Regular Features Sandpit April 13, 2020 John Quiggin32 Comments A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Left Realism – A form of Democratic Socialism.
In my view, we need to adopt a Left Realism form of Democratic Socialism. Left Realism, as I define it, is not identical with left liberalism. Left liberalism or social liberalism (known as modern liberalism in the United States and new liberalism in the United Kingdom) “is a political ideology and a variety of liberalism that endorses a regulated market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights.” – [Wikipedia]
Prominent left liberals of the modern era have included Bob Hawke, Tony Blair and Barack Obama. While subscribing to equal human rights and enlightened identity politics they became opportunists with respect to the neoliberal program which originated with Thatcher and the London School of Economics. Starting out as proponents of the capitalist mixed economy, the left liberals became, once in power, essentially collaborationists with and agents for the neoliberal program itself. They were bought and suborned by the campaign donations of corporate capital. This is still the case today where many left liberal politicians take corporate donations to do corporate bidding while wearing as fig leaves the issues of human rights and identity politics. No fig-leaf can cover their surrender to the economic policies and class politics of the elites of the neoliberal system.
“Left Realism” as an existing term refers only to a particular left stance on criminology. “Left realism emerged in criminology from critical criminology as a reaction against what was perceived to be the left’s failure to take a practical interest in everyday crime, allowing right realism to monopolize the political agenda on law and order. Left realism argues that crime disproportionately affects working-class people, but that solutions that only increase repression serve to make the crime problem worse. Instead they argue that the root causes of crime lie in relative deprivation, although preventive measures and policing are (still considered) necessary (and) these should be democratically controlled.” – [Wikipedia]
A thorough-going Left Realism would go beyond this base and extend the general idea of left realism to all other areas of political economy. A further specific example is the arena of geostrategy. Geostratetgy is another field which should not be neglected as the exclusive preserve of the Right Realists (for example the neorealism and “Offensive Realism” of John Mearsheimer). Political (national) Economy and geostrategy are deeply entwined. The bourgeois (capitalist) pretense is that individual violence and state violence on the one hand and economics (political economy) on the other hand, are quite separate from and do not influence each other. Capitalism pretends that its navies, armies, air forces, security apparatuses and police forces are not part of the international economic order and of the domestic political economy from which bases they enforce international relations, capitalist “rights” and domestic law, in capital’s favour with all the usual colonialist, post-colonialist and class-based expropriations.
Left Realism should not leave discussion of violence and the state monopoly of violence aside but rather confront it as a topic central to ideology and political economy. Left Realism must declare openly and honestly what it will do in relation to the issues of criminality, antisocial acts, violence internal and external to the state and violence perpetrated by the state; including when democratic socialist state force (state violence) might be necessary and justified. If these ideas sound dangerous it is because they are dangerous. But they refer to real facts on the ground and realpolitik in general which in themselves are dangerous and become even more dangerous if their existence is denied.
Left Realism as a comprehensive political philosophy should not just be about, not even most importantly about, the above kinds of Realism. It is also about scientific realism including realism about natural biosphere realities (limits to growth, environmentalism, sustainability) and human evolved nature (as studied in the field of evolutionary psychology). In contrast to some of the dogmatic Marxist schools, Left Realism holds that there does exist a shared human nature both physically and psychologically. Human nature and social forms are not entirely human-history generated; they have been, and still are, on longer time scales evolutionarily generated or evolved. Of course, this human nature is all of complex, pliable, malleable, educable and so on. This kind of human nature is still by definition a nature as such and we are not infinitely complex, not infinitely pliable, not infinitely malleable and not infinitely educable. As well as limits to growth there are limits to being, specifically limits to human being-ness physically and psychologically. These limits define, among other things, what is far and just for people.
Left Realism takes particular issue with Conventional (Capitalist or Mixed) Economic analysis and it does so from a thoroughgoing ontological perspective with both real system (biosphere bioeconomics) and notional system (legal law, institutional and financial/numeraire analyses combined in a consistent, comprehensive ontology. (This is a whole other topic with details well beyond this post.) Measures of value which Conventional Economics (with the money numeraire) and which Marxist economics (with socially necessary abstract labour time or SNALT) assert to be true and real are in fact not objectively true or real at all. They are not objective existents nor even notional models which properly model and manage the real economy. They are imaginary constructs lacking proper homomorphic modelling links with the real economy. They are inaccurate precepts and models pure and simple.
These crude prescriptive approaches to economics (the Capitalist or Marxist theories of value) fail the test of ontological realism. What conventional economics and even doctrinaire Marxism assert to be real economic existents are really only notional and prescriptive assertions. That is to say they are mental and social constructs stated as prescriptions (not descriptions of anything objectively real) and thus they have reality only in that sense: a reality of pure reason ideations (not empirical discoveries) advanced as a normative, praxeological (or axiomatic) base from which to derive economic theorems. These prescriptive patterns are instantiated as rules in the structure of certain media such as human brains, books, computers and so forth. Information in the narrow political economy context means patterns capable of influencing the creation of further patterns via agent (human or computer) encoding, decoding and manipulation of symbol systems. The further patterns may be new encoded patterns OR new physical conformations in the real economy built to the plans of the ideational models.
