The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 2, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Global power shift as USA and west commit suicide by neoliberalism

The U.S. Is Winning Its War On Europe’s Industries And People 

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2022]


The epidemic

“‘Other Places in the Country Didn’t Do This’: How One California Town Survived Covid Better Than the Rest”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-27-2022]

“Even with its world-class technologies, the university’s labs didn’t have equipment with the kind of capacity to test the whole university, let alone the whole community. The machines that could do that — test up to 40,000 samples of human saliva for Covid each week — cost about $450,000 a pop. And they would need two, for backup. The university administration, desperate for a workable plan, agreed to pay for them. And researchers across UC Davis, from the engineering department to the medical school, began to collaborate, searching for ways to solve the enormous logistical challenges. The plant researchers worked to refine the process, using a papaya enzyme to make human spit less viscous and easier to process. A colleague in the engineering department devised a machine to shake the vials, a necessary and laborious step previously done by hand. These scientific innovations — and an anonymous $40 million donation — allowed this college town to do something that few, if any, other communities were able to do during Covid: Starting in the fall of 2020, the university tested its students and staff every week and made free, walk-in testing available throughout the town.” And: “n the end, Davis and the surrounding area experienced a different kind of pandemic than virtually anywhere else in the country. The university itself escaped a wave of outbreaks that swept other campuses like the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama and Ohio State University after they reopened in 2020. Pollock said the plan made so much sense to him when it came together that he expected other universities to do the same. ‘But it turns out,’ he told county supervisors a few months ago, ‘that the other places in the country didn’t do this.’”


”New Infectious Threats Are Coming. The U.S. Probably Won’t Contain Them”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-30-2022]

“If it wasn’t clear enough during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become obvious during the monkeypox outbreak: The United States, among the richest, most advanced nations in the world, remains wholly unprepared to combat new pathogens. The coronavirus was a sly, unexpected adversary. Monkeypox was a familiar foe, and tests, vaccines and treatments were already at hand. But the response to both threats sputtered and stumbled at every step. The United States spends between 300 to 500 times more on its military defense than on its health systems, and yet “no war has killed a million Americans,” noted Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who led the C.D.C. under former President Barack Obama.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-1-2022]

This is plutocracy, not capitalism

Billionaire Monopolist Jeff Bezos Is Buying Up Single-Family Homes to Rent-Trap Humanity Forever 

[Surviving Tomorrow, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2022]


The Blackstone rebellion: how one country took on the world’s biggest commercial landlord 

[Guardian, via The Big Picture 10-1-2022]

The giant asset management firm used to target places where people worked and shopped. Then it started buying up people’s homes. In one country, the backlash was ferocious


The Antitrust Shooting War Has Started

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2022]

Since the beginning of the Biden administration, we’ve had something of a Phony War around antitrust. Lots of chatter, bureaucratic shuffling, procedural motions, document demands, Congressional testimony and campaign ads. Calls to break up Google and Facebook and Amazon, do something about consolidation in health care and groceries, private equity and so forth. But limited shooting.

Over the past month, the antitrust Phony War has ended. What looked like little action was bureaucratic ramp-up. Lina Khan was hired to run the Federal Trade Commission and finally given a working majority five months ago, Jonathan Kanter was put in place at the Antitrust Division, and the Biden administration laid out a whole-of-government competition policy framework. Now it’s time for the shooting war, with the ebb and flow between the anti-monopoly movement and the bureaucratic and institutional obstacles in government and the judiciary.

The start of the conflict is easy to miss, since big dramatic actions, like breaking up Google or Amazon, haven’t happened. For instance, Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher, who are important opinion leaders, made the case on their influential podcast Pivot that Lina Khan has so far delivered nothing, either big or small, on big tech. And there is some merit to this pessimism. Both agencies have suffered stinging court losses. These include defeats in criminal wage fixing cases, and merger challenges against Illumina-GrailUnitedHealth-ChangeAltria-Juul, and U.S. Sugar-Imperial Sugar.

But in other areas, corporations are changing their behavior and markets are becoming more open. So to overlook the accomplishments is imprecise, just as it would be wrong not to concede some real setbacks for anti-monopolists. To decipher this set of affairs, I’ll lay out the good, the bad, and the ugly as the shooting starts.


Primer: Basics Of A Swap Meltdown

Brian Romanchuk [Bond Economics, via Mike Norman Economics 9-30-2022]

I am now seeing more attempts to dig into what exactly happened in the United Kingdom interest rate market. In this article, I am not attempting to do that. Instead, I am just giving a primer on how interest rate swaps are used to hedge liabilities, and what can go wrong when interest rates rise. The mechanisms I describe were likely part of the issue, but I am not saying that this is “the” explanation. Since most people are unsure what liability-driven investment and swaps are, so I am hoping to cover big picture issues for those readers.…


Holding Back the Tide of Water Privatization 

[The Nation,via The Lever 9-22-2022]

“Community members in Pittsburgh organized a coalition called Our Water Campaign, and pushed back on further privatization efforts, forcing the city to provide safe, affordable water and creating a democratic means of keeping the PWSA accountable to the residents it serves.”


