Something to think about: systemic failure and the blame game

Reader Truddick included this video link in his response to my post this morning: Nation or Empire.

It’s by Professor David Harvey, City University of New York (CUNY), who teaches courses on Marxism.

At the end, it talks about candidates spewing the typical pablum– something I try hard not to do.

Do I believe that any single theory can explain the financial transactions of 7 billion people? Absolutely not. This isn’t atomic physics where the rules actually do apply. People have very different goals and use different methods to achieve them. Not everyone is ruled by the almighty dollar or dinar.

When Marx set out to define Socialism- it wasn’t to invent Communism, nor was it the opposite of capitalism. Everything in life comes in shades of gray- not black and white, or as in this country, Red vs. Blue when it comes to politics.

Would we have the interstates if it had been left up to every state on how to do it? Unlikely. There are some things central planning can and will do more efficiently than a committee or by consensus.

Do I believe in socialism? No. I don’t trust people in large groups to take care of everyone equally, nor do I believe we all contribute equally to society.

Do I believe in letting markets take care of themselves? After watching the accumulation of wealth via game theory in the Wall Street Casino I’d have to be insane to think that even our businesses that have their stock traded there agree with what is happening. How can it be that a guy who buys and sells stock- makes more than the guy who actually makes the things people want and need? Something’s very wrong there.

The decline of the American worker, the expansion of credit, the transfer of wealth from the needy to the greedy is taking place at epic scale, at a rapid pace. If we re-elect corporate tools like Mike Turner to Congress, we will hasten the fall of our country to special interests and the wizards of Wall Street.

If you need proof- go look at the former GM facilities in town, look at one of his prime donors – NCR, look at others: Iams, and DHL

Watch the video- share your thoughts. Please. If I’m going to be your representative, I want to have a discussion about ideas- not about personalities or dogma.

Thank you.

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28 Comments on "Something to think about: systemic failure and the blame game"

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Teri Lussier

>How can it be that a guy who buys and sells stock- makes more than the guy who actually makes the things people want and need?
 
Because people who pay the stockbroker think he’s worth it.
What business is it of yours what people get paid, David.  Transactions should be between the parties involved and no one else.
 
A response to that video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJGAs2KwoWk&feature=related

truddick

Well, Teri, the fact is that the stockbroker has a sort of monopoly on transactions–and thus, as traditional capitalism would say, you do NOT get to pay what you think it’s worth.
 
In the same sense, the control of CEO salaries has gone entirely into the hands of boards of trustees–made up of a small cadre of big-business types who use the proxy process to effectively close their boards.  The only counterbalances that ever emerge come from massive state pension funds and the like who can successfully generate their own vote totals.
 
Consequently, as the video shows, stockbrokers who made a quarter-million in bonuses when they were doing apparently good work for the investors (e.g., in 2005) are now getting paid 3 million in bonuses for doing apparently hack work.  In your mind, do you think the typical pension-fund member wants to pay them such obscene amounts?
 
I agree with Esrati (and his jaw hits the floor); there is no single economic theory that applies well to all segments of our increasingly complicated society.  One-note tunes like those of Ron and Rand Paul never worked in the first place and are leading us toward disaster today.

Teri

truddick-
>One-note tunes like those of Ron and Rand Paul never worked in the first place and are leading us toward disaster today.
 
I’m not entirely familiar with either Paul, they are libertarian hybrids of some sort, correct? From the reaction of the Big Two parties any time either Paul opens their mouths, I think it’s very safe to say that their ideas have in fact, never been tried.
 
 
David-
>If you watched the video- and understood what happened- you should be plenty mad.
 
I watched the video. I posted a response to the video, so I’ve now watched two videos. I understand what happened, and I’m plenty mad.
 
