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Fafner vs. the dwarf

By Owen Paine on Wednesday April 9, 2008 10:50 PM

We all know, by now, that we live in a nation that has a fast-disappearing industrial platform. Once the home of a mighty factory system, the envy of all the world, we now must now live off Asian-sourced industrial imports, and buy them with what amounts to trade credits no less, while more and more good domestic jobs and high wages simply roll off a cliff into the Pacific ocean, to wash up on the other shore.

My fellow Americans, welcome to the world that James Earl Carter, the Wotan of the peanut belt, brought us.

Yes, 'twas during the watch of a Democrat the fatal blow was struck -- a member of the party that rescued America's production system from its own financial toxins 'way back when Johnny "air pirate" McCain was still shitting his short pants.

Recall the one piece we collectively retain from back then, at least in our mainstream media's living memory -- the age of wild, raging, highball express, wage-push inflation. By the midterm fraggulation election of '78 it was very very clear to all us prudent Dembots that something had to be done.

Conventional answer: apply the credit brakes, and the credit brakes wrre duly applied.

But did we really need to? Could we instead have engineered a systemic morph -- a breakthrough? Instead of the heavy dose of good old cod liver oil we got, could we have actually instead morphed the system, sublated the bidness world as we knew it, and headed off toward a far far better place and time?

In any case, we didn't. We got the Volckerdaemmerung and the rest is but a gathering plebian misery.

At left, our boy, tall Paul, the master of the pythonic credit hold, right there in a group shot of hi-fi regulators taken not too long ago. He's the big one in the middle, next to Alan of Green Bubbles.

Take a moment to savor his oafish countenance. This bastard put our credit system into the most vicious figure 4 submission hold in post-New Deal American history.

Deepsighted as usual, Father Smiff dubbed him Fafner, the giant co-builder of Valhalla, and eventual dragonic keeper of the golden Ring. Indeed Volcker's tale has a Wagnerian similitude to it -- not like that long-measure, open-measure, Rhine-flows-on theme at the beginning of Das Rheingold. More like the the ring of ten thousand sledges or whatever it is in this case(*), blamming away at industrial America, hammering it into a million shivers -- but I digress. My real point is quite anti-Wagnerian.

We at the time had a shrewd dwarf, Abba Lerner, shown left, with a very big and complete answer to our inflation rampage. If Jimmy had only listened to him, instead of allowing that jumbo Princetonian dolt to crush the dynamo out the then spiraling wage/profit race up the price pole, and slam it the age-old way -- with a hard-money credit constriction so tight it knocked the pips out of tumbling dice in Las Vegas and brought on, with the inevitablity of a Teutonic curse, by the intricate concatenation of its own internal workings, the doom of American manufacturing.

But the very different and renewing alternative was there for the taking. Instead of destroying industrial America in order to save its ultimately parasitic corporate extraction system form, we could have listened to the shrewd dwarf and rigged up a new-model industrial economy, and in short,fairly cheap order, too -- one able to chug along as before but without what we've had up until now, ever since the Volckerdaemmerung -- a dispensation full of technical moth-holes and periodic policy-driven brownouts and, most of all, just what the shrewd dwarf most wanted to end, our chronic underutilization of our productive capacity -- a state of affairs so costly in lost output, it puts off our planet's return to Eden for a millennium perhaps.

The hero of this opera is one lord NIARU -- the "non-inflation-accelerating rate of unemployment," which sometimes calls itself the "natural" rate of unemployment, though there's nothing natural about it.

We can notice it. It's spectral, apart from the Fed's fearful fingerpointing into the void ahead and doomstruck cry of "Watch out! Unemployment is getting too low! Wages are about to take off unless we --" Crunch!

Year in and year out this unemployed reserve -- this pit of shit under the job tree -- produces a drag on output -- on broadly based prosperity. Dare I say it -- for the majority of us, it's a drag on the pursuit of happiness itself.

The system supposedly demands this of us all, in order to curb its own inherent tendency toward a wage/profit spiral, a sudden cobra out of the basket act, waiting just beyond X% of unemployment. For the avoidance of this, we accept serious "secular production slack" -- millions of idle hands and thousands of idle machines -- as if it were a technical limitation of any flexible innovative production system.

But if Jimmy'd listened to dwarf Abba back then -- a dwarf much nicer and more benign than any in Wagner -- we coulda ended all that, and even more wonderfully, ended all the episodic doses of RJD (rapid job destruction) required to curb the wage and profit slingers' appetite for a raise ever since.

"Natural rate of unemployment!" This phrase gets me very steamed. One time in the late 90's, skipper Greenglue actually took us down below the taboo limit. Why didn't we see it as the moment a weird corporate-imposed self-serving superstition burst apart right before our eyes? No, it was treated as a flukey miracle, later explained by the vagaries of this spectre's shifting taboo zone. It wasn't a parting of the Red Sea, but almost as kewl for those of us looking in at it.

It's quite amazing to me how most of the time we don't even notice the waste of all this non-production, this missed output sacrificed to the integrity of "the corporate system". And it's even more astounding to me how on the few occasions when we do stop to notice, we act like a 60-year-old man suddenly noticing the effects of his chronic fatigue syndrome and calling it "just my age".


*That would be the Nibelungs' leitmotif on the descent to Nibelheim, Owen. See below. -- Ed.

Comments (2)

David D:

Yes I remember the 'Economist' deepthroating Al for flying below 4% transience. He's up high on americas pedestal, that to most puts him next to WWE's own Triple H. Credit sinch, shit lets end it forever, Cash is king. The only people to get this whole credit thing right are the handicappers threatening Lateral Collateral. For those millions who believe in the service economy well hey, after 500 more happy meals they'll be dead anyway,..."to protect the American way of life, I'm willing to take that risk."


ah yes lateral collateral
as in
collecting with your knuckles

the business Rocky B
day jobbed at
he drew the fancy spade
inside the squared circle

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