Health care crisis

“Medical Debt Makes the Sick Sicker”

[MedPage Today, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-30-2022]

“We found that more than one in 10 U.S. adults — and nearly one in five households — incurred a medical debt they couldn’t pay… While the uninsured had the highest rate (15.3%) of medical indebtedness, 10.5% of individuals with private coverage had medical debts — presumably due to high copayments, deductibles, and coverage denials — with Medicare Advantage enrollees having a particularly high rate. And the debts weren’t trivial: they averaged $21,687 per debtor in 2018.” Medicare Advantage working as designed, I see. More: ” Because the Census Bureau repeatedly surveyed the same individuals over 3 years, we, unlike previous analysts (who used one-time surveys), could assess the consequences of newly acquiring medical debt. Among individuals with no medical debts in 2017, those who newly incurred such debt in subsequent years were more than twice as likely to newly become food insecure or unable to pay their rent, mortgage, or utility bill, and to be evicted or suffer foreclosure in subsequent years.”


Gun violence clips 2.6% off U.S. GDP 

[Science Blog, via Naked Capitalism 9-29-2022]

In his newest paper, published Sept. 27 in JAMA, [Zirui Song, associate professor of health care policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital] reports that the overall economic cost of firearm injuries in the United States is some  $557 billion annually, or 2.6 percent of gross domestic product. Eighty-eight percent of this cost is attributed to quality-of-life losses among those injured by firearms and their families. Yet, Song said, the business case for reducing firearm injuries has remained largely unaddressed.

Findings from Song’s latest analysis include:

  • Among U.S. companies with employer-sponsored health insurance, the rate of total firearm injuries in employees and dependents increased more than fourfold from 2007 to 2020 — from 2.6 to 11.7 per 100,000 insurance enrollees.
  • Each nonfatal firearm injury leads to roughly $30,000 in direct health care spending per survivor in the first year alone. That is a more than 400 percent increase in health care spending from the pre-injury baseline, relative to peer workers who did not sustain firearm injuries.
  • The direct first-year medical spending for treating a firearm injury likely already exceeds the average first-year spending on other common conditions that employers have long aimed to prevent, such as nonfatal myocardial infarction and heart failure.
  • Aside from added spending, losses in revenue and productivity are estimated to cost private employers $535 million per year nationwide. Employers also face the physical and mental consequences. Workers who survive firearm injuries experience a 40 percent increase in pain disorders, a 51 percent increase in psychiatric disorders, and an 85 percent increase in substance use disorders.

Disrupting mainstream economics

We don’t have a hundred biases, we have the wrong model

[Works in Progress, via The Big Picture 9-24-2022]

Behavioral economics today is famous for its increasingly large collection of deviations from rationality, or, as they are often called, ‘biases’. While useful in applied work, it is time to shift our focus from collecting deviations from a model of rationality that we know is not true. Rather, we need to develop new theories of human decision to progress behavioral economics as a science. Behavioral economics has identified dozens of cognitive biases that stop us from acting ‘rationally’. We need a new model: Heliocentrism.


The last week in Britain demonstrates key MMT propositions

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 9-29-2022]

There was commentary earlier this week (September 26, 2022) from an investment banker entitled ‘MMT takes a pounding’. I won’t link to it because I don’t want to send traffic to their site. But it is the narrative that the financial market commentators who desire to politicise public debate and use it to attack their pet hates. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) apparently is a pet hate of this character and like many with similar biases he has been champing at the bit for some semblance of ‘evidence’ that MMT analysis is flawed. This week’s events in Britain have given them more succour. Except when you understand what has actually happened the events demonstrate key MMT propositions….

Climate and environmental crises

Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification is a sign of the world to come: How Hurricane Ian got so powerful — in just two days.

[Vox, via The Big Picture 9-30-2022]

There are three main ingredients that, when mixed together, can result in a rapidly intensifying hurricane: moist air, low wind shear (wind coming from different directions or at different speeds), and warm ocean water….

Ian had them all. As it developed several days ago, the storm system faced some disrupting winds, but there was little shear as it grew over the last few days, Miller said. And Ian has largely avoided a region of dry air in the Gulf of Mexico. (Had Ian hit Florida farther north, it might have deteriorated faster, he said.)

Then there’s the warm ocean water. The Gulf of Mexico has been unseasonably warm this summer, according to the National Weather Service. And climate change is heating the Caribbean ocean by a little over 1 degree C (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per century.


Before Hurricane, Florida Republicans Helped Oil Donors Fight Climate Rules

David Sirota, September 28, 2022 [The Lever]

They also voted against investments in climate resilience, weatherization, and flood mitigation.