Where you and I differ is that my reaction to what happened is not now, not ever, will never be, ::knee jerk knee jerk:: “Let’s you and me institute more control over OPM.” And it certainly isn’t “I’ll happily and willingly turn over control of my money to a Marxist.”  I remember the USSR. I remember defections and the Gulag, Tiananmen Square, political dissidents and no public discourse and mass graves of people who disagree with the government.  The only solution Marxism has been proven to solve is “How do we create even more corruption in government?”
The push me pull you two party system of nincompoops that is in place, and has been in place, is not working, but Marxism is hardly the thoughtful solution.
 
( btw, really nice photo/avatar, David.)
 
 
 
 
 

TeriLussier
TeriLussier

>One is a dictatorial regime and the other is an economic model.
 
Marx said “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”
 
This is false, of course, and a severely limited way of seeing both the world and the ability of an individual to solve their own problems, but, even as the basis of an economic model, if can only lead to a dictatorial regime.
 
>I believe we’d be better off if we pay for the election campaigning ourselves. I think it would change things considerably.
 
I agree.

Ice Bandit

Yeah Teri, the Old Bandito watched the video and he got plenty mad. Mad that he devoted five minutes to listening to the same old Marxist bromides that resulted in almost 100 years of, as you mentioned, gulags and poverty. What is the difference, dear Teri, between Russia and the United States? The United States has a Communist Party. As an aside Teri, do you have any relatives in Quebec? Knew the Lussier brothers from the dismal little enclave known as Beauce. Except nobody called them the Lussier brothers. Their nickname was the “Lucifer” brothers. Two mean and ornery francophones who only did three things well; drink Molsons, set each other up for hockey’s equivalent of the pick and roll, and smash opponents in the chops. Oh sweet memories……

Teri Lussier
Teri Lussier

>do you have any relatives in Quebec?
 
Way way off topic… But… This is my married name, and yes, the family came to the US via Vermont by way of Quebec. My in-laws are very calm and laid back, but I’ve met cousins and uncles and, yes, your memories align with stories I’ve been told so apparently ornery francophones are not unheard of. On the other hand,  Lussier is a common enough name in Canada, and I can’t give you any specific locations where that branch of the family tree is settled.

David Lauri

What is the difference, dear Teri, between Russia and the United States? The United States has a Communist Party.
Funny joke but not based at all in fact.  Read about the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on Wikipedia, visit their website (if you read Russian), or visit the Google translation of their website into English.

Jeff Dziwulski
Jeff Dziwulski

David Harvey is a geographer, interpreting geography from a Marxist POV, but there are others who also do a left wing urban geography,  without being as doctrinaire.  It’s a wide field.  AUDC is one group (who tend to be more ironic and perhaps almost situationist), another are folks like Markus Meissen working around the concept of Critical Spatial Practice….here’s a blog on the concept:   http://www.walkinginplace.org/iprh/.  

Manuel Castells also did sort of left urban geography, though he’s moved to the structure of information society & its impact on urbanism:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Castells

And here in the ‘States, Edward Soja has a later left POV in his geography (influenced by Henri Lefevbre), being a founder of the “LA School” of urban geography:  http://www.spa.ucla.edu/dept.cfm?d=up&s=faculty&f=faculty1.cfm&id=251

Anyway, back to Harvey.  Harvey has introduced the concept of “The Right to the City” which I think he got from French social theorists.  This has become the name of a left urban affairs activist group.  David Harvey on the Right to the City:  http://www.newleftreview.org/?view=2740

And the group influenced by his and similar thinking, mostly NYC based: http://righttothecity.org/

Back here in Dayton, a lot of what I was doing at Daytonology was an urban studies interpretation of “Dayton” from a marxist/critical spatial practice POV.  I used this metropolitan area, it’s history and socioeconomics, as an ongoing case study for applying a marxist/critical theory analytical framework.   But I wasn’t the first one.  An early history of Dayton, “Biography of Dayton”, was written by a no-kidding socialist, from a Marxist/materialist POV (this was published probably just after WWI, and still available at the library). 

So you have at least two Marxist interpretations of the local scene, one by me, and another from almost a century ago.

 

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter

Jeffery Good to see you at City Folk!
 
