Sandpit

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

7 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Forward note: If you are interested in cryptocurrencies in order to boost or refute their theoretical heft or apprehended value you will eventually reach some material on that topic. So read on!

    Intro.

    I continue to manage some reciprocated dialog on other economics blogs with Jonathan Nitzan, co-author of “Capital as Power”. This is not to say he agrees with my ideas but he continues to find them interesting enough to thank me for contributions and engage in dialog even if it is to simply clarify his points, or disagree with me or correct me on theoretical or methodological details related to his work.

    “Systemic Fear” is a concept Jonathan Nitzan is working on with his colleagues. In a recent reply to me he wrote interestingly and at a little length on “Systemic Fear”:

    “In Shimshon’s and my view, both the Power and Systemic-Fear indices are abstract quantitative constructs: the first is a ratio of two monetary magnitudes, the second a correlation of two monetary magnitudes. We give these abstract quantities meaning in two related ways.

    (1) We theorize their construction.

    In the case of the Power Index, we say that in capitalism money represents command over others and therefore that the relationship between the prices of ownership units – in this case, between corporate stocks and labour – represents the relative power of capitalists over workers (the latter being a proxy for the underlying population).

    In the case of the Systemic-Fear Index, we say that forward-looking capitalization cannot derive its estimated future earnings till eternity from the jerky ups and downs of last-year’s earnings, and therefore that the extent to which stock prices do (not?) correlate with last year’s earning represents a *breakdown* of the forward-looking ritual. We posit that this breakdown represents systemic fear – namely, the fear that the capitalization process might break down – and that this systemic fear is the dialectical twin of capitalized power: they both go up and down together. We demonstrate that this relationship is very tight in the U.S., and, as James McMahon recently showed, it is also prevalent, although less tightly, elsewhere in the world (https://capitalaspower.com/2021/08/mcmahon-reconsidering-systemic-fear-and-the-stock-market/).

    (2) We correlate the quantitative indices of capitalized power and systemic fear with actual qualitative and quantitative social processes that might underpin and drive them.

    Much of the CasP literature is devoted to connecting power indices to various social processes that might explain them (for a recent overview, see ‘The CasP Project’ on the Casp bnarhcives. The Systemic-Fear Index, however, is a recent invention, and I don’t know of any attempt so far to ‘substantiate’ it as we and others have done with power.” – Jonathan Nitzan. End Quote.

    The points I had made to elicit this reply were of an ontological nature but to a sociologist, empiricist and pragmatist no doubt of a seemingly somewhat speculative metaphysical nature. I hold my points to be more nearly empirical than given credit for but I am finding that argument difficult to carry against the very few Professors who will give me even a blog hearing. 😉 But let me leave that aside. I also leave aside my “near-empirical” metaphysics which others continue to perhaps misinterpret (in my view) as speculative metaphysics.

    Below I have taken the liberty to define “Systemic Fear” in a way Jonathan Nitzan was careful to avoid (above) in order, I assume, to avoid any reality or appearance of the reification of his “abstract quantitative construct”. I, being less cautious and more literally materialist (in a monist relational system sense), am willing to take the risk of reification, in this case. I will cover Systemic Fear, Measurement of Systemic Fear and some Cryptocurrency analysis in a political economy framework.

    1. Systemic Fear and Its Measurement.

    I will start by defining “Systemic Fear” as fearful concerns by capitalists that the effective performance of the ritual of capitalization (in relation to their assets) will be compromised by uncontrolled or uncontrollable market and financial system events operating in or around the current standard and extant market and finance operations of business-as-usual.

    It seems to me that increases in “Systemic Fear” (for whatever reasons) will then result in changes (differential changes) in business outlays on costs of business. We may even reasonably expect new and/or differentially larger outlays to go into novel or innovative fields for ensuring control of the ritual of capitalization. Thus in earlier times, say the times of the “Madmen” of Madison Avenue, advertising expanded in the relatively new medium of TV and utilized further innovative techniques. Perhaps the advertising spend became relatively larger than other costs of doing business at that time.

    In like manner, we now can see that regulatory capture and “politician capture” by donation and graft may well attract a differentially greater spend. The Superpac political donation process in the USA has been fully unleashed by the “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” judgement. This decision is misnamed of course as it should have been termed the “Corporations United v. Federal Election Commission” decision.

    “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States concerning the relationship between campaign finance and free speech. It was argued in 2009 and decided in 2010. The court held that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.” – Wikipedia.

    Where corporations and other large capitalists cannot further dominate (increase differential profits) by the already standard methods of modern “competition”, like brainwashing by blanket advertising, by false or exaggerated advertising claims, by utilizing aspects of Veblenian sabotage already legal, by monopoly, oligopoly and hidden cartel behaviors etc., then they are pushed to ever more innovative methods. One could characterize these methods as not just finding loopholes in and gaming the current system but as changing the rules of the entire game system itself.

