On Fat Acceptance

What do you think would change about your life if you were thin? The dirty, dirty secret is: nothing. People might treat you differently about some things, but not differently about others. I’m sure you’d find other things to obsess about, and others would find other things to judge you on.

I have quite a few friends (and a few exes) that have lost dramatic amounts of weight over the last few years, and I can vouch that many of them are really angry that doing all that hard work to be thin hasn’t magically brought them this fairy tale happiness they seem to feel like they were promised. We try to pretty it up, and say “oh, I’m OK with myself, I just want my clothes to fit better” or other rationalizations, but the truth seems to be that we are taught that thin, pretty people have fabulous, trouble-free lives with hot parties and they get out of tickets and taxes, and live happily ever after, and it just isn’t true. I’ve had more than one relationship collapse because my partner could never believe that I found her beautiful, and sexy, and awesome. They would continue to strive – and punish me for apparently “lying to them” – for a goal that does what? Isn’t being attractive about finding someone to share your life? And while we all want to look well put together, what bring us the most happiness – having a partner who loves us and finds us sexy and loveable, or the random, facile attention of strangers we probably wouldn’t want to spend ten minutes with?

I get that women – and, increasingly, men – are socialized to strive towards an unattainable beauty ideal, and that the failure to measure up results in not only social punishing, and loss of social status (something woman seem to be generally socialized towards in increasingly virulent fashion, no pun intended), but self punishing to the extent of completely abandoning those good things in our lives we DO have in favor of this amorphous idea of the Cinderella myth. Fat acceptance isn’t just about fat chicks justifying their love of donuts, or some other misogynist interpretation, it’s about freeing people from the slavery of not only an unreachable ideal, but the very notion that ANY life can be lived without the pain, misery, and loss that is inherent in just drawing breath.

The horrible, horrible irony is that we sacrifice that which makes us truly happy for bullshit that ruins our lives. So, I ask again, how would your life change? Would you marry a better looking guy? Would you have more friends who cared about you? Would you drive a better car? You’d say “I would feel better in public”, but you wouldn’t. You’d start thinking about your eyebrows, or your boobs, or your asymmetrical nose or flawed skin, or a hundred other things you are marketed to believe are wrong with you. The only escape is to let it all go, and accept yourself, and to break the cycle of punishment by accepting others.

Fact is, in 20 years, none of us are going to be any prettier, no matter what the fuck we do. Age comes for us all, no matter what plastic surgeons, Real Housewives, and Heidi Montag would have us believe. We’re all going to get old (hopefully), we’re all going to get fat, and we can fight it and make ourselves and those that love us miserable, or we can accept it, and let it go. You are lovely because you are loved. It isn’t “all you need is size 2 jeans”, it’s “all you need is love”, and I guarantee you, Kathy Bates goes home to a happier home than Kim Kardashian. By all means, go for the balance of a healthy lifestyle – cholesterol and diabetes are no joke – but love yourself for who you are, and you’re going to improve something, improve that which brings you more love, not more stalkers and date rapists.

EDIT: I want to add my response to those who read this, and get it intellectually, but find it hard to internalize:

Shaking off a lifetime of oppressive socialization in the face of 150,000+ images a year that enforce our delightful social notions of beauty is not an easy process. But maybe the more we talk about it, the more support we give each other, and the more we can reinforce these different values amongst our circles, maybe we can start the ball rolling, You’re young yet, and if you can really start to attach to the idea, and plant the idea in others, and let others in on your struggle, then perhaps we can work to change the culture. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In fact, you’re in the largest demographic possible – people that would like to stop feeling like shit about themselves. Give yourself time, and give yourself forgiveness for not being some Jungian Superperson, able to shake off decades of toxic social influence just because some idiot dude wearing guyliner wrote a blog post 😀

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Bullying.

We treat bullying like it’s a disease, when in actuality, it’s a symptom.

We have an addiction to egotism, power, violence, and negative attention. We see it in kids, but they learn it from adults.

Look at the internet: trolls, griefers, snarky bloggers, passive aggressive Facebookers, forum contrarians, a whole host of people that derive their main sense of self esteem through being a dick on the web. These aren’t 12 year old kids, we have dudes here in their 50’s that do this.

Look at politics: People bully each other via politics all the time, both in the public debates, with talking heads shouting down calmer, more reasonable voices, and in legislation itself, with one group trying to make unreasonable demands of others, who are doing the same thing back. It’s all about the moral high ground, about the sanctimonious judgement of others, and the ability to feel like you’re somehow “better” than “those people”.

Look at sports: Putting aside the violence associated with our most popular sports (which certainly can be a positive channeling of aggression, and a public catharsis), look at how we align ourselves with arbitrary tribal groups, and then how we approach others of a different arbitrary group. Fights, riots, snarky smack talk, even shootings. Just because some dudes you don’t know who happen to be randomly associated with your general geographical area did that one thing with a puckballbat nominally better than the other dudes not from your general geographical area. Yet we use that to lord over others as if we ourselves carried the footbaseketpuck across the endgoalhomerunline. It’s not a celebration of human achievement in the face of adversity, it’s simply another way we can feel superior to other people.

Look at Reality TV: How much of Real Kardashian Bad Toddlers and Housemoms of Jersey Shore is people trying to feel cooler than the others on the show? Mantras like “haters make me famous” and “you wish your girlfriend was hot like me” show social status as a weapon, how men and women bully each other to grab some fleeting boost to their fragile egos. This is how we interact.

These are just a few of the ways we use social power and status along with violence and silencing to create this warped culture that rewards the very worst in all of us. By worshiping the crystal meth of egotistical narcissism, we get hooked on that feeling of being better than others, of triumphing over others, of pushing people around, of flexing our muscles both figuratively and literally. We as adults do this all day, every day. Niceness is weakness and insecurity. Kindness and vulnerability are for pussies. These kids should just be violence addicted meatheads and vicious Mean Girls, and then everything will balance out, right? Who cares how miserable that makes them as human beings.

So why are we surprised when our kids do it? And why is it that we all want 12 year olds to take responsibility for it when we refuse to? There’s silencing language and bullying all around us, and we all seem to use them.

The problem is that we just f***ing suck as humans. We’ve taken the easy road to material and social gratification, and left all that other stuff about caring and sharing crap back in our 90’s cargo pants, cuz that sh*t’s for wussies and tree hugging losers. We continually vacillate between over-protective everybody-gets-a-trophyism and suck-it-up-kid-I-walked-3000-miles-in-the-snowism. And this is the society it breeds. Either self entitled brats who are flummoxed to the point of suicide the first time life doesn’t cup their balls, or sociopathic megalomaniacs who run amok shitting on anyone and everyone in their quest to feel like the biggest dick in the room.

Bullies derive their motivation from ego, from defining themselves as violently powerful, in either a physical or a psychological sense. They don’t see their own worth in any terms other than power – as do their victims. This is why so many of the bullied grow up to be even bigger dicks themselves. They all learn that power and violence are the only measures of life, and that the only defining characteristic that matters is how you play the power game. Doesn’t matter if you have taken your nerd rage to succeed in business so you can shove it in people’s faces, or if you wield your sorority like a scythe to cut down “lesser girls” like so much bulimic wheat. The paradigm is the same, and the paradigm is entrenched in our culture. Until we deal with that, we will have bullying at all levels of society.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Human Capital and the Craftsman’s Dillema.

