What We Learn When We Learn Economics

Is a little economics a dangerous thing?

By Christopher Hayes

There's a case to be made that the single most intellectually and politically influential neighborhood in the United States is Chicago's Hyde Park. Integrated, affluent and quiet, the 1.6 square-mile enclave on the city's south side is like a tiny company town, where the company happens [RETURN TO ARTICLE]

  • Reader Comments

    I appreciate Mr. Hayes’s intellectually stimulating article here. There are
    other schools besides Chicago across the political spectrum.
    On the social democratic side you have Paul Samuelson, John Kenneth
    Galbraith, Robert Heilbronner and Robert Kuttner. Kuttner’s 1998
    book, Everything For Sale, is excellent in debunking the markets cure
    all ideology outlined in the above article.
    On the Right you have Murray N. Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism, promoted by the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, they are total libertarians
    and advocate the privatization of everything including police, defense,
    jails, courts, lighthouses, roads, schools, etc.  They are nothing if not
    consistent ! And they are a refreshing contrast to the hypocritical Know
    Nothing Big Gov Neocons who frequently post here and on restroom walls.
    There are the Ayn Randians who believe in army, courts, jails, police
    and nuking all Arabs, so-called limited gov types. No thanks !
    Actually everything including government and the market is limited.
    Then we the collectivist but anti-central planning folks at Z——-Michael
    Albert’s PARECON, totally nonmarket. Murray Bookchin’s eco-anarchism, leftist anarchism, municipal ownership of the means of
    production, I’m very sympatico here. Except I don’t want the city of Oakland running anything, here I’m a Rothbardite.

    Posted by blondemike on Nov 27, 2006 at 12:02 PM

    Though my MA was in Political Science from the UW-Madison, I took many economics courses. Non-were tradtional macro-economics which I learned “on the fly” by development economics, labor economics, and agricultural economics all of which is based on the principles of macro-economic principles. There is an excellent book which I’ve yet to finish call Debunking Economics by Steven Keene. He takes the basic rationality utilitarian ideas behind neoclassical economics and debunks them. There is no real connection between wage levels and labor productivity. This is true especially now during the ongoing jobless recovery. Supply doesn’t create its own demand. Says law is thus out the window. Of course as JM Keynes proved, lowered interest rates don’t lead to increased investment. For over half a century the government has had to step in to stimulate the economy and of course business cycles are not self-balancing. A deep slump can go on for years. The recovery from the 1979-1982 slump wasn’t stimulated by the Reagan tax cuts, which Paul Krugman proved experienced a rate of growth similar to that from 1969 to the 1979 recession, but was stimulated by (a) massive military spending and (b) massive foreign capital inflows attracted by high interest rates. This was indeed a Keynesian form of pump priming which has been the strategy ever since FDR’s New Deal back in the 1930s. Finally, employment threasholds change so that more and more growth can be achieved with similar levels of employment due to new and dynamic technological inputs. However, this in conjunction with globalization of manufacturing production has lead to great increases in worker productivity in the US without any corresponding growth in income levels of the median and below strata. Again this is also because job growth in an age of lean production keeps unemployment high enough to suppress wage levels that would normally rise. One also notices low levels of investment with increasing levels of liquidity and very low savings due to imports and deficits. Global capitalism is to complex for formulaic trascendental theories and is shown over and over again to be an Historic System whose “laws” change with time over many different epochs of history. In the 1970s, economists were confounded by the debunking of the Phillips Curve and the existence of stagflation. Economics keeps getting more complex and confusing.

    Posted by cabdriverinchicago on Nov 27, 2006 at 11:47 PM

    One of the most honest comments I have read by an economist was that the market is not moral.

    Posted by whattheheck on Nov 28, 2006 at 6:24 AM

    “WTO officials, mainstream economists and the New York Times Thomas Friedman ignored the fact that in much of the world neoclassical reforms had failed to produce the promised growth.”

    This is one of those un-refutable statements that tarnishes people for no reason.

    What was the “promised growth?”  What was the actual growth?  What were these “neoclassical reforms” which were actually implemented?

    Last time I looked, the only Latin America country rated as “Economically Free” by the Economic Freedom of the World Index was Chile, the country with the highest GDP per capita in Latin America, and had 6.1% GDP growth in 2004-2005.

    Recent research (Dollar and Kraay, 2001) studied the experiences of a group of developing countries that have significantly opened up to international trade during the past two decades.  Per capita GDP growth in the post-1980 globalizers accelerated from 2.9% a year in the 1970s to 3.5% in the 1980s and 5.0% in the 1990s. 

    The nonglobalizing developing countries did much worse than the globalizers, with the former’s annual growth rates falling from highs of 3.3% during the 1970s to only 1.4% during the 1990s.

    [David Dollar and Aart Kraay, 2001, “Trade, Growth, and Poverty,” World Bank Policy Research Department Working Paper No. 2615]

    In China and India, neoclassical market reforms have lead to growth rates of near 10% and bringing over 100 million people out of absolute poverty.

    Posted by mreconotarian on Nov 28, 2006 at 9:22 AM

    One economist who may be getting more attention in Europe than in the U.S.—not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that—is Friedrich List.  Generally in this country (based on having just skimmed some on-line bios) he seems to be branded as a “nationalist” economist, implying perhaps that he a proto-Communist, or even a proto-fascist.  I hjave not taken the time to read a copy of his two majhor works _The_Natural_System_of_Political_Economy_ and _The_National_System_of_Political_Economy_, so I can’t really comment directly.

    James Fallows had an article published in the _Atlantic_Monthly in 1993, in which he “discovers” Friedrich List (I remember the title as “How the World Works”), so this might be a good intro also.

    Ironically, List seems to have taken much of his inspiration from how the American economy was being “run” in the early 1800s—a time that many modern economists (or perhaps only neocons posing as economists) consider the free-market Golden Age.