    This is where political donations and other monies for regulatory capture, manipulation and changing of the game come in. Finding proxies to measure this might or might not be difficult. The misnamed Citizens United decision provides a new starting point for analysis of this type but may not be broad enough or permit enough retrospective analysis of earlier time analysis. Perhaps the broader “spend” to chart as a percentage of total business cost outlays might be the combined spend on donations, lobbying and legals. This would be based on the tentative theory that after all other avenues of obtaining differential profit are exhausted, in the sense of seeing diminishing returns on such investments, then the next most attractive avenues are regulatory capture, rule changing and legal contestation in spheres from egal adversarialism and legal obstructionism to litigation.

    2. Analyzing the advent and rise of cryptocurrencies in a political economy framework.

    There is a further potential field for discerning a rise in “Systemic Fear”, albeit this will be the systemic or sub-systemic fear of the most innovative of new capitalists against the old and established capitalists: this as a competition between capitals as Marx termed it. The most innovative of “new financial capitalists” discerned that the established financial capitalists of the banks and merchant banks had captured the processes not only of fiscal and monetary policy but they (the established financial capitalists) had innovated (themselves or by their proxies) Quantitative Easing and low or zero real interest rates for large established financial capitalists as the method by which same obtain the advantage of almost endless free loaned capital: which is a superb method for generating asset inflation on held assets. One becomes assured of continued asset accumulation if one can continue to rig the entire game in this way.

    When one can’t rig a game one must over-trump the rigged game with a new game. The old game is fiat currency managed by monetarist prescriptions and then supercharged with Q.E. The dominant financial capitalists have monopoly control (by substantially capturing governments) over the prescriptions for fiat money creation and fiat money “easing”. The way to trump that game is to invent a new form of currency. That new form of currency is the cryptocurrency as a genre. The problem is to make the new form of currency “stick” as a medium of exchange or failing that simply to make it “stick” at first as a new form of speculation. For a time, speculation, mania (as in Tulip mania), pretensions to reliability, some new claimed or real forms of protection against inflation, deflation and devaluation, claimed or real support of contractual obligation enforcement (by block chain contracts) outside the minarchist state service in that arena and even attractiveness for black-market and anonymous translations, can all serve as “feet in the door” to get the alternative cryptocurrency running at some level.

    The cryptocurrency challenge is now perhaps more serious than corporate-captured governments and their conventional corporate masters recognize. While some cryptocurrencies have failed or are failing (including possibly Bitcoin) because of high creation and transaction costs and the failure to support high transaction volumes, new cryptocurrency platforms like Solana may be overcoming a number of these problems. From the point of view of Marxian or Veblenian theory, these new cryptocurrencies are still scams against (brain or body) workers as the fundamental and direct creators of value beyond the free gifts of nature. But the advanced cryptos are also “scams” or more complexly can also be regarded as “escape variant innovative capitalism” evolving to compete against against existing dominant financial capitalism and its captured fiat variant “store of value”.

    With modern cryptocurrencies like Solana it appears possible in theory to create DAOs (Distributed Autonomous Organizations) as competitors for conventional finance and conventional corporations. Instead of shareholders, these DAOs have crypto holders or token holders who vote on proposals for using DAO “treasury” funds for paying for salaries and contracted services etc. In a sense this could be, I emphasize “could be”, a radical new kind of business cooperative functioning as an autonomous workers’ collective cooperative, albeit only accessible and functional for tech-savy “worker-capitalists” as a potential new class. Each one will be all of a worker and a capitalist and collectively they will be competitors against established corporate and oligarchic capitalists. Of course, if successful, the biggest individual players will become the “New Oligarchs”. This won’t necessarily turn into the fortuitous evolution of “distributed autonomous socialism”. In fact, my guess is that it won’t do this without a revolutionary vanguard trying to direct it that way. These young, tech-savy “worker-capitalist” geeks are not the least bit interested in ushering in a socialist worker utopia, though they do tend to believe that they are ushering in a liberal anarchist or libertarian anarchist utopia of fully realized individualism.

    The Systemic Fear of the most innovative of the new capitalists will express itself as the push to establish and extend the operation of cryptocurrencies, block chains and smart contract chains and to avoid holding fiat dollars, government bonds and even sometimes corporate bonds. Looking at these trends might (I emphasize might) expose some new phenomena arising in the capital system where capital itself is transmogrifying to a new form beyond government fiat.

    The innovative “cryptocapitalists” want to limit their holdings in fiat currency (US dollars for example) and in fiat currency denominated bonds to as little as possible (just using fiat currency as a flow of “hot potatoes” while maintaining a minimal stock at any point in time) to limit their exposure to the sovereign risks, seigniorage risks and demurrage risks they see as inherent in fiat currencies whose operations they in turn see as captured by conventional (and thieving) corporations and/or subject to clear statist actions based on exigency, contingency, opportunism or caprice by supposedly democratic or openly authoritarian governments.

