Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Short termism is hurting us

by Jerome a Paris Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 05:50:05 AM EST

The FT had a timely article over the week-end about Short Long (pdf), a recent research paper on the irrational discounting of the long term by markets:

Andy Haldane and Richard Davies of the Bank of England show clear evidence of increasing short-termism in the pricing of companies’ shares across all industrial sectors. In their words, “myopia is mounting”. Their paper is not for the faint-hearted – it is stuffed with equations and complex charts. But what it shows is that investors place irrationally low values on the returns from long-term investment projects. Cash flows more than 30 years ahead from investments made today (...) are scarcely valued at all.

(...)

Mr Haldane and Mr Davies rightly conclude that this short-termism is a market failure of a sort that raises big issues of public policy. It leads to investment being too low, especially in those long-term infrastructure and high-tech projects on which future growth depends.

In other words, markets (as they are structured today) are unable, on their own, to fund infrastructure and other similar public goods which underpin our prosperity. This has been hidden for a long time because the post WW-2 generations embarked in a massive infrastructure investment binge which still serves us to this date, and allows us to believe that infrastructure investment is not that critical. We see it's slowly fraying at the edges in various places.

But big infrastructure can only be done by public authorities, and since the mantra today is that whatever public authorities today is wrong, such projects no longer take place, or they happen in ways that ensure that the priority is financial investors making money today - thus the craze for PPPs and PFIs and other similar schemes, which end up costing more money to governments (but it's "rents" and not public "debt," so it's less visible), further reinforcing the notion that such projects are inherently wasteful while enriching a whole new world of parasites (including yours truly) - bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, which assess, fund, document and manage these big projects with the purpose of making money now rather than providing a service to all for the long term.

And that means building gas-fired power plants rather than renewables, new roads rather integrated public transport and private clinics rather than public hospitals - to the extent anything gets built, of course, because it also means, naturally, the privatisation of existing infrastructure, typically at startingly low prices (because you look at generating private-sector type returns from direct income rather than public-sector returns which take into account the positive externalities of infrastructure). In other words, profiteering rather than investing.


Display:
there still is public investment, and infrastructure being built, and still sensible policies happening. Europe's push towards renewable energy, for instance, is working well enough, and has been able to push enough private sector investment towards doing the right thing.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 05:52:49 AM EST
Hyman Minsky already explained this 25 years ago in Stabilizing an Unstable Economy where he summasizes Neoclassical Economics thus:
[NCE] means that, for those subsystems of the economy where conditions are apt, the market can be relied upon, particularly if the market is not relied upon for
  1. the overall stability of the economy
  2. the determination of the pace and even the direction of investment
  3. income distribution; and
  4. the determination of prices and outputs in those sectors that use large amounts of capital assets per unit of input or per worker
It's just gotten waaay worse than it was in 1986.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:00:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is odd that Minsky is what we have for "left wing" now.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:54:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How is that odd?

Minsky is a Keynesian. Krugman criticised his book for expounding Kaleckian macroeconomic accounting. It's "left" and it's sensible macroeconomics.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:33:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's very much a capitalist/market leftism, no?
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:23:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure. But it's reality based and it has full employment as a major policy goal.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As opposed to reality based with low inflation as the major policy goal. A regime of political economy which prevailed in the 80s, and which seems benign in retrospect.
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 04:16:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our left/right divide has apparently moved from being about degree of capitalism vs socialism to be about unregulated capitalism vs regulated capitalism. 19th century is back.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:35:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was Keynes left?

He was a British liberal, but he was reality-based and cares about full employment.

I'll take a reality-based capitalist economist with a full-employment policy orientation over a cloud-cuckoo land left-wing (however defined) economist, any day.

Reality based economics today is a combination of
Veblen
Fisher
Keynes
Kalecki
Minsky
Keen
Who cares if they're "left wing"?

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:45:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to the reality-based...

He'd be considering an unserious flaming lefty nowadays...

Nothing funner than inserting an actual Adam Smith quote in all these econ debates...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:24:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And John Stuart Mill.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:33:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing funner than inserting an actual Adam Smith quote in all these econ debates...

Or if you're really twisted trick one of the "serious" people into a discussion about the labor theory of value and watch them blush an hour later when you've got them to explain how all their "liberal" ideas accord with "people getting what's theirs."  It's really fun.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:09:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And Leon Walras...

"L'homme fut sûrement le voeu le plus fou des ténèbres " René Char
by Melanchthon on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 06:15:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The funny thing is that the French Physiocrats had the basis of modern monetary theory and monetary circuit theory and Keynesian/Kaleckian macro in Quesnais' Tableaux Économiques a hundred years before Walras.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 06:30:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You should. Because there's no such thing as reality-based capitalism.

Capitalism is based in cloud-cuckoo land. There's nothing reality-based about it, except in the conservative sense that it's a (rather stupid) tradition.

Jobs are the loser's prize. As long as you have a class that can create and destroy jobs, and a different class that has to work in those jobs, you're not going to have a stable economy, or one capable of being rationally managed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:27:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does capitalism mean today? What are you including as left-wing?

Note, I don't give a crap if they're left-wing because neither am I by any measure you'd accept.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:41:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Capitalism means massive fail - sooner or later, one way or another.

As for whether or not you're left wing - [shrug].

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:12:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're too clever for me: I just can't wrap my head around the brilliance of that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:14:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heat-over-light threshold exceeded.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:14:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That'll be because you're so much more reality-based than I am.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:18:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Remind me again which system we're meant to replace it with?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:18:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  Who, I wonder, do you and others in Ireland like you consider is most responsible for the country's current (public) financial predicaments if not the current and long-standing proponents of the present economic (dis)order?

   And, who, for example, would you have preferred then, and prefer now, in positions of decision-making?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:14:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The leprechauns.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:20:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought the current crop of leaders were already promising a pot'o'gold at the end of the rainbow.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:21:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, these days they're promising a crock of shite. But TINA.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:24:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and sweat.

Oh, and a crock of shite.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At the end of the rainbow.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

    That's a rather flip answer to a sincere question.

     Under the circumstances, I'd have thought that you'd have been able to offer something much better.

    Maybe Ireland needs more reality-based lessons in the roots of its current difficulties.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:26:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since all of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Greens, and Labour, have all tried their hand at it and all have failed to propose a workable alternative, this leaves either Sinn Fein or The Leprechauns.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:28:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 Thank you for the explanation.

 "Since all of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Greens, and Labour, have all tried their hand at it and all have failed to propose a workable alternative, this leaves either Sinn Fein or The Leprechauns."

    How is that essentially different from saying that, in the U.S., for example, since we've now had the Republicans and the Democrats take their turns in  addressing the most pressing issues since the end of World War II, then "they've" tried everything and all that's left is "Punxsutawney Phil" the groundhog" ?

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:38:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who would you rather have in charge in the US other than the Dems, the Repugs, or "Punxsutawney Phil" the groundhog?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:43:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
    If I have to choose, then I want, in addition, a fighting chance to eventually create an alternative political system in which neither of them as they're currently found, can gain any purchase with the general public.  That this is a very tall order is not by itself a reason or excuse for failing to make the most serious and determined efforts to achieve it.

   As I pointed out in another post, currently, the essential problem cannot be simplified to a "Democrats or Republicans" choice since both collude in a completely corrupt and self-serving system.  For me, Obama is exemplary in illustrating this.