Exxon’s Long-Shot Embrace of Carbon Capture in the Houston Area Just Got Massive Support from Congress

[Inside Climate News, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-2022]


Electric cars could break the grid if future drivers stick to today’s routines 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2022]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

How Kenya Became the World’s Geothermal Powerhouse

[Reasons to be Cheerful, via Naked Capitalism 9-28-2022]


US installs record solar capacity as prices keep falling 

[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2022]


State of the Space Industrial Base 2022 report

[Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), United States Space Force (USSF), and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), via PhotonicsOnline 10-1-2022]


Information age dystopia

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism  9-27-2022]



The MiDAS Touch: Atuahene’s “Stategraft” and the Implications of Unregulated Artificial Intelligence 

[UNM School of Law Research Paper No. 2022-21, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2022]

From the Abstract:

[W]hen state agents have engaged in practices of transferring property from persons to the state in violation of the state’s own laws or basic human rights, it sits at the intersection of illegal behavior that generates public profit. Although these measures can be quantified in many other examples of state corruption, the criminality of state practice goes undetected and is compounded when the state uses artificial intelligence to illegally extract resources from people. This essay will apply stategraft to an algorithm implemented in Michigan that falsely accused unemployment benefit recipients of fraud and illegally took their resources.

The software, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (“MiDAS”), was supposed to detect unemployment fraud and automatically charge people with misrepresentation. The agency erroneously charged over 37,000 people, taking their tax refunds and garnishing wages. It would take years for the state to repay the people and it was often after disastrous fallout had happened due to the years of trying to clear their record and reclaim their money.


I tried replacing Google with TikTok, and it worked better than I thought 

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

Industrial Policy Without Industrial Unions 

Lee Harris, September 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Democrats’ new industrial manufacturing plan leaves unions behind, fumbling a moment of relative leverage for organized labor.


How Policy Got Done in 2022

David Dayen, September 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

That policies must have decades of buildup before Congress can take them seriously is troubling in a world that doesn’t move at the same glacial pace. The thinned-out Inflation Reduction Act left behind a dysfunctional early child care system, an unaffordable higher-education system, a borderline immoral housing crisis, a nonexistent paid leave system, an inaccessible in-home elder care system, and a child poverty rate that is the highest in the developed world. All of these catastrophes were once addressed in Biden’s agenda, which shrunk from $4 trillion in spending to about $400 billion.

But structural factors and lawmaker comfort set the path of legislative policymaking in America. This restricts the ambition of new ideas, often submerging priorities through established systems like the tax code, and building unusual power centers in agencies without subject-matter expertise.

Over two dozen White House officials, key members of Congress, current and former Hill staffers, advocates, and experts detailed for the Prospect this long game of policy development, debate, and resolution. Whether you think the IRA is a world-historical achievement or a massive disappointment, it’s important to understand the dynamics that produce breakthroughs in Washington. Only then can the right lessons be drawn for the next time that window slides open.


​​​​​​​The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Legal Journalism Is Broken

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2022]

One popular niche of retrospective reframed the Court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority as a nascent 3-3-3 Court: three liberals and three conservatives, but controlled by a supposedly moderate bloc of three thoughtful institutionalists. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Barrett, wrote CNN’s Joan Biskupic, were “putting a check on their more conservative brethren,” working diligently to prevent a sudden lurch to the right.

“We are not in a ‘crisis’ when it comes to the Supreme Court,” wrote legal commentator David Lat on June 24, rolling his eyes at the purported urgency of enacting “radical” reforms to the federal judiciary. “The Court is not ‘out of control,’ ‘out of whack,’ a ‘threat to democracy,’ or ‘dangerously out of step with the people.’”

Each of these characterizations proved unequivocally wrong. On July 1, the term’s final day, the six Republican appointees took a jurisprudential buzzsaw to what remains of the Voting Rights Act in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. By making future challenges to voter suppression laws almost impossible to prove, Brnovich greenlights a tidal wave of anti-democratic bills winding its way through state houses even as you read this sentence. That legislation is championed, of course, by Republicans who have gleefully embraced the Big Lie about the 2020 election and are thrilled to have the chance to meddle in the next one. The opinion in Brnovich is a bizarre, convoluted mess that more or less ignores the law it claims to interpret. In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan castigated the majority opinion as a “law-free zone” laced with occasional “random statutory words” for effect. Her outrage is righteous and satisfying; because it earned only three votes, it is also basically irrelevant.

Mere minutes later, the Court released another 6-3 opinion in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, this time striking down a California law requiring that charities disclose the identities of their largest benefactors. The new standard embraced by the—surprise!—six-conservative majority will make challenges to campaign finance disclosure laws much easier to win, enabling even more of the kajillionaire political spending blessed by the Court a decade ago in Citizens United to take place without the public finding out about it….

