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This way to the egress

By Owen Paine on Wednesday December 10, 2008 09:32 PM

Everywhere, numbers -- dark-smelling economic numbers -- pour out on us from our newspapers.

But for a moment, let's wave 'em aside.

These numbers, however they run, however they mean, however they show our betters making a hell of things here on rock three -- they'll not change for the worse just 'cause we few ignore them awhile. What will be, will be, Obama... eh?

As Paul Samuelson, the great and terrible neoclassical theorist, once said: "After all, economic history is just one big numerical example after another."

Let us, as scientists, rise above this midden-heap of numbers to the algebra of all possible societies.

Sam's science -- alas, my science, the dismal science -- looking down from its Platonic platform on high, despite much media-induced popular belief to the contrary, actually gets what's up these days -- at least when the dismal science is fully awake and using its latest formalisms and data streams, and as long as it places itself in the hands of able souls with the best of Ivy training like Stiglitz and Summers. Scientifically speaking, lots of folks -- maybe even 'enough folks enough of the time' -- more or less understand how our economic world runs itself, and where it's got itself into, and where it's likely headed further into. But then, as Dr Marx famously observed, the point -- the really big point, where the wheels hit the road, is -- to change the fucking numbers.

In that light, and to change theistic systems, all our Joshuas must betray their Moses. Even if the great Moses, Keynes himself, seemed to show us all a foolproof way to take the dismal permanently out of the dismal science, it's only too apparent these days that Keynes' present crop of Joshuas ain't up to the task of conquering Palestine for us promised people of earth, the wretchedly jobbled masses.

For instance: we had a one-year warning about the horrors that beset us now. We saw this coming way back in August 2007, and nonetheless that warning led to what? A 12 month Sitzkrieg, till bam! we're faced with the hot-footed, maybe too late, maybe just-in-time scrambles of this past September and October -- a whole year later and only after the full force of the gathering shock waves were already whacking the shit out of our hi-fi sector.

Why this Pearl Harbor-like lapse?

Because, despite a thousand highly placed plaints of "who knew" from the likes of the bonded one, Bobby Rubin, the dirty fact is they all knew. They all saw it coming, the tower trolls. In fact some have known for so long they forgot it a couple of times along the way. They knew and they did nothing, because they preffered this massive global catastrophe to the alternative.

And the alternative is...?

Here is what the science sez:

We have it in our latent power to construct a global macro system -- run on Keynes-Lerner-Vickrey principles -- a global macro system where such absurd self-induced economic contractions as the present imbroglio wouldn't even get underway. Comrades, come the day of final action, we can build a worldwide no-bubble zone, a worldwide no-stagnation zone, no runaway-inflation zone, and last but far from least, a worldwide no-unemployment zone. Yes there could be right here even with all the natural restrictions of our joint human condition, earthwide hyper-employment, through fairly elementary macro mangement of effective demand, so long as we maintined a fairly smartly co-ordinated pricing system.

And here's the bazooka shot to Wall street and Babbitville alike: we could have this, coupled with steady but rapid productivity growth.

But here's the rub: if we did these easy-to-cook-up moves, we'd destroy -- even without intent -- the corporate system that runs all things marketed round here.

The core insight: forget prosperity for ever and for all. The present system couldn't even survive constant full employment. If the job market were forever overflowing with job opportunity, in remakably short order our leading corporations would soon enough begin to founder. Their raison d'etre, their vast and deeply artificial irrigation system of private profits would begin to dry up. Any value produced not caught as wages would rush out of the system straight into innocent consumer surplus. Without the ability to make the sack scary, the bastards at long last would be left, God forbid, to drink only of the exiguous trickle of rewards due them for actual innovation.

"The horror! The horror!" as Harold Geneen might say. A system without a plethora of carefully crafted rent sumps is a system that turns limited liability corporations into dinosaurs.

This sometimes clever, sometimes brutal job rationing system is the one motive force absolutely necessary to fill and sustain the above mentioned profit sumps, AKA market driven oligopoly profits. And so it shall remain so as long as personal earnings from the labor of others are around to warm the bedrooms of widows and orphans. And other shareholders as well.