   There are just as good reasons to argue that the Democrat's, as a party, offer so slight an advantage in the promotion of the sort of reformed system I'd favor that the difference is not just negligible but completely arbitrary and unpredictable in actual real-life practice.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Short answer: massive systemic failure at all levels.

Long answer: we've been through this a couple of times. Look it up. But most people prefer to define an out-group - "them", "the rich", "the Jews", "whatever" - that they can blame for the problem, at which point you're engaging in tribalism rather than addressing any real problems. Have fun.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:35:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's glib, superficial pop-fascism bollocks.

If a board of directors run a company into the ground and they get called on it, that's just tribalism?

If a firm of engineers builds a bridge and it falls down, demanding accountability is just tribalism?

If a government fucks up in a major way, voting them out is just tribalism?

You think it's different for economics and business, why?

You're all for accountability, except for the people who made the decisions that led directly the massive systemic failure, and are in the lucky position of being shielded from voter influence.

Keep your violent projections to yourself. No one here[1] is talking about stringing anyone up from a lamp post - we'd just like to make sure that in future these stupid, miseducated and self-absorbed people aren't allowed into positions of influence where they can make stupid, miseducated, and self-serving decisions that have predictably ruinous consequences.

[1] Except Twank. Who's only doing it as performance art. (Probably.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:51:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're just as incapable of understanding my point as a law-and-order right-winger is of understanding that point that high crime levels are an inevitable result of wide-spread poverty. Discussion over.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:59:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  RE:

  "You're just as incapable of understanding my point as a law-and-order right-winger is of understanding that point that high crime levels are an inevitable result of wide-spread poverty. Discussion over.* "

  We can point to credible studies as support for an assertion that "high crime levels are an inevitable result of wide-spread poverty".

    Where is the supporting body of evidence for your (as yet unspecified, speaking of that) views?

   * How convenient.  You didn't have to present either a coherent case (even in summary form) or support it --or, even point to sources elsewhere in which an interested reader could examine the best presentation of your views.

   I wonder if we're actually supposed to credit your points of view while having to also imagine that nowhere you can point to are they laid out in clear and compelling detail, subject to the review and judgement of those whose views you so off-handedly dismiss.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:11:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The thing about your point is that when someone asks you to explain it, you start gibbering about leprechauns and jew-hating and how it's all a slippery slope to madness and blood in the streets and We Are All Responsible.

Or something.

So indeed - buggered if I know what you're on about. (And - in passing - would the immensely tribal Terror after the French Revolution have happened in Louis XVI hadn't been a clueless arse in the first place? Well - hmmm. Thinking about it, possibly not.)

My point is that if someone fucks up they shouldn't be allowed to make other people pay for it.

And if someone fucks up once doing something, it's a really bad idea to allow them to keep doing it over and over, for decades.

But I don't know - maybe that's just too complicated.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:58:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep your violent projections to yourself. No one here [1] is talking about stringing anyone up from a lamp post - we'd just like to make sure that in future these stupid, miseducated and self-absorbed people aren't allowed into positions of influence where they can make stupid, miseducated, and self-serving decisions that have predictably ruinous consequences.

[1] Except Twank. Who's only doing it as performance art. (Probably.)

Oh really?!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 01:20:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG
That's glib, superficial pop-fascism bollocks.

I certainly do not believe that the intent was pro fascist, though the effect likely is. I believe that the position derives from a fear of the recurrence of fascist outbursts directed against out groups, which have included conflating all Jews with some avaricious bankers. This is best prevented by policies that promote stable banking and more equal distribution of wealth. It is the fact that policy has been directed towards the very opposite goals of first removing all constraints on financial capitalism and then studiously refusing to prosecute seemingly clear instances of criminality that has wreaked great harm on almost all but the privileged perpetrators.

In the USA over the past two years we have had a successful prosecution of Bernie Madoff, who ripped off the rich, Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam, a south Asian, was convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy and R. Allen Stanford, two Houston companies and two company executives, James Davis and Laura Pendergest-Holt, part of Stanford Financial Group were  prosecuted for fraud by the Fort Worth, Texas office of the SEC. Chairman Sir Allen Stanford." Stanford, a Mexia, Texas native who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, has been knighted in that country.

Perhaps Stanford went wrong by purchasing dual citizenship and knighthood in a Caribbean nation, but his financial operations centered primarily in the US south, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe and he certainly does not appear to be a member of any ethnic out group, from a US perspective. More likely Stanford went wrong by failing to properly distribute his US political contributions and failing to be sufficiently generous in that regard. That certainly has not been a failing of the US TBTFs, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citi, BOA, or WF and GS has pretty clearly been implicated in causing and mightily benefiting from the 2008 GFC.

I would argue that failing to investigate and prosecute the TBTFs could, potentially, put at risk any of the "out groups" reprersented by CEOs amongst that group of companies or bankers as a group. The best antidote would be prosecution without fear or favor concentrating on those who have caused the most damage first.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 09:22:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  "Long answer: we've been through this a couple of times. Look it up. But most people prefer to define an out-group - "them", "the rich", "the Jews", "whatever" - that they can blame for the problem, at which point you're engaging in tribalism rather than addressing any real problems. Have fun."

    Wow.  "Out-groups", "tribalism", huh?

    let me ask you something:

    What do you make of the fact that, by carefully examining a child's socio-economic circumstances --whether these are at the lower or the upper end of the statistical range--a careful sociologist or anthropologist can tell you to within a quite small margin of error, which child will grow up to live a life of relative privilege and comfort, and which child shall find that same remarkably lacking--and that this is found without reliable exceptions for those children at the lower end who can exhibit capacities which compare favorably with the best of the children at the upper end  of the spectrum?

   The idea that, in the general debâcles of the past century, people have all suffered and, taking the good with the bad, one can't really identify any class or group which has consistently come out much better and others which have come out consistently worse, by comparison.

    The upshot of your flip remark suggests that you actually hold this view.  As though to say, Storms happen, and everyone gets wet.

   We have"tribalism", and we have class conflict and opposition.  And to suggest that if everyone would just somehow learn to get over their tribal identities--which, indeed, in many cases would be a very salutary thing--that we could then find common ground, strikes me as amazing in the face of recent history.

   To put everyone on the same level when it comes to attributing responsibility for the latest financial crashes is, in my opinion, dishonest, facile and cruel.
   

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 correction,

    "The idea that, in the general debâcles of the past century, people have all suffered and, taking the good with the bad, one can't really identify any class or group which has consistently come out much better and others which have come out consistently worse, by comparison,...

  (intended to read):

    shows either stunning a ignorance, a stunning callousness or some mixture of both."

   

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:56:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Long answer: we've been through this a couple of times. Look it up. But most people prefer to define an out-group - "them", "the rich", "the Jews", "whatever" - that they can blame for the problem, at which point you're engaging in tribalism rather than addressing any real problems. Have fun.

I don't think it has to end this way, but I think that it certainly can.  And I worry that the inability of the "Left" to articulate anything other than social liberalism means that the hard right is able to capitalize on crisis. There's some sort of irony there.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of the left do the same thing, just different out-groups (most of the time). Provides cover for the hard right, same way that French lefties apologising for burka bans provide cover for  the anti-muslim right.

But hey, it makes for nice narratives, and that's what's really important.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:17:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm stuck on irony at the moment, but my personal favorite is the way that social liberals in the US wrapped in the idea of the "Left" have managed to do this against working class whites. Setting "left" intellectuals at war with the working class is the sort of thing that make my head want to explode.