In thread after thread on musical gear forums, I see the inevitable “contrarian”, crying about how gear doesn’t matter, and how brand X or product Y is “snake oil” or “it’s all hype”. Recently, a thread about boutique pickup winders turned fairly vitriolic, with posters commenting that they should have more access to the technical information of the pickups, as if that would help them make better choices. As one winder put it, it’s like saying that knowing the chemical composition of salmon would help you choose a restaurant.

Some things just need to be tried. Life is full of risk. Capitalism is full of caveat emptor. And some industries, what really makes the product special is not just the ingredients, but what lies between the ears of those who make the product. A certain amount of responsibility falls on us, the consumer, to not be such a self entitled whinger that we completely ignore the human capital and artistry that goes into these products.

With something as subjective as musical gear, I’m completely gobsmacked how people who seem to think that all this gear is just wire and wood, the simple sum of the cost of the materials.

Here’s a thought experiment for you – two blacksmiths live in a town, a Master, and an Apprentice. The smithy offers horseshoes, $5 a set if made by the Master, $1 a set if made by the Apprentice. Same metal is used, same forge. Why the difference?

Because the Master has more “human capital” to put into his product. His training and experience command a premium. The subtle nuances of a lifetime of work makes his horseshoes easier to fit, more comfortable to the horse, with more traction, fewer thrown shoes, and they last longer. Now, if you’re buying 6 sets for draft horses, who cares, get the Apprentice shoes. They are, after all, just f***ing horseshoes. But for that prized riding horse, perhaps, you want to make sure you’re getting the best. And you know that the Master will tweak the design to ensure a safe and comfortable fit.

Every time we have a discussion of premium gear, the Luddites and the Scrooges question the value added over production gear. And honestly, every time it pisses me off.

Armchair economists who like to throw around free market principles seem to forget the very idea of human capital. But skill, experience and knowledge are as much a part of product price as labor and materials, especially with handmade items. And in musical gear, part of the assets of a company is the taste and sophistication of their designers and engineers. These are not clocks, that have a defined engineering goal (to tell time accurately), these are totally subjective products. The time that a craftsman has put into defining their own goals and then learning how to achieve those goals is COMPLETELY relevant to the price and value of their product.

And the ONLY WAY to see if they match yours is to get it in your hands. No amount of specs or numbers or sound clips is going to change that. Just like no amount of description will put across the difference between Mario Batali’s pasta and Anne Burrell’s.

This goes to boutique guitars and amps as well. Every thread about this stuff has someone with the thinly veiled subtext of “you guys are stupid for throwing your money away on that stuff, go spend that money on lessons, spend that time on practicing”. It’s insulting to the men and women who work very hard to build the stuff that allows us our expression. To devalue the time and effort they’ve put not only into learning how to build stuff, but the lifetime of loving and living music in order to follow their dream of bringing something new and special to our community is to insult the very fabric of art itself.

Look, I’m no cork sniffer. I don’t think I could name a top guitarist offhand that uses boutique pickups. Tommy Victor makes great records using LP Studios and Marshall Valvestate amps. Gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you live which LP Joe B is using on any given song, his ’59 or signature studio. I get that, I really do.

But whether or not it happens to be worth it TO ME, I understand the difference between having a Velvet Elvis I got at a yard sale in my house, and an El Greco. I find Klimt to be a watered down pastiche of neo-Byzantine iconography and French porn, but I recognize that he was an amazing artist, who put time and passion into everything he did. I wouldn’t pay $1.2 million for what is essentially gold leaf encrusted spank paintings, but I totally understand why the work of a Master commands that much. Can’t say that if the right Picasso or Thomas Cole popped up, I wouldn’t drop the coin.

The fallout from the automation of manufacturing has apparently given us the misguided idea that people don’t matter. We are but cogs in the machine. Musical gear is one of the few industries where so much subjective taste and preference meets objective knowledge and skill, creating that rare alchemy that once drove this nation’s economy. To devalue the people involved in making the products we turn into such personal tools just makes me weep. In the end, it speaks to how we devalue people in general, both economically, and socially. A sad example of how a life or lifetime means nothing to the great machine.

Playing music is my life. I have sacrificed everything at that altar, and honestly, have received very little in return. But what makes it all worth it is playing. And sometimes the only payback I need is to hit that phrase just the right way, bend that note the right way, and to hear exactly what I am feeling scream out of my gear. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, everything disappears, and I am alright with the world. It is not overstating it to say that those rare occasions have saved my life. And that’s my voice, such as it is. So my love and respect for the people that make those moments possible, who put as much into what they do as I do, who have given me the tools to express myself is huge. And to see those people insulted in thread after thread, on forum after forum makes me angry, and sad to see so many people who just don’t get it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

On death and rebuttals.

From a forum:

There was some ill spoken of a certain recently deceased intellectual on this board in a thread about his passing. That same intellectual took an opportunity to speak evil of a certain leader who had recently passed (who, to go hand-in-hand with your thread topic, may have deserved it even in death), and spared no harsh criticism just because the person died. It was kind of odd to see that person defended because he had done the same thing.

I actually just got into it with a very popular pundit about this.

I wrote this in 2009: http://defiantarchive.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/leave-michael-alone-and-farrah-and-jeff-goldblum-06-26-09/

If you can’t find the restraint and decency to wait more than 24 hours after someone’s passing to start talking shit about them, I’d suggest that a personal gutcheck about your own humanity is in order.

The intert00bz were abuzz with everyone and their horse bad mouthing MJ even before the story was confirmed. What does THAT say about our society? That we are such a raving pack of egomaniacs that the urge to spit out some snarky bon mot trumps the compassion and sadness at the ending of a person’s story, no matter how complex or tragic.

As for the “perspective police” crying about Farrah and Iran, and Darfur in the face of “celebrity”, again, why is it so hard to let people have a mourning period? We’ll get back to the serious business of ignoring World events soon enough.I don’t think that taking a day or two to talk about people who have given us so much is going to cause the universe to implode.

Everyone wants to be the cool, hip contrarian on teh intert00bz, to stroke their own “I’m not one of those celebrity obsessed sheeple” ego, I get that. But when we are so addicted to it that we throw common decency – and thought for the friends, families, and people who’s lives were directly affected by these people – under the bus, it says to me that we need a deep reassesment of our ideas of respect and decorum.

We have the rest of our lives to critique people’s lives after their death. But I think there needs to be a grace period for the friends, family, and supporters to deal with their grief. I hated when Hitch would come right out after a passing and rip into them, as I found it classless and morally reprehensible. It’s for no reason other than to stoke one’s own ego.

We saw this with Steve Jobs as well, the “perspective police” shouting down the fanbois. But I felt this way about MJ, Pope John Paul, and even Jerry Falwell. And I feel this way about Kim Jong Il – brutal, awful dictator who has ruined generations upon generations of Koreans, who will rightly be pilloried for decades to come, but for right now, he’s just a man, a story that has come to and end. To start yelling about his faults without at least a period of some reflection on the most basic of human journeys just bothers me. It’s just tacky, and shows how little compassion we have for the people who have actual feelings involved.

And I feel this way about anyone.

