KLG: What Naked Capitalism Means to Me

By KLG, who has held research and academic positions in three US medical schools since 1995 and is currently Professor of Biochemistry and Associate Dean. He has performed and directed research on protein structure, function, and evolution; cell adhesion and motility; the mechanism of viral fusion proteins; and assembly of the vertebrate heart. He has served on national review panels of both public and private funding agencies, and his research and that of his students has been funded by the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and National Institutes of Health.

I have been a regular reader of Naked Capitalism since the Great Financial Crisis. At this remove I cannot remember who or what first directed me here, but I am grateful. And if you are as grateful as I am, I hope you will take a detour to the Tip Jar and support this vital work. Every donation helps, big or small. And if you can give big, I implore you to give really big, not just for yourself but also for others who would like to make a large gift too but can’t right now.

It has been clear to me for a long time that our political economy is a complete mess. In my case this goes all the way back to one evening long ago when I was watching “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” with my father, the union chemical worker. I was 10 or 11 years old, and the story that impressed me was something that has been repeated thousands of times since the mid-1960s: A large corporation laid off a few thousand workers, their stock price jumped. There was rejoicing on Wall Street and in their halls of power in Washington, DC.

This was simply wrong by any measure, and I have been a complete skeptic of our institutions and our erstwhile leaders ever since. Naked Capitalism, with its “Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power,” is one of the few places where the world of political economy is covered unmolested by special interests and special pleading. We are an island of sanity where the coverage really is fearless.

But Naked Capitalism is much more than fearless, a word that is often confused with heedless in this modern world. Naked Capitalism is a place where the goal is to get at the truth. And contrary to much of the post-postmodern nonsense we hear and read and see, there is truth out there. But it takes work to get at it.

No, this does not mean that Naked Capitalism is where “the truth” can be read. But it does mean that this is a place where serious efforts to explain the world, good and bad, are the daily fare.

After a few extended comments on COVID vaccines, some solicited by Yves in response to comments that needed a response, I was honored to be asked to contribute regularly when an opening appeared. And when I say “honored” that is exactly what I mean.

Community is one of our most misunderstood and misused words in the twenty-first century. It is not clear that under the dead hand of Late Neoliberalism Capitalism that community is even possible. It is certainly not considered necessary, for in the infamous words of Margaret Thatcher, “There is no alternative” to what we have now. Of course, the future not-so-politely begs to differ. That is another matter altogether…one that is also covered daily here.

The sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote about the Third Place. Naked Capitalism is a modern Great Good Place, although one that is virtual. People come together here, outside of work and family, to discuss life, the world, and our place in it without judgment of each other.

Which brings us to the heart of Naked Capitalism, its commentariat. Of all the “places” on the internet that cover our politics, culture, science, history, and economics, some of which are very good, this Third Place is the one in my experience that accepts all well-reasoned and serious essays – some short, some long – at understanding from the reader. People of differing views are accepted if they “can back it up.” This has been true here from the beginning. Yes, there is a common understanding at NC, but it is not the form of orthodoxy that is suffocating us and making the future such a dicey proposition for our children and grandchildren.

From what I gather about the quality of the Naked Capitalism commentariat, I would guess that each of us has at least one physical Third Place of our own that keep us engaged in the material human world. My current Third Place is the golf course – at this very moment several at the Home of Golf in Scotland, where I am on the trip of a lifetime. It is possible that I have met the other Lefty Golfer in the universe on this trip! But I digress. Virtually none of my companions, at home and today in East Lothian, shares my views but each of us respects the other and we are willing to listen. The only things that can get one cast into the outer darkness are a lack of seriousness, when required, and respect. Neither is tolerated at Naked Capitalism.

I have been humbled and chastened and inspired by those of you have engaged with me in my contributions to Naked Capitalism, which passed the one-year mark earlier this month. All this time I have also maintained my monthly subscription. As the saying goes, Naked Capitalism could not “do it without you.”

If you are able, your support at whatever level possible is much appreciated by those in the “home office” Yves, Lambert, regulars like Conor and Nick and me, and just as importantly those behind the scenes who make this virtual community possible. Please go to the Tip Jar and give generously! Remember every contribution, large or small, helps the site thrive.

In the words of Wendell Berry in his essential essay ”Discipline and Hope,” if humanity is to have a future, discipline will lead to hope, while optimism will lead only to despair. Naked Capitalism provides us with both hope and discipline in this modern but immoderate world. Cheers!

And thank you!

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Thank you KLG, your outstanding contributions here are one of the many reasons NC is so valuable.

  2. Ignacio

    What I like very much about NC contributors like KLG is their true independence. Faraway from the hired experts and consultants that contaminate the media who do nothing but snipers job for the hiring corporations. When KLG discusses something he provides a background, references, explanations that the layperson can comprehend. This is a hard job unlike the incessant repetition of mantras you usually see everywhere else.

