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What’s happening in Europe is what matters: rules of the financial rich

2011 November 18
by Ian Welsh

The oligarchs have taken down two governments in the past two weeks – Italy and Greece.  The idea that the Mario Monti, the new PM of Italy, is something wonderful, is deranged.  Note that once again, neither an election nor a referendum was allowed.

If you want to save the Euro and some form of European prosperity, there is only one solution, the European Central Bank (ECB) must do what it keeps insisting it won’t do, it must buy Eurobonds from members.  And it must buy them at fixed prices.  Italian, Greek, French, German bonds will be issued at X price, and if insufficient investors want to buy at that price, tough, the ECB will buy.  If this causes inflation, great, Europe needs inflation right now.

Even France and to a lesser extent, Germany, are coming under attack.  However France is under significant attack, and Merkel and the ECB seem unwilling to really do anything about it.  France has the option to go off the Euro in a way that most other countries don’t.  The issue with going off the Euro is simple: oil prices.  You now have to buy oil with your lousy currency, which is even more worthless than the Euro.  But if you happen to control countries that have oil, like France does (for example, France is mostly in control of Libya right now, not the US), then hey, sign some long term contracts and voila.  It is not written in stone that prices must be set on open bid markets.

Which leads us to the sudden surge in the price of oil to $107 a barrel.  On the face of it, this is crazy.  Yes, the US has had a bit of a recovery, but Europe is going hard core austerity.  But this is the game the hot money is playing: they move out of bonds and into oil, out of oil and into bonds.  $107/barrel oil means the US recovery (such as it is, which isn’t much) isn’t going to last much longer.

Being rich is about being liquid when everyone else isn’t, so you can buy up assets on the cheap.  When the rich are properly under control (ie. when you keep them poor and terrified of government and the people, as they should be) they can’t create such buying opportunities, they have to wait for them, and the government makes it so that the rich can’t take too much advantage of them, because taking advantage of them means taking advantage of other people when they’re most vulnerable.

Right now the rich can and are crashing asset prices by forcing countries into austerity through attacks on their currencies and control of their elites.  They then buy up assets for fire-sale prices.  (The history of fire-sale is worth commenting on.  Crassus, the Roman Senator of the first triumvirate, had a fire fighting team.  When a fire broke out they’d go to the fire, fight off the other fire teams, then Crassus would buy the burning buildings from their owners, negotiating as they burned.  If they refused to sell, well, they lost everything.)

These attacks on currencies are deranged.  The countries are not in that much difficulty, certainly the idea that France is in enough difficulty to be under attack is crazy.  These attacks are about power: the global rich were bailed out after the crash, now they are using their hot money in attack after attack, demanding austerity, which will cause semi-permanent depression in those countries which accept it.  That allows them to buy up what they want, keeps their labor costs down, and lets them divert what money they spend on investment which creates actual real economic growth into developing countries which are cheaper for them.

But watching European leaders respond has also made clear that they are either compromised, ideologically neo-liberals or completely ineffective.  Watching the ECB insist that it won’t just buy bonds has been particularly amusing, because if the ECB won’t defend even France, the Euro is in great danger of not existing in a few years, and if the Euro doesn’t exist, neither does the ECB, which means all those central bankers will be out of jobs.  They won’t even act to save their own jobs.

All of this is crazy.  The financial elites are on a plundering spree, gleefully using their power to force entire nations into poverty, blackmailing governments into huge payouts.  Pay extra on bonds, or pay extra on oil, or hey, why not both!

The political elites are clearly either bought or completely ineffective at resisting.  If the ECB won’t buy bonds, then countries just need to leave the Euro so they can print money.  Yes, that might cause inflation and various other problems, but that is better than semi-permanent depression through austerity.

Now, what can the people do when the elites won’t allow direct referendums, and when there are elections you can only vote for parties which are all in favor of austerity?

Make them fear you.  Start as follows, which is what was done in Argentina: find their cars, those nice expensive cars, and trash them.  Every time you see someone in a suit coming from the airport, surround the car and slash the tires.

And if you’re going to riot, don’t do it in your own neighbourhoods.  Go to the parliament buildings, the bank HEADQUARTERS or to the neighbourhoods in which the rich live, and riot there.

If you insist on some form of pure nonviolence (which the European left and right don’t) then you must chain and twist tie yourselves around important areas.  Go to the headquarters and shut them down by tying yourself up to all the entrances.  Twist ties aren’t just the cop’s friends, they are yours.  Love them and learn how to use them.

The elites will only respond when they feel your pain.  And they will only feel it if you make them feel it.

43 Responses
  1. Peter permalink
    November 18, 2011

    The problem with your analysis is not that it isn’t without accuracy from an economic perspective, however simplistic, it is that you are making the same mistake the Euro-leaders have made for decades, which is to downplay nationalist sentiment, cultural differences and the political forces that are simmering underneath. There isn’t a “European Left”, there’s a German left and a Greek left and they would rather trash each other’s cars than those of their wealthy countrymen.