What is money? It certainly is not a scientific unit. It certainly is not an objectively consistent yardstick. Money is a notional unit with no physical dimension. Its “dimension”, the dollar, is notional and subjective and it cannot be scientifically described in any SI unit(s). What money measures, “subjective value”, “utility value” or “economic value”, cannot be scientifically described either. “Value” in the economic sense (and also in the moral philosophy sense) is a notoriously slippery and shape-shifting concept. Conventional economics resort to circular logic (a known logical fallacy of course) to define money and value. Money measures value. The value of something is the money it costs.
I do not have to rehearse the history of money here. It usefully replaced barter. The early markets became broad-based heuristic “valuation” systems at a basic level. Really, they were assignment and distribution systems. While it was and is scientifically and ontologically invalid to supposedly measure “value”, and equate things with money, we did it anyway. We seldom pay attention to the “mere” scientific and ontological invalidity of an idea in pure theory terms if it works in some way for social or practical purposes. This illustrates as it were, the multi-faceted, real-notional paradox of the nature of money. As a construct it works within a certain domain (certain human societies and economies), to a certain extent (ignoring negative externalities and other issues), in a certain way (often unjustly) and while real limits (like the limits to growth for example) are distant. But it never was really measuring “value” (whatever that is) and it has metamorphosed or “evolved” many times, moving further and further away from its initial forms and applications. That it simply measures value, ever simply measured value, is false and a falsifying veil. It was and is defining and prescribing power (socio-political power) in a new way and measuring the power to control, appropriate, include and exclude; a power always backed by violence in the last resort.
Even at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis we are discovering that any genuine crisis requires socialism. Nothing else works. The government (luckily at least a democratic representative government in our case) has to guarantee essential services, ensure employment where possible, provide government support where employment is not possible and guarantee a place to live for every person whether they have money or not. All these real people and real economy concerns perforce have to be placed before and above the operations of standard money and markets for goods and services (though the stock markets so far continue in their fictitious capital “fractalizing”. In the case of provisions of essential real goods and real services, some of the laws, rules and flows of credit, debt, money and capital have had to be repealed or suspended (put in “hibernation”) indefinitely. A significant number and quantity of essential operations of the real economy needed to support real people have had to be directly mandated by government order. The support of persons and work has to be sustained by government fiat money. Only statism is left to keep essential good and services fully available. If a single crisis mandates a degree of temporary socialism then continuous climate and environmental crisis mandates continuous socialism and likely in greater degree.
Left Realism calls on us to abandon the bourgeois fictions of money without abandoning its practical uses. It calls on us to cease reifying money and to see it for what it really is in a modern nation state with a fiat currency system. Money itself is a creation of the state. Its operations and any suspensions of its operations are subject to state power. State power is the final arbiter and guarantor in all matters relating to the national currency. In a very real sense, the fiat currency is a natural monopoly and it belongs entirely with the state. Hence the profits, seigniorage, etc. of money creation always ought to belong entirely to the state (and thus effectively to all the people in a democractic socialist state). Money creation should be permissible only to the state. This includes debt money creation.
Left Realism as a form of democratic socialism would not resile from recognizing state power and using it firmly as and when necessary. An example is criminality during a crisis. In the current COVID-19 crisis for example, a national crisis, the continuation of crimes against persons is an even greater affront than in normal times. Crimes of violence against men should attract double the normal penalty and crimes against women and children should attract quadruple the normal penalty. Perpetrators of crime should be left in no doubt that a Left Realist democratic socialist state would take harsh measures when forced to by unacceptable criminal actions.
The other side of this realism is that a velvet glove is needed before the iron fist and the iron fist is only legitimate when the velvet glove has failed. Enlightened social policies like a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and a Job Guarantee (JG) should be fully implemented. State housing projects and much better state treatment centers for the physically and mentally ill and incapacitated should be fully and generously funded to the very point of gold-plating such systems. But if in the light of and in the developed aftermath of the full panoply of these enlightened policies, some persons want to persist in violent criminality and sexual assault (even psychopaths who essentially cannot help themselves) then the Left Realist democratic socialist state’s iron fist must be in full evidence and fully employed. Capital punishment should not be re-implemented but true life sentences absolutely without any parole must be handed to all violent and sexual crime recidivist offenders. On the other hand, non-violent crime, white collar crime etc. should be dealt with by appropriate fines set as a a percentage of the persons income with all crime proceeds confiscated by the state.
