Tag Archives: Economics

Matt Bruenig – How Did Private Property Start?

Link to an article by Matt Bruenig:

“How Did Private Property Start?”

 

Bonus quotes:

“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!’”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” (1755)

“The illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself must be concealed at any price, because this concealment is the positive condition of the functioning of law.  Law functions only insofar as its subjects are fooled, insofar as they experience the authority of law as ‘authentic and eternal’ and do not realize ‘the truth about the usurpation’.  That is why Kant is forced, in his Metaphysics of Morals, to forbid any question concerning the origins of legal power: it is by means of precisely such questioning that the stain of this illegitimate violence appears which always soils, like original sin, the purity of the reign of law.”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Limits of the Semiotic Approach to Psychoanalysis,” from Psychoanalysis and… (Feldstein and Sussman, eds., Routledge 1990).

Johann Hari – Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism.

Link to an article by Johann Hari:

“Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism.”

 

I very much question why this writer singles out neoliberalism, specifically, rather than capitalism, generally.  There is nothing in the article to suggest that only neoliberalism — but no other forms of liberalism or capitalism — is problematic.  While he has established that eliminating neoliberalism is necessary, he has failed to establish that doing so is sufficient.

 

Bonus link: “Lacan  Between  Cultural  Studies  And  Cognitivism”

Rebecca Burns – The Troubled History of the Fund Tapped for Rahm’s Controversial Cop Academy

Link to an article by Rebecca Burns:

“INVESTIGATION: The Troubled History of the Fund Tapped for Rahm’s Controversial Cop Academy”

 

Bonus links: “The Left Hand and the Right Hand of the State” and “Why Are Police the Priority in Rahm’s Chicago?” and “Corporate Welfare Fails to Deliver the Jobs: The Sad Case of Start-Up NY” and The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation

Mike Beggs – The Keynesian Counterrevolution

Link to a book review by Mike Beggs of In the Long Run We Are All Dead: Keynesianism, Political Economy and Revolution by Geoff Mann:

“The Keynesian Counterrevolution”

 

Bonus links: “The Left in a Foxhole?” (excerpt from Mann’s book) and “Liberalism: An Ideology of Exclusion” (this article rebuts Begg’s discussion of classical and modern liberalism, indicating that the archetype of all forms of liberalism is a politics of exclusion; in this case, merely elevating “the bourgeois and the intelligentsia” above others) and War and Revolution. Rethinking the Twentieth Century and Domenico Losurdo on Two Epidemics and “The Class Struggle on Wall Street” (“The problem [with Keynesianism] is, the rentier doesn’t want to be euthanized. Capital is not going to say, ‘okay, our work here is done, goodbye.’ So to maintain the social position of money-owners, you have to create an artificial shortage of money, and that’s another way of looking at the job of the central bank.”)

 

Bonus quote:

“class struggle is ultimately the struggle for the meaning of society ‘as such’, the struggle for which of the two classes will impose itself as the stand-in for society ‘as such’, thereby degrading its other into the stand-in for the non-Social (the destruction of, the threat to, society).

“To simplify: Does the masses’ struggle for emancipation pose a threat to civilization as such, since civilization can thrive only in a hierarchical social order?  Or is it that the ruling class is a parasite threatening to drag society into self-destruction, so that the only alternative to socialism is barbarism?”  Slavoj Žižek, Afterword to Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin From 1917 (pp. 209-10).

Arundhati Roy – The NGO-ization of Resistance

Link to an excerpt from the book The End of Imagination (2016) by Arundhati Roy:

“The NGO-ization of Resistance”

 

Bonus links:  “Social Service or Social Change?” and “How Corporate Power Converted Wealth Into Philanthropy for Social Control” and “The Joy of Inequality: The Libidinal Economy of Compassionate Consumerism” and “Preferring Zizek’s Bartleby Politics”

Michael Hudson & Charles Goodhart – Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations Be Reintroduced Today?

Link to an article by Michael Hudson & Charles Goodhart:

“Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations Be Reintroduced Today?”

 

The historical discussions at the beginning of this article are very significant.  The policy proscriptions at the end do address some, but not all, of the important facets of this question (what about militarism/imperialism, race/gender/etc. discrimination, and the like?).  But the proffered solutions are politically naive.  For instance, how will the political power to implement any of these changes arise in the first instance?  People like Thomas Ferguson have shown that electoral politics will not permit candidates with mass-based support to prevail without vetting by elite interests first (“Nobody wins on small-donor cash.”).  Hudson and Goodhart put forward technocratic fixes as a way to sidestep political problems — as if the gating issue is a lack of good technical measures to propose, rather than ideological opposition to the idea that anything needs to be fixed in the first place.  Moreover, when they suggest enforcement is possible just like with tax avoidance, are the authors aware of how lax prosecution of tax evasion crimes is a public disgrace?  And why is advocacy of private home ownership so important to promote, as opposed to, say, public housing provision?  No explanation is given for that normative choice.  And as much as I hate to defend the odious reactionary Walter Scheidel, the criticism that “[h]e does not acknowledge progressive tax policy, limitations on inherited wealth, debt writeoffs or a replacement of debt with equity as means of preventing or reversing the concentration of wealth in the absence of an external crisis[,]” is unfair, because Scheidel is actually correct (and in agreement with Marxists here) that these have historically been temporary anomalies in the absence of revolution (external crisis?) that shifted which class controlled the state and therefore the ability to impose their preferred policies — these are still good ideas, albeit old ones.  Hudson has for a long time made offhand (and unsupported) comments about how “mixed” economies perform better than communist/socialist or laissez-faire capitalist ones at opposite ends of the spectrum.  This is one of the few times he has gone on record explaining what the vague term “mixed” looks like in terms of real economic programs — a milquetoast, insufficient compromise!  Actually, there are a few decent suggestions here, for instance, the advocacy of government equity stakes in small/medium business enterprises (an extension of Hudson’s long-standing argument that the old German banking model is superior to the currently hegemonic Anglo-Dutch one) would work well for some economic sectors, though that would be the case only with some sort of effective democratic control and probably only alongside full nationalization of at least heavy industry (and probably also banks, and probably large agribusinesses too, etc.).  In short, this article spends too much effort trying to avoid red-baiting that it drifts into irrelevancy in view of superior policies to the left of what the authors propose.  The means they end up trying to smuggle mildly center-left policies in without opening a meaningful political discussion, which would highlight the authors’ political naivety.  Oh well.  Read the historical section and then just skim or skip the rest.

 

Bonus links: Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Trouble in Paradise (“the goal of politico-economic analysis is to deploy strategies of how to step out of this infernal circle of debt and guilt”), “Debt Is a Determining Factor in History” and “Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity”

The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives

Link to a “video” from a symposium by The Modern Money Network about the book The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives (2017) by Jesse Eisinger:

“The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives”

 

Admitted, this “video” is really just audio.  But Bill Black’s introductory comments make very clear how U.S. Department of Justice (non)prosecution of financial sector crimes is a matter of shifting ideology, or, more precisely, the activities of federal prosecutors really represent the outcome of an ideological war and class war over which class and which ideology will control the state and its judicial apparatus.

 

Bonus links: …And the Poor Get Prison and Why Not Jail? and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology and The Fragile Absolute and The State and Revolution

Bonus quote: “Does the masses’ struggle for emancipation pose a threat to civilization as such, since civilization can thrive only in a hierarchical social order?  Or is it that the ruling class is a parasite threatening to drag society into self-destruction, so that the only alternative to socialism is barbarism?”  Slavoj Žižek, Afterword to Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin From 1917 (pp. 209-10).