    Posted by tallen387 on Nov 28, 2006 at 9:52 AM

    Thanks, Chicago Cab Driver and WTH, for the references. I will definitely look them up. Just had a brief exchange on the web with George Reisman, author of the atlas-sized 1,000 page treatise,
    Capitalism. He’s a pure marketeer fanatic a la Ayn Rand and the
    Austrian School of Mises and Rothbard. He had some nonsense
    on his website about how globalization will really work in the long
    run (as Keynes noted we’ll all be dead then) and he was furious with critics on the Right like Buchanan & Paul Craig Roberts. Buchanan actually did a book critiquing unfettered free trade a while back, I think it is called The Great Betrayal, and he showed how US infant industry developed because of tariffs and not that free trade advice we so
    glibly champion to developing countries via the IMF & World Bank, WTO,
    etc. You don’t have to subscribe to Buchanan’s many other highly noxious views to appreciate this work. Up until Wilson the tariff was
    the main source of Federal revenue. Buchanan is big on Frederick
    List, referenced by Tallen above. I may be slightly misspelling List’s
    first name, it’s a German version of Frederick.
    MREC has some very selective stats cited above, over 40% of Chile
    has sunk into deep poverty due to neoliberalism and the government
    is forced to reverse the privatization of social security because it has
    been such a fiasco. While there are a couple hundred million in India
    and China that have benefitted so far, there are literally TWO BILLION
    in both countries who are in worse poverty than ever.
    The 10% growth rate is not sustainable in either country and is wrecking havoc with the environmental, it is now one of the principal
    causes of global warming as anyone with a working brain could have
    predicted.
    WTH, the pure market believers also treat their theory as a science.
    They have an uncontrollable arrogance that reminds me of the Marxists
    and former believers in central planning 40 years ago. Everything about
    their system is perfect ! It’s only government intervention that causes the
    problems ! Well I wonder WHY capitalism has produced such demand
    for intervention.
    Tom Frank had a devastating review of one of Thomas Friedman’s crazed tomes celebrating the market a few years back in Harper’s.
    Worh looking up.

    Posted by blondemike on Nov 28, 2006 at 10:30 AM

    Just legally downloaded Dean Baker’s The Conservative Nanny State
    published by the Center For Economic and Policy Research in DC,
    Thom Hartman recommended it on his website, only 119 pages.
    Looks worthwhile.

    Posted by blondemike on Nov 28, 2006 at 12:22 PM

    Interesting article especially last paragraph. I do agree that a little economics especially intro to Macro and Micro doesn’t give you the best understanding of this very complex field. Only with further study can the complexities of the fields be revealed especially the debunking of all the assumptions.  Moreover the intro to macro and micro seems to take Labor and Nature/Land for granted which has gotten us in a lot of trouble. A course in Ecological Economics (such as Herman Daly’s class at UMD) can really make you look at economics with totally different lenses. I highly recommend the class and his writings.

    Posted by rnjidavis on Nov 28, 2006 at 12:28 PM

    Chicago Cab Driver, just ordered Debunking Economics by Steven Keen (correct spelling) looks very interesting. Also just downloaded
    a 114 page paper he did on Marx from his debunkingeconomics site.
    Appreciate your bringing him to our attention.

    Posted by blondemike on Nov 28, 2006 at 1:57 PM

    blondemike,

    Posted by whattheheck on Nov 29, 2006 at 7:15 AM

    blondemike,

    It seems to be a human tendency to try to make an example of something into a doctrine or formula. Religions, societies, political parties

    Posted by whattheheck on Nov 29, 2006 at 7:56 AM

    WTH, that’s quite a story about the CEO wondering about the jobs, made me laugh. But the other story about how they make large contributions gives me thought.

    I’ve heard this before and have always wondered that in a democracy where really were the voters or citizens in making decisions about where to make those contributions? Further, where were the workers in those companies as to their choice of contributions? After all, couldn’t they have been paid more thus reducing the contributions of the CEO/top execs but increasing the contributions of the mass of workers? It comes down to what I find most odd about corporations in America, they are basically undemocratic.

    Sure, there is the argument that stockholders are the democracy within a corporation, but most stockholders never vote at shareholder meetings much less even show up. The largest shareholders wield whatever power among stockholders. As well, most stockholders really have stock temporarily in 401Ks or IRAs where the stock is really managed by the stock fund managers.

    In contrast, if our voting system worked that way, people would be buying and selling votes, trying to accumulate the most in order to control elections.

    Certainly in a corporation the mass workers have no vote, no say in who runs the company or what business strategy to pursue. Even a corporation with a union given a smidgen of power, there is no thought to actually having a in-corporation election of the CEO or president or in having a say in how much to pay them. 

    I see corporations as more similar to Soviet style communism than democracy.  You have your premier (the CEO) and your politburo (board of directors) that usually just give a blank check to that CEO unless once in awhile driven to overthrow the CEO in a coup (fired) and install a different premier. Meanwhile the vast majority of the workers in the corporation (regular communist party members) have nothing to say about those in charge and if they do say anything too loudly (rock the boat) they will be laidoff/fired (ousted from the party). The workers have to deal with far more rules and regulations (communist red tape) while the bigwigs luxuriate with the stock options, the free healthcare, the huge bonuses, and parachute pensions (the Cuban cigars, top brand vodka and Russian furs).

    Where I work, we now have video cameras watching us (ostensibly for our safety) and every time I glance at one I wonder who’s watching the top execs? Others have their computer keystrokes monitored as well as any phone work (for quality is the excuse) and one wonders if those at the top suffer such spying. It all sounds like what communist Russia would be like in the 21st century if they hadn’t collapsed. Although it sounds like Putin has maintained a certain element of repression and secret monitoring of those below him.

    Now I’m not saying corporations are replicas of the old Soviet government, but it’s hard for me not to see an eerie similarity in their structure. And it bothers me that in a democracy our most powerful business institution the corporation is so undemocratic…And don’t even get me started about mission statements and corporate sloganeering (communist propaganda).