You can blame these spates of shoddy coverage, at least in part, on the constraints of a fragile media industry and the 24-hour news cycle. It takes more work—more time, more planning, more research—to put a decision like Brnovich in the context of the conservatives’ decades-long war on voting rights than it does to, say, crank out a 500-word opinion recap on the morning of its release.  Even for plugged-in reporters, there is precious little time or incentive to do more than read a case like Brnovich, summarize the majority and dissenting opinions, and tally up the votes for each. Plus, journalists also have to worry about preserving the access to practitioners, legislative staffers, judicial clerks, and even the justices themselves on which their reporting depends. (Good luck landing a six-figure advance to write a gossipy The Nine-style bestseller when half the justices won’t talk to you!)….

The demographics of the tiny, clubby, insular Supreme Court press corps matter, too. Only two dozen journalists and three courtroom artists hold the coveted “hard pass” credentials that entitle them to full-time access to the Court, making this an especially difficult beat for reporters unconnected to legacy media outlets to break in to. Diversity among Supreme Court reporters also tracks diversity in journalism more generally, which I do not mean as a compliment. As professors and Strict Scrutiny co-hosts Leah Litman, Melissa Murray, and Kate Shaw noted in a recent paper, the five dedicated Supreme Court correspondents working at the country’s top-circulating newspapers are all white guys; many of them have been on the beat for decades. When the worst things the Court does won’t materially affect the lives or livelihoods of the highest-profile people writing about it, the true extent of the harm caused simply isn’t a priority for the column’s final edit….

…the unwillingness or inability to engage with the Court as it is, instead of what pundits imagine it to be, quietly carries water for a conservative legal movement that depends for its success on public acceptance of the fantasy of the objective, apolitical judiciary.


Republican Supreme Court to Decide If Democrats Are Allowed to Win Elections Anymore

Yvette Borja, September 19, 2022 [Balls and Strikes]

In its upcoming term, the Supreme Court will decide Moore v. Harper, a case about whether North Carolina state courts can hear a challenge to an egregious partisan gerrymander put forth by Republican lawmakers. The case presents the Court’s conservative supermajority with its latest chance to bolster the independent state legislature theory—the notion, increasingly popular among Republicans, that the Constitution gives state lawmakers unchecked power over the administration of federal elections, no matter how cynically and anti-democratically those state lawmakers may wield it.

Lunching With The Enemy (podcast)

Frank Cappello, September 22, 2022 [The Lever]

In this week’s episode of Lever Time Premium, our extended weekly podcast for supporting subscribers, The Lever’s Julia Rock walks us through a Federalist Society meeting she attended this past summer.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Why Do So Many Americans Believe the Lies Pushed by the GOP?

Thom Hartmann, September 29, 2022 [Daily Kos]

New findings from psychologists at universities in California and Georgia and published in the journal Cognitive Research show that the more often a statement — regardless of its truthfulness — is repeated, the more emphatically it’s believed.

The researchers noted:

“Repeated information is often perceived as more truthful than new information. This finding is known as the illusory truth effect, and it is typically thought to occur because repetition increases processing fluency. Because fluency and truth are frequently correlated in the real world, people learn to use processing fluency as a marker for truthfulness.”


How a Child-Killer Set the Stage for Today’s Right-Wing Revelry in Cruelty

[(Hartmann Report, via The Big Picture 9-25-2022]

The libertarians have had 40 years to make their project work, we’re hitting peak libertarianism and it’s tearing our country apart, pitting Americans against each other, and killing people every day.


Proud Boys memo reveals meticulous planning for ‘street-level violence’

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 9-27-2022]

 Document of 23 pages shows the lengths to which the far-right group goes to prepare for potentially violent encounters and exposes the militaristic structure and language it has adopted.


Nice Democracy You’ve Got Here. Shame If Something Happened to It.

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 9-27-2022]

Trump’s newest defense strategy is laced with menace.


“Florida Contracts Go To Companies That Flooded Ron Desantis Campaign Fund”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-27-2022]

“Under the leadership of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron Desantis, a Missouri-based railroad and transport company that contributed generously in support of his campaign saw an astonishing 280-fold increase in its Florida state government contract awards. A construction aggregates firm that contributed $82,500 was awarded $30 million in new contracts. And a highway and civil site contracting firm that gave $22,500 saw its contracts grow 15-fold. They are just a few of the companies — mostly small and mid-sized construction firms — identified by The Intercept that saw a bonanza of lucrative contracts under the Republican governor, who has styled himself as a successor to Donald Trump and a foe to corporate America’s household names.”


Hurricane Ian Exposes Ron DeSantis’s Faux Environmentalism

Kartik Krishnaiyer, September 29, 2022 [The New Republic]

In June, Governor Ron DeSantis, as part of his broader anti-woke corporate effort, prohibited state investments in companies that use environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, ratings in investment decisions. It’s part of a nationwide right-wing move to keep investment money flowing to fossil fuels—the theoretical argument being that any shift in investment money away from fossil fuels is fundamentally discriminatory.

