|May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)|
|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
|News||Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism||Recommended books||Recommended Links||Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism||Anglican Church on danger of neo||Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult|
|Financial Crisis of 2008 as the Crisis of Neoliberalism||Gangster Capitalism: The United States and the Globalization of Organized Crime||The Great Transformation||Psychological Warfare and the New World Order||Jeremy Grantham On The Fall Of Civilizations||Alternatives to Neo-liberalism||Globalization of Corporatism|
|Elite Theory||Compradors||Fifth column||Color revolutions||Anti-globalization movement||Right to protect||If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths|
|Supply Side or Trickle down economics||Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism||America’s Financial Oligarchy||Inverted Totalitarism||Disaster capitalism||Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA||Neoliberalism and inequality|
|Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime||Harvard Mafia||Friedman --founder of Chicago school of deification of market||Republican Economic Policy||Monetarism fiasco||Small government smoke screen||The Decline of the Middle Class|
|Libertarian Philosophy||Media domination strategy||Neoliberalism Bookshelf||John Kenneth Galbraith||History of Casino Capitalism||Humor||Etc|
For thousand years various religions attempted to suppress the excessive greed in men, as this is a prerequisite for stability and functioning of society. In this respect neoliberalism is really Devil Creed as it consider greed to be a virtue ("greed is good"). In other words from the point of view of Christian theology neoliberalism is nothing but a flavor of Satanism (Wikipedia):
Its core beliefs revolves around individualism, egotism, Epicureanism, self-deification and self-preservation, and propagate a worldview of natural law, materialism, Social Darwinism, Lex Talionis ("eye for an eye"), and mankind as animals"
... ... ...
It is atheistic philosophy which asserts that "each individual is his or her own god and there is no room for any other God. "
Neoliberalism explicitly rejects the key ideas of Christianity -- the idea of ultimate justice for all sinners. The idea that a human being should struggle to create justice in this world while realizing that the ultimate solution is beyond his grasp.
As Reinhold Niebuhr noted a world where there is one center of power and authority (financial oligarchy under neoliberalism) "preponderant and unchallenged... its world rule almost certainly violate basic standard of justice". The same is true about globalization as
"no world government could possibly possess for generations to come, the moral and political authority to redistribute power between nations to the degree in which highly cohesive national communities have accomplished this end in recent centuries".
He warned that
"Lacking a deep understanding of the complexities of national aspirations and cultural differences, US foreign policy often lingers between two extremes of offering economic advantage to secure cooperation or overcoming intransigence through military force".
The problem with "greed is good" slogan it cultivates cruelty toward other people, As Pope Francis noted "To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others ... a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion ..."
Here are selected quotes from Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013
... Such an [neoliberal] economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.
Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
No to the new idolatry of money
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.
No to the inequality which spawns violence
59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.
60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
Its key ethical principle of neoliberalism (only for the elite, never for prols or middle class) is "Greed is good" (as Gordon Gekko the personage of Wall Street (1987 film) quipped in the film). This strata of people (which starts on the level of CEO of major corporation) who preach those principle is assumed to be Übermensch. People below are considered to be "under humans", or "inferior humans" (Untermenschen)
According to Wikipedia, the inspiration for the "Greed is good" speech seems to have come from two sources. The first part, where Gekko complains that the company's management owns less than three percent of its stock, and that it has too many vice presidents, is taken from similar speeches and comments made by Carl Icahn about companies he was trying to take over. The defense of greed is a paraphrase of the May 18, 1986, commencement address at the UC Berkeley's School of Business Administration, delivered by arbitrageur Ivan Boesky (who himself was later convicted of insider-trading charges), in which he said, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself".
As Pope Francis notes glorification of greed is socially destructive. While in all previous "classic" religions (including such social religion as Marxism) excessive greed was morally condemned, neoliberalism employed a slick trick of adopting "reverse", Nietzschean Ubermench morality. Here is a relevant quote from his Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
Like Bolshevism and National Socialism before neoliberalism needs a huge propaganda machine comparable with the propaganda machines of Bolsheviks and the Third Reich. Neoliberal ethics is pushed through the throat by hundreds of radio stations, cable TV channels (with Fox as the most prominent stooge of neoliberal propaganda), magazines and newspapers (Wall Street Journal, NYT, etc). This ethics is presented as a specific philosophy of Randism which is an ultimate expression of neoliberal ethics.
Here analogy with Bolshevism became even more stark. When you think about the current Republican Party, you can distinguish a small circle of ideologues consisting by-and-large of Ayn Rand followers. In a way it reminds the original Ann Rand circle called "collective", which like Bolshevik's core consisted of Jewish intellectuals, such as Greenspan. And that is not a positive characteristic. Murray Rothbard, a member of Rand's circle for several months in 1958, described the Randroids as “posturing, pretentious, humorless, robotic, nasty, simple-minded....dazzlingly ignorant people.” (Sex, Ayn Rand and the Republican Party)
Like in Marxism the view of other classes (in this case lower classes) by this new alliance is hostile. They are parasites, moochers, etc (exactly like capitalist class in Marxism), all feeding from the state, which in turn deprives "masters of the university" the spoils of their ingenious activity. Neoliberalism professes open and acute hostility to "lower classes", as if modeled on Bolsheviks hatred of "capitalists". This hate (like hate in general) paradoxically gives neoliberalism a driving force: as Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen quipped: "Some people are molded by their admirations, others by their hostilities."
And this Ubermench feature of neoliberalism attracts young people in the same way they were attracted to national socialism with its hate of racially inferior nations. In a way neoliberalism converted the concept of "Arian race" into the concept of morally and intellectually superior transnational elite.
Apr 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.comAdam Eran, April 17, 2017 at 1:31 pmJagger , April 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm
Sorry, as a church-attending person, I object. Religion has de-legitimized itself with its hypocrisy. One example: Jerry Falwell, a "battler" against abortion actually supported it before his plutocratic masters told him it was a wedge issue.
Positions on the wedge issues (abortion, the gays) are actually difficult to prove with scripture–not that it has the kind of authority it did before 35,000 variations on old manuscripts were discovered in the 17th century. (Marcus Borg is the scholar to consult here).
Meanwhile, the big issues - e.g. covetousness, forbidden very explicitly in one of the 10 commandments - is an *industry* in the U.S.
I'll believe these evangelicals are guided by the bible when I see them picketing Madison Avenue for promoting covetousness, or when I see them lobbying for a debt jubilee.
Michael Hudso says Jesus' first appearance in the Jerusalem temple was to announce just such a Jubilee Boy is that ever ignored!hunkerdown , April 17, 2017 at 5:00 pm
Your correlating the hypocritical actions of the leadership with the ideals of a religion. Corrupt leadership may delegitimize those individuals but does not delegitimize the ideals of the religion. Is the ideal of America totally dependent on the actions of its political leadership? Personally, I think there is far more to America than just the president and congress whether corrupt or not.Jagger , April 17, 2017 at 7:57 pm
Ideals only serve in practice to create primordial debts, buttress power differentials, and enable selective malfeasance. I fail to see the social utility of any of those products and believe humanity would be better off repudiating them and their vectors. Disease is not a public good.JTMcPhee , April 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm
Well I am using this definition of ideal: "a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation". I guess you are welcome to your definition.
I think "America" is maybe a shibboleth of some sort, but there is not a dam' thing left of the stuff I was taught and brought to believe, as a young person, Boy Scout, attendee at the Presbyterian Westminster Fellowship, attentive student of Mrs. Thompson and Mr. Fleming in Civics, Social Studies and US History classes, and all that. I was well enough steeped in that stuff to let "patriotism" overcome better sense, strongly enough to enlist in the Army in 1966.
Maybe you think "The Birth of a Nation" captures the essence of our great country?
What is or are the ideal(s) of "America?" Get rich quick, violence on all fronts, anti-intellectualism, imperial project across the planet? "Democracy?" If you trot that out as a "feature", you better explain what you mean, with some specificity. More to America? If youtube is any guide, try searching it for "syria combat" or "redneck" or "full auto," or all the really sick racist and extreme stuff - a pretty sorry place. But we all recite the Pledge so dutifully, don't we? and feel a thrill as the F-22s swoop over the football stadium?
Jan 08, 2017 | www.amazon.com
Igor Biryukov on November 1, 2012A cautionary tale
" In America there was once a popular but simplistic image of the Soviet Russia as the Evil Empire destined to fall, precisely because it was unfree and therefore evil. Ronald Reagan who advocated it also once said that the Russian people do not have a word for "freedom". Not so fast -- says Alexei Yurchak. He was born in the Soviet Union and became a cultural anthropologist in California. He employs linguistic structural analysis in very interesting ways. For him, the Soviet Union was once a stable, entrenched, conservative state and the majority of Russian people -- actually myself included -- thought it would last forever. But the way people employ language and read ideologies can change. That change can be undetectable at first, and then unstoppable.
Yurchak's Master-idea is that the Soviet system was an example of how a state can prepare its own demise in an invisible way. It happened in Russia through unraveling of authoritative discourse by Gorbachev's naive but well-meaning shillyshallying undermining the Soviet system and the master signifiers with which the Soviet society was "quilted" and held together. According to Yurchak "In its first three or four years, perestroika was not much more than a deconstruction of Soviet authoritative discourse". This could a cautionary tale for America as well because the Soviet Union shared more features with American modernity than the Americans themselves are willing to admit.
The demise of the Soviet Union was not caused by anti-modernity or backwardness of Russian people. The Soviet experiment was a cousin of Western modernity and shared many features with the Western democracies, in particular its roots in the Enlightenment project. The Soviet Union wasn't "evil" in late stages 1950-1980s. The most people were decent. The Soviet system, despite its flaws, offered a set of collective values. There were many moral and ethical aspects to Soviet socialism, and even though those values have been betrayed by the state, they were still very important to people themselves in their lives. These values were: solidarity, community, altruism, education, creativity, friendship and safety. Perhaps they were incommensurable with the "Western values" such as the rule of law and freedom, but for Russians they were the most important. For many "socialism" was a system of human values and everyday realities which wasn't necessarily equivalent of the official interpretation provided by the state rhetoric.
Yurchak starts with a general paradox within the ideology of modernity: the split between ideological enunciation, which reflects the theoretical ideals of the Enlightenment, and ideological rule, which are the practical concerns of the modern state's political authority. In Soviet Union the paradox was "solved" by means of dogmatic political closure and elevation of Master signifier [Lenin, Stalin, Party] but it doesn't mean the Western democracies are immune to totalitarian temptation to which the Soviet Union had succumbed. The vast governmental bureaucracy and Quango-state are waiting in the shadows here as well, may be ready to appropriate discourse.
It is hard to agree with everything in his book. But it is an interesting perspective. I wish Alexei Yurchak would explore more implications of Roman Jacobson's "poetic function of language" and its connection to Russian experiment in communism. It seems to me, as a Russian native speaker, that Russians put stress on form, sound, and poetics. The English-language tradition prioritizes content and meaning. Can we speak of "Hermeneutics" of the West versus "Poetics" of Russia? Perhaps the tragedy of Russia was under-development of Hermeneutics? How does one explain the feeble attempts to throw a light of reason into the loopy texts and theories of Marks, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin? Perhaps the Russians read it as a kind of magical text, a poetry, a bad poetry -- not Pasternak or Blok -- but kind of poetry nevertheless?
Nils Gilman on April 23, 2014
A brilliant account of the interior meaning of everyday life for ordinary soviet citizens
Just loved this -- a brilliant study of how everyday citizens (as opposed to active supporters or dissidents) cope with living in a decadent dictatorship, through strategies of ignoring the powerful, focusing on hyperlocal socialities, treating ritualized support for the regime as little more than an annoying chore, and withdrawal into subcultures. Yurchak demolishes the view that the only choices available to late Soviet citizens were either blind support (though his accounts of those figures who chose this path are deeply chilling) or active resistance, while at the same time showing how many of the purported values of Soviet socialism (equality, education, friendship, community, etc) were in fact deeply held by many in the population. While his entire account is a tacit meditation on the manifold unpleasantnesses of living under the Soviet system, Yurchak also makes clear that it was not all unpleasantness and that indeed for some people (such as theoretical physicists) life under Soviet socialism was in some ways freer than for their peers in the West. All of which makes the book function (sotto voce) as an explanation for the nostalgia that many in Russia today feel for Soviet times - something inexplicable to those who claim that Communism was simply and nothing but an evil.
The theoretical vehicle for Yurchak's investigation is the divergence between the performative rather than the constative dimensions of the "authoritative discourse" of the late Soviet regime. One might say that his basic thesis is that, for most Soviet people, the attitude toward the authorities was "They pretend to make statements that corresponded to reality, and we pretend to believe them." Yurchak rightly observes that one can neither interpret the decision to vote in favor of an official resolution or to display a pro-government slogan at a rally as being an unambiguous statement of regime support, nor assume that these actions were directly coerced. People were expected to perform these rituals, but they developed "a complexly differentiating relationship to the ideological meanings, norms, and values" of the Soviet state. "Depending on the context, they might reject a certain meaning, norm or value, be apathetic about another, continue actively subscribing to a third, creatively reinterpret a fourth, and so on." (28-29)
The result was that, as the discourse of the late Soviet period ossified into completely formalist incantations (a process that Yurchak demonstrates was increasingly routinized from the 1950s onwards), Soviet citizens participated in these more for ritualistic reasons than because of fervent belief, which in turn allowed citizens to fill their lives with other sources of identity and meaning. Soviet citizens would go to cafes and talk about music and literature, join a rock band or art collective, take silly jobs that required little effort and thus left room for them to pursue their "interests." The very drabness of the standardizations of Soviet life therefore created new sorts of (admittedly constrained) spaces within which people could define themselves and their (inter)subjective meanings. All of which is to say that the book consists of a dramatic refutation of the "totalitarianism" thesis, demonstrating that despite the totalitarian ambitions of the regime, citizens were continually able to carve out zones of autonomy and identification that transcended the ambitions of the Authoritative discourse.
Jan 08, 2017 | www.zerohedge.comSubmitted by Bryce McBride via Mises Canada,
This past November, the filmmaker Adam Curtis released the documentary Hypernormalisation.
The term comes from Alexei Yurchak's 2006 book Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. The book argues that over the last 20 years of the Soviet Union, everyone knew the system wasn't working, but as no one could imagine any alternative, politicians and citizens were resigned to pretending that it was. Eventually this pretending was accepted as normal and the fake reality thus created was accepted as real, an effect which Yurchak termed "hypernormalisation."
Looking at events over the past few years, one wonders if our own society is experiencing the same phenomenon. A contrast with what economic policy-makers term "normalisation" is instructive.
Normalisation is what has historically happened in the wake of financial crises. During the booms that precede busts, low interest rates encourage people to make investments with borrowed money. However, even after all of the prudent investment opportunities have been taken, people continue borrowing to invest in projects and ideas that are unlikely to ever generate profits.
Eventually, the precariousness of some of these later investments becomes apparent. Those that arrive at this realization early sell up, settle their debts and pocket profits, but their selling often triggers a rush for the exits that bankrupts companies and individuals and, in many cases, the banks which lent to them.
In the normalisation which follows (usually held during 'special' bank holidays) auditors and accountants go through financial records and decide which companies and individuals are insolvent (and should therefore go bankrupt) and which are merely illiquid (and therefore eligible for additional loans, pledged against good collateral). In a similar fashion, central bank officials decide which banks are to close and which are to remain open. Lenders made freshly aware of bankruptcy risk raise (or normalise) interest rates and in so doing complete the process of clearing bad debt out of the system. Overall, reality replaces wishful thinking.
While this process is by no means pleasant for the people involved, from a societal standpoint bankruptcy and higher interest rates are necessary to keep businesses focused on profitable investment, banks focused on prudent lending and overall debt levels manageable.
By contrast, the responses of policy-makers to 2008's financial crisis suggest the psychology of hypernormalisation. Quantitative easing (also known as money printing) and interest rate suppression (to zero percent and, in Europe, negative interest rates) are not working and will never result in sustained increases in productivity, income and employment. However, as our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions, they have to pretend that they are working.
To understand why our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions such as interest rate normalization and banking reform one only needs to understand that while such policies would lay the groundwork for a sustained recovery, they would also expose many of the world's biggest banks as insolvent. As the financial sector is a powerful constituency (and a generous donor to political campaigns) the banks get the free money they need, even if such policies harm society as a whole.
As we live in a democratic society, it is necessary for our leaders to convince us that there are no other solutions and that the monetary policy fixes of the past 8 years have been effective and have done no harm.