No matter how bad a person is, there are people in their lives that loved them. Sometimes good people. They were a son, a brother, a sister, a parent, a friend. It is out of respect for the people in their lives that cared about them, or even just those whose lives they affected, that we should allow them to mourn in peace without the need to provide the negative “balance”. What’s important to me is the feelings of the living.

Yes, in the wake of a loss, the tendency is to romanticize and lionize. But so what? You can tear down their feelings in a few days. Is it SO FUCKING IMPORTANT to people that their petty opinions on the deceased be aired IMMEDIATELY, with zero regard for people who might need to go through their grieving process?

Do we as a society have so little self control that our egos need to be fed with our kneejerk anti-fanboi haterade every second of every day regardless of the emotional consequences to others? Is that who we are, who we want to be? It’s not about being “holier than thou” it’s about not being a narcissistic sociopath, about having a basic sense of humanity, and acting with a modicum of common decency to wait until we swoop in like vultures to pick over the corpse.

All I ask for is a grace period – Hell, 3 days, whatever – before the yammering yahoos with their snark descend. Let them get the person IN the grave in peace before you come to piss on it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FB: Why Tax The Rich?

The short answer is purely pragmatic: since people can’t spend, and corporations won’t spend, and investors won’t spend (see below for more on this), it is up to the government to spend – on specific infrastructure projects, or investment in the free market. Right? This is to increase employment, which increases consumer buying power which increases aggregate demand, which spurs production. We agree on this, at least in theory? So, it can do so by increasing the deficit, or it can raise revenue. Since the deficit is all the Right can whine about, revenue it is (cutting spending is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve, ergo it is counterproductive, as much as the GOP seems to hate clean air and water).

To begin with, I think the issue is multifaceted: We have cash-rich businesses not hiring nor investing, a Fed lending money at 0.001% to make up bank losses, but not spurring new investment, a lack of both consumer and investor confidence, record deficits across the world, and a contraction of wealth in specific sectors, i.e. funds that overplayed the derivatives market, and real estate.

The moral argument for taxing those who have both exploited the system and manipulated it for their sole benefit and who can afford it best aside, the economic argument is that capitalism is best served by capital at work. In a climate where both spending (the article correctly points out that rich individuals do not equal the spending power of a flush middle class) and investment is low, the case can be made that the government has an obligation to spur investment – and this isn’t delving into the government’s responsibility to maintain full employment, a more important notion now that the modern worker is completely dependent for survival on the economy. But that’s another discussion, that one cannot simply walk off to find one’s fortune among untamed lands. We are completely dependent on participation in the modern economy, something that makes the moral case for the Welfare State, as well as it’s being a balancing force on downward wage pressure, but again, I digress…

First of all, what we’re talking about as a practical matter is letting the Bush tax cuts expire. We’re not talking raising the rates back up to 90%. So let’s not get carried away. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire accomplishes a few things immediately that need doing: by providing revenue lost by the contraction of wealth to the middle class (the crisis affected the two areas where the vast majority of accumulated wealth in the middle class is located: real estate (homes) and pensions, who were duped into investing in funds rated AAA when they were as safe as unprotected sex with Courtney Love), it enables the government to fulfill it’s already mandated responsibilities (Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Unemployment Insurance), continue to provide the services already in place, and to honor the T Bills that represent our national debt. All of this would be accomplished just by letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Tax cuts that were meant to be temporary anyways, and clearly did not fulfill the promise that the Neoliberal adherents claimed, despite Grover Norquist’s desperate spin.

We’re talking a few percentage points here, man. Neoliberals and Libertarians act like it’s some thievery in the night. But at the end of the day, if you are riding in a ship, and you’ve hoarded all the food, more than you could ever eat if you tried, and the crew needed to keep the thing afloat start to starve, you SHARE THE FUCKING FOOD. At the end of the day, is it fair to say to a worker who is already being fucked by artificially low wages, high health care costs because his work is too fucking cheap to hire full time workers to whom they would have to give benefits, and has just had his house devalued and his 401(k) disappear, “you have to sacrifice your daughter’s college education”, “you have to sacrifice your wife’s cancer treatment” or “you have to sacrifice your retirement” because John McCain needs another house? Oh, yeah, man, that’s freedom.

Even the CBO has shown that the stimulus accomplished much – however, EVERYONE, including the Neoliberals, knew the stimulus was too small, with not enough of a cash component, and too much reliance of tax relief. Yet this was the plan on the Hill in the first place – limit the success of the stimulus, prevent any further action, ride the wave of economic downturn to electoral success.

However, because private investors are not investing, and corporations are sitting on cash, not investing it even into their own R&D, it becomes incumbent upon the government to act as an investor, providing the innovation spending needed to develop the new goods and services that will ultimately get the economy moving again is provided . Indeed, businesses are contracting, buying back stock, laying off workers, and consolidating their holdings, the OPPOSITE of what is needed. But that is what companies do during a recession. It makes fiscal sense to their bottom line. Shore up the bulwarks, and wait until aggregate demand picks up again. They are in no way persuaded to do anything that Neoliberal ideology would claim would be the “natural” way that these problems would be solved. In point of clear fact, they are exacerbating the problem. In times of famine, you don’t go running around giving everyone else your food, right?

Without innovation to spur growth, and new American products – especially ones we can export to get more money into our supply, we are dead in the water. We are not a strong enough economy to stand as a closed system (selling only to Americans, or balancing the economy solely on the service industries), nor can we rely on an influx of demand from elsewhere to make up the shortfall because everyone else has the same low demand problem. You cannot simply make aggregate demand out of thin air relying on Neoliberal forces to somehow magically reverse itself. It just doesn’t work.

For example, the complete failure of the traditionally normative effect of currency fluctuations that supposedly would weaken the dollar and improve exports increasing demand for American products elsewhere shows the weakness of real world expression of the Neoliberal ideology. Other forces that depend on either a closed system (when we are not, with way too large a trade deficit), or outside exploitation (which is not an option because of rival deficits and lack of investor confidence) are shown to be so much dust in the wind as well. The only mechanisms available to us are regulations, monetary policy, and taxation.

Hayek’s great claim – expounded upon by Milton Friedman – is that competition is the great equalizer, correct? That competition reacts faster than government regulations or monetary policy. Yet what we are seeing is something Hayek himself predicted – the rise of overpowerful monopolies, a situation he decries as much as centrally planned economies. To cling to the notion that to restore balance with competition we have to allow those who have corrupted the system to REMOVE competition is completely absurd.

Neoliberal ideology is too rigid and inflexible to deal with this problem. Neoliberalism demands a balance of forces that sounds good on paper, but is obviously too easy to manipulate in real life. I really do appreciate the Neoliberal/Libertarian perspective, but as a monolithic political and economic policy, it’s obviously and horrendously flawed. What we are left with is NOT a “free market system”, but Economic Feudalism. Road To Serfdom, indeed.

And this gets to the heart of the moral argument – how much is enough? At what point does money no longer contribute to the actual quality of life of an individual? At what point, when you can have every need fulfilled immediately until they put you in the ground, do the practices necessary to keep that wealth constitute evil? When labor and consumer protection has been so dismantled that wealth inequality is at the highest point since the DARK AGES, these profits come at too high a cost, and it goes from symbiotic – what Neoliberals CLAIM – to parasitic. The fact is that it is – not the “rich” per se, but those who manipulate the system for specific gain – that are self entitled, privileged parasites on a system that they have sickened to the point of death.