Because, of course, engaging in the culture war is more important than dealing with the actual economic crisis. Had this fight this last weekend with a friend.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
   "There's some sort of irony there."

   I see no irony.  People whose interests aren't served by offering exits from an impasse don't offer an exit from an impasse.

   Basic contract law was simply ignored as corporate banking powers cashed in and fleeced defenseless home-owners whose properties they declared in default and seized--utterly without due process or valid legal grounds--and in this way have scandalously profited from a systemic corruption which these same banks were involved in creating and peddling to the public.

    Some of us are articulating outrage for out-right criminal fraud on a massive scale, done through knowing conniving and collusion between very powerful players operating mainly out of the view or reach of all but the senior political and financial actors and their paid help.

    To attempt to justify such a scene, or, worse, to try and imply that it doesn't even need any justification since there is no alternative, whether a better one or not, shows truly amazing contempt for facts which have come out by now --despite what some would have preferred had they been able to suppress those facts.

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:25:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See Colman's comment on the French left giving cover the hard right on burkas with the push for laicite. The mantra of the left anymore often seems closer to secularism than socialism, which means that we've essentially pushed politics back in to the liberal versus conservative fights of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The inability to tackle them underlying economic problems that create social insecurity means that the people who've been harmed by the economic crisis start to look to the hard right, really racist reactionaries like Le Pen.

So the push for secularism and pro forma equality on social grounds, to the exclusion of discussions of economic class, means that you have an explosion of right wing politics.

That seems ironic to me.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:37:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not ironic, it's predictable, because it pitches abstract top-down interventionist rhetoric against perceived self-interest and self-determination.

Self-interest is always going to win that match.

The political Left could do itself some favours by scaling down the messages about theoretical social and gender/race/etc equality for now, and doing more to create economic equality.

The problem is that the political Left seems to think you can only create economic equality through through social equality.

That's the wrong approach. If there's less economic equality, other changes become more possible.

While economic differentials are increasing, it's incredibly easy to play the racism card and push the huddle masses into xenophobia - especially when the political Left has no plan or program to decrease differentials.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 01:17:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
The problem is that the political Left seems to think you can only create economic equality through through social equality.

Or has given up on economic equality all together.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:44:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  Once a party has simply abandoned the work of explaining itself and its principles to the public, of ensuring that the public is given the information which its opposition would deny that public, once a party resigns itself to the acceptance of systematic and pervasive corruption--not least, of course, of its own leadership---and allows an ever-greater spread of the opaque use of power, then that party is lost and has given up the most essential part of its arsenal when, along with everything else arrayed against it, its opponents also enjoy greatly superior wealth and other resources.

   Obama, if he cares, is being a supreme chump and an idiot.  For political saavy, his talents begin and end with defeating his own party rivals.

   And, here, I want to elaborate an answer to Migeru who asked me who I'd prefer, between the Democrats or Phil the Groundhog.  The more straight-forward answer is that as I see it, I prefer, always to see a phony standard-bearer such as I regard Obama to be, go down to defear rather than see someone who, by portraying himself as a mainstream proponent of the (nearest U.S. version of the) political affiliation to which I subscribe, discredit and set-back the causes and principles which he or she ought to be defending, win, lose or draw.  I want a sincere and determined fight on the merits, not a negotiation of terms of surrender.

   If people are going to be brutalized, I don't want it done by, or furthered or excused or giving a helping hand by, those who pretend to serve and defend the causes I support.  So, yes, if there's no other way to instill discipline on a wayward or downright gutless and foolish phony representation of what people are allowed to think of as "liberal", I much, much prefer to see such a bunch defeated---and resoundingly defeated, without appeal.

   "The inability to tackle them underlying economic problems that create social insecurity means that the people who've been harmed by the economic crisis start to look to the hard right, really racist reactionaries like Le Pen."

    An inability or an unwillingness, in either case, leads to and deserves the same thing: a rout.  People who cannot or will not deserve to be tossed out in favor of those who can and will.  Ségolène Royal ran and was defeated.  Really, she has incredible nerve to suppose herself fit for another candidacy.  As for François Hollande, his ideas, like Royal's are tepid non-starters.

    It is no wonder that people turn toward Marine Le Pen's discourse as bearing a seeming frankness which the PS eschew.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 03:37:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sinn Fein?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:27:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The basic collapse of socialism/marxism as an organizing principle for the left has produced this incoherent bitter complaining as replacement for  political program.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 01:22:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG:
Capitalism is based in cloud-cuckoo land. There's nothing reality-based about it, except in the conservative sense that it's a (rather stupid) tradition.

Trying to define capitalism is an exercise in futility. "It" is less a thing than a contested label. Proponents will claim that it has given rise to the highest standard of living for the largest number of people ever in the history of humanity. Critics will concede the accomplishment while denying the intent, claiming that this was, in a sense, a failure of the system.

I am a critic of capitalism. I see it as a shiny word used as a cover for avariciousness. It has benefited a large number of people but is no longer doing so. Many people found it advantageous to let a significant portion of the "flow" go to "the workers" for a significant part of the 20th century, when oil was abundant. But when the rate of growth of profits came to be threatened in the '70s, especially in the USA, a dominant portion of the class of people who own the corporations decided to tighten up.

To do so they raised the cost of political campaigns to a point where they had a dominant advantage and thereby grabbed control of the political system. They then proceeded to suborn and/or enchant regulators, enforcers, politicians and the media and repeal any laws that were inconvenient. The pirate's cabal now controls the ship of state. Similar developments occurred in The City. Apparently a different version has taken hold on the Continent of Europe that gives (German) manufactures a greater influence over the process than in the US and UK, (to be demonstrated, presumably.)

There have always been those who saw that the 19 Century Liberal project was going to produce a disaster, even if they got some of the details wrong. Marx, Veblen, Fisher, (after 1930), Polanyi, Minsky and others saw that "capitalism" was destroying the basis for its own existence, though Veblen and Polanyi expressed it the most clearly. Likewise, Henry C. Carey, Henry Geroge, Keynes, Kalecki and others saw and described how "capitalism" could be controlled and directed so as to become more stable by promoting full employment and high wages. But all who would stabilize capitalism have been marginalized by the power of those who benefit from looting.

When we say that the currently prevailing financial system is beset by "short termism" we are engaging in the use of euphemisms. Pirates loot and move on. They never seriously consider that there may not be a place to which they can move when they have exhausted their current target. OF COURSE IT SEEMS SHORT TERM IN ITS APPROACH!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:27:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.....who assume that our fiat money is a credit instrument - rather than a debt instrument - is IMHO a 'reality-based' economist.

Which is even more unSerious.

But who gives a fuck?

Because reality-based is in fact about action, and as Mr Rove had it....

....when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do

The point is that there are a lot more of us than there are of them.

If communities of consenting adults simply agree among themselves to act, based upon 'what works', then there is no limit to what is achievable.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  "If communities of consenting adults simply agree among themselves to act, based upon 'what works', then there is no limit to what is achievable."

  (Well, there may be a few limits, but so far, we're a long way from reaching them.)

   And your observation points up the importance of enquiring into the particular reasons that to so large an extent so far a critical mass of "communities of consenting adults simply [ have not] agree[d]  among themselves to act" and, thus, what must be changed to improve the potential that they do so.

