Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crashing Economics

My concept in thinking about the future has been that of a complete collapse in either a) the economy or b) the actual society. This is my thinking that I am choosing to share. In my thinking an economic collapse is relatively good because of the alternative. The alternative to economic disaster is a social disaster. Or as the rock band Nig Heist called it, the "fall" of the society ... of the constructed, coordinated social world.

If we lost the ability to coordinate any support services for the population, thousands of persons, most persons will die. This means us; the bankers of course will survive in their bunkers. I guess. Not everyone want to think about this but if you choose to do so, this makes sense: because whereas an economy can be rebuilt using culture, the culture itself cannot rebuild itself ... without itself.
The upshot, in my thinking, is that if something has to fall and the economy does not then it will be the culture, or the social world. You could also call it the social base. (Chomsky has used that term, in his book in conversation with a French lady.) That social base is not something we understand very well at all. But its function seems to be independent of its being the recipient of any understanding. It functions. It has been functioning for - let's use a ballpark figure - a thousand years. I think that we could include two thousand if we want to identify with Romans, or only three or four hundred, to just cover modernity: on the theory that modernity is all we know anyway.
Now how does the social base function? The humans use money to make it function - somehow. Of course, Martians might use something else but humans use money. It's all kind of hard to explain. According to what I call traditional conservative schools of thought (it is social thought; social philosophy) the phenomenon of society relates to a sort of voluntary or given (hmmm..did I mean involuntary or voluntary?) social cooperation, or the "traditional" element of culture. I sure hope this shit makes sense. But, at any rate: It is human. It happens by itself. And therefore it is neither possible nor necessary to rationalize, modify, intervene or in fact even to totally explain it. So they just say "hands off" "don't interfere" "no government interference!" And it makes perfect sense that culture or tradition is one thing that is not amenable to rational explanation.

So, there is something suspect about the govenment (or any force at all) modifying the culture. However it also seems to be true that no one ever thinks deeply about economics. At least linguistically, "economics" is a different word: both as signified and signifier (or sign and signifier or however that stuff goes). Consider now that the basic cultural system and the economic system are today closely related. This, however, does not necessarily mean that economics "takes care of itself," just like it is asserted that society or culture does, since there must be some reason for the introduction for the term "economics," laid over the idea of culture or traditional society. Economics swamps culture and takes it over. They tell us not to see the usurper as a beast, but as natural, as rational, as friendly. There is really no reason to believe it if they tell us that not only that mysterious entity of "culture," but economics as well is by nature not open to any modification, interference, "government interference" and so forth. These are in fact just assertions they make. We may summarize by suggesting that any part of culture is indeed subject to investigation (or intervention, etc.), while it is only "the" culture, as an organic entity, that is not subject to certain interventions, analyses, liberals' interferences and liberal programs, etc. If this were the way we understood the semantic differences between "culture" and "economics," it would upset the conservatives' whole apple-cart.
This brings up an interesting point which is that of the appearance of a contradiction. I mean on my part. This is because on the first posts of this blog it says that capitalism goes down its path regardless --- i.e. of commentator or commentary --- the commentator in this case being F. Hayek (or else Reagan and Thatcher). This would seem to support the view suggested above that conservatives apply to the artificially doubled up category of culture as well as capitalistic free market economic phenomena. One could also, at this point, ask just what we mean by "interference in markets," the result of which is to show that certain interventions go on all the time and are quite necessary, so then I must have meant some kind of larger pre-destination of the overall cultural phenomenon.
But if we accept that I did say in the first posts that capitalism goes on its way, then now I seem to be saying the opposite. Now I am saying we should understand it. (Which is what economists try to do.) I seem to be saying that economics does not go down its own path at all. Rather, we should intervene. We should understand and intervene. So which do I believe? The problem is easily solved. It simply depends on the context. Up until now, capitalism had a path to go down and nobody could have interfered with it. In that part of the blog, there is a criticism of Hayek, it seems, saying that his comments are not really relevant in any profound way at all.
The time to intervene in capitalism has come. There is nothing like an idea whose time has come.
My first two posts give the idea that capitalism goes down its own path regardless of what commentaries persons make. The present post opposes this same belief, this because times have changed. Thus, it is not the case that economics in our day somehow takes care of itself, all by itself (which the reader will note was exactly what Hayek thought).
On the one hand, capitalism has its own path to take; no one can interfere with it. So in that case, we can follow the conservatives' advice and not talk about it at all. On the other, where is the harm in one's attempting to understand one's times? To refuse knowledge is one of the worst sins of all. Because: the time has come to intervene in capitalism, and if we do not investigate we'll never find that out. Now, to say that this matter of understanding economics is only a matter of "understanding" that lasseiz-faire should rule and we should stop "interfering" is completely inadequate. It is of the absurd. It is absurd because it is saying that to understand is to understand the fact that we do not need to understand. No one would go for that. The question, then, is that of where understanding comes into economics at all.
Yet I did say was that the traditional conservative belief that culture takes care of itself, by itself, may have something to it. I just do not believe that we should presume for any reason that what holds for culture in general holds for the application of our minds to the matter of economics --- which our intelligensia today fail to think skillfully about.
The dominance of culture by economics is something quite new. Economics turns out to be an invitation to understand, one that we turn down only in order to prove that we all deserve to perish. That is what we can demonstrate by our failure to understand our world, and that abysmal failure will be merely cheer-led, by the benighted later day followers of Hayek.