When I think of Marx and I can honestly say I have never studied the theories, but I did stumble onto a gem that proves it is all been said or done before.   I love Paul Lafargue and his essay “The Right to Be Lazy”
 

M. Thiers, at a private session of the commission on primary education of 1849, said: “I wish to make the influence of the clergy all powerful because I count upon it to propagate that good philosophy which teaches man that he is here below to suffer, and not that other philosophy which on the contrary bids man to enjoy.” M. Thiers was stating the ethics of the capitalist class, whose fierce egoism and narrow intelligence he incarnated.
…..Capitalist ethics, a pitiful parody on Christian ethics, strikes with its anathema the flesh of the laborer; its ideal is to reduce the producer to the smallest number of needs, to suppress his joys and his passions and to condemn him to play the part of a machine turning out work without respite and without thanks.

jstults

Jeff of Louisville:

An early history of Dayton, ”Biography of Dayton”, was written by a no-kidding socialist, from a Marxist/materialist POV (this was published probably just after WWI, and still available at the library).

Also, you can view online or download a pdf from Google books.
 
I liked the first part of the video where he acknowledged that all the competing academic exercises are just attempts at plausibility; refreshingly humble.  Reminds me of Rutherford’s fundamental theorem of the social sciences: the only conclusion you can really draw is that some do and some don’t.

jstults
From the early Dayton Bio, what’s past is prologue (with minor edits to remove the gratuitous class-warfare sniping): BUILDING THE POLITICAL APPARATUS On notice from the constable, Jerome Holt, the inhabitants of Dayton township convened at the Newcom Tavern to elect by ballot a chairman, a town clerk, three or more trustees or managers, two or more overseers of the poor, three fence-viewers, two appraisers of houses, a lister of taxable property, a sufficient number of supervisors of roads, and one or more constables. In 1803 Dayton was selected for countyseat of the new county. This state-aid fell to it because it had a good tavern, a prime necessity when courts traveled on horseback around the circuit, attended by officers, bar, and litigants. Besides, the hustling D.C. Cooper offered to donate two lots for the county buildings, and the successive courthouses and jails have stood there, on the northwest corner of Main and Third streets. At the time this artificial stimulus was given, Dayton was on the downgrade, half of its cabins empty, only twenty-two persons living at the town. But the gift of the countyseat meant a big push towards a bigger future. The county business brought here drained the whole county for the benefit of Dayton: new buildings, more tavern trade, more travel. PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF POSTAL SERVICE In 1804 a federal postoffice was established, with Benjamin Van Cleve as postmaster. Private enterprise was relied upon for many years to carry the mails. […] But the postoffice meant an additional artificial stimulus for Dayton. With this state and federal aid it began to grow. In 1805 Dayton received from the state legislature a town charter. THE FIRST LAW-MAKING BODY This first charter provided for the election of seven trustees as a “Select Council,” an assessor, collector, supervisor, and town marshal. The Council was to elect from its membership its “President,” who corresponded to our modern Mayor. It also appointed a Treasurer. The voting franchise was limited to landholders who had lived in the town six month. And landholders alone were eligible for public office. The ruling class in… Read more »
Ice Bandit

When I think of Marx and I can honestly say I have never studied the theories (Greg  Hunter)
Well Greg, that is a good thing. Because trying to make sense of Marxist and their theories is as trying a bit of intellectual gymnastics as trying to make sense of phrenology or alchemy. And since the Old Bandito spent the last of his teen years hunting down and killing members of this savage and bloodthirsty cult, he can claim a certain amount of expertise. Briefly, Marxism is the state on steroids, centrally planning and controlling every economic aspect from manufacturing to agriculture. Unscientific because of its dismissal of human nature in favor of a mythical altruism, Marxism soon moved from micromanaging a failing economy to micromanaging every aspects of citizens’ lives. Famine, shortages and fear seem to be only thing countries adopting this system seemed to produce in abundance. Evolving from a theory to a religion (though officially adopting atheism as the state faith) every communist country eventually wages war on its’ citizenry, either thru shortages (Stalin’s allowing millions of his citizens to die of starvation in the Ukraine or North Korea’s “Army First” food distribution program), outright terror from the KGB or its’ clone agencies or thru a court system where shirking at work becomes a capital crime. This barbarous system eventually collapsed by it’s own limitations. Today the theory of Marxism is discredited and justifiably villified, and has creedence in only three places; North Korea, Cuba, and Esrati.com…..