Statistical chicanery has helped understate unemployment and inflation while global cooperation has served to obscure the currency depreciation and loss of confidence in paper money (as opposed to 'hard money' such as gold and silver) that are to be expected from rampant money printing.
Looking at unemployment figures first, while the unemployment rate is currently very low, the number of Americans of working age not in the labour force is currently at an all-time high of over 95 million people. Discouraged workers who stop looking for work are no longer classified as unemployed but instead become economically inactive, but clearly many of these people really should be counted as unemployed. Similarly, while government statistical agencies record inflation rates of between one and two percent, measures that use methodologies used in the past (such as John Williams' Shadowstats measures) show consumer prices rising at annual rates of 6 to 8 percent. In addition, many people have noticed what has been termed 'shrinkflation', where prices remain the same even as package sizes shrink. A common example is bacon, which used to be sold by the pound but which is now commonly sold in 12 ounce slabs.
Meanwhile central banks have coordinated their money printing to ensure that no major currency (the dollar, the yen, the euro or the Chinese renminbi) depreciates noticeably against the others for a sustained period of time. Further, since gold hit a peak of over $1900 per ounce in 2011, central banks have worked hard to keep the gold price suppressed through the futures market. On more than a few occasions, contracts for many months worth of global gold production have been sold in a matter of a few minutes, with predictable consequences for the gold price. At all costs, people's confidence in and acceptance of the paper (or, more commonly, electronic) money issued by central banks must be maintained.
Despite these efforts people nonetheless sense that something is wrong. The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump to the White House represent to a large degree a rejection of the fake reality propagated by the policymaking elite. Increasingly, people recognize that a financial system dependent upon zero percent interest rates is not sustainable and are responding by taking their money out of the banks in favour of holding cash or other forms of wealth. In the face of such understanding and resistance, governments are showing themselves willing to use coercion to enforce acceptance of their fake reality.
The recent fuss over 'fake news' seems intended to remove alternative news and information sources from a population that, alarmingly for those in charge, is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is . Just this month U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act into law. United States, meet your Ministry of Truth.
Meanwhile, in India last month, people were told that the highest denomination bills in common circulation would be 'demonetized' or made worthless as of December 30th. People were allowed to deposit or exchange a certain quantity of the demonetized bills in banks but many people who had accumulated their savings in rupee notes (often the poor who did not have bank accounts) have been ruined. Ostensibly, this demonetization policy was aimed at curbing corruption and terrorism, but it is fairly obvious that its real objective was to force people into the banking system and electronic money. Unsurprisingly, the demonetization drive was accompanied by limits on the quantity of gold people are allowed to hold.
Despite such attempts to influence our thinking and our behaviour, we don't need to resign ourselves to pretending that our system is working when it so clearly isn't. Looking at the eventual fate of the Soviet Union, it should be clear that the sooner we abandon the drift towards hypernormalisation and start on the path to normalisation the better off we will be.DontGive Jan 7, 2017 9:03 PMDoña K TBT or not TBT Jan 8, 2017 12:05 AM
CB's printing is not a bug. It's a feature.
Long debt bitches.Luc X. Ifer TBT or not TBT Jan 8, 2017 12:06 AM
I did not learn anything from that movie. One man's collage of events.
We just take revenge on the system by living well.HRH Feant Jan 7, 2017 9:06 PM
Correct. I seen with sufficient level of comprehending consciousness the last 5 years of it - copy-cat perfection with the current times in US(S)A, terrifying how similar the times are as it is a clear indication of the times to come.malek HRH Feant Jan 7, 2017 11:40 PM
Great article. I think it does describe the USSA at the present time. Everything works until it doesn't.navy62802 Jan 7, 2017 9:14 PM
The funny thing is I had almost identical thoughts just a few days ago. But I was thinking in comparison more of East Germany's last 20 years before they imploded - peacefully, because not a single non-leading-rank person believed any of the official facts anymore (and therefore they even simply ignored orders from high command to crush the Leipzig Monday demonstrations.)christiangustafson Jan 7, 2017 9:17 PM
I'm ok with a world led by Trump and Putin.Eeyores Enigma Jan 7, 2017 9:17 PM
I was just thinking that the whole economic world sees us in a sort of equilibrium at the moment. There will be some adjustments under Trump, but nothing serious. We shall see ..Manipuflation Jan 7, 2017 9:22 PM
Repeat something often enough and it becomes hypernormalised. With that in mind the number of eyes/minds/hits is all that matters. This has been known and exploited for hundreds of years.
That a handful of individuals can have a monopoly over the single most important aspect of whether you live or die is the ultimate success of hypernormalisation. CENTRAL BANKING.wisebastard Jan 7, 2017 9:25 PM
Mrs.M is of the last Soviet generation. Her .gov papers say so. There is never a day when I don't hear something soviet. She still has a her red pioneer ribbon. I have tried to encourage her to write about it on ZH so that we know. Do you think she will? No. She's says that we can't understand what it was like no matter what she says.
Mrs.M was born in 1981 so she has lived an interesting life. I married her in 2004 after much paperwork and $15000. I wanted that female because we got along quite well. She is who I needed with me this and I would do it all over again.
Needless to say, I do not support any aggression towards Russia. And to my fellow Americans, I advise caution because the half you are broke ass fucks and are already ropes with me.
That is the only news anyone needs to know.GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 9:34 PM
the monkeys made me think ZH should make a post with monkeys evolving into humans that then de-evolve into Paul KrugmanBabaLooey GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 11:05 PM
I recall the joke from the old Soviet Union: "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work." In the USSA these last few years, Barry pretends to tell the truth. Libtards pretend to believe him.max_leering GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 11:35 PM
Wrong. They believe him. Look at the gaggle of libtard/shiteaters at Soetero's Friday night bash at the White House.
Fucks. ALL of them.Salzburg1756 Jan 7, 2017 9:35 PM
Geezer, I'd change only one thing... I believe libtards bought Barry's bullshit hook, line and sinker... it was the rest of us who not-so-subtly were saying WTF!!!JustPastPeacefield Jan 7, 2017 10:06 PM
White Nationalists have lived in the real world for decades; the rest of you need to catch up.evokanivo JustPastPeacefield Jan 7, 2017 10:23 PM
Reagan used to quip that in the Soviet Union, the people pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. We're not the Soviet Union, but we have become a farce. Next stop - the fall. Followed by chaos, then onto something new. The new elites will just be the old elites, well, the ones that escape the noose.jm Jan 7, 2017 10:14 PM
what noose? you think joe 6p is going to identify the culprits? i think not. "no one saw this coming!!!" is still ringing in my ears from the last time.wwxx jm Jan 8, 2017 6:08 AM
I really don't know how people can keep on getting clicks with this tired crap. It didn't happen in 2008 just get over it. The delusional people are the people that think the world is going to end tomorrow.EndOfDayExit Jan 7, 2017 10:17 PM
Maybe the world has ended, for 95 million? I haven't paid a single Fed income tax dollar in over 8 yrs., for a specific reason, I refuse to support the new normal circus, and quite frankly I would have gotten out during the GWBush regime, but I couldn't afford to at the time.
wwxxBingoBoggins EndOfDayExit Jan 8, 2017 6:15 AM
The real ugly problem with the Soviet Union is that whatever they broke it into isn't working well either. Same with the USSA. No one really knows what to do. Feudalism would probably work, but it is not possible to go back to it. My bet is that we will end up with some form of socialism, universal income and whatever else, just because there is no good alternative for dealing with lots and lots of people who are not needed anymore.NAV Jan 7, 2017 10:23 PM
Do you mean useless eaters or fuckers deserving the guillotine? Russia's problem post collapse was the good ol' USSA and its capitalist, plunderer banking mavens.Yen Cross Jan 7, 2017 11:11 PM
The Soviet Union pushed its old culture to near destruction but failed to establish a new and better culture to replace it, writes Angelo M. Codevilla in "The Rise of Political Correctness," and as a result the U.S.S.R fell, just as America's current "politically correct" and dysfunctional "progressive utopia" will implode.
As such, Codevilla would agree that the US population " is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is."
As for the U.S.S.R., "this step turned out instead to destroy the very basis of Soviet power," writes Codevilla. "[C]ontinued efforts to force people to celebrate the party's ersatz reality, to affirm things that they know are not true and to deny others they know to be true – to live by lies – requires breaking them , reducing them to a sense of fearful isolation, destroying their self-esteem and their capacity to trust others. George Orwell's novel 1984 dramatized this culture war's ends and means : nothing less than the substitution of the party's authority for the reality conveyed by human senses and reason. Big Brother's agent, having berated the hapless Winston for preferring his own views to society's dictates, finished breaking his spirit by holding up four fingers and demanding that Winston acknowledge seeing five.
"Thus did the Soviet regime create dysfunctional, cynical, and resentful subjects. Because Communism confused destruction of 'bourgeois culture' with cultural conquest, it won all the cultural battles while losing its culture war long before it collapsed politically. As Communists identified themselves in people's minds with falsehood and fraud, people came to identify truth with anything other than the officials and their doctrines. Inevitably, they also identified them with corruption and privation. A nd so it was that, whenever the authorities announced that the harvest had been good, the people hoarded potatoes; and that more and more people who knew nothing of Christianity except that the authorities had anathematized it, started wearing crosses."
And if you want to see the ruling class's culture war in action today in America, pick up the latest issues of Vogue Magazine or O, The Oprah Magazine with their multitude of role reversals between whites and minorities. Or check out the latest decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court forcing people to acknowledge that America is not a Christian nation, or making it "more difficult for men, women and children to exist as a family" or demanding via law "that their subjects join them in celebrating the new order that reflects their identity."
As to just how far the ruling class has gone to serve the interests and proclivities of its leaders and to reject the majority's demand for representation, Codevilla notes, "In 2012 no one would have thought that defining marriage between one man and one woman, as enshrined in U.S. law, would brand those who do so as motivated by a culpable psychopathology called 'homophobia,' subject to fines and near-outlaw status. Not until 2015-16 did it occur to anyone that requiring persons with male personal plumbing to use public bathrooms reserved for men was a sign of the same pathology
"On the wholesale level, it is a war on civilization waged to indulge identity politics."
http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-rise-of-political-correctness/daveO Yen Cross Jan 8, 2017 12:56 AM
This article is so flawed! People[impoverished] aren't trying to jump over a wall patrolled by guards into Mexico -YET. Tyler, why do you repost shit like this?MASTER OF UNIVERSE Jan 7, 2017 11:28 PM
That's because the Yankees, fleeing high taxes, can move to the sunbelt states w/o freezing. The USA went broke in 2008. Mexico got a head start by 22 years when oil prices collapsed in '86.Yen Cross Jan 7, 2017 11:53 PM
The only way to normalize banking in a contemporary banking paradigm of QE Infinity & Beyond is to start over again without the bankers & accountants that knowingly bet the ranch for a short term gain at the expense of long term profitability. In Japan an honourable businessman/CEO would suicide for bringing this kind of devastation to the company shareholders.
In America they don't give a shit because it is always someone else other than the CEO that takes the fall. 08 was proof that America is not equipped to participate in a Multinational & Multipolar world of business & investment in business. America can't get along in business in this world anymore. Greed has rendered America unemployable as a major market participant in a Globally run network of businesses.
America is the odd man out these days even though the next POTUS promises better management from a business perspective. Whilst the Mafia Cartel bosses trust TrumpO's business savvy the rest of the planet Earth does not.Manipuflation Yen Cross Jan 8, 2017 1:23 AM
Are you kidding me??? >
Hypernormalisation I think we need a few MOAR syllables connected by fake verb/adjective < reverse /destruction- of the English language.BingoBoggins Jan 8, 2017 8:12 AM
Yen, I have a bottle of Bacardi rum here. It was on sale. Should I open it up? We could become experts....well at least I could.:-)To Hell In A Ha... Jan 8, 2017 7:06 AM
A liberal friend laid this movie on me to show me why he supported Hillary. A smart cookie, a PHd teaching English in Japan. A Khazarnazi Jew, he even spent time in Kyiv, Ukraine pre-coup, only mingling with "poets and writers". He went out of his way to tell me how bad the Russians were, informed as he was prior to the rejection of the EU's usurious offer.
He even quite dramatically pulled out the Anti-Semite card. I had to throw Banderas in his face and the US sponsored regime. I had respect for this guy and his knowledge but he just - could - not - let - go the cult assumptions. I finally came to believe Liberal Arts educators are victims of inbred conditioning. In retaliation, he wanted to somehow prove Putin a charlatan or villian and Trump his proxie.
This, after I'd point out his evasion and deflection every time I addressed his bias and belief in the MSM propaganda mantras of racism, misogyny, xenophobia - all the usual labeling bullshit up to insinuating Russia hacked the election. Excerpts from a correspondence wherein I go full asshole on the guy follow. Try and make sense of it if you watch this trash:
HyperNormalization 50:29 Not Ronald Rayguns, or Quadaffi plays along. Say what? They're, i.e. Curtis, assuming what Q thought?
1:15 USSR collapses. No shit. Cronyism in a centralized organization grown too large is inevitable it seems. So the premise has evolved to cultural/societal "management". Right. USSR collapses but let's repeat the same mistakes 'cause "it's different this time". We got us a computer!
Then Fink the failed Squid (how do Squids climb the corporate ladder?) builds one and programs historical data to,,,, forecast? I heard a' this. Let me guess. He couldn't avoid bias, making his models fallacious. Whoops. Well, he does intend to manipulate society, or was that not the goal? Come again? Some authority ran with it and ... captured an entire nation's media, conspired with other like-minded sycophants and their mysterious masters to capture an election by ... I may be getting ahead of myself.
Oh, boy, I have an inkling of where this is going. Perceptions modified by the word, advanced by the herd, in order to capture a vulnerable society under duress, who then pick sides, fool themselves in the process, miss the three hour tour never to live happily ever after on a deserted isle because they eschew (pick a bias here from the list provided). The one you think the "others" have, 'cause, shit, we're above it all, right? " Are we not entertained" is probably not the most appropriate question here.
Point being, Curtis, the BBC documentarian, totally negates the reality of pathological Imperialism as has been practiced by the West over the last half century, causing so many of the effects he so casually eludes to in the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Russia, the US and elsewhere. Perhaps the most blatant is this; Curtis asserts that Trump "defeated journalism" by rendering its fact-checking abilities irrelevant. Wikipedia He Hypernormalizes the very audience that believes itself to be enlightened. As for my erstwhile friend, the fucker never once admitted all the people *killed* for the ideals he supported. I finally blew him off for good.jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 7:44 AM
I've been using the term Hypernormalisation to describe aspects of western society for the last 15 years, before Adam Curtis's brilliant BBC documentary Hypernormalisation , afflicting western society and particularly politics. There are lies and gross distortions everywhere in western society and it straddles/effects all races, colours, social classes and the disease is most acute in our politics.
We all know the hypernoprmalisation in politics, as we witness stories everyday on Zerohedge of the disconnect from reality...
BingoBoggins jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 8:20 AM
It is called COGNITIVE DISSONANCE ..
Allow me to quote something here ..
Enter Operation Stillpoint: William Colby, William Casey and Leo Emil Wanta.
At the time it started, President Reagan wanted to get a better handle on ways to keep the Soviets from expansionary tactics used to spread Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin's philosophy of communism around the world. He looked to his Special Task Force to provide a means of doing so. One thing was certain: The economy of the Soviets had never been strong and corruption, always present in government and always growing at least as fast as a government grows, made the USSR vulnerable to outside interference just as the United States is today.
According to Gorbachev's Prime Minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, the "moral [nravstennoe] state of the society" in 1985 was its "most terrifying" feature: "[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this – from top to bottom and from bottom to top."
Again, it sounds like today's America, doesn't it?
Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze made equally painful comments about the lawlessness and corruption dominating the Soviet Union. During the winter months of 1984-85, he told Gorbachev that "Everything is rotten. It has to be changed."
"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong," Frantz Fanon said in his 1952 book Black Skin, White Masks (originally published in French as Peau Noire, Masques Blancs). "When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit with the core belief."
During their final days as a world power, the Soviet Union allowed cognitive dissonance to rule its better judgment as so many Americans are doing in 2012. The handwriting on the wall was pretty clear for Gorbachev. The Soviet economy was failing. They did none of the necessary things to save their economy. In 2012, the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear for the American people. The economy is failing. The people and the Congress do none of the necessary things to save their economy. Why? Go re-read the definition of cognitive dissonance. That's why. We have a classic fight going on between those who want government to take care of them who will pay the price of lost freedom to get that care, and those who value freedom above all else.
