Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier

Rocking the cultures of the aftermath

Muse is a rock band with a difference. That was true of Queen as well, and it is no accident that Muse counts this redoubtable exponent of highly original rock music among its progenitors. But they seem to take originality to a new level – their new album, The 2nd Law, pays homage to nothing less than the second law of thermodynamics, according to which energy is subject to entropy in a closed system unless new energy is released into it. According to Mark Sutherland (Time, November 26 2012, p 50), Matt Bellamy – guitarist and singer of the band – sees in this law of physics an explanation of the global energy and economic crises that formed the backdrop to the band’s work on the album in question. Sutherland quotes him as saying: “The earth is open to the sun, but essentially we’re living well beyond the means of the sun by exploiting natural resources.”

Needless to say, it is refreshing to encounter a rock band that addresses important issues such as the possibility of economic and environmental disintegration in its music – contrary to the bulk of popular kitsch music today, which wallows in sentimentalism and nihilistic pursuits of what the moment dictates as being “cool” or “hip”. No such irrelevancies for Muse. A glance at the titles on this album already gives a good indication of their seriousness about questions of global importance: Unsustainable, Madness, Explorers (about looking for alternative energy sources), Survival (the official song of the 2012 Olympics), and Animals (targeting the reckless traders who triggered the financial crisis, with the lyrics exhorting them to “Kill yourselves; Do us all a favour”).

It seems to me that these British rockers belong to one of the “cultures of the aftermath” that I referred to in my last post. In one of the chapters – “Surfing the crisis: Cultures of belonging and networked social change” – of the book Aftermath, discussed in that post, Gustavo Cardoso and Pedro Jacobetty distinguish between two countervailing categories of cultures. These are cultures of “networked self-interest” and those of “networked belonging”. Muse resides under the latter, in so far as the band positions itself, at least partly, as a conduit for all the frustrations of the working, as well as (to some extent) the middle class in facing the undeserved economic consequences of irresponsible decisions emanating from Wall Street.

It is impossible to capture the complex argument and supporting evidence of Cardoso and Jacobetty’s chapter in a mere blog post – at best I can try to summarise the salient points they make. Instead of focussing on what Naomi Klein recently called the return of “class” in the guise of “Wall Street” and “Main Street”, they dig a bit deeper, claiming that the basic opposition highlighted by the crisis is not so much between classes, as that between different values underpinning different cultural practices. It is this difference in values that is expressed in the cultures of “networked self-interest” and those of “networked belonging”.

They stress that, to be able to understand the latter group, comprising attempts to promote social change, one has to grasp the former (centred on self-interest), which gave rise to the financial crisis. Condensing brutally, they argue that it was not the “network society” (Castells) as such – the social system comprising an increasing, technologically mediated global interdependence of individuals, groups, countries and companies at a multiplicity of levels (cultural, financial, communicational, political, economic) – that was in crisis, but that it arose from a set of specific values that gained dominance at a certain time.

In the network society, they point out, power is gained through mediated communication at all levels but it only lasts as long as the values informing such communication are perceived as contributing to making sense of everyday experience. When this changes fundamentally, the power established on the basis of such values is eroded in the eyes of the people involved in the networked communication processes, and the space opens up for the emergence of alternative views of the best interests of society.

Essentially this is what happened, and turned out to be an ever-widening financial crisis. Cardoso and Jacobetty refer to the set of values informing practices that led to the crisis as “the cultures of the crisis”, which were characterised by “network individualism” – a practice that grew from a specific management school ethos and was appropriated by a small, self-centred elite of professional managers. Ironically, they point out, research has shown that the early twentieth century saw exactly the opposite, such as business schools intent on fostering a sense of professionalism fused with exemplary moral standards. This changed in the course of a growing belief that managers were no more than agents for shareholders’ interest in maximising profits at all costs, in contrast to an earlier dispensation where managers had considerable scope in the management of capital.

