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Casino Capitalism: Neoliberalism in Western countries

"When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done"

John Maynard Keynes

PseudoScience > Who Rules America > Neoliberalism

News Neoliberalism Recommended Links Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy Peak Cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump Regulatory Capture & Corruption of regulators Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism
Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) The Systemic Instability of Financial Institutions In Goldman Sachs we trust Number racket GDP as a false measure of a country economic output Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA
Neoliberalism and rising inequality Secular Stagnation  Efficient Market Hypothesis Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism Supply side Voodoo Rational expectations scam Monetarism fiasco
Twelve apostles of deregulation Summers Greenspan Rubin Reagan Helicopter Ben: Arsonist Turned into Firefighter Bush II
Chicago school of deification of market Free Market Fundamentalism Free Market Newspeak as opium for regulators The Idea of Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium CDS -- weapons of mass financial destruction Phil Gramm Clinton
Zombie state of neoliberalism Insider Trading SEC corruption Fed corruption Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush Regime Wall Street Propaganda Machine American Exceptionalism
Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Theorists Glass-Steagall repeal Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Fiat money, gold and petrodollar Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA Buyout Kleptocrats Republican Economic Policy
Principal-agent problem Quiet coup Pecora commission History of Casino Capitalism Casino Capitalism Dictionary :-) Humor Etc
Sine ira et studio

Tacitus, see Wikipedia


Alternatively, we could have spent more time studying the work of Hyman Minsky. We could also have considered the possibility that, just as Keynes’s ideas were tested to destruction in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Milton Friedman’s ideas might suffer a similar fate in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. All gods fail, if one believes too much. Keynes said, of course, that "practical men … are usually the slaves of some defunct economist". So, of course, are economists, even if the defunct economists are sometimes still alive.

Martin Wolf

Speculation and gambling were always a part of Wall Street but since the 1930’s they were just a side-show, now they are the show.

comment to Matt Taibbi article Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue t

Introduction

History

The concept of Quite Coup

Stages of transformation

Casino Capitalism as a result of stagnation of industrial manufacturing

Casino Capitalism and Financial Instability

The Ideology of Casino Capitalism

Early Researchers of Casino Capitalism

Conclusions: From Animal Farm To Animal House


Introduction

“The sense of responsibility in the financial community
for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

-- John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929

The term Casino Capitalism as a specific phase of neoliberal transformation of capitalism. Politically it was slow motion corporate coup d'état, which started in 70th and is now accomplished in the USA and other Western countries which buries social-democratic (New Deal style) model of capitalism.  It hypertrophied police functions of state (in the form of national-security state)  while completely avoiding economic sphere in ways other then enforcement of laws (with a notable exclusion from this top 1% -- Masters of the Universe). In this sense it is the opposite of communism (i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) and presupposed a deregulated economy (in a sense of the "law of jungle" as a business environment) , but with extremely strong militarized state, suppressing all the attempts to challenge the new "nomenklatura" (much like was the case in the USSR).  It is also called economic liberalism or neoliberalism

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Right wing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

In other words this is a variant of neoliberal model of corporatism used in wealthy Western countries during the period of "cheap hydrocarbons".  The period that is probably near the end and which by some estimate can last only another 50 years or so.  The major crisis of casino capitalism in 2008 was connected both with financial excesses (caused by moving to semi-criminal ways of extracting return on capital, typical for casino capitalism),  but also with the rise of the price of oil and decrease of  Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI)In this sense the current low oil price period that started in late 2014 can be viewed as the "last hurrah" of the casino capitalism.

The term itself was coined by Susan Strange who used it as a title of her book Casino Capitalism published in 1986. She was one of the first who realized that

  1. "The roots of the world's economic disorder are monetary and financial";
  2. "The disorder has not come about by accident, but has in fact been nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions." (p. 60). In other words its was a counter-revolution of the part of ruling elite which lost its influence in 30th (dismantling New Deal from above in the USA (Reaganomics) or Thatcherism in the GB).

According to Susan Strange transformation of industrial capitalism into neoliberal capitalism ("casino capitalism") involved five trends. All of them increased the systemic instability of the system and the level of political corruption:

  1. Innovations in the way in which financial markets work due to introduction of computers;
  2. The sheer size of markets; (with the introduction of 401K the size of stock market multiplied, etc)
  3. Commercial banks turned into investment banks;
  4. The emergence of Asian nations as large players;
  5. The shift to self-regulation by banks (pp.9-10).

Now it is pretty much established fact that the conversion from "industrial capitalism" to neoliberal "casino capitalism" is the natural logic of development of capitalism. In early and incomplete matter this trend was noticed at early 1990th by many thinkers. This is just the second iteration of the same trend which was interrupted by the Great Depression and subsequent WWII. So, in a way, replacement of industrial capitalism with financial capitalism in a natural tendency within the capitalism itself and corruption was contributing, but not decisive factor.  The same is true about globalization, especially about globalization of financial flows, typical for casino capitalism.

Also this conversion did not happen due to lack of oversight or as a folly. It was a couscous choice made by the US and GB elite, both of which faced deterioration of rates of return on capital. Also unlike "industrial capitalism" which was more-or-less stable system, able to outcompete the neo-theocratic system of the USSR, the financial capitalism is unstable in the same sense as radioactive elements are unstable.  And this instability tend to increase with time. So there is probably natural half-life period for neoliberalism as a social system. It might be already reached in 2008.  In we assume that global victory of neoliberalism happened in 1990. It is just 18 years.  If we think that it happened in late 60th, then it is closer to 50 years.

The global crisis of neoliberal capitalism which started from bursting the USA subprime housing bubble in 2008 undermined ideological legitimacy of its central claim that "free markets" lead to faster and more uniform economic development of all countries. While the peak of its "ideological" power might be over (much like the peak of attractiveness of "command socialism" was over after WWII), it will exist in a zombie state for a long time due to economic and military power of the USA and G7.  And as we know from Hollywood films, zombies can be especially bloodthirsty. It probably will remain the dominant force for at least the next two decades pursuing the same policy of "forceful" opening of energy rich  and resource countries for western multinationals intact using color revolutions and local wars.  But as Napoleon quipped "You can do anything with bayonets, you just can't sit on them".

Conversion to neoliberal capitalism was a reaction on stagnation of industrial production and as such it was nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions for the last 50 years. Stagnation of industrial production made expansion of financial sector of paramount importance for the ruling elite and by extension for Congress which represents this elite. House vote 377:4 for Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 is pretty telling in this respect.

There were also at least two important parallel developments.

Most respectable authors like Henry Giroux in his article in Counterpunch generally consider the term "casino capitalism" to be an equivalent to the term Neoliberalism. Here is a relevant quote from Henry Giroux's Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism :

There is more at work here than simply a ramped up version of social Darwinism with its savagely cruel ethic of “reward the rich, penalize the poor, [and] let everyone fend for themselves,” [ii] there is also a full scale attack on the social contract, the welfare state, economic equality, and any viable vestige of moral and social responsibility. The Romney-Ryan appropriation of Ayn Rand’s ode to selfishness and self-interest is of particular importance because it offers a glimpse of a ruthless form of extreme capitalism in which the poor are considered “moochers,” viewed with contempt, and singled out to be punished. But this theocratic economic fundamentalist ideology does more. It destroys any viable notion of the and civic virtue in which the social contract and common good provide the basis for creating meaningful social bonds and instilling in citizens a sense of social and civic responsibility. The idea of public service is viewed with disdain just as the work of individuals, social groups, and institutions that benefit the citizenry at large are held in contempt.

As George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith point out, casino capitalism creates a culture of cruelty: “its horrific effects on individuals-death, illness, suffering, greater poverty, and loss of opportunity, productive lives, and money.”[iii]

But it does more by crushing any viable notion of the common good and public life by destroying “the bonds that hold us together.”[iv] Under casino capitalism, the spaces, institutions, and values that constitute the public are now surrendered to powerful financial forces and viewed simply as another market to be commodified, privatized and surrendered to the demands of capital. With religious and market-driven zealots in charge, politics becomes an extension of war; greed and self-interest trump any concern for the well-being of others; reason is trumped by emotions rooted in absolutist certainty and militaristic aggression; and skepticism and dissent are viewed as the work of Satan.

If the Republican candidacy race of 2012 is any indication, then political discourse in the United States has not only moved to the right—it has been introducing totalitarian values and ideals into the mainstream of public life. Religious fanaticism, consumer culture, and the warfare state work in tandem with neoliberal economic forces to encourage privatization, corporate tax breaks, growing income and wealth inequality, and the further merging of the financial and military spheres in ways that diminish the authority and power of democratic governance.[v] Neoliberal interests in freeing markets from social constraints, fueling competitiveness, destroying education systems, producing atomized subjects, and loosening individuals from any sense of social responsibility prepare the populace for a slow embrace of social Darwinism, state terrorism, and the mentality of war — not least of all by destroying communal bonds, dehumanizing the other, and pitting individuals against the communities they inhabit.

Totalitarian temptations now saturate the media and larger culture in the language of austerity as political and economic orthodoxy. What we are witnessing in the United States is the normalization of a politics that exterminates not only the welfare state, and the truth, but all those others who bear the sins of the Enlightenment — that is, those who refuse a life free from doubt. Reason and freedom have become enemies not merely to be mocked, but to be destroyed. And this is a war whose totalitarian tendencies are evident in the assault on science, immigrants, women, the elderly, the poor, people of color, and youth.

What too often goes unsaid, particularly with the media’s focus on inflammatory rhetoric, is that those who dominate politics and policymaking, whether Democrats or Republicans, do so largely because of their disproportionate control of the nation’s income and wealth. Increasingly, it appears these political elite choose to act in ways that sustain their dominance through the systemic reproduction of an iniquitous social order. In other words, big money and corporate power rule while electoral politics are rigged. The secrecy of the voting booth becomes the ultimate expression of democracy, reducing politics to an individualized purchase—a crude form of economic action. Any form of politics willing to invest in such ritualistic pageantry only adds to the current dysfunctional nature of our social order, while reinforcing a profound failure of political imagination. The issue should no longer be how to work within the current electoral system, but how to dismantle it and construct a new political landscape that is capable of making a claim on equity, justice, and democracy for all of its inhabitants. Obama’s once inspiring call for hope has degenerated into a flight from responsibility.

The Obama administration has worked to extend the policies of the George W. Bush administration by legitimating a range of foreign and domestic policies that have shredded civil liberties, expanded the permanent warfare state, and increased the domestic reach of the punitive surveillance state. And if Romney and his ideological cohorts, now viewed as the most extremists faction of the Republican Party, come to power, surely the existing totalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies at work in the United States will be dangerously intensified.

History

Casino capitalism can probably be more properly called financial corporatism. While the key idea of corporatism: that political actors are not individual people, but some associations and first of all corporations (which are officially considered to be "persons" and have rights) and trade unions, remains intact, financial corporatism is different from classic corporatism in several major ways:

Historically corporatism in various modifications became dominant social system after WWII and defeated "command socialism" as was implemented in the USSR. Here is an instructive review of corporatism history (The Economic System of Corporatism):

In the last half of the 19th century people of the working class in Europe were beginning to show interest in the ideas of socialism and syndicalism. Some members of the intelligentsia, particularly the Catholic intelligentsia, decided to formulate an alternative to socialism which would emphasize social justice without the radical solution of the abolition of private property. The result was called Corporatism. The name had nothing to do with the notion of a business corporation except that both words are derived from the Latin word for body, corpus.

The basic idea of corporatism is that the society and economy of a country should be organized into major interest groups (sometimes called corporations) and representatives of those interest groups settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement. In contrast to a market economy which operates through competition a corporate economic works through collective bargaining. The American president Lyndon Johnson had a favorite phrase that reflected the spirit of corporatism. He would gather the parties to some dispute and say, "Let us reason together."

Under corporatism the labor force and management in an industry belong to an industrial organization. The representatives of labor and management settle wage issues through collective negotiation. While this was the theory in practice the corporatist states were largely ruled according to the dictates of the supreme leader.

One early and important theorist of corporatism was Adam Müller, an advisor to Prince Metternich in what is now eastern Germany and Austria. Müller propounded his views as an antidote to the twin dangers of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution and the laissez faire economics of Adam Smith. In Germany and elsewhere there was a distinct aversion among rulers to allow markets to function without direction or control by the state. The general culture heritage of Europe from the medieval era was opposed to individual self-interest and the free operation of markets. Markets and private property were acceptable only as long as social regulation took precedence over such sinful motivations as greed.

Coupled with the anti-market sentiments of the medieval culture there was the notion that the rulers of the state had a vital role in promoting social justice. Thus corporatism was formulated as a system that emphasized the positive role of the state in guaranteeing social justice and suppressing the moral and social chaos of the population pursuing their own individual self-interests. And above all else, as a political economic philosophy corporatism was flexible. It could tolerate private enterprise within limits and justify major projects of the state. Corporatism has sometimes been labeled as a Third Way or a mixed economy, a synthesis of capitalism and socialism, but it is in fact a separate, distinctive political economic system.

Although rulers have probably operated according to the principles of corporatism from time immemorial it was only in the early twentieth century that regimes began to identify themselves as corporatist. The table below gives some of those explicitly corporatist regimes.

Corporatist Regimes of the Early Twentieth Century
System Name Country Period Leader
National Corporatism Italy 1922-1945 Benito Mussolini
Country, Religion, Monarchy Spain 1923-1930 Miguel Primo de Rivera
National Socialism Germany 1933-1945 Adolph Hitler
National Syndicalism Spain 1936-1973 Francisco Franco
New State Portugal 1932-1968 Antonio Salazar
New State Brazil 1933-1945 Getulio Vargas
New Deal United States 1933-1945 Franklin Roosevelt
Third Hellenic Civilization Greece 1936-1941 Ioannis Metaxas
Justice Party Argentina 1943-1955 Juan Peron

In the above table several of the regimes were brutal, totalitarian dictatorships, usually labeled fascist, but not all the regimes that had a corporatist foundation were fascist. In particular, the Roosevelt New Deal despite its many faults could not be described as fascist. But definitely the New Deal was corporatist. The architect for the initial New Deal program was General Hugh Johnson. Johnson had been the administrator of the military mobilization program for the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson during World War I. It was felt that he did a good job of managing the economy during that period and that is why he was given major responsibility for formulating an economic program to deal with the severe problems of the Depression. But between the end of World War I and 1933 Hugh Johnson had become an admirer of Mussolini's National Corporatist system in Italy and he drew upon the Italian experience in formulating the New Deal.

It should be noted that many elements of the early New Deal were later declared unconstitutional and abandoned, but some elements such as the National Labor Relations Act which promoted unionization of the American labor force are still in effect. One part of the New Deal was the development of the Tennessee River Valley under the public corporation called the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Some of the New Dealer saw TVA as more than a public power enterprise. They hoped to make TVA a model for the creation of regional political units which would replace state governments. Their goal was not realized. The model for TVA was the river development schemes carried out in Spain in the 1920's under the government of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, was the founder of Franco's National Syndicalism.

Corporatist regime typically promote large governmental projects such as TVA on the basis that they are too large to be funded by private enterprise. In Brazil the Vargas regime created many public enterprises such as in iron and steel production which it felt were needed but private enterprise declined to create. It also created an organized labor movement that came to control those public enterprises and turned them into overstaffed, inefficient drains on the public budget.

Although the above locates the origin of corporatism in 19th century France it roots can be traced much further back in time. Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, The Cruel Dilemmas of Development: Twentieth Century Brazil, says,

Corporatism is based on a body of ideas that can be traced through Aristotle, Roman law, medieval social and legal structures, and into contemporary Catholic social philosophy. These ideas are based on the premise that man's nature can only be fulfilled within a political community.
..........
The central core of the corporatist vision is thus not the individual but the political community whose perfection allows the individual members to fulfill themselves and find happiness.
...............
The state in the corporatist tradition is thus clearly interventionist and powerful.

Corporatism is collectivist; it is a different version of collectivism than socialism but it is definitely collectivist. It places some importance on the fact that private property is not nationalized, but the control through regulation is just as real. It is de facto nationalization without being de jure nationalization.

Although Corporatism is not a familiar concept to the general public, most of the economies of the world are corporatist in nature. The categories of socialist and pure market economy are virtually empty. There are only corporatist economies of various flavors.

These flavors of corporatism include the social democratic regimes of Europe and the Americas, but also the East Asian and Islamic fundamentalist regimes such as Taiwan, Singapore and Iran. The Islamic socialist states such as Syria, Libya and Algeria are more corporatist than socialist, as was Iraq under Saddam Hussain. The formerly communist regimes such as Russia and China are now clearly corporatist in economic philosophy although not in name.

