40 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. anyone know how much it costs to set-up a kindle edition of a book?

    some kindle books are 99 cents or not much more. an expensive kindle seems to be $10+

  2. Musing to myself here…

    The fundamentals of the social democratic state have been around for very roughly one hundred years – a few decades longer in some places, a few decades fewer in others. How long does it have to be in existence before those institutions are presumed to be the natural order and their adherents called “conservative”? This would have the immediate advantage of truthfully branding those who advocate extreme free-market economics – a fantasy composite that existed at no point in history – as wild-eyed naive extremists who desire radical overhaul of society to install their utopian ideals.

  3. @MG42

    Interesting point that I have considered sporadically but have never articulated as elegantly as you.

    Yes, the neolibs acknowledge that they are railing against the natural order. This fact partly explains their stridency.

    But let us never forget that the liberal experiment of market forces and small government were tried and found wanting for about half a century in the second half of the 19th century.

    I doubt that the role of government was ever smaller than in about 1860. Britain enjoyed the gold standard, trades unions hardly existed, the British rigorously adhered to a policy of free trade, and there existed no nationalised enterprises besides the Post Office. By the lights of the neolibs, the British economy should have outstripped all the statist experiments on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Yet this did not happen. What went wrong?

    Needless to say, the British property owning classes weren’t prepared to wait to see whether liberalism would finally bring home the bacon. A little later than some of their neighbours, the British dipped their cautious toes into social democracy. For the first eight decades of the 20th century, the British immersed themselves deeper.

    The British became leaders in the new natural order.

    Thatcherism and Reaganism rolled back some of these developments, but very few. The old British liberals of the 19th century would not recognise either Reagan or Thatcher as familiar spirits.

    Thus, Thatcher and Reagan fanboys are themselves blind to the degree to which they are children of the hegemony of social democracy.

    Which makes their shallow triumphalism all the more amusing, and pathetic.

  4. @MG42 do you know this AJP Taylor quote?

    “Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. …

    The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of 13.

    Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of 70. Since 1911, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment.

    This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.”

  5. @Katz Brad De Long at his best:
    “The principal reason that Marx feared market economies turned out to be false: they did not have a powerful inner dynamic leading to a polarization of the distribution of wealth. This had become clear by 1883, or at least by 1900, even though it had not been clear in 1848.

    The appropriate reaction to the fact that growing material wealth was trickling down should have been enthusiasm. Markets are powerful instrumentalities for controlling and guiding persons and organizations. They generate a rapid pace of innovation, provide for efficient recombinations of factors of production into new enterprises, and pressure large organizations toward effective fulfillment of their productive missions.

    To the extent that markets can be harnessed for the purpose of building Utopia, scarce public administrative capacities and competencies can be redirected to other uses. A society that can harness markets uses a form of sociological judo, applying small amounts of pressure at key points to make inertia push results in desired directions.”

    But the response of those who had positioned themselves left of social democracy was not enthusiasm that it would be easier to approach utopia than Marx had expected.

    Instead, the response was the continued denigration of systems that assigned a prominent role to either private production or market exchange, and a worship of hierarchical administration and bureaucracy-under the name of “conscious social control and administration of production for use”-as the answer to all problems.

    Whatever utopia is, it does not consist of one big corrupt bureaucracy. And so the left has had little constructive to offer social democrats and others trying to manage and reform the “mixed economies” of the twentieth century.”

  6. @SJ Delong agees that Marx is a minor post-ricardian economist and think Marx as an economist “vanished into the swamps of the labor theory of value, and never came out.”

    Delong also mentioned Marx’s “oppositional, revolutionary political stance (with absolutely no sense of how revolutions eat their own children)”

  7. I downloaded your book PrQ … I felt a wry smile when Freelander got a credit.

    Sadly, I’ve already found a transcription error — an inline transposition.

    But habits of mind and thought are hard to change, especially when there is no readyThe ideas of economists and pmade alternative.

    Hopefully, this is the only one.

    Enjoying it otherwise.

  8. Jim Rose’s AJP Taylor quote (or at least the good bits of it) would, of course, only apply to a wealthy Englishman. I doubt if a member of the working class, or a woman, would’ve had such a free and easy time of it, despite the old age pension and the universal education.

  9. @Jim Rose

    Unfortunately history has demonstrated that the principal reason De Long fears Marx turned out to be false.

    All that Marx needs to say now is: I told you so.