    You are also adopting the mantra of the bankers themselves–which is that the demise of the Euro is unthinkable. Even allowing that it would be very chaotic for several years, it is the only way the Mediterranean countries can avoid becoming German satraps–even with qualitative easings. Greece is 40% less productive than Germany, so how, in the long term, can they possibly avoid a steady economic descent if they can’t devalue?

    It’s not hard to understand how this all looks through German eyes. They have a widely-held atavistic terror of inflation and are proud of their discipline, fiscal honesty, frugality, efficiency and productivity. To them, those are features, not bugs. Now they are expected to compromise all that to give an “equal playing field” to far less productive countries with bloated state budgets and Ruritanean government practices like fudging public accounts and announcing cutbacks in spending with no intention of implementing them? Nein, not unless ve can control their fiscal policies to stop ze fecklessness!! But seen through Greek eyes, the demands from Berlin add up to demands that they become German and do what the Germans dictate, which doesn’t resonate well in Europe for obvious reasons.

    It’s a horrible problem built on an irrational monetary structure. The States may be badly divided, but no one doubts they have the political powers and institutional tools to do what needs to be done once they figure out what that is. Not so here. Gotta go forward or back–the first spells German hegemony, the second chaos. Choose your poison.

    The real underlying problem is that European unity was an elite project that only got general acceptance with promises of money. The political and cultural cohesions that were supposed to flow from idealistic economic unity didn’t evolve. The hard truth is they don’t like one another nearly enough to support the sense of mutual obligation and assistance the project demands. To see this all in general classical terms of an economic class war with solidarity or even potential solidarity among the classes is highly naive. It’s at bottom a political and cultural crisis. You may also want to remember that , in Europe, car-trashing riots can often have unintended results.

    But you are right that this is what matters. Bloggers who spend all their time on GOP primaries or How-to-stop-Harper musings are akin to jocks who take a pass on the Stanley Cup finals to watch recreational bowling.

  2. par4 permalink
    November 18, 2011

    Get rid of the rich. Period. What the planet and the human species needs right now is a great economic leveling and a cooperative plan for reducing population and pollution.

  3. Ian Welsh permalink
    November 18, 2011

    No Peter, you misunderstood my post. I said that you can either get rid of the Euro or you can properly defend it, but you can’t continue to muddle through. Fish or cut bait, stop the attacks cold, or leave. I have repeatedly advised Greece, for example, to get off the Euro.

    I understand the German fear of inflation, but they are probably the country which has benefited most from the Euro, and they will suffer if it goes away. The German demand that everyone be Germans is insane on the face, it is straight up impossible. Everyone cannot be a net exporter. It is mathematically impossible. Their insistence on austerity is also deranged, who is going to buy their goods if they force their customers to impoverish themselves?

    Par4, the rich need to be humbled. But they will not disappear unless we have a straight up Dark Age. We, and they, are working on that, however.

  4. hvd permalink
    November 18, 2011

    Unfortunately the Germans are right that the only way to break the speculative regime that Ian so correctly writes underlies the attack on the European sovereigns is to prevent the ECB from creating more hot money that ends up only in speculators hands. The same problem we have in the U.S. where Bernanke’s policies only feed the speculative frenzy (the speculators are the only ones who get the money) while there is no fiscal policy to direct that money to potentially long term productive uses and which also ties up some of that money in infrastructure (either public or private).

    That correct German decision, however, is matched with morality play, cultural disagreement requirements for souther tier austerity without the potential for the sort of fiscal policy that could help create a new regime in which speculation fueled “growth” is squeezed out and replaced with a more realistic slow, sustainable growth model that the German psyche and I think reality demands.

  5. Towner permalink
    November 18, 2011

    “The elites will only respond when they feel your pain. And they will only feel it if you make them feel it.”

  6. Peter permalink
    November 18, 2011

    Ian:

    Thanks. I’m not of the left, but I don’t think I’ve seen a wider opening for a leftist comeback (meaning an appeal to the undeclared middle) in years, provided it doesn’t just pull a para4 and haul out 1930s Marxist rhetoric about toasting the rich. Unfortunately, that’s not the only comeback I can forsee. I’d be very interested in your thoughts on these “technocratic” governments made up of central bankers and senior Eurocrats (who cut their teeth under many leftist governments for years). It seems to me to be very simplistic, even mispunching, to simply assert they are doing the bidding of an anthropomorphized “capitalism” or foisting a “neoliberal” agenda on everyone. Central bankers aren’t in the game to make gazillions and bureaucracies have their own non-ideological imperatives, starting with putting a premium on stability above everything, including wealth and profit. I am very struck by how these appear to have convinced most of Europe’s social-democratic parties, starting with Greece’s, that “there is no choice” but to follow their advice. Both Bush and Obama claimed to have been viscerally opposed to the bank bailouts, and I’m starting to believe the Fed just said they had no choice. Have you noticed how Carney has such a high profile these days? Is he telling Flaherty just when he can reduce the deficit?

    Who are these guys and what would the left do about them?

  7. Ian Welsh permalink
    November 18, 2011

    The technocrats believe. But the idea that Bush and Obama were viscerally opposed to the bank bailouts is just bullshit. There is a lot of latitude at that level.

    Europe’s “social democratic” parties are just as big believers in the neo-liberalism as anyone else. Folks like Blair and Clinton made their bones selling out actual left wing principles and the same is true of every soft-left party in Europe.

