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20090412

The call of the new rite

"Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance."
---Bede, "De temporum ratione"

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts.

Un carillon ding dong
Fait un peu de ping pong
Dans l'espace léger
Les cloches se répondent
Aux quatre coins du monde
Qu'y a-t-il de changé ?
---S. Lama/ Y.Gilbert, "Qu'y a-t-il de changé ?"


On Dec. 2, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivered a timely speech about Milton Friedman’s Legacies, in which he argued that Friedman’s ideology is responsible for the current Economic Crisis and "the enormous damages" it has caused to the middle class and to working families, here and throughout the world at large.

They said Libertarianism had never been tried before---until then.

The following goes to the heart of it:
Friedman earned his bread by denouncing government at virtually every turn. He, like his acolyte, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, believed that a largely unregulated free market constituted the most superior form of economic organization imaginable.

Right-wing economists have argued that we can simply trust wealthy people and large corporations to do the right thing. Recent history has demonstrated what a silly idea that is.
The Senator's main point was that our country is due for a transformation:
1. We have endured years of right-wing ideology and we are eager to move in a different direction.

2. This last general election represented a repudiation of right-wing economic arguments.

3. We will see a major reordering of social and economic priorities.
It has now been barely three months since the Obama administration took office and although I understand how there are those who will find the question a little bit precocious, I think Easter makes it a propitious time to ask:

How is the transformation going?

Are we already living in a world dominated by for-profit corporate entities in which governments' political power has become so limited that no meaningful change can really take place (Jennifer Government comes to mind), or "yes" can we, still?

Yes, can we?

The world we live in remains in large part a world devastated by ongoing invisible and not so invisible economic wars in which nations are struggling for control of the markets and for their very own economic survival. The sacrifice of Human rights and social expectations is considered a necessary casualty of war and is justified in the name of competitiveness and economic efficiency, just as slave-labor was justified from 1654 until 1865 within the boundaries of much of the present United States.

A "change of direction" would be good. But direction to where? Direction, how? By what means? The international community? What international community?

If "unregulated free market" (aka "turbo-capitalism," "market fundamentalism," "casino capitalism," "cancer-stage capitalism," and "McWorld") is the disease, what is the cure? Regulations? How does one go about fostering the kind of global integration that better provides democratic representation, advancement of human rights and more egalitarian states? Do the nation-states of the world (including a Super Power such as the USA) still have any real say in the economic control of their individual destinies? How does one regulate the world?

Does Barack Obama know?

Do you?

5 comments:

  1. $3.5 trillion latter, were are we?

    Democrats better watch their backs, said Janet Hook in the Los Angeles Times. Obama's ambitious plans are built for the long term, but Democrats have reason to be worried about the short term political costs. That could explain why they have deflected one of Obama's most ambitious initiatives, the "cap and trade" program for pollution credits. Their message to Obama: "We can't do it all at once."

    And then, there's always the Republicans' "breathtaking dishonest" alternative, said Christopher Orr in The New Republic Online. Pressed to produce their own budget, Republicans devised a plan to cut the top marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Of course that would spawn even bigger deficits, so they posited a fantasy land in which taxpayers would voluntarily "pay the higher rate anyway." No wonder voters kicked them out of power.

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  2. I got stuck on the mention of Uncle Milty--the man who brought us to this brink. I could think no further. But Nausicaa's thoughtful response has jogged my brain from a reflexive fear and loathing. As always I thank you Nausicaa for bringing me back to reason. Still I hate that bastard, Milton Freedmon, the man who ruined many a democracy in the name of CAPITALISM, the only God the republicans worship.

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  3. Ask yourself (oh hypothetical Republican) do you want your peanut butter straight, from wherever it comes? Or would you like to have someone, retained by the government, inspect the peanuts first to see that rat turds aren't included in the fancy jar you pick from your grocer's shelf?

    The same is true of all aspects of human enterprise. That should be obvious. And it is.

    All the philosophies of economics which have arisen from the right didn't spring up from any empirical evidence but because justifications, simply, were sought for greed. Friedman offered a personal point of view, one unaffiliated with any form of objective observation.

    Unfortunately, many new members of the Democratic majority in the House and Senate come from conservative districts. The Republicans were booted out for obvious reasons. The Demos taking their places have to express some of their constituents’ “conservative” economic and “cultural” concerns. Ergo, the Blue Dogs. Who, until Obama proves himself, must tread lightly.

    Though intelligence appearing once again in the federal government is much like old muscles which have gone lax due to a lack of use, and feel stiff and funny when exercised. Walking levelly on the floor again may take some time for Bush left quite a giddy halo behind.

    It was nice to hear today that Americans will be allowed to travel wherever they want once again. Republicans clamor a lot about freedom, but they appear not to understand some of the basics.

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  4. Quinty and Jazzolog here both mention a relevant article from Newsweek in which an analysts (Senior Editor Michael Hersh) "sees the blocks being rebuilt just the way they were...with huge resistance to regulation."

    I think it is rather clear to everyone that everything being done is desperately aimed at keeping the blocks exactly where they are---why else would these companies be handed giant federal subsidies?

    This is "liberty" for you. This is what happen when an entire economy and the welfare of nations become subservient to a system in which governments have no say.