    Posted by Jon B on Nov 30, 2006 at 10:02 AM

    Jon B,

    Posted by whattheheck on Nov 30, 2006 at 1:12 PM

    Fascinating article.

    I enjoyed the transition between the first half , when the students were enjoying the explanation of the ‘well-oiled machine’ , understanding the WSJ at last, and later on when Allan Sanderson went into his Adam Smith ( “almost like—- Propaganda” ) spiel on Free Trade, and they revolted.

    I’m in regular contact with a young man beginning economics, and seeing him going through this learning phase. All Classical stuff so far !

    Adam Smith wrote in the mid 19th Century, so no shame on him for not forseeing the recent developments in the derivatives markets, and much else. He did warn very seriously against allowing the capitalists to make the laws, as they would SURELY do that to their own advantage.

    Commonsense.

    If I understand blondemike correctly, he’s sympathetic to the new ideas, but horrified at the wastefulness specifically in the City of Oakland. I guess all of us are amazed at the wastefulness of so much of our ‘government’, local and central, but I for one do NOT see the answer as universal privatisation. We can be cleverer than that ?
    ( rereading, I see mike and I agree competely on india, etc .....the facts are there in the peasant farmers’ suicide rates. )
    And YES ! I also see a great ideological similarity between the True Believers, whether oldfashioned mostly-dead Marxists or the predominate New Model ‘laissez- faire’ variety.

    Cabbie points out that the old relationship between productivity and wages has disappeared. The reason for this is simple enough. Capital has no boundaries, and between getting 10% in france and 20% in China, it moves. No matter that the capital in question may well be the pension fund of the frog, or american, worker/salaryman. No matter that much investment there actually gets ‘robbed’. The perps get their megasalaries and move on…

    Heck—if becoming rich were a measure of intellect, you would be, as would many of our non-rich net-friends !

    Like ‘intelligence’,  intellect gets muddled up with other variables in our lives, and their are different varieties of both.

    In a ‘closed’ economy i’m sure that tax-cuts for the rich ‘could sometimes ’ be useful…............. but see above for movements of capital.

    mjidavis——Herman Daly is a good guy .  Factories polluting downstream can be ‘profitable’, but Society often pays far more in the end—- so let us get more clever ?

    Gabriel Kolko has a look at economics, the financial derivatives market,  and geo-strategy, 


    Back to the article . Seems to me the author saw this as an exercise in indoctrination ?

    Posted by frog on Nov 30, 2006 at 6:49 PM

    Hi Frog,

    In no way did I mean to imply that only intellect is the only way to riches or a guaranty of wealth. (It

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 1, 2006 at 8:15 AM

    WhatTH..

    I was only comparing the Soviet political system with corporations which are not private companies. Private companies could be compared to dictatorships.

    I’ve worked for all types. My first, a private family owned company which I liked but unfortunately didn’t pay top dollar, but it was more fun to work for. I’ve worked for several private companies and for several corporations. One of those private companies was bought up by a corporation and you could just feel the tension grow incrementally month by month over the few years after I was there past that buy-out.

    Most private companies are usually owned by a person who has a sense of pride for what he (most often he) has made (and that’s another key, building a company from nothing). As well most owners care about the workers on individual levels. They may not be able to pay the best rates but try other methods to attract employees. Corporations on the other hand rarely are even headquartered where most of their factories or stores are located and think of pay and benefits as nothing more than an auction against the other players in the same business, bidding just a touch higher than the other and that’s only when employment levels are high. When unemployment is high then the bidding slides downward.

    But even so, ownerships are dictatorships, and corporations are Soviet structured. Now that doesn’t mean all dictators are evil and mean and that some corporations try not to be like the Soviets. But the fact remains that the vast quantity of American economic institutions are not democratic in a country that is supposed to be democracy (I have problems with American democracy, but that’s a huge other story). I consider that sort of paradoxical. There are democratic economic institutions here, they are called co-opts. I’ve never worked for one, mostly because they are hard to find. I’ve heard that workers in co-opts are fairly happy with them, with the ability to share in all the decisions, excepting personality types who want to run everything and don’t want to cede to a group decision.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 1, 2006 at 9:36 AM

    WTH, I’ve been out the last couple of days so just reading your recent comments now. They seem reasonable on the surface. i’ll get back to you here if I have anything to add.

    Posted by blondemike on Dec 1, 2006 at 10:57 AM

    Jon B,

    My only personal experience was for three of small privately owned companies

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 1, 2006 at 2:13 PM

    Frog,

    I read the Kolko article and found it to be insightful. His assessments of both the global economic woes and the Iraq situation are well thought out and well presented.

    Near the end are four words of wisdom which I would like to hear from our

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 3, 2006 at 10:12 AM

    Economics is about scarcity, choice—and muscle—which for labor means unions.  Unions are much more critical to labor’s wellbeing than any government intervention in free markets—which intervention wont take place anyway in a mostly unionless economy like the USA’s has become.  You could almost say that unions are the market (as in libertarian) answer to economic inequality—as far as that goes which is about half way.

    In 50 years the Chinese will be living as well as Americans today—to be more precise Chinese output per person will match America’s today.  If the Chinese don’t figure out the central role of unions in economic democracy they may end up living as badly as American workers do today.

    German style, mandatory sector-wide labor agreements are the only fool proof unionizing model that I know of.

    Denis Drew
    former cab driver from Chicago :-)
    ddrew2u@sbcglobal.net

    Posted by ddrew2u on Dec 3, 2006 at 2:12 PM

    ———————-
    Frog,

    I went to amazon.com to read reviews of Kolko

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 4, 2006 at 7:26 AM

    Hi Heck an Cabby

    Losing posts at mom, this to check….

    EDIT ....at last.

    What Joe Stiglitz has called the “ideological simplistic view on Free Trade” is promulgated particularly in intro economics, which is what most of the populace gets, if anything .  Its what the MSM flogs 24/7, too.