    There are different parts of the left. The old boom led left in the US believes in mushiness. If only they protest and tell the elites they are bad, they’ll do the right thing.

    The harder left believes that the technocrats have indeed sold out, and have been sold out for a long time. Just following straight up standard macro would have told you about the housing bubble, yet these folks denied its existence, and pumped it up. Heck, you didn’t even need macro, you just needed to look at a chart. Likewise, straight up macro tells you what happens if the entire west goes into austerity. Straight up macro tells you that moderate inflation (anything less than 10%, or even somewhat higher) isn’t bad for economies.

    The consumer mentality of letting other people create your options (parties) and then voting for them, is the issue. If you are Greek, and you want to vote to leave the Euro and against austerity, there is no one to vote for.

    Populations are complicit. There are hard left parties in Europe, they aren’t voting for them. In Canada Canadians blinked and didn’t vote for the NDP in the last Federal election.

    What would the left do about them? That depends on what tactics are considered legitimate. In Canada the war is for who the NDP will be post-Layton, and if it is a party which will put all the policy options on the table. I told a provincial NDP fundraiser yesterday, straight up, that I won’t donate to the Provincial NDP as long as Horvath is the leader: I’m not giving my money to someone who won’t raise income taxes, because that means she will only raise various regressive taxes. The Federal NDP seems poised to try and become the Liberals, which is a recipe for electoral disaster: if people want a must center party, they’ll go back to the Liberals.

    In policy terms, too much to go into in a comment. Suffice to say different countries have different issues. But as a rule, you must tell the hot money to go fuck itself. The policies they will demand are disastrous to the majority of the population and will throw countries into semi-permanent depression. They are playing with the fire of war, it is the logical outcome of their policies.

    The rich must be humbled, the world must break the oil botleneck, and real growth must occur again in a way which mitigates climate change.

    All of this is quite possible, but it can’t be done in a way which follows the policy preferences of the already filthy rich.

    To step back for a second to the political class: you can not go to some form of autarchy unless they are willing to, or forced to, give up most foreign luxuries. Argentina made it very hard to own and upkeep expensive foreign cars, for example, that was key. As long as they want to be able to use their money to buy foreign luxuries, to move money easily in and out of countries and as long as they want to hobnkob with the rich, telling the hot money to go to hell can’t be done. One of my friends was considering moving back to Wall Street, he calculated the burn rate for doing so at about 20K a month just for rent, clothes and living expenses. You can’t even live in the same circles as the low grade wealthy on what most legislators officially earn, or most technocrats officially earn. It MUST be supplemented and it has been, by the people who stand to benefit most from their legislation, executive actions and regulatory actions or lack of action.

    Buying government has ROIs in the thousands. It is extraordinarily profitable.

    The fundamental demand of the hot money is risk free returns at above inflation. No economy can run like that.

  8. November 18, 2011

    bush, obama, and the fed serve the same masters: themselves/their class.

    Z

  9. Towner permalink
    November 18, 2011

    “Populations are complicit. There are hard left parties in Europe, they aren’t voting for them.”

    Here in Denmark were I’m expatriated we recently had elections that brought in a “red bloc” (left-wing coalition) after 10 years of the neoliberal dominated right-wing coalition of liberals, conservatives and nationalists.

    Enhedslisten, The Red-Green Alliance party which consists of former left-wing parties: the Left Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party, had the largest percentage gains in the parliament, picking up 8 seats. They picked up these seats largely from the center-left parties as explicitly anti-austerity votes. But the explicitly pro-corporate party, a new upstart finished with

    But the problem is that the Social Democrats here have also largely excepted the EU neoliberal agenda. And the Danish Social-Liberal Party who forms a government now is the proverbial “centrist” socially liberal free market party. They’ve got huge influence now. And I’ve always considered them more dangerous to the welfare system here than the right-wing nationalist who’s voters are working class and the elderly dependent on social programs.

    Anyhow, the voters are complicit. I think, that for the most part, the problem lies with people’s lived experiences and most folks here are still doing well and the welfare cuts and the ones on the block just don’t seem to be that big a deal, yet. The labor parties got complacent here like everywhere as workers shared in the broad middle class. But that’s been reversing for 10 years and the austerity measures are only going to exasperate the trend. And the media here has been pretending that Denmark is safe from contagion and the general public accepts that.

  10. alyosha permalink
    November 18, 2011

    It’s very instructive to draw the parallel with Crassus and the elites of today. Some things never change.

    Bloggers who spend all their time on GOP primaries or How-to-stop-Harper musings are akin to jocks who take a pass on the Stanley Cup finals to watch recreational bowling.

    Well put. This small mindedness – which I rarely see on this blog – drives me crazy at times, and reliably signals that it’s past time to push away from the computer.

  11. Rob Grigjanis permalink
    November 18, 2011

    Ian wrote: If you are Greek, and you want to vote to leave the Euro and against austerity, there is no one to vote for.

    That’s what Yanis Varoufakis told Steve Paikin on The Agenda a couple weeks ago. The discussion was interesting to an Economic Idiot like myself, who relies mostly on what sounds honest and reasonable. The TVO video only covers the second half of a show in which Varoufakis was the sole guest in the first half. Links to the video, and to Varoufakis’ website here.