On one day we have 50 state attorneys general suing Bank of America for making fraudulent mortgages, and on the next we have M.F. Global losing billions upon billions of customer dollars because they got mixed with the firm's funds – which is against the law – or we have J.P. Morgan Chase losing $2 billion (or is it $5 billion?) in bad investments. As Eduard Shevardnadze said, "Everything is rotten. It has to be changed." As I would say it, "There is no Rule of Law in America today. There has been no real Rule of Law since George Herbert Walker Bush took office."
No one listened then; no one is listening in America now. The primary reason? Cognitive dissonance. -- Chapter 2, "Wanta! Black Swan, White Hat" (2013)
Okay then, forget what was said in 1985, that was later reported in 2013 ..
Let's fast forward to Oct. 30, 2016 ..
Shall we? I mean, it is a bit MOAR -- relevant!
And, for those that must have further amplification .. (And, some .......... fun!)
https://www.youtube.com/user/fooser77/playlistsVageling jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 9:16 AM
You reminded me I bookmarked this on Chrome, so I dared to venture there to retrieve it;
https://books.google.com/books?id=cbC_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PP21&lpg=PP21&dq=crony...American Gorbachev Jan 8, 2017 10:10 AM
Lee Wanta. I've heard of him before. He was screwed over for some bullshit charges. And the CIA made a firm warning... How long did that dude spent in jail?
Just looked up his story as it was blurry. Cronyism at its finest. So now that I got my refreshing course. Trump stole/adopted (however you want to look at that) his plan and the project the gov (DOT) proposes sucks donkey balls compared to Wanta's.
So where are all the climate hoaxers now by the way? You'd figure they'd be all over this.
to me the PTB are "Japanifying" the u.s. (decades of no growth, near total demoralization of a generation of worker bees (as in, 'things will never get any better, be glad for what little you've got' etc... look what they've done to u.s. millenials just since '08... fooled (crushed) them TWICE already)
But the PTB Plan B is to emulate the USSR with a crackup, replete with fire sale to oligarchs of public assets. They will Japan as long as they can (so it will be difficult to forecast any crackup anymore than six months beforehand). Hope they have a Gorbachev lined up, to limit the bloodshed
May 24, 201 | 5w2.vatican.vaIn 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as "a tragic consequence" of unchecked human activity: "Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation". He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an "ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization", and stressed "the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity", inasmuch as "the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man".
5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem "to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption". Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to "safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology". The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in "lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies". Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and "take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system". Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God's original gift of all that is.
6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed "eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment". He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since "the book of nature is one and indivisible", and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that "the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence". Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that "man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature". With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed "where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves".
United by the same concern
7. These statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church's thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion.
8. Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for "inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage", we are called to acknowledge "our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation". He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: "For human beings to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins". For "to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God".
9. At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which "entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God's world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion". As Christians, we are also called "to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God's creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet".
... ... ...I. TECHNOLOGY: CREATIVITY AND POWER
102. Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change: steam engines, railways, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, aeroplanes, chemical industries, modern medicine, information technology and, more recently, the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for "science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity". The modification of nature for useful purposes has distinguished the human family from the beginning; technology itself "expresses the inner tension that impels man gradually to overcome material limitations". Technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings. How can we not feel gratitude and appreciation for this progress, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering and communications? How could we not acknowledge the work of many scientists and engineers who have provided alternatives to make development sustainable?
103. Technoscience, when well directed, can produce important means of improving the quality of human life, from useful domestic appliances to great transportation systems, bridges, buildings and public spaces. It can also produce art and enable men and women immersed in the material world to "leap" into the world of beauty. Who can deny the beauty of an aircraft or a skyscraper? Valuable works of art and music now make use of new technologies. So, in the beauty intended by the one who uses new technical instruments and in the contemplation of such beauty, a quantum leap occurs, resulting in a fulfilment which is uniquely human.
104. Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power. More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used. We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare. In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it.
105. There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means "an increase of 'progress' itself", an advance in "security, usefulness, welfare and vigour; an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture", as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that "contemporary man has not been trained to use power well", because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us. "The risk is growing day by day that man will not use his power as he should"; in effect, "power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom" since its "only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security". But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.
II. THE GLOBALIZATION OF THE TECHNOCRATIC PARADIGM
106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that "an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed".
107. It can be said that many problems of today's world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.
108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology "know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race", that "in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all". As a result, "man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature". Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one's alternative creativity are diminished.
109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion. At the same time, we have "a sort of 'superdevelopment' of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation", while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.
110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today's world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that "realities are more important than ideas".
111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.
112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people's concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?
113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.
114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.
III. THE CRISIS AND EFFECTS OF MODERN ANTHROPOCENTRISM
115. Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since "the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere 'given', as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere 'space' into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference". The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: "Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed".
116. Modernity has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds. The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our "dominion" over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.
117. Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for "instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature".
118. This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then "our overall sense of responsibility wanes". A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to "biocentrism", for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.
119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships. Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. Our openness to others, each of whom is a "thou" capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the "Thou" of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.
120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? "If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away".
121. We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. Christianity, in fidelity to its own identity and the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ, continues to reflect on these issues in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness.
122. A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is "even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism". When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one's own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.
123. The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same "use and throw away" logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.
The need to protect employment
124. Any approach to an integral ecology, which by definition does not exclude human beings, needs to take account of the value of labour, as Saint John Paul II wisely noted in his Encyclical Laborem Exercens. According to the biblical account of creation, God placed man and woman in the garden he had created (cf. Gen 2:15) not only to preserve it ("keep") but also to make it fruitful ("till"). Labourers and craftsmen thus "maintain the fabric of the world" (Sir 38:34). Developing the created world in a prudent way is the best way of caring for it, as this means that we ourselves become the instrument used by God to bring out the potential which he himself inscribed in things: "The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them" (Sir 38:4).
125. If we reflect on the proper relationship between human beings and the world around us, we see the need for a correct understanding of work; if we talk about the relationship between human beings and things, the question arises as to the meaning and purpose of all human activity. This has to do not only with manual or agricultural labour but with any activity involving a modification of existing reality, from producing a social report to the design of a technological development. Underlying every form of work is a concept of the relationship which we can and must have with what is other than ourselves. Together with the awe-filled contemplation of creation which we find in Saint Francis of Assisi, the Christian spiritual tradition has also developed a rich and balanced understanding of the meaning of work, as, for example, in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and his followers.
126. We can also look to the great tradition of monasticism. Originally, it was a kind of flight from the world, an escape from the decadence of the cities. The monks sought the desert, convinced that it was the best place for encountering the presence of God. Later, Saint Benedict of Norcia proposed that his monks live in community, combining prayer and spiritual reading with manual labour (ora et labora). Seeing manual labour as spiritually meaningful proved revolutionary. Personal growth and sanctification came to be sought in the interplay of recollection and work. This way of experiencing work makes us more protective and respectful of the environment; it imbues our relationship to the world with a healthy sobriety.
127. We are convinced that "man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life". Nonetheless, once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood. We need to remember that men and women have "the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments". Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today's global society, it is essential that "we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone", no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning.
128. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured a kind of technological progress in which the costs of production are reduced by laying off workers and replacing them with machines. This is yet another way in which we can end up working against ourselves. The loss of jobs also has a negative impact on the economy "through the progressive erosion of social capital: the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules, all of which are indispensable for any form of civil coexistence". In other words, "human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs". To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society.
129. In order to continue providing employment, it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. For example, there is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world's peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing. Economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing smallholders to sell their land or to abandon their traditional crops. Their attempts to move to other, more diversified, means of production prove fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure for sales and transport is geared to larger businesses. Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production. To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power. To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practise a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.
New biological technologies
130. In the philosophical and theological vision of the human being and of creation which I have presented, it is clear that the human person, endowed with reason and knowledge, is not an external factor to be excluded. While human intervention on plants and animals is permissible when it pertains to the necessities of human life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only "if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives". The Catechism firmly states that human power has limits and that "it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly". All such use and experimentation "requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation".
131. Here I would recall the balanced position of Saint John Paul II, who stressed the benefits of scientific and technological progress as evidence of "the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in God's creative action", while also noting that "we cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention to the consequences of such interference in other areas". He made it clear that the Church values the benefits which result "from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics, and its technological application in agriculture and industry". But he also pointed out that this should not lead to "indiscriminate genetic manipulation" which ignores the negative effects of such interventions. Human creativity cannot be suppressed. If an artist cannot be stopped from using his or her creativity, neither should those who possess particular gifts for the advancement of science and technology be prevented from using their God-given talents for the service of others. We need constantly to rethink the goals, effects, overall context and ethical limits of this human activity, which is a form of power involving considerable risks.
132. This, then, is the correct framework for any reflection concerning human intervention on plants and animals, which at present includes genetic manipulation by biotechnology for the sake of exploiting the potential present in material reality. The respect owed by faith to reason calls for close attention to what the biological sciences, through research uninfluenced by economic interests, can teach us about biological structures, their possibilities and their mutations. Any legitimate intervention will act on nature only in order "to favour its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God".
133. It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM), whether vegetable or animal, medical or agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call for specific considerations. The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application. Genetic mutations, in fact, have often been, and continue to be, caused by nature itself. Nor are mutations caused by human intervention a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossbreeding of species and other older and universally accepted practices can be mentioned as examples. We need but recall that scientific developments in GM cereals began with the observation of natural bacteria which spontaneously modified plant genomes. In nature, however, this process is slow and cannot be compared to the fast pace induced by contemporary technological advances, even when the latter build upon several centuries of scientific progress.
134. Although no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings, and in some regions their use has brought about economic growth which has helped to resolve problems, there remain a number of significant difficulties which should not be underestimated. In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to "the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production". The most vulnerable of these become temporary labourers, and many rural workers end up moving to poverty-stricken urban areas. The expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future. In various countries, we see an expansion of oligopolies for the production of cereals and other products needed for their cultivation. This dependency would be aggravated were the production of infertile seeds to be considered; the effect would be to force farmers to purchase them from larger producers.
135. Certainly, these issues require constant attention and a concern for their ethical implications. A broad, responsible scientific and social debate needs to take place, one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name. It sometimes happens that complete information is not put on the table; a selection is made on the basis of particular interests, be they politico-economic or ideological. This makes it difficult to reach a balanced and prudent judgement on different questions, one which takes into account all the pertinent variables. Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future. This is a complex environmental issue; it calls for a comprehensive approach which would require, at the very least, greater efforts to finance various lines of independent, interdisciplinary research capable of shedding new light on the problem.
136. On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. As we have seen in this chapter, a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.
Dec 16, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.comDecember 16, 2016 at 07:48 AMI'm an environmental scientist, not an economist, but it seems to me that Pope Francis has some sensible things to say, as in the following from Laudato si:
IV. POLITICS AND ECONOMY IN DIALOGUE FOR HUMAN FULFILMENT
189. Politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy. Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world. Production is not always rational, and is usually tied to economic variables which assign to products a value that does not necessarily correspond to their real worth. This frequently leads to an overproduction of some commodities, with unnecessary impact on the environment and with negative results on regional economies. The financial bubble also tends to be a productive bubble. The problem of the real economy is not confronted with vigour, yet it is the real economy which makes diversification and improvement in production possible, helps companies to function well, and enables small and medium businesses to develop and create employment.
190. Here too, it should always be kept in mind that "environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces". Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor.
191. Whenever these questions are raised, some react by accusing others of irrationally attempting to stand in the way of progress and human development. But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development. Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term. If we look at the larger picture, we can see that more diversified and innovative forms of production which impact less on the environment can prove very profitable. It is a matter of openness to different possibilities which do not involve stifling human creativity and its ideals of progress, but rather directing that energy along new channels.
192. For example, a path of productive development, which is more creative and better directed, could correct the present disparity between excessive technological investment in consumption and insufficient investment in resolving urgent problems facing the human family. It could generate intelligent and profitable ways of reusing, revamping and recycling, and it could also improve the energy efficiency of cities. Productive diversification offers the fullest possibilities to human ingenuity to create and innovate, while at the same time protecting the environment and creating more sources of employment. Such creativity would be a worthy expression of our most noble human qualities, for we would be striving intelligently, boldly and responsibly to promote a sustainable and equitable development within the context of a broader concept of quality of life. On the other hand, to find ever new ways of despoiling nature, purely for the sake of new consumer items and quick profit, would be, in human terms, less worthy and creative, and more superficial.
193. In any event, if in some cases sustainable development were to involve new forms of growth, then in other cases, given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late. We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity. That is why the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth. Benedict XVI has said that "technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency".
194. For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change "models of global development"; this will entail a responsible reflection on "the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications". It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress. Frequently, in fact, people's quality of life actually diminishes – by the deterioration of the environment, the low quality of food or the depletion of resources – in the midst of economic growth. In this context, talk of sustainable growth usually becomes a way of distracting attention and offering excuses. It absorbs the language and values of ecology into the categories of finance and technocracy, and the social and environmental responsibility of businesses often gets reduced to a series of marketing and image-enhancing measures.
195. The principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very concept of the economy. As long as production is increased, little concern is given to whether it is at the cost of future resources or the health of the environment; as long as the clearing of a forest increases production, no one calculates the losses entailed in the desertification of the land, the harm done to biodiversity or the increased pollution. In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved. Yet only when "the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations", can those actions be considered ethical. An instrumental way of reasoning, which provides a purely static analysis of realities in the service of present needs, is at work whether resources are allocated by the market or by state central planning.
196. What happens with politics? Let us keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity, which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power. Today, it is the case that some economic sectors exercise more power than states themselves. But economics without politics cannot be justified, since this would make it impossible to favour other ways of handling the various aspects of the present crisis. The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society. For "the current model, with its emphasis on success and self-reliance, does not appear to favour an investment in efforts to help the slow, the weak or the less talented to find opportunities in life".
197. What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis. Often, politics itself is responsible for the disrepute in which it is held, on account of corruption and the failure to enact sound public policies. If in a given region the state does not carry out its responsibilities, some business groups can come forward in the guise of benefactors, wield real power, and consider themselves exempt from certain rules, to the point of tolerating different forms of organized crime, human trafficking, the drug trade and violence, all of which become very difficult to eradicate. If politics shows itself incapable of breaking such a perverse logic, and remains caught up in inconsequential discussions, we will continue to avoid facing the major problems of humanity. A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture. A healthy politics needs to be able to take up this challenge.
198. Politics and the economy tend to blame each other when it comes to poverty and environmental degradation. It is to be hoped that they can acknowledge their own mistakes and find forms of interaction directed to the common good. While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable. Here too, we see how true it is that "unity is greater than conflict".
Jul 22, 2016 | Naked Capitalism
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By #SlayTheSmaugs, an elected Bernie delegate in Philly.
#STS believes that the billionaire class are Smaugs (the greed incarnate dragon of The Hobbit), immorally hoarding wealth for no reason beyond ego gratification. To "Slay" the Smaugs, we need a confiscatory wealth tax, stronger democratic institutions to impose it, and a shared moral agreement that #GreedIsEvil to justify it.
When Gordon Gekko proclaimed that 'Greed is Good' in 1987, it was an obvious rejection of several millennia of teachings by traditional prophets and priests. Yet when Gekko preached greed, he was merely reinforcing the current cultural norm; greed had already been rebranded a virtue. (Still, the speech was to remind us Gekko was a bad guy). Consider that Madonna had proclaimed herself a Material Girl three years earlier, and "Living Large" was cool. Conspicuous consumption is walking the talk that greed is good.
Why had greed become good? I blame the creation of a credit-fueled culture of constant consumption that necessarily praises coveting stuff, plus the dismantling of the regulatory state that had kept Wall Street and wannabe oligarchs in check.
Our healthy cultural adoration of the self-made man, of respect for success, warped into worship of the rich. They are not the same. Wealth can be inherited, stolen through fraud and other illegal activities, or harvested from bubbles; none of these or myriad other paths to riches is due respect, much less worship. Paired with another 80's definition-government is the problem-worshiping wealth facilitates all the dysfunction in our government.
Remembering Greed is Evil
Thirty years later, the old social norm-the one that protected the many from the few, the one that demonized greed as a deadly sin-is resurgent. We have a Pope who preaches against greed, and who walks his talk . We had a Presidential candidate of a major party-Bernie Sanders-who railed against those living embodiments of greed, the Billionaire Class, and walked his talk by rejecting their money. At the convention, he has invited delegates to four workshops, one of which is "One Nation Now: Winning the Fight Against Racism and Greed". We have a late night comedian-John Oliver- ridiculing the prosperity gospel and taking on the debt industry . We have mass consciousness rising, reflected in Occupy, the label "the 99%", BLM and more.