    The WSJ article from heck is pure cloudcuckoo land.

    “as workers lose jobs in one sector ...they move on to better jobs and higher pay “...

    “growing buffers against risk .............”

    Did a longer post but lost. lESSON LEARNED;

    Posted by frog on Dec 7, 2006 at 7:52 AM

    wth…

    From your Dec. 3 post you wrote..“Kolko uses the phrase,

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 7, 2006 at 8:50 AM

    JON B
    HERE’S A NICE ONE ON “”“PROTECTIONISM “”“.

      tongue very near cheek…...........

    Every time I hear some well-heeled safe-jobbed hypocrite lecturing us on “competitiveness”, I wanna reach for Heck’s .45 .

    Posted by frog on Dec 7, 2006 at 9:34 AM

    blondemike claims that Chile has a 40% poverty rate.

    The truth is that Chile has the lowest poverty rate in Latin America, 18.7%, compared with Bolivia which has 64% poverty rate.

    http://www.tcgnews.com/santiagotimes/index.php?nav=story&story_id=12402&topic_id=1

    Posted by mreconotarian on Dec 7, 2006 at 10:35 AM

    Total BS from your usual lying rightwing sources. UN and other more
    objective agencies give AT LEAST 40% below the poverty level in Chile
    since the “free market” reforms.
    WSJ editorial page bears no relation to the facts.

    Posted by blondemike on Dec 7, 2006 at 5:37 PM

    blondemike claims: “UN and other more
    objective agencies give AT LEAST 40% below the poverty level in Chile”

    The UN Human Development Report 2004 says that the national poverty level in Chile from 1990-2003 was 17%.  Compare with Peru (49%) or Bolivia (62.7%).  Mexico’s national poverty level is less (10.1%) but you’ll see why.

    Each country has different national poverty lines defined by their governments, so let’s compare rates of poverty on a fixed measure, the percent of people living on under $2 per day from 1990-2003.  In Chile, the rate is 9.6%.  Compare with Peru (37.7%), Bolivia (34.3%), or Mexico (26.3%).

    Alternatively, one could look at the UN-defined Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) rate, which has Chile at 3.7%, Peru at 12%, Bolivia at 13.9%, Mexico at 8.4%.

    The report goes on to call Chile an example “of a country that has converted high growth into rapid human development.”

    Here is the link…
    http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2005/

    Posted by mreconotarian on Dec 7, 2006 at 10:52 PM

    Frog…

    I Read the “tongue in cheek” link. I had just had to shake my head at this go around I deciphered. From the article…

    —-Suppose that our trade agreements over the last quarter century had been designed to facilitate free trade among highly paid professionals. Specifically, these agreements would be about setting clear and transparent education and training standards that would allow bright kids in Mexico, China, and elsewhere to study to become doctors, lawyers, accountants, and ECONOMISTS in the United States.—-

    So we bring kids from Mexico, China, etc. here to study economics, which brings us to the original article “What We Learn When We Learn Economics” that we’ve been posting about which shows the Chicago School of Economics agenda. So are we to teach these bright foreign kids Chicago style economics to take back to their countries?

    Still shaking my head and wondering if my tongue is in my cheek.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 8, 2006 at 8:28 AM

    The UN records also show 40% poverty just in Santiago, the capital of
    Chile. In the countryside it’s 60% or higher. Contrary to your figures
    about 18% in Chile are doing quite well but many more are not.
    In The Financial Times of London, 12-5-6 there is a piece by Chris Giles, the Economics Editor, that shows 2% of the planet holds 50%
    of the world’s assets. Peddle your trickle down nonsense elsewhere.

    Posted by blondemike on Dec 8, 2006 at 9:48 AM

    Jon B, Frog,

    Since no country

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 8, 2006 at 1:52 PM

    wth…

    Couldn’t agree with you more. You pointed this out…“if job quality nationwide is comparable to those around my area

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 9, 2006 at 4:12 AM

    Jon B,

    I am familiar with most of what you mentioned

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 9, 2006 at 10:22 AM

    WTH,,,

    Again, I couldn’t agree with you more. Another aspect of the loss of manufacturing is the scrapping of long term experienced important niche workers. We are moving to a point where if somehow manufacturing trends are reversed and it expands again we will lack the experience to do it well again for awhile. It’s different than back in the 1940’s when we geared up for WWII, the processes are much more complicated.

    Kevin Phillips wrote a book back in the 1990s called “Wealth and Democracy.” Mostly it was about the history of the United States and the divide between elite money and the rest of us. But in the later chapters, he discussed how the several “empires” before us had shifted manufacturing or craft trades out of the country prior to their dip as a country in economic dominance. Each country became the financial centers rather than the building countries. Going back Great Britain, The Netherlands and Spain all went through this shift.

    And each country was supplanted by the next industrial nation as top empire. The United States for example surpassed Great Britain in manufacturing, some of it exported from England. The Netherlands allowed the craft trade to move to England, same as Spain to The Netherlands. Thus we see why this fear of China to supplant us as the economic dominant nation.

    I suppose that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. With manufacturing we do get pollution and our country could use a breath of fresh air. And I wouldn’t mind if we weren’t top banana anymore. The bad thing is that dying empires tend to want to hold that title long past the time they have already fallen back, making bad decisions based on their old way of thinking. I can’t help but think that W. Bush is actually speeding up the process of our regression, making bad foreign policy decisions and wasting money at probably an unprecedented rate.

    Now it could be said that Philips’ observation is theory, that other factors really led to the falling from top empire. He also pointed out the moneyed elite widening span with the lower classes in those other countries. But wars could also be part of the equation, wars cost money and countries can spend their way to their fall. But it does seem that those comparisons that he made from the past to our nation are deja vu all over again.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 11, 2006 at 8:10 AM

    JonB

    I posted the article, as a ‘spoof’, and thought I should mention the ‘tongue in cheek   bit . Seems it was needed, not 100% sure you got the GOAK !

