Capitalism Reading List

A list of stories I’ve read, that I found notable, pertaining to economics and capitalism (and so, ultimately, deeply political). I might update it occasionally. Reverse chronological order (roughly).

  • How Suffering Farmers May Determine Trump’s Fate – As rural Wisconsin’s fortunes have declined, its political importance has grown. By Dan Kaufman– New Yorker Magazine – August 10, 2020.
    A story of the demise of the small farm, the deterioration of rural living conditions. A closer look at the specifics of the larger theme that shows in other articles listed here:  the damage caused by capitalism, free markets, free trade and the destruction of cooperatives and social services.  The wanton destruction caused by Republicans, the willful neglect by Hillary-ite Democrats.
  • Flailing States -Pankaj Mishra on Anglo-America – London Review of Books – Vol. 42 No. 14 · 16 July 2020.
    An examination of how 150 years of  social policy in Germany has kept it strong, even as  the US and  Britain flail and fail. An examination of how we got here: capitalist and neoliberal policy, free trade, globalization, Reagan and Thatcher, and also a look at India, China and South Korea.  There have been many social experiments, many alternatives to naked capitalism, that have been tried around the world, and have been found to work.  These offer more than a few alternative realities to the broken dysfunction here in the US. It’s high time we tried a few of these ourselves.
  • Everything You Know About Global Order Is Wrong – If Western elites understood how the postwar liberal system was created, they’d think twice about asking for its renewal. – by Adam Tooze – Foreign Policy – 30 January 2019 (above links the getpocket version, the original is here.)
    Adam  Tooze writes prolifically about the “Global Order” – the globalized neo-liberal capitalistic corporate order under which we live. Envisioned and sold as a way of fighting off the Soviets,  it has out-lived its purpose and is now central for causing wide-spread harm throughout the US. I think he’s right – if the self-styled defenders of free markets understood what they were actually advocating, they might not be such boosters. This is in Foreign Policy magazine, because the wrong-footednes of free trade is actively damaging US interests globally. It’s damaging not just to farmers in Wisconsin, its damaging to our international power.
  • The West Has a Resentment Epidemic – Across the West, the main trigger of populism has been the growing inequality—and hostility—between urban and rural regions. – by Roberto Stefan Foa and Jonathan Wilmot – Foreign Policy – 18 September 2019 – (above links the getpocket version, the original version is here.)
    There’s lots of good reading in Foreign Policy. This looks at the correlation between wealth inequality and political populism, here in the US, and world-wide. Perhaps no surprise, if you follow this stuff, but this provides good ammo. Populism is damaging – its a pseudo-cure, a crackpot cure that is as bad as the disease. The cure is to deal with the causes of populism, rather than trying to fend off the damage it creates.
  • How the American Worker Got Fleeced – Over the years, bosses have held down wages, cut benefits, and stomped on employees’ rights. Covid-19 may change that. – July 2, 2020 Story by Josh Eidelson Data analysis and graphics by Christopher Cannon.
    Who isn’t getting paid, and why. Social safety nets aren’t just Social Security and Universal Healthcare – it also the relation between the employee and the employer. Labor rights have been gutted in the US, which is one reason Americans are loosing their jobs under covid-19 (but not the Germans, as explained in the Mishra article, above).  This article fails to mention co-operatives, which just might offer one of the best ways out of this mess.
  • To Unreality and Beyond – An examination of the “propaganda of unreality” and why age-old principles of resistance to manipulation don’t work against today’s style of unreality. – by Peter Pomerantsev 23 October 2019 Journal of Design and Science
    This article might not belong in in this blog listing, but it serves to link to the other things I blog about — unreality, mental processes, delusion, disinformation, mass hysteria, propaganda, brainwashing, and the difficulty of perceiving reality. This article examines Russian disinformacya, and how it has been used to delude Russian voters over the last few decades, and how the same methods are now being deployed against Americans. That is to say, American workers were not just fleeced of their salaries, America farmers were not just dispossessed of their family farms, but they went along willingly – even worked themselves into this mess, willingly voting for those GOP Republicans who cared not one bit for their health, wealth,  jobs or livelihoods.  (My cousin Tommy voted for Trump!) They vote this way because they are literally being deluded, they are literally being pushed into delusional states of mind by GOP operatives.
  • Yale psychiatrist: Trump’s psychosis has infected his followers. Here’s how to get them better. Without rallies, it’s harder to pass his contagious mental disease to his MAGAites. By Bandy X. Lee – Salon – 22 July 2020.
    Well, since we wandered off into unreality land, this offers a different take on the social process of mental disturbance.
  • Trade-Off. Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse. By David Korowicz – 30 June 2012 – Metis Risk Consulting & Feasta.
    This pertains to another one of my interests: network science. In molecular biology, we have DNA and proteins, signalling molecules and cell membranes all interacting with one-another to up/down-regulate genetic expression and generally alter cell metabolism and communicate with the world via ionic channels and other membrane processes. So also, it seems, in economics.  There are two notable processes at work. First, biological death is the result of the accumulation of many small, tiny injuries and breakages to functional systems. Second, systemic collapse is similar to sand-pile collapse, when the network of places where sand-grains touch each other suddenly shifts, as the slope of the sand-pile approaches criticality. So also in economics. This paper looks specifically at the supply chain.
  • The Real Class War – November 2019 – America Affairs Journal
    Here, Julius Krein argues that the real class war is not between labor and capital – labor lost that one half-a-century ago, but rather, between the professional elites and the capitalists (the 0.1%). This is because the capitalists – the 0.1% of the population that controls almost all the wealth in America, need the remaining top 10% to actually make things work: the professionals – the lawyers, the accountants, the managers, the functionaries, the engineers, the software programmers – the college-trained elite who actually know how to run organizations, who actually know how to make computers work, who actually know how to go about making laws and winning legal cases, how to market products and run supply-chains. Without these people, nothing works. This class, the professional class, shifted to the GOP in the 1980’s. They are now shifting away from it, as they too are starting to feel the pinch of income and wealth inequality. In case you haven’t noticed, stockbrokers are loosing their jobs, and they’re none-too-happy about it.
  • Explaining the Trump Movement Through the Lens of the Social Organism – by Fergus Thomas – Irban Group – 19 Dec 2016
    Marvelous article reviewing the basics of memes and network theory. Recall how I talked about the collapse of sand piles, cellular death, and supply-chain contagion as explainable by network theory? Well, the same applies to the spread of memes on social media, and the incredibly invasive power of memes into the thought-patterns of humans.  The article on “Trump Psychosis” makes it sound like its all about psychology – what individuals think (in a group setting). The article on “Russian Disinformacya” makes it sound like its just social, informational manipulation.  This article  bridges over into the network theory — its the network that matters! The things that are bouncing around between brains — the messages and the memes — are one thing, but the network toppology — which brains are talking to which ones, is really the key.
  • The Wisdom and/or Madness of Crowds – Nicky Case. So in case you’re not following what I mean by “network theory”, and how that applies to politics, economics and psychology, the above is a simple, fun game that explores the mathematics (gasp!) of network theory. Its a game. you can play it in your web browser. Its short – maybe 20 minutes – its fun! Do it now!

OK,  I’m running out of steam here. Some other notable things to read and ponder:

  • Smart, Young and Broke – by Melinda Yiu and Marije Vlaskamp – 19 June 2010 – Newsweek – Chinese universities creating more graduates than the economy can absorb. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/19/smart-young-and-broke.html – link-rotted.
  • The Federal Budget is not Like a Houshold Budget: Here’s Why by L. Randall Wray – 12 April 2010- Roosevelt Institute  – Seven balanced budgets lead to seven depressions:
    http://www.rooseveltinstitute.org/new-roosevelt/federal-budget-not-household-budget-here-s-why – link-rotted. – Explained MMT in simplified terms.
  • When Droids take your job. 28 November 2011 LA Times Opinion – A duo from MIT argue that rapid computer advances may be vaporizing careers faster than workers can train for new ones.
  • Douglas Adams on electing lizards:  http://wso.williams.edu/~rcarson/lizards.html – link-rotted
  • The Roving Cavaliers of Credit – Steve Keen’s Debtwatch 31 February 2009 –  This is a “classic” article, written at the height of the 2009 economic collapse, outlining the basic idea of “endogenous money” – It seems to be contradicted by the next one below:
  • Understanding the Modern Monetary Theory – this URL has link-rotted and now redirects to  My View on MMT – by Cullen Roche 16 May 2011 – maybe the links there are still OK.
  • The fundamental difference between MMT’ers and Austrians – by Cullen Roche – 28 December 2011 – Pragmatic Capitalism.
  • Maximizing shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.  – by Steve Denning – 28 November 2011 – Forbes Magazine
  • Nobody Understands Dept – Paul Krugman Opinion piece – 1 January 2012 – NYTimes.  Trivialization of MMT theory for the masses.
  • How Republicans Made Congress Stupid – Th0rn – 10 June 2014 – Daily KOS. Congressional staffs were gutted during Regan era, leaving the various staffs and committees quite literally stupid!

Oh and in case all of the above is still too intellectual for you, here’s how Cracked Magazine explains it all: How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind – by David Wong October 12, 2016. I’ve got nothing against MAD Magazine, but David Wong is educational at a whole new level.

 

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