But we need more voices insisting #GreedIsEvil. We need to teach that basic message at home, in school, and in houses of worship. We need to send the right signals in our social interactions. We need to stop coveting stuff, and start buying with a purpose: Shopping locally, buying American, buying green and clean, and buying less. We need to waste less, share more and build community. We need to re-norm-alize greed as evil, make it shameful again. Then we will have redefined ourselves as citizens, not consumers.
But make no mistake: America cannot become a just nation simply by the 99% becoming more virtuous. The cultural shift is necessary but not sufficient, for norms alone do not deliver social and economic justice. Shame will not slay the Smaugs; we need structural change in the political economy.
Extreme greed, the greed of Smaugs, is categorically different than the petit greed underlying the irrational, constant consumption and the worship of wealth. Extreme greed manifests as a hoard of wealth so great that "purchasing power" is an irrelevant concept; a hoard so great it lacks any utility other than to be sat upon as a throne, gratifying the Smaug's ego and symbolizing his power. That greed must be understood as an intolerable evil, something so base and malevolent that the full power of the state must be used against it.
This essay is my contribution to the cause of returning extreme greed to its rightful place in the pantheon of ultimate evils. Here is the thesis: extreme greed must be 'slain' by the state because extreme greed is brutally violent.
The Stealth Violence of False Scarcity and "Cutting Corners"
Greed's violence is quiet and deadly: The violence of false scarcity and of "corner cutting". Scarcity is not having enough because there just isn't enough to go round, like the nearly 50 million people who don't reliably have food during the year, including 15 million kids. False scarcity is when actually, there's plenty to go around, but people generally don't have enough because of hoarders.
It's a concentrated version of what happened to pennies in 1999. People keeping pennies in piggy banks created a shortage felt throughout New York City . If only people had broken open their piggy banks, and used their pennies, there would have been plenty of pennies in circulation, and shopkeepers wouldn't lose money by rounding purchases down. In this piece, I'm focusing on false scarcity of dollars, not pennies, and the maiming and premature death that results from false dollar scarcity. But the idea is essentially the same; there's just far fewer relevant piggy banks.
By the quiet violence of 'corner cutting', I'm referring to unsafe, even deadly, workplaces that could be safe if the employers invested in safety.
Sporadically, greed also drives overt, and sometimes profoundly bloody violence to protect the hoard. Think of employer violence against unions and union organizers, a la Henry Ford , or John D. Rockefeller . Nonetheless in this country now, the violence of greed tends to be more covert. It is that quiet violence, in both forms, I want you to hear now.
As Sanders often reminds us, in this, the richest nation in the world, nearly 50 million people are living in poverty; roughly one in seven Americans. And as Sanders explained, in a speech in West Virginia , 130,000 people die each and every year as a result of poverty. I have not read the study Sanders referred to, so I don't know how much it overlaps with the rise of suicide that accelerated after 2006 and which appears to be correlated with financial stress. Nor do I know how it overlaps with the documented increase in white mortality that also appears to correlate with financial stress. Regardless of overlap, however, each of these studies reflects the quiet violence of false scarcity. Naked Capitalism has featured many posts documenting the damage of greed; this is a recent one .
Chronic and acute financial stress from false scarcity maims, and kills. And Smaugs create false scarcity to feed money to their egos and maintain their oligarchic power.
As Lambert often says, they don't call it class warfare for nothing.
But wait, you might insist, how false is the scarcity, really? How much do a few billionaires matter? Ranting that greed is evil is all well and good, but really, can a relative handful of people be manufacturing scarcity where there is none, shortening and taking millions of lives in the process? Aren't you making your target too narrow in going after the Smaugs?
In order: Very false, a lot, yes and no.
The Falsity of Dollar Scarcity
In 2015 the Institute for Policy Studies determined that the richest 20 American billionaires had hoarded as much wealth as 152 million people had managed to scrape together combined. Think on that.
Twenty people had hoarded $732,000,000,000. America is a nation of about 300,000,000 people. That means 20 people could give a combined $2,370 to every American, and still hoard $1 billion each. I'm not suggesting that's how the redistribution should be done, but it's notable that in an era when some 200 million Americans haven't been able to save $1000 for an emergency, twenty people could give everyone over two grand while remaining fabulously wealthy.
Now, these 20 monstrous people, these full grown Smaugs, are not alone in their extreme greed. Adding in the assets of the next 380 richest Americans brings the total wealth hoarded to $2.34 trillion. That number is so large it's hard to process , so let's think this through.
First, imagine that we took all of that money with a confiscatory tax, except we again left each of the 400 people with $1 billion. They would still be obscenely rich, so don't pity them.* Our tax thus netted $1.94 trillion. Since that's still an unimaginable number, let's compare it to some recent government spending.
In December 2015, Congress funded five years' worth of infrastructure construction. Congress and President Obama were very self-congratulatory because our infrastructure is a mess, and building things involves good paying jobs. So, how much did five years of infrastructure building and job creation cost? $305 billion . That's less than the $400 billion we let the 400 Smaugs keep at the start of this thought experiment. With the $1.94 trillion we imagine confiscating, we could keep building at the 2015 pace for 32 years. Or we could spend it much faster, and create an economic boom the like of which this nation hasn't seen in generations.
Even Bernie Sanders, he of the supposedly overly ambitious, unable-to-be-paid for initiatives, only proposed spending $1 trillion on infrastructure over five years -a bit more than half what our tax would net. (Nor did this supposed radical call for a confiscatory wealth tax to fund his plan.) Sanders estimated his proposal would create 13 million good paying jobs. With nearly double the money, surely we get nearly double the jobs? Let's be conservative and say 22 million.
In sum, we could confiscate most of the wealth of 400 people-still leaving them obscenely rich with $1 billion each-and create 22 million good paying jobs over five years. But we don't; we let the Smaugs keep their hoards intact. Now consider this is only taxing 400 people; what if we taxed the richest 2,000 people more justly? What if we taxed corporations effectively? What if we stopped giving corporate welfare? A confiscatory wealth tax, however, simply isn't discussed in polite company, any more than a truly progressive income tax is, or even serious proposals to end corporate welfare. The best we can do is agree that really, someday soon, we should end the obscenity that is the carried interest loophole.
False scarcity isn't simply a failure of charity, a hoarding of wealth that should be alms for the poor. False scarcity is created through the billionaires' control of the state, of public policy. But the quiet violence of greed isn't visited on the 99% only through the failure to pay adequate taxes. Not even through the Smaugs' failure to have their corporations pay adequate wages, or benefits. Predatory lending, predatory servicing, fraudulent foreclosure, municipal bond rigging, and pension fund fleecing are just some of the many other ways immoral greed creates false scarcity.
While false scarcity has the broadest impact, it is not the only form of stealth violence used by the billionaires in their class war against the rest of us. The Ford and Rockefeller style violence of fists and guns may be rare in the U.S. these days, but a variant of it remains much too common: Unsafe workplaces, the quiet violence of "cutting corners". Whether it's the coal industry , the poultry industry , or the fracking and oil industries, or myriad other industries, unsafe workplaces kill, maim and sicken workers. Part of the political economy restructuring we must do includes transforming the workplace.
Feel the Greed
Let us remember why this stealth violence exists-why false scarcity and unsafe workplaces exist.
People who have more money than they hope to spend for the rest of their lives, no matter how many of their remaining days are "rainy"; people who have more money to pass on than their children need for a lifetime of financial security, college and retirement included; people who have more money to pass on than their grandchildren need for a similarly secure life–these people insist on extracting still more wealth from their workers, their clients, and taxpayers for no purpose beyond vaingloriously hoarding it.
Sure, some give away billions . But even so they retain billions. For what? More; charitable foundations are not the same thing, in many cases, as true charity. Instead foundations often function as hoard preservers as well, and enrich their leadership too.
Greed is evil, but it comes in different intensities. Petit greed is a corrosive illness that decays societies, but can be effectively ameliorated through norms and social capital. Smaug greed is so toxic, so potent, that the state is the only entity powerful enough to put it in check. Greed, particularly Smaug greed, must be put in check because the false scarcity it manufactures, and the unsafe workplaces it creates, maim and kill people. The stealth violence of Smaug greed justifies a tax to confiscate the hoards.
#GreedIsEvil. It's time to #SlayTheSmaugs
*One of the arguments against redistribution is that is against the sacrosanct efficient market, which forbids making one person better off if the price is making someone else worse off. But money has diminishing returns as money after a certain point; the purchasing power between someone with one billion and ten billion dollars is negligible, though the difference between someone with ten thousand and a hundred thousand, or a hundred thousand and a million is huge. After a certain level of accumulation money is simply ego gratifying points, it's not money any more. Thus taking it and using it as money isn't making someone 'worse off' in an economic sense. Also, when considering whether someone is 'worse off', it's worth considering where their money comes from; how many people did they leave 'worse off' as they extracted the money? Brett , July 22, 2016 at 10:07 amThomas Hinds , July 22, 2016 at 10:33 am
After a certain level of accumulation money is simply ego gratifying points, it's not money any more.
It quite literally isn't "money" as we regular folks know it beyond a certain point – it's tied up in share value and other assets. Which of course raises the question – when you decide to do your mass confiscation of wealth, who is going to be foolish enough to buy those assets so you actually have liquid currency to spend on infrastructure as opposed to illiquid assets? Or are you simply going to print money and spend it on them?Ranger Rick , July 22, 2016 at 10:37 am
Wealth on this scale has nothing to do with financial security or luxurious living. For the trivial, it is (as per D. Trump) a game and money is how you keep score. For the serious, it has to do with power, with the ability to affect other people's lives without their consent. That is why the Smaugs' wealth is absolutely our business. It should be understood that we're talking about taking very large amounts of money and power away from very rich people, people for whom money and power are pretty much the only things they value. It will not be pretty.a different chris , July 22, 2016 at 11:52 am
People become rich and stay that way because of a market failure that allows them to accumulate capital in the same way a constricted artery accumulates blood. What I'm wondering, continuing this metaphor, is what happens when all that money is released back into the market at once via a redistribution - toxic shock syndrome.
You can see what happens to markets in places where "virtual money" (capital) brushes up against the real economy: the dysfunctional housing situation in Vancouver, London, New York, and San Francisco.
It may be wiser to argue for wealth disintegration instead of redistribution.John Merryman , July 22, 2016 at 12:55 pm
Yes I was thinking about that … money is just something the government prints to make the system work smoothly. But that, and pretty much any view of money, obscures the problem with the insanely "wealthy".
If these people, instead of having huge bank accounts actually had huge armies the government would move to disarm them. It wouldn't re-distribute the tanks and rifles. It would be obviously removing a threat to everybody.
Now there would be the temptation to wave your hands and say you were "melting it into plowshares" but that causes an accounting problem - that is, the problem being the use of accounting itself. Destroying extreme wealth and paying for say roads is just two different things and making them sound connected is where we keep getting bogged down. Not a full-on MMT'er yet but it really has illuminated that fact.
And no, as usual l have no solutions.Julian , July 22, 2016 at 11:00 am
The western assumption is that money is a commodity, from salt to gold, to bitcoin, we assume it can be manufactured, but the underlaying reality is that it is a social contract and every asset is presumably backed by debt.
Here is an interesting link which does make the point about the contractual basis of money in a succinct fashion;
Since the modern commodity of money is backed by debt and largely public debt, there is enormous pressure to create as much debt as possible.
For instance, the government doesn't really budget, it just writes up these enormous bills, attaches enough goodies to get the votes and the president can only pass or veto it and with all the backing and no other method, a veto is a weak protection.
To budget is to prioritize and spend according to ability. What they could do would be to break these bills into all their various "line items," have every legislator assign a percentage value to each one, put them back together in order of preference and then the president would draw the line.
It would balance the power and reduce the tendency to overspend, but it would blow up our financial system, which if anyone notices, is based on the sanctity of government debt.
If instead of borrowing the excess money out of the system, to spend on whatever, if the government threatened to tax it out, people would quickly find other ways to store value than as money in the financial system.
Since most of us save for the same general reasons, from raising children to retirement, we could invest in these as public commons, not try to save for our exact needs. This would serve to strengthen communities and their environments, as everyone would be more dependent on those around them, not just having a private bank account as their personal umbilical cord.
We treat money as both medium of exchange and store of value. As Rick points out above, a medium is like blood in the body and it needs to be carefully regulated. Conversely, the store of value in the body is fat and while many of us do carry an excess, storing it in the circulation system is not wise. Clogged arteries, poor circulation and high blood pressure are analogous to a bloated financial system, poor circulation and QE.
Money is not a commodity, but a contract.JTMcPhee , July 22, 2016 at 11:05 am
Do you realize that this supposed billionaire wealth does not consist of actual US dollars and that, if one were to liquidate such wealth (in order to redistribute it in "fair" equal-dollars) that number might drastically change?
The main thing these people (and indeed your pension funds) are actually hoarding are financial assets, and those, it turns out, are actually "scarce". Or, well, I don't know what else you would call trillions of bonds netting a negative interest rate and an elevated P/E stock market in a low-growth environment.
It's a bit of a pickle from a macro environment. You can't just force them to liquidate their assets, or else the whole system would collapse. It also kind of escapes the point that someone has to hold each asset. I would be excited to see what happens when you ask Bill Gates to liquidate his financial assets (in order to distribute the cash). An interesting thought, for sure. And one that would probably bring the market closer to reasonable valuations.
It is simply a wrong conclusion to say "Wealth is x, and if we distribute it, everyone would get x divided by amount of recipients in dollar terms". Now if you wanted to redistribute Bill Gates' stake in Microsoft in some "fair" way, you could certainly try but that's not really what you proposed.
Either way you can't approach wealth policy from a macro perspective like this, because as soon as you start designing macro-level policy to adjust (i.e. redistribute) this wealth, the value of it will fluctuate very wildly in dollar terms and may well leave everyone less well off in some weird feedback loop.Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 11:38 am
"The full power of the state must be used against" #extremegreed: Except, of course, "L'etat c'est moi…"
Of course as a Bernie supporter, the writer knows that, knows that it is a long game to even start to move any of the hoard out of Smaug's cave, that there are dwarves with glittering eyes ready to take back and reduce to ownership and ornamentation the whole pile (maybe they might 'share" a little with the humans of Lake Town who suffered the Dragon's Fire but whose Hero drove a mystical iron arrow through the weak place in Smaug's armor, all while Sauron and Saruman are circling and plotting and growing hordes of genetically modified Orcs and Trolls and summoning the demons from below…
The Elves seem to be OK with a "genteel sufficiency," their wealth being useful durable stuff like mithril armor and those lovely houses and palaces up in the trees. Humans? Grabbers and takers, in Tolkien's mythology. I would second that view - sure seems to me that almost any of us, given a 1000-Bagger like Zuckerman or Jobs or that Gates creature fell into, or Russian or Israeli or African or European oligarchs for that matter (pretty universal, and expected given Davos and Bilderberg and Koch summits) the old insatiable lambic system that drives for pleasure-to-the-max and helps our baser tribal drives and penchant for violence to manifest and "thrive" will have its due. Like 600 foot motor yachts and private-jet escape pods and pinnacles islands with Dr. No-style security provided by guns and accountants and lawyers and faux-legitimate political rulers for hire…
Lots of analysis of "the problem." Not so much in the way of apparent remedies, other than maybe lots of bleeding, where the mopes will do most of it and if history is any guide, another Smaug will go on around taking all the gold and jewels and other concentrated wealth back to another pile, to sit on and not maybe even gloat over because the scales are just too large…
Still hoping for the emergence of an organizing principle that is more attractive that "take whatever you can and cripple or kill anyone who objects…"a different chris , July 22, 2016 at 11:59 am
"People who have more money than they hope to spend for the rest of their lives, no matter how many of their remaining days are "rainy"; people who have more money to pass on than their children need for a lifetime of financial security, college and retirement included; people who have more money to pass on than their grandchildren need for a similarly secure life–these people insist on extracting still more wealth from their workers, their clients, and taxpayers for no purpose beyond vaingloriously hoarding it."
These are people who are obscenely wealthy as opposed to merely wealthy. The fastest way to challenge their toxic power would be to help the latter group understand that their interests are not aligned with the former. Most millionaires (as opposed to billionaires) will eventually suffer when the last few drops of wealth remaining to the middle and working classes are extracted. Their future prosperity depends on the continued existence of a viable, mass consumer economy.