    I would find it refreshing to hear of some alternatives. I think many people would. Obviously, you are not going to hear anything from the Republican's side. And I explained in an earlier comment on that thread on jazzolog's blog why the Democrats will not rock the boat. I also commented how during a similar time in France when a so-called "socialist" government was in power (with a mandate for change and a majority in the assembly), no significant change took place.

    This is a Corporate Global Order we live in, an order to which the well-being of nations has become hostage.

    Can Corporate Power still be regulated in this day and age?

    It will come to no one as a big shock that the Developing World has been fighting for a long time a losing battle against a one way globalization that has so far primarily served to strengthen the power of big corporations while undermining efforts to create a socially just and ecologically sustainable world.

    So, what did people think was going to happen?

    The problem has now caught up with the rest of the world, to the point where the liberal democracies of Europe, and even the USA are finding that they have to some degree become as helpless as the Third World was when faced with the fact that Planet Earth is not a Democracy, it is a Wild Wild West, a Libertarian wet-dream.

    And it is very doubtful that the current recession and economic crisis is going to bring any major change (other than driving nation-states further into debt, that is). If anything the economy has been providing corporations an excuse (just like 911 had the Bush administration) to lay off employees while the remaining workforce is burdened with the extra work and terrified workers keep mum for fear of losing their jobs.

    The fact of the matter is that corporations have never needed an excuse for those kind of practices---even at the time when some of them were making record profits (remember when the Dow Jones industrial average was above 10,000 and corporate profits were at a 25- year high: corporate America had fulfilled Wall Streets highest expectations. But higher profits and productivity failed to deliver higher wages and job security, and business found itself accused of putting corporate greed ahead of the nations economic interests). Downsizing has become a strategy that is used in good times and bad. (A pool released in 1998 revealed that already in those days more than half of all working Americans had been downsized, had worked for a company that had merged or been bought out, or had moved to a different city because of their job.)

    What can government (i.e. supposedly "we the people") do about it?

    Apparently, nothing.

    Imagine the government telling a corporation that it cannot downsize if it has made a profit?

    Imagine government telling a multinational corporation to do anything at all? Unthinkable!

    Remember how the World Bank used to tell the nations of the developing world that in order for jobs and private capital to flow into their economies, their governments needed to create a more encouraging economic and regulatory environment (i.e., low tax and no regulations) for corporations? Guess what? That's right. This is what people are told too in the USA and in Europe.

    Remember how Grover Norquist's wet dream was to drown government in the bathtub, well, for all practical purpose, it has already happened! Only no one noticed.

    And it's not just the economy, the situation has political ramifications too---the two usually go hand-in-hand.

    Consider a group like TOTAL S.A.:

    Total S.A. is an oil company headquartered in Paris, France, and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world. Its businesses cover the entire oil and gas chain, from crude oil and natural gas exploration and production to power generation, transportation, refining, petroleum product marketing, and international crude oil and product trading. Total is also a large-scale chemicals manufacturer.

    Total operates in more than 130 countries and has over 96,400 employees worldwide!!!!!

    Despite the European Union's sanctions against the military dictatorship Myanmar, Total is able to operate the Yadana natural gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand. Total is currently the subject of a lawsuit in French and Belgian courts for the condoning and use of the country's civilian slavery to construct the named pipeline. (The documentary 'Total denial' shows the background of this project.)

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  5. An Einstein-like economist would be nice. I wonder where the new generation of people who think they can change the world are today? Yes can we?

    There is that old overused tautology that the world can't be changed unless human nature changes first. As if there was "the world" in one hand and "human nature" in the other. If Nausicaa were around she would call it maybe a fallacy or a false dichotomy.

    Or...perhaps, she would turn it into a Koan:

    Which are you trying to drink, the water or the wave?
    ---John Fowles, The Magus


    In 1967, Danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth made a 12-minute short film entitled The Perfect Human. Thirty-four years later, filmmaker Lars von Trier challenged his old mentor Jorgen Leth to remake the short film, five different times, within the guidelines of increasingly difficult set of constraints: The Five Obstructions (De Fem benspænd). I find it a most fascinating reflection, a meditation of sorts, about the human condition, or, more accurately, just simply about Life.

    "What is the perfect human thinking?
    Is he thinking about happiness? Death? Love?
    About what he is going to do tonight?
    ...
    We want to see what he can do and cannot do.
    Is he perfect enough?
    Or not entirely?
    Is he free?

    The perfect human
    that's just something we say
    while hoping he can do what we say he can do."

    In a recent review article about George Orwell in The New York Review of Books, Julian Barnes compared Orwell with Charles Dickens to make a distinction between "systems-and-structures men" and "change of heart men".

    Orwell shared with Dickens a hatred of tyranny, and in his essay on the Victorian novelist distinguished two types of revolutionary. There are on the one hand the change-of-heart people, who believe that if you change human nature, all the problems of society will fall away; and, on the other, the social engineers, who believe that once you fix society—make it fairer, more democratic, less divided—then the problems of human nature will fall away. These two approaches "appeal to different individuals, and they probably show a tendency to alternate in point of time." Dickens was a change-of-heart man, Orwell a systems-and-structures man, not least because—as these essays confirm—he thought human beings recidivist, and beyond mere self-help. "The central problem—how to prevent power from being abused—remains unsolved."

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