Left Realism recognizes that democracy only exists currently in the context of the nation state and only in some nation states at that. Hence democratic socialism itself is a creature of the nation state. Until some way is found to evolve democracy beyond the state, if it be found, the nation state remains the guarantor of democratic socialism for its people. The nation state as such must be protected. When it comes to international relations, a new standard of refusing to do business, refusing to trade ,with authoritarian states must be implemented. Exceptions might be made for small, poor states if they agree to set a timetable to progress to a constitution and free elections, ratified by a council of democratic nation states and then progress as agreed.
Trade with large authoritarian states, Russia and China come to mind, should be fully phased out until if and when they want to join a council of democratic nation states after becoming genuinely democratic themselves. Of course, this plan will never work unless the USA becomes a fully genuine democratic socialist nation state. (I have no hopes at all for Russia and China. Their cases seem absolutely hopeless for the foreseeable future.) Much hinges on the USA experiencing a democratic socialist revolution in the relatively near future due to the COVID-19 and Climate Change crises rendering neoliberal capitalism entirely unworkable. For the USA it will be a matter of having a democratic socialist revolution or completely collapsing into barbarism and chaos. Then absolutist China will rule the world and the democratic age will be over. But if things go that badly humanity will go extinct anyway. So, its democratic socialism or extinction. That’s the choice.
This is copied from a commenter from another completely different forum, but I thought it worth sharing for the interest factor – no idea how accurate it is:
I was just reading a fascinating piece on the 1918 Spanish Flu on Business Insider.
Fascinating photos, and eerie resemblances to the situation today:
After reading a few more articles, some interesting facts:
One of the virus’ first appearance was in Haskins County, Kansas. An army cook likely spread it to thousands of troops.
But nations that were at war prevented journalists from reporting anything that hampered the war effort. So it wasn’t until the disease spread to Spain (a neutral country) that it was reported in the world press. Thus the name.
There were three waves. By far the deadliest was the second wave. It is postulated that it was caused by a mutated strain from the first wave.
Millions in research dollars were spent, and wasted because they thought a bacteria was responsible.
All we need is a new, more highly virulent and lethal mutation of COVID-19 and then we are in deep trouble. Sadly, it’s possible.
“Reported cases of Spanish flu dropped off over the summer of 1918, and there was hope at the beginning of August that the virus had run its course. In retrospect, it was only the calm before the storm. Somewhere in Europe, a mutated strain of the Spanish flu virus had emerged that had the power to kill a perfectly healthy young man or woman within 24 hours of showing the first signs of infection.” – History site.
Carnivorous is an anagram of coronavirus.
The vegans are saying I told you so.
Chicken – yum
Turkey – yummy
Rabbit – Even better
Goose – awsome,
Fish – Hold me down I am starting to float
Shrimp – I am going to overdose
Pork- I am finished
What a dream.
The head of the WHO has advocated the re-opening of China’s “wet markets”. We have to be careful with terminology, of course. A “wet market” does not necessarily mean a market where wildlife (other than fish) is sold for meat. Any fresh food market could be a “wet market”. If it has a concrete floor and is hosed out at the end of the day, it can be a wet market. It might sell only fruit and vegetables or it might sell fish.
However, in parts of China the term “wet market” probably does mean “live wild food market” including turtles, snakes, rats, bats, primates, mammals more generally and many other wild life species in total. These markets are a serious problem in causing the emergence of zoonotic diseases and should be closed down. We need to be careful in our selection of species to eat or otherwise become vegetarians as Hugo has suggested more than once on this blog.
A major problem is the very poor sanitary conditions in which animals are stored and displayed for sale. This can include cages of many different species stacked on top of each so that multiple species are defecating and urinating on each other. Unsanitary chopping blocks where animals are chopped up live complete the quick picture of conditions. Next we must consider the issues of animal cruelty and disregard for wildlife losses, especially threatened species.
It is not absolutely certain that SARS – Cov2 (COVID-19) came out of the Wuhan wet market though it is a high probability. It IS certain that it is a zoonotic disease and it is all but certain that it come from eating wildlife or handling wildlife for food purposes somewhere in or near Wuhan, in this case. It is also certain that other zoonotic diseases have come out of wet wildlife markets.
The world needs to call for an end to wet wild life markets (and wild life markets in general) with exceptions for safely eaten species of which wild fish would be the main type. Compliance is a difficult issue. Encouragement is perhaps better than sanctions. But a way has to be found to end wet wildlife food markets. The world cannot afford the COVID-19 event let alone another event like it.
Iko, also did you read Peter Hartcher’s opinion piece in the nine mastheads yesterday? It appears they’re trying to export these “practices with tax incentives to boot”.
Must be a powerful lobbying industry within the mainland and now extending to the WHO and beyond.
H1N1, which killed over 17,000 people, originated in pigs in North America. Wildlife isn’t the only problem.
If you saw it and recall, I made a post earlier on one thread or another where I said cultural bans on eating pigs and such-like probably had a good historical basis. Yes, we may need to extend food bans to pigs for example and maybe to more other animals. Also, the capitalist industrial food system is a disease incubator (mass piggeries, cattle feedlots etc.).