The billionaires imagine (in my view falsely) that they will thrive in a neo-feudal future– where they own everything and the vast majority of humanity exists only to serve their needs. This is the future they are attempting to build with the new TPP/TISA/TTIP regime. If we fail to prevent the imposition of this transnational regime there will only be three classes of humans left: kleptocrats, their favored minions, and slaves. Most neoliberal professionals, who imagine that they will be in that second group, are delusional. Did the pharaohs have any need for people like Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd?FluffytheObeseCat , July 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm
Yeah unfortunately they did. It wasn't just the pharaoh and peasants, there was a whole priestly class just to keep the workers confused.
Now the individuals themselves weren't at all necessary, they have always been easily replaceable.HotFlash , July 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm
Pharaohs didn't need a middle/professional class as large as the ones in most western democracies today. But, we are going in the pharaonic direction.
The problem our polite, right wing professional classes face is that they are increasingly too numerous for society's needs. Hence the creeping gig-i-fication of professional employment. The wage stagnation in all but the most guild-ridden (medicine) professions.
It's so reminiscent of what happened to the industrial working class in the late 70s and 80s. I still remember the "well-reasoned", literate arguments in magazine op-eds proclaiming how line workers had become "excess" in the face of Asian competition and automation. How most just needed to retrain, move to where the jobs are, tighten their belts, etc. It's identical now for lawyers, radiologists, and many layers of the teaching professions. If I weren't part of that "professional" class I'd find the Schadenfreude almost too delicious.Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:23 pmIf we fail to prevent the imposition of this transnational regime there will only be three classes of humans left: kleptocrats, their favored minions, and slaves.
Sounds about right, but you are overlooking the fact that the largest class will be The Dead. They will not need nearly so many of Us, and we will be thinned, trimmed, pruned, marooned, or otherwise made to go away permanently (quietly, for preference, I assume, but any way will do).
Ergo, the violence of ineffectual health care, toxic environment, poisonous food, dangerous working conditions and violence (for instance, guns and toxic chemicals) in our homes, schools, streets, workplaces, cities and, well, everywhere are not only a feature, but a major part of the plan.
And I'm actually feeling rather optimistic today.#SlayTheSmaugs Post author , July 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm
It has been extensively documented that the merely wealthy are very upset at the obscenely wealthy.
If the author is truly focusing on a tax for obscene wealth I'd like to know a specific threshold. Is it 1 Billion and up? annual limit how many times the median income before it kicks in?Vatch , July 22, 2016 at 5:32 pm
Well, I'm happy to have a discussion about at what threshold a confiscatory wealth tax should kick in; it's the kind of conversation we have with estate taxes.
I'm thinking a one off wealth tax, followed by a prevention of the resurrection of the problem with a sharply progressive income tax. Is $1 billion the right number for this initial reclamation? maybe. It is about the very top few, not the merely wealthy.
#SlayTheSmaugsQuantum Future , July 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm
$1 billion is a reasonable amount of assets for determining whether to confiscate a portion of a person's wealth in taxes. Or perhaps we could base it on a percentage of GDP. The U.S. GDP in 2015 was approximately $17.9 trillion. Anyone with $1.79 billion or more in assets would have 1% of 1% of the U.S. GDP (0.01%). That's a lot of wealth, and surely justifies a heavy tax.Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm
To your question Ulysses
'Professionals, who imagine that they will be in that second group, are delusional. Did the pharaohs have any need of Paul Krugman'
Sure they did. Those were called Priests who told the people what the gods were thinking. And since Pharoah's concluded themselves gods. The slaves revolt by working less. Anybody notice the dropping production levels the last couple of years? Whipping the slaves didn't turn out well for the Egyptians.
A more modern similarity of the US is Rome. Vassals have been going full retard for several years now, traitors sell international competitors military secrets while the biggest merchants buy off the Senate.
Ceasar becomes more a figurehead until one leads a coup which has not happened yet. Aquiring more slaves begins to cost more than what the return in general to the society brings but the Smaugs do not care about that until the barbarians begin to revolt (See Orlando for example, the shooter former employee of DHS. Probably pissed some of his comrades were deserted by US in some manner.#SlayTheSmaugs , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm
My point was that the category of people in this priestly caste will likely be far, far smaller than the millions of credentialed neoliberal professionals currently living large in the top 10% of the developed world.
Interesting mental image– to see Paul Krugman chanting praises to the new Son of the Sun God the Donald!!Sylvia Demarest , July 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm
Look, there's a simple way to #SlayTheSmaugs, and it's a confiscatory wealth tax coupled with a sharply progressive income tax, as part of an overall restructuring of the political economy.
Simple, is of course, not easy; indeed my proposal is currently impossible. But like Bernie I'm trying to change the terms of political debate, to normalize what would previously be dismissed as too radical to be countenanced.
I don't think the looting professional class needs to be slain, in the #SlayTheSmaugs sense. I think they can be brought to heel simply by enforcing laws and passing new ones that are already within acceptable political debate, such as one that defines corruption as using public office for private gain. I think norms matter to the looting professional class as well. Another re-norm-ilization that needs to happen is remembering what a "profession" used to be…Yves Smith , July 22, 2016 at 10:02 pm
Friends and neighbors!! Most of this "wealth" is ephemeral, it is based on the "value of assets" like stocks, bonds, real estate, et al. If all of this "wealth" gets liquidated at the same time, values would collapse. These people are fabulously wealthy because of the incredible inflation we have seen in the "assets" they hold.
Remember, during the Great Depression the "wealth" wasn't confiscated and redistributed, it was destroyed because asset values collapsed and over 2000 banks failed wiping out customer accounts. This also collapsed the money supply causing debt defaults, businesses failures, and worker laid offs. No one had any money because there was none.
The US was on the gold standard limiting the creation of liquidity. President Roosevelt went off the gold standard so that he could work to increase the money supply. It took a long time. The result of the depression was decades of low debt, cheap housing, and hard working people who remembered the hard times. The social mood gradually changed as their children, born in more prosperous times, challenged the values of their parents.GlassHammer , July 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm
Even though the bulk of what the super rich hold is in paper assets, they still hold tons of real economy assets. They've succeeded in buying enough prime and even merely good real estate (like multiple townhouses in Upper West Side blocks and then creating one monster home behind the facade) to create pricing pressure on ordinary renters and homeowners in the same cities, bidding art through the roof, owning mega-yachts and private airplanes, and most important of all, using the money directly to reshape society along their preferred lines, witness charter schools.#SlayTheSmaugs , July 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm
If you are going to fight against the "Greed is Good" mentality, you are going to have to address the habits of the average middle class household. Just take a look at the over accumulation of amenities and creature comforts. The desire to signal ones status/wealth through "stuff" is totally out of control and completely divorced from means/income.dots , July 22, 2016 at 2:09 pm
Fair, and I do propose that:
"But we need more voices insisting #GreedIsEvil. We need to teach that basic message at home, in school, and in houses of worship. We need to send the right signals in our social interactions. We need to stop coveting stuff, and start buying with a purpose: Shopping locally, buying American, buying green and clean, and buying less. We need to waste less, share more and build community. We need to re-norm-alize greed as evil, make it shameful again. Then we will have redefined ourselves as citizens, not consumers."Punxsutawney , July 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm
Isn't there an idiom about cutting off the head of the snake? Once you deal with the strongest opponents, it's easier to go after the others. Too big to fail is nothing short of feeding the beast.Alfred , July 22, 2016 at 1:48 pm
There was a time not that long ago that I would have opposed a "confiscatory wealth tax". After looking at what most of those in the .1% are doing with their wealth, and their contempt for the average person, those days are long gone. Plus it's good economics.
The only question is what is "obscene wealth". Well like pornography, I think we know it when we see it.#SlayTheSmaugs Post author , July 22, 2016 at 3:34 pm
I am wondering about the distribution of all this concentrated wealth; how much of it is spread around in the equities and bond markets?
And if that amount was redistributed to the general public how much of it would return to the equities and bond market?
I'm thinking not very much which would have catastrophic effects on both markets, a complete reordering. This would undoubtedly crush the borrowing ability of our Federal government, upset the apple cart in other words. With less money invested in the equities market it would undoubtedly return to a lower more realistic valuation; fortunes would be lost with no redistribution.
Oh the unintended consequences.Quantum Future , July 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm
Fair to ask: How do we achieve a confiscatory wealth tax without catastrophic unintended consequences? But that's a very different question than: should we confiscate the Smaug's wealth?
One mechanism might be to have a government entity created to receive the stocks, bonds and financial instruments, and then liquidate them over time. E.g. Buffett has been giving stock to foundations for them to sell for awhile now; same kind of thing could be done. But sure, let's have the "How" conversation…juliania , July 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm
If lobbying were outlawed at the Federal level the billionaires and multi millionaires would need to invest in something else. That signal has a multiplier effect.so your right eboit enforcement of mostly what is on the books already. A 'wall' doesnt have to be built for illegal immigrants either. Fine a couple dozen up the wazoo and the signal gets passed the game is over.
But until a few people's daughters are kidnapped or killed like in other 3rd world countries, it wont change. That is sad but reality is most people do not do anything until it effects them. I started slightly ahead of the crowd in summer of 2007 but that is because a regional banker told me as we liked discussing history to look at debt levels of 1928 and what happened next. On top of that, we are the like the British empire circa 1933 so we get the downside of that as well.
Pain tends to be the catalyst of evolution that fully awakens prey to the predators.amousie , July 22, 2016 at 2:16 pm
"As Sanders often reminds us. . ."
I am sorry, Sir Smaug slayer. The underlying theme of your lengthy disquisition is that Sanders is the legitimate voice of the 99%, and his future complicity within the Democratic Party is thereby ameliorated by his current proposals within it. This is the true meat of your discourse ranging so far and wide – even with the suggestion early on that we the 99% need tutoring on the evils of greed.
Not so. That ship has sailed. Our Brexit is not yet upon us, but that it is coming, I have no doubt. The only question is when. To paraphrase a Hannah Sell quote on such matters. . . for decades working class people have had no representation in the halls of Congress. All of the politicians . . . without exception, have stood in the interests of the 1% and the super-rich.
Bernie Sanders included. Hannah's remarks were more upbeat – she made an exception for Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, I can't do that. Bernie has folded. We need to acknowledge that.Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm
One of the arguments against redistribution is that is against the sacrosanct efficient market, which forbids making one person better off if the price is making someone else worse off.
I think you mean downward redistribution here since upward redistribution seems to be rather sacrosanct and definitely makes one person better off at the price of making many someones worse off to make it happen.JTMcPhee , July 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm
Confiscatory wealth tax is too blunt an instrument to rectify the root causes discussed in this article, and you do not want a blunt impact to the effect of disincentivizing pursuit of financial success.
Further Centralization the populous' money will incite more corruption which is what allows the have's to continue lording it over the have nots.
What are alternatives?
Instead Focus on minimizing corruption,
Then it will be possible to implement fair legislation that limits the options of the greed to make decisions that results in unfair impacts on the lower class.
Increase incentives to share the wealth, (tax deductible charitable giving is an example).
We do need to encourage meritocracy whenever possible, corruption and oppression is the antithesis to that.
We need to stop incentivizing utilization of debt, that puts the haves in control of the have nots.JTMcPhee , July 22, 2016 at 6:27 pm
"Financial success. " As long as those words go together, and make an object of desire, the fundamental problem ain't going away.
Of course the underlying fundamental problem of human appetite for pleasure and power ain't going away either. Even if a lot of wealth was taken back (NOT "confiscated") from the current crop and hopeful horde of kleptocrats…Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 2:51 pm
How long before the adage "A fool and his money are soon parted" kicked in?NeqNeq , July 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm
"We do need to encourage meritocracy whenever possible, corruption and oppression is the antithesis to that."
I disagree strongly with your premise that some sort of pure and natural meritocracy has ever existed, or could ever exist in human society. Corrupt and oppressive people will always define as "meritorious" those qualities that they themselves possess– whether wealth, "gentle birth," "technical skills," or whatever. We all possess the same merit of being human.
An Egyptologist, with an Oxbridge degree and extensive publications has no merit– in any meaningful sense– inside a frozen foods warehouse. Likewise, the world's best frozen foods warehouse worker has little to offer, when addressing a conference focused on religious practices during the reign of Ramses II. Meritocracy is a neoliberal myth, intended to obscure the existence of oligarchy.Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm
An Egyptologist, with an Oxbridge degree and extensive publications has no merit– in any meaningful sense– inside a frozen foods warehouse. Likewise, the world's best frozen foods warehouse worker has little to offer, when addressing a conference focused on religious practices during the reign of Ramses II. Meritocracy is a neoliberal myth, intended to obscure the existence of oligarchy.
I am confused.
You claim meritocracy is "a neoliberal myth, intended to obscure the existence of oligarchy", but (seemingly) appeal to meritocratic principles to claim a warehouse worker doesnt offer much to an academic conference. Can you clear up my misunderstanding?
I agree, btw, that Idealized meritocracy has never existed (nor can). Follow up question: There has never been an ideal ethical human, does that mean we should stop encouraging ethical behavior?Pierre Robespierre , July 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm
Meritocracy is not the same as recognizing greater and lesser degrees of competence in various activities. It is absurd to deny that some are more skillful at some things than others. Assigning the relative "merit" to various competencies is what I find objectionable.
Encouraging ethical behavior has nothing to do with ranking the "merit" levels of different occupations. While some occupations are inherently unethical, like that of an assassin, most can be performed in such a way as to do no harm to others, and some are nearly always beneficial to society at large.
Someone who did nothing but drink whiskey all day, and tell funny stories in a bar, is far more beneficial to society at large than a busy, diligent economist dreaming up ways to justify the looting of the kleptocrats.Roland , July 22, 2016 at 10:23 pm
Wealth Redistribution occurs when the peasants build a scaffold and frog march the aristocracy up to a blade; when massive war wipes out a generation of aristocracy in gas filled trenches or in the upcoming event.Barry , July 22, 2016 at 11:00 pm
"Fair to ask: How do we achieve a confiscatory wealth tax without catastrophic unintended consequences?"
Answer: Do it and find out. Some things can only be determined empirically. First, do what needs doing. We can take care of the Utility afterwards.≥
I would like to see a financial settlements tax like Scott Smith presidential candidate recommends. http://www.scottsmith2016.com/
By J. Mann on April 8, 2005Masterpiece, offers solution for THE problem of our time/div> I am astonished at the quality of this book, which is about the eighth book in a personal reading program that included Paul Roberts' The End of Oil, Kenneth Deffeyes' Beyond Oil, Jared Diamon's Collapse, Cottrell's Energy and Society, Michael Klare's Blood and Oil, and others, all extremely good and relevant books. The task this author undertakes is to help readers find a new perspective from which to constructively and usefully interpret inevitable and major changes the world around us. By taking this approach, the author is providing the very essential tool we need to cope with these changes.
The issue is our ecological footprint.
Catton uses the term "Age of Exuberance" to represent the time since 1492 when first a newly discovered hemisphere and then the invention of fossil-fuel-driven machines allowed Old-World humans to escape the constraints imposed by a population roughly at earth's carrying capacity, and instead to grow (and philosophize and emote) expansively. He then reminds us that we are soon to be squeezed by the twin jaws of excessive population and exhausted resources, as our current population is utterly dependent on the mining and burning of fossil energy and its use to exploit earth's resources in general. In spring 2005, the buzz about "the end of cheap energy" is reaching quite a pitch, and when and if the "peak oil" scenario (or other environmental limit-event) is reached, the impact on our social / political world will be enormous. Already the US is brandishing and using its superior weaponry to sieze control of oil assets; this same kind of desperate struggle may well erupt at all levels of society if we don't find a way to identify the problem, anticipate its consequences, and find solutions. Catton offers a perspective based on biology / ecology -- not bad, since we are indeed animals in an ecology and we are indeed subject to the iron laws of nature and physics.
With this perspective we can avoid ending up screaming nonsense at each other when changes begin to get scary. My urgent recommendation is, read this G.D. book and do it now.
peakoilbarrel.comJavier , 01/09/2016 at 5:29 am
I wholeheartedly agree that even a cursory look at things reveals the overwhelming scope of things and quickly leads to despair.
It doesn't have to lead to despair. I recommend Stoicism , which is the way Greeks and Romans coped with their own decline.
In the words of Seneca:
"Let Nature deal with matter, which is her own, as she pleases; let us be cheerful and brave in the face of everything, reflecting that it is nothing of our own that perishes." (De Provid. v.8)
It has to be explained that Stoics believe that nothing external to the individual is secure, and thus the truly important thing is virtue, based on ethics and moral. Virtue can not be taken from an individual whatever the circumstances, and helps him deal with adversity. That is what Seneca means with "nothing of our own that perishes" .
