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Great diary.

I'm at a loss. How can one combat a religion like austerity?

You've laid out well how austerity is failing everywhere, including here in the UK. But the political discourse in the UK (see today's Salon) is all about how Labour have to "acknowledge the seriousness of the deficit" - it seems no-one cares about the seriousness of unemployment.

And this metaphor of country debt like personal debt is like some kind of indestructible weed.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 06:20:53 AM EST
That was the essence of my new year's eve -and you know how annoying it is when you have to conclude that your host is being a git.

What did we have there? Gordon Brown had bankrupted the economy. If he had not let debt accumulate under his watch there would not be the pressure to reduce it now (hello, Spain there? Besides, the UK public debt was not particularly high on the eve of the crisis -private debt was). This was deemed logically undeniable.

There was the idea that the crisis was the making of Brown. Nevermind that it started in a different continent. Also, I know Labour was in power for 13 years, but a policy you failed to repeal is not exactly the same as "your" policy, and certainly not your signature.

Also, it was of course thanks to the reduction in spending that the UK could borrow at a low rate (moning, Japan, how are you?).

No direct spending could have any positive effect since, you see, it would take so long. Uh? What about not firing a teacher, does that take long?

Deep down, they're not bad people, believe me. But they seem to have got religion. My guess from the wording was that they were Torygraph readers. There was a mention of "I have a problem with the New Statesman, I find it too far left".

Anyway... if you argue, it's rude because it's discussing "politics" (I thought I was talking about economics). And if you don't, you help the meme spread. How do you fight a religion indeed?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 07:17:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Deep down, that's right. Deep down at the bottom of the sea is where they wouldn't be bad.

Without breathing equipment.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 10:18:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Steady there. They are, for all their shortcomings, my friends, and I won't take too kindly the suggestion that they be murdered.

What makes someone a bad person? That he wants people to suffer maybe? In that case, your present suggestion (I realise you don't really WANT it) would make you a better candidate than them.

They now live in Woking on an interest only loan, the wife having been given on return from maternity leave a (public sector, no less) position paying 40% less than when she left -they did get hurt by austerity.
And they are rather generous people. They do not like seeing poverty.

The problem is they have been led to believe (something that can happen on both sides of the aisle, John). And so they will promote things that lead to the opposite of what they would like to happen. Does that make them bad or deluded?

Essentially, they believe in markets, "believe" being used in the full religious meaning. So, of course "markets" too becomes an idealised version that bears little ressemblance to the real life. It's a pity that they should be like that, but I can see how easily it can happen if you grow up and live in the UK.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:19:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
don't mean to be bad people. But, it doesn't really take much time for one to keep one's self informed, and if one did so, one could see that they consequences of the German-led austerity drive are starting to show up in hospital wards in Greece, in the form of children suffering from malnutrition.

And when people begin to die from the effects of austerity, that is violence too, right? That in and of itself justifies a riposte of similar calibre.

I know what you are saying, these people don't mean for this to be happening, but, in the end, it is. And so...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:24:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"But, it doesn't really take much time for one to keep one's self informed"

Aye, there's the rub. Most of the sources of information that you find here would strengthen your belief. Which would make you reject even more sources like, well, this one, which scream otherwise.

It takes more effort to keep yourself well informed than just informed. For example, it's a freak coincidence that got me here. Even reading Krugman came from a coincidence (although I would probably have done it a couple of years later, when his name started circulating more).
I take the Eurostar most weeks and have access to the lounge with the newspapers and magazines. You really have to know what you're looking for in order to pick something that you will call "information", though most of them would call themselves so.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 01:35:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Self-foolery. The proper study of mankind is man in groups, but the pendulum of hyperindividualism has swung so far in the West that the citizenry can't think collectively. So they fail to attend to the electoral process.

All the information necessary for democracy to function has been nominally available since the Greeks partly invented it, but education is neglected.

Austerity is the fault of the heedless.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 10:22:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<block>And this metaphor of country debt like personal debt is like some kind of indestructible weed. </block>

This is the problem with political discourse today (and part of the reason why I don't dismiss the excuse of "electing better politicians" entirely. The truth is not obviously intuitive and requires substantially longer than one soundbite to explain - and is thus edited out of broadcast media and the above-the-fold portions of print articles. The "family finances" metaphor is immediately comprehensible (and has the added advantage of implying virtuousness). Doesn't matter if it's wrong: lying cynical politician 1, honest political aspirant 0.

Survival of the slimiest.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 07:19:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Businessmen and Economics - NYTimes.com

For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods. Nothing in business experience prepares one for the paradox of thrift, or even the inflationary impact of increases in the money supply (which is real when the economy isn't in a liquidity trap.)

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 11:28:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But none of these exotic economic situations need happen when the country IS run like a sane household.

Countries shouldn't print money unless it's backed by production or services.

Competition isn't necessarily destructive, when regulated, as a parent regulates a greedy child.

This is all laid out in the Analects of Confucius, right, with which we all are familiar, right?

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 10:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm at a loss. How can one combat a religion like austerity?

The traditional remedy has been sufficiently crushing poverty to make people stop seeing the political economy as a morality play and start seeing it as an existential struggle.