The concept of Quite Coup

The term "Quiet coup" which means the hijacking of the political power in the USA by financial oligarchy was introduced by Simon H. Johnson, a British-American economist, who currently is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, he was Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund. The term was introduced in his article in Atlantic magazine, published in May 2009(The Quiet Coup - Simon Johnson - The Atlantic). Which opens with a revealing paragraph:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government

The wealth of financial sector gave it unprecedented opportunities of simply buying the political power iether directly or indirectly (via revolving door mechanism):

Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies — lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits — such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. The invention of securitization, interest-rate swaps, and credit-default swaps greatly increased the volume of transactions that bankers could make money on. And an aging and increasingly wealthy population invested more and more money in securities, helped by the invention of the IRA and the 401(k) plan. Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight — a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

He further researched this theme in his book 2010 book 13 Bankers The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown  (ISBN 978-0307379054), coauthored with James Kwak. They also founded and regularly contributes to the economics blog The Baseline Scenario. See also History of Casino Capitalism

The net effect of the ideological counter-revolution based on market fundamentalism ideology was that it restored the power of financial oligarchy typical for Gilded Age. As Simon Johnson argues that was partially done by subverting regulators and that oversize institutions always disproportionately influence public policy:

The second problem the U.S. faces—the power of the oligarchy—is just as important as the immediate crisis of lending. And the advice from the IMF on this front would again be simple: break the oligarchy.

Oversize institutions disproportionately influence public policy; the major banks we have today draw much of their power from being too big to fail. Nationalization and re-privatization would not change that; while the replacement of the bank executives who got us into this crisis would be just and sensible, ultimately, the swapping-out of one set of powerful managers for another would change only the names of the oligarchs.

Ideally, big banks should be sold in medium-size pieces, divided regionally or by type of business. Where this proves impractical—since we’ll want to sell the banks quickly—they could be sold whole, but with the requirement of being broken up within a short time. Banks that remain in private hands should also be subject to size limitations.

This may seem like a crude and arbitrary step, but it is the best way to limit the power of individual institutions in a sector that is essential to the economy as a whole. Of course, some people will complain about the "efficiency costs" of a more fragmented banking system, and these costs are real. But so are the costs when a bank that is too big to fail—a financial weapon of mass self-destruction—explodes. Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.

To ensure systematic bank breakup, and to prevent the eventual reemergence of dangerous behemoths, we also need to overhaul our antitrust legislation. Laws put in place more than 100years ago to combat industrial monopolies were not designed to address the problem we now face. The problem in the financial sector today is not that a given firm might have enough market share to influence prices; it is that one firm or a small set of interconnected firms, by failing, can bring down the economy. The Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus evokes FDR, but what we need to imitate here is Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting.

Caps on executive compensation, while redolent of populism, might help restore the political balance of power and deter the emergence of a new oligarchy. Wall Street’s main attraction—to the people who work there and to the government officials who were only too happy to bask in its reflected glory—has been the astounding amount of money that could be made. Limiting that money would reduce the allure of the financial sector and make it more like any other industry.

Still, outright pay caps are clumsy, especially in the long run. And most money is now made in largely unregulated private hedge funds and private-equity firms, so lowering pay would be complicated. Regulation and taxation should be part of the solution. Over time, though, the largest part may involve more transparency and competition, which would bring financial-industry fees down. To those who say this would drive financial activities to other countries, we can now safely say: fine.

Two Paths

To paraphrase Joseph Schumpeter, the early-20th-century economist, everyone has elites; the important thing is to change them from time to time. If the U.S. were just another country, coming to the IMF with hat in hand, I might be fairly optimistic about its future. Most of the emerging-market crises that I’ve mentioned ended relatively quickly, and gave way, for the most part, to relatively strong recoveries. But this, alas, brings us to the limit of the analogy between the U.S. and emerging markets.

Emerging-market countries have only a precarious hold on wealth, and are weaklings globally. When they get into trouble, they quite literally run out of money—or at least out of foreign currency, without which they cannot survive. They must make difficult decisions; ultimately, aggressive action is baked into the cake. But the U.S., of course, is the world’s most powerful nation, rich beyond measure, and blessed with the exorbitant privilege of paying its foreign debts in its own currency, which it can print. As a result, it could very well stumble along for years—as Japan did during its lost decade—never summoning the courage to do what it needs to do, and never really recovering. A clean break with the past—involving the takeover and cleanup of major banks—hardly looks like a sure thing right now. Certainly no one at the IMF can force it.

In my view, the U.S. faces two plausible scenarios. The first involves complicated bank-by-bank deals and a continual drumbeat of (repeated) bailouts, like the ones we saw in February with Citigroup and AIG. The administration will try to muddle through, and confusion will reign.

Boris Fyodorov, the late finance minister of Russia, struggled for much of the past 20 years against oligarchs, corruption, and abuse of authority in all its forms. He liked to say that confusion and chaos were very much in the interests of the powerful—letting them take things, legally and illegally, with impunity. When inflation is high, who can say what a piece of property is really worth? When the credit system is supported by byzantine government arrangements and backroom deals, how do you know that you aren’t being fleeced?

Our future could be one in which continued tumult feeds the looting of the financial system, and we talk more and more about exactly how our oligarchs became bandits and how the economy just can’t seem to get into gear.

The second scenario begins more bleakly, and might end that way too. But it does provide at least some hope that we’ll be shaken out of our torpor. It goes like this: the global economy continues to deteriorate, the banking system in east-central Europe collapses, and—because eastern Europe’s banks are mostly owned by western European banks—justifiable fears of government insolvency spread throughout the Continent. Creditors take further hits and confidence falls further. The Asian economies that export manufactured goods are devastated, and the commodity producers in Latin America and Africa are not much better off. A dramatic worsening of the global environment forces the U.S. economy, already staggering, down onto both knees. The baseline growth rates used in the administration’s current budget are increasingly seen as unrealistic, and the rosy "stress scenario" that the U.S. Treasury is currently using to evaluate banks’ balance sheets becomes a source of great embarrassment.

Under this kind of pressure, and faced with the prospect of a national and global collapse, minds may become more concentrated.

The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump "cannot be as bad as the Great Depression." This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

It is pretty interesting to see how financial oligarchy filters information provided to the population to fit their biases. For example, the key facts about repeal of Glass-Steagall law  (BTW Joe Biden voted for it) mostly hidden from the public: 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission — under the leadership of Mr. Gramm’s wife, Wendy — had approved rules in 1989 and 1993 exempting some swaps and derivatives from regulation. In December 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed as part of a larger bill by unanimous consent after Senator Gramm dominated the Senate debate...

"He was the architect, advocate and the most knowledgeable person in Congress on these topics," Mr. Donovan said. "To me, Phil Gramm is the single most important reason for the current financial crisis."

"The virtually unregulated over-the-counter market in credit-default swaps has played a significant role in the credit crisis, including the now $167 billion taxpayer rescue of A.I.G.," Christopher Cox, the chairman of the S.E.C. and a former congressman, said Friday.

But you will never find discussion of flaws and adverse consequences Phil Gram (or Greenspan for a change) initiatives in Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks publications.

Stages of transformation

So what we are experiencing is a the completion of the transformation of one phase of capitalism to another. It happened in stages:

  1. Manufacturing stagnated and can't provide the "decent" rate of growth. Competition from re-built Europe and Asian markets severely stressed the US manufacturing. due to competition return of capital dropped and in several industries became negative.
     

  2. Computers brought innovations into financial markets. They make possible real time trading of induces like S&P500, complex financial instruments like derivatives, etc. Later they enables superfast trading (HFT). All those instruments dramatically increased the possibilities of extracting the rent by financial institutions from the society.
     

  3. Globalization kicked in due to new opportunities offered by high speed global communications (Internet). And that is not limited to outsourcing. Due to globalization the sheer size of the financial markets increased to the extent that they started to represent a different, new transnational phenomena allowing new types of redistribution of wealth to be practiced. Integration of Russian elite (oligarchs) is just one example of this process. In case of pro-western oligarchs (fifth column) West went to significant length to protect them and their racket (Mikhail Khodorkovsky - Wikipedia,)
     

  4. Commercial banks turned into investment banks to exploit this opportunity.
     

  5. Financial sector completely corrupted academic science converting most economists to pay prostitutes which serve their interests.
     

  6. Collapse of the USSR provided the financial sector major shoot in the arm and a golden, once in century opportunity to finance new half-billion consumers and stole for a penny on a dollar huge industrial assets and natural resources as well as put most of those countries in the debt (Latin-Americanization of xUSSR space). Harvard Mafia (with some support from London) did the bidding of western banks in xUSSR space. As more becomes known about the laundering of Russian money in Western banks, many in the United States will likely try to hide behind stories of faraway organized crime. But U.S. policy toward Russia has contributed to that country's sorry conditions--with the Harvard Institute for International Development's Russia project (HIID) playing a major role (Harvard's 'Best and Brightest' Aided Russia's Economic Ruin ). Professor Jeffery Sacks provided a bogus idea of "shock therapy" to achieve spectacular for Western banks result. As a result all xUSSR space became new Latin America with typical for Latin America problems like huge level of inequality, prostitution, child poverty, and prominent role of organized crime.
     

  7. Banks became dominant political force on western societies with no real counterbalance from other parts of the elite. The first president completely subservient to banking elite was elected in the USA in 1992. Bill Clinton regime lasted eight years and along with economic rape of xUSSR space in best colonial powers tradition, it removed what was left of financial regulations after the flurry of deregulation of the early 1980s. And they behaved as an occupying force not only in xUSSR space but in the USA as well. They deprived workers out of their jobs, they abolished the US pension system as it impede playing with population money and replaced in with widely inadequate 401K plans. They deprived municipalities out of their revenues and assets, while municipalities became just a den of bond traders looking for then next mark which give them the ability to put municipalities deeper in debt.

  8. Newly acquired political power of financial elite speeded the shift to bank "self-regulation" created huge shadow banking system which dwarf "official" under the smoke screen of "free-market" propaganda and PR from a coterie of corrupts academics (Chicago Scholl, Harvard Mafia, etc) . It engaged in pursuit of short term profits and self-enrichment of top brass which became new elite by-and-large displacing not only the old one, but also the newly minted IT elite of dot-com boom. Using newly acquired power financial elite remove all regulations that hamper their interests. Glass-Steagall was repealed at the last days of Clinton presidency, financial derivatives became unregulated.

  9. Deindustrialization kicked in. As financial speculation proved to be much more profitable to other activities deindustrialization kicked in the USA as the financial center of the world. Outsourcing which first was limited to manufacturing jobs now extent its reach on IT and decimate previously profitable sector and its export potential.

  10. Externalities can no longer be suppressed and economics became unstable. Growth of inequality, job insecurity, as well as frequency of financial crises were natural consequences of financialization of the economy. They create huge imbalances, like bubble in residential real estate which was blown with the help and full support of the USA government as a way to overcome dot-com crisis consequences.

  11. Debt crisis strikes. Growth of debt became unsustainable and produces the financial crisis of enormous proportions. By their reckless policies and greed financial sector caused huge financial crisis of 2008 and now they are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in fire sales at prices rigged by twenty-something largest banks, the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.

  12. Devastating "local" wars became "new normal". Due to financial crisis, the overconsumption in western economies came under threat. Debt expansion which led to overconsumption within the western economies affected (or infected) by financialization. To sustain the current standard of living financial expansion became the necessity. It took the form of a competition for spheres of influence in the area of energy supplies, which we see in post USSR space, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. And central banks play critical role in financing wars. After all Banks of England was created with this exact purpose.

I think by 2008 when the second major financial crisis hit the USA, the transformation on the USA economy into casino capitalism, which is essentially implementation of neoliberal doctrine (or more correctly the US brand of corporatism) was by-and-large complete.

In short we are living in a new politico-economic system in which financial capital won victory over both labor and industrial capital. We might not like what we got, but financial elite is now a new ruling class and this fact is difficult to dispute. As a result. instead of the robber barons of the early 20th century (some of whom actually created/consolidated new industries), we have the top executives from investment banks, insurers and mortgage industry who represent a new Rentier class, much like old aristocracy.

They are living off parasitic monopolization of access to any (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) kind of property and gaining significant amount of profit without contribution to society (see Rentier capitalism which is a very fuzzy term for neoliberal model of capitalism).

Casino Capitalism as a result of stagnation of industrial manufacturing

Stagnation of industrial manufacturing droved up financial speculation as the method to compensate for falling rate on return on capital. This stagnation became prominent during Reagan administration (which started the major shift toward neoliberalism), although signs of it were present from early 60th.

For example Chicago which was a manufacturing center since 1969 lost approximately 400K manufacturing jobs which were replaced mainly by FIRE-related jobs, In 1995 over 22% of those employed by FIRE industries (66K people) were working in executive and managerial positions. Another 17% are in marketing, sales and processional specialty occupations (computer system analysts, PR specialists, writer and editors).

Those changes in the structure of employment had several consequences:

  1. The stagnation of the underlying economy meant that capitalists were increasingly dependent on the growth of finance to preserve and enlarge their money capital.
  2. The financial superstructure of the capitalist economy could not expand independently of its base -- underlying productive economy — hence the bursting of speculative bubbles became a recurrent and growing problem.
  3. Financialization could never overcome stagnation of industrial production. It is just an opium for rich, not a structural adjustment of the stagnation-prone economy. But like addition to narcotics does to human body it does tremendous damage to real economy.
  4. Rapid increase in inequality is necessary to sustain the appetites of the elite in the system with fixed size of the pie. Politico-economic conditions might became even more unfavorable for labor. Stagnation of industrial production mean shrinking pie, which necessitates redistribution of wealth in favor of a new, all-powerful financial Rentier class. This redistribution resulted in partial wipe-out of large swats of middle class. For the past three decades, America has steadily converted itself into a nation of haves (as Bush II quipped "This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have mores! Some people call you the elite -- I call you my base". ) and have-nots. The cost of a college education rises rapidly at a time when wages for skilled labor stagnate, so access to college became against discriminated in favor of upper class of the society. Repressive apparatus and ideological brainwashing are too strong to mount effective resistance.

The key to understanding of Casino Capitalism is that it was a series of government decisions (or rather non-decisions) that converted the state into neoliberal model. In other words casino capitalism has distinct "Government property" mark. It was the USA elite, which refused to act responsibly in the face of changing economic conditions resulting from its own actions, and instead chose to try to perpetuate, by whatever means it had at its disposal, the institutional advantages of dollar as a reserve currency which it had vis-à-vis its main economic rivals and grab as large part of the world economic pie as it can. And this power grab was supported first of all by the role of dollar as currency in which oil is traded.

There might be some geo-strategically motives as well as the US elite in late 80th perceived that competitiveness is slipping out of the USA and the danger of deindustrialization is real. Many accuse Reagan with the desire to ride dollar status as a world reserve currency (exorbitant privilege) until the horse is dead. That's what real cowboys do in Hollywood movies... But the collapse of the main rival, the USSR vindicated this strategy and give a strong short in the arm to financialization of the economy. Actually for the next ten years can be called a triumphal ascend of financialization in the USA.

Dominance of FIRE industries clustered up and in recent years reached in the USA quite dramatic proportions. The old Bolsheviks saying "When we say Lenin we mean the Party and when we say the Party we mean Lenin" now can be reworded: "Now it we say US banks, we mean the US government and vise versa if we say US government we mean US banks".

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the FIRE sector was and is the biggest contributor to federal candidates in Washington. Companies cannot give directly, so they leave it to bundlers to solicit maximum contributions from employees and families. They might have been brought down to earth this year, but they’ve given like Gods: Goldman Sachs, $4.8 million; Citigroup, $3.7 million; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., $3.6 million; Merrill Lynch, $2.3 million; Lehman Brothers, $2.1 million; Bank of America, $2.1 million. Some think the long-term effect of such contributions to individual candidates was clear in the roll-call votes for the bailout.

Take the controversial first House vote on bailout of major banks on Sept. 29, 2008. According to CRP, the "ayes" had received 53 percent more contributions from FIRE since 1989 than those who voted against the bill, which ultimately failed 228 to 205. The 140 House Democrats who voted for the bill got an average of $188,572 in this election cycle, while the 65 Republicans backing it got an average of $185,461 from FIRE—about 23 percent more than the bill’s opponents received. A tinkered bill was passed four days later, 263 to 171.

According to the article Fire Sale (The American Conservative) half of Obama’s top ten contributors, together giving him nearly $2.2 million, are FIREmen. The $13 million contributed by FIRE executives to Obama campaign is probably an undercount. Democratic committee leaders are also dependent of FIRE contributions. The list includes Sen. Dodd ( please look at Senator Dodd's top donors for 2007-8 on openSecrets.org ) and Sen. Chuck Schumer ($12 million from FIRE since 1989), Rep. Barney Frank ($2.5 million), and Rep. Charlie Rangel ($4 million, the top recipient in the House). All of them have been accused of taking truckloads of contributions while failing to act on the looming mortgage crisis. Dodd finally pushed mortgage reform last year but by then as his hometown paper, The Hartford Courant stated, "the damage was done."