    If EVER, anyone thought wars were a good way way of sorting out international problems, WELL send the Oldies into the front line, because they made the decision.

    Imagining different futures are what we are all about. The south american kids who ‘learned ” Economics in the USA, have choices to make. As do we all..

    Here in frogland, the same story. I have a friend with a very small precision engineering shop ,  working for the auto-industry. Recent news about 20000 (pretty local ) redundancies in that sector , I do not yet know if he will have to close his small factory.

    My small example from my local friend is the same disease affecting my american friends.

    Posted by frog on Dec 11, 2006 at 12:28 PM

    Last week, the UN’s Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC that he agreed with Iraqis who claim life in Iraq is worse than it was when Saddam was in power saying, ” . . . their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying ‘am I going to see my child again?’”

    Libertarian columnist Ilana Mercer in her article, “At least Saddam kept order,” has this to say, “To be fair, Saddam’s last major massacre was in 1991, during which only 3,000 Shiites were murdered,” adding, “That’s less than the monthly quota under ‘democracy.’”


    So much for the geo-politicians and their New World Order.

    I have made the same point around the net for a coupla years, and now everybody admits it.  Life might have been horrible, not ideal, !,  under Saddam, but it was a fuckin sight better than now.

    BUSHONOMICS is now tring its best to make sure that Iraqi OIL stays under American influence.

    Watch that space ................................................................

    Posted by frog on Dec 11, 2006 at 12:40 PM

    Jon B, Frog,

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 11, 2006 at 1:19 PM

    Heck, John B, we are in that same boat.

    Would-be factory workers in Mexico who lost their last job, to a guy somewhere else in Mexico who would work for less than him,  peasant-farmers in India enthralled to the sellers of GMO seeds and the necessary fertilisers, my neighbour french farmers trapped on the same merrygoround of producing yet more more milk to be exported , free, to Africa, or somewhere.  With subsidies.

    The so-called “intellectual arguments” supporting this crap are BOGUS.

    Long ago , my UK sarge and Heck’s told us ” Bullshit Baffles Brains”.

    Sorree ! Not true.

    There are some very simple things that are evident to anyone, that   the right to clean water is obvious.

    Posted by frog on Dec 11, 2006 at 2:21 PM

    And now today, most of French Water is owned by the Multinationals.

    Posted by frog on Dec 11, 2006 at 2:27 PM

    Frog,

    I hope your friend

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 12, 2006 at 1:48 PM

    From wth…“So far Byron Dorgan of South Dakota is the only one in Washington who seems to understand the seriousness of the situation. My generation may be the last to have had it better than earlier ones.”

    This last election brought in a few more that understand the problems. New senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bernie Sanders, VT are two. If you read the Wall Street Journal op-ed (and has been seen on the internet elsewhere) by the new Virginia senator Jim Webb’s scathing attack on the elite system in business, you have to say he probably understands. Jon Tester of Montana is probably a populist but more interested in farming issues.

    Here’s Webb’s op-ed

    http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/112106J.shtml

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 13, 2006 at 5:36 AM

    Jon B,

    Yes, you

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 13, 2006 at 7:57 AM

    JonB

    I’ve been following those same guys from this side of the pond, and Dorgan.  ralph nader describes some similar positive activity in this piece.

    Between us we’ve seen around us the catastrophic effects in human and societal costs of the so-called Blabla ““free”” movement of capital and trade.

    Hundreds of anecdotes may add up to just one big unprovable anecdote !

    But .............I’m convinced that we have exchanged a moderately inefficient but socially stable world for something far worse. The eternal quest for higher productivity from hyper-mobile Capital is the cause.

    Maybe my marxist friend cabby/denis will return.

    In the meanwhile, we gotta define our Objective, identify the enemy as it were, and get organised.

    If we don’t some sort of breakdown in society is on the horizon. It may be slow and unpleasant, or fast as in a Crash, I dunno.

    Heck—on Iraq I have no magic solution. Looks like the time is past for imposing the rule of law , without 300,000 troops, and nobody’s going to provide those;

    For the complexities of invading and trying to transform a tribal society, check out Rory Stewart. Occupational Hazards—my time governing in Iraq.

    ” but last week you were shooting at me ..... yes yes Rory Said… but nothing personal “”

    Posted by frog on Dec 13, 2006 at 12:59 PM

    Frog, wth..

    Sherrod Brown moved from the House to the Senate. He’s so fair trade, he even attended as a protester at the Seattle WTO meeting back in 1999. You know the one with all the “rioting,” which caused the police chief to resign. The police chief is now promoting decriminalization of drugs.

    Ralph Nader has long been a champion of the working class. He continues that work. Failing at three presidential races, he attempted to bring those issues to the country and probably opened at least a few eyes. Unfortunately he is not an elected official, so can’t be named as the others we have named.

    Looking at the Senate there is certainly a group that might be referred to as “the economic populists.” The aforementioned Webb, Brown, Tester, Saunders, Dorgan and add in Kent Conrad (ND), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Dick Durbin (IL) and possibly newcomers Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) love that last name, a White House in the Senate, Bob Casey (PA) and Claire McCaskill (MO). All the newcomers used the economy disconnect for the working class as a campaign issue.

    And now that the House is Democrat, we might see a change in the type of free trade agreements. CAFTA passed by two votes in the Republican House. That vote reflected some Republicans voting against it as well as nearly all Democrats, a far cry from NAFTA back in the Clinton years. I wouldn’t be surprised if CAFTA is revisited. I’m not a Democrat (independent but lean Green Party but I mostly vote as a realist in a two party system), but I can tell you I rejoiced at the breaking of the Republican lock in Washington.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 14, 2006 at 8:25 AM

    WTH, where are you living ? What planet ? We CAUSED the chaos, we
    cannot cure it, rule of law ????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The Military Commissions Act of 2006 repeals the Constitution, it’s
    one of many things, Jose Padilla, Patriot Act, Signing Reservations,
    illegal wiretapping that demonstrates Bush doesn’t respect the rule
    of law here. You show yourself to be a John McCain type of rightist
    extremist. I’m very disappointed.