Jeff of Louisville
Jeff of Louisville

 Today the theory of Marxism is discredited and justifiably villified, and has creedence in only three places; North Korea, Cuba, and Esrati.com…..

I find Marxism and its related ideologies  (Critical Theory and some of the Situationalists)  a useful analytical framework, not so much a social model.  But one can find non-Marxist work that looks at things through the eyes of business history, particulary work by Alfred Chandler.

Anyway, a good critique of the “planning’ mentality behind Communism (and other grand attempts at statist control) is “Seeing Like A State” by James Scott.  One of the better books on this as it uses case studies to make the point.  Supposedly Scott was influenced by Michael Oakshott, an English conservative philospher, though this is not aknowleged in the book.   Or, for an American writer with a similar critque, there is Jane Jacobs.

For a good Marxist-influenced case study on a US city there is Mike Davis’ incomparble City of Quartz:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Quartz

Or for a good collection of essays on various Marxist urban geographers there is Metromarxism:  http://www.rainbowbookstore.org/node/1130
(the essay on Marshal Berman is particularly good, and nice to see Guy Debord here;  Debord’s “Society of the Spectacle” would be useful in analizing suburbia…”from landscape to brandscape’)

Jeff of Louisville
Jeff of Louisville

Jeffery Good to see you at City Folk!

Great to see you to!  Cityfolk is Dayton at its best.   I had to see RiS grand finale, but the other acts were good too, particularly that Maad Soul group from Chicago and their little dance workshop. Liked the conjunto band too.  Heck, I liked it all, usually do.

Teri Lussier

Paul Lafargue is a socialist.

And yes, I do say that like it’s a bad thing.

>Famine, shortages and fear seem to be only thing countries adopting this system seemed to produce in abundance. … every communist country eventually wages war on its’ citizenry

David, seriously, IB is stating real history. This isn’t an academic theory that sounds all warm and fuzzy and kumbaya in a classroom full of bearded tweed-wearers, it’s the truth of what happens- repeatedly. There is no way to implement these ideas without the government turning on it’s citizens. It simply doesn’t happen. Surely you are not considering these ideas as viable?

Teri Lussier

Hi David-
 
Thanks for that explanation. From what you just said, I can’t for the life of me figure out why the DDN won’t endorse you. Actually, there are many things we agree on in principle, it’s in the methodology that we don’t find common ground.
 
One thing, off topic again but since you’ve attributed this to me, I’m responding:
>The division between the “needy” as you like to lump people into
 
I don’t like to lump people at all so I’m not sure where you are getting this from. And I rarely if ever think of people as “needy” so if I’ve used that terminology, let me know where so I can correct it. Or, if I’ve given that impression, I’m not doing a good job of making myself understood. Arguably, the biggest problem I have with socialism, communism, Marxism is that they insist, they begin from the place that people are needy. I think quite the opposite.
I think people are brilliant, strong, resourceful and typically able to best find solutions and solve problems on their own, that is, without govt interference or direction.
It’s difficult to believe, as I do, that without govt interference, each individual has the ability to create their own extraordinary life, if you think of people as needy.