Stoicism is the appropriate philosophy for what awaits us. It brings out the best of us and it eases the anguish. The illusion of control is our worst enemy. Matters are completely out of our control and Nature will deal with them as she pleases.
economistsview.typepad.comAvraam Jack Dectis said...A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction.A bad economy moves people toward the margins, afflicts those near the margins and kills those at the margins.cm -> Avraam Jack Dectis...
This is what policy makers should consider as they pursue policies that do not put the citizen above all else.
"A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction."
More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well.
This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating)
Dune Goon said..."backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~
Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, not enough elbow room for Daniel Boone, let alone Jack Daniels! Not enough space in this county to wet a tree when you feel the urge! Every tiny plot of space has been nailed down and fenced off, divided up among gated communities. Why?
Because the 1% has an excessive propensity to reproduce their own kind. They are so uneducated about the responsibilities of birth control and space conservation that they are crowding all of us off the edge of the planet. Worse yet we have begun to *ape our betters*.
"We've only just begun!"
"Many of us know people who receive various public benefits, and who might not need to rely on these programs if they made better choices, if they learned how to not talk back at work, if they had a better handle on various self-destructive behaviors, if they were more willing to take that crappy job and forego disability benefits, etc."
George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly."
cm said in reply to William...
A valid observation, but what you are commenting on is more about getting or keeping a job than managing personal finances.
Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately.
BMS World MissionA buzzing bee is a symbol for enterprise and busyness. But bees, as we read in the papers, are endangered. Scientists warn of the possible extinction of bees and the incalculable consequences that this may have to the pollination and production of food.
Half of the forty billion bees living in the USA are needed just to pollinate the immense rows of almond trees in the Central Valley of California, for example. These are stressed bees, whose beehives are loaded in lorries which travel for three days and nights from one end of the country to the other, woken up at intervals that are vastly different from their natural cycles, often fed an unbalanced diet made up only of almond nectar, exposed to the aggression of the new neonicotinoid insecticides required by mono-cultures and obliged to fight viruses which probably become active because the bees are tired and exhausted.
All that is too much, so silence descends on the almond tree valleys because one third of the bees have died. Why carry on with that mass extinction year after year? Because from an economic point of view it is worthwhile. Fewer bees means the price obtained by bee keepers who rent out their hives goes up. The almonds of Central Valley are a 1.9 million dollar business. This seems to justify even the mass death of the animal without which natural pollination of most fruit, vegetables and cotton will not be possible. Perhaps we will be able to develop a mechanical buzz to do their work. But is that what we want? Because that is what neoliberal economics are about.
Neoliberalism is an economic approach where the private sector, rather than governments, controls economic life, characterised by privatisation of public services, the opening of national markets to multinational interests and severe limits on government spending.
Right now the underlying idea of neoliberal economics is to have a deregulated market where the most powerful win all. From the enormous riches thus created by the few, so the neoliberal belief goes, everyone will profit because the capital will be invested in the global market. Unfortunately, that assumption has been proven wrong time and again. The wealth 'trickling down' to more than 80 per cent of humanity from the riches and consumption of its richest 20 per cent is more like the crumbs that fall down from the banquet than a fair participation in the meal.
Economic Justice for All was the first explicit Church critique of the neoliberal economic assumption that everything is fine when profit is fine that I ever ran across. This document, produced at the Catholic Bishops Conference of the United States in 1986, was followed by the outstanding confession of faith which the Alliance of the Reformed Churches prepared in a processus confessionis lasting seven years and involving consultations on all six continents.
When the World Assembly of Reformed Churches met in Accra, Ghana, in 2004, it cried out its belief in the necessity of overcoming neoliberal economics, saying:
"The root causes of massive threats to life are above all the product of an unjust economic system defended and protected by political and military might. Economic systems are a matter of life or death… Neoliberal economic globalisation… is an ideology that claims to be without alternative, demanding an endless flow of sacrifices from the poor and creation. It makes the false promise that it can save the world through the creation of wealth and prosperity, claiming sovereignty over life and demanding total allegiance which amounts to idolatry."
The accusation of the churches towards the economic system could not have been stronger. Since then, all of the main churches of Christianity have published documents, encyclicals and resolutions on neoliberal economics and none of the ecumenical assemblies, no matter whether on the European or World level, can meet anymore without addressing the economic issue of life that is moving more and more towards the centre of discussion and becoming obvious as the root of the problems our globalised society is facing.
But the churches are not only reflecting, praying and writing about the economic question. They are joining in the widespread movements practising alternative economics. From German Evangelical churches using their influence as one of their country's largest employers and changing their own economic practices, to Italian Protestants setting up ecological benchmarks and the Anglican Communion using its clout as an investor to challenge corporate culture, Christians are fighting neoliberalism in practical ways.
The economic disaster which produces ever growing disequilibrium between the majoritarian poor world and the small rich world (not any more to be geographically located in southern and northern hemispheres, but apparent in the so-called wealthy societies), is not a question of charity. It's not about collecting money to share with the poor. It is a question of rules that can guarantee rights of participation in the global market for the more vulnerable players.
Christian leaders and movements have always been in contact with politics and global market players to discuss the economic order. This contact often fails to achieve the desired results, as with the talks held between the World Council of Churches, the World Bank and the International Monetary fund in 2002/2003. Talks in which the two global financial institutions asserted that their mission does not include the promotion of human rights and spelled out their conviction that any growth of the markets will bring relief to the poor as well.
On the other hand, especially in the United States, there are Christian movements opposing the main financial players not merely in spirit, but in financial activities. Meetings like the annual Christian Economic Forum want to counteract the World Economic Forum of Davos using the same ideology but wanting to create different power groups. Sponsored by organisations like Crown Financial Ministries, they make charity one of their arguments, propose biblical teaching for resolving people's financial problems and teach wealth as a consequence of receiving God's blessing. But they seem to be unaware of how the very same rules that permit their sponsors to sustain them are at the origin of the financial exploitation of the majoritarian world.
There is no doubt that the churches constitute one of the main critiques of the current economic system. Sometimes their voices are a prophetical outcry against the trend that measures any success only in financial profit. They are creating awareness of economic injustice in a manner that could be described as 'capillary' – at the local, limited level. From that consciousness-building grows alternative economic thought and action all over the world.
How might good economics look in the future?
The major Christian economic movement calls for rules. The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites in order to decree that nobody had to be enslaved anymore. The rising power of a few should not become the stumbling block of the many. That's why churches are demanding rules that guarantee the dignity of the vulnerable.
Jean Jacques Rousseau put it this way: "Between the strong and the weak, freedom oppresses and it is the law that frees." These rules shall come forth from ecclesiastical communities that experience principles of communion as dominant over and against the ones of exclusion, that give weight to sharing over and against the imperative of possessing.
Christian action, local or global, can show working alternatives, live out economical testimony inspired by the biblical message, and create new ways of financial reasoning. As usual, it all starts off from spiritual change, it's all a matter of a spiritual conversion.
Herbert Anders is the editor and co-author of Equomanual: a handbook for a spirituality of economic justice, member of the working group on Globalization and Environment of the Federation of the Protestant Churches in Italy and member of the co-ordination team of the Church Action for Labour and Life network of the Conference of European Churches.
May 21, 2015 | Forbes
Amidst the geopolitical confrontation between Vladimir Putin's Russia and the US and its allies, little attention has been paid to the role played by religion either as a shaper of Russian domestic politics or as a means of understanding Putin's international actions. The role of religion has long tended to get short thrift in the study of statecraft (although it has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance of late), yet nowhere has it played a more prominent role – and perhaps nowhere has its importance been more unrecognized – than in its role in supporting the Russian state and Russia's current place in world affairs.
And while much attention has been paid to the growing authoritarianism of the Kremlin and on the support for Putin's regime on the part of the Russian oligarchs whom Putin has enriched through his crony capitalism, little has been paid to the equally critical role of the Russian Orthodox Church in helping to shape Russia's current system, and in supporting Putin's regime and publicly conflating the mission of the Russian state under Vladimir Putin's leadership with the mission of the Church. Putin's move in close coordination with the Russian Orthodox Church to sacralize the Russian national identity has been a key factor shaping the increasingly authoritarian bent of the Russian government under Putin, and strengthening his public support, and must be understood in order to understand Russia's international behavior.
The close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Russian state based upon a shared, theologically-informed vision of Russian exceptionalism is not a new phenomenon. During the days of the Czar, the Russian ruler was seen as God's chosen ruler of a Russian nation tasked with representing a unique set of value embodied by Russian Orthodoxy, and was revered as "the Holy Orthodox Czar". Today, a not dissimilar vision of Russian exceptionalism is once again shared by the ROC and the Kremlin, and many Russians are beginning to see Vladimir Putin in a similar vein – a perception encouraged both by Putin and by the Church, each of which sees the other as a valuable political ally and sees their respective missions as being interrelated.
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When Putin came to power he shrewdly noted the ROC's useful role in boosting nationalism and the fact that it shared his view of Russia's role in the world, and began to work toward strengthening the Church's role in Russian society. Early in his presidency the Russian Duma passed a law returning all church property seized during the Soviet era (which act alone made the ROC one of the largest landholders in Russia). Over the past decade and a half, Putin has ordered state-owned energy firms to contribute billions to the rebuilding of thousands of churches destroyed under the Soviets, and many of those rich oligarchs surrounding him are dedicated supporters of the ROC who have contributed to the growing influence of the church in myriad ways. Around 25,000 ROC churches have been built or rebuilt since the early 1990′s, the vast majority of which have been built during Putin's rule and largely due to his backing and that of those in his close circle of supporters. Additionally, the ROC has been given rights that have vastly increased its role in public life, including the right to teach religion in Russia's public schools and the right to review any legislation before the Russian Duma.
The glue that holds together the alliance between Vladimir Putin and the ROC, and the one that more than any other explains their mutually-supporting actions, is their shared, sacralized vision of Russian national identity and exceptionalism. Russia, according to this vision, is neither Western nor Asian, but rather a unique society representing a unique set of values which are believed to be divinely inspired. The Kremlin's chief ideologue in this regard is Alexander Dugin (see a good summary of the historical roots of Dugin's philosophy and of his impact on the Russian government here.) According to this vision of the relationship between church, state, and society, the state dominates, the ROC partnering with the state, and individuals and private organizations supporting both church and state. This has provided the ideological justification for Putin's crackdown on dissent, and the rationale behind the Church's cooperation with the Kremlin in the repression of civil society groups or other religious groups which have dissenting political views. And the ROC's hostility toward the activities in Russia of other religious groups have dovetailed with that of Putin, who views independent religious activity as a potential threat to his regime.
Internationally, Russia's mission is to expand its influence and authority until it dominates the Eurasian landmass, by means of a strong central Russian state controlling this vast territory and aligned with the ROC as the arm of the Russian nation exercising its cultural influence. This vision of Russian exceptionalism has met with broad resonance within Russia, which goes a long way to explaining Putin's sky high polling numbers. Putin has successfully been able both to transfer to himself the social trust placed by most Russians in the ROC and has also to wrap himself in the trappings of almost a patron saint of Russia. The conflict between Russia and the West, therefore, is portrayed by both the ROC and by Vladimir Putin and his cohorts as nothing less than a spiritual/civilizational conflict. If anyone thought Europe's wars over religion were finished in 1648, the current standoff with Russia illustrates that that is not the case.
Sep 26, 2015 | UPI.com
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Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.
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All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.
...We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today's many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.
The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.
In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.
...If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.
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The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.
It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. "Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good" (Laudato Si', 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to "enter into dialogue with all people about our common home" (ibid., 3). "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all" (ibid., 14).
In Laudato Si', I call for a courageous and responsible effort to "redirect our steps" (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a "culture of care" (ibid., 231) and "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (ibid., 139). "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology" (ibid., 112); "to devise intelligent ways of . . . developing and limiting our power" (ibid., 78); and to put technology "at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America's outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.
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...At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.
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Sep 24, 2015 | www.nakedcapitalism.comPosted on September 23, 2015 by Lambert Strether
Lambert here: A little good news on the trade front, and a victory for open discussion and critical thinking.
By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street.
Often referred to as the Switzerland of South America, Uruguay is long accustomed to doing things its own way. It was the first nation in Latin America to establish a welfare state. It also has an unusually large middle class for the region and unlike its giant neighbors to the north and west, Brazil and Argentina, is largely free of serious income inequality.
Two years ago, during José Mujica's presidency, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana in Latin America, a continent that is being ripped apart by drug trafficking and its associated violence and corruption of state institutions.
Now Uruguay has done something that no other semi-aligned nation on this planet has dared to do: it has rejected the advances of the global corporatocracy.
The Treaty That Must Not Be Named
Earlier this month Uruguay's government decided to end its participation in the secret negotiations of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). After months of intense pressure led by unions and other grassroots movements that culminated in a national general strike on the issue – the first of its kind around the globe – the Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez bowed to public opinion and left the US-led trade agreement.
Despite – or more likely because of – its symbolic importance, Uruguay's historic decision has been met by a wall of silence. Beyond the country's borders, mainstream media has refused to cover the story.
This is hardly a surprise given that the global public is not supposed to even know about TiSA's existence, despite – or again because of – the fact that it's arguably the most important of the new generation of global trade agreements. According to WikiLeaks, it "is the largest component of the United States' strategic 'trade' treaty triumvirate," which also includes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP).
TiSA involves more countries than TTIP and TPP combined: The United States and all 28 members of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey.
Together, these 52 nations form the charmingly named "Really Good Friends of Services" group, which represents almost 70% of all trade in services worldwide. Until its government's recent u-turn Uruguay was supposed to be the 53rd Good Friend of Services.
TiSA has spent the last two years taking shape behind the hermetically sealed doors of highly secure locations around the world. According to the agreement's provisional text, the document is supposed to remain confidential and concealed from public view for at least five years after being signed. Even the World Trade Organization has been sidelined from negotiations.
But thanks to whistle blowing sites like WikiLeaks, the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, crucial details have seeped to the surface. Here's a brief outline of what is known to date (for more specifics click here, here and here):
1.TiSA would "lock in" the privatization of services – even in cases where private service delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water, energy, health, education or other services to public hands.
2.TiSA would restrict signatory governments' right to regulate stronger standards in the public's interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations, licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal centres, power plants, school and university accreditation and broadcast licenses.
3.TiSA would limit the ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry, at a time when the global economy is still struggling to recover from a crisis caused primarily by financial deregulation. More specifically, if signed the trade agreement would:
- Restrict the ability of governments to place limits on the trading of derivative contracts - the largely unregulated weapons of mass financial destruction that helped trigger the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis.
- Bar new financial regulations that do not conform to deregulatory rules. Signatory governments will essentially agree not to apply new financial policy measures which in any way contradict the agreement's emphasis on deregulatory measures.
- Prohibit national governments from using capital controls to prevent or mitigate financial crises. The leaked texts prohibit restrictions on financial inflows – used to prevent rapid currency appreciation, asset bubbles and other macroeconomic problems – and financial outflows, used to prevent sudden capital flight in times of crisis.
- Require acceptance of financial products not yet invented. Despite the pivotal role that new, complex financial products played in the Financial Crisis, TISA would require governments to allow all new financial products and services, including ones not yet invented, to be sold within their territories.
4. TiSA would ban any restrictions on cross-border information flows and localization requirements for ICT service providers. A provision proposed by US negotiators would rule out any conditions for the transfer of personal data to third countries that are currently in place in EU data protection law. In other words, multinational corporations will have carte blanche to pry into just about every facet of the working and personal lives of the inhabitants of roughly a quarter of the world's 200-or-so nations.
As I wrote in LEAKED: Secret Negotiations to Let Big Brother Go Global, if TiSA is signed in its current form – and we will not know exactly what that form is until at least five years down the line – our personal data will be freely bought and sold on the open market place without our knowledge; companies and governments will be able to store it for as long as they desire and use it for just about any purpose.
5. Finally, TiSA, together with its sister treaties TPP and TTIP, would establish a new global enclosure system, one that seeks to impose on all 52 signatory governments a rigid framework of international corporate law designed to exclusively protect the interests of corporations, relieving them of financial risk and social and environmental responsibility. In short, it would hammer the final nail in the already bedraggled coffin of national sovereignty.
A Dangerous Precedent
Given its small size (population: 3.4 million) and limited geopolitical or geo-economic clout, Uruguay's withdrawal from TiSA is unlikely to upset the treaty's advancement. The governments of the major trading nations will continue their talks behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of the people they are supposed to represent. The U.S. Congress has already agreed to grant the Obama administration fast-track approval on trade agreements like TiSA while the European Commission can be expected to do whatever the corporatocracy demands.
