The Lost World: New York City and Naked Capitalism, Then and Now

By jr, an adopted New Yorker

I believe I first came across Naked Capitalism in 2018, where and how I do not recall except that it must have been mentioned in an article I was reading. I do remember navigating to the site and instantly recoiling from the preponderance of numbers-heavy economic and financial reporting. I fled before all that quantitative analysis left permanent scarring.

I had lived in New York City for several years at that point and I considered myself a New Yorker, albeit a transplant. How I loved that city, with its promise of deranged adventures at every turn, where an innocent Friday night at the bar could turn into a Saturday-long party with, after a few scraps of sleep, a hungover rush to get to work on time come Sunday. With a sack of lewd stories to share with my workmates. The city, or as I prefer the City, positively vibrated with the promise of something new and something fun at every turn, in those days.

But in 2018 I had settled down quite a bit, no longer a wanton single on the prowl and with a stable job, I dare say a career, in the making. For years, I had intentionally turned away from edifying pursuits of any kind, losing myself in the nuanced and sweet debauch that the City laid out nightly. Now my old interests in learning and self-development were coming back to me.

I dug out books I had not read in years and I searched for new ones. I began to read not only the news but analysis of the news, which grew into a new understanding of the wicked state of the world. I had always been an outsider and while in school I had an analysis of why that was the best place to be. I needed to refresh that analysis and then grow it out.

Although I had turned away from Naked Capitalism initially, I always kept its existence in the back of my mind. Good clearinghouses of information on the Internet are rare. I had long ago learned to ignore the mainstream media except as a thing to understand what was generally not true. There were some good blogs but they were small and their commentariats tended to be parochial.

I found myself returning to Naked Capitalism again to try and feed my growing need for timely and pertinent knowledge of the world. And if you are hooked too, time for you to chip in at the Tip Jar! Every bit helps, so if you can give a little, give a little, and if you can give a lot, dig deep!

And I found it. Pushing through the numbers, I now saw the rich, manifold weave of ideas, perspectives, arguments, and anecdotes. Here, information was currency. Counterfeiters and connivers were dealt with a zealous harshness by moderators and commentators alike that gleamed like a Crusader’s sword held aloft to the sun. Historians mingled with farmers, scientists with stay-at-home moms, philosophers with manga fans. Professors wrote of using the site to train their students to write and think; financial analysts wrote of relying on the site for solid information; commentators of all stripes testified over and again to the life-changing value of the information to be found there.

The truth was sought not only for its practical value, but for its own sake. Someone once chided me about being an (overly?) active participant on Naked Capitalism because I like to think I’m right about everything. I replied that rather than trying to be “right” all the time, Naked Capitalism and its beloved commentariat were seeking the truth at all costs. No matter how diffuse, no matter how distant, no matter how unlikely such a search might be. Truth though the heavens burn.

Although I had dabbled very little with actual social media due to its inanity and the vileness of the companies that provide those platforms, I became as hooked on reading and commenting as a 16 year old with a Tik-Tok account, a sporty haircut, and an overdeveloped self-image. I now found myself waking up to, walking around with, dining at, and nodding off to Naked Capitalism. I was changing and the site was an integral part of that change. Gone were the days of willful ignorance and self-imposed shallowness. I immersed myself in the site’s torrent of information and felt myself growing, my mind expanding, my view encompassing sights it hadn’t thought available before. And if you’ve had Naked Capitalism become part of your life, keep it going by visiting the donations page.

Then COVID hit.

With the arrival of the pandemic, Naked Capitalism revealed an entirely new level of import. Now, it was an actual lifesaver along with being life-enhancing. It was here I learned about the subtleties of masking, of non-pharmaceutical interventions, of the dangers of the cures that didn’t cure. I also learned about the deeply fractured state of our public health system via the COVID Brain Trust, that bejeweled asset. I learned of the rampant insanity and prideful ignorance in the face of a plague, from all corners of the United States, Main Street to the White House, and from around the world. I learned that society was in a far worse place than I had even suspected, and that is saying a lot.

Now, over two years into COVID, my old and cherished City is gone. No longer populated by exhilarating adventures, rather it is filled with dangers. Its denizens, seeking the freedoms that only those lacking freedom find satisfying, have mostly thrown caution to the wind. While numbers climb and new threats emerge, my fellow New Yorkers by and large have succumbed to magical thinking and a faux resistance to perceived oppression while the powers that be close ranks and advance unchecked.