    Posted by blondemike on Dec 14, 2006 at 11:29 AM

    Blondmike,

    ibid (What we leave Behnd)

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:27 AM

    Omigod ! If it’s what we left behind in Vietnam we are to be deeply ashamed.

    Posted by blondemike on Dec 15, 2006 at 1:10 PM

    Jon B
    ““revisiting “”” cafta nafta wto imf wb, EEC,  e t c…

    YUP, YOU BET,

    lotsa revisiting to be done, and much of it comes back to those simple ideas in Econ 101 which were goin to solve all problems, eventually.

    Protectionism is a dirty word . Weel to hell with it, I’m goin to start talking a little dirty in the runup to our presidentials .

    PS Norm Stamper of LEAP ( law enforcement against prohibition) did an article here a while back. Most interesting example of fact that people can learn, change .

    Posted by frog on Dec 15, 2006 at 2:47 PM

    Frog,

    In our fair city we have still a net loss of 15,000 manufacturing jobs even though there has been much ballyhoo about our recent

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 16, 2006 at 8:01 AM

    Heck,

    I must confess I do not master all the deets of NAFTA , but I have doubts about anything being too late to change.

    If that were true, nothing would ever get changed ?

    The russkis seem to have a clearer view of this, as Putin kicks out Shell from its majority participation in Sakhalin.  Any trade agreement which turns out not to be in the national interest depends in the end on ‘Power’.

    The South American dictators ‘disappeared’ and tortured their opponents and many complete innocents too. They were fully supported by the US in that. Operation Condor. Kissinger said they voted the ‘wrong way’ in Chile, so we had 911 1973..

    Now we are seeing Latin American countries denouncing “contracts” and getting increased percentages accruing to them.

    The obvious answer is that some contracts are robbery, and so outright that everyone agrees on it . So it gets redrawn , and business continues.

    Getting back to “Power”, the north american elites have sold out their own people , for their own enrichment, because they do not give a damn about their own people. Just as previously colonised or semi-colonised elites around the world did , and DO, for THEIR own people.

    So north america, france and europe generally, and other prosperous places like Oz/NZ,  have a lot in common with the poorer parts of this world. Far more than the vast majority of their rich peoples are yet ready to admit .

    The “economic arguments ” sold to us bring me back to where we began. This article we are supposed to be discussing !

    Entities such as the World Bank and IMF originated from WW2. American controlled, with noble aims none of which have been fulfilled. . The WTO is rather a mystery organisation for me, very biased against the poor countries for sure, so i wonder for fucksake why any more would want to join.

    And I have to ask myself WHY they stay inside .

    Slowly, argentina and others are paying off their IMF debt and getting out. Quite right.

    An ideology is never more powerful than when governing people accept it as the whole truth, and guide their countries down its road.

    This particular ideology has obviously attracted the Power Elite (C Wright Mills !) and intellectual fellow-travellers.

    Your frog’s analysis of this is that a mishmash of intellectual theorising has coincided Oh so neatly with the interests of a tiny minority who are taking us all to the cle

    Posted by frog on Dec 17, 2006 at 4:27 PM

    Cleaners !

    Posted by frog on Dec 17, 2006 at 4:31 PM

    Here in Europe the “Free Market Theorisers” have mostly taken over the European Commission. Like the GOP with Bush in Congress.

    Let the Polluters regulate Pollution . Great !

    Let the Arms Manufacturers and AIPAC decide International policy. Really great !

    Fortunately, all is not bad, as different parts of europe disagree—GMO’s are illegal here under European Law, but france has not yet passed it into french law .

    SO, france has to pay , might have to pay eventually, 360000Euros a day for not passing those laws, while at the same time legally attacking friends of mine for destroying illegal plantings of GMO crops !

    Our local senator has been working hand in glove with monsanto since the beef Hormone business 20yrs ago. Same man working for the GMO’s, same ‘employer’. .

    I can forsee some nasty but true flyposting in next year’s elections.

    Posted by frog on Dec 17, 2006 at 4:59 PM

    Frog,

    I believe it is too late to change back to what we had before NAFTA and any attempt to reverse will take far longer than it did to get where we are now. (I am using NAFTA as a proxy since it was our first official participation in globalization.)

    My opinion revolves around what I have witnessed, what I have read and what people I know in various parts of the U.S. have related to me from their locations. While my experience is linked to manufacturing many others have seen similar effects in a wide range of occupations.

    The local and area companies I worked with for forty plus years were developed over a long time. Several were here more than a century. I realize this is relatively short by European standards, but these companies were largely the products of first generation European immigrants who had been poor, survived the 1929 depression and were dedicated to the well being of their employees, took pride in the quality of their products and were extremely patriotic concerning their adopted country. They were not opposed to making money, but it was NOT the driving force it is today.

    Few of these traits characterize today

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 18, 2006 at 10:49 AM

    An example of the ups and downs of regulations. Back in 1929 and the subsequent Wall Street crash it was found that a cause of the crash was that at that time banks and stock market firms were one and the same. They had a huge advantage over the investors they had as customers, that advantage was inside information. When the market troubles appeared the customers were screwed as the banks tried to save themselves using inside information as their weapon or protection. The result was a regulation called the Glass-Steagal Act that separated stock firms from banks in the mid 1930s.

    That lasted until late 1990s when it was finally repealed during the Clinton Administration and a Republican Congress. We quickly saw the mergers of banks and stock firms and not too long later a repeat of the 1920s conditions. Less than a decade after the repeal the same problems evolved, the use of inside information to screw the customers, stock holders. The details of course are worthy of books, but when the market began it’s decline in 2002, the many bad apples on Wall Street became exposed. The result, regulations (Sarbannes/Oxley Bill) to once again separate banks and stock firms.