This was an abrupt turn for DeSantis, who came to office with the support of a key environmental group and started his term pushing environmental priorities that would boost climate resilience. He appointed the state’s first “resilience officer” in 2019 and advocated for legislation he signed in 2021 to strengthen efforts around sea level rise. This was a welcome departure from the open climate denial of his predecessor, Rick Scott. Even at that early moment, however, climate watchers pointed out that DeSantis’s approach dealt more with the effects of climate change than the actual cause of the crisis.

DeSantis has since tacked sharply rightward on migration, Covid-related restrictions, and climate to mirror the perceived preferences of national GOP primary voters. (Many in politics and the media assume he will soon be courting those voters in a presidential bid.) He recently said he sees the climate discussion as ideologically driven by “left-wing stuff” and has deemphasized warming as an element of climate change. In so doing, he’s edging closer to the rhetoric of Scott, who bears an outsize share of responsibility for how underprepared Florida is for climate disaster today.


Undermining the Will of Georgia Voters 

Gabrielle Gurley, September 29, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The vicious circle of voter suppression under way in Gwinnett County sets the table for election subversion in November.

The Republican Plot to Weaponize the Government Against Political Enemies

Jason Linkins, September 23, 2022 [The New Republic]

Trump’s “Schedule F” plan to eliminate workplace protections for the civil service was averted in 2020. But the GOP still dreams of the purge….

What would the United States be like if the civil service were to become a mere handmaiden to an unscrupulous chief executive? The past offers some clues: For much of the nineteenth century, the federal bureaucracy operated in what was known as the “spoils system,” in which every new presidential administration would purge the civil service of the old guard and stack it with loyalists. This was, of course, a hothouse for corruption, but it wasn’t until this arrangement resulted in the assassination of President James Garfield that reformers gained the upper hand and passed the Pendleton Act, which established a beachhead for a merit-based system to replace the entrenched patronage system. This work wasn’t completed until the 1970s, when the post-Nixon reforms brought us the Merit Systems Protection Board.



Sam Biddle, October 1 2022 [The Intercept]

The Independent Women’s Forum isn’t explicitly an anti-abortion group, but it worked to create the conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court….

The Independent Women’s Forum traces its origins back to the 1991 fight to confirm the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas. Since then, the group has expanded into promoting a litany of perennial right-wing causes like climate denialimmigration alarmism, and deregulation, but a conservative-dominated Supreme Court remained a focus.

Public relations plays a key role in its operation. With savvy self-branding as a pro-woman organization, the group fought for the appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court. The IWF couched support for Bret Kavanaugh as good feminism and any opposition to Amy Coney Barrett as sexism — despite well-founded concerns that their ascensions to the court would spell the end of Roe. The IWF wields a skillful mix of media placement, op-eds, television punditry, and other contributions to the conservative content ecosystem.

The group also takes advantage of quieter influence peddling as well. In 2020, IWF chief and Vicks VapoRub heiress Heather Higgins boasted to a closed audience of Virginia conservatives about how instrumental the group was in rallying congressional support for Kavanaugh’s nomination. Higgins told the group that the IWF circulated a confidential strategy memo on the Hill. “Most important,” Higgins said, “Susan Collins told me that without that memo, she would not see how to support him,” referring to the Republican senator from Maine.


Need to revive civic republicanism

Defective Altruism: The repugnant philosophy of “Effective Altruism” offers nothing to movements for global justice.

[Current Affairs, via The Big Picture 9-24-2022]

The first thing that should raise your suspicions about the “Effective Altruism movement” is the name. It is self-righteous in the most literal sense. Effective altruism as distinct from what? Well, all of the rest of us, presumably—the ineffective and un-altruistic, we who either do not care about other human beings or are practicing our compassion incorrectly.


“Column: The U.S. Constitution is flawed. But a constitutional convention to fix it is downright scary”

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-27-2022]

“A convention in the current political climate could devolve into a potentially uncontrollable free-for-all that could lead to all sorts of dangerous unintended consequences. Although no such convention has been held in the U.S. since 1787, there’s a movement underway to establish one now, and some analysts think it’s getting frighteningly close to happening…. But to open the entire document to radical change at this unstable moment in history seems like a risky and potentially dangerous way to make things better.”


“The Republican Model and the Crisis of National Liberalism” (PDF)

Benjamin Studebaker [Cosmos + Taxis, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-29-2022]

“This special issue is interested in whether libertarianism and classical liberalism can be productively paired with interstate federalism to overcome the limitations that state sovereignty imposes on them. To answer that question, we must first ask whether it is possible to separate the liberal project from the project of the nation-state. In this paper, I’ll argue that liberalism and nationalism have become intimately bound up with one another. Each depends on the other, and both chafe at the limitations this imposes. These limitations largely take the form of state capacity problems. The nationalists are unable to achieve the kind of internal social unity they desire because of liberalism, and the liberals are unable to build the kind of global capitalism they want because of nationalism. In recent years, the two projects have tried to go their separate ways. But because they are fundamentally codependent, this separation is extraordinarily fraught. On its own, nationalism pursues a level of social unity that is fundamentally unsustainable. This results in the proliferation of an ever-larger array of group identities, each of which demands a level of political representation that it cannot enjoy consistently alongside the others. Sectarianism and gridlock follow. At the same time, liberalism is unable to generate political legitimacy as a standalone theory. It must be partnered with a compelling theory of political community.”


