Notes Feb 14 2008

February 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Reading Taussig Mimesis and Alterity

Starting page ii

We live between reality and symbols

The mimetic is the desire to be the other. He is going so make a big did of Walter Benjamin whom I have not read seriously. Thus:

“The medicine man gives you a soul”. I take it that-the mimetic of me towards the shaman creates an experience of myself beyond myself which is soulful.

to page 2

And

note that the problem with capitalism is neither capital nor markets, but corporations. Size has passed from government to corporations.

and

Dani Rodrik says capitalism must be reinvented to build “a better balance between markets and their supporting institutions at the global level”:

Coming soon – Capitalism 3.0, by Dani Rodrik, Commentary, Project Syndicate: …[The] most severe crisis in many decades … has deeply unsettled the balance between markets and states. Where the new balance will be struck is anybody’s guess.

Those who predict capitalism’s demise have to contend with one important historical fact: capitalism has an almost unlimited capacity to reinvent itself. Indeed, its malleability is the reason it has overcome periodic crises over the centuries and outlived critics from Karl Marx on. …

Through the early part of the twentieth century, capitalism was governed by a narrow vision of the public institutions needed to uphold it. … This began to change as societies became more democratic and labour unions and other groups mobilized against capitalism’s perceived abuses. Anti-trust policies were spearheaded in the Unites States. The usefulness of activist monetary and fiscal policies became widely accepted in the aftermath of the Great Depression.

The share of public spending in national income rose rapidly in today’s industrialized countries, from below 10 per cent on average at the end of the nineteenth century … to more than 40 per cent … This “mixed-economy” model was the crowning achievement of the twentieth century. The new balance that it established between state and market set the stage for an unprecedented period of social cohesion, stability and prosperity in the advanced economies that lasted until the mid-1970s.

This model became frayed from the 1980s on, and now appears to have broken down. The reason can be expressed in one word: globalization.

The postwar mixed economy was built for and operated at the level of nation-states, and required keeping the international economy at bay. The Bretton Woods-GATT regime entailed a “shallow” form of international economic integration that implied controls on international capital flows … viewed as crucial for domestic economic management. Countries were required to undertake only limited trade liberalization, with plenty of exceptions for socially sensitive sectors (agriculture, textiles, services). This left them free to build their own versions of national capitalism, as long as they obeyed a few simple international rules. …

Financial globalization … played havoc with the old rules. When Chinese-style capitalism met American-style capitalism, with few safety valves in place, it gave rise to an explosive mix. There were no protective mechanisms to prevent a global liquidity glut from developing, and then, in combination with US regulatory failings, from producing a spectacular housing boom and crash. Nor were there any international roadblocks to prevent the crisis from spreading from its epicentre.

The lesson is not that capitalism is dead. It is that we need to reinvent it for a new century in which the forces of economic globalization are much more powerful than before. … This means imagining a better balance between markets and their supporting institutions at the global level. Sometimes, this will require … strengthening global governance. At other times, it will mean preventing markets from expanding beyond the reach of institutions that must remain national. The right approach will differ across country groupings and among issue areas.

Designing the next capitalism will not be easy. But we do have history on our side:

And

The New Deal, I think, did two things that stopped people from blaming themselves. First, the New Deal sent a message that said it’s not your fault, it’s the system’s fault. That was an important psychological leap forward for those who felt they had let down the people depending upon them for food, clothing, shelter, and so forth. Second, the New Deal told them that because it’s not your fault, you deserve help. People who had shown up for work everyday, like it or not, and did what they needed to do for their families but nevertheless found themselves unemployed could shed their guilt and stop blaming themselves. It was the unstable capitalist system that was at fault, not their own capabilities. And once people began to see this, once people began to to understand that capable, hard-working, honorable people could find their lives shattered so easily by the economic system we live under, the road was paved for government assistance, for programs that would insure households against the devastating whimsies of the market system.

And

out economic security – I see this as a holdover form an earlier “Leave it to Beaver” era – we need to start by thinking about the needs of the modern family and make sure those needs are addressed. That means worrying about economic security for all the various family arrangements we have, including single moms, two-earner families, etc. For example, a single mom with little money may have difficulty looking for a new job if she cannot find someone she trusts to look after her children while she goes out and searches, does interviews, and so forth. Maybe we have such programs, but I’m not aware of them, and it seems to me that providing such care is a simple step that could enhance economic security by making finding a new job much easier for someone in that position.