  In that enquiry, my view is that there are few insights into the blockages which are more profound and pervasive than that of the way technology has altered and devastated mass public moral awareness, moral reasoning and moral initiative in discerning what is happening to contemporary society.

   But, by all indications, Karl Rove, for example, and numerous others like him do understand much about these things and they use that understanding to literally brutalize the ordinary general public--not least because they understand intimately what it means to brutalize a people and the advantages that this afford to them in their overall strategies.

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:39:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The point is that there are a lot more of us than there are of them.

For (typically) unsubstantiated values of "us" and "them".
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:41:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  "For (typically) unsubstantiated values of "us" and "them".

 a fair objection.   I'll throw out my own view of it, not claiming that I represent anyone other than myself in this:

 For me, "them" constitutes at a minimum, and, as a non-exhaustive example, everyone in the class of those who meet both the following criteria:

 they directly and personally (whether in individual or family terms) benefited from the George W. Bush tax cut legislation

 and

  were also at any time direct contributors to Bush's campaigns directly or, most especially, other entities which could legally accept unlimited contributions to the benefit of those campaigns.  

   That, I admit, is a very rough approximation.  But, short of taking up some of the texts I've suggested (see below in thread), it will serve as a departure point.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 oh, yeah, P.S.

   and "us", I think, would be at least some subset, larger or smaller, of those who do not fall into the class of "them", as described above.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:57:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not read the full sub-thread this has spawned, but my points were two:

  1. Left/right divide only marks the point of about 50/50 chance of political power. It has no core and changes over time. As can be noted in the names of now right-liberal parties Venstre (meaning Left) in Norway and Denmark.

  2. Socialism vs capitalism on the other hand has (at least to me) a very specific meaning: the struggle over the ownership of the means of production.

Keynes is an excellent example of point 1, he might have been left-wing in his England, but he was mainstream in the post-ww2 policies as the left/right divide had moved. He is again left-wing now. So there is indeed no point in caring if the policies advocated are left wing.

But I think there is a point (namely point 2) in caring if the policies are capitalistic or socialistic. To give an example of the high point of swedish socialism:

Employee funds - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Employee funds (Swedish: löntagarfonder) were funds in Sweden into which a proportion of company profits were put and used to buy shares in companies. The funds were controlled by representatives by Swedish trade unions.

The idea was launched in the 1970s, with Rudolf Meidner playing a leading role in developing the idea, and they were in place 1982-1991. Throughout their existence, they caused much political controversy. Proponents described them as an attempt to increase the power of labour over Swedish companies, and opponents described it as large step towards socialism.

Their introduction followed a Social Democrat victory in the Swedish general election, 1982, and they were abolished following their loss in Swedish general election, 1991. Subsequent Social Democrat victories, such as the one in 1994, did not lead to their reintroduction, as leading members of the party found the whole debate surrounding these funds a problem for the party. Famously, Minister of Finance Kjell-Olof Feldt was captured on camera while scribbling negative words about the funds in his bench in Parliament already when they were introduced.

This attempt to seize ownership failed for a number of reasons and Feldt went on to lay the groundwork for killing full employment, but that is another story.

Politics is in the end not only about an accurate description of the world but also about what kind of society we want. That the discussion today is between unreal in service of greater divides at the expense of total output, the environment and general human living standard versus reality based in defensive struggle to preserve the current institutions gives everybody but the stinking rich a poor choice.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:19:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But JS Mill supported employee ownership and Bismark supported government medical care and Boeing supports government airplane companies and the Chinese Communist party supports private bansk. The socialism/capitalism debate seems to me to be overtaken by events.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:27:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would rather put it that the socialism/capitalism debate was in democracies one of degrees, not absolutes.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:36:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I suspect that you'll find Veblen's analysis more apropos than the Marxian one:

There's the people who make stuff and the people who only make money.

In Marx' time, nobody but the owners made nothing but money, so his followers can hardly be blamed for conflating capitalists with the broader leisure class. But it's dangerous to assume that just because someone holds no ownership he does not belong in the leisure class. And it is equally dangerous to assume that just because some freeholder has nominal ownership that he actually possesses control, let alone that he does not work for a living.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 10:03:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the case at hand, just Galbraith's New Industrial State describes the convergence between Soviet and American industrial policy up to the 1960s.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 10:19:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the effective discount rate at work here? That is, what's the interest rate that the market is putting on new investment? In that context, does it matter whether the Central bank fiddles with the base rate at 1% or 1.25%?

What is the expected/required/demanded rate or return by the market on new investment? Why don't central banks allow governments to fund development at, say 5%?

Is the 24% "the market" is demanding on Greece a taste of what they will end up demanding from public debt, too? Remember Spain and Greece are both going to pirvatize the national lotteries at double-digit implied yields which are up to double or triple what "the market" is demanding on debt issues.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 05:57:28 AM EST
(I just put it up before I saw yours)

The paper notes specifically that investors seem to have extremely high discount rates to evaluate future cash flows.

One of the key functions of the public sector is to be able to make long term investments using low discount rates. Today, this is being described by Serious People as 'distorting the market.'

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:06:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Serious People includes the ECB. We're well and truly fucked.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it's "distorting the market" - the purpose of the market is to return as large a return as quickly as possible.

Strategic planning is for losers and third world countries.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Amusingly, headline inflation at 3% leads to howls from the ECB about "second round effects" (i.e., wage demands which would then lead to a mythical wage-price spiral). However, 20% requires rates of return on capital up from 12% 20 years ago is supposed to have no inflation effects.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:06:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The demand for profit/rent 'causes' inflation by definition and accounting identity.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:13:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're too unserious, even for Krugman's taste.

But we already knew that.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:16:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was it Minsky who replied, when asked when the next great depression would likely occur, something to the effect of "Fifty or so years after the last prominent person who has a living memory of our times has died"? or was that the great man himself?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Might have been JK Galbraith, too.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:34:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]

  You know, now that you  mentioned it, I think that it was J.K. Galbraith, yes.  Thanks for the reminder.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:48:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Galbraith is the one who emphasised that memory is more useful than financial regulation, in the preface of The Great Crash, 1929.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:56:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading this diary makes me think it's one of the best (top 50) in the history of blogging in the history of the world in the history of the known universe.
by Upstate NY on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Our times" would have been the Great Depression?

Then it might have been Keynes.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:42:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

   "Our times" would have been the Great Depression?"

           Yes.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:49:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]

   not everyone has a Ph.D. in economics.  A lot of ordinary people recognize that they're broke, jobless and hungry, no matter how well off they are according to the best serious economic theory.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:31:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Short-termist behaviour among investors appears to have rubbed-off on companies. Poterba and Summers (1995) surveyed Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) at Fortune-1000 firms. They found that the discount rates applied to future cash-flows were around 12%, much higher than either equity holders' average rate of return or the return on debt. This excessive discounting implied that some firms were rejecting positive net present value (NPV) projects. Echoes, here, of Pigou's defective telescope.

(...)

Most recently, in 2011 PriceWaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey of FTSE-100 and 250 executives, the majority of which chose a low return option sooner (£250,000 tomorrow) rather than a high return later (£450,000 in 3 years). This suggested annual discount rates of over 20%. Recently, Matthew Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (America's second biggest rail company), expressed frustration at the focus on quarterly earnings when locomotives lasted for 20 years and tracks for 30 to 40 years. Echoes, here, of "quarterly capitalism".

(...)

