suburbs

        I was not dumping on the Enlightenment.
        I said it revealed too much.
        It was too enlightening.

  3. FreeMarketApologist

    Donated! Many thanks to everybody at NC for all their work over the years. NC is a major resource for me, providing a window into news, information, and views I might not have otherwise seen, and a place to review, challenge, and debate both my views and those of the status quo. I’m happy to be a reader and occasional commenter!

  4. mistah charley, ph.d.

    Matt Stoller’s points here are convincing, and I have now chipped in.

    Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.

    1. Ken Murphy

      “Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.”

      The best life philosophy I’ve ever found, after the Golden Rule. The real Golden Rule, not the billionaire one.

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