Casino Capitalism and Financial Instability

At the same time rise of financial capital dramatically increased instability. An oversized financial sector produces instability due to multiple positive feedback loops. In this sense we can talk about Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy. The whole society became "House of cards", "Giant Enron" and "extension of Las Vegas". Reckless management, greed and out-right stupidity in playing derivatives games was natural consequence of the oversized financial sector, not just a human folly. In a way it was dramatic manifestation of the oversized financial sector negative influence of the economy. And in 2008 it did brought out economy to the brink of destruction. Peak oil added to suffocating effect on the economy of reckless gambling (and related debts) of financial sector producing the economic calamity that rivals Great Depression. Also, like Socialism, Casino Capitalism demands too much of its elite. And in reality, the financial elite much like Bolsheviks elite, is having its own interests above the interests of the society.

As Kevin Phillips noted "In the United States, political correctness, religious fundamentalism, and other inhibitions sometimes dumb down national debate". And the same statement is true for financial elite that became the center of power under the Casino Capitalism. Due to avalanche of greed the society became one giant Enron as money that are made from value addition in the form of manufacturing fade in significance to the volume of the money that is made from shuffling money around. In other was the Wall Street's locked USA in the situation from which there is no easy exit.

Self-reinforcing ‘positive’ feedback loops prevalent in Casino Capitalism trigger an accelerating creation of various debt instruments, interest of which at some point overwhelm the system carrying capacity. Ability to lend against good collateral is quickly exhausted. At some point apparently there is no good collateral against which lending freely was possible, even at high rates. This means that each new stage of financial innovation involves scam and fraud, on increasing scale. In other words Ponzi economy of "saving and loans" is replaced with Madoff economy.

Whether you shift the resulting huge private debt to public to increase confidence or not, the net result is of this development of events is a crisis and a huge debt that society needs to take. Actually the debt bubble in 2008 can only be compared to the debt bubble of 1933. The liquidation of Bear Sterns and Lehman was only a start of consolidation of finances and we need to find something that replace financial sector dominance in the national economy. It would be nice is some technological breakthrough happened which would lift the country out of this deep hole.

See Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy for more details.

Neoliberalism as the Ideology of Casino Capitalism

Like Bolshevism was marked by deification of teaching of Marx and Lenin, converting them into pseudo-religious doctrine, the Casino Capitalism has its own deified ideological doctrine. It is the ideology of Neoliberalism. The latter as an ideology and an agenda seeks to topple democratic capitalism and replace it with a de facto unaccountable autocratic government which serves as channel of a wealth transfer from the public to a rentier elite. In a way it is a spectacular example of a successful (in a very negative sense) pseudo-religious doctrine.

Addiction of the societies to disastrous politico-economical doctrines are similar to addictions to alcohol and drugs in individuals. It is not easy to recover and it takes a long, long time and a lot of misery. As dissolution of the USSR aptly demonstrated not all societies can make it. In this case the USSR elite (nomenklatura) simply shed the old ideology as it understood that it will be better off adopting ideology of neoliberal capitalism; so it was revolution from above.  this abrupt switch created chaos in economics (which was applauded by Washington which under Clinton administration adopted the stance the Carnage needs to be destroyed and facilitated the process), criminal privatization of major industries, and pushed into object poverty the 99% of population of those countries. For some period under "drunk Yeltsyn" Russia sees to exist as an independent country and became a vassal of Washington.

This also means that "society at large" did not had effective brakes to the assent of financial plutocracy (aka financial oligarchy).  I would add to this the computer revolution and internet that made many financial transaction qualitatively different and often dramatically cheaper that in previous history. Computers also enabled creation of new financial players like mutual funds (which created a shadow banking system with their bond funds) , hedge funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as high-frequency trading and derivatives.

From the historical view Reaganomics also can be considered to be the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of genetics as a target. Here is how Reaganomics is defined in Wikipedia

Reaganomics (a portmanteau of "Reagan" and "economics") refers to the economic policies promoted by United States President Ronald Reagan. The four pillars of Reagan's economic policy were to:[1]
  1. reduce the growth of government spending,
  2. reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital,
  3. reduce government regulation of the economy,
  4. control the money supply to reduce inflation.

In attempting to cut back on domestic spending while lowering taxes, Reagan's approach was a departure from his immediate predecessors.

Reagan became president during a period of high inflation and unemployment (commonly referred to as stagflation), which had largely abated by the time he left office.

Please not that the Number 1 idea ("reduce government spending") was essentially a scam, a smoke screen designed to attract Rednecks as a powerful voting block. In a way this was a trick similar to one played by Bolsheviks in Russia with its "worker and peasants rule" smokescreen which covered brutal dictatorship. In reality all administrations which preached Reagonomics (including Clinton's) expanded the role of state and government spending. The number two was applied by-and-large to top 1%. The number three means deregulation in the interests of financial oligarchy and dismantling all social program that hamper profit of the latter (including privatizing of Social Security). The number fours is a scam, in the same sense as number one. As soon as financial institutions get in trouble, money are printed as if there is no tomorrow.

While the essence of Reagonomics was financial deregulation, the other important element was restoring the Gilded Age level of power of financial oligarchy which influence was diminished by FDR reforms. In this sense we can say that Reagan revolution was essentially a counter-revolution: an attempt to reverse the New Deal restrictions on financial sector and restore its dominance in the society.

Like it was the case in Bolshevism the ideology was developed and forced upon the society by a very small group of players. The key ideas of Casino Capitalism were formulated and implemented by Reagan administration with some contribution by Nixon (the role of rednecks aka "moral majority", "silent majority" as an important part of republican political base, which can be attracted to detrimental to its economic position policies by the smoke screen of false "moral" promises).

It was supported by each president after Reagan (paradoxically with Clinton having the most accomplished record -- he was the best Republican President in a very perverted way). Like in case of Lysenkoism opponents were purged and economic departments of the country were captured by principless careerists ready to tow the party line for personal enrichment. Like in case of Bolshevism, many of those special breed of careerists rotated from Republican Party into Fed and other government structures. A classic example of compulsive careerists that were used by finance sector to promote its interests was Alan Greenspan.

One of the key ideas of Reaganomics was the rejection of the sound approach that there should be a balance between too much government regulation and too little and that government role is important for smooth functioning of the market. In this area Reagan and its followers can be called Anarchists and their idea of 'free market" is a misnomer that masks the idea of "anarchic market" (corporate welfare to be exact -- as it was implemented). Emergence of corporate welfare Queens such as GS, Citi, AIG, are quite natural consequence of Reaganomics.

Reaganomics was a the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of generics as a target... It can and should be called Economic Lysenkoism.

The most interesting part of Reaganomics was that the power of this ideology made it possible to conditioned "working class" and middle class to act against their own economic interests. It helped to ensure the stagnation of wages during the whole 25 years period, which is close to what Soviets managed to achieve with working class of the USSR, but with much more resentment. This makes it in many ways very similar to Bolshevism as a whole, not just Lysenkoism (extremes meet or in less flattering way: "history repeats, first as a tragedy, then as farce).

Along with the term Reaganimics which implicitly stresses the deregulation, the other close term "market fundamentalism" is often used. Here is how market fundamentalism is defined (Longview Institute):

Market Fundamentalism is the exaggerated faith that when markets are left to operate on their own, they can solve all economic and social problems. Market Fundamentalism has dominated public policy debates in the United States since the 1980's, serving to justify huge Federal tax cuts, dramatic reductions in government regulatory activity, and continued efforts to downsize the government’s civilian programs.

Some level of government coercion (explicit or implicit ) is necessary for proper labeling of any pseudo-scientific theory with the term Lysenkoism. This holds true for both Market Fundamentalism (after all Reagan revolution was "revolution from above" by financial oligarchy and for financial oligarchy and hired guns from academia just do what powers that be expected) and, especially, Supply side economic. The political genius of those ideas is evident. Supply-side economics transformed Republicans from a minority party into a majority party. It allowed them to promise lower taxes, lower deficits and, in effect, unchanged spending. Why should people not like this combination? Who does not like a free lunch?

In this sense the Republican Party played the role very similar to the Communist Party of the USSR.

For example supply side economics was too bizarre and would never survive without explicit government support. This notion is supported by many influential observers. For example, in the following comment for Krugman article (Was the Great Depression a monetary phenomenon):

Market fundamentalism (neoclassical counter-revolution — to be more academic) was more of a political construct than based on sound economic theory. However, it would take a while before its toxic legacy is purged from the economics departments. Indeed, in some universities this might never happen.

Extreme deregulation and extreme regulation (Brezhnev socialism) logically meets and both represent a variant of extremely corrupt society that cannot be sustained for long (using bayonets as in the case of USSR or using reserve currency and increasing leverage as is the case of the USA). In both cases the societies were economically and ideologically bankrupt at the end.

Actually, elements of market fundamentalism looks more like religious doctrine than political philosophy — and that bonds its even closer to Lysenkoism. In both cases critics were silenced with the help of the state. It is interesting to note that Reaganomics was wiped into frenzy after the dissolution of the USSR, the country which gave birth to the term of Lysenkoism. In a way the last act of the USSR was to stick a knife in the back of the USA. As a side note I would like to stress that contrary to critics the USSR was more of a neo-feudal society with elements of slavery under Stalin. Gulag population were essentially state slaves; paradoxically a somewhat similar status is typical for illegal immigrants in industrialized countries. From this point of view this category of "state slaves" is generally more numerous that gulag inmates. Prison population also can be counted along those lines.

It look like either implicitly or explicitly Reagan's bet was on restoration of gilded Age with its dominance of financial oligarchy, an attempt to convert the USA into new Switzerland on the "exorbitant privilege" of dollar status as the global fiat currency.

Casino Capitalism is characterized by political dominance of FIRE industries (finance, insurance, and real estate) and diminished role of other and first of all manufacturing industries. It was also accompanied by the drastic growth of inequality (New Gilded Age). Its defining feature is "the triumph of the trader in assets over the long-term producer" in Martin Wolf's words.

Voodoo economic theories

Attempts of theoretical justification of Economic Lysenkoism fall into several major categories:

Those can be called pillars, cornerstones of Economic Lysenkoism. Each of the deserves as separate article (see links above).

Historically especially important was Chicago school of market fundamentalism promoted pseudo-scientific theories of Milton Freedman (Chicago School) as well as supply side economics.

Collapse of the USSR as ideological justification of Casino Capitalism superiority

The huge boost of Casino Capitalism was given by the collapse of the USSR in 1991. That gave a second life to Reagan era. Collapse of the USSR was used as a vindication of market fundamentalism. After it New Deal regulations were systematically destroyed. Dumped down variants of Nietzsche philosophy like bastardatized variant promoted by Russian emigrant became fashionable with an individual "creative" entrepreneur as a new Übermensch, which stands above morality.

"The word Übermensch [designates] a type of supreme achievement, as opposed to 'modern' men, 'good' men, Christians, and other nihilists ... When I whispered into the ears of some people that they were better off looking for a Cesare Borgia than a Parsifal, they did not believe their ears."[9] Safranski argues that the combination of ruthless warrior pride and artistic brilliance that defined the Italian Renaissance embodied the sense of the Übermensch for Nietzsche. According to Safranski, Nietzsche intended the ultra-aristocratic figure of the Übermensch to serve as a Machiavellian bogeyman of the modern Western middle class and its pseudo-Christian egalitarian value system.[10]

Brainwashing

The instability and volatility of active markets can devalue the economic base of real lives, or in more macro-scenarios can lead to the collapse of national and regional economies. In a very interesting and grotesque way it also incorporates the key element of Brezhnev Socialism in everyday life: huge manipulation of reality by mass media to the extend that Pravda and the USSR First TV Channel look pretty objective in comparison with Fox news and Fox controlled newspapers. Complete poisoning of public discourse and relying on the most ignorant part of the population as the political base (pretty much reminiscent of how Bolsheviks played "Working Class Dictatorship" anti-intellectualism card; it can be called "Rednecks Dictatorship").

The "heroes" or transformation of US economy to casino capitalism model

While transformation to casino capitalism was an objective development, there were specific individuals who were instrumental in killing New Deal regulations. We would single out the following twelve figures:

  1. Ronald Reagan (although first steps toward casino capitalism were made under Carter).
  2. Milton Friedman
  3. Alan Greenspan
  4. Phil Gramm
  5. Robert Rubin
  6. Larry Summers
  7. Helicopter Ben
  8. Bush II
  9. Bill Clinton
  10. Sandy Weill
  11. Jeffrey Sachs with his "shock therapy" racket
  12. Martin Feldstein

There is no question that Reagan and most of his followers (Greenspan, Rubin, Phil Gramm, etc) were rabid radicals blinded by ideology. But they were radicals of quite different color then FDR with disastrous consequences for society. Here again the analogy with Bolsheviks looms strong. In a way, they can be called financial terrorists inflicting huge damage on the nation and I wonder if RICO can be use to prosecute at least some of them.

In Bailout Nation (Chapter 19) Barry Ritholtz tried to rank major players that led country into the current abyss:

1. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
2. The Federal Reserve (in its role of setting monetary policy)
3. Senator Phil Gramm
4-6. Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings (rating agencies)
7. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
8-9. Mortgage originators and lending banks
10. Congress
11. The Federal Reserve again (in its role as bank regulator)
12. Borrowers and home buyers
13-17. The five biggest Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch,Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs) and their CEOs
18. President George W. Bush
19. President Bill Clinton
20. President Ronald Reagan
21-22. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
23-24. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers
25. FOMC Chief Ben Bernanke
26. Mortgage brokers
27. Appraisers (the dishonest ones)
28. Collateralized debt obligation (CDO) managers (who produced the junk)
29. Institutional investors (pensions, insurance firms, banks, etc.) for
buying the junk
30-31. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC); Office of Thrift
Supervision (OTS)
32. State regulatory agencies
33. Structured investment vehicles (SIVs)/hedge funds for buying the junk

Early Researchers of Casino Capitalism

Hyman Minsky

Hyman Minsky argued that a key mechanism that pushes an economy towards a crisis is the accumulation of debt. He identified 3 types of borrowers that contribute to the accumulation of insolvent debt: Hedge Borrowers; Speculative Borrowers; and Ponzi Borrowers. That corresponds to three stages of Casino Capitalism of increasing fragility:

After the collapse of the USSR there were a lot of chest thumping of the status of America as a hyper power (American exceptionalism) and "end of history" where capitalism was supposed to reign supreme followed. But in 2000 the first moment to pay the piper arrives. It was postponed by Iraq war and housing bubble but reappeared in much more menacing form in 2008. It looks like in 2009 the USA arrived to the a classic Minsky moment with high unemployment rate and economy suppressed by (and taken hostage) by Ponzi finance institutions which threaten the very survival of our system and way of life.

The shift from speculative toward Ponzi finance was speed up by increased corruption of major players.

"As Minsky observed, capitalism is inherently unstable. As each crisis is successfully contained, it encourages greater speculation and risk taking in borrowing and lending. Financial innovation makes it easier to finance various schemes. To a large extent, borrowers and lenders operate on the basis of trial and error. If a behavior is rewarded, it will be repeated. Thus stable periods naturally lead to optimism, to booms, and to increasing fragility.

A financial crisis can lead to asset price deflation and repudiation of debt. A debt deflation, once started, is very difficult to stop. It may not end until balance sheets are largely purged of bad debts, at great loss in financial wealth to the creditors as well as the economy at large."

Susan Strange

For Strange the speed at which computerized financial markets work combined with new much larger size and their now, near-universal pervasiveness is an important qualitative change. One of the side effects of this change is that volatility extends globally. Approximately $1.5 trillion dollars are invested daily as foreign transactions. It is estimated that 98 per cent of these transactions are speculative. In comparison with this casino Las Vegas looks like a aborigine village in comparison with Manhattan.

Notes:

Susan Strange (June 9, 1923 - October 25, 1998) was a British academic who was influential in the field of international political economy. Her most important publications include Casino Capitalism, Mad Money, States and Markets and The retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy.

For a quarter of a century, Susan Strange was the most influential figure in British international studies. She held a number of key academic posts in Britain, Italy and Japan. From 1978 to 1988, she was Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the first woman to hold this chair and a professorial position in international relations at the LSE. She was a major figure in the professional associations of both Britain and the US: she was an instrumental founding member and first Treasurer of the British International Studies Association (BISA) [1] and the first female President of the International Studies Association (ISA) in 1995.

It was predominantly as a creative scholar and a forceful personality that she exercised her influence. She was almost single-handedly responsible for creating ‘international political economy’ and turning it into one of the two or three central fields within international studies in Britain, and she defended her creation with such robustness, and made such strong claims on its behalf, that her influence was felt—albeit not always welcomed—in most other areas of the discipline. She was one of the earliest and most influential campaigners for the closer integration of the study of international politics and international economics in the English language scholarship.

In the later period of her career, alongside the financial analyses offered in Casino Capitalism (the analysis in which she felt was vindicated by the South-East Asian financial crisis) and Mad Money, Strange's contributions to the field include her characterisation of the four different areas (production, security, finance and knowledge) through which power might be exercised in International Relations. This understanding of what she termed "structural power", formed the basis of her argument against the theory of American Hegemonic Decline in the early eighties.