So short-termism implies that projects with positive returns, or a relatively short payback, may be misperceived as being negative return or having a relatively lengthy payback. These projects would fail to receive financing. Investment and, ultimately, growth would be lower than optimal. In fact, the potential capital misallocation problem is greater still.

So we're back to discount rates- again.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:04:23 AM EST
Who needs a Volcker to engineer a recession from the Fed by jacking up interest rates to 21% when the market is demanding 12% to 20% by itself already and "Taylor Rules" require negative interest rates?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:08:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's another - related - issue here, and that is that energy markets are excessively volatile in no small part because they are owned and operated by intermediaries who have a vested interest in volatility.

This excessive volatility in relation to energy prices creates additional financial cost since it increases the risk premium.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:17:32 AM EST
  Yes, yes, and yes.

   And you know an interesting thing?

    You'll never guess who made essentially the same point concerning "short-term-ism" this morning on France-Info.

    http://www.france-info.com/chroniques-les-invites-de-france-info-2011-05-23-je-suis-pour-la-suppress ion-du-fmi-marine-le-pen-538242-9-508.html

    Uh, why hasn't this same point been repeatedly stressed by the party of the people, the Socialists?  Just asking.

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:45:07 AM EST
given that you get violently criticized as 'unserious' if you utter these things, the socialists are intimidated into not speaking (publicy) about it (note that their programme ,which nobody discusses, is more positive in that respect).

Le Pen is already fundamentally 'unserious', so she has nothing to lose doing this.

The question is - can the mainstream left own this issue in a public way, and not lose because it then has to face a propaganda war depicting it as extremist and out of touch?

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 06:59:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The question is, can the Social Democrats get their crania out of their recta and stop worrying about whether or not their utterances appear "serious"?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:13:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. The most useful thing that could happen now is a frontal attack on the concept of seriousness, and widespread personal ridicule of anyone who attempts to use to make a political point in public.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:17:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
50 Little Hoovers, meet 27 Little Atriots?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:20:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 As I suppose you (and Migeru and Jerome) know--

   Paul Krugman has written so often about the folly of the economic assumptions of"Very Serious People" that "VSP" is now practically a trade-mark of his; hence, I think, Jerome's reference to the dangers of appearing unserious.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:24:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
with the concept of the "pensée unique" - and back then it failed, despite a lot more mainstream support than it would get today.

(We'll never know to what extent Beregovoy's suicide in 1993 killed that debete, because he was, as an "orthodox" (ie centrist) socialist minister of economy, the target of that pensée unique criticism, and his untimely death killed the debate to a good extent.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:25:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to the question of who owns the media.

ie can the socialists run such a campaign if they have all the media against them (and remember,for instance, that 80% of French media is owned by defense companies or companies with very close links to right-wing politicians (Dassault, Bouygues, Lagardère, etc)

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:22:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who knows unless they try?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:24:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
about their programme?

It's decently "unserious" - but it's never discussed in the media.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:26:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even in supposedly liberal/socialist papers, I've heard little more than "Austerity is awesome, but you have to do it slowly."

Where is this decently "unserious" program?  The only group I've heard make anything even mildly like a defense of the Greeks or the Irish was at that bastion of unseriousness, the IMF.

Gordon Brown looks like FDR next to the clown show we've got right now.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:40:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but the problem is not the programme, but how it is discussed (or not) in the media - thus the problem is the media.

You can argue, in France, that the socialists honchos are not helping by focusing so much on personal rivalries - so media focus on that rather on the programme is easy and "legitimate" but even when you don't have that kind of distraction, unserious ideas are basically ignored ny the media, even the supposedly leftier kind.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:40:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the program being proposed, and by whom?  I assume you mean the French Socialists.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:18:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  or the G-8, or the G-12, or the G-20, or at Davos, or in the president's (Obama's) Council of Economic Advisors, or at working lunches with Timothy Geithner, or in the cabinet meetings, or with Michelle.

   Say, where is it discussed?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But playing on their terms concedes defeat without firing a shot.

You cannot propagate your message if you allow the enemy to set the terms.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:29:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They did once, early 20th century press had no love for baby-killing socialist wanting to sell the country to Russia.

I do not know about France, but in Sweden the democratic socialists used mass-organisations, in effect they built several layers of organisations and expanded them until they together reached critical size. Expansion was fueled by deliveirng services. The unions protected you at work, the housing union protected you against predatory landlords, the chains of co-ops protected you against predatory salesmen and they all provided social functions, somewhere to dance and drink and sing.

Once you can deliver through your own organisation a personal messenger to every household and workplace in the land, the media can either follow you or look so out of touch that they will loose sales, ads and influence.

Unfortunately, the Social Democrats has largely forgotten their history, stoppepd delivering services and let their rots atrophy. So it is a steep hill to climb.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:48:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot: they also built press of their own, and publishing houses. And lots more.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 02:49:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why Hezbollah is a more credible left-wing party than most European nominally social democrats...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 10:21:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 and, while considering it, we could notice, then, that the use of group-think in order to intimidate and squelch the free expression of (then-) unpopular opinion--that would be a very, very 'bad thing,' wouldn't it?

    I'm reminded of Obama, the guy who has held what's supposed to be one the world's most prestigious and prominent pulpits and, so far, has used it to actually practically not at all to press the propagation of key understanding which goes against the tide of much erroneous conventional thinking.

  I wonder about 'The Left'-- and your question: "can the mainstream left own this issue in a public way, and not lose"...

   : can the Left own anything--like, uh, a principled conviction which it actually defends at its own peril?  

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is the epitome of seriousness. He had to be to get elected, and that's internalised now.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:28:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  "He had to be to get elected, and that's internalised now."

    I don't understand the "and that's internalised now".  What's internalised?

    And, yes, he had to get elected.  As so he did.  As I remember, there was the the very frequent mention of "Yes, we can," and of "change we can believe in."

   I want a president who reasons, "I'm going to fight for the propagation of better understanding (because that, more than any short-term policy gains, which can be reversed upon the opposition's coming to power), helps advance our causes in a more lasting way."

   Until then, the Left is counting its change after it has left the shop.

  BTW, I didn't vote for Obama and, next time around, I'm going to not vote for him even more.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:39:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The theory that "my idea of change is some sort of contract even when it contradicts both the published program and the preferences of the other voters" is such an odd one that explanations for it baffle me entirely.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:58:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not true at all. What he has not done is use the language that "the left" prefers. But he has consistently pushed a view of economics in which government investment in infrastructure, technology, and education is key, where social good is value more than  "growth".
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:56:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

   And he did this "pushing" while appointing a host of ex-Goldman Sachs executives to his key economic posts and as his advisors, didn't he?

  So, in scrupulously avoiding the "language the 'the left' prefers," his object remains that of edifying and raising the economic consciousnesses of the public?  And he's going to this without giving any offense to the world's movers-and-shakers---that is, he'll confine his discourse to their preferred terms in discussing what's wrong and what must be done to change it?

   To me, that sounds a lot like using Power's own play-book to make effective reforms in Power.  I think it's more useful to recognize that Obama is on thoroughly friendly terms with the terms and conditions which Power prefers.  If he uses its language, it's by some clever, sneaky effort to put one over on them.  With power, you can use whatever language you like, provided you bring home the bacon.

   Where's the bacon for the ordinary man and woman who, while Obama was busy using the right terminology, had their home repossessed?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:13:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  correction,

   "If he uses its language, it's NOT (I contend) by some clever, sneaky effort to put one over on them."