What do you eat? I admit I eat plants and animal foods (beef, lamb, mutton, chicken, pork, fish, duck (rarely), kangaroo (rarely), crocodile (very rarely). The world is very dependent on animal and wild animal (especially fish) protein right now. It would take a concerted effort to wean very poor countries off this.
I eat meat. However I note the vegans do make some good points, so I put them up for discussion now and then.
I agree with Hartcher’s article. However, it appears I might be being censored from criticizing the most populated and most authoritarian nation in the world.
There’s an interesting titbit in a story in the Guardian
“James McCaw, a mathematical biologist and infectious diseases epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne … noted that an estimated effective reproduction number below 1 is necessary but not sufficient to achieve elimination…”
Everything I’ve read to date has said that R0<1 is all you need for elimination. So if it's not sufficient, what else do you need?
Perhaps it’s time (the time dimension). You need to maintain an R0<1 for a sufficiently long time. There are other quirks too which can the time period very long. Sometimes viruses can hide dormant in the body for decades in certain organs and then reinfect the host in an overt breakout in some way. Chickenpox (varicella zoster virus, VZV) to shingles comes to mind. Then a person with shingles can give chickenpox to a person who has never had chickenpox.
Or try this for size:
"American doctor declared free of Ebola finds the virus in his eye months later "
His eyeball was swimming with ebola virus even though the rest of his body was cleared. Eye problems (and treatments) ensued. I can't find out if his eye or eyes were actually fully cleared of the virus or not. Imagine a person with eyes not cleared (problem not even known), has an accident, ruptures eye, first attender gets eye fluid on hand… and you know the rest of the story.
So part of the story is where the virus can lay dormant or hide in a natural reservoir. Imagine this. SARS-Cov2 (COVID-19) gets into Australian bat poputation. Human population cleared. Lesson, don't get scratched or bitten by a bat. Don't anyway because… Lyssavirus! Which is a first cousin of rabies… and they say Australia doesn't have rabies! LOL to that!
Testing inadequacy in Asutralia.
Australia is 30th on testing per capita-Worldometer today.
Going backwards in the rankings. WHY?
The media is failing to challenge politicians/health bureaucrats on this or get the data behind claims to be among the leaders.
NZ’s PM yesterday called for more testing.
The Australian government has said several times that we have the highest testing rate in the world. Every time they have said this I have checked the claim and it was false according to the published data. The highest after the first ten might have been a bit closer to the truth.
They lie brazenly ALL the time. The UK government is lying about COVID-19 statistics right now.
“Coronavirus has infected 2,000 UK care homes but their deaths aren’t included in the daily tally” – ABC News.
In the USA deaths out of hospitals are not counted. Heart attack deaths in hospitals are not counted. A significant proportion of heart attack victims at the present time have COVID-19 and it seriously affects the heart.
Everywhere governments are lying, even in supposed democracies with the supposed free press. If people don’t think China is lying also then people are sadly mistaken. China’s dictator has even more reason to lie than most leaders. Of course, accurate statistics are difficult to obtain even in developed countries and contributing causes of death can be complex. But the amount of outright, deliberate lying and white-washing is tremendous. Why? What purpose does this lying serve? The narrow self-interest of the governing party or group can be the only explanation.
I fear for the human race. It is not ethically evolved enough to survive. As well as intelligence we needed to evolve the ethics (evolutionaryily or culturally) necessary for a eusocial species living in supercolonies (megactities and nations). We have not done so to a nearly sufficient degree. We are not being “selected for extinction” (a Dr. Malcolm malapropism from Jurassic Park). We have ELECTED for extinction via our own seriously flawed ethical choices.
John, Australians are being incredibly ripped off at the petrol bowser. I don’t expect all the fall in oil prices to be passed on at the pump as distribution has some fixed costs, but I do expect most of it to be passed on, not just some or in some cases none. It is sucking away a portion of the benefit of the fiscal stimulus. If the police can move a gathering of three people on in the public interest, maybe there should also be some requirement that oil companies behave responsibly during a pandemic?
Ronald, why would you care about petrol prices at the moment? Are you driving as much as normal? Are prices not already 33% lower than normal? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that corporations rip us off, including oil and refinery corporations. However, I don’t think retail fuel price is a first order concern at the moment. I bought 10 liters of unleaded standard petrol the other day, for the ride-on mower and weed-eater. It’s the first fuel of any kind I have bought for two months.
Ikonoclast, I am one of those people who, when they see big business taking advantage of a disaster to rip people off and weaken the effect of emergency measures designed to keep people in work, feel concerned. I am one of those rare people who don’t fully support big business being part of an aristocracy with the right to extract rents from the populace with no obligations in return. My position my seem strange, but I blame it on being exposed in my youth to the thinking of a moral philosopher called Adam Smith.