    And today, once again we hear the grumblings about regulations within the Sarbannes/Oxley Bill. Every reg within that bill was the result of abusing the system of the rich at the expense of the rest of society who are those outside the inside information. This is a classic example of free marketers failing to prove that deregulation works but claiming otherwise because most Americans have no knowledge of this history. Someday, banks and stock firms will probably be allowed to merge once again, when free marketers have let society’s forgetfulness of history evolve. It took about 60 years for the Glass-Steagal Act to be fully repealed, I’m betting it won’t be nearly that long when Sarbannes/Oxley finds its own death.

    Why, because the elite power centers wield so much power toward government. This is also the heart of the anti-government rhetoric we hear from Republicans. The less government the less the inclination to protect the masses, or for the centers of money, the outsiders. But the cause will be really the outsiders themselves, because we (I’m certainly an outsider) will have forgotten this case in history because time makes forgetting easier. Our remembering and vigilance upon our government over time is the only answer to keeping this particular regulation in place.

    For another interesting case try googling Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) and the government bailout that essentially saved the stock market and possible prevented a world-wide depression if the so-called free market had proceeded without a bailout.

    The Glass-Steagal Act is only one case of so many that free marketers are happy for the masses to be ignorant. To the free marketers on Wall Street the late 1990s was a joy, they raped the outsiders and wouldn’t mind another round of that if they could deregulate once again.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 19, 2006 at 12:19 PM

    Jon B

    Yes. They’re working hard against Sarbanes-Oxley, because cos are exiting to the London Stock Exchange which is Oh so lightly and inefficiently regulated.

    That is competition, competition in a race for lower standards, less protection for the People. Welfare for corporations.

    See Fast Food Nation for that applied to the food industry, the book 100 times better than the film…

    heck, nice one here from Scott Ritter on the usefulness of writing letters to your Representatives in Congress !

    Posted by frog on Dec 20, 2006 at 3:10 AM

    Yup, I read Fast Food Nation, must have been about six years ago. It was enough to make me give up meat for awhile, it was so sickening.

    Lately in America we’ve had several e-coli outbreaks, but all having to do with greens. Lettuce, spinach, green onions, makes one wonder what the hell to eat. Where I work twice in the last few months they’ve had to toss produce, but the delay in finding out about the outbreak means that if we had affected produce it would have already been too late for our customers. We were probably tossing out good produce, the bad stuff, if we had any, would have been used. The problem is that it isn’t until people get sick that action is being taken. I’m sure testing stops much of e-coli affected produce, but quite apparently that testing isn’t catching it all.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 20, 2006 at 6:42 AM

    Hi jon;

    Testing meat regularly I understand, gotta keep them up to standard.

    Remember from the book how happy the workers were to produce meat for Old Europe, the higher vet standards meant the management had to slow the lines ?

    Veges not so easy I expect.  Why should the slaves wash their hands, after all.

    Heck

    The Great Risk Shift

    tell when you get DSL plentya fun videos out there. And some less fun, but good.

    PS see I’m coming from deutschland again, when are they goin to realise I’m not a terrist ?
    Well, to make them happy, google ‘Operation Gladio’ , BBC videos site on request.

    Posted by frog on Dec 20, 2006 at 2:11 PM

    Jon B & Frog,

    I don

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 20, 2006 at 2:59 PM

    Heck - confess I ain’t deeply studied, or to be honest , studied at all ! , SOX, but when the really big boys complain about it, it can’t be bad .

    So I can’t answer your enron question, .............yet.

    Seatbelts we agree make sense. It saves society cash on repairing unnecessarily injured to do some enforcement, BUT, I got caught within the speedlimit last month, just before putting on my belt leaving town,  and it cost me a quarter of my driving licence (4 points out of twelve) and 90E——$120.

    That’s going too far—it hits the poor most.

    We have a weird society, do we not, when we allow millions to have inadequate healthcare and then legislate nitpicking ‘safety’ measures.

    Here in Europe some actually get onto drugs inside prison—equally weird.

    My joke about deutschland was that often on this site my posts come from there. The paranoid reaction would be that since I’m obviously a subversive character, my posts are being monitored.

    Its ancient history now, nearly 20yrs, but a local friend was once arrested on semi-terrorism charges, helicopter overhead and all. Heavily-armed Men in black being very serious, you’ve seen similar on the TV ? The local cop accompanying them was in tears, his kid was in the same class as hers. So was mine. She’d actually taken my son to the dentist the day before, proud he was so brave.

    She was a lefty who’d skirted bad company , but we all knew she’d have gone along for an interview without the goddam helicopter . 3000people signed a petition to President Mitterand, many of them local, and peasant farmers and country folk generally are not leftwing radicals.or terrists !

    A few days later my phone made strange noises, clicks, when I picked it up . So I cussed a little, and it eventually went away.

    A while ago I reckoned you would be a good candidate for internment along with Wiley, with Nat and Scorp as guards, in one of those Halliburton FEMA camps.

    I was only half joking.

    for your records david.law@wanadoo.fr

    Posted by frog on Dec 20, 2006 at 5:48 PM

    Yeah, I doubt Sarbannes-Oxley will cure all ills in the corporate world. I just wanted to point out the distinct effect of one law that made sense, then was forgotten why it made sense, abolished, then rediscovered why it made sense, to be once again abolished, the separation of banks and stock firms.

    One reason that it came about was to hopefully give the public a renewed confidence in the stock market after the great crash. Unfortunately, the depression followed thereby causing the public not to really have the ability to invest. The market went decades with little activity from the general public. Even many years after WWII the market was still thought of as a place to avoid.

    You can see that Sarbannes was put forth for the very same reason, to give people confidence in the market. They had to take action quickly, in order to show that Wall Street could be trusted again. Yet, the two stories are from different ages. With so many people depending on retirement from 401K plans or IRAs, the stock market has a built-in back-up to any foul-ups. Many people have no idea of what goes on in their 401Ks, don’t even pay attention to what their investment holds. When the market was sinking in 2002, I’m betting plenty of people just crossed their fingers and hoped their 401K would hold on.