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter
Paul Lafargue is a socialist Really, no kidding? But did you read the material?  Socialism and Marxism had plenty of well financed enemies, but as to whether their positions were sullied by what these ethos morphed into is questionable.  As the ol Bandito is convinced he was coopted into the good fight.  Much like our boys on the ‘tip of the spear” are in the “good fight”. Again, Teri, did you actually read it?  It was written in 1883 and is prescient as if was written yesterday.  The abstinence to which the productive class condemns itself obliges the capitalists to devote themselves to the over-consumption of the products turned out so riotously by the laborers. At the beginning of capitalist production a century or two ago, the capitalist was a steady man of reasonable and peaceable habits. He contented himself with one wife or thereabouts. He drank only when he was thirsty and ate only when he was hungry. He left to the lords and ladies of the court the noble virtues of debauchery. Today every son of the newly rich makes it incumbent upon himself to cultivate the disease for which quicksilver is a specific in order to justify the labors imposed upon the workmen in quicksilver mines; every capitalist crams himself with capons stuffed with truffles and with the choicest brands of wine in order to encourage the breeders of blooded poultry and the growers of Bordelais. In this occupation the organism rapidly becomes shattered, the hair falls out, the gums shrink away from the teeth, the body becomes deformed, the stomach obtrudes abnormally, respiration becomes difficult, the motions become labored, the joints become stiff, the fingers knotted. Others, too feeble in body to endure the fatigues of debauchery, but endowed with the bump of philanthropic discrimination, dry up their brains over political economy, or juridical philosophy in elaborating thick soporific books to employ the leisure hours of compositors and pressmen. The women of fashion live a life of martyrdom, in trying on and showing off the fairy-like toilets which the seamstresses die in making. They shift like… Read more »
Teri Lussier

>Again, Teri, did you actually read it?
 
Well Greg, of course I read it. How else would I have known he was a socialist?
 
I agree completely that the socialists/communists/Marxists employ the very best rhetoric around, no arguement from me. It’s stirring stuff for sure. Almost makes me want to grab me pitchfork and torch.

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter

Lafargue to Einstein.

We have a great deal of unemployment and underemployment in the ol’USA…. so Einstein thought about this too….

“Even the physicist Albert Einstein, on those rare occasions when he gave substance to his socialist politics, spoke of the need to reduce the working week: ‘In each branch of industry the number of working hours per week ought to be reduced by law so that unemployment is systematically abolished. At the same time minimum wages must be fixed in such a way that the purchasing power of the workers keeps pace with production.‘ On this reading, the importance of Lafargue is that he reminds us of a basic truth which the left knew all along. The politics of Marx, the influence of Proudhon, the memory of the Paris Commune (during which Lafargue was a delegate-at-large in France), each of these influences can be traced in his book. The true originality of The Right to Be Lazy is that everyone else forget to make these points in their propaganda, and it was left to Lafargue to fill the gap.”

If only we had labor and environmental laws in the Free Trade Act pushed through by that Republican Bill Clinton……..

Jeff of Dayton
Jeff of Dayton

Teri- in case you haven’t noticed- we’re waging a war against our citizenry. What else do you call the massive wave of foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment, underemployment, a health care system that almost guarantees personal bankruptcy when faced with catastrophic illness or non-treatment.

…when profits come first people come last.    For awhile in this country..say from the 1940s to the early 1970s… that wasn’t the case.  A rising tide lifted all boats back then. 

I agree completely that the socialists/communists/Marxists employ the very best rhetoric around, no arguement from me

…it’s been said the left has the best music.   Thoughn John Lydon was a Tory and Joey Ramone (or was it his brother?) was a Republican.

Ice Bandit

I agree completely that the socialists/communists/Marxists employ the very best rhetoric around, no arguement from me (Terri Lussier)
Sorry Terri, but when it comes to compelling and persuasive rhetoric, the Marxist will always finish second to the promises of commitment and devotion of young men trying to get into the Levis of their sweeties. And from the number of unmarried and impoverished young mothers , it is clear that Marxist aren’t the only group with a history of making promises they are unable or unwilling to keep. So the question becomes why would anyone listen to either group? And as a combat infantry veteran and father of four daughters, the hollow rhetoric of Marx and Romeo inspires not the grabbing of pitchforks and torches, but M-16s and over-under 16 gauge shotguns….