The Possible World After Globalism

Brian Kettering, September 30, 2022 [The American Prospect

If we can dethrone the reign of Big Finance and Big Tech, what new worlds can we imagine?


How Britain’s Labour Party Became a Criminal Conspiracy Against Its Members

[Mint Press, via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2022]



Open Thread


Vaccine And Mask Effectiveness


  1. bruce wilder

    Benjamin Studebaker‘s long and very academic article considering the relation of nationalism and liberalism – and the potential of a civic republicanism to synthesize a liberalism of expanded individual rights with expanded state capacity on a global scale strikes me as the product of wishful thinking practicing avoidance of every fundamental problem of politics.

    All action is political action on some scale, because humans are individual creatures embedded in deep specialization of labor and social cooperation on a vast range of scales. We intend and act in cooperation (and often against the competitive opposition) of others. “If I’m not for myself, who will be for me, if not now, when; but if I’m only for myself, what am I?”

    People to act responsibly and effectively in a political context need to be selfish and also something else, to be able to act on behalf of and in cooperation with a larger, subsuming whole. We need others to share this view: it is often a source of strain, but we need to be willing and able to submit in decisions taken for various groups of which we are part, whether we actively enlist or simply inherit the association. And, as political animals, we must trust to some minimum extent the legitimacy of others acting in domination of ourselves and our companions and associates.

    The problems of politics are all the problems of decision and organization that do not have a technical solution, including the successful getting to the technical solution where appropriate. A failure to appreciate the full scope of tasks politics must undertake is typical of ideologies — what it fails to appreciate or confront defines the ideology.

    Libertarians in their celebration of the power of individual selfishness are notorious for denying even existence to society or a public interest, never worrying over how the state will staff tribunals for arbitrating disputes and resolving conflicts short of war of each against all. Liberals talk a good game of sparkling ideals protecting individual autonomy, but frequently fail in practice when money is to be made dominating the working class. Our contemporary successor ideology is content to battle for representation in a corrupt and unjust and grossly inefficient polity.

    Studebaker is reluctant to praise nationalism and it is not hard to come up with reasons of my own for skepticism about the liberal-nationalist project, which seems to have so often gone terribly wrong over the course of the 500 years of emergent political modernity. Some of that wrong might have had something to do with the competing legacies of feudalism; liberal nationalists had enemies not all of whom were their own lovely selves. Fatigue is a recurrent problem with any ideology that tries to get people passionately invested in the achievement of ideals of justice and a common good. Some times perhaps some anger at injustice and cheating and abuse would be useful. Why isn’t Obama in jail? is a useful question to put to political rationalizers.

  2. Purple Library Guy

    The article on the “Effective Altruism” people (who I’d never heard of before) describes a lot of their arguments, which seem often to come down to “Only naive people think that doing obviously good things will have good results; you should do bad and selfish things in a sort of clever way instead, and that will surely work better”. The article describes the key problem with the Effective Altruism stance as being that it’s based on utilitarian ideas (simplistic act-Utilitarian ideas at that). This would be plausible; I find utilitarianism, certainly as a sole ethical guide, very suspect.

    But when you look at the actual EA arguments, their problem is not that they’re based in utilitarianism, it’s that they’re bullshit. They’re fake even as utilitarianism. They seem, for instance, to be big on the idea that you should not work at ethical nonprofits or as a public defender or community organizer etc., but should instead take some lucrative job at some unethical industry and donate the income difference to some good charity, and work to change the system from within. This is not a utilitarian argument, it’s just ludicrous self-deception; they’re clearly pushing this kind of line just because they’d rather make the big bucks than put in the work, but they want to feel smug about it too. The claim is based explicitly on the idea that if you don’t go work for an ethical non-profit or as a public defender etc., someone else will, so doing good things directly is actually doing zero. This is false, there’s always a shortage of that kind of people. And it’s based implicitly on libertarianism, both political and as it were psychological–it rests on the idea that institutions don’t make any difference and that people are logical constructs that are unchanged by their environments. But in reality, if you’re an altruistic person who goes to work for a hedge fund or a tobacco company or something, you will not change the system, the system will change you. Either you will burn out and have a nervous breakdown and quit, or you will gradually stop being the ethical altruist who took that lucrative job and become an unethical selfish person with bad politics who no longer donates much of anything to charity. That’s how the real world works. And if there’s one thing we don’t need, it’s for all the ethical altruistic young people to go immerse themselves in environments that will corrupt them.

    One notes that these EA people don’t even seem to acknowledge the possibility of, say, dedicating oneself to starting unions or otherwise changing politics. Again, it seems to be an implicitly libertarian movement.