Your snide comment about trust fund dilettantes aside, generational wealth is a clear form of privilege that I would think those who say so much about “hard work” would challenge – and a 10-25% Estate Tax with provisions for Trusts and education spending wouldn’t seem like OMG YER TAKIN MAH MONEY AT TEH POINT OF A GUNZ0RZ.

Look, part of the reason why these arguments depend so much on ideological rhetoric is because reality shoots it to shit. There is no fucking reason one person’s ability to manipulate huge sums of money just because they have access to the mechanisms of finance should net them so much more than any other office drone. Hey, J. K. Rowling and Bernie Madoff are (were) both Billionaires, but for very different reasons. In a perfect world, we could ensure that one is punished and one is not. But at this point the balances are so far out of whack, that everyone must make the sacrifices needed to get back to base line. It’s that simple.

The irony is that Hayek saw the need for regulation, and for strong labor – indeed, his whole CASE is that you make the system fair UP FRONT, so you don’t have to make Keynesian repairs on the BACK END. That’s where the greedy mosquitos of industry have fucked up. We need government intervention to right the ship, that much is clear. To deny this is to have one’s head in the sand. Stupidly enough, if deregulation had not been taken to the level of religious holy war, not only would this crisis not have happened, but an ACTUAL Hayekian economy would have been possible.

I’m really not fond of the idea of Keynsian micromanagement of an economy any more than I am of the Socialist idea of the centrally planned economy. Ideologically, I favor strong regulation to keep the game honest so we don’t have to keep rebalancing this shit. But the fact is that all the money is concentrated in too few hands, and they aren’t letting go of it. It’s no longer a matter of ideological purity, or of some imagined back side morality (where was this moral outrage not only during other deficit-friendly administrations, but in the last 50 years of corporate criminalism? Where is the same vitriol reserved for “freedom” directed at those who have devalued the American worker? Huh? So you deserve “Liberty” but not a fair wage?), it’s a matter of SURVIVAL. If we do not get the water from the top of the fountain back to the bottom, it will not circulate at all, and everyone dies of thirst.

There is a segment of the economy that has waged war on all of us for half a century, and they’ve won. They have accomplished Sherman’s March, and salted the Earth behind them. Now they whine when justice becomes survival. Fact is that businesses and entrepreneurs that follow the rules will still succeed. We will still have a strong consumer culture. But we have to adapt to human nature, and the fact is that at a certain point, even the rich don’t give a fuck about money – it’s a game, and they don’t really care. Oh, they bitch, and they manipulate, because ego goes hand in hand with this sort of classist bullshit, but in the end, they benefit from increased government spending as much if not more than the rest of us. Why do you think they never want to touch defense spending? Because that’s where they make THEIR money. Cut defense spending, and watch Boeing, Halliburton, Koch, McDonnell Douglas, and a hundred other companies start screaming about the evils of government.

I am NOT a fan of long-term government intervention in an active role. I view regulation is a passive necessity, but constant manipulation of the money supply, of interest rates, of monetary policy to be too rife with conflict to be reliable. But in times of crisis, I view the government as a sort of capacitor, a buffer, or a compressor, with a responsibility to act on behalf of all of us to cushion these blows, and to provide redress when the system is unbalanced. This is one of those times. This whole song and dace about “job creators” and “they’ve earned their money while everyone else is parasite” is bullshit. In the end, we can quibble about semantic and sophistic rhetorical ideological nonsense amongst the ruins, or we can do what is clearly the correct thing to do.

In the end, the game has to be fair. It’s not just a factor of “social justice”, it’s a pragmatic function of systems analysis. Without the checks and balances, capitalism becomes, well, unchecked and unbalanced. To restore that balance is not only a moral obligation based on the principles of fairness and opportunity that DEFINE this great nation, but it is a survival tool to ensure that our system doesn’t just collapse. Pleading the case that the haves should be able to cling to their castles while the serfs starve outside is not just moral reprehensible, but economically irresponsible. There has to be limits to avarice, and there has to be a limit to poverty, or we will not only become morally bankrupt, but economically bankrupt.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To a Hayek fan on FB re: Social Justice

I direct you to this quote from the pro-Hayek Manhattan Institute: “There is a problem with this simple reading of Hayek, however, and it has much vexed Hayek scholars. For while claiming to reject social justice, Hayek often invokes a standard of social justice in arguing for his policies of limited government. Thus, Hayek says repeatedly that a society of free markets and limited government will be beneficial to all citizens, providing each his best chance of using his own information for his own purposes. On occasions where he fears that the market system may not have this hoped-for result, infamously, Hayek advocates governmental correctives: a guaranteed minimum income, public funding for schools, and an array of social services for needy families—all to be funded by increased taxation… But whatever we call it, it looks a lot like a concern for the pattern of material holdings across the whole society—a concern, that is, for social justice.” – John Tomasi
I have found that what Hayek actually says on the matter is far different from that which is said by those – like you – who would use his words as a justifier for this Libertarian agenda. The more I read of Hayek, especially, the more I realize that, like Reagan, he would loathe those who use his works as a tool. Indeed, in the two additional prefaces to The Road To Serfdom (the preface to the American edition, and the 20th anniversary edition), he decries this very fact, mentioning that he has had to give entire speeches clarifying that he didn’t say what his adherents have said he did. He reiterates AGAIN AND AGAIN that his work is a criticism of a very specific intellectual property – the idea of Central Planning, and by extension, Totalitarian Socialism, making a point to point out that it is that brand of Socialism that involves the State taking over the means of production (at the time, this was the idea that all of the industry that was under government control during the war would remain so, a VERY specific threat). He says in no uncertain terms that while he believes “milder forms of Socialism” would lead ideologically to increased government intervention, he does NOT lump those policies in with his more dire predictions.
Hayek came from a place of intellectual privilege and very specific circumstances, much like Ayn Rand. Ayn’s “Myth of Altruism” and Hayek’s “Myth of Social Justice” are very similar, intellectually, and both try to reconcile the ideas of Imperialism and colonization with capitalism, while removing the moral arguments of those oppressed by both military AND economic forces. Neither had any direct experience with the real life consequences of colonization, and neither address it except to speak in esoteric terms about “the morality of freedom”. It is a sign of how entrenched this colonial privilege is in this entire type of thinking, and it mirrors that it would be upheld by the American privileged class. Feeling entitled to uphold the mechanisms of that privilege – by decrying “Social Justice” – it is clear that what is at the core of this entire set of Neoliberal “values” is nothing more than a desire to maintain the Patriarchal and Imperial power structures of finance and militarism while limiting the voice of the people.
Hayek was genuinely concerned for the welfare of the citizenry, and felt (quite correctly) that Socialism denied a specific human right – the right to growth. In safety, there is a tendency to stifle innovation. Yet, with innovation, there is risk, which we can see quite clearly at this time. This is true not just of finance, but in all things. Hayek stated again and again that his arguments were against a specific form of government, not government itself. When Keynes read Road To Serfdom, he himself wrote that he agreed with “much, if not most, of it”. Their arguments over the years were about where that line should be drawn, not if there should be a line!
Like Reagan, it seems Hayek, Mises, Tocqueville, Friedman, etc have been held up as these Gods who would justify this Noble Libertariansim, yet the intractable and pernicious nature of this morally bankrupt idea of “making government so small you could drown it in a bathtub” is in COMPLETE DISAGREEMENT with what these men (a bunch of privileged, entitled, Patriarchal White Eurocentric intellectual elite males, btw) actually said, and acted upon. These misconceptions have been enslaved by not only Thatcherites and Reaganites, but by the proponents of Neoliberal Globalization, corporate Imperialists who depend of social, financial, and military inequality to make huge profits, needing some solace in moral theory to ignore the cost in human suffering their policies affect.
Without exploitation, there is no profit beyond the introduction of human capital to raw materials. To increase profits, justification of exploitation must be made. And so, here we are, with the twisting of moderate words of caution into rhetoric as strict as catechism, a veritable Corporate Inquisition, where we the consumer must “convert or die”.
There is no “vexing of Hayek scholars”. There is no “struggle to reconcile” anything. There are only frustrated Apologists, who hate that Hayek’s own words contradict what they want the dead puppet of his memory to say in defense of their own selfish and intellectually disingenuous desire to justify the coalescing of their own power and privilege. This is the same as people who tear the Bible to shreds looking for some phrase that justifies Gay bashing or Prosperity Gospel “Jesus wants you to be rich and mock poor people” horseshit while totally ignoring that whole “give up all your possessions and serve the poor and the sick” crap they hate so much. Hayek said what he meant: “In general, I think that government policies should tend towards more freedom rather than less. If government is going to intervene, it should do so cautiously, and with as little impact as possible, and make sure it’s results are effective in promoting the common good.” Not “GUBBMINT IS EVIL AND TAXES ARE THIEVERY AND ALSO FUCK POOR PEOPLE”.
In the end, Hayek makes VERY clear that he is a reasonable, compassionate man who can see a balanced viewpoint while decrying those who would propose intractable Neoliberalism as much as he decries Totalitarian Socialism. I’m glad people like you have challenged me to read Hayek, and Mises, and their modern supporters, because it makes it very clear to me how many of you are really just regurgitating what you WANT to have read from these people. not what their actual words are. The fact that your takeaway from Hayek is to reinforce your own sense of entitlement, and desire to reaffirm the sources of your privilege while denying the means of redress to the population at large shows that you have not actually read, nor understand Hayek.
Besides, Behavioral Economics and Game Theory are the new hotness. The Keynes/Hayek dichotomy is old and busted. Get with it, Grandpa.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