  2. Go Ikon.

    Figure 1 alone, makes it worth the read. I urge others here to view and comment.

    Here are the links to original. I’ve read both, but currently above my pay grade. Keep it going tho.

    “Corporate power and the future of U.S. capitalism

    from Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan

    “Corporate power in the United States has risen to unprecedented levels, but the rate at which this power has grown is decelerating. Both facts have important implications for the future of U.S. capitalism.

    “Figure 1 examines this process in the United States. For the sake of presentation, we define ‘dominant capital’ here as the top 200 U.S.-incorporated firms in the North American Compustat dataset, ranked annually by market value. To measure their relative-income-read-differential-power, we compare, for each year, the average earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) received by a top 200 firm to the same earnings recorded by the average U.S. corporation.

    [ Excellent graph imo]

    “The top series, plotted against the left log scale, shows that this differential has grown exponentially. In the early 1950s, the EBIT of a typical dominant capital firm was roughly 1,000 times larger than that of the average U.S. corporation. But having risen at a compounded average annual rate of 4.1 per cent, by 2007 this ratio reached an all‑time high of nearly 18,000.

    “The uptrend hasn’t been even, though. It stalled twice – first during the period between 1974 and 1984, and then again in the twenty years since 2000. And these lulls weren’t flukes.

    “The bottom series, plotted against the right scale, shows the annual rate of change of this differential. The temporal regression trend and the shaded polygon underneath it depict a persistent slowdown: in the early 1950s, the differential rose at an average annual rate of over 6 per cent; by the late 2010s, it increased by slightly more than 2 per cent.”…
    https://rwer.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/corporate-power-and-the-future-of-u-s-capitalism/

    Link to comment by Ikonoclast…
    https://rwer.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/corporate-power-and-the-future-of-u-s-capitalism/#comment-176824

  3. Go KT2! You link to so much excellent stuff that I can’t keep with it and with my own autodidact research directions too. I do the best I can.

  4. Modesty and the Taliban’s ban on women’s cricket

    The Afghanistan that the Taliban now rule faces several crises. It is (1) running out of food; there are (2) millions of penniless internal refugees; the USA and other rich countries have (3) cut off the supply of aid and have blocked the foreign exchange reserves, ISIS-K, who think the Taliban are apostate softies, are (4) an immediate and credible terrorist threat; and the new régime has (5) no legitimacy among the urban populace, especially women, who after two decades of war form a large part of the urban workforce. Basically, think of the situation Lenin and his Bolsheviks faced in Petrograd just after the October putsch had brought them to power. A rational bettor would not have backed either for a long stay.

    The Bolsheviks came through, with ruthlessness plus intelligence. All the Taliban have shown so far is the ruthlessness, which is never enough by itself.

    Exhibit A is the ban on women’s cricket. WTF? The tactical situation clearly points to flexibility on a secondary issue, see problems 2 and 5. Going ahead with the ban on women’s sport just now shows that misogyny is indeed a core value for the Taliban, overriding common sense. They can’t help themselves.

    The ban is also a very peculiar choice, even given Taliban values. Cricket is played in the middle of a large field. Players, men and women alike, traditionally wear full-length trousers, long-sleeved shirts, and caps or helmets. It’s about as far from erotic display as sport can get. If the Taliban had started with objections to synchronised swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, beach volleyball, or men’s diving they would have enough of a point to start a discussion, and some Western feminists might be on their side. Cricket is just absurd.

    The Taliban justifies its obsession with an extreme reading of a genuine and foundational Muslim value, haya or modesty. This applies both to men and women. The early collector of hadith an-Nasa’i wrote that it even applies to God:
    “Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, is forbearing, modest and concealing, and He loves modesty and concealment…”
    an-Nasa’i has a good theological point. Even to fervent believers God speaks very rarely indeed, though atheists can have mystical experiences, and He (definitely male deities here) keeps Himself well hidden. The dialogue with believers is always one-sided.

    What seems specific to Islam is the idea that the believer should always be deferential and respectful to Allah, as to a patriarch in a traditional tribal society. Judaism and its other offshoot Christianity enjoin awe and fear, but hardly deference. The Bible is full of characters complaining loudly about their unfair treatment by God: Job, Jonah, the psalmist (psalm 22), Jesus quoting it on the cross. Jacob wrestled with the angel, Abraham conducted a down-to-the-wire negotiation with Yahweh over the sacrifice of his son in which Yahweh blinked first (Jack Miles’ persuasive reading). St John of the Cross complains that God keeps him apart in a pitiable separation. https://www.best-poems.net/poem/stanzas-soul-suffers-longing-see-god-by-john-cross.html These lovers’ quarrels are a far cry from respectful deference.