Her analysis particularly in States and Markets focused on what she called the ‘market-authority nexus’, the see-saw of power between the market and political authority. The overall argument of her work suggested that the global market had gained significant power relative to states since the 1970s. This led her to dub the Westphalia system Westfailure. She argued that a ‘dangerous gap’ was emerging between territorially-bound nation states and weak or partial intergovernmental cooperation in which markets had a free hand which could be constructive or destructive.

John K. Galbraith

Among early critiques of casino capitalism was John K. Galbraith. He promoted a pretty novel idea that the major economic function of Governments is to strengthen countervailing powers to achieve some kind of balance between capital and labor. While unions are far from being perfect and his prediction did not materialize in view of sliding to corporatism it may well be that the renewed support of unions right efforts to organize could make a big contribution to a revised, post subprime/derivatives/shadow_banking crisis stage of capitalism.

His critique of Milton Freedman pseudoscience still has its value today.

As Joseph Stiglitz noted (CSMonitor, Dec 28, 2006):

...In many ways, Galbraith was a more critical observer of economic reality.

Driven to understand market realities

Galbraith's vivid depictions of the good, bad, and ugly of American capitalism remain a sorely needed reminder that all is not quite as perfect as the perfect market models – with their perfect competition, perfect information, and perfectly rational consumers – upon which so much of Friedman's analysis depended.

Galbraith, who cut his teeth studying agricultural economics, strove to understand the world as it was, with all the problems of unemployment and market power that simplistic models of competitive markets ignore. In those models, unemployment didn't exist. Galbraith knew that made them fatally flawed

... ... ...

In his early research, Galbraith attempted to explain what had brought on the Great Crash of 1929 – including the role of the stock market's speculative greed fed by (what would today be called) irrational exuberance. Friedman ignored speculation and the failure of the labor market as he focused on the failures of the Federal Reserve. To Friedman, government was the problem, not the solution.

What Galbraith understood, and what later researchers (including this author) have proved, is that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" – the notion that the individual pursuit of maximum profit guides capitalist markets to efficiency – is so invisible because, quite often, it's just not there. Unfettered markets often produce too much of some things, such as pollution, and too little of other things, such as basic research. As Bruce Greenwald and I have shown, whenever information is imperfect – that is, always – markets are inefficient; hence the need for government action.

Galbraith reminded us that what made the economy work so well was not an invisible hand but countervailing powers. He had the misfortune of articulating these ideas before the mathematical models of game theory were sufficiently developed to give them expression. The good news is that today, more attention is being devoted to developing models of these bargaining relationships, and to complex, dynamic models of economic fluctuations in which speculation may play a central role.

Government's role

While Friedman never really appreciated the limitations of the market, he was a forceful critic of government. Yet history shows that in every successful country, the government had played an important role. Yes, governments sometimes fail, but unfettered markets are a certain prescription for failure. Galbraith made this case better than most.

Galbraith knew, too, that people aren't just rational economic actors, but consumers, contending with advertising, political persuasion, and social pressures. It was because of his close touch with reality that he had such influence on economic policymaking, especially during the Kennedy-Johnson years.

Galbraith's penetrating insights into the nature of capitalism – as it is lived, not as it is theorized in simplistic models – has enhanced our understanding of the market economy. He has left an intellectual legacy for generations to come. And he has left a gap in our intellectual life: Who will stand up against the economics establishment to articulate an economic vision that is both in touch with reality and comprehensible to ordinary citizens?

Galbraith was vindicated in his belief that the only economics possible is political economics and as government is always an agent of dominant class it always mixed with politics. Krugman and Stiglitz both have eaten humble pie, because according to neoclassical economics the crises should not have happened. Both should now reread Galbraith's The Great Crash: 1929 (see also extracts). BTW it is interesting that in 1996 Paul Krugman criticized limitations of Galbright vision in the following way:

To be both a liberal and a good economist you must have a certain sense of the tragic--that is, you must understand that not all goals can be attained, that life is a matter of painful tradeoffs. You must want to help the poor, but understand that welfare can encourage dependency. You must want to protect those who lose their jobs, but admit that generous unemployment benefits can raise the long-term rate of unemployment. You must be willing to tax the affluent to help those in need, but accept that too high a rate of taxation can discourage investment and innovation.

To the free-market conservative, these are all arguments for government to do nothing, to accept whatever level of poverty and insecurity the market happens to produce. A serious liberal does not reply to such conservatives by denying that there are any trade-offs at all; he insists, rather, that some trade-offs are worth making, that helping the poor and protecting the unlucky may have costs but will ultimately make for a better society.

The revelation one gets from reading John Kenneth Galbraith's The Good Society is that Galbraith--who is one of the world's most celebrated intellectuals, and whom one would expect to have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the human condition than a mere technical economist would -- lacks this tragic sense. Galbraith's vision of the economy is one without shadows, in which what is good for social justice always turns out to have no unfavorable side effects. If this vision is typical of liberal intellectuals, the ineffectuality of the tribe is not an accident: It stems from a deep-seated unwillingness to face up to uncomfortable reality.

Similar limited understanding of Galbright is demonstrated in London Times (cited from comment to Economist's View blog) :

Some motifs of Galbraith’s work have entered popular consciousness. Galbraith wrote of private opulence amid public squalor, illustrating it with a memorable metaphor of a family that travels by extravagant private car to picnic by a polluted river.

Yet while arguing for increased public expenditure on welfare, Galbraith gave scant attention to the limits of that approach. His writings perpetuate a debilitating weakness of modern liberalism: a reluctance to acknowledge that resources are scarce. In Galbraith’s scheme, said Herbert Stein, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: “The American people were only asked whether they wanted cleaner air and water . . . The answers to such questions seemed obvious — but they were not the right questions.”

Soros contribution to the understanding of growth of financial sector as source of new, global economic instability

This idea of "casino capitalism" as a driver of financial instability was developed further in the book The Crisis of Global Capitalism by George Soros (1998), who highlights the potential for disequilibrium in the financial system, and the inability of non-market sectors to regulate markets.

Although the insights of the Soros critique of global capitalism are scarcely new, they were articulated with such candor and accuracy that the book made a significant impact. The following is a sampling of Soros' insights.
  1. Unregulated financial markets are inherently unstable. Soros observes that, contrary to conventional economic theory, financial markets are not driven toward a relatively stable and rational price by the objective value assessment of such things as the soundness of a company's management, products, or record of profitability. Rather they are constantly driven away from equilibrium by the momentum of self-fulfilling expectations -- a rising stock price attracts buyers who further raise the price-to the point of collapse. The recent massive inflation and subsequent collapse in the price of the shares of unprofitable dot-com companies illustrates Soros' point.

    Bank lending also contributes to the instability, because the price of real and financial assets is set in part by their collateral value. The higher their market price rises the larger the loans banks are willing to make to their buyers to bid up prices. When the bubble bursts, the value of the assets plummets below the amount of the money borrowed against them. This forces banks to call their loans and cut back on the lending, which depresses asset prices and dries up the money supply. The economy then tanks-until credit worthiness is restored and a new boom phase begins.

  2. Financial markets are amoral by definition. Following Napoleon Bonaparte, Soros stressed that there is no meaningful place for individual moral behavior in the context of financial markets, because such behavior has no consequence other than to reduce the financial return to the ethical actor.

    When I bought shares in Lockheed and Northrop after the managements were indicted for bribery, I helped sustain the price of their stocks. When I sold sterling short in 1992, the Bank of England was on the other side of my transactions, and I was in effect taking money out of the pockets of British taxpayers. But if I had tried to take social consequences into account, it would have thrown off my risk-reward calculation, and my profits would have been reduced.

    Soros argues that if he had not bought Lockheed and Northrop, then somebody else would have, and Britain would have devalued sterling no matter what he did. "Bringing my social conscience into the decision-making process would make no difference in the real world; but it may adversely affect my own results." One can challenge the Soros claim that such behavior is amoral rather than immoral, but his basic argument is accurate. His understanding that it is futile to look to individual morality as the solution to the excesses of financial markets is all too accurate.

  3. Corporate employees are duty-bound to serve only corporate financial interests. Soros writes:

    Publicly owned companies are single-purpose organizations-their purpose is to make money. The tougher the competition, the less they can afford to deviate. Those in charge may be well-intentioned and upright citizens, but their room for maneuver is strictly circumscribed by the position they occupy. They are duty-bound to uphold the interests of the company. If they think that cigarettes are unhealthy or that fostering civil war to obtain mining concessions is unconscionable, they ought to quit their jobs. Their place will be taken by people who are willing to carry on.

    Though not specifically mentioned by Soros, this is why corporations were in the past (at least partially) excluded from the political processes (although it was never complete and it is well known fact that Crusades and Siege of Constantinople (1204) were financed by Genoese bankers upset by lack of access to the Byzantium markets). But at least formally other parts of the society can define their goals and the rules of the marketplace. They are incapable of distinguishing between private corporate interests and broader public interests. But that changed with the global dominance of corporatism.

  4. Financial markets are oblivious to externalities and are infected by "short-termism". Specifically the fact that a strategy or policy produces economic returns in the short-term does not mean the long-term results will be beneficial. The focus of financial markets is on short-term individual gain to the exclusion of both social and longer-term consequences. The fact that particular policies and strategies are effective in producing short-term financial returns does not mean they are more generally beneficial or desirable. Soros offers the example that running up a budget or trade deficit "feels good while it lasts, but there can be hell to pay later."

  5. The relationship between the center and the periphery of the capitalist system is profoundly unequal. The powerful countries at the center of the capitalist system are both wealthier and more stable than countries at the periphery because control of the financial system and ownership of productive assets allows them to shape economic and political affairs to their benefit.

    "Foreign ownership of capital deprives peripheral countries of autonomy and often hinders the development of democratic institutions. The international flow of capital is subject to catastrophic interruptions."

    In times of uncertainty financial capital tends to return to its country of origin, thus depriving countries at the periphery of the financial liquidity necessary to the function of monetized economies. "The center's most important feature is that it controls its own economic policies and holds in its hands the economic destinies of periphery countries."

  6. In the capitalist system greed (aka "monetary values") tend to displace social values in sectors where this is destructive of important public interests. Soros writes:

    Monetary values have usurped the role of intrinsic values, and markets have come to dominate spheres of existence where they do not properly belong. Law and medicine, politics, education, science, the arts, even personal relations-achievements or qualities that ought to be valued for their own sake are converted into monetary terms; they are judged by the money they fetch rather than their intrinsic value."

    Because financial "capital is free to go where most rewarded, countries vie to attract and retain capital, and if they are to succeed they must give precedence to the requirements of international capital over other social objectives.

Ha-Joon Chang

One notable later researcher of casino capitalism, especially "free market" fundamentalism propaganda Cambridge University researcher Ha-Joon Chang. In 2011 he published a fascinating book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. Here are two Amazon reviews that shed some light at the key ideas of the book:

William Podmore

Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge University, has written a fascinating book on capitalism's failings. He also wrote the brilliant Bad Samaritans. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says he is `probably the world's most effective critic of globalization'.

Chang takes on the free-marketers' dogmas and proposes ideas like

He notes that the USA does not have the world's highest living standard. Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and the USA, in that order, had the highest incomes per head. On income per hours worked, the USA comes eighth, after Luxemburg, Norway, France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Sweden have the highest industrial output per person.

Free-market politicians, economists and media have pushed policies of de-regulation and pursuit of short-term profits, causing less growth, more inequality, more job insecurity and more frequent crises. Britain's growth rate in income per person per year was 2.4 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.7 per cent 1990-2009. Rich countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1980-2009. Developing countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 2.6 per cent 1980-2009. Latin America grew by 3.1 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.1 per cent 1980-2009, and Sub-Saharan Africa by 1.6 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 0.2 per cent 1990-2009. The world economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1990-2009.

So, across the world, countries did far better before Thatcher and Reagan's `free-market revolution'. Making the rich richer made the rest of us poorer, cutting economies' growth rates, and investment as a share of national output, in all the G7 countries.

Chang shows how free trade is not the way to grow and points out that the USA was the world's most protectionist country during its phase of ascendancy, from the 1830s to the 1940s, and that Britain was one of world's the most protectionist countries during its rise, from the 1720s to the 1850s.

He shows how immigration controls keep First World wages up; they determine wages more than any other factor. Weakening those controls, as the EU demands, lowers wages.

He challenges the conventional wisdom that we must cut spending to cut the deficit. Instead, we need controls capital, on mergers and acquisitions, and on financial products. We need the welfare state, industrial policy, and huge investment in industry, infrastructure, worker training and R&D.

As Chang points out, "Even though financial investments can drive growth for a while, such growth cannot be sustained, as those investments have to be ultimately backed up by viable long-term investments in real sector activities, as so vividly shown by the 2008 financial crisis."

This book is a commonsense, evidence-based approach to economic life, which we should urge all our friends and colleagues to read.

Loyd E. Eskildson

The 2008 'Great Recession' demands re-examination of prevailing economic thought - the dominant paradigm (post 1970's conservative free-market capitalism) not only failed to predict the crisis, but also said it couldn't occur in today's free markets, thanks to Adam Smith's 'invisible hand.' Ha-Joon Chang provides that re-examination in his "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism." Turns out that the reason Adam Smith's hand was not visible is that it wasn't there. Chang, economics professor at the University of Cambridge, is no enemy of capitalism, though he contends its current conservative version should be made better. Conventional wisdom tells us that left alone, markets produce the most efficient and just outcomes - 'efficient' because businesses and individuals know best how to utilize their resources, and 'just' because they are rewarded according to their productivity. Following this advice, countries have deregulated businesses, reduced taxes and welfare, and adopted free trade. The results, per Chang, has been the opposite of what was promised - slower growth and rising inequality, often masked by rising credit expansion and increased working hours. Alternatively, developing Asian countries that grew fast did so following a different version of capitalism, though to be fair China's version to-date has also produced much greater inequality. The following summarizes some of Chang's points:

  1. "There is no such thing as a free market" - we already have hygiene standards in restaurants, ban child labor, pollution, narcotics, bribery, and dangerous workplaces, require licenses for professions such as doctors, lawyers, and brokers, and limit immigration. In 2008, the U.S. used at least $700 billion of taxpayers' money to buy up toxic assets, justified by President Bush on the grounds that it was a necessary state intervention consistent with free-market capitalism. Chang's conclusion - free-marketers contending that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict market freedom are simply expressing political opinions, not economic facts or laws.
  2. "Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners." Shareholders are the most mobile of corporate stakeholders, often holding ownership for but a fraction of a second (high-frequency trading represents 70% of today's trading). Shareholders prefer corporate strategies that maximize short-term profits and dividends, usually at the cost of long-term investments. (This often also includes added leverage and risk, and reliance on socializing risk via 'too big to fail' status, and relying on 'the Greenspan put.') Chang adds that corporate limited liability, while a boon to capital accumulation and technological progress, when combined with professional managers instead of entrepreneurs owning a large chunk (e.g.. Ford, Edison, Carnegie) and public shares with smaller voting rights (typically limited to 10%), allows professional managers to maximize their own prestige via sales growth and prestige projects instead of maximizing profits. Another negative long-term outcome driven by shareholders is increased share buybacks (less than 5% of profits until the early 1980s, 90% in 2007, and 280% in 2008) - one economist estimates that had GM not spent $20.4 billion on buybacks between 1986 and 2002 it could have prevented its 2009 bankruptcy. Short-term stockholder perspectives have also brought large-scale layoffs from off-shoring. Governments of other countries encourage longer-term thinking by holding large shares in key enterprises (China Mobile, Renault, Volkswagen), providing greater worker representation (Germany's supervisory boards), and cross-shareholding among friendly companies (Japan's Toyota and its suppliers).
  3. "Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich." With a few exceptions, all of today's rich countries, including Britain and the U.S., reached that status through protectionism, subsidies, and other policies that they and their IMF, WTO, and World Bank now advise developing nations not to adopt. Free-market economists usually respond that the U.S. succeeded despite, not because of, protectionism. The problem with that explanation is the number of other nations paralleling the early growth strategy of the U.S. and Britain (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan), and the fact that apparent exceptions (Hong Kong, Switzerland, The Netherlands) did so by ignoring foreign patents (a free-market 'no-no'). Chang believes the 'official historians' of capitalism have been very successful re-writing its history, akin to someone trying to 'kick away the ladder' with which they had climbed to the top. He also points out that developing nations that stick to their Ricardian 'comparative advantage,' per the conservatives prescription, condemn themselves to their economic status quo.
  4. "We do not live in a post-industrial age." Most of the fall in manufacturing's share of total output is not due to a fall in the quantity of manufactured goods, but due to the fall in their prices relative to those for services, caused by their faster productivity growth. A small part of deindustrialization is due to outsourcing of some 'manufacturing' activities that used to be provided in-house - e.g.. catering and cleaning. Those advising the newly developing nations to skip manufacturing and go directly to providing services forget that many services mainly serve manufacturing firms (finance, R&D, design), and that since services are harder to export, such an approach will create balance-of-payment problems. (Chang's preceding points directly contradict David Ricardo's law of comparative advantage - a fundamental free market precept. Chang's example of how Korea built Pohang Steel into a strong economic producer, despite lacking experienced managers and natural resources, is another.)
  5. "The U.S. does not have the highest living standard in the world." True, the average U.S. citizen has greater command over goods and services than his counterpart in almost any other country, but this is due to higher immigration, poorer employment conditions, and working longer hours for many vs. their foreign counterparts. The U.S. also has poorer health indicators and worse crime statistics. We do have the world's second highest income per capita - Luxemburg's higher, but measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) the U.S. ranks eighth. (The U.S. doesn't have the fastest growing economy either - China is predicted to pass the U.S. in PPP this coming decade.) Chang's point here is that we should stop assuming the U.S. provides the best economic model. (This is already occurring - the World Bank's chief economist, Justin Lin, comes from China.)
  6. "Governments can pick winners." Chang cites examples of how the Korean government built world-class producers of steel (POSCO), shipbuilding (Hyundai), and electronics (LG), despite lacking raw materials or experience for those sectors. True, major government failures have occurred - Europe's Concorde, Indonesia's aircraft industry, Korea's promotion of aluminum smelting, and Japan's effort to have Nissan take over Honda; industry, however, has also failed - e.g.. the AOL-Time Warner merger, and the Daimler-Chrysler merger. Austria, China, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore (in numerous other areas), and Taiwan have also done quite well with government-picked winners. Another problem is that business and national interests sometimes clash - e.g.. American firms' massive outsourcing has undermined the national interest of maintaining full employment. (However, greater unbiased U.S. government involvement would be difficult due to the 10,000+ corporate lobbyists and billions in corporate campaign donations - $500 million alone from big oil in 2009-10.) Also interesting to Chang is how conservative free marketing bankers in the U.S. lined up for mammoth low-cost loans from the Federal Reserve at the beginning of the Great Recession. Government planning allows minimizing excess capacity, maximizing learning-curve economies and economies of scale and scope; operational performance is enhanced by also forcing government-owned or supported firms into international competition. Government intervention (loans, tariffs, subsidies, prohibiting exports of needed raw materials, building infrastructure) are necessary for emerging economies to move into more sophisticated sectors.
  7. "Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer." 'Trickle-down' economics is based on the belief that the poor maximize current consumption, while the rich, left to themselves, mostly invest. However, the years 1950-1973 saw the highest-ever growth rates in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, despite increased taxation of the rich. Before the 'Golden Age,' per capita income grew at 1-1.5%/year; during the Golden Age it grew at 2-3% in the U.S. Since then, tax cuts for the rich and financial deregulation have allowed greater paychecks for top managers and financiers, and between 1979 and 2006 the top 0.1% increased their share of national income from 3.5% to 11.6%. The result - investment as a ratio of national output has fallen in all rich economies and the pace at which the total economic pie grew decreased.
  8. "U.S. managers are over-priced." First, relative to their predecessors (about 10X those in the 1960s; now 300-400X the average worker), despite the latter having run companies more successfully, in relative terms. Second, compared to counterparts in other rich countries - up to 20X. (Third, compared to counterparts in developing nations - e.g.. JPMorgan Chase, world's 4th largest bank, paid its CEO $19.6 million in 2008, vs. the CEO of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest, being paid $234,700. Read more ›

Willem Buiter and the idea of long term after crisis stagnation

Willem Buiter in his FT article After the Crisis Macro Imbalance, Credibility and Reserve-Currency suggested that after financial crisis of 2008 there might be very long a painful deleveraging period aka secular stagnation. In short each financial crisis make recovery longer and longer. That's why the US will most likely face a long period of stagnation: the digestion of huge excessive debt of the private sector might well take a decade:

Since the excess of debt is relative to income and GDP, the lower the rate of growth, the longer the required period of digestion. This explains for the paradox of trying to stimulate consumption when the economy faces a monumental crisis provoked exactly by excessive debt and excessive consumption. A cartoon line best captured the spirit of it: "country addicted to speculative bubbles desperately searches a new bubble to invest in. "

... ... ...

The roots of the crisis are major international macroeconomic imbalances. Despite the fact that the excesses of the financial system were instrumental to lead these imbalances further than otherwise possible, insufficient regulation should not be viewed as the main factor behind the crisis. The expenditure of central countries, spinned by all sort of financial innovations created by a globalized financial system, was the engine of world growth. When debt became clearly excessive in central countries and the debt-financed expenditure cycle came to an end, the ensuing crisis paralyzed the world economy. With the lesson of 1929 well assimilated, American monetary policy became aggressively expansionist. The Fed inundated the economy with money and credit, in the attempt to avoid a deep depression. Even if successful, the economies of the US and the other central countries, given the burden of excessive debt, are likely to remain stagnant under the threat of deflation for the coming years. The assumption of troubled assets by the public sector, in order to avoid the collapse of the financial system, might succeed, but at the cost of a major increase in public debt. Fiscal policy is not efficient to restart the economy when the private sector remains paralyzed by excessive debt. Even if a coordinated effort to increase public expenditure is successful, the central economies will remain stagnant for as long as the excessive indebtedness of the private sector persists. The period of digestion of excess debt will be longer than the usual recessive cycle. Since imports represent a drain in the effort to reanimate domestic demand through public expenditure, while exports, on the contrary, contribute to the recovery of internal demand, the temptation to central economies to also adopt a protectionist stance will be strong.

Willem Buiter also defined ‘cognitive regulatory capture’ which existed during the Greenspan years and when the Fed were just an arm of Wall Street.

This regulatory capture has resulted in an excess sensitivity of the Fed to financial market and financial sector concerns and fears and in an overestimation of the strength of the link between financial market turmoil and financial sector deleveraging and capital losses on the one hand, and the stability and prosperity of the wider economy on the other hand. The paper gives five examples of recent behavior by the Fed that are most readily rationalized with the assumption of regulatory capture. The abstract of the paper follows next. The latest version of the entire enchilada can be found here. Future revisions will also be found there.

Joseph Stiglitz on 5 steps to Casino Capitalism

In his 2008 Vanity Fair article Capitalist Fools Stiglitz identifies five key steps in transformation of American capitalism to Casino Capitalism (moments of failure as he called them):

No. 1: Reagan Fires Fed Chairman Volcker and Replaces Him With Greenspan in 1987:

Volcker also understood that financial markets need to be regulated. Reagan wanted someone who did not believe any such thing, and he found him in a devotee of the objectivist philosopher and free-market zealot Ayn Rand.

snip

If you appoint an anti-regulator as your enforcer, you know what kind of enforcement you’ll get. A flood of liquidity combined with the failed levees of regulation proved disastrous.

Greenspan presided over not one but two financial bubbles.

  1. Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 under Bill Clinton (Glass-Steagall was a depression-era reform that separated commercial and investment banks)

I had opposed repeal of Glass-Steagall. The proponents said, in effect, Trust us: we will create Chinese walls to make sure that the problems of the past do not recur. As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest—toward short-term self-interest, at any rate, rather than Tocqueville’s "self interest rightly understood."

Stiglitz also refers to a 2004 decision by the SEC "to allow big investment banks to increase their debt-to-capital ratio (from 12:1 to 30:1, or higher) so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, inflating the housing bubble in the process."

Once more, it was deregulation run amuck, and few even noticed.

  1. The Bush tax cuts, both on income and capital gains

The Bush administration was providing an open invitation to excessive borrowing and lending—not that American consumers needed any more encouragement.

  1. Faking the Numbers

Here he refers to bad accounting, the failure to address problems with stock options, and the incentive structures of ratings agencies like Moodys that led them to give high ratings to toxic assets.

  1. Paulson and the Flawed Bailout

Valuable time was wasted as Paulson pushed his own plan, "cash for trash," buying up the bad assets and putting the risk onto American taxpayers. When he finally abandoned it, providing banks with money they needed, he did it in a way that not only cheated America’s taxpayers but failed to ensure that the banks would use the money to re-start lending. He even allowed the banks to pour out money to their shareholders as taxpayers were pouring money into the banks.

Stiglitz concludes:

The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.

The flawed economic philosophy brought by Reagan, and embraced by so many, brought us to this day. Ideas have consequences, especially when we stop empirically testing them. Republican economics have created great pain to America and harmed our national interest.

The flaw that Greenspan found was always there: self-regulation does not work. As Stiglitz said:

As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest — toward short-term self-interest

Yes, for all their claims to science, the premise conflicts with tendencies of people.

This is the real legacy of Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan:

The whole scheme was kick-started under Ronald Reagan. Between his tax cuts for the rich and the Greenspan Commission’s orchestrated Social Security heist, working Americans lost out in a generational wealth transfer shift now exceeding $1 trillion annually from 90 million working class households to for-profit corporations and the richest 1% of the population. It created an unprecedented wealth disparity that continues to grow, shames the nation and is destroying the bedrock middle class without which democracy can’t survive.

Greenspan helped orchestrate it with economist Ravi Batra calling his economics "Greenomics" in his 2005 book "Greenspan’s Fraud." It "turns out to be Greedomics" advocating anti-trust laws, regulations and social services be ended so "nothing....interfere(s) with business greed and the pursuit of profits."

 Conclusions: From Animal Farm To Animal House

Instead of conclusion I will reproduce the post from Sudden Debt (March 17, 2008):

In Orwell's Animal Farm all animals are equal - except that some are more equal than others. All in the spirit of law, order and the proper functioning of society, of course. Fittingly, the animals that have chosen this role by themselves and for themselves, are the pigs.

Cut to US financial markets today. After years of swinish behavior more reminiscent of Animal House than anything else, the pigs are threatening to destroy the entire farm. As if it wasn't enough that they devoured all the "free market" food available and inundated the world with their excreta, they now wish to be put on the public trough. Truly, some businessmen believe they are more equal than others.

But do not blame the pigs; they are expected to act as swine nature dictates. The fault lies entirely with the farmers, those authorities entrusted by the people to oversee the farm because they supposedly knew better. While the pigs were rampaging and tearing the place apart, they were assuring us all that farms function best when animals are free to do as they please, guided solely by invisible hooves. No regulation, no oversight, no common sense. Oh yes, and pigs fly..

So what is to be done now? Two things:

In other words, the focus from now on should be on adding value by means of work and savings (capital formation), instead of inflating assets and borrowing.

Furthermore, we should realize that in a world already inhabited by close to 7 billion people and beset by resource depletion and environmental degradation, defending growth for growth's sake is a losing proposition. The wheels are already wobbling on the Permagrowth model; pumping harder on the accelerator is not going to make it go any faster and will likely result in a fatal crash.

Debt, and finance in general, should be left to re-size downwards to a level that better reflects the carrying capacity of our world. The Fed's current actions are shortsighted and "conservative" in the worst interpretation of the words: they are designed to artificially maintain debt at levels that myopically projects growth as far as the eye can see.

What level of resizing may be necessary? I hope not as much as at Bear Stearns, which got itself bought by Morgan at buzz-saw prices: $2 per share represents a 98% discount from its $84 book value. What scares me, though, is the statement by Morgan's CFO, who said the price reflected the risk the firm was taking, even though he was comfortable with the valuation of assets in Bear's books. It "...gives us the flexibility and margin of error that's appropriate given the speed at which the transaction came together", he said.

If it takes a 98% discount and the explicit guarantee of the Fed for a large portion of assets to buy one of the largest investment banks in the world, where should all other financial firms be trading at? ....Hello? Anyone? Is that a great big silence I hear, or the sound of credit imploding into a vacuum?


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[Feb 21, 2017] Attempt to cover the nature of American neoliberal imperialism ?

Feb 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : February 21, 2017 at 07:11 AM , 2017 at 07:11 AM
http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/02/twenty-first-century-american-nationalism-needs-to-be-profoundly-cosmopoiltan.html

February 20, 2017

Twenty-First Century American Nationalism Needs to Be Profoundly Cosmopolitan

The right pose--substantive and rhetorical--is to recognize that, just as since 1620 the good American nationalism has always held that people anywhere can elect to become Americans by joining our utopian project here at home, so in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that good American nationalism is one that puts global prosperity and being a good neighbor and benevolent hegemon first....

-- Brad DeLong

libezkova -> anne... , February 21, 2017 at 08:00 AM
Attempt to cover the nature of American neoliberal imperialism ?

[Feb 21, 2017] We need to focus not on what is happening on average - as GDP leads us to do- but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income.

Feb 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC : , February 21, 2017 at 07:31 AM
Re: Joe Stiglitz: How to Survive the Trump Era - Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joe says: "One of the main challenges in this new era will be to remain vigilant and, whenever and wherever necessary, to resist."

I disagree. I think we need a clearly articulated alternative to Trump and I think Joe provided one in his recent comment:

Joseph Stiglitz Says Standard Economics Is Wrong. Inequality and Unearned Income Kills the Economy

The rules of the game can be changed to reverse inequality

http://evonomics.com/joseph-stiglitz-inequality-unearned-income/

In that comment Joe says:

Reversing inequality

A wide range of policies can help reduce inequality.

Policies should be aimed at reducing inequalities both in market income and in the post-tax and-transfer incomes. The rules of the game play a large role in determining market distribution- in preventing discrimination, in creating bargaining rights for workers, in curbing monopolies and the powers of CEOs to exploit firms' other stakeholders and the financial sector to exploit the rest of society. These rules were largely rewritten during the past thirty years in ways which led to more inequality and poorer overall economic performance. Now they must be rewritten once again, to reduce inequality and strengthen the economy, for instance, by discouraging the short-termism that has become rampant in the financial and corporate sector.

Reforms include more support for education, including pre-school; increasing the minimum wage; strengthening earned-income tax credits; strengthening the voice of workers in the workplace, including through unions; and more effective enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. But there are four areas in particular that could make inroads in the high level of inequality which now exists.

First, executive compensation (especially in the US) has become excessive, and it is hard to justify the design of executive compensation schemes based on stock options.

Executives should not be rewarded for improvements in a firm's stock market performance in which they play no part. If the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, and that leads to an increase in stock market prices, CEOs should not get a bonus as a result. If oil prices fall, and so profits of airlines and the value of airline stocks increase, airline CEOs should not get a bonus. There is an easy way of taking account of these gains (or losses) which are not attributable to the efforts of executives: basing performance pay on the relative performance of firms in comparable circumstances. The design of good compensation schemes that do this has been well understood for more than a third of a century, and yet executives in major corporations have almost studiously resisted these insights. They have focused more on taking advantages of deficiencies in corporate governance and the lack of understanding of these issues by many shareholders to try to enhance their earnings- getting high pay when share prices increase, and also when share prices fall. In the long run, as we have seen, economic performance itself is hurt.

Second, macroeconomic policies are needed that maintain economic stability and full employment. High unemployment most severely penalises those at the bottom and the middle of the income distribution. Today, workers are suffering thrice over: from high unemployment, weak wages and cutbacks in public services, as government revenues are less than they would be if economies were functioning well.

As we have argued, high inequality has weakened aggregate demand. Fuelling asset price bubbles through hyper-expansive monetary policy and deregulation is not the only possible response. Higher public investment- in infrastructures, technology and education- would both revive demand and alleviate inequality, and this would boost growth in the long-run and in the short-run. According to a recent empirical study by the IMF, well-designed public infrastructure investment raises output both in the short and long term, especially when the economy is operating below potential. And it doesn't need to increase public debt in terms of GDP: well-implemented infrastructure projects would pay for themselves, as the increase in income (and thus in tax revenues) would more than offset the increase in spending.

Third, public investment in education is fundamental to address inequality. A key determinant of workers' income is the level and quality of education. If governments ensure equal access to education, then the distribution of wages will reflect the distribution of abilities (including the ability to benefit from education) and the extent to which the education system attempts to compensate for differences in abilities and backgrounds. If, as in the United States, those with rich parents usually have access to better education, then one generation's inequality will be passed on to the next, and in each generation, wage inequality will reflect the income and related inequalities of the last.

Fourth, these much-needed public investments could be financed through fair and full taxation of capital income. This would further contribute to counteracting the surge in inequality: it can help bring down the net return to capital, so that those capitalists who save much of their income won't see their wealth accumulate at a faster pace than the growth of the overall economy, resulting in growing inequality of wealth. Special provisions providing for favourable taxation of capital gains and dividends not only distort the economy, but, with the vast majority of the benefits going to the very top, increase inequality. At the same time they impose enormous budgetary costs: 2 trillion dollars from 2013 to 2023 in the US, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The elimination of the special provisions for capital gains and dividends, coupled with the taxation of capital gains on the basis of accrual, not just realisations, is the most obvious reform in the tax code that would improve inequality and raise substantial amounts of revenues. There are many others, such as a good system of inheritance and effectively enforced estate taxation.

Redefining economic performance

We used to think of there being a trade-off: we could achieve more equality, but only at the expense of overall economic performance. It is now clear that, given the extremes of inequality being reached in many rich countries and the manner in which they have been generated, greater equality and improved economic performance are complements.