More Libertarians on FB.

Oh, Mikey. This stuff drives me nuts. It’s all hogwash, and completely divorced from the historical context, presented very disingenuously as some sort of rhetorical fact. Totally not true. For example, the 17 Amendment…In historical context, it took the elections out of the hands of the political bosses who could buy State Senators for nothing, and forced them to use an actual political process… which didn’t stop them, but at least cost them more money. The political machines of both parties were so powerful at the time – and what meager protections there were were completely unenforceable – that the process of electing Federal reps via State senates was completely and irrevocably corrupt. This, at least, made it so the bosses couldn’t just outright pick their representatives in Washington, they at least had to appeal to the people. The movement to repeal it NOW is completely driven by monied interests that want a return to that construct to make it easier to manipulate American policy – as it Citizen’s United didn’t help enough. But those who are driving this rhetoric are the same corporate Right wing astroturf groups that are driving the Tea Party. These corporate oligarchs and social conservatives know that their money is a much bigger hammer at a local level – they can overwhelm one state at a time on both economic and social issues, circumventing the protections we have on a Federal level, all in the name of “freedom” and “State’s Rights”. But think about this – without the Federal government, who steps into that power vacuum? “Free citizens”? Think again. It’s the Church, the Corporations, the larger political groups. If you think that getting rid of government gets rid of those who would control your life, you’re an idiot. In fact, the government is the only of these power structures you have any say in. For another example, The 16th Amendment was created to ALLEVIATE the onerus and regressive sales taxes that were in place at the time, including the 20%+ taxes on alcohol, that were lost during Prohibition… it was also accepted that progressive income taxes are far more egalitarian than other forms of revenue such as fees, penalties, and sales taxes, which make up far more of your tax burden than your federal income tax, as sales taxes etc place a FAR greater burden on the poor and working class, as any economic analysis can show you. As for the misinterpretation of the powers granted by the 16th Amendment, in Burshaber v. Union Pacific, the Supreme Court upheld the notion that the income tax does NOT violate the Constitution’s earlier taxation regulations, and with the Penn Mutual case, reinforced that the Federal government ALREADY had the ability to tax incomes – it just removed apportionment stipulations. But more than the specifics of your policy screeds is this: you can’t ignore the fact that no one – NO ONE – is an island. Not only do you benefit from your tax dollars – again, this isn’t feudalism, where your taxes are going towards elaborate palaces and ermine robes – it goes towards the roads that move the goods that the economy in which you participate depends, it goes into subsidizing the energy that powers your Xbox and the clean water you put in your bong. It educates the people that innovate the new products that fill your bedroom, and that create new jobs for an increasing population. I got news for you, kiddo, unless you’ve been making over $250,000 a year for 20 years, you’ve benefited more from taxes than you’ve paid. In fact, as someone who has probably been in the workforce for less than a decade, you’ve made out like a FUCKING BANDIT. And this doesn’t even BEGIN to touch on the idea of how much these services would cost on the open market. You like that whole “I don’t get to come take your stuff” thing we got in this country? Thank taxes. You like the whole “fires don’t ravage our cities and towns by burning unchecked” thing we have? Thank taxes. Are fire brigades in the Constitution? Nope. In fact, they used to be a free market business. How did that work out? Well, ask Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, all of whom BURNED TO THE GROUND in the era of the private fire brigades. By all means, enjoy the fruits of your labors – which wouldn’t be possible without the infrastructure and government services that you so decry. And here’s the thing: because we as an aggregate VOTE to fund these things, it is accepted as part of our social contract, and it is implied within that contract that as we have a choice in voting, we are funding these things AS A CHOICE. This is not “someone with a gun is making me do stuff”, this is “we, as a bunch of grown ups, have decided together that these things are worth doing”. You ALWAYS have a choice to vote against these things. That makes the power stem from the people, your sophistic arguments aside – but that doesn’t mean each people gets to do whatever the fuck they want. Doesn’t mean it’s enforced illegally by force, it just means that you, as a citizen, accept the mechanisms by which change is manifested. You are free to leave if you do not accept the social contract as well, or you can work to get the votes needed to change it. If you really want, you can actually just plant your own food, generate your own electricity, and make everything you use yourself and not pay a single dime in federal taxes. And as long as you don’t go all Michigan Militia, everyone will leave you the fuck alone, and you will STILL benefit from access to government services and the protection of police, fire, and military. By choosing to participate in society and the economy, you implicitly recognize your responsibility to those constructs that make them. However, you are absolutely free to NOT participate, and THAT is what makes you NOT A FUCKING SLAVE. Hayek himself makes very clear in “The Road To Serfdom” that he believes government intervention IS necessary, and readily admits that he doesn’t know where that line is… he really just says “there needs to be a line” – he spent a lot of his life debunking the notion that he was an absolutist about government intervention, even writing an entire tract to explain his “inevitability” quote, which he HATED was taken so out of context. Like Ayn Rand, his arguments are CLEARLY presented as a (valid) critique of Authoritarian Collectivism, as post-war England was flirting with the idea of Central Planning of the economy. What it was NOT was a basis for an AnarchoCapitalist State, or a support of unfettered capitalism. Restructuring a Representative Democracy (which is what we have, despite your protestations to the contrary) through a rhetorical argument against Socialism is like taking chemo when you’re healthy because it cures cancer. As for your claim that Keynesian economics hasn’t helped, you know who doesn’t think that? EVERY ECONOMIST LIVING. It’s not just Krugman and Stiglitz, et al, but Greenspan himself – shit, the Bush response to the 2007 crash was CLASSIC Keynesian policy, enacted by Wall Street alumni. I mean, fuck, the basic tenets of Keynes are economic catechism, even among Right-leaning economists. Keynesian policy is responsible for the longest stretch of prosperity in American history, a stretch that ONLY returned to a boom-and-bust cycle with the Reagan-Thatcher obsession with (and gross misinterpretation of) HAYEK fueled by that lunatic Milton Friedman. ONLY WHEN we strayed from Keynesian policy did we have the mayhem that was the 80’s. I mean, shit, son, it’s right in the historical record. Not only that, but Keynesian policies in Europe led to their post-war success, until, again, Thatcherism spread to other countries, almost crashing the entire world economy. Not to mention Asia with both the Thai crash and the Japanese market woes. But that’s my largest gripe with this garbage – there is some pretend historical nonsense but it lacks any real context, because it’s all stuff not derived by long and careful study of the many disciplines that go into political philosophy, but read in it’s final form, as talking points, and regurgitated in such long form that no one has the fucking time or energy to show you what fucking nonsense it is. I’m not going to debate this shit with you further, because it’s not worth my time or energy – this post alone is EXACTLY why I posted what I did in the first place. It is mind-bendingly frustrating to have to debunk this stuff again and again, when the onus of intellectual due diligence to realize just how against the facts of history this stuff is should be on you. I encourage you to read BEYOND your own ideology. I have books on my bookshelf from Goldwater, Greenspan, Adam Smith, FA Hayek, Will, Krystal, a whole host of viewpoints.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here’s why I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, Part I