Deregulation, which followed in the wake of the crisis of the 1970s, was aimed at increasing profitability and productivity, in the first place, and also at changing the role of managers in order to serve these interests. With the rise of the network society, concomitant with communication networks which made a genuine world market possible, the changed function of managers was endowed with more financial power than ever before, given the emergence of a novel kind of corporate model, namely investor capitalism. To cut a long story short, the authors point out that “power comes from legitimacy”, and the latter depends on the perception that a certain kind of domination is justifiable – the domination in question being that which is enjoyed by the financial managerial elites because of their position at the crossroads of networks connecting different realms of economic activity. The resulting freedom for innovation enjoyed by this breed of managers – together with the virtually unlimited, technologically mediated investment mechanisms available to them – enabled them to engage, via an array of sophisticated investment instruments, in increasingly risky operations which, hot on the heels of the subprime crisis, eventually triggered a full-blown financial meltdown.

Understandably, the concrete social and economic consequences of this meltdown – such as unemployment, loss of homes and cuts in social services as well as pensions – have led to a loss of trust in the values that underpinned this culture of “networked individualism”. In its place a host of alternative cultures – under the aegis of “networked belonging” – have emerged, and are still appearing, which are “learning to surf the crisis and experiment with social change”. All of them have in common the appropriation of networked culture to achieve their aims.

First, there is the small group of young managers and MBA students across the globe who are at pains to re-establish the erstwhile ethics of the profession which was set aside in favour of profit maximisation by the “me first” generation of managers. This has taken the form of a number of organisations working towards a “global business oath”.

Second, these authors mention the Swedish (political) “Pirate Party”, which started with “file-sharing”, but has today spread to several other countries and represents the “technological emancipation of the individual” regarding scarcity of information, participatory democracy and making patented drugs generically available, to mention only a few of its goals.

Third, WikiLeaks is discussed as possibly the most familiar instance of a networked culture working for change and openness of information. Other instances discussed by them include the “non-organisation”, Anonymous, the role of social media (like Twitter and Facebook) for change in the Arab Spring, the use of music for social change, specifically the “á rasca” (well-qualified, but unemployed) generation launched in Portugal and disseminated through social media, from where it spread to demonstrations in other cities.

Space prevents me from dealing with these, and other, manifestations of “networked belonging” addressed by Cardoso and Jacobetty. That will have to wait for another time. But their research has shown that there are many growth points across the world in which one can detect experimental attempts to construct a space of belonging for all people, in the face of the breakdown of trust represented by the creeping financial crisis. Muse – the rock band with which I started this post, also belongs among these: through its music, it is communicating the longing, if not demand, for a better, more inclusive and habitable world.

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  • 45 Responses to “Rocking the cultures of the aftermath”

    1. Extremely overrated band in my view. There are so many misconceptions regarding physics, again, I don’t even know where to start. Regarding the second law of thermodynamics, I’d recommend Cycles of Time by Roger Penrose. This book deals almost exclusively with the 2nd law.

      Regarding Naomi Klein, she’s been debunked so many times that I am perplexed how anyone credible would still namesdrop her. See here:
      http://www.cato.org/publications/briefing-paper/klein-doctrine-rise-disaster-polemics

      Lastly, the Pirate Party in Sweden, and programmer/hacking culture in general, is more a result of individualism and me-first culture. Access to information is part of the old hacker ethic that information wants to be free. Decentralisation (and deregulation) is a result of experience with cumbersome, tightly coupled systems. When they work, they work beautifully. When they fail…

      November 26, 2012 at 9:43 am
    2. The Realist #

      Thanks Bert. Your blogs keep me going.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:13 am
    3. Udo #

      The way you write, Unzola, would bamboozle many people – or perhaps not that many – into thinking you are an authority on everything, where the truth is that you depend exclusively on the internet for backing up your dubious statements. The comparison of Muse with Queen is appropriate; have you ever listened to them? And while popularity is not a decisive criterion, the fact that thay top the charts in many countries at this time of change, is a good indication of the receptivity for their music, and their message of hope against the elites. Secondly,neither Bert nor the TIME-writer claimed that the band was using the 2nd Law in a strictly scientific sense – ever heard of metaphorical appropriation? And as for dismissing Naomi Klein, you conveniently overlook the fact that her work finds support among millions worldwide. But you are a mouthpiece for convention, and Bert writes on behalf of those who are aware that a colossal change is slowly unfolding, as the writers he discusses in this blog-piece clearly indicate. But you don’t read such avant-garde authors, do you?