  12. Veque permalink
    November 18, 2011

    In Canada Canadians blinked and didn’t vote for the NDP in the last Federal election.

    They did as well as could be expected under the circumstances, I believe. The only reason the NDP were permitted to have a left-wing leader at all was that it seemed like the Liberals would be able to drive them to the margins with a Democrat-style LOTE campaign. It’s not like the Liberal party wanted Ignatieff–he was simply installed by fiat when it became evident that there was no way to contrive a situation where the party membership would seem to willingly elect him. In the end it was the Liberals that were marginalized (though not soon enough to give the NDP a victory), but that is of little consequence, as now that it is obvious that Canadian electorate cannot be trusted to stick with the two main parties, the leadership of the remaining parties will have to be reigned in as well, as you are seeing now.

  13. Veque permalink
    November 18, 2011

    Populations are complicit.

    That’s just a rhetorical slight-of-hand that deems an outrage that cannot be resisted as having been consented to. (IIRC the Vietnam-era wonkspeak for this was “presumptive consent”.)

  14. Ian Welsh permalink
    November 18, 2011

    No, sorry. These were democracies with parties where you could choose the leadership if you cared to be involved. Populations were complicit. We have the governments we deserve. You can’t treat government like a consumer good.

  15. Tony Wikrent permalink
    November 18, 2011

    Every once in a while, a story comes up that is extremely instructive. Even more rare is when two stories come up that together make a particularly strong point.

    So, the rich are a problem? Here’s a nice illustration of why: A front pager on DailyKos has written about the tribulations of two sisters fighting against their former employer, Hyatt Hotels. And here’s a some nice context to help judge this particular corporation “Not content with just having higher injury rates than other major hotel chains, they do stuff like turning heat lamps on picketing workers during a heat wave, as happened in Chicago last summer.”
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/18/1037717/-Sisters-fired-by-Hyatt-after-objecting-to-bikini-pictures-fight-back

    Hyatt? Hmm, that rings a bell. Could it be? Why, golly gee, check Wikipedia, and sure enough. Here’s the comment I left:

    Hyatt is owned and run by the Pritzker family. If I recall correctly, the seed money for the Pritzker fortune came from grandpa or great-grandpa working as an accountant for one of the Chicago mobsters. Might have been Al Capone, but I think it was one of the mobsters eliminated by Capone.

    Anyway, this is the Pritzker family that spawned Penny Sue Pritzker. That would be, umm, the Penny Sue Pritzker that was the national finance chair of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Really, I’m not kidding. According to the Wikipedia profile of Penny Sue,

    In 2011 the Forbes 400 list of “America’s wealthiest” showed her as the 263rd richest person in the U.S., estimated net worth of US $1.7 billion.[2] Also in 2011 Forbes listed her as the world’s 651st richest person.[3]

    This is as good an example as you’re going to get of why the entire elite establishment in America is rotten to the core. Hope and change, indeed. It’s gonna be decided in the streets. And it’s not going to be pretty, mark my words. I’m trying to warn you what’s coming.

    Amazingly, no one else made the connection. Which points to a significant strategic weakness of the left: it has no intelligence. Not intelligence as in smarts or brains; I mean intelligence as in espionage, research, and analysis. Ian is correct in prescribing what needs to be done. The real problem is going to be identifying and fixing the location for such protests. And, it really, really helps to be able to identify the scum that rises to the top, when you find it in disguise as a respectable member of a presidential campaign.

  16. Towner permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Tony, I didn’t know that about the Pritzker family but not at all surprising. I’m not sure I understand your point about intel? Who should be conducting it, who should be analyzing it and where should it be disseminated? And isn’t this exactly what Wikileaks was structured to do? I’d think that, at least on the propaganda side of things, any action would need to be explicitly class conscious to be considered Leftist. Perhaps it’s not so much that there isn’t intel but that it’s not tied into a coherent working class world view? Thoughts.

  17. Towner permalink
    November 19, 2011

    On intel.

    Here’s just the kind of development you might be thinking about. Not surprising this is Oakland leading the way.

    http://darwinbondgraham.blogspot.com/2011/11/oakland-chamber-of-commerce-executive.html

    http://www.occupythechamber.info

  18. Tony Wikrent permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Towner, you’re heading the the right direction. But it’s not so much a working class world view that is needed – it is reviving a understanding of republicanism. You get a strong preview of it from the letters of Civil War Union soldiers and officers quoted by James McPherson in his book What They Fought For which I used in this blog: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/04/11/966022/-The-Truth-About-the-Confederacy

    I would especially recommend Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution to understand the idea of what the republic is supposed to be, the idea of the general welfare, and the really important, even crucial, idea of public virtue. Jim Sleeper has written a lot along these lines, but using the term civic virtue.

    The problem with just a working class view is that, well, every society has a working class. But why did the working class in USA do as well as it has? Now, this is rather convoluted, because the USA was originally established with only male property holders having the vote. But as Martin Luther King Jr. explained, the promise of the republic as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence has been gradually, sometimes too slowly, but more or less relentlessly, advanced to include all people.