  3. Ignacio

    On a different tone, my daughter, currently working for a consulting firm in no other place but Brussels in things like energy and many others, asked me a month ago for sites to look for information on current issues and I gave her a few indications. At the end, I told her, if you want and independent aggregator of news and views go for the links section of Naked Capitalism. They do a great job for the readers! Both she and her mother were thinking again, Ignacio, the idiot leftist conspiranoic, but I know that even if they truly think that, both will pause and think that the idiot sometimes comes up with some good counselling.

  4. furnace

    There really is no other place like here. I’m both a new reader and a new commenter, and I will say I was looking for a long time for a place with high standards for discussion as well as no tolerance for bullshit. It’s remarkably difficult to find places like that. And there is no pressure to opine if you don’t know something about the subject being discussed: quite the contrary. I don’t have the resources to help right now, but I have been trying to at least spread awareness of this place to whomever I believe will be receptive. (Though I will say some people balk when they see the high standards.)

  5. dave -- just dave

    I was thinking of not contributing this year, after experiencing repeated blocking of some of my comments, and even a personal scolding based on what I saw as the moderator’s misapprehension and/or reliance on inaccurate information. This seemed to me to fall rather short of the fairness and objectivity which one hopes for at a site whose ideals include truth, justice, and pursuit of humane ways to treat people and the planet.

    After reading KLG’s post I have decided to send in a check this year after all.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thank you for supporting the site. Please note that our comments moderation is based on tripwires, so using certain words will wind up wind up having a comment go into moderation even if you deemed it to be innocuous. So there is NOT a human looking at the comments as they are posted and deciding what to do. Most wind up appearing but it is true that more are winding up modded now than say two years ago due to the general environment becoming more heated.

      Skynet as we call it also has memory, in a bad way. We have sometimes put commenters briefly in moderation when, say, they make a personal attack on a fellow commenter to show we are serious about house rules and then take them off the mod list when they calm down. There are cases when they still keep being moderated. Those unfortunates have come to bear that situation with good humor, but I have no idea why it persists, and neither does our tech guru.

      I wish I could comment on the interaction you are referring to but it would be difficult to go through our database to find it.

    2. Carla

      @just dave — I love that Yves responds to comments like yours, and the way she does it. When I was an NC newbie and starting to try to get a handle on MMT from a few posts here, I had the temerity to post one of my earliest comments. It was something like: “I think I’m starting to grasp a little bit about Modern Monetary Theory, and please forgive my ignorance, but what is a ‘JG’ ?”

      I half-expected a sarcastic response from another commenter to the effect of “As everyone knows, a JG is…” Instead there was a kind, courteous reply from Yves herself, apologizing for posts and comments that used acronyms without explanation, and giving a concise definition of the Job Guarantee as developed within MMT.

      That experience has stuck with me. Naked Capitalism is a very rare thing: a place where it’s safe to ask questions. And that’s certainly well worth my monthly subscription.

    3. Jabura Basaidai

      after being befuddled by moderation and actually saving my comments to a file in order to try to get a handle on what were the tripwires – it was a pointless exercise – was following all the rules and easy to be dismayed when confused – so i’ve taken a break, took a deep breath to not take it personally – it ain’t scolding just an attempt to slow your roll and reflect – i realized that even though hesitant to comment, supporting NC was necessary because it made me think critically which seems to be in short supply in gen-pop – this is the first comment in a couple of weeks and will go slow on commenting for a bit more but it is incredibly important to support NC so give what you can –

      1. GramSci

        In the 16(?) years I’ve been frequenting and supporting NC, I’ve crossed more than a few of those “tripwires”, Jabura. Once, I think I even got scolded for repeatedly using the name of of one of Yves’ tripwires :-/ . But Yves has lots of problems running a controversial, international website like this so, as you say, one can’t take it personally.

        That’s why we keep contributing what we can.

        Like you, I more-and-more find myself “slowing my roll”: it’s hard to make timely, substantial comments when competing for readers’ attention against the NC Commentariat; they’re prodigiously quick-witted and well-informed. But I think you, Jabura, should not slow your roll. I found you a refreshing new voice on NC, and would value more of your comments.

        1. Jabura Basaidai

          well thank you for the positive note and encouragement, very much appreciated – NC has been a lifeboat for me –

  6. Lexx

    I was in Germany decades ago, where I learned that I needn’t tell people I was an American, my tennis shoes spoke my truth for me, and in Salzburg they refused to seat us for a Mozart concert, because we were too informally attired (specifically: shoes).

    So, KLG, I’m curious since Scotland is on my bucket list… what singles you out on a golf course in Scotland as a “leftie” and how did you identify another of your kind? I’m going to guess it wasn’t the shoes.

    (Also, I donated yesterday.)