As we think about a Brand New Deal, let’s be sure to think about how the evolution in family structures has altered the ways in which we need to provide economic security, and be sure that the new programs we put into place provide the help that people need. The capitalist system is better than any other system we have tried at providing for people, but it is not perfect, it tends to cycle and those cycles cause pain to households who did nothing to deserve it. We have an obligation to insure those households against the economic disasters the system can visit upon them, and the current economic and policy environment provides a great chance to move our social support programs in this direction.

And

krugman

Or maybe not. … Mr. Obama’s victory feels more than a bit like defeat. The stimulus bill looks helpful but inadequate, especially when combined with a disappointing plan for rescuing the banks. And the politics of the stimulus fight have made nonsense of Mr. Obama’s postpartisan dreams.

The kid stays in the picture

Good news: Congress has defied the efforts of drug companies and medical-device producers to strip comparative effectiveness research from the stimulus bill. One small victory for sanity and justice.

 Dani Rodrik says capitalism must be reinvented to build “a better balance between markets and their supporting institutions at the global level”:

Coming soon – Capitalism 3.0, by Dani Rodrik, Commentary, Project Syndicate: …[The] most severe crisis in many decades … has deeply unsettled the balance between markets and states. Where the new balance will be struck is anybody’s guess.

Those who predict capitalism’s demise have to contend with one important historical fact: capitalism has an almost unlimited capacity to reinvent itself. Indeed, its malleability is the reason it has overcome periodic crises over the centuries and outlived critics from Karl Marx on. …

Through the early part of the twentieth century, capitalism was governed by a narrow vision of the public institutions needed to uphold it. … This began to change as societies became more democratic and labour unions and other groups mobilized against capitalism’s perceived abuses. Anti-trust policies were spearheaded in the Unites States. The usefulness of activist monetary and fiscal policies became widely accepted in the aftermath of the Great Depression.

The share of public spending in national income rose rapidly in today’s industrialized countries, from below 10 per cent on average at the end of the nineteenth century … to more than 40 per cent … This “mixed-economy” model was the crowning achievement of the twentieth century. The new balance that it established between state and market set the stage for an unprecedented period of social cohesion, stability and prosperity in the advanced economies that lasted until the mid-1970s.

This model became frayed from the 1980s on, and now appears to have broken down. The reason can be expressed in one word: globalization.

The postwar mixed economy was built for and operated at the level of nation-states, and required keeping the international economy at bay. The Bretton Woods-GATT regime entailed a “shallow” form of international economic integration that implied controls on international capital flows … viewed as crucial for domestic economic management. Countries were required to undertake only limited trade liberalization, with plenty of exceptions for socially sensitive sectors (agriculture, textiles, services). This left them free to build their own versions of national capitalism, as long as they obeyed a few simple international rules. …

Financial globalization … played havoc with the old rules. When Chinese-style capitalism met American-style capitalism, with few safety valves in place, it gave rise to an explosive mix. There were no protective mechanisms to prevent a global liquidity glut from developing, and then, in combination with US regulatory failings, from producing a spectacular housing boom and crash. Nor were there any international roadblocks to prevent the crisis from spreading from its epicentre.

The lesson is not that capitalism is dead. It is that we need to reinvent it for a new century in which the forces of economic globalization are much more powerful than before. … This means imagining a better balance between markets and their supporting institutions at the global level. Sometimes, this will require … strengthening global governance. At other times, it will mean preventing markets from expanding beyond the reach of institutions that must remain national. The right approach will differ across country groupings and among issue areas.