  10. @David Irving (no relation) Radical economist Joan Robinson’s in her Essay on Marxian Economics first published in 1942 noted that when the communist manifesto was published in 1848, its battle cry ‘Rise up ye workers rise up for you have nothing to lose but your chains’ would have had some currency.

    Alas 90 years later, Robinson suggested that this battle cry would have to be ‘Rise up ye workers for you have nothing to lose but your suburban home and your motor car.’

  11. The fact that we are able to have this discussion in this medium is a consequence of the actiivities of those decidedly non-private, non-market entities, the US armed forces and NASA.

  12. Robinson’s quip was sensible because in 1942 social democratic policy was replacing liberal policy. This process continued till the late 1970s, with diminishing returns.

    Robinson was talking about the failure of liberal policies.

    JR’s attempts to derail this conversation to a discussion of the failure of Marxian economics is as bizarre as it is standard operational procedure.

    No one here is defending Marxian economics.

  13. @Katz you mentioned neoliberalism but refused to define the term or who self-identifies as one. I just discussed the few who are to the left of this encompassing sneer.

    Social democratic policy was not replacing liberal policy in 1942. As Peltzman observed, Governments at the start of the 20th century were a post office and a military. At the end of the 20th century, governments were a post office, a larger military and a welfare state.

    The studies starting from Peltzman showed that government grew in line with the growth in the size and homogeneity of the middle class that was organised and politically articulate enough to implement Director’s law. Director’s law is the bulk of public programs are designed primarily to benefit the middle classes but are financed by taxes paid primarily by the upper and lower classes.

    After the 1970s stagnation, the taxed, regulated and subsidised groups had an increasing incentive to converge on new lower cost modes of redistribution. Reforms ensued led by parties on the left and the right.

    More efficient taxes, more efficient spending, more efficient regulation and a more efficient state sector reduced the burden on the taxed groups so they fought back less. Most subsidised groups benefited because their needs were met in ways that provoked less opposition.

    An improvement in the efficiency of taxes or spending reduces political pressure for suppressing the growth of government. the economic reforms in recent decades saved the welfare state.

  14. Jim Rose @26: “As Peltzman observed, Governments at the start of the 20th century were a post office and a military.”

    This was not the case on a certain large land mass in the south-west Pacific, where British colonial governments assumed a central role in economic development, a process called “colonial socialism” by some but more accurately characterised as statist developmentalism.

  15. @Katz I thought Robinson was making the point that Marxist predictions for that time had failed and the loss of prospects “of a suburban home and a motor car” made a poor revolutionary slogan.

  16. That’s true Rog.

    But Robinson was arguing that Marxism ceased to attract supporters because workers were enjoying a measure of prosperity.

    By 1942 there were several reasons for this prosperity. (Although, let us not forget that Britain was fighting a total war.) Among the more important were redistribution of wealth via taxation and government intervention in industrial relations. Moreover, in 1931, Britain finally and permanently abandoned the Gold Standard. That act represented a huge confiscation of the wealth of the moneyed classes.

    I need hardly observe that both of these policies were toxic to 19th century liberal principles.

  17. @Jim Rose
    I don’t get you, Jim. What are you expecting? Even if you were able to demonstrate unequivocally that Marx was wrong about X do you really think this would somehow cause people to suddenly convert to your (magical) ideas about property? Marx is a historical relic. His work may influence modern thought and may interest some people, but no one – apart from religious nuts – actually think that things written centuries ago are the the last word on anything. There’s a serious straw man problem arising from this tribal ideas approach.

  18. Quite so, Jim Birch. If Marx himself were alive today I think that he, being a good historical materialist, would say that his work between the 1830s and 1880s was shaped by the social and economic circumstances of the time, the state of knowledge of the world in that period, and the effect of his own upbringing and cultural background on his worldview.

  19. @Jim Birch

    Actually, in the right hands, comments like those are real “historical relics”.

    However in the hands of those who haven’t a clue what Marx said – it is kiddie-poo.

  20. Jim Birch, the reason the Left over Left hates Blair, Hawke and keating is they once and for all broke the link between Old Left and New Left socialism and the labour party.

    New Labour, the Third way and all that. they even privatised state assets in oz.

    The British Labor Party now says that it is “a democratic socialist party”.

    http://www.nswalp.com/getattachment/dd3e9543-ba30-44d7-ae20-8354463bc8d5/labor-values/ which says that “The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in these

  21. Today was the hottest spring day on record. Internationally data is showing an unprecedented melt of the permafrost.

    Since it’s so hard to keep track, what is the natural “cycle” du jour that deniers invoke to casually dismiss the accumulation of data points like these?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s