    I think plenty of those laws, like helmets, etc. are really about trying to avoid litigation. In the old days, if you fell off your bike without a helmet, that was that. These days a parent, after some thought, starts wondering if there is a way to sue somebody. A crack in the sidewalk caused the bike accident? Dollar signs!

    In some states, motorcyclists have regained the right to not wear a helmet. This sort of bothers me. It’s nuts to ride in todays traffic without one considering the lousy drivers out there. Without a helmet, the lawsuit gets bigger if the rider gets their brains scrambled on the cement. I suppose, this is really about insurance companies, but we all in the end pay the increased rates.

    Considering this national story of the Mt. Hood missing climbers (one found dead), I wonder how long before mountain climbing becomes illegal.

    My libertarian portion of my brain tells me that if someone does something to only themselves its OK by me, but when a person endangers others, wrong. But that applies to only adults, kids don’t have enough knowledge or experience to decide what really is harmful to just themselves or that something might affect others.

    Back to Mt. Hood, these type of stories only make me shrug my shoulders. I’m not really into all the drama, because those climbers chose their drama. In this case, I’m interested simply because I’ve been to Mt. Hood, it’s a beautiful place. But the climbers had planned this long in advance and I think tried to make a quick climb because they knew of the approaching weather rather than cancel their long planned out adventure. They made the wrong choice and now great expense has been enacted on their behalf. I suppose the effort had to be made, but one wonders why we keep doing these searches on behalf of thrill seekers. They might even have reasoned that if something happened it would be their fault, yet parts of society doesn’t see it that way and tries to save them. An interesting individual vs society debate.

    Posted by Jon B on Dec 21, 2006 at 7:49 AM

    Jon B

    like the bit about the “libertarian” part of your brain, know what you mean .

    Maybe Take theTEST at politicalcompass ?

    Thursday night is—- down to the best country pub in normandy (maybe the world…) , pick up bread and goatcheese from local farming friends, , and to talk to real people ,.. not that my netfriends are un-real…., often about the same things we discuss here.

    The globalisin steamroller in europe now means postal services gonna be privatised, so long queues at the PO for christmas card stamps, they’re cutting staff. and service.

    politics here warming up for next years presidentilal election, and parliament. .

    If Sarko had been Pres in 02/03 the frog army would have been in Iraq too, I think,,  so will inject that question where i can . !!

    He is a smart authoritarionan ambitious SOB networked to the richest men in france and to AIPAC, 

    great

    Posted by frog on Dec 21, 2006 at 1:55 PM

    Frog,

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 22, 2006 at 7:20 AM

    Interesting article:
    —————————————————
    Sweden’s New Year Ushers In Battle Over Welfare State’s Future
    Dec. 22, 2006 (Bloomberg)—Swedes will wake up to a different nation on the first day of the new year: one with lower taxes for those who work and lower benefits for those who don’t.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=a0kXvwao3Wtw&refer=home
    —————————————————

    Sounds familiar doesn

    Posted by whattheheck on Dec 22, 2006 at 8:29 AM

    Hi Heck

    on drugs ‘norm stamper’ ( name from memory ? ), coupla articles in archives here at ITT , and LEAP organisation, worth a look——all commonsense, but good for additional ammo for one’s own arguments.

    Yes on the big picture .  Those who scramble up the greasy pole to power so often have extraordinary gaps in their knowledge, understanding, analyses .

    “thinking time” missing was one of my first impressions of tonyblair, and that applies to a majority of “em .

    Have a good time these next few days, and seeya !

    Posted by frog on Dec 22, 2006 at 8:49 AM

    Economics 101 for Canadian students at my Alma matter.
    Moneylenders rules:
    #1 All interest on the loan of money is a swindle.
    #2 Collateral that is worth more than the loan, is the banker’s greatest asset.
    #3 Loans rely on the honesty of the borrower but not the honesty of the lender.
    #4 Loans of silver repaid with goods and not with silver, forfeit the collateral.
    #5 The debtor is the slave of the lender.
    #6 High morals impede profits, so debauching the Virtuous pulls them below the depravity of the moneylender who there-by masters them and bends them to his
    will.
    #7 Monopoly gives wealth and power but monopoly of money gives the greatest wealth and power.
    #8 Large crime families are more successful than lone criminals or gangs; international crime families are the most successful of all.
    #9 Only the most ruthless and greedy moneylenders survive; only the most corrupt bankers triumph.
    #10 Time benefits the banker and betrays the borrower.
    #11 Dispossessing the People brings wealth to the dis-possessor, yielding the greatest profit for the bankers when the people are impoverished.
    #12 All private individuals who control the public’s money supply are swindling traitors to both people and country.
    #13 All banking is a criminal enterprise; all bankers are international criminals, so secrecy is essential.
    #14 Anyone who is allowed to lend-at-interest eventually owns the entire world.
    #15 Loans to friends are power; loans to enemies are weapons.
    #16 Labour is the source of wealth; control the source and you control the
    wealth, raise up labour and you can pull down kings.
    #17 Kings are required to legitimatize a swindle but once the fraud is legalized,
    those very kings must be sacrificed.
    #18 When the source of goods is distant from the customers, profits are increased both by import and export.
    #19 Prestige is a glittering robe for ennobling treason and blinding fools; the more it is used, the more it profits he who dresses in it.
    #20 Champion the Minority in order to dispossess the Majority of their wealth and power, then swindle the Minority out of that wealth and power.
    #21 Control the choke points and master the body; strangle the choke points and kill the body.

    Posted by UncleB on Nov 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Isn’t economics really a sub-discipline of psychology? Our decisions come from an emotional root. Ultimately, our decisions come down to, “what will give us pleasure or relieve anxiety or stress.”

    Posted by Hammtime on Nov 18, 2013 at 4:04 AM