      November 26, 2012 at 11:47 am
    4. Busi #

      I don’t think MUSE deserve such a high brow critique of their album. They’re a journeyman stadium rock band, decent enough, not worthy of such navel gazing. They’d probably be astonished..

      November 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm
    5. Juju Esq. #

      @Udo

      Yes, our Garg is like the Tea Parfty. He makes up history, science and economics as he goes along to back up the principles he believes in and finds something on the internet that contains the words he is certain back him up. God Bless our Garg.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm
    6. Lennon #

      @ Bert: You should consider the lyrics from the song ‘Sugar’ by System of a Down. If you can, I’d recommend that you watch the music video as it drives everything home.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm
    7. @Udo:
      I understand metaphors full well. I would hardly confuse metaphors with substantial or even relevant critique of real phenomena. Would you?

      You might be interested to note that popular support does not bolster a stance or an argument. The fact that Naomi Klein confuses lots of non-experts on topics does not make her arguments valid or truthful. In fact, what you cite is a logical fallacy called appeal to popularity.

      My concerns are not that Muse is popular, or that they misrepresent science. My concerns are that rock bands and journalists who are not schooled in either science or economics are spoonfeeding gullible people who are not equipped to discern between pretence and knowledge.

      Between you and Juju, you are more than welcome to correct factual omissions or logical shortcomings of my posts. I would appreciate it.

      November 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm
    8. @Udo:
      For the record, I have read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. I have also read some of her whipping boys, namely Milton Friedman. I wish everyone who’s read Klein would also read her targets to see how she misrepresents them.

      There’s more than enough wrong with Friedman’s economics without the need to invent more flaws. Klein does not begin to deal with Friedman’s economics.In short, Friedman made falsifiable claims, some of which have been falsified, some of which proved to be correct. Klein managed to castigate his views without appearing to be familiar with them.

      Please don’t take my view as an ‘expert’ view, please verify this for yourself.

      Also, many bands hold political views which are not supported by the majority of their fans. People listen to bands because they like the tunes, not because they necessarily agree with the message. Muse and Queen were both stadium rock bands. Queen got plenty of flack for performing in Sun City during the height of apartheid, and for not participating in the cultural boycott. Does supporting Queen’s music mean you support apartheid? Similarly, does supporting Muse’s or Radiohead’s music (who also speak favourably of Klein’s drivel) mean you support their views?

      November 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm
    9. Wynand #

      @ Garg

      No doubt Roger Penrose is a pre-eminent physicist. However, if you really want to learn about the 2nd law of thermodynamics, you’d be better off consulting a standard thermal physics textbook. Even a first year General Chemistry or Physics textbook should be enough. It might be tough reading, but it deals directly and objectively with the science, and isn’t a personal take of the subject such as Penrose’s book is certain to be.

      Muse’s take is basically correct. The earth is effectively closed for matter and open for energy. The sun continually concentrates energy in the form of trees, and all living creatures in general on earth, as well as drives energy and matter flow cycles essential to life. The earth itself also very slowly turns rotting organic material into fossil fuels. The problem is, we are consuming these renewable resources (renewable, but on a very long time scale) way faster than they can be replenished by the natural processes of the sun and earth. Hence, we could face something akin to entropic death because of this. The earth might eventually recover, but probably not for tens to hundreds of thousands years.

      Naomi Klein’s disaster capitalism is ever present. Especially in Europe now, where governments who were before the crisis running surplusses and reducing debts and with social spending way below the EU average (Spain and Ireland) are being forced to cut+privatize public services in an ideological bent to destroy the Welfare state.

      November 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm
    10. @Wynand:
      How do you save the welfare state when it has run out of money?