    In general, any time you get someone claiming to be altruistic who then starts giving arguments that fostering selfishness and greed are the REAL way to be altruistic and will somehow actually do more to help people than, you know, helping people, much less helping people organize, they’re bullshitting. Their arguments are going to be facile but false; it’s the ethical equivalent of greenwashing.

  3. multitude of poors

    Some times perhaps some anger at injustice and cheating and abuse would be useful. Why isn’t Obama in jail? is a useful question to put to political rationalizers.

    Thank you so much for that, bruce wilder, your whole commentary was beautiful.

    And yes, being reminded freshly two days ago (when Helen Thomas came into my thoughts) about the nefariousness of Trojan Horse, Drone Master, Obama (from birth, a 1 percenter among the US Black populace, nothing much in common with them, or the entire working class, at all) in how white glove savagely his White House treated Helen Thomas near the end of her life 1—possibly getting revenge, in part, for her July 1, 2009 outrage about a rigged press briefing, in an interview with conservative News outlet, CNN, where she noted that not even Richard Nixon tried to control the press the way President Obama is trying to control the press.2—Why isn’t Obama behind bars? (Along with countless others of his ilk.)

    1 07/31/13 By Paula Cruickshank 42 Seconds That Sullied Helen Thomas — and New Media–_and_new_media_119431-2.html . The whole thing should be read to get the full whiff of it, if one has the time.

    2 07/01/09 Helen Thomas: Not Even Nixon Tried to Control the Media Like Obama This article includes a well worth the read transcript of a heated exchange between Helen, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Chip Reid, White House correspondent for CBS News.

  4. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    In fact, why isn’t Obama in jail with Bush Junior? In fact in fact, why aren’t the fabulous threesome of Obama , Bush Junior, and Cheney all sharing a cell together? Think of the notes they could compare.

  5. Willy

    And so I try break it down to the simplest common denominator. Whatever ideology has to consider the managing of any elites which will inevitably acquire most of the power. Even if “selfish nationalism” had some kind of Rule of Law Referee Squad, elites who have whatever it took to become elites (usually a fair degree of socially-adept sociopathy) will work to use whatever means necessary to corrupt our anointed Squad.

    That’s why in this place, I always had such a strong reaction to anybody who tried to declare this group or that group as evil, when it should’ve been obvious that other groups were being far more evil.

  6. StewartM

    DC and Multitude and Bruce,

    You won’t put Bush, Hillary, Cheney, Obama, or Bush Junior in jail until you can get Trump into jail. I say this as I hear excuses for Trump (“but Hillary!!”) all the time when in fact if you can’t prosecute and jail someone who’s obviously, blatantly and openly breaking the law, then there’s no hope of prosecuting those who bend/skirt/circumvent the law less blatantly.

    Thom Hartman’s piece on Ayn Rand was rich (I knew all of it before) but over-simplified. In truth, Rand disliked movement conservatism for its snuggling up to Religious Right. Like Nietzsche, she disliked Christian “slave morality” (even though both she and Nietzsche were factually incorrect about the spread of Christianity and what Marvin Harris called the ‘non-killing religions’; they were not some tricks by the poors and the slaves to handcuff the desires of the strong as Nietzsche proclaimed. Rather, the strong and rich willingly embraced them as it’s far cheaper to promise the slaves and the poors afterlife rewards than actual material rewards here on earth. By contrast, providing materially for ones’ people here on earth is something that every forager band headman, every village leader, and every tribal chief has to get done to maintain his status).

  7. anon y'mouse

    Effective Altruism article very useful to understand the entirety of the arguments, but basically anyone buying this as a “movement” is essentially buying a psyop. the same kind of hoodwink that was used to inculcate the “tech bro douche” class with the kinds or reasoning that retarded nerds (yes, they exist and if you know any personally, you know exactly what is meant—not developmentally disabled people slurs) are prone to do anyway.

    it smacks of mediaeval indulgence of the kind Martin Luther came acrupper of the Catholic church of his kind. who but a 1% or their fawning enablers would find any of this bullCRAP ethical in anyway. this is why the techbrodouche are “retarded”. they are so stunted, in the similar way that economists are, that what has been defined as “efficient” (a loaded term in itself) is also “good” that they need a license from God do do what they were already inclined to do without the necessary and consequent guilt that they should be feeling.

    a psyop of amelioration and acquiescence to “evil” for those who have been granted by our socio-political system the few levers of power that enable them to actually do “something” about all of this (“it’s all taken care of. things are as they should be and are truly fated to be, in the divine justice sense. worry not your heavy head but instead press forth in the “true purpose of man” in the Platonian/Aristotelian sense. these other slaves serve the Higher Cause as do you in their own unique way”. that they are too stupid to figure out that the joke is one them is worthy of the catholic church’s black nobility and banker class, that was willing to hang one of its own under a bridge in the 70s simply to make their point about whom exactly was going to be served.