    Reviving an understanding of the republic brings you to the taproot of American exceptionalism, so it has to be done quite deliberately and carefully. The great appeal of the USA has been negated by a jingoistic perversion of American exceptionalism. That needs to be corrected. But you cannot fully understand and appreciate the republic until you see it clearly as the great historical experiment in self-government that it is. And once you understand that, then you can begin to understand who the enemy is and how to defend against it.

    In the case of the Pritzker, any campaign for national office that associated with a Pritzker, should have been, in an ideal world, DOA. The fact that such a family can gain acceptance at the very top is merely a measure of how thoroughly corrupt the system is.

    Does this smack of guilt by association? Of course it does. But that is the basis of much intelligence work. The British understand this extremely well. Why do you think the Brits are such world experts in things like religion and ethnology? They know the utility of identifying the thugs in a society, and arranging affairs so that the thugs rule. Do you think all those famous British scholars were studying the Roman Empire because they found it personally interesting?

    The left spurns power based on such straightforward manipulation of societies and peoples, preferring an idealized fantasy world in which appeals to reason suffice to set society on the proper policy path. Sorry, the real world just does not work that way. Never has, and never will I suspect. So, there has to be a sort of brutal realism in intelligence work about categorizing people of interest as either good or bad. I’ve seen it time and again the past 6 or 7 years – some company or individual will do something “good” such as invest in clean energy, and someone unaware of the past history of that company or individual will write some blog effusing about the “good” thing done. Then, when things go to hell, everyone acts all surprised and stuff. But I remember that company or individual as being involved in the corporate raiding of the 1980s, so I know whatever that company or individual touches is going to turn sour. A banker will act like a banker. A predator capitalist will act as a predator capitalist. It’s the basis of Veblen’s institutional analysis, by the way. Yes, redemption is always possible. But it is also always rare.

    Here’s an example: Tim Geithner. His first job was with Kissinger Associates. That’s all I needed to know to be absolutely certain that anything Geithner did in public policy would end up being a disaster. Henry effing Kissinger! You want someone associated with Henry effing Kissinger making decisions affecting the fate of the republic? HELL NO.

    This is a short, crude explication of some fundamental principles. Entire books can be devoted to these questions. But, hopefully, you get the idea.

  19. Veque permalink
    November 19, 2011

    These were democracies with parties where you could choose the leadership if you cared to be involved.

    When did the Liberal members get to choose Ignatieff? I seem to have missed that.

  20. Veque permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Should read “Liberal party members”

  21. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Take note, this Sunday Spain is having their general election. Expected to win is the Popular Party (PP), supposedly “centre right”. The current government is PSOE, socialist workers party, is not expected to survive as result of austerity measures required by the Troika, EC (European Commissioners), ECB (European Central Bank), and IMF (International Monetary Fund), to escape their requirements for bailout (Spain having one of the better records of European governments for public debt and fiscal responsibility but who’s economy was wrecked by massive unemployment brought on by the collapse of construction and its financing).

    The “mindset” of the PP is indistinguishable from all other “centre right” leadership currently in power in Europe. Religiously adhering to neoliberal ideology, they are deaf to all other voices. Their expected application of austerity will send a stalled economy into a fatal descent into national bankruptcy and the destruction of carefully constructed social support structures. Once this happens, there are no perceivable economic tools for the nation to recover its economic position. The poverty of Franco’s autarchy will be revisited upon a long suffering population, the heavy price of TINA – There Is No Alternative – to the neoliberal economic religion.

    Europe, to survive, will have to curtail and control the markets, set limits to the market they allow to function in their jurisdiction, Tobin tax all transactions of the markets particularly those transactions of short or ultrashort duration, and restructure their bond markets to where the central bank is the only source of sovereign bonds for the EMU (European Monetary Union) and sets the rates for those bonds, no individual country would be identified as issuing, those bonds not bought through the central banks window would be automatically bought by the bank, take it or leave it, investor’s choice. Strict oversight of all markets trading in derivatives; leverage absolutely limited, if of insuring other derivatives that insurance requirements are met. All speculative transactions taxed in relation to the market risk being created. The necessity is to reestablish sovereign control over the markets by the governing authorities and put an end to market control over governments and market regulation.

    Two European governments are now being under the control of “technocrats”, lost to the democratic process. These “Technocrats” will have no ear to hear anything but what they wish to hear and will take no position that will compromise their will, no matter the damage they may inflict upon the people they now govern. If they succeed in restoring the economy, fine, restore democratic government forthwith; if they don’t, or allow corruption to persist, they need be taken to a wall for their failure. Power must have a price.

  22. November 19, 2011

    @Tony Wikrent:

    The left spurns power based on such straightforward manipulation of societies and peoples, preferring an idealized fantasy world in which appeals to reason suffice to set society on the proper policy path. Sorry, the real world just does not work that way. Never has, and never will I suspect.

    (I haven’t yet read your diary at DKos, but I will – it looks fascinating.)

    I’ve seen admonitions like this quote of yours, in different forms and contexts, many many times. Sorry, “the real world just does not work that way” is a conservative argument. It is an apologia for the existing order. It is anti-progressive. It is soul-killing.