      November 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm
    11. Sue Krige #

      An engrossing piece, with rock and roll at its centre. Who could ask for more? I’m going to download Muse’s music, and reread your blog. I am a convert and will read you every week.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm
    12. @Udo:
      By the way, I am by no means a mouthpiece for convention. Read the press a bit, but before that even, realise that the odds of a million selling rock band being the mouthpiece for convention are far greater than some blog troll being the mouthpiece for convention. If nothing else, my views are unconventional. The view that we’re on the verge of some revolution or that the financial meltdown was largely caused by deregulation is the conventional one.

      November 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm
    13. Trevor #

      @ Garg Unzola..

      Reading Bert’s article and then reading your first line really cracked me up: ‘Extremely overrated band in my view.’ I wasn’t quite expecting that change of perspective. Hell, it was funny, even if unintentional.

      I mean absolutely no offence, of course. You soon enough show that your contribution goes much further than that. Indeed, it says much for you that you can comment on both contemporary music, and the article itself. (I see Busi kinda gets in on the act too). Perhaps the rest of us are past it. (Or just me)

      As for Prof Bert, I’m wickedly tempted to say: ‘There you go with your Euro-centric musing again.’

      Just kidding. Just kidding.

      November 26, 2012 at 7:38 pm
    14. Maria #

      Garg, you would have us believe that you only ever supply us with facts and logic, and ne’er an interpretation of sorts. Funny, I could swear your claim that Muse is overrated is a judgment of taste, i.e. an interpretation… Besides, as Bert once pointed out on this site, if memory serves, a “fact” is an interpretation on which there is general consensus. Which explains why you are so derogatory about Naomi Klein – her debunking of capitalism in the guise of disaster capitalism does not mesh with your interpretation of the beast, and yet, the facts she provides in The Shock Doctrine – about privatization of schools in New Orleans after Katrina, about the dispossession of the fishing communities after the tsunami in Sri Lanka by developers, about the sacrifice of democracy in South Africa on the altar of disaster capitalism after 1994 (all in line with Miltie Friedman’s QUOTED advice to his disciples, to move in and “Privatize!” while communities are in shock, disoriented, after a natural or political trauma) – are all verifiable. That’s why you capitalist apologists hate her so – she has very efficiently exposed you for what you are: exploiters of people for the sake of filthy lucre, the more the better.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm
    15. Richard #

      It is an interesting notion that, essentially, there are networks of knowledge and those of ignorance. As in other areas of life, knowledge equals power, and ignorance equals powerlessness. However, what differentiates this from closed networks is that anybody with sufficient intelligence can discover the information that makes the knowledge networks operate. If I wished, I could learn about derivatives and other sophisticated hedge-fund techniques, and duplicate them. Ethnicity and past history counts for nothing in the world of abstracted value. However, of course this assimilability of knowledge is not available to most of the world due to infrastructural inadequacies. The inequality between First and Third World remains. However, in the Third World, this divide can be bridged if society co-operates, but, at the first opportunity, people who possess substantially more than their fellow-citizens, bolt. This is either physically, or through theft. Sufficient resources are pumped into the Third World to make this level of uncompetitiveness unnecessary, but the “little people” are of no real concern to the lords and masters. For instance, India has more absolutely poor people than Africa, and yet it possesses aircraft carriers and a nascent space programme. What this says to me is that poor people and rich people alike rush for self enrichment (either politically or financially) at the expense of the have-nots. The reason for this are simple to understand.