“9/11 was an inside job. There are just too many unanswered questions.”

Wait, so it was a plan that would have to involve thousands, maybe 10’s of thousands of people to cover up the huge logistical and practical actions and materials involving an interwoven effort to cover up a plot by our government that spans at least 8 agencies, the governments of at least 4 countries, and our entire Executive branch, the Armed Services Committee of Congress, any Congressional committee involved in budgeting, every FAA employee within radar range of any of the planes, every Air Force person on duty within 1500 miles, a demolition team that would have had to set hundreds of shaped charges in precise places to perfectly replicate a demolition sequence that had no practical data set to inform what to mimic in 3 buildings without anyone noticing, or leaving any evidence, that would have to be timed with airplane strikes without any communications that could be monitored by any of the civilian or law enforcement agencies – foreign and domestic –  in one of the largest cities in America, placed well enough to fool not only government agencies but also civilian experts who have surveyed the evidence for over a decade now, and they STILL lost a plane, or wasted it, somehow also perfectly broadcasting sounds of a struggle that had been recorded earlier by a cast of 100+ actors, involving a host of recording engineers and sent FROM THE PLANE to a tower as they crashed it in a field for no reason, all to create an incident that began a war that they started instead for completely different reasons?

And out of all the people who worked on this plan to kill 3000 innocent people, kicking off a decade long conflict that has claimed 6000+ more American lives, and an estimated 1,000,000 Iraqi, Afghan, and other ME civilians’ lives, NOT A SINGLE ONE has the remorse to gather incontrovertible proof of this plan?

Let’s just put aside that most of the claims made by 9/11 Truthers have been debunked and that even demolition experts and physicists show the impossibility of the Truther’s claims. And let’s ignore that a dude flew a plane that landed in Red Square during the high of the Cold War, one of just a few airplane hijinks that had far more suspicious flights than the commercial jets of 9/11. Let’s just focus on the human component.

Because in the end, here’s my problem with 99.999% of these conspiracy models: In order to affect something, you must apply weight sufficient to overcome inertia, move that which you are trying to affect. This is true in Physics, and it’s true of people, society, and government. And let’s face it, all three of these things are notoriously difficult to move. Social inertia – the weight of the status quo – itself is a monolithic beast unmoved by decades of protests and legislative changes. 100 years of Suffragettes and Feminists and Oxygen still shows Bad Girls Club. But some dude with a laptop can affect the election of an American president by himself, leaving no trace of his work at all?

This stuff is like Dungeons and Dragons for political morons.

Every “conspiracy” cannot be judged on the “unanswered questions” raised by it’s adherents – fabricating those are easy, as is throwing around a whole host of seemingly shady coincidences, and painting shadows and figures lurking in the dark corners of the paranoid mind – chasing down every aspect of these unsubstantiated claims is impossible, especially since every time a claim is debunked, the goal posts are moved. These tactics are the same for those involved in mainstream politics, made famous by the various “nutjobs” who have polluted practical politics with ideological justifications and huge reams of false information. Ask Glenn Beck, Fox News and Andrew Breitbart how well these garbage tactics work.

But in the end, it comes down to a simple equation: the larger the number of people that have to be involved for a conspiracy’s end goal to be achieved, the more likely that human nature and basic chaos theory will throw a monkey wrench into the plan – or, the more likely a mistake or change of heart would lead to an illuminating act that unravels the plot.

Doing bad things is hard, and it’s hard on people. We have a need to confess, to come clean. This is a fact of human nature. Ask OJ Simpson or Oliver North or any of these people. Or the Catholic Church.

Now, I’m not saying that nefarious plots don’t exist. Certainly they do – Iran Contra, for example. But that’s a story that was broken by journalists, with evidence, vetted and corroborated, and eventually described in detail by the principals involved. I’m certainly not saying that there aren’t shady people out to do shady things, and yes, some of them are “conspiracies” on a grand scale. But what we’re really talking about here are unsubstantiated conspiracy theories with no real evidence, that are perpetuated in a vacuum of internet chatter and hookum, based on bad science and even worse “journalism” that stagger zombie-like through our social consciousness without ever having to face the scrutiny of real critical thinking. The perpetuators of these theories also never have to face the consequences that promoting such unsubstantiated nonsense would have for whistleblowers or journalists.

A real story changes as new evidence is revealed, and as old evidence is debunked. Truth is revealed through critical analysis of the FACTS. As incorrect reporting or false theories are contradicted by facts, these theories and reports are abandoned in favor of exposing the truth. These “conspiracies” like the 9/11 “Truth” movement follow the OPPOSITE morphology, GAINING strength as each new contradictory fact becomes somehow “proof of the cover up” and “that’s what THEY want you to think”. It creates an impossible intellectual arena, one that is more concerned with saving the egos of those promoting the theory than anything to do with the truth. This intellectual disingenuousness in the face of critical thinking is the hallmark that separates “Birtherism” from, say, waterboarding investigations.

This is NOT a case where “for every one we know of, there are 10 we don’t”. In fact, that’s my point. Most of the plots that fall into this “subverting governments” bag either lack the force to move the object of their desire – and thus escape detection by virtue of being small enough AND harmless enough – or they do become large enough to affect change, but in doing so become large enough to be exposed. This equation is what ultimately makes a lie of these complex, nefarious Illuminati-Masonic-Bilderbergian-NSA-shadowy-goverment-X-Files-wannabe plots.