However, as the technology writer Glyn Moody notes, Uruguay's defection – like the people of Iceland's refusal to assume all the debts of its rogue banks – possesses a tremendous symbolic importance:
It says that, yes, it is possible to withdraw from global negotiations, and that the apparently irreversible trade deal ratchet can actually be turned back. It sets an important precedent that other nations with growing doubts about TISA – or perhaps TPP – can look to and maybe even follow.
Naturally, the representatives of Uruguay's largest corporations would agree to disagree. The government's move was one of its biggest mistakes of recent years, according to Gabriel Oddone, an analyst with the financial consultancy firm CPA Ferrere. It was based on a "superficial discussion of the treaty's implications."
What Oddone conveniently fails to mention is that Uruguay is the only nation on the planet that has had any kind of public discussion, superficial or not, about TiSA and its potentially game-changing implications. Perhaps it's time that changed.
The timing could not have been worse.
Read… Is Brazil About to Drag Down Spain's Biggest Bank?
Selected Skeptical Comments
ella, September 23, 2015 at 9:28 am
So, not to be snarky or anything but when does the invasion of Uruguay begin. Wondering: don't they want to pay $750.00 per pill for what cost $13.85 the day before? Aren't they interested in predatory capitalism? What is going on down there?
Jim Haygood, September 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm
Most symbolic is that the eighth round of multilateral trade negotiations under GATT (now WTO) kicked off in Punta del Este, Uruguay in Sep. 1986.
It went into effect in 1995, and is still known as the Uruguay Round.
susan the other, September 23, 2015 at 1:21 pm
And will international corporations issue their own fiat; pass their own laws; and prosecute their own genocide? Contrary to their group hallucinations, corporations cannot replace government. And clearly, somebody forgot to tell them that capitalism, corporatism, cannot survive without growth. The only growth they will achieve is raiding other corporations. They are more powerless and vulnerable than they ever want to admit.
hunkerdown, September 23, 2015 at 8:13 pm
And will international corporations issue their own fiat; pass their own laws; and prosecute their own genocide?
Sure. There's prior art. Company scrip, substance "abuse" policies, and Bhopal (for a bit different definition of "prosecute").
In the US, corporations largely have replaced government since WWII or so, or at least pretend to offer the services that a government might provide.
likbez, September 24, 2015 at 10:54 pm
They are more powerless and vulnerable than they ever want to admit.
You are dreaming. Neoliberalism that we have now as a dominant social system is a flavor of corporatism. If so, it is corporations which now represent the most politically powerful actors. They literally rule the country. And it is they who select the president, most congressmen and Senators. Try to ask yourself a question: to what political force Barak "change we can believe in" Obama serves.
As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) aptly noted:
"And the banks - hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created - are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place"
gordon, September 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm
The TISA has a history. It's really just a continuation of the MAI treaty which the OECD failed to conclude back in the 1990s.
Joe, September 24, 2015 at 2:38 am
What I don't get is why all those countries want to sign up to these agreements. I can see what is in it for the US elites, but how does it help these smaller countries?
likbez, September 24, 2015 at 10:43 pm
Elites of those small countries are now transnational. So in a way they represent the fifth column of globalization. That explains their position: own profit stands before interests of the country.
vidimi, September 24, 2015 at 4:19 am
This is such a huge, huge, vital issue. Privatisation of public assets has to rank as one of the highest crimes at the government level. It is treason, perhaps the only crime for which i wouldn't object capital punishment.
What's more, we now have some 40 years of data showing that privatisation doesn't work. surely, we can organise and successfully argue that privatisation has never worked for any country any time. There needs to be an intellectual assault on privatisation discrediting it forever.
Jul 14, 2015 | The Guardian
LivinVirginia -> Ken Barnes 13 Jul 2015 20:27
I do not mean to misquote him. Pope Francis is a good man, but before he lectures the US on capitalism, he needs to remember that the Vatican bank has been embroiled in their own banking scandals. I was raised Catholic. I do not have a good impression of the men who run the church. They spend a lot of time asking for money, and I always wonder if they are spending it hiring lawyers for pedophile priests. I like the Pope though. He seems better that the rest of the lot. I think the tax exemptions for religions should be stopped. Religions spend too much time discriminating against certain segments of society. I think they are wolves in sheep's clothing.
RoachAmerican 13 Jul 2015 20:19
Note the adjective " unfettered ". Anything that is not sanctioned by the rule of law is not good for anyone. The challenge today is extractive capitalism. Some of this can be addressed by tax policy. Bankruptcy law needs to be changed to hold liable those executives who take out excessive amounts of funds from an enterprize. Personal property needs need better protection. Existing environmental laws need to be enforced.
William Brown 13 Jul 2015 20:05
I imagine The Pope will say something about an 'eye of a needle'
brianboru1014 13 Jul 2015 19:52
Wall Street via the New York Times and the WS Journal is well on the way to denigrating this man. Even though most Americans support him, these publications will do everything to belittle him.
CaptainWillard -> CaptainWillard 13 Jul 2015 19:36
The US government gives "only" tax exempt status. On the other-hand, citizens of the US very likely raise more money for the Catholic Church than the citizens of any other country.
Ken Barnes -> LivinVirginia 13 Jul 2015 19:30
My understanding is that Pope Francis (I am not Catholic) has spoken about the inherent unfairness of "unrestricted" capitalism. He has not denounced capitalism. His words are painstaking, accurately stated & precise. It helps no one in a discussion to change what another has said & then attempt to debate the misquote.
Greenshoots -> goatrider 13 Jul 2015 19:29
And a shedload of other "purposes" as well:
The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.
Richard Martin 13 Jul 2015 19:20
Francis really follows in the footsteps of the First Fisherman, radicalised in God's format .
I like his moves, promoting climate change, making a point in visiting the poorest countries on Earth, and naming Capitalists as members of a greedy system, not capable of taking on the role of providing goods and services to the Needy, and of course, the Pontiff heaps religious obscenities upon the War Mongers, mainly in the West. I am going to give my Bible another chance, here's hoping .
John Fahy 13 Jul 2015 19:16
He seems to be pointing out a few realities. Which, as others have pointed out is causing much wriggling by those who have complete faith by the dollar in the sky.
goatrider -> LivinVirginia 13 Jul 2015 19:01
As it does every other religion----
TerryMcGee -> Magali Luna 13 Jul 2015 19:00
Up until this pope, I would have agreed with you. But this pope is different. In one step, he has taken the papacy from being a major part of the problem to a major force for good. We can't expect him to fix all the problems in the church and its doctrines - that's not the work of one generation. But if he can play a major part in fixing the two massive world problems he has focussed on - climate change and rampant capitalism - he will have done enough for one lifetime.
And I get the impression that he's only warming up....
LivinVirginia -> goatrider 13 Jul 2015 18:34
"The US government gives the Vatican nothing...".
Not quite. The US Government gives the Church tax-exemption.
David Dougherty 13 Jul 2015 18:13
Of course all the corporate politicians both Republican and Democrat are going to oppose the Pope. Forget the politicians and let's see how the American people react. I expect the Pope will be warmly received as a man of empathy and humanity who shows concern for the poor. I hope that when he addresses congress he does not pull any of his punches.
Cooper2345 13 Jul 2015 17:59
I like the gift that Morales gave to the Pope, the crucifix over the hammer and sickle. It shows the victory of Christianity over Soviet communism that one of Francis' predecessors helped to shepherd. It's a great reminder of a wonderful triumph and reason to be thankful for the genius of St. John Paul II.
Jul 11, 2015 | msn.com
ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay - His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the "dung of the devil." He does not simply argue that systemic "greed for money" is a bad thing. He calls it a "subtle dictatorship" that "condemns and enslaves men and women."
Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism - even as he called for a global movement against a "new colonialism" rooted in an inequitable economic order.
The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.
"This is not theology as usual; this is him shouting from the mountaintop," said Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic studies at Catholic University of America in Washington.
The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II, who during the 1980s pushed the church to confront what many saw as the challenge of that era, communism. John Paul II's anti-Communist messaging dovetailed with the agenda of political conservatives eager for a tougher line against the Soviets and, in turn, aligned part of the church hierarchy with the political right.
Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor - a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis' increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed - yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.
Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.
Even some free-market champions are now reassessing the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. George Soros, who made billions in the markets, and then spent a good part of it promoting the spread of free markets in Eastern Europe, now argues that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.
"I think the pope is singing to the music that's already in the air," said Robert A. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was financed with $50 million from Mr. Soros. "And that's a good thing. That's what artists do, and I think the pope is sensitive to the lack of legitimacy of the system."
Many Catholic scholars would argue that Francis is merely continuing a line of Catholic social teaching that has existed for more than a century and was embraced even by his two conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Leo XIII first called for economic justice on behalf of workers in 1891, with his encyclical "Rerum Novarum" - or, "On Condition of Labor."
Mr. Schneck, of Catholic University, said it was as if Francis were saying, "We've been talking about these things for more than one hundred years, and nobody is listening."
Francis has such a strong sense of urgency "because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas," Mr. Schneck said. "That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff."
Francis made his speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social advocates, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a "throwaway culture" tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.
In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. "How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!" he said on Wednesday night.
It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si'," released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion - while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.
"I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor - rather than just jumping from the reality of people's misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem," said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.
Francis' sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American Communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis' speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit - even as Francis seemed startled and caught off guard when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.
Francis' primary agenda last week was to begin renewing Catholicism in Latin America and reposition it as the church of the poor. His apology for the church's complicity in the colonialist era received an immediate roar from the crowd. In various parts of Latin America, the association between the church and economic power elites remains intact. In Chile, a socially conservative country, some members of the country's corporate elite are also members of Opus Dei, the traditionalist Catholic organization founded in Spain in 1928.
Inevitably, Francis' critique can be read as a broadside against Pax Americana, the period of capitalism regulated by global institutions created largely by the United States. But even pillars of that system are shifting. The World Bank, which long promoted economic growth as an end in itself, is now increasingly focused on the distribution of gains, after the Arab Spring revolts in some countries that the bank had held up as models. The latest generation of international trade agreements includes efforts to increase protections for workers and the environment.
The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.
Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis' critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," he said on Wednesday. "It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment."
Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said that he saw Francis as making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a "social mortgage" on accumulated wealth - a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for reforms both for moral and pragmatic reasons. "I'm a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have," said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.
Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. "All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don't prescribe a remedy," said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new "recipe" to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a "process of change" undertaken at the grass-roots level.
"What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?" he asked. "A lot! They can do a lot. "You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands."
www.nakedcapitalism.comPosted on June 23, 2015 by Yves Smith
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with http://neweconomicperspectives.org" rel="nofollow">New Economic Perspectives
A New York Times article entitled "Championing Environment, Francis Takes Aim at Global Capitalism" quotes a conventional Harvard economist, Robert N. Stavins. Stavins is enraged by Pope Francis' position on the environment because the Pope is "opposed to the world economic order." The rage, unintentionally, reveals why conventional economics is the most dangerous ideology pretending to be a "science."
Stavins' attacks on the Pope quickly became personal and dismissive. This is odd, for Pope Francis' positions on the environment are the same as Stavins' most important positions. Stavins' natural response to the Pope's views on the environment – had Stavin not been an economist – would have been along the lines of "Pope Francis is right, and we urgently need to make his vision a reality."
Stavins' fundamental position is that there is an urgent need for a "radical restructuring" of the markets to prevent them from causing a global catastrophe. That is Pope Francis' fundamental position. But Stavins ends up mocking and trying to discredit the Pope.
I was struck by the similarity of Stavins response to Pope Francis to the rich man's response to Jesus. The episode is reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in similar terms. I'll use Matthew's version (KJAV), which begins at 19:16 with the verse:
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
The young rich man wants to know which commandments he needs to follow to gain eternal life.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
The young, wealthy man is enthused. The Rabbi that he believes has the secret of eternal life has agreed to personally answer his question as to how to obtain it. He passes the requirements the Rabbi lists, indeed, he has met those requirements since he was a child.
But then Jesus lowers the boom in response to the young man's question on what he "lacks."
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
We need to "review the bidding" at this juncture. The young man is wealthy. He believes that Jesus knows the secret to obtaining eternal life. His quest was to discover – and comply – with the requirement to achieve eternal life. The Rabbi has told him the secret – and then gone well beyond the young man's greatest hopes by offering to make him a disciple. The door to eternal life is within the young man's power to open. All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor. The Rabbi goes further and offers to make the young man his disciple. In exchange, the young man will secure "treasure in heaven" – eternal life and a place of particular honor for his sacrifice and his faith in Jesus.
Jesus' answer – the answer the young man thought he wished to receive more than anything in the world – the secret of eternal life, causes the young man great distress.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
The young man rejects eternal life because he cannot bear the thought of giving his "great possessions" to "the poor." Notice that the young man is not evil. He keeps the commandments. He is eager to do a "good thing" to gain eternal life. He has "great possessions" and is eager to trade a generous portion of his wealth as a good deed to achieve eternal life. In essence, he is seeking to purchase an indulgence from Jesus.
But Jesus' response causes the young, wealthy man to realize that he must make a choice. He must decide which he loves more – eternal life or his great possessions. He is "sorrowful" for Jesus' response causes him to realize that he loves having his great possessions for his remaining span of life on earth more than eternal life itself.
Jesus offers him not only the means to open the door to eternal life but the honor of joining him as a disciple. The young man is forced by Jesus' offer to realize that his wealth has so fundamentally changed him that he will voluntarily give up his entry into eternal life. He is not simply "sorrowful" that he will not enter heaven – he is "sorrowful" to realize that heaven is open to him – but he will refuse to enter it because of his greed. His wealth has become a golden trap of his own creation that will damn him. The golden bars of his cell are invisible and he can remove them at any time and enter heaven, but the young man realizes that his greed for his "great possessions" has become so powerful that his self-created jail cell has become inescapable. It is only when Jesus opens the door to heaven that the young man realizes for the first time in his life how completely his great possessions have corrupted and doomed him. He knows he is committing the suicide of his soul – and that he is powerless to change because he has been taught to value his own worth as a person by the extent of his great possessions.
Jesus then makes his famous saying that captures the corrupting effects of great wealth.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
The remainder of the passage is of great importance to Luther's doctrine of "justification by faith alone" and leads to Jesus' famous discussion of why "the last shall be first," (in which his anti-market views are made even more explicit) but the portions I have quoted are adequate to my purpose.
Pope Francis' positions on the environment and climate are the greatest boon that Stavin has received in decades. The Pope, like Stavins, tells us that climate change is a disaster that requires urgent governmental action to fix. Stavins could receive no more joyous news. Instead of being joyous, however, Stavins is sorrowful. Indeed, unlike the wealthy man who simply leaves after hearing the Rabbi's views, Stavins rages at and heaps scorn on the prelate, Pope Francis. Stavins' email to the New York Times about the Pope's position on climate change contains this double ideological smear.
The approach by the pope, an Argentine who is the first pontiff from the developing world, is similar to that of a "small set of socialist Latin American countries that are opposed to the world economic order, fearful of free markets, and have been utterly dismissive and uncooperative in the international climate negotiations," Dr. Stavins said.
Stavins' work explicitly states that the "free markets" he worships are causing "mass extinction" and a range of other disasters. Stavins' work explicitly states that the same "free markets" are incapable of change – they cause incentives so perverse that they are literally suicidal – and the markets are incapable of reform even when they are committing suicide by laissez faire. That French term is what Stavins uses to describe our current markets. Pope Francis agrees with each of these points.
Pope Francis says, as did Jesus, that this means that we must not worship "free markets," that we must think first of the poor, and that justice and fairness should be our guides to proper conduct. Stavins, like the wealthy young man, is forced to make a choice. He chooses "great possessions." Unlike the wealthy young man, however, Stavins is enraged rather than "sorrowful" and Stavins lashes out at the religious leader. He is appalled that an Argentine was made Pope, for Pope Francis holds views "that are opposed to the world economic order [and] fearful of free markets." Well, yes. A very large portion of the world's people oppose "the Washington Consensus" and want a very different "world economic order." Most of the world's top religious leaders are strong critics of the "world economic order."
As to being "fearful of free markets," Stavins' own work shows that his use of the word "free" in that phrase is not simply meaningless, but false. Stavins explains that the people, animals, and plants that are the imminent victims of "mass extinction" have no ability in the "markets" to protect themselves from mass murder. They are "free" only to become extinct, which makes a mockery of the word "free."
Similarly, Stavins' work shows that any sentient species would be "fearful" of markets that Stavins proclaims are literally suicidal and incapable of self-reform. Stavins writes that only urgent government intervention that forces a "radical restructuring" of the markets can save our planet from "mass extinction." When I read that I believed that he was "fearful of free markets."