Teri Lussier
Teri Lussier

>So the question becomes why would anyone listen to either group?
 
This is rhetorical, right? We both know the answer to that. Telling people what they want to hear is a proven successful political strategy. Passionate, emotional lies disguised as soothing pleas and promises  are what we want to believe. The cold hard truth will set you free, but it’s cold. And might be unpleasant. That’s no fun.
 
>the hollow rhetoric of Marx and Romeo inspires not the grabbing of pitchforks and torches,
 
My feeble attempt at sarcasm. ;-)
 
Four daughters?!?!  God bless you.

Ice Bandit
in case you haven’t noticed- we’re waging a war against our citizenry. What else do you call the massive wave of foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment, underemployment…(David Esrati)   Pol Pot had a real appreciation for bullets. He knew, that as leader of the Communist regime in Cambodia, he was going to have to use those projectiles against his North Vietnamese neighbors. So in executing nearly 25 percent of his population the most common method of execution was starvation and beating with metal rods.  According to Svetlana Stalin, her father Joseph would awake from a vodka induced blackout and summon aides, generals and appartachik to consult on the conduct of the war against the Nazis. Only problem being, the evening before, Stalin had ordered the summary execution of not only those he wished to consult, but often their families as well. Che Guevera viewed the killings in Havana after Castro’s triumph a combination of carnival, spectacle and three ring circus with himself as Master of Ceremonies and sometime Lord High Executioner. The history of communism, dear David, is the history of mass and summary executions for the flimiest of reasons and generally involving political opposition real or imagined. In the case of Pol Pot, anyone who was literate or wore glasses, in the example of Castro, anyone who was successful, and in the case of Stalin, it was ethnicity, such as being a Ukranian, which marked and targeted one for death. One of the understated reasons for the collapse of communism is their bloodlust; once a group has executed their  most educated and successful; they are left with the least talented, least intellligent and least ambitous. As an aside, Pol Pot, when stopped by his Vietnamese conquerors, was hardly finished with his genocide; he figured he only needed 2 million of his population of 8 million to carry on his perverted Marxist dream. Pol Pot’s motto to his population was “to keep you is no value, to kill you is no loss.” So what’s the point or this dire and depressing history, you may ask dear David? To compare the foreclosures, bankruptcies… Read more »
Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter
To compare the foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment the US in now experiencing to the systematic slaughter of its citizenry that is the norm in Marxist states in hyperbolic at best and intellectual dishonesty at least. We will recover from this malaise and be stronger for it…. Icey too much to chew on but it would be interesting to allow a marxist regime to come to power without the good ole USA harassing them at every step of the way.  I mean we denigrate Marxism to death witness Iran, Venezuela, USSR, Cuba but good ole King Fahd, not so much.  When under drastic pressure in the good ole USA you can count on the largess of the fat society or you can kill yourself or go on a killing spree.  So the data is pointing that the collapse of the American Economy is leading to a higher death toll for Americans; however, typical for America the deaths are not efficient and of limited effectiveness unlike the Totalitarian State.  We have a Free Market Death Machine. One of the understated reasons for the collapse of communism is their bloodlust; once a group has executed their  most educated and successful; they are left with the least talented, least intellligent and least ambitous. In America we have Trust Fund babies and east coast primogeniture to ensure Mediocrity rises to the top in America. The rich are different from you and me. They know how to game the system. The Whitman investment followed two days later. A business investment, as opposed to a cash gift, offers tax advantages, including the ability to write off losses, as well as the avoidance of gift taxes. If the investment’s purpose was actually political, there are also questions about whether it should have been legally disclosed as a campaign expense.   “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations,” the saying goes, and it conforms to our preference for meritocracy over aristocracy. This assumption is now being undermined, however, through the increasing use of so-called dynasty trusts. These estate-planning instruments enable affluent people to provide their heirs with money and property largely free from taxes… Read more »
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