    1. KLG

      Thank you for your contribution, Lexx and others! And everyone else here for the very kind words. I am blushing as Lambert does sometime.

      Not the shoes! Simple, really. Sir Keir Starmer appeared briefly on a silent television set in the clubhouse bar and a local remarked that he trusted Boris Johnson more. My ears went on full alert. Turns out he was an Old Labour man who also hated Tony Blair and Nicola Sturgeon and had placed hopes in Corbyn. I did not bring up the Iron Lady. I mentioned my support of Bernie until he felt compelled to say that Joe Biden was his good friend, which is probably not especially true but was certainly out of place during the campaign while off the US Senate floor. We talked for a few minutes about the “lesser evil” often being the more effective evil. Golf in Scotland is a way of life for many, and class is not all that important at the local level. Great golf can also be very inexpensive in Scotland. I played on six local courses that happily accept visitors and make Pebble Beach look like a denizen of Rodeo Drive who has had way too much “work done.” For Muirfield and the Company of Edinburgh Golfers right down the road, a different matter altogether. But they do welcome guests who are willing to write a letter and send it by snail mail (and pay about $400-half of the current price at Pebble Beach-on the specified day while wearing a coat and tie at lunch; women are even allowed through the gate now, so I have heard). Try that at Cypress Point, Augusta National, Winged Foot, Seminole, Merion, or Sankaty Head in the US…Let me know how it goes.

      I never talk politics on the golf course, and since I play with a large group of walkers, we talk a lot (they have their suspicions about me). Except for one time several years ago. Late one summer afternoon my companion, whom I knew at a distance, was whining about the young people of the day and how they were unwilling to work, naturally as he was. Immediately after high school he walked into the local non-union cotton mill (stolen from New England, but I let that rest) and got a job paying about $25/hour in current dollars, as a high school graduate. I did the same thing at a union heavy chemical plant; either that or no university for me. I noted that current opportunities ran to being a cashier at a convenience store, making $7.50/hour with no set schedule that was also guaranteed not to add up to full-time employment with whatever benefits provided…probably two weeks paid vacation at the employer’s convenience and “health insurance” that is useless. He replied, “I had never thought about it that way,” even though our jobs at the same age came with full benefits and a set work schedule that guaranteed 40 hours a week, time-and-a-half for every minute over 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week (4-hour minimum even if you worked a half-hour). I said that he should think about it that way, and we finished the nine holes talking about college football or something equally inconsequential. I have no doubt the impact of our conversation lasted until the end of the baseball game later that night.

      One funny thing, though. I pay (some) attention to professional golf four weeks a year, during the major championships. My golf companions who still watch that stuff regularly are not at all reluctant to state that since the Saudis have become “partners” with the PGA Tour, they will stop paying attention if the deal goes through. I doubt they will actually stop watching, but it’s still an interesting take on the situation from local Republican business owners and community leaders.

  7. bassmule

    Even uncredentialed plebes like me depend on Yves and crew for reporting that is biased toward reality. And pointing us to useful sources, like “MMT on a postcard.”

  8. James E Keenan

    Contributed today, mainly on the overall quality of the postings and comments from the top 10 or so members of the “commentariat.”

    I do, however, have misgivings about the “decline of executive function” hypothesis being advanced here. How could we really measure whether “our experts are better than the experts in positions of power” or “the current experts in positions of power are inferior to those who were in power back in the day”? We should avoid both hubris and nostalgia.

    Also, I would like to see some analysis of what a Russian victory in that war would mean for the people in Ukraine.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We can’t analyze what will happen because the outcomes are too bushy, in decision/event tree terms. Russia will rebuild the areas that are become part of Russia. As for the rest, we have speculated that Russia could wind up de-electrifying it and turning it into a European version of the Unorganized Territories of Maine. We had thought (per the Medvedev map) Russia would be fine with other countries Balkanizing Western Ukraine, but that now seems off.

      Outcomes very much depend on whether Russia winds up taking Odessa. Putin has called it an apple of discord. signaling he regards that as risky.

  9. GramSci

    Thanks, KLG,

    and my heartfelt thanks to you, Yves, Lambert, Conor, Nick, ET AL, (including the Commentariat!) for delivering to my every morning the few, scattered glimmers of hope to be found in our daily diet of published “human intelligence”. I wish I could contribute more, equally valuable glimmers of my own, but in lieu of talent, I’m grateful to be able to chip into the fund drive.

  10. Kouros

    Thank you KLG!

    It is always refreshing to encounter an erudite doctor in our world. They are rearer and rearer nowadays… I learned a lot.

    Being mediocre myself, I do live with the feeling that rubbing my sholders and especially peeking at what the commentariat is producing at the prodding of Yves et co, something will catch on me and raise a bit the iq.

    So 100 went cling cling from me now, in gratitude.

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