If they are small enough to escape detection, they are too small to do anything. If they are large enough to do anything, they are too large to escape detection. It’s that simple.

Iran Contra failed, by the way. So did Nixon’s Watergate break in. In fact, the vast majority of these grandiose plans fail. A lone gunman can sneak into a book depository. 20 dudes can get on planes with box cutters. The scale is small, the agenda simple. But massive, sustained operations with hundreds of people all playing parts that need to be executed with atomic-clock accuracy? Cuz no one is going to stop to pee, or take a wrong turn, or drop something? That doesn’t even work in the movies.

Anthony Weiner can’t get away with tweeting a cock shot that was up for all of a minute, somehow an entire professional demo team set up shaped charges right where and when they knew planes were going to hit?

At some point, we can accept that we don’t have the whole truth on something – 9/11 certainly is not without legitimate questions – while NOT building up these elaborate Rube Goldberg machines of intellectually disingenuous castles in the air so that a bunch of political dilettantes and borderline paranoiacs can feel like they are smarter or more “on the inside” than everyone else. More likely: a bunch of wide eyed people with little to no critical thinking skills believe whatever fantasy makes their lives seem more interesting? Or that a conspiracy of thousands agree to murder 3000 innocent people in cold blood?

Even as to the “unanswered questions” – more likely that a cover up is to hide that our government is completely filled with sociopaths bent of world domination? Or that people are just covering their asses because they know they fucked up?

Conspiracy theories occupy the same part of the brain as religion, magic, Astrology, Tarot, role playing, and other stuff we like to believe to make life seem more magical, or more interesting. Whether it’s believers in angels and demons, fairies, ghosts, Climate change deniers, vaccines and autism, fortune telling, psychic abilities, whatever, it’s clear that we as humans have a love for believing crazy shit that we believe NOT because of compelling evidence, but because we are incapable of building positive self esteem without the external labels and reaction to the crap we wrap our egos around. It’s an easy way to become one of the “cool kids”. ”


I’ve spent the last few years reading quite a bit about the 2008 Financial Crisis, and in turn, about crises that preceded it – the Enron scandal, the collapse of the Junk Bond market, and of Salomon Brothers. If there is a story ripe for plunder with hidden agendas and powerful cabals of powerful men with huge sums of cash, this is the arena. Washington is riddled with Wall Street’s lobbyists, our fiscal policy has been in the hands of Goldman Sachs employees for 50 years. Elected officials swimming in corporate cash, the Supreme Court itself bowing to the moneyed interests with the Citizens United decision, I mean it just REEKS of conspiracy, doesn’t it? Koch Brothers vs George Soros for the Global Caliphate or Socialist Utopia?

Except that none of it’s true. Oh, Wall Street and Washington are intertwined with corporate and financial interests beating this country into a bloody pulp of wage slavery and serfdom, don’t get me wrong. A mutually beneficial circle jerk of power and influence, an echo chamber that resonates kick backs, sweetheart deals and nepotistic self interest? Absolutely. Quid pro quo, back scratching, vacations for votes, corruption and greed? You betcha.

But as for it being a solidified, driven cabal with a singular, overarching agenda? Fuck no. I’ll go into it more in Part II, but suffice to say that the story of our financial system is ironically one of fierce individualists, iconoclasts, and monomaniacal narcissists who would no more collude with their fellow business people than a lion would with a jaguar in a herd of Wildebeest.

What creates this sense of collusion is a shared perspective, not a coherent plan. There are certain things that benefit them all, and a certain conventional wisdom that informs business, finance, and economics (a lot of it wrong). Picture it like Christianity, or Islam – there are some basic principles they all share, but there is still plenty of backbiting among sects. Sure, Baptists and Mormon will both fight Gay Marriage, but they have VERY different ideas about everything else. And in truth, each one thinks the other is going to Hell, and is glad to see them get there. Just as religions each think they have the only key to spiritual and moral superiority, each bank, corporation, and investment firm thinks they – and ONLY they- have the right ideas about success.

But the conspiracy theorist sees these simple connections, and invents deeper and deeper meaning, ascribing motives and agendas to casual actions, painting a picture of twisted human emotion and evil right out of a Hellfire and Brimstone sermon from witchburning Salem. Except that people really aren’t like that. Our basic motivations and nature all stem from pretty well documented areas, not from some “absolute morality” that is the only thing that could account for these consistent and coordinated acts of sociopathic evil.

In the end, applying Occam’s Razor to these arguments, it is not the particulars of who met whom in a cafe in Paris, or what paper trail was destroyed by flunkies in black helicopters (where do these helicopters get their fuel? Wouldn’t that leave a trail? Or how about whoever is making all these black suits? Is Georgio Armani IN ON IT??) that is most easily debunked. It is the human nature.

There is no endgame to the 9/11 attacks as described in the conspiracy that would not have been achieved by far easier means. This in itself makes a lie of the conspiracy itself, without the need to get into the details – yet it also reserves the details for further analysis. It does not rule out the idea that someone, in a panic, didn’t want to get blamed for maybe getting a coffee at the wrong time, or for funding the wrong organization 30 years ago. And it’s far more likely that this is not even a concerted cover up, but a disjointed slew of individuals covering individual asses. Rats bolting a sinking ship is VERY DIFFERENT than a bunch of rats getting together to sink a fucking ship.

The reason why these bullshit theories bother me so much is that they are just another example of narcissistic, ego pumping, “aren’t I cool look at me” pseudopolitical grandstanding clung to by people who really don’t give a flying fuck about actually participating in the democratic process in order to actual FIX THE SHIT THAT’S WRONG. It is another section of the peanut gallery screaming for attention at the top of their lungs, refusing to accept any viewpoint other than their own. As with the other blinkered, fanatical ideologues – Libertarians, religious Conservatives, PETA – it all comes down to promoting the ego.

Thanks to bullshit science, how much money has been diverted to studying vaccines – a proven technology for over a half century – from finding the REAL causes of autism? How many studies on Climate Change will be enough to satisfy the deniers? Because of these “Truthers” how many resources have been taken away from finding and stopping the real perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to satisfy the morbid delight of intractable conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept the evidence that demolishes their claims? We’ve had a DECADE to find evidence of this conspiracy, and it’s just not there.

3000 people died to give you the right to treat them like a political football so you could pretend to be oh so cool and informed. Way to go, Conspiracy America, way to go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FB Econ rant III

[In response to a long thread on Hayek, and his value as an economic theorist]

Well, I think it’s a difference between economic theory in context of academia, and economic theory to justify public policy. The key tenets of Classical Economics are interesting and useful in a theoretical construct, but as soon as you depend on “rational actors”, “Information equality” and “profit motive” as absolutes to determine economic and monetary policy, THAT is where it falls apart. Alan himself blamed “irrational exuberance” for the housing bubble, a statement that clearly goes against Classical Economics, also explaining that he did not see that people would act against the best interest of their company.