    The day that “the left” adopts this nihilistic resignation to pragmatism is the day the left dies – as it has been, indeed, comatose since the demoralizations of the ’70s, so exploited by the chirping President New-Morning-In-America. Something stirs today because some people are revisiting possibilities that others would scold as being unrealistic.

    More to the point – I categorically object to “sins of the fathers” genealogical condemnations of descendents of families. If we are to advocate for concepts like the Estate Tax – designed to ameliorate generational dynasties – then offering the olive branch of freedom from persecution due to a family name should accompany it (whether or not our wishes have been realized.)

    Attention to matters of association and pedigree is best left to stuffy patriarchs, aristocrats, land-lords, and Joe McCarthy’s of the world, those who – I think I understand – you yourself have no love for either.

  23. Ken Hoop permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Tony Wikrent

    I assume you realize the eclipse of majority ethnic solidarity led to the takeover of Mideast policy by the Zionist Lobby with all the destruction of Arab-Palestinian working mddle class rights that has involved for the past few decades.

    Of course it’s never that complicated for an egalitarian.

  24. Antifa permalink
    November 19, 2011

    What appears to be coming for Europe is for the European Central Bank to print whatever amount of money it takes to rescue all comers, and loan it to the IMF to pass it on to those needy nations.

    Thus skirting all ECB restrictions on printing limitless money to rescue Euro governments.

    When the IMF gives a nation money, they also tell you to sell everything and shut down your social safety net. See: Latin America, Africa, et al

    If this foolishness goes through (Germany is objecting), Euro member nations would be better off leaving and printing their own currency, rather than accepting IMF Euros.

    The current push is for the ECB to get this notion into motion with a vote on December 9.

  25. amspirnational permalink
    November 19, 2011

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/incredible-europeans/

    not acc to PK

  26. Antifa permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Krugman merely points to the growing panic for the ECB to do SOMETHING.

    Here’s what that something is likely to be:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20111118-704636.html

    http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2011/11/17/752101/the-ecb-imf-italy-roundabout-switcheroo/

    http://www.businessinsider.com/ecb-imf-rumor-2011-11

    It will be presented on December 9th as “we have no choice” — as is usually done when economic hitmen force their program.

  27. November 19, 2011

    @Tony Wikrent: I’ve just finished your DKos diary, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I learned a few things, and picked up some valuable talking points as well. Thank you.

  28. StewartM permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Ian Welsh:

    Populations were complicit. We have the governments we deserve.

    Sorry, I can’t buy that.

    It seems to me a paradox to maintain that the bulk of our citizens are lied to, deliberately deluded, massively propagandized, and given a Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum “choice” at elections where no matter who gets elected, the actions will be pretty much the same, and at the same time blame the very people who are/will be victimized for “complicity”.

    They are no more complicit than a old woman who gets hoodwinked into massively overpaying at a used car lot by a sleazy used car salesman is “complicit”. There is a difference between being victimized and being responsible. To be responsible, one must have knowledge of what really is going on and what is at stake. The PTB try obfuscate that as much as possible.

    Oh and about the “technocrats”–the problem is not that “the technocrats” are in charge. The “technocrats” (i.e., experts who recommend or do what is objectively correct) being in charge would be a good thing. The problem is that the ideologues and the corrupted are in charge.

    StewartM

  29. O. Nardis permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Elections, Politics, DEMOCRACY, at… Walhalla??

    To understand something about LATIN Europe must be used an old brief guide, useful in psycho-labyrinths since Slaughterhouse, sorry: CLASSIC, age. Thanks to NakedCity (or Cabaret Voltaire, don’t remember) for the original.

    Where is the chief? In Rome, the World, the Hub of Real Universe (sorry, NBA… Celtics).

    Male, female, …UNCERTAIN? What a question! Same all others SONS of …

    President? Well, posting vs. NorthAmerican Galaxy is better refresh this little story: JFK went in Rome and talked with an High Brother. “What about the Boss? – I met Him last week at a dinner with … and with Cardinal Spillman. – Spellman, you mean. – HE (the good J. !!) said Spillman, mr. President.” (kindly permission from… T.C. Sorensen!).

    Justice? Actually Amnesty International headquarters are in London, Round about Midnight Tower but after the victory of RobinHood against Nero and …LADY Warren, the return of a man called Peter (not Bobby!!) Fisher , will be consulted new Chief Taft (hopefully!! . This from Arsenic and Old Lace, a happy-end-remake of The Castle of Otranto).
    In that quasar, the real planet Jupiter, there will be solved strange cases like E. Mattei, T. Campanella, R. Calvi, Cold Fusion, Virgin Ippazia, Socrates (not the soccer player, the walker one, because TIME IS an archived physic variable), G. Galilei, A. Moro, J.Rotten and D. Stratton, A. Luciani and Lady D.; houses, cars, trains, airplanes, Zeppelins, IronMaidens and Zappas will be tested using Harold LLoyd rules.

    Welfare? The spirit of Plato’s Republic is, passing to Hegel, cutting Schelling at right and two unknown Blues Brothers at left, is Charity, not McCarthy (Eugene… , of course!).