Notable side effects include elevated risk of suicide, national suicide, violent revolutions, coups d'etat, sabotage and assassinations.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 07:44:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's what I was saying. It's happening in Greece already. It's impossible to manage PR-wise a near total collapse of wages, public services and huge unemployment. People stop believing those that push for such things. If there is a left it will grow. If there isn't, a populist far-right will grow. Or Middle-Eastern levels of state violence will have to be used. Unless they figure out how to complement their stick with a carrot (or find a really convincing bogey-man), what they are attempting leads one way or another to a completely different political system.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 07:50:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes Jake S., but that's the method of the religion, not the remedy. The question was how can one combat a religion like austerity?

Like TBG says, a first step could be calling it a religion. The second is likely to be drilling TARA into everyone's awareness.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:00:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you combat a religion? You wait for the religion to destroy the society and hope that people will have a crisis of faith as a result rather than doubling down and blaming the heretics for the disaster.

Is there another way?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:16:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We must hope that there is -for the alternative is such a scary prospect.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:20:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I recommend you fatten yourself up so you put on a good show at the stake.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Historically, was there another way?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:39:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You defeat it with another religion and then smash their temples, burn their sacred texts and so forth.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:02:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And coopt their holidays.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:07:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the neoliberal holidays?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 02:44:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 03:33:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there another way?

(Thinking out loud)
Deprogramming on a massive scale, and TARA TARA TARA.
This takes access to media, which we don't have, which will be solved by the desire to make one of our own.

see viral, kopimi, entheogens, tribal gatherings usw.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:50:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How was the transition to secular societies in Europe achieved, historically, and over what timescales?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 12:58:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the tools and timescales available today are quite different than through most of history.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:07:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"This time is different"?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:13:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Arab Spring? Occupy? Showing shoes to the Bundespräsident? (Not in the same category, but...)

The new level of mass protest in China, despite The Party?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:29:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
each time was different, though the underlying pattern remains.

this time it has to be very different, because it's the final reckoning, even by their own warped belief system.

this setup has defied evolution's gravity too long. time to mutate or die out...

 

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 03:41:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fish know nothing of water.

It's mass two-way communication.

Anyone can know anything.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 10:37:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
can't track you on that comment, sorry!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 12:34:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was commenting in my own elliptical fashion, on your statement above "this time it has to be very different."

The first line indicates that those in the culture who read history seem rarely to understand when things actually do change.

The rest indicate that what's really new is mass two-way communication. The Internet. It really is a big change, like transistor radios were. When they came out, everyone could get the news.

With the internet, now they can gossip about it, and foment change.

Sorry about the inscrutability. I get tired of plodding.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Thu Jan 12th, 2012 at 09:51:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but I am not totally convinced that Atatürk is a desirable role model...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:20:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Sweden, I would divide it into two phases:

  1. About 1860-1960 the fight against the religious monopoly of the statechurch (Lutheran). Liberals, socialists and 19th century cultists against the conservatives and religious bureacracy.

  2. 1950 and onwards. The material wealth of the industrial society proves science as the mightiest god (its miracles are here and now). Secularism vs Christianity. The cultists switch sides and found the Swedish Cristian Democrats.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:13:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People could start by labelling it as a religion - a self-perpetuating irrational belief system that benefits a few at the expense of the vast majority of the population.

I've said before that the biggest failure in science over the last five decades has been its complete acceptance of pseudo-scientific economics as if it's actually a genuine science.

Instead of challenging the insane and multiply-refuted political beliefs that have slashed research funding, moved the talented into financialisation instead of research, and crippled the world economy, science chose to harangue spoonbenders, homoeopaths and dinosaur denialists instead.

And now there is no alternative, because no one of public significance has argued for one.

So it goes.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 10:36:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How can one combat a religion like austerity?

If it's a religion, what is their God?

by kjr63 on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:51:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Economic Equilibrium
by Katrin on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A fairytale.
by kjr63 on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 09:36:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is really an important point. We need serious, very serious, studies on the subject.
by kjr63 on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 12:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
kjr63:
If it's a religion, what is their God?

the perpetual profit machine, forever and ever, amen.

the really stupid thing is that once the present PTB are dethroned by events of their own too-clever-by-arf connivance, and we change systems, there will still be financial everests for these fools to climb, to assuage their egos.

their profits will just be harnessed to matters of business that reinforce the commons, instead of depleting.

it's not really the sick addiction to power that's the problem, as much as the destructivity the present system allows these psychos to achieve.

poor benighted sods need to be pointed towards socially acceptable goals to release their drive to excellence...

'power-with' instead of 'power-over'.

there will actually be more of the former once we put fossil folly behind us, power-freaks will always be around, sure as eggs. the culture in which they swim will change as a tipping point of people numbers happens. events are accelerating towards this global plot point.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 03:54:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this Eden of collectivity is going to require a much lower population density. My gut feeling is about six orders of magnitude lower.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 10:44:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is temptingly simplistic to tie quality to quantity in that line of thought.

how about if the opposite is true? that actually more people means more brains to work on the problems.

distribution of wealth is much less orthogonal an issue, imo.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 12:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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