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:16:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Obama is a generic Party guy.

Wall St comes first.
There should be some left over for everyone else. But it doesn't have to be much.

The only difference between him and the wingnuts is that the wingnuts believe that there should be nothing left over for anyone else - sharing is anti-freedom and the very definition of communist unliberty - and the people with nothing left are evil, lazy, stupid, and bad, and should be punished for it as sadistically as possible.

Also, terrorists. Ooga ooga.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:48:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  and, as the counter-narrative to this (our, yours and mine) view would have it, that's not to be seen as sadistic punishment but, rather, as reality's gentle correctives being applied to those who are foolish dreamers.

  Of course, once upon a time, those who advocated child-labor reforms--so that children of six couldn't be sent off to the mill for 12 or more hours of work, for example, and the minimum wage, fair labor standards acts, collective bargaining rights, etc., were are foolish dreamers.

  What I regard as scandalous is that today, Obama can pass for a dreamer, a proponent of big ideas.  His big ideas, placed next to what many others imagined and fought for generations ago, are puny--and I just f***g hate the guy.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:13:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which Goldman Sachs executives do you have in mind? For example, despite Matt Taibbi's fantasies, Geithner is a career civil servant.

The "left", reduced to a social club for disgruntled middle managers and professionals, does not speak the language of either power or the general population. Obama has been making the case in popular language.

by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:10:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about Mario Draghi?
an Italian banker and economist who has been governor of the Banca d'Italia since January 16, 2006.

In this capacity, he is a member of the Governing and General Councils of the European Central Bank and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank for International Settlements. He is also governor for Italy on the Boards of Governors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank. In April 2006 he was elected Chairman of the Financial Stability Forum, which became Financial Stability Board in spring 2009.

...

Born in Rome, Draghi graduated from La Sapienza University of Rome under the supervision of Federico Caffè, then earned a Ph.D in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976 under the supervision of Nobel Laureates Franco Modigliani and Robert Solow. He was full professor at the University of Florence from 1981 until 1991.[1]

From 1984 to 1990 he was Executive Director of the World Bank.

In 1991, he became director general of the Italian Treasury, and held this office until 2001. During his time at the Treasury, he chaired the committee that revised Italian corporate and financial legislation and drafted the law that governs Italian financial markets. He is also a former board member of several banks and corporations (Eni, IRI, BNL and IMI).

He was then vice chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs International and a member of the firm-wide management committee (2002-2005).



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:12:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama does not appoint people to the Bank of Italy as far as I know! -)
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:21:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But he's going to be appointed to the ECB.

So you can go around telling people that Obama doesn't appoint GS people to the Fed, but the EU appoints them to the ECB.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:31:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama does not appoint the ECB. It's fucked up on its own without US assistance.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:53:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely. The US is better off than the EU, despite all the Obama-haters out there (and out here).

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:57:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At the moment the US is better off than the EU.  I wouldn't bet my life savings on that lasting.

The average US citizen has no savings, is deeply in debt, doesn't have any assets, the average Cost of Living exceeds the average wage, and there's only a laughable "safety" net.  This is a recipe for micro-economic collapse.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 01:45:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That seems to be more an issue of timing than anything else. The US at the federal level just needed a little more time to let austerity Jesus into their heart.
Alas, too late for the rapture obviously.

And speaking of lack of faith:

Hurra, ein Konjunkturwunder!

"Die privaten Konsumausgaben legten um 0,4 Prozent zu, die staatlichen Konsumausgaben um 1,3 Prozent."

The state is responsible for three quarters of the consumption growth in Germany.

by generic on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 02:44:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A list can be found here:


Dianna Farrell:

Obama Administration: Deputy Director, National Economic Council
Former Goldman Sachs Title: Financial Analyst

Stephen Friedman:

Obama Administration: Chairman, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
Former Goldman Sachs Title: Board Member (Chairman, 1990-94; Director, 2005-)

Gary Gensler:

Obama Administration: Commissioner, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Former Goldman Sachs Title: Partner and Co-head of Finance

Robert Hormats:

Obama Administration: Undersecretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, State Department
Former Goldman Sachs Title: Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs Group

Philip Murphy:

Obama Administration: Ambassador to Germany
Former Goldman Sachs Title: Head of Goldman Sachs, Frankfurt

Mark Patterson:

Obama Administration: Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geitner
Former Goldman Sachs Title: Lobbyist 2005-2008; Vice President for Government Relations

John Thain:

Obama Administration: Advisor to Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geitner
Former Goldman Sachs Title: President and Chief Operating Officer (1999-2003)



Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:29:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And so? The alumni of the largest investment bank are in the Treasury department ?

It's odd to me that "the left" doesn't seem to know who Ron Bloom is, or Melody Barnes, and Elizabeth Warren has become a non-person since she joined the administration.

by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:56:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know looking back to what I was writing in 2006 I see that if the Hamilton Project, former Goldman Sach's chairman Robert Rubin's effort to prevent "unseriousness" in the Democratic party, hadn't succeeded that present politics could be quite different. Ugh.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:21:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 
 

  from Wikipedia:

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Geithner

  ...  In March 2008, he arranged the rescue and sale of Bear Stearns. In the same year, he played a supporting role to Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, in the decision to bail out AIG just two days after deciding not to rescue Lehman Brothers from bankruptcy. Some Wall Street CEOs subsequently expressed the opinion that decisions in which Geithner participated, especially the failure to rescue Lehman, contributed to worsening the global financial crisis. As a Treasury official, he helped manage multiple international crises of the 1990s in Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand.

Geithner believes along with Henry Paulson, that the United States Department of the Treasury needs new authority to experiment with responses to the financial crisis of 2007-2011. Paulson has described Geithner as "[a] very unusually talented young man...[who] understands government and understands markets."

 

   The trouble, as I see it, is not that T.G. is not in various senses a "good guy", it's rather that he may represent the limit of what constitutes the "good guys" in his areas of expertise.  And, even at that, the simple truth is that many if not most or all of the people most instrumental to the care and maintenance of the current system of institutionalized corruption with whom he deals can count on Geithner not to stray outside the boundaries inside of which they remain effectively protected from accountability.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:45:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I dont care if "Some Wall Street CEOs subsequently expressed the opinion that decisions in which Geithner participated, especially the failure to rescue Lehman, contributed to worsening the global financial crisis."

The anxiety of "the left" to fall for the complaints of bondmarket salesmen strikes me as peculiar indeed.

The fact is that Geithner is a career civil servant, but a narrative in which he was a GS employee is all pervasive.

The US administration was elected on a platform of moderate reform of finance capitalism. The barrier to a more radical transformation is not the personality defects of its appointees, but actual political power.

by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:00:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  Wait.  Where, anywhere here, have I asserted that Geithner is a former employee of Goldman Sachs?

   "The US administration was elected on a platform of moderate reform of finance capitalism. The barrier to a more radical transformation is not the personality defects of its appointees, but actual political power."

    Right.  The defects aren't of personality, they're moral. And that failure is in both appointees and in the primary elected officials who appoint them.

  Nor do I care if "Some Wall Street CEOs subsequently expressed the opinion that decisions in which Geithner participated, especially the failure to rescue Lehman, contributed to worsening the global financial crisis."

  My point is that the "moderate reform of finance capitalism" which you claim as part of the basis for Obama's election hasn't happened and by all indications, isn't going to happen.  For that fact, Obama bears his (large) share of responsibility--especially since, as I see it, the one key thing which of which we can be assured is that, when his term is over, the American people, by virtue of his personal dedicated efforts, shall have learned practically nothing of vital importance about what is wrong with the political and financial order of things in their nation.

