what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

the cancer eating us

In Just Words a sceptic’s guide to administrative vocabulary I sounded off about how words can take over our thinking – and offered some definitions. Here’s a great illustration from the Real World Economics blog-
I am tired of economists, policy makers, and others mentioning markets. As in “let the market decide” or “we should let the market heal itself.” Enough. Markets are us. They are not great mysterious forces. They are not abstractions hovering in mid air. They are not supply and demand. They are not amorphous inanimate systems. They are not mechanisms.They are none of these things.
Markets are people. Sometimes lots of people. Sometimes a few people. Without people there are no markets. Sometimes working well. Other times not so well. Sometimes rigged. Sometimes not rigged. Each unique because the people that comprise it are different. Sure we can mimic them. We can model them. We can identify some regular characteristics of transactions that seem to occur whenever people transact. But we cannot get rid of the people in a market.
People matter. They can change the properties we see as regularities if they so choose. They can collude. They can organize. They can interfere with each other. They can exclude others. In other words markets are human made. They reflect people. And what people want to do. Markets do not exist to impress upon people. People impress upon markets. Markets do not dictate what we do or how we do it. We dictate what a market is and how it works. We are the market.
The allure of the abstraction is that it diverts our attention from the people who animate the market. Thus it is convenient for a policy maker to talk about a market correction instead of having to say someone lost money or their job. It sounds less threatening. It is certainly less humane.
And letting “the market heal itself” is simply an obscure and sanitized way of saying that some ore of our fellow citizens are about to lose their jobs.
over the past two years, nearly all the countries suffering from the current economic crisis have been busy rescuing with public money the profit-driven financial institutions that were responsible or co-responsible for the crisis in the first place (Stiglitz, 2010). Often created by central-bank fiat, these public resources had been long denied to, and are now not being utilised to fund, life-protecting and life-enhancing institutions, such as ambulance services, public hospitals, old-age pensions, university research, international aid, or primary schools (Halimi, 2008). Quite the opposite, public investments are being reduced across the board in order to secure the money-measured value of existing assets and keep treasury bonds attractive to institutional investors.
This is an excerpt from Your Money or Your Life - one of several papers by Giorgio Baruchello which have appeared recently in an Icelandic journal and which have introduced me not only to his clearly written critiques of the new financial capitalism which is attacking us in a cancerous way but to his generous summaries of two other big Philosophy names for me – John McMurtry (Canada) and Martha Nussbaum (US). Good and Bad Capitalism was an earlier paper which summarised Nussbaum’s 2010 book on the affect of the neo-liberal cancer on the body university – sweeping away as it has all remnants of humanities studies and requiring everything to be justified by its service to the world of commerce and profit-making.
McMurtry himself is an interesting character – who has an interesting and provocative autobiographical essay on his experience in universities here

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