Right now, it's true, the economy seems to be collapsing. Better we let it happen; there are plenty of alternatives --- plenty of ways to go about building up a new economy. This is about creativity, and the human capacity. There are already plenty of ideas floating around out there. We can call it the capacity to make money. It is about the capacity to make money doing more than exploring the wacky world of high finance. It is about actually working. Is that offensive? It is an open secret that many persons have been, for the past twenty or more years, making more money doing nothing than people who work.
I think maybe the truth is that it is only persons who have been doing wrong all their lives who fear the changes that would come. We need reassure them and make it so they feel less fear. There will be a place in the new order for them, too. They probably think we are going to come and get them. No, no, no. These freaks should be given small condominium apartments, and taken for walks once a week if they aren't afraid of grass. But why should we fear a bunch of insane persons? We should just let the economy collapse. That's my opinion anyway.

(You might want to look at one of N. Kristoff's Sunday Oct 18 columns, on his NYT blog --oh god I have now mentioned them twice -- for my comment. It comes in on the blog part, not the original column, as number 95)

That blog seems unweildy, so here it is directly:
“… These beneficiaries tend to be low-income families, thus in this respect the poor may benefit. Likewise, a recession lowers prices of gas, oil and food, which disproportionately affect the poor. …”

"That makes sense. If the rich are basically partying on the corpses of the poor, and the party becomes diminished, the poor get a little breathing space — the few that aren’t already dead." You could still read Kristoff's column, of course, on either the NYT website or directly on the NYT Kristoff blog thang.

(Special to NYT: I'm sorry I couldn't force readers to your blogs directly. I'll send you a refund. For now, pout.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Called Cheating and Hypocrisy

The fundamental point the critics are not making concerns the hypocrisy of the top thieves. The human personality is most basically regulated by shame. We may also call that feeling guilt or “face.” The top thieves are not going to admit they are hypocrites - because that would be to lose face.

America, as Britain, is not great or important because corporate executives steal but rather this country becomes great when global regions/countries share much of their incoming or oncoming/developing wealth - their newly developing capitalistic wealth - in the sense of distribution to their own populations. For example, observe Braudel's phrase: "growth of the home market." Capitalist entrepreneurialism should be understood as having nurtured social growth. We should tyr to understand what we mean by "social growth." It's important. The wealth that was coming in or coming on, or being worked up, was, as noted just above, fairly widely distributed, which is to say within certain relative boundaries. It worked this way regardless of whatever low, mean intentions society might have had. So, it worked that way. This wealth gave the contesting reformers and rights advocates and so forth the strength to protect others from the small-mindedness and the greed of the very worst of our sad (arguably)/human race. This helps explain why we became great, or big and powerful. It is not because we were nice – or because we were Christian. But it worked that way.

“Hypocrisy” means these guys prefer stealing. They should be exposed. They are folks who have voluntarily made the decision to steal from their fellows – from others in their own “nations” or home base countries, than do the alternative. The alternative is called honesty and it need not be further clarified. What I mean should be obvious; it demands of no clarification. It is obvious from context alone. These actions of theirs are hypocrisy. It is also called “stealing.” They are hypocrites. They are doing this to us all. They are stealing. They are forwarding invisble, made-up money throught the fractional reserve system. It has a palpable feeling of wrongness but yet they do it. They know very well what they are doing. There is no lack of clarity about it. Yet they will never admit this. This story will not close on them unless some outside factor called las enforcement closes it on them. They know it’s wrong and they do it. They are actively involved in hypocrisy.