This notion that Classical Economics contains self regulatory mechanisms and levers that work in the real world has been disproven time and time again. Does this mean Hayek and Friedman are no longer valuable to the discussion of business and economics? Certainly not. As you say, there are valuable lessons to be learned from their study. But real world application of ANY ideology needs to be tempered with informed, pragmatic actions that are not blindly linked to an absolutist and Utopian ideal. I would no more support a full Hayekian economy any more than I would a full Marxist one. Indeed, I view Hayek as the Right Wing Marx: neither should be ignored for what they get right – Marx is dead on when he says the class struggle is a key component to an imbalanced economy, we’re seeing that now. The wealth gap plainly shows that the proletariat (American workers) are not being adequately compensated in relation to the profits or the bourgeoisie (the corporate class). Now, does that mean the State needs to control the means of production in the name of the proletariat? Uh, fuck no. Because Marxism as an economic reality has failed miserably as well. CLEARLY.

My largest problem with the Ayn Rand/Hayek/Friedman/neoliberalism economic paradigm is the evangelical nature of it’s adherents to an unsustainable endgame – a problem I tend to have with Libertarianism as a political force, as well. As these views circulate through the Washington-Wall Street echo chamber (something shown very well in “13 Bankers” and a few other books on the current crisis), they take on the feeling of Gospel – unimpeachable truths that must be implemented in toto, the canon of the Free Market and Personal Freedom becoming as immutable as the Bible. Is “Free Market” and “Libertarian” perspective valuable? Yes, of course. We must balance management with the freedom to act. However, taken to their logical extremes, they are contrary to the evidence of their implementations’ effectiveness – even when couched in “we just want smaller government” language, it is undeniable that the ideology of Libertarianism and it’s accompanying Classic Liberalist or Neoliberalist economic beliefs are being used to drive politicians towards more and more extreme policy. The completely insane and manufactured debt ceiling crisis is a perfect example. This isn’t a question of “small government”, or of policy being tempered by a small government perspective. It’s the economic fate of the nation – if not the world – being taken hostage in the name of FUCKING BUDGET CUTS. It’s not pragmatic – the wealth lost on Monday would have filled the Social Security gap, or paid for the Bush Tax Cuts! Yes, the market rebounded, but I want you to see the point. Pragmatically, the course – to economists – really is clear. You need to put purchasing power back in the hands of the Middle Class. Period. You can’t run a fountain with no water at the bottom. This isn’t even economics, it’s basic systems analysis. If we don’t do this, we’ll all have “the freedom” to starve as we bicker about the notions of “freedom” held by a bunch of elitist, entitled ideologues unable to back one iota off their Religion of the Rich. Is it fair to tax the rich at 45%? Who fucking cares? If we don’t, we’re not going to be a nation long enough to debate it.

Which brings me to the basis of my distaste for Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism – there will never be enough evidence to convince the ideologues because saner heads will always prevail and save us from experiencing the total meltdown that would be caused by following these policies. The madmen who push this drivel will never have to face the actual consequences of their lunatic policies – note, the theories aren’t lunatic, per se, again, there’s value in the perspective, and the analysis – but the policies derived from this “Holy Mandate”, this “Divine Right” of defining “Freedom” have a pragmatic track record of failure, with clear evidence that their basic tenets – information equality (which, ironically, actually also defines that no one can outsmart the market), rational actors, hunger and profit motives and the “invisible hand of the market” – are NOT practical absolutes. And again, I would apply this same reasoning to Marxism, another system that, when followed religiously, fails to account for the myriad ways that reality stubbornly refuses to follow our little schemes.

All of this, of course, is just as an economic system, to say nothing to Libertarian and Neoclassicism’s complete abhorrence of social justice. THAT’S a whole other argument. Although I will say that Classical Liberalism completely ignores the idea of social welfare as an investment in human capital to drive innovation. Without the development of human capital, there IS no innovation, which means stagnation. What seems clear is that in times of crisis like we have now, the pragmatic idea is that social spending as an investment in human capital (not to mention in infrastructure) matches our need to get money into the hands of the worker so they can become the consumer. Demand drives production, which creates jobs. It doesn’t work backwards. We can build 100,000 homes, and if no one is willing to buy them, it doesn’t matter. That’s not a sustainable market. Same with investing – we can encourage investors to put all their money into new enterprise, but without wages to fund aggregate demand, it doesn’t matter. You could cure cancer, and if no one can afford it, it’s not going to create a single job.

If the economy recovers, we can talk about what policies we can follow to allow the most amount of growth, with the highest level of innovation, with the best amount of preventative legislation (I firmly believe that there is a point of acceptable trade off in slowed growth from regulation that keeps an industry honest and un-self-destructive, costing less than policy to clean up a mess). We can tinker with the balances between protection and shared risk, between personal choice and personal responsibility. There is certainly room for all viewpoints – as long as they are sane, intelligent voices willing to support ideas that cross ideological lines in the name of practicality, and who are willing to accept when their own ideas have failed, and to move on to develop new ones. Democracy – much like the economy – is driven by innovation, and that takes a collective effort to attempt, evaluate, and adjust in the spirit of good faith compromise, not the lunatic rantings of power mad ideologues.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On being an artist, from a forum.

Being an artist starts and ends with the way one approaches life, in my not so humble opinion. The medium is just the medium – most people I’d define as artists tend to do everything in their lives artistically. You see this in people like Bowie or Pete Townsend, who I think both went to Art College, or Ron Wood, or Adam from Tool, who express themselves graphically as well as musically. There are a lot of musicians who also paint, take pictures, write poetry, etc… and plenty of poets, painters, and photographers that play music.

To me, true art stems from the ability to empathize, to truly feel what others are feeling, to then make your own perspective communicable. To create that bond between the totally subjective and personal, and the universal, in a way that comments on the human condition as a whole. Whether speaking on greater mores like love and friendship, or challenging our notions of what it means to be human, or expanding on our ideas of God, politics, or society. It has a purpose, and a perspective. It frames something that encourages us to step outside the mundane, to question our tiny personal universe.

Just as there are people stronger than others, or people smarter than others, I think there are people who feel harder than others, who have gifts in the emotional realm that, when harnessed, allow them to tap into our larger gestalts, to hold that mirror up to ourselves. This is a skill set, like being naturally good at sports, or at physics.

I think this is evolutionarily advantageous, as well as societally necessary. Whether is is B.B. King making us feel like he understands our loneliness, or Picasso painting Guernica to call attention to the horrors of war, there is a reason why we have artists, and why we desire art, from the simplest cave paintings to the most elaborate masterpieces. It has it’s downsides, the emotional extremes making life hard to live, hard to control. When you feel so strongly, the joy can be transcendent, but the sorrow can be apocalyptic. We get it backwards – it’s not being crazy or self destructive that makes one artistic, it’s that the skill set and abilities that make artists so effective can burn hot enough to drive one crazy, or lead to self destruction.

As one of those “artistic types bad at logic and math”, I find that my self-identity as an artist comes not from my work – hey, “bad artist” is still an artist – but from the way I approach life itself. My interface and my perspective are different (not better, just different) than most people’s, and leads me to learn, create, and share, across disciplines, finding the poetry of the soul in everything from comics to economics, informing my perspective and seeing connections between Egyptian pyramids and the silence of young lovers, between the mighty armies of men and the sight of the first butterfly of spring.

Whether I or any other artist has the talent or develops the skill to produce GOOD art, well, that’s totally subjective. And there are people of a more “normal” mindset that make art, and certainly Outsider Art is a fave of mine. But overall, I feel like these skills – empathy, intellectual curiosity, compassion – are what define the artist more than the medium or the skill.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment