Obama’s Speech

Read the full text here.

My immediate thoughts on the twitter feed (check the right hand column).

As much as I dig the guy, and I do, the “mush-headed” (as Will Wilkinson calls them) Obamaphiles are both creepy and annoying.  More than ever.  He gave a very good speech I thought.  Not that surprising he’s got a talent for it.  I thought he struck a decent balance, mostly focusing on the seriousness of the challenges and the difficulties ahead.  Not going all-soaring.  No matter, too many will just be entranced by the image and the giddiness and the collective vibes, etc.  The words are what matter.  What matters more actually are the actions the words he says point to.

But the key to me is the emphasis on hard work, responsibility, old fashioned values like honesty, thrift, parsimony, etc.  Not the Obama will come to save us, now I love America kinda junk.  He’s a man and will be undoubtedly a very imperfect President.

Obama will the president of another major turning point in American history.  He is while not literally/chronologically, in actual mindset, the first president of the 21st century.  Bush was on a 20th century bender in the 21st.  The country now awakes to the morning after (a new kind of morning in America, this one mostly hung over and dazed).  Obama is a liberal and a new 21st century liberalism (for better and undoubtedly for worse) is now upon us.  [Well assuming he can rangle the Democratic fools in Congress to grow up—paging House and Senate Majority Leader.  Not to mention the resident idiot hacks like Boehner and McConnell].  I wish it didn’t involve (as it will) growth of the state, but since the Republicans had control for 8 years and couldn’t meet the growing challenges via a non-state, organic, civil society process, than they have no one to blame but themselves when it is inevitable that the state fills the void.  I won’t shed a crocodile tear for them truth be told, no matter how much I’m not some reflexively pro-left sorta dude (which I’m not).  The problems of infrastructure–financial, energetic, material–have to be met.  Something has to be done with health care, energy policy, a new rule set for global capitalism, a foreign policy reboot (which I’m not sure he’s going to go as far as I wish he would).  I wish those had been in the last eight years when they could have been done without as much mass state intervention, and I would have prefered less liberal forms of solutions than the ones Obama will pass, but Bush’s AWOL presidency on that front really hurt.  And again, the conservatives had their chance to meet the days challenges and they failed them.  It is then inevitable that the state will grow as a result. They have no one to blame but themselves.

And The New New Majority as it were, when the Republicans eventually do come back to (some/partial) power, as they undoubtedly will, they will only be able to modulate what this liberal wave has set.  As has been the case in American history.   The other form of conservatism, the conservatism of skeptical mindset (but not “believed skepticism”), the conservatism that is best understood as a personal philosophy, will remain and be of enduring value.

J. Enriquez: Understanding The Economic Crisis

Everyone should must watch this short 30 minute clip on the Financial Crisis and the necessity for absolutely radical change.  The talk is a PopTech gtalk given by Juan Enriquez, whose spent most of his life studying similar crises around the world (particularly in Latin America).

His 5 Stages of Meltdown are:

1. Denial (Greenspan, W. Bush)
2. Borrow, Spend, Borrow More (Stimulus Packages)
3. Go Broke
4. Brutal Readjustment
5. Rebuild

The US and much of the world is at step 2. Question: When the whole industrialized world goes broke simultaneously who foots the bill? Who does the restructuring? Where does that money come from?

Without a massive change–i.e. massive cuts in defense and entitlement spending, caps in health care spending, raised taxes–the US appears headed to become Mexico (or perhaps Brazil) in about t-minus 6-10 years.  If the dollar loses its value (with 70% of debt owned by foreign entities) then there will be a global run on shorting the dollar and that’s all she wrote folks.

The Democrats are increasingly beholden to Keynesian economics, which assumes the problem is on the demand side.  Whatever is left of the Republican party thinks its Fannie Mae and some temporary credit crisis and a nice chance to apply some shock-therapy disaster capitalism (say to the Auto Unions).  I’m less than a true believer in the Obama stimulus (or the Krugman retort that it is too tax cut heavy and not enough infrastructure buildup).  Both are just variations on how best to do the Keynesian thing.  [Friedman monetary policy has failed and I think Keynesian will as well].

The right-after-the-immediacy of the credit/demand problem-is-over horizon is a solvency crisis.  It is a debt crisis–a crisis of the fundamental way of doing economic business.  That we have to be more like our grandparents (my grandparents I should say), who actually built things and saved money.  No get rich quick schemes.  As Enriquez says the stimulus at best is a torniquet, but with all torniquets if it is applied beyond the moment of aboslute need, then it will cut off the circulation, causing amputation or worse death. I’m not lauding or romaniticizing some austerity program and the good old days when everyone helped one another.  This is going to brutal.  It’s surgery–invasive, multi-organ, painful surgery–in Enriquez’s words.

It’s that or enjoying living in a post-imperial decline state.

Another related clip here from the film IOUSA

For an alternative view, see Krugman here.

Skypecast: Foreign Policy into 2009 (Audio Content)

Scott and I discuss economics, the global political frame, and the future into 2009.  We begin by discussing a recent fairly grim post of mine (Happy New Year!!!) and then discuss potential creative ways out of the morass.

[Click the links below, pts1 & 2 for the audio.]

foreign-policy
foreign-policy2

Links:

Thomas Barnett post
My apocalyptic post
James Poulos’ Uncrackables
John Robbforeign-policy1

Scott’s post/embedding of the audio (if you have trouble on mine)

Tom Barnett’s New Book

Barnett’s Trilogy is now complete.  The link here provides the chapter headings for his new book (due out in Feb ’09) entitled Great Powers: America and the World After Bush. This is going to be his most ambitious work to date from the looks of it.  If one is going to have a grand strategy, this is the one it seems to me.  As I said yesterday, I’m increasingly questioning the place or I guess the viability of any grand strategy.  So it’s not that I think Barnett is wrong within the parameters of a grand strategy based on the frame of globalization, global integration, and nation-states, in fact just the opposite.  From within those parameters (social, strategic assumptions) I think he is unsurpassed.  It’s that I question those parameters themselves.

I wonder if there was a time for this strategy,  that being the Bush years.  I guess part of me (not all) questions if in the wake of the wreckage to come though whether the playing field, even the game itself will have so changed that any recommendations based on the logic of a previous game/structural rule patterning, however brilliant (and trust his is nothing if not brilliant) will be simply no longer viable.  Not wrong but simply not on the radar any longer.  Outmoded–or maybe out-timed?.

I’m not saying I’ve gone whole hog in the other direction and given up on something the vision outlined in this book.  i.e. I plan on reading the thing and if I’m wrong about the shape of things to come, then his strategy returns to de facto primary status in my book.  If not, and things do radically shift, maybe it could be re-formulated, re-formatted, elements of it metabolized and re-directed to a different overall theory/paradigm.  Who knows.

Update IThis post from Barnettt today is worth the read.  He makes the strongest case possible that the current crisis demands the kind of strategy he lays out. The crux of which relies on moving China from selling stuff to the Old Core (in his terms, i.e. US, Canada, Europe).  China can not become an overnight neo-US world consumer (nor would I want them to be even if they could which they can’t).  So there is clear agreement across the board that the way forward is not to try to revive the fake US consumer economy of the last 30 years.  Rather it’s a strategic partnership predicated on (in Barnett’s terms) a race to the bottom.  That’s alot riding on China.  Also alot riding on The so-called Beijing Consensus, mangaerial capitalism, neo-Keynesianism, Bad Samaritanism, whatever you want to call it.

Barnett links to this article in the Asian Times for background on this idea which states:

The goals of the partnership should be to:

  • Support China’s internal development by re-orienting export flows towards China and other emerging economies from the United States and other industrial countries.
  • Transfer technologies and other expertise to the emerging economies.
  • Make the emerging economies partners in the recovery of American asset prices.
  • Hang on to your hats, it’s gonna be a wild ride. There is no predicting (seems to me) what comes out on the other side.

    Update on Yesterday’s Apocalyptic Musings–More Hopeful

    I meant to do yesterday’s post in two parts but ran out of time last night.  So it came off probably excessively dark (as the comments thread points out).  So here is a potential remedy via John Robb:

    It’s the same with the current crisis. We’re stuck and can’t see a way through the crisis given our conditioned responses. The crisis is way, way bigger than we are. So, it’s little wonder that we are fearful. Of course, if you break down the crisis, the entire situation becomes manageable. Fix what you can control. The local is the first place to start. Eliminate dependencies. Grow networks. Make the local productive.

    Published in: on December 16, 2008 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Some Apocalyptic Thoughts for Monday Afternoon

    Warning:  This is some very disturbing analysis.  I hope I’m 100% wrong on this one.  I’ve also thought the scenario I outline below was possible for 2009 but through the end of October/early November, I thought it still somewhat remote.  I’m less confident and increasingly pesimisstic about the potential for this scenario to be very real, very much in play (more and more likely by the day it seems as of now with no wise leadership or counter-movements to help block the momentum).  So be warned.  I’m not in the business of fear-peddling or fear-hyping, but these are dark thoughts.  There are not the only ones within my brain, but I have been appalled (even fairly cynical me) by the responses across the board to this crisis and the sense that there is no Wizard behind the curtain.

    I’m increasingly growing very disturbed by the way global events are proceeding.  A chain of potential explosions across the grid of the globe looks frighteningly more plausible by the day.  Meanwhile the US media is caught in wonderful tales of some pathetic Illinois Governor and a dude launching his foot wear. Here in Canada it’s about the potential of a coalition government.

    All of which still assume a top-down model of power, a kind of view of the stability of large scale social organization that may all be swept away.  Reading the newspapers and frankly much of the blogosphere is becoming an increasingly useless exercise for me.  Particularly when it comes to political discussion:  left, right, libertarian, progressive, blah blah.  All of those discussions are assuming the continued existence in some form or other or our social-technological cultural foundations.

    To me its increasingly as if reading the news in the ancient ziggurat/city-state culture a few months before Alexander the Great came conquering across Eurasian and installed the Hellenistic world and swept away the decaying, crumbling previous world era.  Like I said some apocalyptic thoughts.

    The economic story would go like this:  the American consumer is dead and has been flogged to the breaking point of exhaustion.  Who then is going to buy all those Asian products?  Who can they sell their wares to?  The Asian economies contract leading them to stop buying the commodities across the Global South (esp. Latin America and Africa) that have led to that bubble (see the mass decrease in the price of oil recently).  Huge deflationary movements across the global simultaneously.  Much more rapidly and the fragility (i.e. non-redundancy) of the global platform system bleeds out.

    As Niall Ferguson in his epic The War of the World, the great catacylsm and spasm of violence across the globe emanating from Europe during the 20th century (First War, Second War, Cold War) consisted of the inter-locking reality of the three “E”s:  empire, economics, and ethnicity.  Empire being the death of imperial systems.  See the decline of the US.  Also with all the talk of the coming Asian Century (rise of India/China), this could all be swept away by the economic meltdown.  The Asian Century that wasn’t in other words.  Still-born Asian Century.  The vacuum created by the implosion of economic and imperial systems, is filled by ethnic hatreds that flare up to the consternation and shock of many who assume a cosmopolitan order of peace and security (all fine when the economy and governance is roughly holding up).

    The most likely early hot spots of ethnic hatred is the band of the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria???, through obviously Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India).  Other increased zones of violence would be Gap-status countires in the Western Hempishere (on smaller scale but still bloody).  Revived narco-fueled wars across Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, southern Mexico.  Other ranges of violence: The Horn of Africa (another Somalia implosion on the horizon) as well as violence across the middle band (Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, and potential flare ups again in Congo).

    The massive de-leveraging must continue and the question is only whether the end of the fall (which has at least 9 months, probably 12 to 24 to maybe even 36-40 to go. who the hell knows at this point) will end us worse than the build up.  Exposed, exhausted, and de-legitimized.  The space of de-legitimization to be filled by ethno-nationalistic movements across the board.

    With the breakdown of nation-state systems (orange and blue in Spiral colors), comes a mass re-reddifying both in memetic coloring and potentially in real blood, merged with increased technological capacity (global platform) plus increased cognitive flexibility and complexity however merged to earlier moral/social systems. Roving bands of pirates (e.g. Somalia), terrorists (e.g. Mumbai), criminal networks (coming here already to Vancouver in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, particularly the global sex slavery/human chattel trade) counteracted by potentially increased technocratic elites holding onto whatever power they can, as civil libertiese erode due to the inability to come up with a worldwide republican security theory, class lines harden in the post-industrial societies, the social contract of the 20th century continues to break down (ask Ford, GM, Chrysler) as the Nation-State gives way to the (increainsgly predatory?) Market State.

    Ferguson forget a fourth E:  Environment.  As in environmental degradation/destruction as a potential accelerant to the fire of the other three.  Something along the lines of Diamond’s Collapse scenario.

    The idea that an infrastructure stimulus will jump start the US economy out of this bog seems increasingly detached from reality for me.  At the pace things are moving, if the wave swells become large enough, it isn’t going to matter, as it could all be swept away by the mega-forces aligning at the moment.

    Like I said, God how I hope I’m  completely wrong on this one.

    Taliban(ds)

    This excellent piece by Anand Gopal in the Asian Times on the Taliban is getting some play (rightly) in the b-sphere.

    Gopal asks who are they (The Taliban):

    The movement is a melange of nationalists, Islamists, and bandits that fall uneasily into three or four main factions. The factions themselves are made up of competing commanders with differing ideologies and strategies, who nonetheless agree on one essential goal: kicking out the foreigners.

    Gopal tells us the harrowing reality that took over Afghanistan after the initial ejection of the 90s Taliban (Afghan Taliban 1.0):

    Meanwhile, the country was being carved up by warlords and criminals. On the brand-new highway connecting Kabul to Kandahar and Herat, built with millions of Washington’s dollars, well-organized groups of bandits would regularly terrorize travelers. “[Once], 30, maybe 50 criminals, some in police uniforms, stopped our bus and shot [out] our windows,” Muhammadullah, the owner of a bus company that regularly uses the route, told me. “They searched our vehicle and stole everything from everyone.” Criminal syndicates, often with government connections, organized kidnapping sprees in urban centers like the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar city. Often, those few who were caught would simply be released after the right palms were greased.

    In Spiral Dynamics terms, this was the regression of the country from blue–imperial mythic, 90s Taliban system–to red warlordism, gangs, and criminality.

    As a result, blue has to come back to keep the peace:

    Onto this landscape of violence and criminality rode the Taliban again, promising law and order. The exiled leadership, based in Quetta, Pakistan, began reactivating its networks of fighters who had blended into the country’s villages. They resurrected relationships with Pashtun tribes. (The insurgents, historically a predominantly Pashtun movement, still have very little influence among other Afghan minority ethnic groups like the Tajiks and Hezaras.) With funds from wealthy Arab donors and training from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani intelligence apparatus, they were able to bring weapons and expertise into Pashtun villages.

    In one village after another, they drove out the remaining minority of government sympathizers through intimidation and assassination. Then they won over the majority with promises of security and efficiency. The guerrillas implemented a harsh version of sharia law, cutting off the hands of thieves and shooting adulterers. They were brutal, but they were also incorruptible. Justice no longer went to the highest bidder. “There’s no crime any more, unlike before,” said Abdul Halim, who lives in a district under Taliban control.

    Gopal goes on to indicate that the increasingly Pashtun nationalist Taliban are largely out of the al-Qaeda connection as they were in the 90s. There were always Taliban factions even back then, who had no time for AQ, but Mullah Omar (their leader) was close with bin Laden. That relationship may be breaking down and some elements of the Taliban, which is increasingly de-centralized and networked, are getting on with girls in schools and realize they can not go back to the 90s version of themselves.

    That’s group #1. Group two is Hekmatyar Gulbuddin and his Hiz-i-Islami group. They are insurgents against the NATO occupation, but again not necessarily tied to AQ and really only interested in power back in Afghanistan. So 2 out of 4 at this point seem open to negotiations on a future Afghanistan that will involve them along side other parties. Though Gulbuddin is implicated in an attempt on President Karzai’s life. The Afghanistan situation, as always, is murky.

    The last two groups however appear to have no such deals and have sanctuary-providing protections for al-Qaeda. This is the real conundrum as both are based in the Pakistani NWFP. Jaluludin Haqqani in North Waziristan and Beitullah Mehsud in the South.

    With Haqqani:

    Pakistan extends support to the Haqqanis on the understanding that the network will keep its holy war within Afghanistan’s borders. Such agreements are necessary because, in recent years, Pakistan’s longstanding policy of aiding Islamic militant groups has plunged the country into a devastating war within its own borders.

    Even with Mehsud however the issue seems to be anger at the Pakistani government for attempting to take over the Frontier Provinces. In the recent Pakistani elections, the fundamentalist parties lost heavily in the NWFP regions. But it is unclear if those votes have any real influence as increasingly the Paksitani Taliban under Mehsud appear dedicated to re-installing a 90s like Afghanistan Taliban ghastly asylum state in Waziristan. Mehsud’s men publicly hang tribal chiefs of the old guard who do not accept their rule. There has been some talk of creating a Sons of Iraq like scenario with a tribal rebellion against the Pakistani Taliban, but so far that has gone to naught. The Pakistani Army is built for a war with India and not for counterinsurgency in the tribal regions. The two times they have gone up there in the last few years, they have lost and been sent packing. The blowback that has come out of those operations led to the murder of Bhutto, the recent bombing in Mumbai, the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, as well as the attack on the Marriott in Islamabad.

    I have no idea how we deal with this issue. If the Pakistanis go in there, more blowback, they will likely break with the US completely go with China and Russia (which would love the delicious irony of profiting off Pashtun resistance to Americans in Afghanistan). If we continue the airstrikes, Pakistani sovereignty (whatever is left of it) gets further quashed, more blowback, and the civilian government which probably has about zero power currently has even less so and probably a full on military coup. If nothing is done then it festers and I can definitely see an al-Qaeda attack in the West getting launched from the new sanctuary.

    For Afghanistan to recover it requires a deal with the Talban or at least the dominant factions. Gulbuddin may not go for that. Haqqani likely the same. Mehsud no dice. With the sanctuary open, insurgencies always win over time in Afghanistan (see Alexander the Great, The British, and The Soviets).

    Afghanistan also requires a regional deal that ends the countries in the neighborhood to stop using it as a pawn to be carved up in their power play:  Iran, India, Pakistan, Russia.   Can’t see any evidence of that happening soon.

    Which means we are back to where we started–how to prevent Al-Qaeda Central from launching another attack when they have sanctuary.  If the attempt to go into the sanctuary would cause regional collapse scenarios, hollowing out areas that al-Qaeda could then flee to if need be?

    The most important reason to prevent such an attack (minus the obvious defense of innocent life) is that the US is still not ready to be resilient in the face of another attack (a la India recently or Great Britain before). The insane over-reaction that would occur, like after 9/11 but only that much worse, would be so destructive, particularly now.  Particularly when a Democrat is in the White House.  The worst attack in US history happens under a right-wing administration and they spend years blaming the left and kowtowing them into obedience.  I don’t even want to think how dastardly they would be if an attack happened when a Dem was president.  Goodbye free society and civil liberties.

    A Little More Soros

    Again, listen when he talks about credit, he means faith.  The system is collapsing as the existentialists would say because of bad faith.  Literally.

    Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 1:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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    George Soros on Financial Crisis (Beaucoup de Links)

    23475214-George-Soros-on-the-financial-crisis

    Click the link above for the audio of George Soros describing the current financial meltdown.

    The full transcript of the interview with Bill Moyers and George Soros here.  The wiki on Soros’ theory of financial markets is here.  I’m reading Soros’ new book on the subject (as well as a few of his previous ones) for a paper for class.  This guy is brilliant on this stuff.  One of the few minds that really gets it (Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff, Michael Lewis & Crew, among others).

    The key part is here:

    GEORGE SOROS:Which they didn’t properly understand. And there was always a separation between the people who generated the mortgages and packaged them and sold them to you and the people who owned them. So nobody was paying attention to the quality of the mortgages because they didn’t have an interest. They — all day collecting fees. And then there were other people holding the mortgages.

    I’m working on the issue of credit as growing from the notion of “belief” or “trust” (in Latin credere).  Credere is the same root as Creeds.  There was no ability to trust in this system because no one knew anyone else.  Speculators, brokers, and the such are not the ones to be have been making these loans–from subprime on up, nor then those even further removed from the reality of relationship–e.g. those who did the securitization and SIVs and then later the CDOs on the SIVs.

    That and the notion that human actions affect the market (what Soros calls ‘reflexitivity’) lie at the heart of the necessary re-think….Soros’ new paradigm.  It follows in his decades long critique of economics as mimicking physics (via math).  In other words, to make economics into a natural science–to describe economic behavior as conforming to natural laws.  Even the more recent attempts to re-read economics along evolutionary, biological or chaotic theories has some benefit but is still trapped in what Ken Wilber calls “subtle reductionism” (as opposed to the earlier gross reductionism).  For more on that distinction, this mind-blowingly brilliant manifesto by Christian Arnsperger.

    So the economic theory (according to Soros) is based on the wrong psychology, the wrong anthropology really–that is the wrong view of the human being.  Natural science-based economics thinking is suffering from what Whitehead termed “misplaced concreteness”.  That means to confuse what is originally an insight or explanatory framework predicated on a certain context (usually a fairly easy to understand rather basic one) and universalizing that insight/frame to all contexts as if there were the “natural” state of affairs.

    It is built on C.S. Peirce’s notion that what we call natural laws are actually habits in the universe.  Everything starts as a moment of novelty or choice.  But over time repeated actions habitutate and instantiate themselves into the woop and warp of the universe.  What humans term natural laws are usually just the most basic, earliest, ways of being in the universe.  They are so ground in through habitual patterning that they are essentially almost 100% determined.

    In market terms, following Soros, the idea of homo economicus, the rational all-knowing actor in the market that guides so much thinking in these realms is a misplaced concreteness drawn originally from the realm of markets in durable goods, where the basic law of supply and demand and the equilibrium that grows out of those interactions basically holds.  [They are in this analogy like the movements of gas molecules in a container–you can’t predict how any one molecule will go but basically you can more or less predict how the entire set of molecules over time will interact].

    But credit markets are not goods markets.  And here we are back to choice and trust and the unknowability of the future and that the real and our actions interact and are responsive to one another.  That the future is free and open.  (Soros’ political vision is built out of this philosophical point).  Hence the modernist worldview and formal operational cognition upon which it rides, assumes everything heads to equilibrium (in economics this is called Walrasian thought).  Hence no regulation is necessary as everything left in its natural state will work out to the equilibrium–since all actors in the system are rational.  Sound familiar?

    Ultimately by disentangling economics from relationships (and hence from consciousness/feeling) we move into an etherealized reality, where economic value can be inflated to the point where value is accruing without any actual work/product being done.  And then eventually that self-reinforcing (self-reflexive) mania will be exposed and then the house of cards comes falling down.

    Religiously to have the wrong notion of the human being is to have the wrong notion of God–in other words to committ idolatry.  Because humans are made in the image of God (so claims theology).  To consider the market as a god (“the all-knowing” market).  Idolatry socially comes out in the form of wrongly structured relationships.  In the globalized frame, we exist to serve the markets, not they us.  The fruit of that fundamental misinterpretation and mistaken practice is now coming to harvest.

    Bailout Meets Marx

    I just watched most of this whole discussion (which you can find on Fora, here) as background for a paper I’m doing on process theology and economics.

    If you can get beyond the sincere though smug circle-jerking lefty-ism of the thing, they do raise some interesting points. That might be a little harsh, so let me balance that by saying I have read at least one if not more of the works of all of the panelists. And learned a good deal from all of them.

    But there’s a really weird moment in the whole conversation particularly when the insufferably cranky leftist Marxist boomer (yikes, yikes, yikes, yikes to all that) David Harvey [whose book on The History of Neoliberalism I actually liked in some ways] asks Naomi “Why aren’t people more angry?” Angry about the bailout, the cronyism, and all the rest.

    And it should have occurred to him or her because it occurred to me (and this isn’t some fantastically brilliant insight on my part just basic common sense), Klein and Harvey just spent minutes bemoaning the fact that everything is about economics and the elites, the powerful (they are classical Marxists both of them after all) and then wonder why people are apathetic? Perhaps it is because if they actually bought into your storyline about the world, the clear implication is that they are powerless to do anything and therefore are actually acting responsibly.

    You hear it in Klein saying (rather ludicrously) that Alan Greenspan built the entire (derivative? housing?) market. No acting human subjects (minus the uber-powerful), no humans flawed in economic thinking–the powerful are always so rational in these systems…if not rational then at least completely logical in their self-interest. My (albeit limited) interactions with rich and powerful usually leave me convinced that they are not the brightest bulbs in the universe. [The sample size of my life’s interactions with the aristocracy are probably not a legitimate sample size though to be fair].

    But in traditional leftist economic thought it’s still really all about managing people from a top-down engineering model. I can’t help but feel the Harveys and Kleins of the world secretly (or maybe not so secretly) are in some perverse way really drawn to people like Greenspan because that is what they wish they could be doing–controlling the great events from the top-down.

    Of the many flaws of Marxism, one that’s always puzzled me is if the world is only essentially the power relationship through economics (class conflict iow), then why support the proletariat? Beyond some vague discussion of human rights, justice, fairness whatever–because how are not those simply another ideological veil to support class power? Stiglitz says the bailout is redistributionism up the scale (true that) but why is that exactly worse than redistribution down a la New Deal and Great Society Left? Again from within the Marxist thought world?

    For what it’s worth I tend to favor distribution of property not income (either up or down) which is why I tend to lean towards Hernando de Soto’s work--although in this (as in everything else I’ve seen the man on) he is a one-track pony which becomes very boring, very quickly.

    Update I: It’s worth linking again to Jon Chait’s definitive takedown of the excessively Marxist Klein.

    Update II: The answer to the why the proletriat is that Marx’s vision is ultimately a secularized form of Jewish eschatology and the prophetic ethics (the cry of the poor) against the abuses of the rich. The classless state is a secularized form of the apocalyptic Biblical vision of the eschaton or the Age to Come in the Rabbinic sources. I actually think that is where the great power of the system lies, but it’s not proved by economic laws or management/power discourse. One could argue that misunderstood as the imposition of by a deux ex machina, the Messianic Age in the religious (as well as certainly in Marx’s formulation) is a basic definition of unfreedom. Of a predetermined destiny and set metaphysic that will be imposed upon beings. There is an alternative reading of the Messianic Age which states that The Messiah will come when the Messiah is no longer necessary. The constant themes from farther left of the romanticization of the rising up of the masses hearkens to this call but is usually bound up in all kinds of problems and typically does not end well.