This is especially true if we focus on appropriate measures of growth. If we use the wrong metrics, we will strive for the wrong things. As the international Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress argued, there is a growing global consensus that GDP does not provide a good measure of overall economic performance. What matters is whether growth is sustainable, and whether most citizens see their living standards rising year after year.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, the US economy, and that of most other advanced countries, has clearly not been performing. In fact, for three decades, real median incomes have essentially stagnated. Indeed, in the case of the US, the problems are even worse and were manifest well before the recession: in the past four decades average wages have stagnated, even though productivity has drastically increased.

As this essay has emphasised, a key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average- as GDP leads us to do- but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income. People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline. Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.

The economic policies required to change this are not difficult to identify. We need more investment in public goods; better corporate governance, antitrust and anti-discrimination laws; a better regulated financial system; stronger workers' rights; and more progressive tax and transfer policies. By 'rewriting the rules' governing the market economy in these ways, it is possible to achieve greater equality in both the pre- and post-tax and transfer distribution of income, and thereby stronger economic performance.


[Joe had it right with this essay and progressives should elaborate and emphasize this message - not just rant about Trump.]

[The whole essay is worth reading, imo.]

RGC -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:42 AM
I don't trust the Democratic party.

I fear that if they did defeat trump, they would go back to the same old policies that have given us this mess.

I want to see new leadership that commits to new policies like those articulated by Joe Stiglitz and Bernie Sanders.

I don't want to work for them until I see new policies emerge.

pgl -> RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:45 AM
Max Sawicky has a new blog. You might enjoy this description of what his new blog will be about:

http://thepopulist.buzz/2017/02/16/who-we-are-what-we-do/

libezkova said in reply to RGC... , February 21, 2017 at 07:56 AM
"I don't trust the Democratic party."

That's the key point of the whole discussion. Dems are just a party of neoliberals. Who are in the pocket of Wall Street.

So they are in the pocket of the same guys who bought Republicans (and both parties are also puppets of MIC -- with Dems becoming the major War party; not that different from neocons ).

Stiglitz actually is very shy to criticize neoliberal "cult of GDP":
== quote ==
As this essay has emphasised, a key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average - as GDP leads us to do- but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income.

People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline.

Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.

== end of quote ==

This is why "pro growth liberals" are just crooks in disguise... With a smoke screen of mathematical nonsense and obscure terminology to cover their tracks.

[Feb 21, 2017] The Term "Deep State" in Focus: Usage Examples, Definition, and Phrasebook

Notable quotes:
"... By Lambert Strether of Corrente . ..."
"... The Atlantic ..."
"... derin devlet ..."
"... Glenn Greenwald, Democracy Now! ..."
"... Peggy Noonan, Patriot Post ..."
"... Breitbart ..."
"... Jefferson Morley, Alternet ..."
"... Greg Grandin, The Nation ..."
"... Benjamin Wallace, The New Yorker ..."
"... Counterpunch ..."
"... New York Times ..."
"... Marc Ambinder, NPR ..."
"... Marc Ambinder, Foreign Policy ..."
"... "Deep State Blooper" ..."
"... "Deep State Operation" ..."
"... "Deep State Actor" ..."
"... "Deep State Faction" ..."
"... That's ..."
"... Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq ..."
"... Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and America Made the Third Reich ..."
"... within the territory of the State ..."
"... Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics ..."
"... "permanent government" ..."
"... "permanent government", ..."
"... "permanent government", ..."
"... "conducting killings" ..."
"... The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government ..."
Feb 21, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on February 20, 2017 by Lambert Strether By Lambert Strether of Corrente .

Since today is President's Day, there will be no Water Cooler. Which is a good thing, because this puppy took forever to write. –lambert

* * *

"It's called the ruling class because it rules." –Arthur Silber

Readers know that I've been more than dubious about that incredibly virulent earworm of a term, "deep state" ( December 1, 2014 ). However, in the last week or so, "deep state" is all over mainstream discourse like kudzu, and so it's time to look at it again. As we shall see, it's no more well-defined than before, but I'm hoping that if we aggregate a number of usage examples, we'll come up with a useful set of properties, and a definition. Following the aggregation, I'll propose a number of phrases that I hope can attenuate deep state 's virulence, and render it a sharper and more subtle analytical tool in posts and comments.

While the usage of "deep state" exploded last week after General Flynn's defenestration by Trump, it seems likely to me that the term had been spreading in the recent past before that, given that a series of politically motivated leaks by the "intelligence community" (IC) from summer 2016 onwards could colorably be attributed to such an entity. The examples are in no particular order; I haven't had the time to find a "patient zero."

Usage Examples of "Deep State"

1. The Atlantic . Since "deep state" as a term originated in Turkey ( derin devlet ), I'll start with a Turkish analyst:

There Is No American 'Deep State'

Zeynep Tufekci, a Turkish sociologist and writer at the University of North Carolina, tweeted a string of criticisms about the analogy Friday morning. " Permanent bureaucracy and/or non-electoral institutions diverging with the electoral branch [is] not that uncommon even in liberal democracies," she wrote. "In the Turkey case, that's not what it means. There was a shadowy, cross-institution occasionally *armed* network conducting killings, etc. So, if people are going to call non electoral institutions stepping up leaking stuff, fine. But it is not 'deep state' like in Turkey."

Comment: One danger I always face is projecting American politics onto other countries. Tufekci warns us the opposite is a bad idea too!

Properties: Permanent bureaucracy and/or non-electoral institutions; "shadowy," cross-institutional. We cross out "conducting killings" for the American context (or do we?).

2. Glenn Greenwald, Democracy Now! . Greenwald thinks the term is sloppy too (though "scientific" is a high bar):

The deep state, although there's no precise or scientific definition , generally refers to the agencies in Washington that are permanent power factions . They stay and exercise power even as presidents who are elected come and go. They typically exercise their power in secret , in the dark, and so they're barely subject to democratic accountability, if they're subject to it at all. It's agencies like the CIA, the NSA and the other intelligence agencies, that are essentially designed to disseminate disinformation and deceit and propaganda, and have a long history of doing not only that, but also have a long history of the world's worst war crimes, atrocities and death squads. This is who not just people like Bill Kristol, but lots of Democrats are placing their faith in, are trying to empower, are cheering for as they exert power separate and apart from-in fact, in opposition to-the political officials to whom they're supposed to be subordinate.

Comment: Later in the show, Greenwald says that the deep state is "almost engag[ing] in like a soft coup." Here's the Kristol tweet to which Greenwald alludes, explicitly applauding that coup with the bracing clarity so foreign to most Democrats:

I characterized Greenwald's soft coup - and Kristol's - more delicately as "a change in the Constitutional Order" ( "Federalist 68, the Electoral College, and Faithless Electors" ) but the sense is the same.

Properties: Kristol, not normal, not democratic, not constitutional; Greenwald: permanent power factions, agencies, especially intelligence agencies, which specialize in deception and require secrecy.

3. Peggy Noonan, Patriot Post :

Is [the current chaos], as some suggest, "deep state" revenge for the haughty, dismissive way Donald Trump spoke of the U.S. intelligence community during and after the campaign? Is it driven by the antipathy of the permanent government toward Mr. Putin, and a desire to bring down those, like Mr. Trump, who hope for closer relations with Russia?

It is a terrible thing if suddenly, in America, there is a government within the government that hates the elected government - and that secretly, silently, and with no accountability , acts on it.

Properties: Government within a government; secret; not accountable.

4. Breitbart . I don't normally cite to Breitbart, but since they're in the heart of the battle and have a usage example:

The "deep state" is jargon for the semi-hidden army of bureaucrats, officials, retired officials, legislators, contractors and media people who support and defend established government policies .

Comment: Interestingly, Breitbart finds it necessary to define the term for its readership, meaning it didn't originate on the right. Even more interestingly, Breitbart - very much unlike the more staid Peggy Noonan - urges, in my view correctly, that actors outside the alphabet agencies need to be considered.

Properties: Bureaucrats, officials (some retired), legislators, contractors, media. Brietbart doesn't use Janine Werel's term, Flexian - retired officials become talking heads, for example - but the concept is implicit.

5. Jefferson Morley, Alternet :

What Is the 'Deep State'-And Why Is It After Trump?

The Deep State is shorthand for the nexus of secretive intelligence agencies whose leaders and policies are not much affected by changes in the White House or the Congress . While definitions vary, the Deep State includes the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the armed forces.

With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most-perhaps the only-credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump's "wrecking ball presidency."

And Roger Stone, a man who knows his memes:

"This is an effort by the Deep State to destabilize the president," Stone said.

Comment: Morley, then, agrees with Kristol (the "only check" in Trump).

Properties: Intelligence agencies; permanent.

6. Greg Grandin, The Nation . A useful review of the literature:

What Is the Deep State?

So at least as long as there has been private property, there has been private plotting, and talk of a "deep state" has been a vernacular way of describing what political scientists like to call "civil society," that is, any venue in which powerful individuals, either alone or collectively, might try to use the state to fulfill their private ambitions, to get richer and obtain more power .

Much of the writing frames the question as Trump versus the Deep State, but even if we take the "deep state" as a valid concept, surely it's not useful to think of the competing interests it represents as monolithic , as David Martin in an e-mail suggests. Big Oil and Wall Street might want deregulation and an opening to Russia. The euphemistically titled "intelligence community" wants a ramped-up war footing. High-tech wants increased trade. In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote that "the conception of the power elite and of its unity rests upon the corresponding developments and the coincidence of interests among economic, political, and military organizations." If nothing else, the "Trump v. Deep State" framings show that unity is long gone.

Comment: Grandin does give an early usage example, but I'm totally unpersuaded by his identification of the "deep state" with "civil society." Rather - as Breitbart, amazingly enough, suggests - the deep state more plausibly includes components of civil society (media, contractors, etc.).

Properties: Not monolithic; includes (components of) civil society.

7. Benjamin Wallace, The New Yorker :

The Deep-State Theory Cuts Both Ways

This pattern of dissent ["#TheResistance"], and its early successes, has brought about a vogue for the theory of the deep state, usually used in analyzing authoritarian regimes, in which networks of people within the bureaucracy are said to be able to exercise a hidden will of their own

The federal government employs two million people; its sympathies move in more than one direction. While many federal employees may want to oppose the White House, others (especially border-patrol and immigration agents, whose support Trump often cited on the campaign trail) have already been taking some alarming liberties to advance the President's politics.

Comment: Wallace urges that some Federal employees in the permanent bureaucracy are, in essence, "working toward the Fuhrer," which is a consequence of the deep state not being monolithic. He attributes the "vogue" for "deep state" to the resistance, but I (and most others cited here) think it's the Flynn firing.

Properties: Bureaucratic networks; hidden.

8. Counterpunch

A Deep State of Mind: America's Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup

So who or what is the Deep State?

It's the militarized police, which have joined forces with state and federal law enforcement agencies in order to establish themselves as a standing army. It's the fusion centers and spy agencies that have created a surveillance state and turned all of us into suspects. It's the courthouses and prisons that have allowed corporate profits to take precedence over due process and justice. It's the military empire with its private contractors and defense industry that is bankrupting the nation. It's the private sector with its 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances, 'a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.' It's what former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren refers to as 'a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies': the Department of Defense, the State Department, Homeland Security, the CIA, the Justice Department, the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a handful of vital federal trial courts, and members of the defense and intelligence committees."

Comment: Seems pretty big to be deep

Properties: Law enforcement, contractors, agencies, the courts.

9. New York Times

As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a 'Deep State' in America

Though the deep state is sometimes discussed as a shadowy conspiracy, it helps to think of it instead as a political conflict between a nation's leader and its governing institutions.

That can be deeply destabilizing, leading both sides to wield state powers like the security services or courts against one another, corrupting those institutions in the process.

In countries like Egypt, Mr. El Amrani said, the line is much clearer.

There, "the deep state is not official institutions rebelling," he said, but rather "shadowy networks within those institutions, and within business, who are conspiring together and forming parallel state institutions."

Comment: Weird all around: The President is the President , the Chief Magistrate of the United States. He's not the "nation's leader," like in the title of sone kinda hardback in the "Business" section of your airport bookstore. And quite frankly, the description of the deep state in Egypt ("shadowy network," "parallel state institutions") jibes with a several of the other usage examples I've collected, right here in the United States.

Properties: I'll use Egypt's! Network, shadowy, businesses forming parallel state institutions.

10. Marc Ambinder, NPR :

With Intelligence Leaks, The 'Deep State' Resurfaces

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So how do you define the deep state?

AMBINDER: Well, I try to define it simply – maybe the national security and intelligence bureaucracy , the secret-keepers in the United States, people who have security clearances, who have spent 10 to 20 to 30 years working in and around secrets.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when we're hearing about this term this week to do with Michael Flynn, what do we – what are people making that connection with potentially a huge group of people and this particular case?

AMBINDER: They're essentially alleging that the national security state, this metastate that exists and, again, traffics totally in secret – used its collective power in order to bring down a duly chosen national security adviser because they disagreed with him or they disagreed with his president or they disagreed with his policies. It is a term of derision, a term that suggests people are using their power for ill-begotten ends. And that, if true, sets up a crisis.

Comment: Ambinder, then, rejects putting a "civil society" construction on "deep state." (He also rejects Greenwald, and Kristol's, "soft coup.")

Properties: National security and intelligence bureaucracy; long-term.

11. Marc Ambinder, Foreign Policy . Ambinder gives an example of the deep state in action:

Trump Is Showing How the Deep State Really Works

The fact the nation's now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America's vaunted Deep State works. It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.

Sometime before January 12, the fact that these [Flynn's] conversations [with the Russian ambassador] had occurred was disclosed to David Ignatius, who wrote about them. That day, Sean Spicer asked Flynn about them. Flynn denied that the sanctions were discussed. A few days later, on January 16, Vice President Mike Pence repeated Flynn's assurances to him that the calls were mostly about the logistics of arranging further calls when Trump was President.

Comment: Note the lack of agency in "was disclosed." Had the deep state not been able to use David Ignatius as a cut-out, the scandal would never have occured. Therefore, a media figure, a member of civil society, was essential to the operation of the Deep State, even though Ambinder's definition of the deep state doesn't reflect this.

Properties: Network; civil society.

* * *

So now I'm going to aggregate the properties suggested by these 10 sources, and make some judgements about what to keep and what to throw away. Throwing out Noonan's concept of "a government within a government", I get this. The deep state:

1. Gains power through (legal) control of state functions of secrecy and deception

2. Is "permanent"

3. Is not monolithic

4. Is composed of "cross-institutional" networks of individuals in both state (agencies, law enforcement) and civil society (media, contractors)

5. Is not democratic in its operation; and (potentially) is not accountable, not normal, not constitutional.

(Individuals within the deep state belong to factions that compete and cooperate, often in addition to their "day jobs," rather as in a "matrix management" construct.)

So, what'd I miss?

A "Deep State" Phrasebook

So, here are some phrases to use that reflect the above - very tentative - understanding. What I really want to do - and who know, maybe I'm trying to shovel back the tide here, too - is get away from the notion of "the" deep state. The deep state is not monolithic! Factional conflict within the deep state exists! So, in my view, the definite article is in this case disempowering; it prevents you from, as it were, knowing your enemy. So, if I have to join the chorus of people using the term, I'm going to think carefully about how do it. This list is a step toward doing that. (I'm going to use examples from the run-up to the Iraq War because it's less tendenitious and way less muddled than the Flynn defenestration.)

1. "Deep State Blooper" . I'm putting this first as an antidote to CT. Quoting Frank Herbert's Dune :

" [I]t occurred to Kynes that his father and all the other scientists were wrong, that the most persistent principles of the universe were accident and error."

It's important to put into our thinking right from the start that Deep State actors are not all-powerful, and that Deep State operations are not invariably successful. I mean, can anybody look at the foreign and nationally security outcomes from what these guys are doing and urge that the baseline for performane is very high? I don't think so. Accidents happen all the time, and these guys, for all the power their positions bring them, are accident-prone. (After all, they're not accountable, so they never get accurate feedback, in a typical Banana Republic power dynamic.

Example: "The Iraq WMD's yellowcake uranium episode was a Deep State Blooper." ( See here for details; the yellowcake uranium was part of the Bush administration's WMD propaganda operation to foment the Iraq War.)

2. "Deep State Operation" . I think it's important to view the Deep State (as defined above) as able to act opportunistically; although many Deep State Actors work for agencies, their operations are not bureaucratic in nature.

Example: "The White House Iraq Group was a Deep State propaganda operation that succeeded tactically but failed strategically" (See here for details ; the WHIG planted stories in the press to foment the Iraq War. They succeeded in that narrow goal, but the war itself was a debacle, and the damage to the credibility of the press as an institution took a hit.)

3. "Deep State Actor" . An individual can be a member of the Deep State as an official, and then later as media personality or contractor. (It also seems to me that once you have been within the intelligence community, you can never be said to have left it, since how could anyone know you have really left?