They had a choice. They and their financial institutions could have forwarded real money out to the bank (loan) customers, as that money became available to them, and then they could have collected their interest. Perhaps even this kind of money supply creation is not wrong; perhaps it is just the honesty about who, what when, what is the source of the money, etc. is all that was needed. All of that suffices as legitimate. Instead, they chose to steal it. They did so by accepting the creation of phony money – “credit” – and taking their profit in that interest that they received on it. This is what they did. This is how they subsist and how they live.

This is what I understand about it. If I am a small banker, (there are many, many honest small bankers) I have to take that money. I take it to loan it out to yet another creditor/debtor. (These two words function as much the same thing). He repays. I take my money, and now the small banker can pay back the loan to the original lender. That original lender is corrupted, and this false creature with no integrity gets its money – the share of the interest paid back on the made-up money. It is dishonest.
Then the debt piles up. That’s why we have all that debt today, but it’s not real money, anywhere. If it is real – where is it?
The final stage of course is when debtors “renege” if you will. Basically they just cannot pay, for whatever reasons they may have, most of them better than the reasons the lender had for lending out fake money. The economy goes into quasi-real failure. Now you fix it. Don’t you?
The bankers were dishonest. They are intelligent people. They knew. If they had not known, but acted as human “dummies,” then there would remain honest persons next to them. An honest, knowing man would be right next to them, at their elbow, so to speak, and would have said, “oh, no. We must stick to the money supply as it is.” The economy has no requirement that fake money has to be poured into it. That’s fake. It is unnecessary. Fakery is unnecessary. You do create a few thousand (or billion) dollars originally and you can work with that. Where is it that you need invented, extra money? If person “A” invents money to lend this is an immediately unfair act. He gets an immediate advantage as long as the economy itself really works - to give it back. And thus, this is not honest.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nobel to Krugman

Today was the day of Paul Krugman, October 13 (ooops) 200whatever it is ... I bet a lot of Right-wing Republican polit'ally intelligencary ("c" pron. like "s") folks out there are sayin "What!!! They gave him a Nobel! A Nobel? A NOBEL? That proves Swedish persons are ... Um, Commies?!!! Niggers??! Jews???" I feel your pain, my conservative comrades in the intellect. I feel your pain. There is just no label a guy can use on the ____ well you get the picture, anyway. Right? You want a handle there and you just don't have one. I feel your pain.
But not to worry. Read two columns at the N.Y.T. (I believe someone is supposed to pay me for saying that) and I can report the situation: the intellectuals explain that Krugman's theoretical economics work is much less contentious than are the columns where he talk to all the rest of us ordinary hilly babies. DO NOT WORRY INTELLECTUAL COMRADES. They went scurrying back to their little ivy-covered egghead academic holes. The academics have assured me they wouldn't dream of interfering in real actual life.
You see the theoretical part of P. Krugman is intellectual, an' it's scholarly. It is professional, and the professional stuff is much less contentious. The ideas of this person as an intellectual, (sorry but the software gives me "bold" so I use it) if you know what I mean --- are pretty much high quality academic work, and much less conflictual or contentious. Here, we all agree more. In this part. In this part.
In other words the academics are down there in that little hole and they're not going to bother you.
Words like "tepid" and "warmed over" come to mind..."incestuous..."

Now this is no minor matter. This is academia. But that means the whole academic "front" of our blue-blood noble white man's civilization. Harvard and Princeton and shit. What they do -- or not -- matters. This is where we go for our information. This is a footprint, and the face of our culture as human beings. And it matters. And when the end of time, or this time comes we will have to face what we are and who we are and what we have said. God. I feel like Maynard Keynes pontificating here.

Well maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe I should study the man a little for my next post.

that's all,
J-A-C-K Silverman (egghead)

A Short Post

It is almost obvious, almost too clear, that to be honest, the entire economy has to blow down. Who is going to save fake money pumped in by the fractional Federal Reserve? There is not anything to save. It isn't real money. Ha ha. I figured you out.