We live inside, under, and through this system, but without personal culpability. We aren't to blame. The trolls themselves aren't to blame, not at least at the one-at-a-time corporate level. No. The evil is in fact today lovingly enforced by job scarcity's younger brother, centralized credit rationing, the system's Holy Ghost power, that keeps alive the mechanism of surplus margins inside corporate revenue boundaries. Which is to say: the credit ration system, by pulling in its markers, usually can keep wages the hell out of profit's hair.

To travel to even a higher platform, feature this, my friends and fellow befucked-niks: even if you get to the mountaintop -- even if you take on all the power of mankind, strip away nation-states and go to a one world system where equality of race gender and creed radiates like sunshine itself -- if in a moment of Burkean lily-liveredness or Dickensian nostalgia or fondness for the once great and powerful, you keep intact our large limited liability corporate critters, then not only will they regain control earthwide, they will resurrect the job scarcity system by whatever means availible. And with time and fair sailing you'd once again begin to experience its opposite, sudden heavy seas -- rapidly developing, excessive, non-efficiency-enhancing job shucks; and they'd emerge as quickly and as senselessly and as massively as any of today's recurrent draftings into the armies of idleness.

Comments (7)


what no comments ??

just as i feared ...too basic

better i re-curl the wig of montesqieu eh ???'

"There is no liberty
if the power of judging is not separated from the legislative and executive. If it were joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control: for the judge would then be the legislator. If it were joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression."

bull shit you old drag queen
de l'esprit de my arse blah blah blah .....

now is that more like it ???

what say you prog-mates ???


Someone has to, so I'll compliment the Nietscheian humor and energy of your gloomy meditation. But I prefer a more pedestrian approach, an old-fashioned analysis of the "balance of forces", and a rousing call to organize against our own favorite fascist employer.


ahhh here's a piece
i suspect is more to you wags liking


out of the enlightenment by way
grant era mugwumpery

"An essential step in cleaning the Stygian stables is to end high-powered incentives. In the financial sector the public stake in ownership gives us the power to insist on it"

really ??? really really ???

an angelic fount
spewing prosperity
with justice and equality
is but a shark corporation well gubberned

and by gubberned i mean by its stockholders
armed with a stockholders bill of rights
and power of attainder

you fucking twit
in fact you fucking tom tit of a twit

ps he really wants to attack
the hyper pecuniary incentives
in stolen elections ...
in black sfrica no less

what a white man's burden he preacheth


"a rousing call to organize against our own favorite (.... )employer."

duly deballed
i agree one hundred zillion percent

note :

of similar kidney
are forth coming posts

one just now slides down
father S's spill way

But, say, can you make this column available as a ringtone?


OP: See, there's good energy for this right now -- Bank of America is LOANING!! the Chicago Window factory xxx million to be paid only to the workers on strike, and Morgan Stanley, or Stanley Fishenburg, which owns a share of same window factory in Chicago is loaning another $400K or so. All to satisfy the laid-off workers' demands!

Heck, I'm thinking of going down to the Post Office and demand that they roll back the last two penny increases. I'm feeling powerful!!

Is the lesson that we are to keep the present power structures intact and "will" those in power to adopt a wiser economic strategy?

The present setup causes the damage it does because it was designed that way. It was designed to empower and enrich a minority at the expense of the majority and it is hypocrisy to pretend that it functions (all be it badly) to serve the needs of the general population, as is implied whenever experts offer economic remedies to our problems.* Indeed economic theory (of whatever school)** seems to me to function primarily to create an ideological framework that rationalizes exploitation in order to con people (in particular intellectuals) into accepting this arrangement. But even if innocent of this sin, manifestly it does not help the lay population understand the problems they face clearly so that they may face them responsibly (apart from the alleged expertise required for understanding being a fraud--there's just nothing that complicated about it); on the contrary it tends to be about obscurantist as secular discourse gets.

*By expert, I mean anyone who could gain tenure at a university economics department.

**I've found this to be of true of Marxism in practice as well. This is not to say that economic theory has never not had value. But I think it is always used ideologically to serve a malignant political motive and that even where worthwhile its quality, from a scientific standpoint, is very low (i.e., in the sense its validity, where not demonstratively, is hard to determine one way or another).

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Wednesday December 10, 2008 09:32 PM.

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