Ronald, I am the same as you in this regard, really. Of course, we are not rare. The great majority of people “don’t fully support big business being part of an aristocracy with the right to extract rents from the populace with no obligations in return”. The issue is “How do we change this?” What should be our strategy and tactics? We should certainly take a leaf out of the “disaster capitalism” playbook which deliberately exploits disasters to tighten the hold of capitalism. We should exploit this disaster to completely weaken the hold of corporate capitalism and bring in demcoratic socialism. The question is how to do that in detail. Breaking up corporations, conglomerates, TNCs (transnational corporations) monopolies, oligopolies and trusts is certainly one of the things we should be doing.
ECONOMIC MODELS AND MODELS IN GENERAL.
In talking about economic models our first concern must be with the ontological nature of models themselves. What are models and where do they sit ontologically speaking? This is a crucial question. I would answer this question in the following developed but summarized fashion.
(A) COMPLEX REAL SYSTEMS
All-existence (the cosmos) may be posited as a single complex system and thus the “concrete whole” in the priority monism sense. Parts of the cosmos are sub-systems, sub-systems of sub-systems and so on. The cosmos is a real system. All sub-systems of the cosmos are real systems. “Real” here means materially real in the substance philosophy sense.
System: A regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming an integrated whole. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning.
Real System: Any system which obeys the discovered fundamental Laws of physics.
The entirety of human perception and understanding is achieved by modelling. Brain-internal coalesced qualia as perceived perceptions, are virtual models of perceived external reality. Higher level ideations, concepts and explicit models themselves are also all models. Human perceptions, understandings (and misunderstandings) are comprised entirely of models and nothing but models.
(C) TRUTH CORRESPONDENCE
Truth correspondence exists as the valid connection of congruences or homomorphisms between our brain models or mind models, including all modeled perceptions, understandings, statements and explicit models, and the reality external to the brain or mind.
(D) FORMAL SYSTEMS
Formal Systems are a sub-set of real systems. They are a special subset of real systems where information as patterns is encoded, transmitted, received and interpreted in and via real system media comprised of matter and energy. The formal system is instantiated in real system media. Real system media may be brains, computers, books, scale models, plans, maps, diagrams and so on.
Formal System: Any system of signs based on or forming a language, including mathematics.
(E) MATTER, ENERGY AND INFORMATION
Matter, energy and information can be passed between real systems. For many open systems, the transfers of all three are important. In the case of human formal systems (instantiated in real systems of course), the transfer of information is usually the most important component. The transfers of matter and energy are often minimal and even deliberately minimized to achieve a high information transfer rate to energy use and/or matter deployment. These matter and energy savings are one main reason that all models, and especially but not only explicit models (say crafted models for a wind tunnel), are of pragmatic use as tools for investigating reality.
(F) THE HUMAN AGENT (A HUMAN BEING)
Human Agency is the capacity of human actors to act in a given environment. The (or each) living human agent is the connection between formal systems and real systems.
We can represent this process very simply as:
Real Systems Human Agency Formal Systems
What is represented by the arrows in the diagram? What is shown as passing from Real Systems, through Humans exercising agency, to Formal Systems and vice versa? The simplest, physicalist answer is mass, energy and information. This is a correct and complete physicalist description according to modern physics and its relational system model of the cosmos. Usually, in planning real actions, information is the most important thing plus real resources to enact the plan of course. Information is a pattern capable of influencing or creating other patterns after suitable decoding, transcription and/or execution.
(G) SYSTEM BOUNDARIES
Matter, energy and information can pass through system boundaries depending on permeability or penetrability. A system boundary is a boundary that separates the internal components of a system from external systems. A system boundary can be an interface for the transfer of matter, energy and information.
The process of empirical detection relies on matter, energy, information (in any combination) coming through a system boundary from the detected existent and passing in through the system boundary of the detecting system (a human or human instrument when taking an anthropocentric view).
Thence, the “depths” or internals of any system can only be inferred or deduced (as the case may be) by system boundary phenomena or more correctly by system-boundary-transferred phenomena.
(H) THE APPARENT PARADOX OF THE REAL AND THE FORMAL OR NOTIONAL
The ontology of formal system / real system interactions can be empirically and logically systematized within a consistent priority monist framework. Let the the double pipe symbol “||” represent a system boundary or interface. The term “interface” is to be preferred over the term “system boundary” as transfers of matter, energy and information can and do occur across these interfaces. We can develop a schema of physical existence as follows:
Cosmos || World || Humans || Brains || Minds || Formal Systems
Each term is a sub-system of the term to its left. The cosmos is a real system. Each subsystem of a real system IS a real system by definition, and has real interactions with other sub-systems. This arrives at the seemingly paradoxical assertion that a formal system is a real system. This paradox is only seeming. A Formal system is a real pattern of real information structurally existent in a real system. Formal systems (when they are models) attempt to homomorphically model overall reality or some portion of it. Sometimes for ideological, cultural or psychological purposes such models attempt, knowingly or unknowingly, to distort or obscure reality.
(I) DESCRIPTIVE OR PRESCRIPTIVE MODELS?