We have all had the experience of seeing the "free markets" blow up the global economy as recently as 2008. We saw there, as well, that only massive government intervention could save the markets from a global meltdown. Broad aspects of the financial markets became dominated by our three epidemics of "accounting control fraud."
Stavins is appalled that a religious leader could oppose a system based on the pursuit and glorification of "great possessions." He is appalled that a religious leader is living out the Church's mission to provide a "preferential option for the poor." Stavins hates the Church's mission because it is "socialist" – and therefore so obviously awful that it does not require refutation by Stavins. This cavalier dismissal of religious beliefs held by most humans is revealing coming from a field that proudly boasts the twin lies that it is a "positive" "science." Theoclassical economists embrace an ideology that is antithetical to nearly every major religion.
Stavins, therefore, refuses to enter the door that Pope Francis has opened. Stavins worships a system based on the desire to accumulate "great possessions" – even though he knows that the markets pose an existential threat to most species on this planet and even though he knows that his dogmas increasingly aid the worst, most fraudulent members of our society to become wealthy through forms of "looting" (Akerlof and Romer 1993) that make other people poorer. The result is that Stavins denounces Pope Francis rather than embracing him as his most valuable ally.
Conclusion: Greed and Markets Kill: Suicide by Laissez Faire
The old truths remain. The worship of "great possessions" wreaks such damage on our humanity that we come to love them more than life itself and act in a suicidal fashion toward our species and as mass destroyers of other species. Jesus' insight was that this self-corruption is so common, so subtle, and so powerful that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Today, he would probably use "economist" rather than "camel."
Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical "free markets" that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing "mass extinction" is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain "great possessions" even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet.
Adam Smith propounded the paradox that greed could lead the butcher and baker (in a village where everyone could judge reputation and quality) to reliably produce goods of high quality at the lowest price. The butcher and baker, therefore, would act (regardless of their actual motivations) as if they cared about their customers. Smith observed that the customer of small village merchant's products would find the merchant's self-interest a more reliable assurance of high quality than the merchant's altruism.
But Stavins makes clear in his writing that this is not how markets function in the context of "external" costs to the environment. In the modern context, the energy markets routinely function in a manner that Stavins rightly depicts as leading to mass murder. Stavins so loves the worship of the quest for "great possessions" that he is eager to try to discredit Pope Francis as a leader in the effort to prevent "mass extinction" (Stavins' term) – suicide by laissez faire.
(No, I am not now and never was or will be a Catholic.)
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The Pope's recent comments stirred an old memory from when I was a child, for some reason. Growing up in England in the 1980's, it didn't escape even my childish notice that the series "Dr. Who" was often a vehicle for what would now been deemed outrageously left wing thinking and ideas.
One such episode was The Pirate Planet. The plot's premise was that a race had created a mechanism for consuming entire planets at a time, extracting mineral wealth from the doomed planet being destroyed in the process and using energy and resources for the benefit of a tiny ruling elite with the remnants being offered as trinkets for the masses.
A small subset of the evil race was subliminally aware of what was happening. One of the lines spoken by a character really stuck in my mind, when he said after the reality of their existence was explained to him "so… people die… to make us rich?"
At the time, it was intended I think more as an allegory on the exploitation of South African gold miners under apartheid than as a general critique of capitalism by the prevailing socialist thinking in Britain in that era (it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country. Perhaps it was…). No wonder the Thatcher government aggressively targeted the BBC (who produced the show), seeing it, probably rightly, as a hotbed of Trotskyite ideology.
But the point the show was trying to make is as valid now as it was then and is the same point the Pope Francis is making. A great deal of our material wealth and affluence is built on others' suffering. It is wrong. And the system which both perpetrates the suffering and the people who benefit from it needs to change. Us turkeys are going to have to vote for Christmas.
Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 6:43 am
Nice post, Clive. But I thought Brits ate goose at Christmas, and Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving ;-)
Yes, where have all the leftists gone? Is Cornel West the only one "left" in America? Forty years ago I was moving to the Right, in reaction to the Left. The Cold War was still on, patriotism et al.
The current paradigm is insane … so nature will not allow it to continue much longer. G-d not so much. The US today is qualitatively different than it was in the 70s.
Trotsky was one of the first people to understand Hitler. Stalin not so much. Our current crop of elder pundits of Neoliberalism … originally were Jewish trotskyites back in the 60s. Neoliberalism was perhaps pragmatic back then, but has outlived its usefulness.
vidimi June 23, 2015 at 7:59 am
old queen vic introduced the turkey to britain and it has supplanted the goose as a christmas special. i prefer goose, though.
James Levy June 23, 2015 at 10:36 am
My friend Tracey and her family still had "joint of beef" for Christmas.
James Levy June 23, 2015 at 6:47 am
The overweening arrogance of the Thatcherites and the neoclassical ideologues that are in evidence at Harvard is their insistence that what they peddle is not a set of values, but a "science", and that their set of values is the only set of values even worth considering (TINA). The Pope's job is to remind us all of another possible set of values and organizing principles. No one said you have to believe in them. But they have a right to be on the table when we collectively chose what kind of world we want to live in.
John Smith June 23, 2015 at 6:13 am
"All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor." Bill Black
No. He is to sell all he owns but Jesus does not say that he is to then give away ALL the money. The rich guy's problem is his possessions, not money. Note that Matthew, another rich guy, did not give away all his money yet he was a disciple of Jesus.
As for "free markets", what is free market about government-subsidized/privileged banks?
Patricia June 23, 2015 at 6:35 am
Don't know if this has been linked at NC; it is another righteous rant on the subject:
Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 7:18 am
Nice. Takeaway? … "no true feelings" … insightful description of the people around me. The West in a state of nervous breakdown.
vidimi June 23, 2015 at 11:11 am
something didn't read right about this piece to me. hard to put my finger on it, but it came across as a bit hypocritical and a lot bitter. apart from that, the style is eclectic and the thoughts are scrambled all over the place. more a rant than a coherent argument.
It all began when I arrived. After travelling some 48 hours from South Africa to Southern California, carrying films and books for the conference, I was not even met at the airport. So I took a taxi. But nobody met me at the place where I was supposed to stay. I stood on the street for more than one hour.
in this passage he sounds like he suffers from affluenza. in those poor but righteous third world countries, he is treated like a rockstar. in the rotten US, he is dismayed at the lack of attention. although no doubt he has a point, it smacks a bit of entitlement.
not vltchek's best work, but then again, he did admit to writing most of it on the plane.
Synoia June 23, 2015 at 6:42 am
it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country.
True. And greed, as described by Bill Black. has no limits.
Moneta June 23, 2015 at 6:56 am
Free markets and world economic order in the same sentence?
Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 7:10 am
Irony perhaps? But then actual free markets are only in the imagination of Adam Smith.
William C June 23, 2015 at 7:28 am
I seem to remember plenty in WoN about businessmen conspiring against the public.
Eric Patton June 23, 2015 at 8:22 am
Very awesome essay.
Ulysses June 23, 2015 at 8:52 am
"Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical "free markets" that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing "mass extinction" is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain "great possessions" even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet."
This is an extremely important point. We cannot combat neoliberal ideology as if it were simply a set of rational assumptions, albeit flowing from flawed premises. No, it is a religious dogma of greed, set up to combat all of the more communitarian and gentle schools of religious thought– including the Christianity of Pope Francis, or the environmentalism of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecologists.
diptherio June 23, 2015 at 9:39 am
Good to see that someone else pulls out the "rich young man" bit occasionally. Not many Christians I've talked to seem to be aware of it, much less of the implications. Good on ya'.
vidimi June 23, 2015 at 10:46 am
fundamentalists like to take things in the bible literally, but they know that jesus didn't mean it when he said that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God"
Garrett Pace June 23, 2015 at 10:05 am
Maybe he didn't realize that his possessions owned him, but the rich young man knew that *something* was wrong. For all his virtue and good works, he could feel things weren't right inside himself.
Vatch June 23, 2015 at 10:30 am
Pope Francis probably hasn't read The Gospel According to St. Lloyd Blankfein. If he had read it, he would know that investment bankers are doing God's work.
- The Pope has warned of an "unprecedented destruction of ecosystems" and "serious consequences for all of us" if humanity fails to act on climate change, in his encyclical on the environment, published by the Vatican on Thursday.
- Senior Catholic figures in the US and UK have said the Pope's central message is: what sort of world do we want to leave for future generations?
- The UN secretary general, the World Bank president, plus the heads of the UN climate talks and the UN environment programme have all welcomed the encyclical, along with scores of charities and faith groups.
- Church leaders will brief members of Congress on the encyclical on Thursday, and the White House on Friday on the encyclical. "It is our marching orders for advocacy," said Joseph Kurtz, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishop
3.00pm BST10:00Our Rome correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner has filed a new report on the encyclical and reaction to it. Here's an extract:Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope's top official on social and justice issues, flatly rejected arguments by some conservative politicians in the US that the pope ought to stay out of science.
"Saying that a pope shouldn't deal with science sounds strange since science is a public domain. It is a subject matter that anyone can get in to," Turkson said at a press conference on Thursday.
The pontiff's upcoming document is being hailed as a major intervention in the climate change debate – but what exactly is an encyclical?
In an apparent reference to comments by Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, who said he did not take economic advice from the pope, Turkson said that politicians had the right to disregard Francis's statement, but said it was wrong to do so based on the fact that the pope was not a scientist.
"For some time now it has been the attempt of the whole world to kind of try to de-emphasise the artificial split between religion and public life as if religion plays no role," he said. Then, quoting an earlier pope, he said the best position was to "encourage dialogue between faith and reason".
I'm going to finish up the liveblog now and we'll be switching to rolling news coverage on the Guardian's environment site.Ban Ki-moon reacts:The secretary-general welcomes the papal encyclical released today by His Holiness Pope Francis which highlights that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity, and that it is a moral issue requiring respectful dialogue with all parts of society. The secretary-general notes the encyclical's findings that there is "a very solid scientific consensus" showing significant warming of the climate system and that most global warming in recent decades is "mainly a result of human activity".
Ban called on governments to "place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement" at the UN climate summit in Paris this December.
There are shades of the Pope's own language there. In the encyclical, he says: "International [climate] negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good".
2.38pm BST09:38Suzanne Goldenberg
US church leaders said they saw the message as an urgent call for dialogue and action – one they intend to amplify on social media and in the pulpit.
"It is our marching orders for advocacy," Joseph Kurtz, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Louisville. "It really brings about a new urgency for us."
Church leaders will brief members of Congress on Thursday, and the White House tomorrow on the encyclical.
Kurtz deflected criticism from Republican president contenders such as Jeb Bush that the Pope was straying from the pulpit into political terrain.
"I don't think he is presenting a blue print for saying this is exactly a step by step recipe," Kurtz said. "He is providing a framework and a moral call as a true moral leader to say take seriously the urgency of this matter."
Here's a selection of some more US faith group reaction:
Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton:
This document written for all people of good will challenges institutions and individuals to preserve and respect creation as a gift from God to be used for the benefit of all.
Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco:I'm inspired and grateful for the Pope's high profile leadership and commitment to environmental justice.
Imam Taha Hassane, Islamic Center of San Diego:
Local and National Muslim Leadership support policies that both halt environmental degradation and repair that which has already occurred. We stand with any leader, secular or spiritual, who is willing to speak out against this issue.
2.23pm BST09:23Cardinal Vincent Nichols in the UK has echoed US Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz in his view of what the Pope's central message is: what sort of world do we want to leave for future generations to inherit?
The Press Association reports:Speaking at Our Lady & St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, in Poplar, east London, against the backdrop of the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said one of the key messages of the document was asking "what kind of world we want to leave to those who come afterwards".
The pope's message challenged the idea that infinite material progress was possible, with more goods and more consumption, that "we have to have the latest phone", said the cardinal, who is head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
2.13pm BST09:13The US House of Representatives' Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition says – in an apparent reference to climate denial on the US right – that "the political will of many is still askew" when it comes to tackling global warming. It hopes the Pope's encyclical might change that:For those unmoved by the science of climate change, we hope that Pope Francis' encyclical demonstrates the virtue and moral imperative for action. Today's announcement further aligns the scientific and moral case for climate action, yet the political will of many is still askew. The time to act on climate is now, and failure to do so will further damage the planet, its people, and our principles.
Michael Brune, the executive director of the US-based Sierra Club, which has more than 2m members, and has waged a very effective campaign against coal power plants, said:Pope Francis's guidance as a pastor and a teacher shines a light on the moral obligation we all share to address the climate crisis that transcends borders and politics. This Encyclical underscores the need for climate action not just to protect our environment, but to protect humankind and the most vulnerable communities among us. The vision laid out in these teachings serves as inspiration to everyone across the world who seeks a more just, compassionate, and healthy future.
Updated at 2.16pm BST
2.06pm BST09:06And talking of short reads, I've written a little piece on eight things we learned from the encyclical.
1.54pm BST08:54In case you don't have enough time to read the 100+ page encyclical itself (the length varies depending on the language and font size of the versions kicking around),
1.53pm BST08:53Some more reaction from UK charities on how governments meeting in Paris later this year should listen to the Pope.
Adriano Campolina, chief executive of ActionAid International, said:The Pope's message highlights the important links between climate change, poverty and overconsumption. They are part of the same problem and any lasting solution to climate change must tackle these fundamental issues.
The powerful truth in Pope Francis' message reaches far beyond the Catholic Church or climate campaigners. Action on climate requires both environmental and social justice. As negotiators work on a climate deal for Paris, our leaders must show the same moral and political courage that Pope Francis has.
Christian conservation group A Rocha said: "national governments should follow the Pope's example and take 'meaningful action' on climate change".One of the most senior figures in the US Catholic church, Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, has been speaking at a US press conference. He said that that perhaps the central message of the encyclical is: what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?
Here are some highlights from Kurtz:It's really a very beautiful and very extensive treatment of what Pope Francis has called our common home.
The Pope over and over again says that care for the things of this Earth is necessarily bound with care for one another and especially those who are poor. He calls it an interdependency.
He speaks on very indivudal choices as well as the public sphere
Over and over again he talks about the world as a gift
He uses a phrase he's used very often: to reject a throwaway culture.
He talks about very specific things, about slums in which people are forced to live, the lack of clean water, about the consumerism mentality.
And that perhaps this is the centre of his message: what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?
Our pope is speaking with a very much pastor's voice and with a deep respect for the role of science.
Three essential areas that our Catholic community is being called to being involved in:
1) to advocate, a local, national and global level, to advocate for the common good. We know that faith if done well, actually enriches public life. And we know that technology tells us what we can do, but we need moral voices that tell us what we should do
2) [the video cut out at this point so I'm afraid I missed his second point]
3) The use of our resources, in whole we build buildings, should honour the Earth
Here's the Pope himself on that issue of what we leave future generations:Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.
We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet's capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.
Pope Blames Markets for Environment's Ills
Pontiff condemns global warming as outgrowth of global consumerism
Pope Francis said human activity is the cause of climate change, which threatens the poor and future generations.
Updated June 18, 2015 9:46 p.m. ET
ROME- Pope Francis in his much-awaited encyclical on the environment offered a broad and uncompromising indictment of the global market economy, accusing it of plundering the Earth at the expense of the poor and of future generations.
In passionate language, the pontiff attributed global warming to human activity, blamed special interests for holding back policy responses and said the global North owes the South "an ecological debt."
The 183-page document, which Pope Francis addresses to "every person living on this planet," includes pointed critiques of globalization and consumerism, which he says lead to environmental degradation.
"The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth," he writes.
The encyclical's severe language stirred immediate controversy, signaling the weight the pontiff's stance could have on the pitched debate over how to respond to climate change.
"Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain," he writes. "As a result, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of the deified market, which become the only rule."
The Vatican published the document, titled "Laudato Si" ("Be praised"), on Thursday. The official release came three days after the online publication of a leaked version by an Italian magazine.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, had described the leaked Italian text as a draft, but the final document, published in eight languages, differed only in minor ways, while the pope's main points were identical. An encyclical is considered one of the most authoritative forms of papal writing.
In the encyclical, Pope Francis wades into the debate over the cause of global warming, lending high-profile support to those who attribute it to human activity.
A "very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climactic system," contributing to a "constant rise in the sea level" and an "increase of extreme weather events," he writes.
"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it," he adds.
While acknowledging natural causes for climate change, including volcanic activity and the solar cycle, Pope Francis writes that a "number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity."
The pontiff goes on to argue that there is "an urgent need" for policies to drastically cut the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases and promote the switch to renewable sources of energy.
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