Example: "Leon Panetta is a consummate Deep State Actor." ( Panetta has been OMB Director, CIA Director, White House Chief of Staff, and Secretary of Defense. "[Panetta] regularly obtains fees for speaking engagements, including from the Carlyle Group.[55] He is also a supporter of Booz Allen Hamilton."

4. "Deep State Faction" . This is a no-brainer:

Example: "The Neoconservatives are a Deep State Faction."

Conclusions

I apologize for the length as I fought my way through the material, and I hope I haven't made any gross errors - especially political science-y ones! And any further additions to the Deep State Phraseology will be very welcome (but watch those definite articles!).

1 0 27 0 0 This entry was posted in Banana republic , Politics on February 20, 2017 by Lambert Strether . About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism ("Because markets"). I don't much care about the "ism" that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don't much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue - and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me - is the tens of thousands of excess "deaths from despair," as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics - even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton's wars created - bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow - currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press - a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let's call such voices "the left." Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn't allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I've been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

View all posts by Lambert Strether → Subscribe to Post Comments 109 comments Carolinian , February 20, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Gee you didn't even mention California's Bohemian Grove meeting where CEOs romp in togas and such.

And taken literally Deep State would presumably mean a secretive (deep) and more or less permanent ruling apparatus. We may have the latter but it doesn't seem all that secretive since they love to join think tanks and talk about their loony ideas. The term is often used to bolster conspiracy theories about how the CIA killed Kennedy and are secretly running the country. While recent movies like to portray CIA operatives as super human martial arts specialists they are just as likely boobs who make many mistakes but nevertheless don't mind ratting out Trump's phone calls as petty revenge. I'd say it's the not so secretive but still behind the scenes state we have to worry about. Think the CFR or that Kristol guy. In other words if the term means anything it could be the secondary tier of influencers who have the ear of our MSM.

sgt_doom , February 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Nothing theoretical about elements within the CIA (such as the fired Allen Dulles, and his still-in-the CIA cousin, Tracy Barnes - oopsy, Fake News never told you they were cousins, now did they?) - just requires a bit of reading and cross-referencing with declassified documents from the CIA, State and the FBI.

Deep State is really the financial-intelligence-complex who believes they are running things - the intel establishment was originally founded by the super-rich and their minions (such as Lovett and McCloy, etc.). When JFK was assassinated the Deputy Director of the CIA was Gen. Marshall Carter, recommended to McCone for that position by Nelson Rockefeller. And the fellow in charge of the reorganization of the CIA at the same time was Gen. Schuyler, Nelson Rockefeller's assistant.

You just have to look a bit . . .

Direction , February 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Juicy comment! Can you recommend any books or favorite articles?

James McFadden , February 20, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Some book recommendations about the deep state:

C. Wright Mills "The Power Elite" – describes how the indoctrination mechanisms create the deep state (military industrial political complex).

David Talbot "The Devil's Chessboard" – about the rise of the CIA and Allan Dulles

Laurence Shoup "Wall Street's Think Tank" – about the Council on Foreign Relations – the deep state's premier think tank

Michael Parenti "Dirty Truths" – about empire

John Perkins "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" – CIA coups and soft coups

I'm sure other readers can recommend many more on this subject.

Caveat Emptor , February 21, 2017 at 12:39 am

The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government
Mike Lofgren

The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy
Peter Dale Scott

WhatsNotToLike , February 21, 2017 at 10:27 am

James Galbraith, Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

nonsense factory , February 21, 2017 at 12:55 am

There are a couple of books by Dan Briody that are very illuminating about how Deep State actors in government interface with corporate agendas:
The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money (2004)
The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group (2003)

I think of the Deep State as the military-industrial-intelligence-Congressional long-term national-security complex that grew up after World War II, there are perhaps four major elements:
(1) military and intelligence contractors who rely on the massive $600 billion military budget for their profits.
(2) executive branch bureaucrats who develop the contracts that are delivered to contractors (State/Pentagon/CIA/NSA/NRO/FBI/DOE etc.)
(3) Congressmembers (long-serving) on appropriations, intelligence, etc. committees who sign off on budget requests.
(4) Elements of mass media and think tanks who work overtime to promote the interests of the Deep State elements of the above actors.

It's a kind of self-perpetuating system that's primary agenda is to keep their budget from being cut by a healthy 50% – which is what we'd need to do to rebuild infrastructure, set up high-quality public education, and create a first-world health care system, i.e. to get up to German or Japanese standard-of-living norms.

Some have also pointed out that there's an element of the judicial branch that can be included in "Deep State" definitions (such as FISA Court); note that judicial review of executive foreign policy decisions is very rare in the American court system.

It's also factionalized; i.e. there's the nuclear weapons sector (DOE/NNSA and their contractors), the various Pentagon branches and their suppliers, NSA and their contractors, CIA and their contractors, etc. So they compete with each other for a share of the pie, but they all have a shared interest in preventing the overall pie from shrinking.

jo6pac , February 20, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Please a little help as Direction ask just to get us started. The dulles bros were truly evil and have trained their puppets well.

Vatch , February 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm

he intel establishment was originally founded by the super-rich and their minions (such as Lovett and McCloy, etc.).

Wow, Robert Lovett and John J. McCloy. For about three decades they were at the pinnacle of the United States Establishment. They were like Sejanus during the reign of Tiberius or Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. Very, very influential behind the scenes.

DH , February 20, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Yeah, and they totally missed Davos.

I always thought the original deep state was the networks of the Knights Templar, Masons, and Illuminati.

However, I was wrong – according to the definitions above, it is probably Treadstone and Blackbriar.

Enquiring Mind , February 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Rex Tillerson's dealing with the seventh floor apparatchiks at the State Department is another productive step in calling out the nomenklatura . Russian themes seem so popular these days.

Cat's paw , February 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Perhaps helpful to know the original provenance of the term it comes from Turkish journalism when one fine evening a sedan was involved in a nasty wreck. Passengers in said sedan included a high ranking military official, a state or federal(?) representative/official, a crime boss, and a beauty queen.

My understanding: trying to comprehend what such a collection of worthies were doing in the same car led journalists to coin the term deep state. A networked web of power interests/relations across sectors and institutions that operate beyond above below out of sight of normative or visible politics.

Emma , February 20, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Here are more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susurluk_scandal

Charles Tuttle , February 20, 2017 at 2:41 pm

David Chibo in Unz Review Political Science's "Theory of Everything"
http://www.unz.com/article/political-sciences-theory-of-everything/

neo-realist , February 20, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I checked out that article from a previous post of the link and thought it was a very valuable, terrific and detailed explanation of Deep State theories w/ some fine literature recommendations.

Grebo , February 20, 2017 at 10:45 pm

The totality of truths is that the US "elephant" consists of a power elite hierarchy overseeing a corporatocracy, directing a deep state that has gradually subverted the visible government and taken over the "levers of power."

Complete with tables and diagrams! A must read IMHO.

oh , February 21, 2017 at 8:51 am

It's a good recommendation and well worth reading.

Qufuness , February 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm

People within the American Deep State are said to have compassed the removal of General Flynn, who was a prominent member of DS organizations himself, so yes, the DS is not a monolith. But are there powerful "permanent" factions with the DS that pursue long-term strategies?

There is another way of asking this. Much of what is now labelled "DS" grew out of the investment-banker+intelligence nexus in the immediate postwar period, or at least came to the surface around that time. America has made a series of disastrous unforced errors in the past 70 years, Vietnam and Iraq being the most prominent examples. While these errors have been harmful to the American people at large, is there a clique (besides the Military Industrial Complex) that benefits from these "errors," that has far-reaching goals that completely diverge from those of American constitutional democracy?

Minh , February 20, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Both Kennedy's and Diem brothers' assasinations and 911 mass murders were deep events to sell and organize war for the Empire part of American democracy. Not mentioning Peter Dale Scott is a minus of the listing of properties. What does the Deep state did ? 911 and JFK so Afghan Iraq and Vietnam wars.

ex-PFC Chuck , February 20, 2017 at 8:33 pm

It's my understanding that the investment banking crowd served as the government's intelligence arm on an informal, sub rosa basis well before WW II. Prescott Bush, GHWB's father, was involved in that.

Mark P , February 20, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Lambert, there is a Deep State in the U.S. as distinct from the mere ruling class (and yes, by definition, it has competing factions and power centers at different agencies).

A clarifying example of that is this guy, Andy Marshall, aka Yoda, who arguably had more effect on the direction of U.S. policy than any U.S. president over the last half-century and was finally removed from heading the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment just before his 95th birthday. That's power.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Marshall_(foreign_policy_strategist)#cite_note-5

Yet most people have never heard of Marshall and he never enriched himself particularly. You won't be able to tell the influence he exerted from his Wiki page either, except perhaps for the mention of Marshall 'proteges' being the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc. Furthermore, before Nixon installed him at the Pentagon, in the 1950s and 60s Marshall was at the RAND corporation helping to formulate nuclear strategy.

Here's an old trove of press material from over the years.
https://web.archive.org/web/20070309161816/http://portland.indymedia.org:80/en/2004/02/281049.shtml

Emma , February 20, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Interesting. And taking into account the comment from Cat's Paw above, I'd suggest to Lambert there are two distinct components to the term 'Deep State'. One element comprises the majority ie. the facilitators who foster the deep state, while the other element consists of the all-important minority ie. the instigators or 'deep state en nom propre' .

michael hudson , February 20, 2017 at 2:50 pm

I think the key to the "Deep state" is simply COVERT.
It is all covert activities that a public relations officer for the neocons and neoconservatives would not acknowledge in their fairy-tale view of the state.

Mark P. , February 20, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Yes.

Josh Stern , February 20, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Technical note – for CIA/Pentagon, a *covert* activity is something that is known, but where US influence or the extent of that is supposed to stay hidden – e.g. a coup d'etat. And a *clandestine activity* is something where the entire activity is supposed to stay hidden – e.g. CIA running Heroin and Cocaine, unlicensed human experimentation, or controlling the editorial desk & ownership if the Washington Post. In that sense, the clandestine activity are even deeper, and the set of people in the know, is even smaller.

Jim Haygood , February 20, 2017 at 3:58 pm

" barely subject to democratic accountability, if they're subject to it at all " - Glenn Greenwald

The $50 billion-plus black budget for the IC, covering many clandestine projects and activities, is not even subject to Congressional accountability. It is discussed verbally with the majority and minority leaders, and the ranking members of the intelligence committees.

Then the other 427 members (or at least a majority of them) are obliged on instructions from their caucus to whoop it through, without a clue (or even a right to ask) what is in it. To paraphrase the great stateswoman Nancy Pelosi, " We have to pass it to avoid finding out what's in it. "

Secret funding via this procedure is unconstitutional and illegitimate. Yet neither the president, the judiciary, nor anyone in Congress appears able to stop it. The IC is a fourth-stage cancer devouring the guts of the former republic.

Josh Stern , February 20, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Secret funding is a huge unknown. Everything from mostly legitimate front companies, to business donations for favors, to drug running. One would think, incorrectly, that the drug running is some kind of big secret the following links show it is not:
Collection of quotes from DEA agents, John Kerry, etc:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=5878115
Video with Robert Bonner, ex-head of DEA, on 60 minutes in 1993, just after he stepped down:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx1bL_Gp03g

Persona au gratin , February 20, 2017 at 5:37 pm

YES!

Crazy Horse , February 20, 2017 at 7:42 pm

50 billion? That is just the cost of coffee and donuts. A week before 911 Rumsfeld acknowledged that 2.3 TRILLION dollars was missing and unaccounted for in the DOD budget.

" CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.
"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld admitted.
$2.3 trillion - that's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere $300 million.
"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on," said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-war-on-waste/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU4GdHLUHwU

Conveniently the accounting records that might have made possible an investigation of that little error were located in Building 7 of the WTC and in the exact section of the Pentagon which the skilled Saudi pilots targeted and and then vaporized their airliner leaving only a few token pieces on the lawn.Of course 911 is ancient history that nobody cares about anymore. Apparently we are in need of another accounting cleansing, since the Inspector General reports that an additional 6.5 TRILLLION has gone missing since then.

http://www.newstarget.com/2016-08-18-how-did-the-pentagon-lose-over-6-5-trillion-in-taxpayer-money.html

JTMcPhee , February 20, 2017 at 8:46 pm

What, me worry? those are all MMT dollars, after all plenty more where that came from.

ex-PFC Chuck , February 20, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Susan Lindauer, in her memoir of her role as a CIA asset serving as a go-between in the failed negotiations to avert the Iraq War ( Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq ), recounts that in the desperate last few weeks before March 20, 2003, she was paying her considerable expenses out-of-pocket. Her handler was having trouble getting her reimbursement approved, and by the time he did she was making a pest of herself about the fact that the negotiations had been deliberately sabotaged, and had become a pariah. At that point the handler had no difficulty, not to mention compunction, about simply stiffing her and diverting the funds to the McMansion he was building.

How much of that $50B black budget is similarly diverted?

Elasmo Branch , February 20, 2017 at 4:28 pm

"Covert" means the activity is against the law. "Clandestine" means the activity is secret but within the confines of the law. The military undertakes clandestine activity authorized by law, not covert activity. A US soldiers cannot break the law. On the other hand paramilitary activity is often covert.

For example, a US soldier on a clandestine mission is captured. Since the soldier is acting legally, albeit in secret, he is afforded all of the rights as a prisoner of war if he id's himself as a US soldier in uniform, name, rank, serial number. A CIA agent [likely a contractor and not a gov't employee] is captured on a covert mission, he can be summarily executed, legally, on the spot for a number of reasons: conducting warfare in civilian clothes and not in uniform, espionage, piracy, etc. There is grey area, for instance, if soldiers ingress to an area in civilian clothes [or the enemy's uniform] then put on their own uniforms before conducting an attack, as the SS did in the Ardenne.

Josh Stern , February 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm

This article: Joseph Berger III. "Covert Action – Title 10, Title 50, and the Chain of Command." Joint Force Quarterly 67 (Q4 2012). http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/jfq/jfq-67/JFQ-67_32-39_Berger.pdf . is exactly on this topic. I take my definitions from there. The article does note that it takes some doing to resolve the different usages within CIA and DOD.

DH , February 20, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Sounds like the Koch Brothers network.

SerenityNow , February 20, 2017 at 2:52 pm

It seems to me that the Canadian "poet, academic and diplomat" author Peter Dale Scott should be included in any mention of "Deep State" Activities.

Here is an excerpt from his well foot-noted book:

"The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil and the Attack on U.S. Democracy"

He has many more interesting excerpts and articles on the same site :

Lambert Strether Post author , February 20, 2017 at 4:04 pm

I bought, read, and reviewed one of Scott's books; link in the first para .

NotSoSure , February 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Don't forget the final property of Deep State: "No objections to Goldman Sachs". At least in that one they see eye to eye with Trump.

ebr , February 20, 2017 at 3:12 pm

No Illuminati ? - but I jest.

It would be good if we could separate 'what is the deep state' and 'what are the factions of the deep state' and 'who belongs to the deep state' I suspect that Cambridge Analytics & their Facebook scraping could answer the question 'who belongs to the deep state' as they could they easier track a social network of people more loyal to each other than to the US Gov or the POTUS of the day. Asking the 'Deep State' to define itself could be an exercise in futility as members of the 'Deep State' likely mix ideology & the opportunity to make money in ways that blind them to the full implications of their actions.
Slate magazine today had an article up of a doctor who tried the revolving door and then wrote about it
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2017/02/going_undercover_through_washington_s_revolving_door.html
If you all need a fun book to read, try Interface by Neal Stephenson (written after Snow Crash and before Cryptonomicon)

UserFriendly , February 20, 2017 at 7:19 pm

IMO: Deep State: Anyone who will be in DC regardless of who is president and can still have some degree of power. They are sometimes well known people like Neera Tanden and sometimes they work in the IC. They are the people who no matter how many times they fuck up, destroy lives, lose a campaign, or completely fail at whatever task they are given, they can always count on a nice cushy paycheck and a new gig where they can [Family Blog} it up some more. The entire class of DC insiders who just can't fail down no matter what.

Carla , February 20, 2017 at 3:15 pm

A couple more books of interest: "National Security and Double Government" by Michael J Glennon (2014) and "The Deep State" by Mike Lofgren (2016).

ewmayer , February 20, 2017 at 6:33 pm

A PDF version of Glennon's book is freely available online at the Harvard National Security Journal website.