Models attempting to deal with and manipulate real quantities and dimensions, and real people also, generally make this attempt by describing what certain aspects of reality are now (empiricism) and then prescribing what certain aspects of reality should be in future (or how they should behave in future if they are people). The path from a described current state of reality to a prescribed future state is mapped by causation (when it can be ascertained or known) for inanimate materials and energies, and where the systems are not too complex with too many interacting and/or unknown variables. The future paths for complex entities, like people and economies (comprising the real economy and the notional money-finance economy) is prescribed and based in practice on ethical and ideological prescriptions as much or more than on empirical considerations. We tend to notice that the more complex, open-ended or “wicked” the problem, the more people desire simple nostrums and conventional cultural certitudes, in the form of religious and ideological fundamentalisms to prescribe or order their actions. Thus, the “free market”, whatever that is precisely, today is the answer for everything. There is no need to investigate messy and complex empirical reality when you already have the pat answer and one which other believers are already keyed into accepting without question. As a colleague of mine once said, “For every complex problem there is a simple answer. And it is always wrong.”
(J) THE CONFUSION OF THE DESCRIPTIVE AND THE PRESCRIPTIVE
We reach a particularly difficult juncture when descriptive and prescriptive elements are all mixed up in a discipline. Conventional economics is the perfect example of this dire dilemma. The ontology of conventional economics is a complete mess, not to put too fine a point on it. Conventional economists themselves are not and cannot be (because of institutionalized dogma) intellectually self-honest in relation to this problem. Ontological confusions are systemically and comprehensively embedded in the entire discipline. This last statement is a large claim and requires extensive further argument to bear it out in full. The case when fully made is really open and shut. However, I cannot go further here and now or this is no longer a short summary.
Model: A simplified representation of a more complex original.
Monism: Attribution of oneness or singleness to a concept or system, e.g. existence.
Ontology: The study of existence, and emergence, in terms of categories and relations.
Process: A set of transformations over a period of time.
System: A regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming an integrated whole. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning.
Real System: Any system which obeys the discovered Laws of hard science.
Formal System: Any system of signs based on or forming a language, including mathematics.
Classic format used by this “Government” to “govern”, to sweep complex problems under the mat. Simple stuff like the Murray Darling Basin. Create an enquiry, headed by a “reliable” well known retired person who won’t rock the boat. Sadly Baden-Powell is dead, why not Mick Keelty, he may have been stationed on the Darling in his constable days, good bloke though. Well the reports out, blame climate change, blame the States, not greed sopping up a dwindling resource, not bulldozers and scrapers.
Hands extended, palms turned out in supplication, “What can you do?”. File and forget.
I meant to add this https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/apr/17/climate-change-likely-to-blame-for-dwindling-murray-darling-inflows-report-finds
I don’t want to sound flippant but who here really thinks that the species homo sapiens will last even until the year 2100? There are quite a few top scientists who do not think so. Given climate change, sea level rise, the sixth mass extinction event including “insectageddon”, ocean biome death, ubiquitous micro-plastics. hormone-mimicking pollution and the rise of zoonotic diseases (take a bow COVID-19), I think we can say that homo sapiens is in a lot of trouble. If I were to pick a probability I would say there is not better than a 50% chance that humans will even be around in 2100.
A corollary of the high likelihood that we will be extinct by 2100 is that if a remnant of the human race survives until then, then the world will look nothing like it does now. Much further growth in globalism (ever-increasing technological complexity and ever-increasing sets of corporate-totalitarian, global mono-system linkages) would seem essentially impossible, given the imminence of resource limits (including the limits of wastes sinks and bio-services) and likely consequent civilizational collapse.
Rather than any corporate wet-dream of total global control via big data (for example), we will see dystopias, plural, arrive by uneven regional collapses, climate refugee waves, mass deaths from heat stroke in tropical areas, superstorms, super-droughts, super-floods and so on as the earth’s biosphere systems destabilize. I expect regional wars, proxy wars, civil wars and so on to break out nearly everywhere. It will be a good effort if we avoid a full nuclear exchange followed by nuclear winter.
I predict that global travel (for example) will never recover from this COVID-19 induced collapse and its aftermath. Very few people ever again will (a) be able to afford global travel and (b) even want to go anywhere when half of the world is disintegrating into dangerous anarchy. Note I wrote “disintegrating”. To expect further global integration, corporate-capitalist totalitarian integration or world socialist integration, on the cusp of limits-to-growth dis-integration is really to expect entirely the wrong things.
Who could believe that the USA and EU, as corporate dominated and run entities now, could organize further global integration? (China perhaps could but not in a way that the West would like.) The US and EU can’t even organize a pandemic response. That’s how hopeless they are in their sclerotic system-collapse twilight. Our systems are already disintegrating before our eyes. I find it very hard to lend credence to any hypothesis of further global integration in a plainly imminent future of near total collapse.
To append to my post above:
We are now in overshoot and the great majority of us are living on borrowed time.