Lying and corruption rot both the floor and the roof of society. Intellectual degeneracy panders to itself and drives out honest thought. Honest suspicion fuels divisiveness and hate. But, like a lighthouse in a storm, sturdy Naked Capitalism remains, beaming out clarity and a visceral sense of fraternity while all else seems to founder. I know I cannot do without it. So please, join me in supporting this vital initiative. Whether you it’s $5, or $50, or $5000, contribute generously at the donation page.

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7 comments

  1. Alice X

    On 3/10/09 to better organize my records, I began keeping a daily digital media folder for most everything I read online: pdfs, links etc. Now there are 4812 daily folders. In that first folder is a piece by Tariq Ali entitled Capitalism’s Deadly Logic. That was what I was trying to unpack. Among the 40 other pieces in that first folder is a pdf of the front page of Naked Capitalism and the piece: Willem Buiter Strikes Again, Calls for Over-Regulation of Banks. Thank you NC, you have been an indispensable resource.

    Reply
  2. Dick Swenson

    I began my relationship with NYC in September 1959. I was sailing from Common Fence Pt, RI to Greenwich on a boat that I helped build. I was going to start graduate school at NYU in mathematics. The owner of the boat, a grad student at MIT, stopped at Martha’s’ Vineyard to visit friends. The friends, an older couple, turned out to be the brother and sister-in-law of my high school home room teacher that I had in Chicago where I grew up. When this relationship was discvered (!!!!!) the couple offered me their NY apartment to stay in while I looked for one of my own. Imagine my second delightful experience when I learned that it was a 7th floor apartment on the 14th floor of a building on the north side of Gramercy Park. (!!!). What an introduction to NY!

    I did get an apartment near by, a fifth floor walkup on the southeast corner of East 21st and 3rd Ave south, for a rentcontolled price of $90/month. As it had 3 bedrooms, two other guys and I lived for two years for $30./month.
    I spent two years there, one year in a Hudson street studio and then 6 years in Washington Square Village, a building especially for NYU staff and students. 9 years in the Village or nearby were the most wonderful years of my life.
    After much wandering, I have ended up in Walla Walla, WA where I discovered naked capitalism around 2019.
    n c quickly activated my realization that I failed to learn any economics at university. My mathematics and computer training then quickly convinced me that “mathematizing” economics is a foolish attempt to make econ look like a science. I have also used my training to show how the conept of AI is also a flim-flam attempt to simply justify a lot of complicated computer programming. This latter is well known by many working in the area, but is one more set of words to encourage grant money. PR is not the exclusive practice of celebraties and sports.
    Growing old, discovering that there are many topics still of interest and skepticism have been encouraged by my reading of n c. I guess that I must now donate.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Joe Well

    >>seeking the freedoms that only those lacking freedom find satisfying, have mostly thrown caution to the wind. While numbers climb and new threats emerge, my fellow New Yorkers by and large have succumbed to magical thinking and a faux resistance to perceived oppression while the powers that be close ranks and advance unchecked.

    A perfect encapsulation of our current moment.

    Has there been a good writeup of the destruction of US cities in the Covid era? Really, the acceleration of a destruction that has been going on since at least the late 1990s, turning cities into hyper unequal theme parks for the rich with the rest of us increasingly hidden away.

    Reply
  4. Rainlover

    jr: what a captivating remembrance. I’ve enjoyed your regular comments on NC. This piece confirms my admiration for your writing ability. This from an old proofreader/editor. I donated.

    Reply
  5. Tom Bradford

    I’ve been an avid fan of NC since, I think, 2008 being referred to it during the financial crisis. Much of what I read went over my head and it was often from the comments that I gleaned some comprehension of the topic, but as nowhere else – certainly not in the mainstream – I acquired an understanding of what was going on that far exceeded anyone else in my world.

    What I most remember, tho’, was the antidote de jure to the first ever ‘Links’ I saw – apparently two small small girls in a wood trying to lure a brown bear into what was little more than a bird-cage. I’m sure it was fake – I certainly hope it was – and it was both funny and unsettling when you saw beyond the surface farce to the reality and awful possibilities, which in its way perfectly (it seemed to me) encapsulated the times.

    Reply
  6. Art_DogCT

    Thank you, jr. Beautifully written, far better than I have attempted elsewhere. Your summary of the pandemic and NC’s above-and-beyond excellence in helping us all preserve what health and sanity we can is brilliant. “Lying and corruption rot both the floor and the roof of society” is a phrase that will stay with me quite a while.

    Reply

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