    Multitude-of-Poors—thank you very much for those tips which hopefully will avail some poor soul in actual pain. my pain was more rhetorical in nature—the tooth is dead. it feels no pain. but it allows an transit path for infection into my skull so therefore the cause is almost more pressing (although less constantly present) than physical pain. Someone will use your advice, even if I am not able to. Thank you.

  8. different clue


    You are correct in that if it can’t even begin with Trump, it can’t go any further.

    But Bush Junior broke international treaties and conventions just as blatantly as Trump may have broken laws. And letting Bush off scot-free was a step toward letting everyone ever after off equally scot-free. And Pelosi felt that . . . what the hell . . . Bush should get a free pass on torture, aggressive war and crimes against humanity; whereas Trump deserved impeachement for . . . whatever it is they tried impeaching Trump for.

    And Obama’s taking care to make sure that the relevant laws were not enforced was arguably very very impeachable.

  9. Jim Harmon

    And what about the Supreme Court justices who installed w? They’re traitors.

  10. Trinity

    Following on Jim’s post, the probability that the elites will get punished approaches nil. Trump repeatedly, afaik at every rally he had, proclaimed he had the “judges” and I knew he wasn’t speaking to the rank and file, he was speaking to his patrons. He was telling them all will be well. And that’s exactly what we are seeing.

  11. multitude of poors

    Stewart M,
    I do get that all of the aforementioned should be behind bars—better yet, shipped off to Mars—but won’t be.

    anon y’mouse,

    You’re very welcome and I’m glad you’re at least not in pain. Since stuck without dental care in this increasing ghastly US, I occasionally use the diluted 1 part 3% Hydrogen Peroxide to two parts water gargle to ward off oral infection; also sometimes dipping my toothbrush in the undiluted 3% and sprinkling baking powder on it, to brush my teeth.

    But, I don’t know that it would at all mitigate a deeper infection and would suggest anyone using Hydrogen Peroxide orally, to do some homework on it, since there are such varying opinions on its use. I would also note never to use any percentage higher than the 3% solution for the gargle mix, or teeth brushing. Criminally, I guess such wildly varying medical opinions are what can be expected with our criminal CDC and FDA VIPs, combined with a sociopathic For Profit Pharmaceutical Industry, which favors unaffordable, and even harm inducing solutions, over affordable and beneficial solutions. My tangle with cancer and witness of older loved ones experiences have put me on full notice that the US Health Care Industry is infested to the brim with rot; Hippocratic Oath be damned, in their calculations.

    On your main subject, I understand exactly what you mean by the “tech bro douche” class, being stuck in Silicon Valley till I apparently hit the cement very soon,. I’ve witnessed, up front and personal for over two decades now, the irreparable harm that Department of Defense™ and CIA supported, “tech bro douche” class has done to so very many in their wake.

    Like the broken record I am on the subject: it’s reason number one not to elect California Governor Gavin Newsom, or California Federal House Rep. Ro Khanna, as President, or Vice President. They are both obsessed with spreading the inhumane and amoral—24/7 AI connected, violated, and surveilled—Silicon Valley Way over the entire nation. I find the recent silence on criticizing Newsom, who is very clearly angling for the POTUS crown extremely disturbing.

    I at least expected some commentary amongst certain groups when the following was informally announced, but crickets (let the sheep herding begin again?). Worse, any criticism there was, seemed to abruptly stop by this September 19th announcement :

    September 19, 2022 by Tina Daunt Gavin Newsom Is ‘Unequivocally’ Running for President in 2024 if Biden Doesn’t (Exclusive)

    The California governor, who’s already running ads in other states, is poised to challenge Vice President Kamala Harris

    California Governor Gavin Newsom is “undeniably, unequivocally” planning to run for president in 2024 if President Biden chooses not to seek a second term, two individuals with knowledge of Newsom’s plans told TheWrap.

    “After this midterm election is over, he absolutely is going to announce that he is running for the presidency once Biden announces that he is not running,” a leading California fundraiser with close ties to the Newsom family told TheWrap. “No ifs, ands or buts. He will run if Biden does not.”

    A second individual close to the governor, a Los Angeles philanthropist with deep connections in the Democratic Party and a long history of fundraising for its candidates, confirmed Newsom’s intention to run.

    gotta run, will check back.

  12. DMC

    And all the recently appointed Supremes who perjured themselves when they swore that Roe v Wade was the law of the land then turned around and overturned it first chance they got. Why isn’t that an impeachable offense? For that matter, why isn’t the Federalist society a criminal conspiracy?

  13. different clue

    Some people have suggested that Sanders run yet again. He has shown he doesn’t have the blood-hungry Viking instinct to win the nomination, let alone be a President.

    But still, if he were to run again through the primaries, perhaps he could spoilerize Governor Noisome’s chances. Certainly a voting base full of hatred and rage could use Sanders as their Mighty Tire Iron of Justice to swing into the grinning teeth of the Clintobamacrat Establishment.

    Let the Clintobamacrats run their precious Kamalabama Harris for President. And Hillary Clinton can be her Vice Presidential running mate. Let’s see how far that goes.

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