Nevertheless, I do not believe in laying down and dying. No matter how remote hope is, we must keep acting as positively as possible. So, corporate control has to be fought. CO2 emissions have to be fought.
I think one of the most effective actions would be a revolutionary level of consumer boycotts (plus rent strikes, labor strikes and other actions as necessary). In the West we should;
(a) Boycott corporate products as much as possible. Buy local and from small local businesses.
(b) Boycott products and purchases with high CO2 emissions, plastics content, toxic chemical content and so on. This includes tourism and buying more cars, boats etc.
(c) Boycott the products and services marketed to appeal to your weaknesses: sugars, fats, junk foods, junk entertainment, professional sport, drink, drugs (legal or illegal), gambling etc.
(d) Boycott all online sites that want you to pay for anything at all. Use only freeware, free news, free data sources, free entertainment etc, etc. Use ad-blockers. Never read click-bait.
(e) In a word boycott capitalism and especially corporate capitalism as much as you can. The more that large capitalist businesses collapse, the better off we will be as we find alternative, sustainable ways of living with cooperative and democratic socialist structures and systems.
(f) Learn to be happy with less and care for people more than possessions.
I differ with you over professional sports. Here is my reason. The purpose of human life is not to survive. The purpose of human life is to produce great works of art. Our collective survival is just a means to accomplish the creation of great works of art. These works are are to be enjoyed not only by the beings that inhabit planet earth. These works of art are also to be enjoyed by those who live outside of our simulation such as poor Atlas who has to bear the weight of the whole universe upon his shoulders 24/7. As Atlas gazes down upon us the least that we can do is try to lessen his pain by helping him forget the pirdicement he stands in.
Sports should not really be thought of just an athletic contest which allows a g reat athlete like Theagenes to capture the passionet desires of Chariclea. Each sporting event is actually a serious unscripted work of art. Professional sports are the most refined of this type of work of art.
Even before the days of Abraham governments have subsidized art for many good and bad purposes.
Even though art like everything else can be misusded I do not think that it can be denied that art is a psycological assistance to human survival. Art is wha t makes survival worth while. Therefore it seems to me that makes it perfectly sensible for a government to subsidize sports, even professional sports.
It does not make any sense what so ever to subsidize privately owned sports leagues or teams though.
To do that is outright theft. But to subsidize government owned leagues or teams is a different matter.
The opportunity costs of subsidizing sports would most likely be negligible as long as a government did not get carried away. Considering how much sporting equipment could be manufactured in place of manufacturing one tank let alone one aircraft carrrier the bar for getting carried away is awfully high.
Every meal is a work of art. I am not in favor of the Pastars know in other places as Pastors, or in other places as the fun police trying to censor my artistic expressions at the dinning table. Sugars, refined starches, refined fats, and other goodies all have a place, at least occassionally on the plate of hard working people. I myself really enjoy a salad of Cheezits, Corn Chips, and Sociables.
(I do not know if they have such things in Australia but these products would all normally be classified as junk food. It is true that these products might be mightly unhealthy. But they make life worth waking up for. They taste much much better than coffee. Even coffee with lots of sugar and cream,)
Love the song. Comeing back to the stock market theme- i´m genuinly always wundering these days when the stock market does another big swing (yes i´m looking too much at those valuations) if it´s based on some good news about public health or on some new government handout.
So many people go on a vacation and then spend their time in stores.
Why does a person need to travel across countries to go to a store selling jackets, purses, or shoes when there are such stores only a short distance away from home? So many people spend their vacations gettnig so drunk that the puke. Why should they travel across the Mediteranian Sea for that when they can do that around the corner? So many people take a vacation and go to a Casino? Yet there were probably 20 casinos that were closer. Are these types of vacations really a reasonable way of having fun? It should not take the fun police to censor a party vacation a well raised citizenry should not have any interest in such pursuits in the first place.
Vocation Vacation. Does that make any sense?
MMT and Marxian principles are receiving new social and intellectual interest in this crisis. I think there is still further to go in analysis. In particular, I would bring in insights from Thorstein Veblen and from Shimson Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan. Let me explain.
Veblen is well enough known. His key concepts are perhaps “conspicuous consumption / conspicuous leisure” and more importantly, in this context, his concept of “industrial sabotage”. Veblen saw “business” and “industry” as separate and antagonistic processes. Industry is the process of actually producing goods and services. Workers are the industrious agents (using machines and tools to enhance productivity) who produce all the “value” of goods and services. (We will come back to “value”.) Industrial sabotage is a standard business tactic according to Veblen. He understood this sabotage as the deliberate and methodical “withdrawal of efficiency” from productive industry for the purposes of profit for the private sectional interests of one or more of the competing capitals. Hence, neither the productiveness, nor the efficiency, nor the equitableness of the entire society is of the slightest concern to competing capitals. Only their own increase is of concern to them.