    Minorities survival? Looking at a Gaza-like solution together with Brave Old ClerG-Men, the Stardust Shylock’s Witness State. For this reason, starting from G. Yarring resolution 242/67 (no relations with D. Hammarskjold, O. Palme, sure!), passing through a construction named EEC (or CCE, CECKA, CCCP, don’t remember) by three guys (LUGENauer, from … Cologne -citation from A.”Ricciardetto”Guerriero-, A. DeGasperi, hero of clean hands politic -“stateman NEVER talks about money”, title of a SOAP opera very known before Ibsen and Shaw in Milan, near SpielbergSalzburg- and… Prometheus Fantomas), will be adopted a virtual exchange with those like-brothers, the ModestSwift (or MorguePoe, looking at last changes in Pluto’s orbits at EPCOT).

    Future generations? Strangeloves or RocketMen Comets. But this is (sadly??) a Papafigues’s Babie-BUT-Water choice…

  30. November 19, 2011

    I can’t buy your arguments, StewartM. We’ve known that oil is a finite resource and the environment is critically stressed for at least 40 years. At least I’ve known for over 40 years, since I was in kindegarten. And yet look how many people drive SUV. Many of them paying twice as much for an SUV as for a car that would have met their needs. And then they ridicule intellectuals and tree huggers, and folks who object to wars of aggression started to steal another country’s oil. The vast majority of Americans have been complicit in the current state of affairs by actively abdicating what power they had or obstructing anyone trying to progress. And for those, I have no sympathy at all, not even close members of my own family. My prayer for them is that they live long enough to see what they have done to their kid’s and grandkid’s futures (and hopefully their own futures will suck too). But they are so stupid that they have been blaming Obama’s socialism for the recession, almost before it started (serves him right, too). Screw them all. It will almost be worth watching my own retirement security wither on the vine before I can even get there. It’s not like I have any choice in it. When life gives you lemons, look around at everyone else with lemons and make schadenfreude. That’s what I say.

  31. Jack Crow permalink
    November 19, 2011

    So, upon consideration of the above, thoughts on this:

    Rise of the Mighty Technocrats

  32. November 19, 2011

    StewartM~ But we’re complicit because we allowed ourselves to be lied to. For quite some time, the bulk of the American people have left the actual governing of their republic to people who can barely pass a smell test for competency and honest, morality. Ian didn’t say we’re to blame, he said we’re complicit.

    The tough part about self-government is that it was all based on Enlightenment ideals about man’s rationality … which is likely why the group originally involved in self-governing was fairly restrictive.

    There is no proof that the majority of humans will act rationally in the majority of cases. And herein lies the fundamental problem that Petro rages against. The appeals to reason don’t work because we’re not all that rational. We choose presidents on who seems better to have a beer with, respond to dog-whistle bigotry and are easily led astray by propaganda because we’re not being rational.

  33. beowulf permalink
    November 20, 2011

    “You can’t even live in the same circles as the low grade wealthy on what most legislators officially earn, or most technocrats officially earn”
    The one sensible thing I’ve seen Jim Rogers advocate is that legislators vote from their home districts.
    http://www.govathome.com/explore-econgress/what-is-econgress

    The whole sordid story about how Pritzker the family made their loot is in Gus Russo’s book Supermob. Which reminds me, I remember commenting to a Emily Bazelon (granddaughter of the late Judge David Bazelon) Slate article critical of Bush’s selection of David Murkasy as Attorney General by pointing out that no one had credibly accused Murkasy of using high govenment office to rip off Japanese-Americans detainees (yeah, I’m a jerk). :o)

    “One area in which [Guy] Russo believes the book [Supermob] breaks new ground is in “understanding the movement of money from the Midwest out to the West,” he says. Korshak and many of his attorney cronies-most practiced out of a building at 134 N. LaSalle St., Russo says- “ended up in Beverly Hills at the same time, because that was where the gold was. They all moved there and took care of each other.”
    “There, using money from organized crime, they began buying land throughout Southern California, tipped to the best deals by Chicago tax attorney David Bazelon, who was serving as director of the Office of Alien Property in the Truman administration. From that office, he oversaw the disbursement of land seized from Japanese Americans sent to internment camps during World War II.
    “It was the real ‘Chinatown’ scenario,” Russo says, referring to the 1974 Roman Polanski film that had a similar theme. “This was where the Chicago Outfit’s money really went. For years people were asking, where did it go? How did people from Chicago get such instant power (in California)? They owned the land; they got it from the Japanese.”

    http://nalert.blogspot.com/2006/08/chicago-mobs-mystery-man-sidney.html

  34. Pepe permalink
    November 20, 2011

    They Aren’t “Technocrats”
    And, yes, we should retire the word.

    Whatever the word is supposed to mean, “technocrat” is just this year’s “Very Serious Person.” In another words, just more assholes who like to destroy the world while patting themselves on the back for how brave and smart they are.

    http://www.eschatonblog.com/2011/11/they-arent-technocrats.html

  35. jcapan permalink
    November 21, 2011

    What StewartM said. I’d only add that this…

    “to maintain that the bulk of our citizens are lied to, deliberately deluded, massively propagandized”

    … also serves finely as a school mission statement.