But you knew a long time ago, didn't you? This money is inflated into the system by folks who have nothing to lose but their honesty. Or their shirts? Paulson made 399 million dollars last year.

Take it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On the good life and where it went

I lived through the sixties. It was very nice. Thank you for asking.

No one ever asks: from where did we get all these nice things? Why do we have this democracy and its reassurance of comfort, free from oppression or harm of all kinds? Weber says that capitalism, which means our stage of life at present is made possible in a social and cultural sense by the adherence of large numbers to Calvinism. And what does Calvinism tell us? Calvinism tells us that hard work and prosperity go together. I think he probably says (too lazy to look it up) to be humble and apply oneself. If we work hard and apply ourselves, and don't talk much to others, maybe we'll be alright.
But as capitalism became more successful, it did not work out that way at all, in fact the less serious we became or the more frivolous, the more money we made. So then, money or the making thereof must be based on something other than these quiet, stubborn virtues.
In fact, the virtues capitalism rewards are the virtues more like socializing a lot; making a lot of friends --- especially ones who will let you in on mortgage banker scams (yeah, this is written the week after the 700 billion bail-out bill was passed). If you are an artist, for example, and you know a lot of other artists, it will be a lot easier to sell your work than if you do not know anyone at all.
So, Calvin's prediction - bless his heart - did not work out. But then neither did the prediction that the Dow would keep going up forever. All we would've had to do is use Mars as a waste dump.

OK, so now where does that leave us: in the ever vibrant "present." All that you can say about the present is that its definitely here and its definitely right now. We have never really dug down to the matter of why this apparent peace and prosperity. We seem to have some of it --- for example during much of the twentieth century like when I grew up after the Korean War, a thing that I hardly heard much about, and before as well as during the Vietnam Era. That one? We were actually quite upset about it and disavowed it. If these wars were not a part of my life then what was? There was a feeling of social inclusion. There was a sense that we had a system of democracy and we could work things out.
We had some idea that we were a democracy where cool heads reigned. At the same time, no one had really figured it out and, in retrospect, I feel that there may not have been that much understanding of the nature of the root benefits we had.
In fact, these conditions of peace and what we call by that soothing/paralyzing word "democracy" may have had more to do with a centuries-old tradition of law: that, and a trade system that used all of our energies to build a network of human social connection that itself mitigated against wars, although that alone was not enough and hardly stopped the phenomenon of political leaders who are mysteriously moved to direct shiny little abstractions called soldiers to blow others up. War, in short, never proved anything. Neither did trade. Still, that is where most of the prosperity actually came from by which in the context of the present paragraph I suppose I probably mean or should mean the practice of law and of trade. Or, I would mean law and trade, not knowing much about war. But who does? McCain? If these guys know something, they sure don't talk about it much. (Maybe if someone would read my blog, some of you war guys could comment on it.)
So, where then did the good life in the sixties come from? It's a really important question. I remember from my childhood a lot of nice liberal people. These would surely include schoolteachers. The schoolteachers teach, while the Wall Street brokers trade. Schoolteachers put things together, Wall Street guys broke them. The syntax works suspiciously well in my opinion.
I'm a good person. The problem is, my neighbor's not. What's he got to do with me? I think in the Bible someone asks: "am I my brother's keeper?"
Not in suburban capitalism. So we find a different truth here, different from the usual cant and spiel (I'm not sure how you say "spiel" in French, but I think Calvin was French or lived there awhile), and this different truth is that we are decentralized, yet held together somewhat, by trade as well as the law or the legal tradition, and with a few benevolent leaders maybe pitching in a little, and each going his or her own way this society is able to stumble along for awhile.
Well, sometime it has to end and we just might as well hear the N.Y. stock exchange bell of the last weeks as inevitable: neither the end of history nor its eternal continuance, but rather the end of the era when democracy could be fudged on, and armchairs relaxed into.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Third Blog

What is capitalism? Where did it come from?

What is democracy? Where does that come from? The west says that it has values: freedom, democracy, civilization, rationality...(Mahbubani; p, 132; Prof. Wu)

These things exist -- I experienced it, in the 1960's, growing up in mid-West U.S.A. -- but did the reign of democratic values come about because of planning -- which is to say conscious intent -- or did it come about in a way that was fundamentally mechanical?

This is something I would like you to think about.