To take an example, full competition might be efficient, but an aspiring monopoly will destroy competition by predatory pricing and then raise prices even higher once it has established an effective monopoly. A predatory business may also buy up competitors who are making goods too cheap (in the eyes of the predatory business) in order to gain propriety access to these efficient process in order to either eliminate them or to use them for super-profits. It is very conceivable that the elimination of efficient processes could be the goal if the predatory business is a conglomerate and another arm of that business supplies inputs widely at a lucrative profit and does not want efficient use of these inputs to occur in these and other businesses by wider knowledge and application of the efficient processes.
Predatory businesses as large conglomerates and transnational corporations also have access to (in the current quantitative easing climate) large amounts of credit, in the billions, at effectively a real zero percent interest rate or below after allowing for inflation. A small entrepreneurial start-up on the other hand will find seeking capital for establishment, research and operations, from banks or the stock markets will cost up to 10% effective. But let us be conservative and estimate the effective difference at 7.5%. Big conglomerates with access to cost-less finance and a 7.5% differential interest advantage over potential new competitors are at a very considerable, indeed often unassailable, advantage.
The issue of “value” brings us to Bichler and Nitzan. I highly recommend their book “Capital as Power”. They criticize the theories of value in both capitalist and Marxist economics and do so with full scientific ontological validity in my view. They point out that neither the “Util” (Utility value) nor the “SNALT” (Socially Necessary Abstract Labor Time”) is a real unit of a real dimension. (I refer here to the scientific dimensions as laid out in the SI, International System of Units.) This is not a mere metaphysical ontological quibble. It is a real material argument of scientific, empirical import. If we take dialectical materialism seriously (which concept is really about complex material systems and their feedback and emergent phenomena) then we must take the critique of Bichler and Nitzan seriously.
Value is a notoriously slippery concept as we know both in political economy and in moral philosophy. Value, in the numeraire (the dollar usually) does not measure value, as such, in any real or objective way. Certainly not in a way that value comparisons between disparate products and services (and things of nature for that matter) are valid. The problem has to do with the fact that the dollar is a dimensionless value in scientific terms and is only a ratio of value between different items, many different items. Dimensionless value do exist in science in the SI but these are often ratios of dimensioned values where the dimensions cancel out, This raises the aggregation problem well known in science. Disparate items can only be validly aggregated in a common dimension (for example mass when measuring cargo rate for a conveyance). The aggregation in dollars is not valid. If a human life acturially is worth one million dollars and a diamond is worth one million dollars we still cannot say the true value of these two things is commensurate. Any moral philosophy determination would immediately point out that the human life is morally speaking more valuable. We can also note that diamond prices are highly manipulated, rigged is the correct word, and given an artificially high valuation whereas the lives of say poor and marginal people are routinely devalued.
Bichler and Nitzan argue for a power interpretation of money. Money measures the functional power to purchase, possess and exclude. Because power institutes money (state fiat, state monopoly on violence) and money institutes power in real transactions then money is the numeraire denominated instantiation of power in praxis. How money is used and how it is permitted to be used and not used illustrates the force field of power in a society as surely as iron filings on a sheet of paper align with the force field of the magnet held underneath the sheet of paper. For example, money is now permitted to be used for Q,E. (Quantitative Easing) which only benefits big business, massive business in fact, by giving it cost-less capital at a time when consumers can pay 20% or more on credit card debt. But money is not permitted in the main to be issued via fiscal policy to people in dire need. This says nothing about fiat money which is of course flexible enough for both of these uses. It says everything about the force field of elite capitalist power in our political economy.
After looking at petrol prices around the country I see we’re not being gouged as much as I though we were. We’re just being exploited locally. While not all the oil price cut is being passed at the national level that is to be expected given service stations etc. will have to meet their fixed costs despite volumes down by around 30%. Not that they haven’t been cutting non-fixed costs. I know one chap who works at a service station who was given 2 weeks “holiday” because there wasn’t enough work for him. Not sure if he has holiday days he can use or if he’s just supposed to fight pigeons for scraps. I suppose he could go on the dole, but he’s always been a proud bugger.
I recommend this video as an introduction to “Capital as Power” (CasP).
CasP, in my view solves the value controversy and does so comprehensively and at a stroke. It entirely cuts asunder and disposes of the Gordian knot of the value controversy and demonstrates, fully conclusively, that capital measures (a form of) power and NOT value.
“The acronym CasP stands for “Capital as Power. This is a new, radical approach to the study of capitalism. And as such, it contrasts sharply with both liberal and Marxist political economies. And the key premise of this approach… is that capital is not a material productive entity. It’s a symbolic representation of power. And that capital is not a narrow economic entity but a key social institution that “creorders”, in other words it the creates the order, of capitalist society. And because capital is viewed as a power institution, in others words it’s dialectical and an institution which negates things, it should be understood not in absolute terms but in relative, differential terms.” – Jonathon Nitzan.
For those who would baulk at the word “dialectical”, do not. This is not a Marxian theory.