  36. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 21, 2011

    Spanish election results – massive swing to the political right, punishing rejection of PSOE (socialist workers) party in power for failure to “adequately govern” the housing and financial collapse affecting the economy raising unemployment to 21+% nationally with youth unemployment ranging ca. 48%, no relief in sight.

    The winning right-wing PP (Popular Party) offered no program or policy to the voters other than austerity and balanced budgets to show “markets” that under their charge “market confidence” would be maintained at all economic cost. That may be correct but not in the way they think it means. This country is headed directly for the cliffs and the voters just mandated the government to floor the accelerator. The markets have already reacted – read:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2011/11/20111119164136276145.html
    or
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15817309

    from the BBC business pages

  37. heidi permalink
    November 21, 2011

    We’re all slaves and whores – for the government or the rich – in one way or another. We can talk and talk and talk about money, and politics – none of it really matters…because we’re not the 1%. We’ll find ways to disagree about everything at some fundamental level – and they know it. It’s used against us. People are too scared of the possible changes…and society itself is too fucking hypocritical. Look at the way excuses are made for police brutality – and their only real function is to protect the rich from the poor. We still let them get away with it.

    It will eventually (hopefully) push us into grass-roots, underground ACTION. Seems like Ireland had the right idea all along. Now maybe we and the other European countries can stand by them – wouldn’t that be something 🙂

    “The love of money is the root of all evil.” We need to start caring about each other…as human beings.

  38. tom allen permalink
    November 21, 2011

    What we need to do, heidi, is start believing all those stories we tell the kids. Like “love thy neighbor as thyself”, and “save for a rainy day (but then SPEND IT on that rainy day)”, and “if you work hard together you can change the world.”

    For example, Ian says in his comment to his post: “Just following straight up standard macro would have told you about the housing bubble, yet these folks denied its existence, and pumped it up. Heck, you didn’t even need macro, you just needed to look at a chart. Likewise, straight up macro tells you what happens if the entire west goes into austerity. Straight up macro tells you that moderate inflation (anything less than 10%, or even somewhat higher) isn’t bad for economies.”

    I’m not a professional economist (duh). I’m a foolish commenter, so this seems obvious to me. Ian’s not so big an idiot, which is why I come here to read what he says. Krugman’s just a little crazy, so he’s taken a lot longer to see this conclusion. And the Very Serious People still deny it up one side and down the other. 🙂

  39. Pepe permalink
    November 21, 2011

    Another thing I read on “technocrats” today, the source of which escapes me:

    “They’re not technocrats. They’re bankers. And they’re not just bankers; they’re bankers affiliated with a handful of large banks.”

  40. November 22, 2011

    It will eventually (hopefully) push us into grass-roots, underground ACTION. Seems like Ireland had the right idea all along. Now maybe we and the other European countries can stand by them – wouldn’t that be something
    ***********************
    You meant Iceland, didn’t you? Ireland has submitted to austerity to a degree only matched by the Baltics, which only did so because they would do anything to avoid the embrace of Russia. Ireland is not a positive model for anything, and I’m almost ashamed of my heritage now.

  41. November 22, 2011

    Speaking of Europe. (self-link)

  42. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 23, 2011

    The Guardian has an interactive map of political Europe from the early 70’s here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/jul/28/europe-politics-interactive-map-left-right

    The slide below will show the date some change takes place in the political leaning of Europe’s governments. Also shows the growth of the political EU over the period (star on capital city). Noteworthy is presently only Denmark and Austria are the only significant left leaning governments on the continent to hold in check whatever rightwing agenda is attempted, a dangerous position for all, considering the state of the economy and solutions considered.

  43. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    December 2, 2011

    Since my last comment killed the commentary, no one has bothered to notice the sudden alignment of governments with the authoritarian conservative ideology. Two states (Greece and Spain) were still in liberal socialist control of government but have been eliminated, one by technocratic coup against a government having the political temerity to call for a public referendum, the other by election deceitfully conducted against a wounded party responsible for governance of the state. Another state (Italy) also had their government removed by technocratic coup, to replace a flawed and ineffective head of government (BurlesqueCon-i) whose presence threatened to derail whatever agenda the IMF, the ECB and the EC would want installed (Burlusconi’s fatal flaw being too rich to buy and too rich to trust). As the map now shows, all countries are now in the hands of the right-wing agenda with the exception of Denmark and Austria, both second tier in economic power and influence. This removes all effective opposition to the agenda from any effective base of government; from having their voices effectively heard by their governments; of any effective proposals being considered as an alternative to the agenda and eliminates their position being represented in the councils of Europe – silenced and ignored. This is how TINA (There Is No Alternative) is done, and as it was done in academia and in the privately funded think-tanks as well as every source of information available to the public.

    Should any be interested in maps and the stories they relate, the link is to the maps of Europe and their changes over the last two millennia. Europe has been a quite dynamic place, much history to be explored, much experience to be harvested. It is a commercial site but the product is fascinating.

    http://www.euratlas.net/history/europe/index.html?gclid=CMr0z5fS46wCFeIhtAodSHsjow

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