   

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right.  The defects aren't of personality, they're moral. And that failure is in both appointees and in the primary elected officials who appoint them.

Neither they nor the people who elected them agree with you. Time to emulate the East German Communist Party and fire the people for failing to live up to requirements.

As for the reform, of course it's happening. The largest peacetime investment in infrastructure ever, the creation of an electric auto industry and smart grid, major rail infrastructure, a Financial reform bill that has Wall Street in a total frenzy, reform of student loans, transformation of health insurance into a regulated industry, ....

Significant. Not a socialist program - but if you wanted Obama to sell your socialist program you were really deluding yourself.

by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:27:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That seems to me to be a weak explanation. The more likely explanation is that the Party of Trousage de Domestic is not really all that interested in the working class.
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 09:19:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]

  "But big infrastructure can only be done by public authorities"...

    A little (obvious) historical verity.  I guess "the markets" don't read that kind of "history."

   

    ..."further reinforcing the notion that such projects are inherently wasteful while enriching a whole new world of parasites (including yours truly) - bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, which assess, fund, document and manage these big projects with the purpose of making money now rather than providing a service to all for the long term."...

   

  Fortunately, we live in democracies (right?) and in those, that (cited above) couldn't happen (or last very long if it did) because it would look a lot like corruption to the unlettered and they'd use their democratic institutions and rights to put a prompt stop to such stuff.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:02:24 AM EST
Depends on what you mean by "by public authorities". US railways were constructed by private companies with huge public subsidy, for example. The chunnel ?

The Obama administration seems to have concluded that private companies can build the smart grid.

Regulated utilities seem to me to be good vehicles for long-term projects.

by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 08:07:17 AM EST
The chunnel?

A mess on the financial side, due to excessive required return on the private partner's investments. Dunno about the engineering side, but some of the things I read about the safety systems are not precisely reassuring.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 10:26:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 related reading on this stuff:

 Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia, Updated Edition
  by Stephen F. Cohen

 Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction  
  by Barry C. Lynn

  It Takes a Pillage: An Epic Tale of Power, Deceit, and Untold Trillions (Wiley (those radical) Publishers)
  by Nomi Prins (notice her "Top Ten Ways Things Could Get Worse from Here" Amazon-exclusive content from author Nomi Prins)

  and, of course,

  Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (paperback, April 2011) Basic Books;  
   by Janine R. Wedel

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:04:50 AM EST
Nomi Prins? You mean that ex-Goldman employee?

She's one of the most dishonest commentators on this topic.

by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 12:39:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today's energy headlines

- Gas threat to wind farm growth - FT


Construction of new wind farms in the US is set to decline next year because of competition from cheap natural gas for power generation, the country's largest developer of new wind power projects has said.

Ignacio Galán, chief executive of the Spanish energy group Iberdrola, said the rise in US shale gas production had transformed the country's energy industry, driving down gas and electricity prices. "Shale gas makes the production of electricity from other sources not attractive enough," he said.

Installations of new wind capacity in the US dropped from 10,000 megawatts in 2009 to 5,100MW last year. Mr Galán said he expected there could be a further 5,000MW added this year, and perhaps as little as 3,000MW next year.

Government support for wind, which includes federal tax credits and legal standards for renewable generation adopted by 29 states, was adequate, he said, but added: "It's hard to make an attractive return on investment at these prices."

- As natural gas prices fall, search turns to oil - WSJ


In the past few years, a glut of natural gas has driven down the price to half the 2008 average--a level where it costs a U.S. consumer $2.75 a day to meet a home's natural-gas needs, according to the American Gas Association. That's good news for consumers, but a recent study by consultancy Wood Mackenzie found that 40% of U.S. natural gas produced last year didn't meet break-even prices for producers.



Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:25:36 AM EST
by rootless2 on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 01:17:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are so many problems associated with shale gas that I expect the drop in natural gas prices to become a temporary thing.

Of course, it looks like a new law here in Ohio is trying to open Lake Erie to oil drilling and fracking. Clearly they want to see if they can make it flammable again.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 01:31:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought Ohio was a signatory to the Great Lakes compact.
by Upstate NY on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:51:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it is a reflection of the probability of long term stability. If it's 1910 or 1950 and you see a century of uninterrupted growth ahead, maybe you are willing to build water projects or highways that have multi-decade lifetimes. But if it's 1943 or 2009 and only short term economic disaster is visible, maybe you're less likely to worry about the long term.

If it's true that there will be within the next decade economic turmoil due to changes in energy sources, climate change, overpopulation, agricultural collapse, etc., then why would anybody--private or public--worry about what might be important 50 years from now?

Sort of like a drawn out rapture scenario...why work if you're going to be flying to Heaven next week?

by asdf on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 09:47:43 AM EST
Yes, but what is the point of making 20% now either?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 04:17:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Even better than simply scoring a debating point is finding and exposing a reasoning error--my own or that of  another--so that, like roadway debris, it can be cleared away and some advance made, if one wants to advance.

So, speaking of irony and tribalism, I offer an observation which considers and offers examples of  both.  With reference to the previous posts, above,

Colman, gives us a comment (rightly, at least in principle) condemning tribalism when he writes, here (emphasis added),

 

      "Long answer: we've been through this a couple of times. Look it up. But most people prefer to define an out-group - "them", "the rich", "the Jews", "whatever" - that they can blame for the problem, at which point you're engaging in tribalism rather than addressing any real problems. Have fun." http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2011/5/23/5505/46251#90

 

 And then, only about twenty-five minutes later, gives us an example of it in his own argumentation as when he writes, here,

 

     "You're just as incapable of understanding my point as a law-and-order right-winger is of understanding that point that high crime levels are an inevitable result of wide-spread poverty. Discussion over. "  http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2011/5/23/5505/46251#97

 

    So, Colman, you're against tribalistic attitudes and thinking?  That's good.  I'm with you in that.  But can you recognize it in your own thoughts and reasoning as well as you may suppose you can in those of others' ?   And what happens, then, when you do find it in your reasonings?  Do you keep it or question and perhaps even reject the premise and conclusion it was supporting?

     We have a test of this matter before us, because, as it seems to me, when you reply to another in this thread that, "You're just as incapable of understanding my point as a law-and-order right-winger is of understanding that point that high crime levels are an inevitable result of wide-spread poverty. Discussion over," you're asserting, in other words, "Your terms of reference, your reasoning, your starting assumptions, are so alien to mine that even if I explained my point to you, you wouldn't get it.  You can't get it; the gulf separating us is too wide for you to cross.  So what would be the point of my even trying to explain it to you?"

   And such, I contend, is the essence of a tribalistic point of view.  It rejects from the start the idea that the other can be reached through reason.  It presupposes that this other can't be reached, and for reasons that boil down to his belonging to an alien view, another tribe than one's own.  So, as for explaining across such a gulf, the conclusion is, "Forget it," or, as Colman put it, "Discussion over."

     Here, then, is an example which for me qualifies as irony.  It also presents an opportunity for someone who supposedly opposes and rejects tribalistic thinking to recognize it in himself and take a corrective step in that thinking.  And that offers what I think we should call an opportunity for progress as opposed to digging in one's heels and remaining unmoved by evidence of  exhibiting the very characteristic one claims he opposes.  What do you, in this case, do with that opportunity?