REDPILLED , February 20, 2017 at 3:16 pm

DEEP STATE READING LIST:

The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government by David Talbot

The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the attack on U.S. Democracy by Peter Dale Scott

The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government by Mike Lofgren

Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World by Tom Engelhardt and Glenn Greenwald

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky

The New Media Monopoly: A Completely Revised and Updated Edition With Seven New Chapters by Ben H. Bagdikian

They Rule: The 1% VS. Democracy by Paul Street

NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe (Contemporary Security Studies) by Daniele Ganser

An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King (Updated Edition) by William F. Pepper

The True Story of the Bilderberg Group by Daniel Estulin

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass

9/11 Ten Years Later: When State Crimes Against Democracy Succeed by David Ray Griffin (2011)

JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by Fletcher L. Prouty (2011)

The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World by Fletcher L. Prouty (2011)

Mounting Evidence: Why We Need A New Investigation Into 9/11 by Paul W. Rea (2011)

The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War by Peter Dale Scott (2013)

JFK-9/11: 50 Years of Deep State by Laurent Guyenot (2014)

All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power by Nomi Prins (2014)

The Orwellian Empire by Gilbert Mercier (2015)

The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War
by Marc Pilisuk (2015)

Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (American Empire Project) by David Vine (2015)

The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins (2016)

The End of the Republic and the Delusion of Empire by James Petras (2016)

Two web sites:

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth: http://www.ae911truth.org/

Patriots Question 9/11 – Responsible Criticism of the 9/11 Commission Report: http://patriotsquestion911.com/

Jim Haygood , February 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Excellent list.

Don't forget the late, great Chalmers Johnson, who coined the term blowback and left us with guides such as The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.

Lambert Strether Post author , February 20, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Chalmers Johnson is great.

Emma , February 20, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Another suggestion for your list of additional reading material:
https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:Democratic_State_v_Deep_State
It's a document/paper by Ola Tunander ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ola_Tunander ) who is quite familiar with the topic (see his experience/research of US/UK PSYOPs naval activities in Scandinavian waters ..).

Ulysses , February 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

Good book!!

dbk , February 20, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Yes, thanks for that list, much appreciated.

As long as we're on the subject, more or less, I have a question about Dark Money (I'm reading Mayer's book these days) and the Deep State: Do they overlap, or are they rivals? Or are their goals sometimes in sync and sometimes at odds with one another?

Another way of posing this question is this: If we assume that the President is not the preference of the Deep State, are we also to assume he was not the preference of Dark Money?

I'm having a hard time figuring out who's going after whom these days, and what short- and long-term objectives are being fought out, almost – but not quite – before our eyes.

Here's a case from a different field, education, which is the one I follow most closely. A blogger has recently identified the "blueprint" for the new Sec of Education to follow, laid out in a planning document by a Dark Money group which is below the radar (well, below my radar, anyway). It's pretty clear that the Sec is their cabinet member, but are there others? Were these appointments made in the form of favors called in? For what, though, if the Pres isn't part of this network?

The Sec of Education, it emerged in the course of contentious hearings, had contributed to no less than 23 Republican Senators' campaign war chests. What are we to conclude about them?

Anyway, here's the link to the post (link to the actual document through it – it was removed from the organization's own site, so is no longer available there):
http://www.eclectablog.com/2017/02/chilling-this-is-why-weve-been-trying-to-warn-the-usa-about-betsy-devos-destroying-the-wall-between-church-state.html

Josh Stern , February 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Another good book to mention, which plays a different role, is "Legacy of Ashes" by Tim Weiner. It covers a lot of CIA dirt – coups, assassinations, defying/lying to Presidents, etc. – but it is different because basically all of it is drawn from the CIA's own files. So it is purely historical and outside of any "conspiracy" controversy. The files are not complete. Richard Helms ordered the most incriminating ones destroyed in a giant purge in the early '70s – this is described in the book too. But what is there and was saved is often pretty dirty.

Scott Noble's film series is entertaining on free video: http://metanoia-films.org/counter-intelligence/

Persona au gratin , February 20, 2017 at 6:11 pm

To add: Family of Secrets : The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years, by Russ Baker (2010).

JCC , February 20, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Definitely a good list. I've read a few of these books and want to read more on the list. And don't forget any of Sheldon Wolin's recent books and essays. This one is 13 to 14 years old and still appropriate – https://www.thenation.com/article/inverted-totalitarianism/

He points out the basic structure, I think, in which following the money makes the most sense.

neo-realist , February 20, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Pepper's last book on the MLK assassination, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King would also be a worthy addition to the list.

Excellent discussion about it on this podcast.

https://kpfa.org/episode/guns-and-butter-june-29-2016/

ex-PFC Chuck , February 20, 2017 at 9:56 pm

I second your recommendation of Pepper's book.

Kim Kaufman , February 20, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Imo, a must read: Operation Gladio: The Unholy Alliance Between the Vatican, the CIA and the Mafia by Paul Williams. I think it's newer than most of the books above and connects a lot of dots.

peter , February 21, 2017 at 6:24 am

I've always throught that 'Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky' should be mandatory on high school curriculum as a speed course on intellectual self-defense.

nobody , February 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

Another for the list:

Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and America Made the Third Reich , by Guido Giacomo Preparata

nobody , February 21, 2017 at 10:24 am

Three essays by Charles Hollander: "Pynchon's Inferno," "Pynchon's Politics: The Presence of an Absence," and "Pynchon, JFK and the CIA: Magic Eye Views of The Crying of Lot 49."

PlutoniumKun , February 20, 2017 at 3:25 pm

I would put it simpler and define a 'Deep State' as a major (i.e. not minority rogue) element within the existing government structures (or quasi-government structures) which is willing to commit serious illegal acts or unauthorised acts of violence within the territory of the State to achieve its aims independent of the legally constituted government. In other words, I'd not define it by its structure or nature, but by what it actually does.

I'd define it this way to distinguish it from the sort of bureaucratic plotting which takes place within any large institution which finds itself led by someone who doesn't buy into the organisations core consensus. An example I would use would be Operation Gladio . If Operation Gladio had simply operated as designed, as a secretive military operation which government leaders may not have been aware of, then it was not an example of Deep State. But if, as alleged (but never proved), it carried out acts of terrorism and false flag operations with the specific aim of forcing elected governments to do what they didn't want to do, and this was part of a deliberate high level strategy (i.e. not just the act of a rogue element), then it would be an example of the Deep State at work within democratic western governments.

Put into contemporary terms, if the internal resistance to Trump takes the form of leaks, internal manoeuvres to slow down his agenda, etc., then that is 'normal' bureaucratic operations. If it takes the form of blackmail, false flag terrorist attacks, assassinations, etc., then it is the Deep State in operation.

Given that we know parts of the US and allied intelligence communities have for decades been involved in highly illegal operations around the world which has included torture, murder, blackmail and high level assassinations, is it really so far fetched that there is an element willing to do the same thing within the US?

Greg Taylor , February 20, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Defining "Deep State" by its actions is appealing. Would the military veto of Kerry-negotiated ceasefire in Syria count? Some officers acted without apparent authority and were not reprimanded as a result. Would this have transpired "within the territory of the State" and, thus, meet this definition? Should it?

PlutoniumKun , February 21, 2017 at 3:34 am

Thats an interesting question. There can be a fine line between bureaucratic infighting and actual illegal and anti-democratic actions. On my definition I would say 'no', its not Deep State in that the actions were insubordinate and dangerous, but they took place outside the US so arguably were more the result of a power struggle between government factions. It was the result I think of Obama's weakness as a leader, not an actual Deep State action.

Quentin , February 20, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Wouldn't any so-called Deep State be supported by factions in Congress? Sure. For instance, John McCain is in my view the epitome of the Deep State, one of its chief representatives, out in the open, a vanguard. The Clintons too, doubtless, though now outside government. If Congress gives no pushback, it bestows tacit/active agreement. Congress can rescind the privileges and power of all the organisations observers ascribe to the Deep State. So what's so mysterious? The notion of a Deep State's existence might just serve as a way to avoid responsibility, accountability, deny agency. Some shadowy bunch is running things, anything else new? On the other hand think tanks, contractors and subcontracters are less easily kept in place. Yet Congress can put an end to prisons for profit and erase one element of the deception, reduce the numbers if security clearances by defunding, etc. not things were are about to do. Eminence grise, one two buckle my shoe

sgt_doom , February 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm

McCain is too stupid. To better understand the Deep State, one must go a bit higher up the ladder.

Look into the membership of the Bretton Woods Committee - the lobbyist group for the international super-rich (www.brettonwoods.org), and the Group of Thirty (www.group30.org).

Once you understand these two groups, you'll be more aware.

Persona au gratin , February 20, 2017 at 6:05 pm

Loved the Group of Thirty pictorials on their home page. I counted exactly one genuine person of color (aka, "token negro") among the melange, with a handful of "half and halfs" of former British colonial heritage who of course have had time to assimilate and duly "see the light" as to the wisdom of continued perpetual white northern European supremacy. As for the few token Asians, they'll come around soon enough as well, although they ARE amazing students, aren't they?

Kim Kaufman , February 20, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Politicians are the puppets not the puppetmasters.

Steve H. , February 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm

We can avoid definite articles, but this is a defining article, and could become the definitive article.

The most curious fact is that the phrase is showing up in the msm. I take it as confirmation of Lambert's point: 'Factional conflict within the deep state exists!'

roger gathmann , February 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm

I always attributed the use of the word to Peter Dale Scott. The Turkish phrase seems to me more of a parallel usage than the place from which the phrase is derived. In my cursory reading, the phrase originated in conspiracy theory – particularly around the assassination of JFK. I am not using conspiracy theory in a disparaging sense, since I don't think a belief in conspiracies (which is legally recognized, and was long one of the great themes of political science, from Aristotle to Montesquieu) is per se disqualifying. Scott, in the preface to Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, has a good take on the prototype of the Deep State – in his theory, there is always a deep political practice that is unacknowledged officially. For instance, Tammany New York of the late 19th century operated, on the surface, according to the legal order with a mayor and a bureaucracy, etc., but in practice, it was run by an elaborate system of kickbacks and the investment of certain private players with enormous governmental power. The Deep State, under this p.o.v., shouldn't be confused with bureaucrats and those invested with public power, but instead, is a collaboration between such bureaucrats and those in private positions who retain unacknowledged public power. To quote Scott: " A deep political system or process is one which habitually resorts to decision making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those publicly sanctioned by law and society." By this definition, the endorsement of Trump by the National Border Patrol Council and the way in which, under Obama, certain Border Patrol officials sought to impede or change processes for taking in and giving due process to refugees are evidences of a deep political process.

Cat's paw , February 20, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Well, Scott's Deep Politics is published in 93. The Turkish term Deep State appears in print around 96 (maybe as late as 98–I'd have to look around for a cite). While the terms are relatively synonymous they are by no means equal. Best I can tell, Scott's starts using the word Deep State widely in the mid-2000's.

Additionally, as I've come to understand it the term did not originate in conspiracy theory. Rather the term was picked up by conspiracy theorists from Turkish journalism as a useful shorthand for the alleged (and hidden) events and actors they were trying to describe. Personally, not that it matters, I think it's important to keep the original usage/meaning in mind. 1. b/c it was coined to describe a real yet inexplicable event–not speculation or a theory of some conspiracy: i.e., the JFK assassination. Wherein agents of military, representative government, and criminality (along with a "bimbo" straight out of central casting) who have no legitimate business doing business were obviously doing business–but what kind of business? Who knows, that's why it's Deep. 2. The term itself can easily drift into being an amorphous, ill-defined, but overdetermined and overly unified signifier on the order of "cabal" which is likely to happen anyway now that its wound its way into common parlance.

I may just be quibbling, but I don't see deep political processes like Tammany or Border Patrol shenanigans as being of the same phenomena as the so-called Deep State. Deep State would usually imply elements of the military or, more especially, elements of the security apparatus (public and private) at times coordinating with, at other times interfering with, known political/institutional actors, corporate power, and criminal concerns that might involve money laundering or drug and human trafficking. As most here are noting, it is factional and adversarial–a network of several or many discreet entities that coordinate, align, and conflict according to shifting interests. It's paralegal, parapolitical, paraeconomic (or paramarket), and parainstitutional.

And all of that to say that such a definition is wholly contingent upon there being empirical and on-going phenomena which corresponds approximately to the term itself.

Yves Smith , February 20, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Lambert debunked Scott's sloppy and internally inconsistent analysis, per the link he provided at the very top of the post. That's why he kept arguing against its use.

DonCoyote , February 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Thanks Lambert. Here's a bit more grist for this particular mill/passages from the rabbit hole (depending on what set of metaphors you like)

1) Paranoia , a tabletop RPG game from the 80's. "The game's main setting is an immense, futuristic city called Alpha Complex. Alpha Complex is controlled by The Computer, a civil service AI construct The Computer employs Troubleshooters, whose job is to go out, find trouble, and shoot it. Player characters are usually Troubleshooters The player characters frequently receive mission instructions from the Computer that are incomprehensible, self-contradictory, or obviously fatal if adhered to, and side-missions (such as Mandatory Bonus Duties) that conflict with the main mission each player character is generally an unregistered mutant and a secret society member (which are both termination offenses in Alpha Complex), and has a hidden agenda separate from the group's goals, often involving stealing from or killing teammates."

So: big on non-monolithic, also big on double/triple identities (troubleshooter/mutant/secret society), which we associate with the intelligence agencies, but also with revolving door politicians/lobbyists.

2) The "incomprehensible/self-contradictory/conflict with the main mission" made me think of seven/eleven/twelve (depending on scholarship/personal preference) chess, most recently attributed to BHO–that is, actions who on the surface don't seem to make sense given the situation, but which conspiracy theorists/true believers think are actually directed at a future/buried/hidden/alternative problem. Although this would seem to fit better with at least a semi-monolithic Deep Society, because it is strategy, and a non-monolithic Deep Society would presumably be less organized/more tactically inclined.

3) The Final Reflection , and especially the Klingon "equivalent" of chess, klin zha , and it's reflective version. Reflective klin zha is played with only one set of pieces. "The Reflective is not so much a variation but a strategic approach to an otherwise tactical game Once set up, the first to place is also the first to move. During each turn, the player chooses one piece, making all others the enemy. The player who captures the Goal on his turn is the victor." So I kill a piece protecting (next to) the goal, but on your turn you now control that piece, use it to capture the goal, and beat me.

So: a smaller (but still non-monolithic) Deep State, with a large unitary set of "pieces" (the non-Deep State?). Again, while there are two sides playing, they are both using the same pieces to try to do the same thing, and they only have "control of the board" some of the time.

So my takeaways: non-monolithic (and especially more than two sides), partial control (whether because of multiple/hidden identities or non-monolithic is unknown), and given the pathetic state of most of our media, most motives are "hidden", at least from casual view (cf for the media's "hidden" motives in today's links

sgt_doom , February 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Globalists against (non-deep state capitalists) economic nationalists?

susan the other , February 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Here's a reminder (from NC a while back). It is a waste of time to deliberate over the existence of the deep state. What's important is participating in a state – a society – that is well run; where inequality is always exposed; where propaganda is always obvious. It's impossible to define "the deep state." I think Lambert was right when he said the definition of the deep state always turned out to be a big hairball.

hemeantwell , February 20, 2017 at 8:15 pm

I agree with the spirit of what you're saying, but try this: I think that factional conflict, occurring during periods of systemic strain/crisis, is what leads otherwise contented and inertial sections of the state to act in ways that require concealment, either of actor or action. Reading a bit from the Glennon book linked above, wherein he makes much of Bagehot, reminded me of how the French political system used to be described as having something like a bureaucratic ballast keeping the ship of state from capsizing. That sort of conservative, continuity-maintaining function can grow claws, and that's what we're seeing now, particularly when US elites are trying to cobble a revised foreign/imperial policy to deal with China and Russia and the president is having trouble intoning the verities of US exceptionalism.

barrisj , February 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Well, that lengthy disquisition seems to indeed "validate" – as it were – the "deep state" terminology if not its epistemological derivation(s) at the very least, readers keeping to the various formulae offered for "correct usage" won't be whacked upside their haids by the moderators if the term appears in a comment.
Cheers.

Michael , February 20, 2017 at 4:43 pm

My first encounter with the idea of the Deep State was from Mike Lofgren's 2014 essay, "Anatomy of the Deep State", based upon his 25 year career as a Capitol Hill staffer. Here is the link:

http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep-state/

JTMcPhee , February 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Maybe worth a footnote or something? Is Charlie Wilson "deep state" in any way? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Wilson_(Texas_politician) And his apparently occasional bed partner, Joanne Herring? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanne_Herring

How about those little quiet gatherings of the Koch-convened sort, that attract so little "press" attention, at Palm Springs and etcetera? Is the "deep state" limited to Great Game and globalism, or is the long steady erosion of even the myth of "democracy" and the transformation of that word into its opposite, via the efforts of all those very small number of people who profit from killing public education and regulatory capture and ascension to elected positions in everything from little town councils and school boards to state legislatures and statehouses, constitute part of what might qualify as some sort of "deep state?" ALEC is not on everyone's tongue, after all, but the power the people in it exert, through long application, sure forks over a whole lot of what maybe most people would think of as "the general welfare" and "public goods." IS Davos "over?" Is Bilderburg?

Interesting how many of what would seem to me to be deep-staters are tied to Afghanistan, and of course Israel. One might even posit the Israelites have their own deep state, that has interlocking membership with players and factions and elements of the unelected and maybe public but mostly invisible thing that the phrase calls up in the minds of many of us.

Having named the demon, if there is ever any agreement on a name and frame, does that give us mopes any power over the demon, or just another opening for its