    This temperament now extends to the non-religious: Auden’s recriminations in “Stop all the clocks” are seen as a normal and legitimate response to loss. Sunt lacrimae rerum. Also querimoniae.

    PS: advert for old thoughts on sex, mysticism, the horrible genius Bernini:, and his indecent orgasmic masterpiece: https://www.samefacts.com/god-sex-and-violence-bernini-special/ I wonder what pious Muslims make of it, though I fancy Rumi would have understood.

  5. James, great article. Thanks.

    I understand I must look naive and crass at times, but have, after 30yrs of purposeful ingnorance of religion and politics, taken a curious attitude to allow me to better inform my child. It took being a parent to snap me out of avoidance. Busting to go to Rome now too.

    Your article really hit the spot. I am sending it to a trusted acquaintance, a woman, who converted to catholicism in her 30’s, got a masters in religious education, and now at 74 is still preparing ” the girls” for submission to God.

    Why not the boys? I’ll ask.

    She votes green so we have great philosophical discussions. Yet soooo indoctrinated and believing, she never crosses the line or her bishop. Yet counsels the most right leanings and dogmatic in her local flock.

    I do knew of ” a genuine and foundational Muslim value, haya or modesty. This applies both to men and women.”. Equality of modesty would see men in burkas? I won’t be the person advising fundamentalists with ak47’s to do so. Misogyny or just a power play?

    And don’t get me started in Yahweh! A friend of 30yrs had an awakening to the Lord. Via great sex and marriage. Then proceeded to argue what is a proper name for the almighty. With ex friends and the federal government. I’m able to discuss this with the greens voting Catholic, yet the ex dope smoking party boy – never. He is now reassessing I hear, as his soon to be ex wife, an end if the world is shown by the pandemic rabid fundamentalist ‘ christian’, who loves as you say “dissolution of her mind in a moment of ecstasy”, left last Feb, & donated her hidden acres in Northern NSW to a cult. They are still awaiting Yahweh ‘s return.

    The teaser to the green Catholic…
    …” that she has been certified by the Church as a saint and therefore a reliable witness.

    “I conclude from all this that we should classify Teresa’s ecstasy as a sexual religious experience, and Bernini’s representation of its dual character as fundamentally accurate.

    “If that is so, then the Vatican has to revise its doctrine of sex.”…
    https://www.samefacts.com/god-sex-and-violence-bernini-special/

    Cheers.

  6. Ikon,
    I was going to recommend this book to you – until my epistemic  philosophy tripped over my extant phinances.

    “Epistemic Uses of Imagination

    Edited By Christopher Badura, Amy Kind
    Copyright Year 2021
    ISBN 9780367480561

    Published June 14, 2021 by Routledge

    340 Pages
    Format Hardback
    SAVE ~ $50.40
    was $252.00
    AUD$201.60
    *

    Via… at least a taste…
    And a conference.

    “Epistemic Uses of Imagination

    “Today’s post is by Christopher Badura (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) and Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna College) on the new collection on the epistemic role of imagination Epistemic Uses of Imagination (Routledge, 2021). 

    “In recent years, philosophical interest in the epistemic role of imagination has blossomed.  Although there are a number of philosophers who remain skeptical, there is now considerable agreement that imagination has an important role to play in the epistemic domain.  But when it comes to the question of how best to articulate that role, or to the related question of what explains the ability of imagination to play that role, there is considerably less agreement.  These are the kinds of issues explored in the 15 contributions to our recently released volume, Epistemic Uses of Imagination (Routledge).

    “The idea for the volume was born in Bochum during summer 2019 when we co-organized a conference on Fiction, Imagination, and Epistemology at Ruhr University.  When we thought about what united the bulk of the talks, we realized that, in one way or another, they were concerned with explicating how imagination can contribute to justification, knowledge, and/or understanding. The talks took up this task in various epistemic contexts – some of them focused on the way that imagination functions in the modal domain, some on the relationship between imagination and reasoning, some on the role (or roles) that imagination plays in thought experimentation, and”…
    http://imperfectcognitions.blogspot.com/2021/09/epistemic-uses-of-imagination.html
    *

    Conference :
    “Fiction, Imagination, and Epistemology
    https://philevents.org/event/show/71670

  7. “If the Taliban had started with objections to synchronised swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, beach volleyball, or men’s diving they would have enough of a point to start a discussion, and some Western feminists might be on their side.”
    Those your brief has to be sufficiently small rules in beachvolleyball always fealt quite disturbing to me without much feminist inclinations.
    (Hum, They still seem to be in place, albeit less strictly than before: That is women have to chose to either go full throwsers or still very short)
    https://inews.co.uk/sport/olympics/olympics-kit-rules-explained-beach-volleyball-bikinis-size-tokyo-2020-restrictions-1114025

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