"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 12:17:07 PM EST
One aspect of the article that has NOT been heavily remarked upon is that information overload, caused mainly by new technology, is partially to blame for short-termism.

I have to say, this morning I watched an interview of a top fund manager in London, and he was asked about Greece and some of the countries in the bailout program. What he uttered about what the countries have done in response to their dilemma bore absolutely no relation to the truth. I acknowledge that some news media and politicians have muddied the waters as to the actual facts of each country's response, but for a fund manager in charge of understanding financial matters on the continent and in the world to get it so wrong--I found it telling. Granted, this guy probably makes 100 high priced decisions a day, and he doesn't have time to ascertain the facts, but surely he has minions who can look at Eurostat for him? Or maybe he pulled up a newspaper article online shortly before the interview? The point is, it's such a common story for our leaders to be in charge of making decisions on things about which they don't have the basic facts.

Not understanding something is a problem, allowing one's ideology to cloud one's vision is another problem, but then there's the principle problem of the intellectually lazy, and that's an unwillingness to discover the facts.

We see this over and over again, when it comes to the Bush administration's dealings with the CIA after 9/11. A total lack of curiosity in sifting through information and ascertaining properly what the risk dimensions were.

We saw this on Wall Street when math formulas were created the punch out statistics allowing riskier derivatives.

We saw it again when, apparently, Michael Lewis reported that Dr. Burry was the one soul in America in 2006 who was reading through boring old CDS prospectuses to see what was actually being sold. None of the other buyers, nor the banks, had any workers doing the grunt work of reading a prospectus. Who has time for that? Time is money after all, or should we now say that a lack of time is a lack of money?

Many on EuroTrib are probably not following the American educational controversy currently going on, but the Obama administration seems dangerously incurious about the studies on educational performance. They cherrypick information instead and offer it as fact, and the near universal regard of the propaganda film WAITING FOR SUPERMAN shows how totally disinterested most people are in ascertaining facts.

In such a culture, something like a college education, that teaches you to be skeptical and redoubtable, is practically useless.

One might argue that even sound bites in our media (curse CNN) are anti-intellectual, and indeed consensus-building in the worst possible way because any point-of-view that seems radical (even if it's factual and perfectly logical) requires a level of exegesis that CNN doesn't have time for, precisely because thaT POINT-OF-VIEW MAY SEEM UNINTELLIGBLE TO AN AUDIENCE NOT YET FAMILIAR WITH ITS "TALKING POINTS."

(Apologies for caps).

Thus, short-termism may indeed be seen as an outcome of information overload.

by Upstate NY on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 12:50:09 PM EST
  "Granted, this guy probably makes 100 high priced decisions a day, and he doesn't have time to ascertain the facts, but surely he has minions who can look at Eurostat for him? Or maybe he pulled up a newspaper article online shortly before the interview? The point is, it's such a common story for our leaders to be in charge of making decisions on things about which they don't have the basic facts."

      Georges Corm, too, makes this point in his Le nouveau gouvernement du monde : Idéologies, structures, contre-pouvoirs § (2010, La Découverte)

     "We saw this on Wall Street when math formulas were created the punch out statistics allowing riskier derivatives."

      Nicolas Bouleau agrees with you, in his Mathématiques et risques financiers § , (2009, Odile Jacob)

    "In such a culture, something like a college education, that teaches you to be skeptical and redoubtable, is practically useless."

     

  New York Times:   Study Says Students Learn Little In College

   "Academically Adrift § ," which was just released yesterday, tracks the progress of 2,300 students through the Collegiate Learning Assessment test taken three times during college. The study found that about 45 percent of the students showed no significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication after two years of college. More disturbingly, 36 percent performed no better after four years. Students who did improve during college did so modestly.

"How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education?" write the authors Richard Arum, professor of sociology and education at New York University, and Josipa Roksa, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. "The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much."  

   (emphasis added)

  cited at the website:  

http://www.braintrack.com/college-and-work-news/articles/study-says-students-learn-little-in-college -11011901

     

     "One might argue that even sound bites in our media (curse CNN) are anti-intellectual, and indeed consensus-building in the worst possible way because any point-of-view that seems radical (even if it's factual and perfectly logical) requires a level of exegesis that CNN doesn't have time for, precisely because thaT POINT-OF-VIEW MAY SEEM UNINTELLIGBLE TO AN AUDIENCE NOT YET FAMILIAR WITH ITS "TALKING POINTS."

  Precisely.  Or, as Neil Postman put it in his Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology § :

 

   " ...However, there is still another possibility, related to [Bernard] Shaw's point but off at right-angles to it. It is, in any case, more relevant to understanding the sustaining power of Technopoly. I mean that the world we live in is very nearly incomprehensible to most of us. There is almost no fact, whether actual or imagined, that will surprise us for very long since we have no comprehensive and consistent picture of the world that would make the fact appear as an unacceptable contradiction. We believe because there is no reason not to believe. And I assume the reader does not need the evidence of my comic excursion into the suburbs of social science to recognize this. Abetted by a form of education that in itself has been emptied of any coherent world-view, Technopoly deprives us of the social, political, historical, metaphysical, logical or spiritual bases for knowing what is beyond belief." (p. 58)

   (and,)

   "...Indeed, one way of defining a Technopoly is to say that its information immune system is inoperable. Technopoly is a form of cultural AIDS, which I use as an acronym for Anti-Information Deficiency Syndrome. This is why it is possible to say almost anything without contradiction provided you begin your utterance with the words "A study has shown..." or "Scientists now tell us that..." More important, it is why in a Technopoly, there can be no transcendant sense of purpose or meaning, no cultural coherence. Information is dangerous when it has no place to go, when there is no theory to which it applies no pattern in which it fits, when there is no higher purpose that it serves." (p. 63)  

   (and,)

    "Technopoly is a state of culture. It is also a state of mind. It consists in the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology. This requires the development of a new kind of social order, and of necessity leads to the rapid dissolution of much that is associated with traditional beliefs. Those who feel most comfortable in Technopoly are those who are convinced that technical progress is humanity's supreme achievement and the instrument by which our most profound dilemmas may be solved. They also believe that information is an unmixed blessing, which through its continued and uncontrolled production and dissemination offers increased freedom, creativity, and peace of mind. The fact that information does none of these things--but quite the opposite--seems to change few opinions, for such unwavering beliefs are an inevitable part of the structure of Technopoly. In particular, Technopoly flourishes when the defenses against information break down." (p. 71)

 

    Yours are excellent observations and much-needed reminders of the conditions in which we live--conditions now largely so taken for granted that, unlike you, most don't even notice them.

    ------------

  " § " denotes reading recommended by proximity1

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 01:25:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US education system privileges set-text regurgitation until you get to graduate school.  There the system privileges regurgitating the views and positions of the "teaching" (sic) facility.

Acquisition and use of Critical Thinking skills is a nice, but not necessary, adjunct to The Process.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 01:37:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not my experience as a student, but maybe I was lucky. Now that I teach at a university, it certainly isn't what I strive for.

Regardless, I am not pushing for a critically-savvy analytical apparatus. Rather, a baseline approach on the facts. That's all. It shouldn't even be beyond students who, though they have a degree, have been badly educated, to at least be able to ascertain what a fact is.

People seem totally incapable of finding primary sources these days.

by Upstate NY on Tue May 24th, 2011 at 01:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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