Designing the next capitalism will not be easy. But we do have history on our side: c

 
 

And

Pasted from <http://economistsview.typepad.com/>

The New Deal, I think, did two things that stopped people from blaming themselves. First, the New Deal sent a message that said it’s not your fault, it’s the system’s fault. That was an important psychological leap forward for those who felt they had let down the people depending upon them for food, clothing, shelter, and so forth. Second, the New Deal told them that because it’s not your fault, you deserve help. People who had shown up for work everyday, like it or not, and did what they needed to do for their families but nevertheless found themselves unemployed could shed their guilt and stop blaming themselves. It was the unstable capitalist system that was at fault, not their own capabilities. And once people began to see this, once people began to to understand that capable, hard-working, honorable people could find their lives shattered so easily by the economic system we live under, the road was paved for government assistance, for programs that would insure households against the devastating whimsies of the market system.

And

Rise in Jobless Poses Threat to Stability Worldwide

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ57 minutes ago

High unemployment rates have led to protests in countries as varied as Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and to strikes in Britain and France.

And

Instead of appealing, as it has vowed to do, California should get to work overhauling its misguided incarceration policies

And

It is very telling that more than a year into the crisis and six months since the AIG rescue, the Federal Reserve Board still refuses to enforce any type of credit margin discipline over dealers in the CDS markets, which would raise collateral requirements on dealer positions to realistic levels.

And

The bottom line: what remains of the CDS market will be cleared and settled by one or more central counterparties by mid-year. The market will be increasingly transparent. Meaningful margin discipline, collateral and risk limits will be imposed. This will have a devastating effect on the big banks’ fixed income revenues, but will actually improve their balance sheets greatly and lower the overall risk in the US financial system.

And

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter 1802 to Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin 

And

The most compelling rebuttal of the rational model, paradoxically, was delivered by the ultimate rationalist, Alan Greenspan. “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders,” the former Fed chairman told Congress last October.

And

The stimulus package in clear detail

And

Our notes on the what is humanity discussion at the Stanford Strategy Center.

 

And

Stewart Brand’s Long Now foundation on russian collapse as a model for the US.

With vintage Russian black humor, Orlov described the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spelled out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable.  The American economy in the 1990s described itself as “Goldilocks”—just the right size—when in fact is was “Tinkerbelle,” and one day the clapping stops.  As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach.

 Russians were able to muddle through the collapse by finding ways to manage 1) food, 2) shelter, 3) transportation, and 4) security.

Russian agriculture had long been ruined by collectivization, so people had developed personal kitchen gardens, accessible by public transit.  The state felt a time-honored obligation to provide bread, and no one starved.  (Orlov noted that women in Russia handled collapse pragmatically, putting on their garden gloves, whereas middle-aged men dissolved into lonely drunks.)  Americans are good at gardening and could shift easily to raising their own food, perhaps adopting the Cuban practice of gardens in parking lots and on roofs and balconies. 

As for shelter, Russians live in apartments from which they cannot be evicted.  The buildings are heat-efficient, and the communities are close enough to protect themselves from the increase in crime.  Americans, Orlov said, have yet to realize there is no lower limit to real estate value, nor that suburban homes are expensive to maintain and get to.  He predicts flight, not to remote log cabins, but to dense urban living.  Office buildings, he suggests, can easily be converted to apartments, and college campuses could make instant communities, with all that grass turned into pasture or gardens.  There are already plenty of empty buildings in America; the cheapest way to get one is to offer to caretake it.

The rule with transportation, he said, is not to strand people in nonsurvivable places.  Fuel will be expensive and hoarded.  He noted that the most efficient of all vehicles is an old pickup fully loaded with people, driving slowly.  He suggested that freight trains be required to provide a few empty boxcars for hoboes.  Donkeys, he advised, provide reliable transport, and they dine as comfortably on the Wall Street Journal as they did on Pravda

Security has to take into account that prisons will be emptied (by stages, preferably), overseas troops will be repatriated and released, and cops will go corrupt.  You will have a surplus of mentally unstable people skilled with weapons.  There will be crime waves and mafias, but you can rent a policeman, hire a soldier.  Security becomes a matter of local collaboration.  When the formal legal structure breaks down, adaptive improvisation can be pretty efficient.

By way of readiness, Orlov urges all to prepare for life without a job, with near-zero burn rate.  It takes practice to learn how to be poor well.  Those who are already poor have an advantage.

                                                –Stewart Brand

The text of Dmitry Orlov’s SALT talk is posted at his blog here.

The slides he used for a famous 2006 talk, “Closing the Collapse Gap,” may be found here.

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