      November 27, 2012 at 2:54 am
    16. Richard #

      contd. Like all primates, humans have a power structure. Gorillas beat their chests, chimpanzees form complex alliances, humans use their wallets or guns. Why do people move aside when a Rolls Royce approaches? Simple display of wealth is enough to establish power. In abstracted economic power relations (money) there is or can be a correlation between intelligence, personability, canniness, and possession of power. For this reason, such people frequently rise to positions of power through their economic power. And frequently, others expect such people to make decisions for them, and expect such people to display their power, not by beating their chests, but through wearing expensive suits and motor-cars. When I worked in the townships, and drove a perfectly adequate vehicle, I was admonished for not having a better car better to show my position in the social hierarchy. The fact that inequality is growing in South Africa, which is governed by a political party with established roots as a workers’ movement, shows that this mind-set is deep, and forms part of something more profound than superficial layers of fairness and equality, which are legalistic and notional. Some of the most selfish people I have met have been hippies. The type of societies found in Europe, in which status is not necessarily linked to wealth or other displays of current power, are anomalous. And, as we are seeing, not necessarily viable.

      November 27, 2012 at 3:08 am
    17. HD #

      Originally Muse for me tried a bit too hard to sound like Radiohead, but has since then evolved into their own sound. That said, rock/pop stars and celebrities tend to babble anything that sound fashionable in a rebellious sense or get attached to some cause that is good for their image. Add to this, that most would hardly qualify as anything near students (even consumers) of social sciences or economics. But, that is hardly the point of your post.

      I agree with Garg on Klein – she doesn’t understand basic economics very well and is extremely misleading in her caricatures of some popular free-market economic thinkers like Friedman and Hayek. I would put her in the same class as rock bands – bubble gum pop activism, that is hip/cool but pretty superficial if you scratch deeper than the surface.

      Setting aside the rather simplistic caricature of the financial crisis (how ideology drives us to simple & neat answers), the whole concept of “networked belonging” is very interesting.

      The left seems preoccupied with different versions of deliberative democracy and “voice” in general. There seems to be very little introspection into the feasibility of these concepts and even less attention to the criticism that point out that in many respects these ideas taken to their extreme are dangerously elitist (despite what you might think), logistically incompatible with an advanced economy/society or if watered down not that different from other liberal theories.

      November 27, 2012 at 9:22 am
    18. Enough Said #

      @Garg

      I have also read Milton Friedman on the one hand and Naomi Klein on the other.

      Friedman in my opinion is a joke ( a sick joke when one considers how much suffering his economic policies have caused), while Naomi Kleins book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” is the first book anyone who wants to know how the global economy really works should read.

      I am sure there are some Youtube videos on Naomi Klein one could watch as well.

      Sorry @Bert, no-body discussing the culture shift in the aftermath to the financial crises that you refer to but its happening, people will have a lot to say about it in twenty years time. Hindsight is a perfect science.

      November 27, 2012 at 9:45 am
    19. The Realist #

      @Garg

      “How do you save the welfare state when it has run out of money?”

      The Scandinavian countries are some of the best examples of social democracies or ‘welfare states’ as you term them, and they have not run out of money, and provide their citizens with a good quality of life across the board.

      My question to you is how do you save a capitalist country when its corporations run out of money like the USA in 2007? Answer: You bail the corporations out with taxpayer money. Rob the poor and pay the rich huge bonuses.

      The 99% are part of a new culture that Bert is talking about, its a new reality materializing out of the worlds current financial crises, so best you get used to it.

      November 27, 2012 at 10:43 am
    20. Wynand #

      @ Garg

      It hasn’t run out of money, the GIPSI’s are being forced by “responsible” Northern European nations to pay back odious debt using money that would otherwise have gone to pay for public services. Remember that Spain and Ireland were running surplusses and had public debt to GDP ratios far lower than the EU average before the crisis. Spain’s public debt to GDP ratio is still below Germany’s and France’s and on top of that as a percentage of GDP it has been spending much less socially than the latter two. It’s public debt went up (to its current relatively low level of 69% of GDP) when it bailed out its banks (to be able to pay for German malinvestments) and the recession pushed unemployment up to 20% from 10%, lowering tax revenue and increasing unemployment insurance transfers.

      Private German banks exposure to Spain’s debt peaked in 2010 at 10% of Spain’s GDP. They should have known better if they were such experts in risk and everything finance, and now take a serious hit on their bad investments. Ordinary people should have to pay for the incompetence of leaders and financial (in)experts.

      Given it’s relatively low debt, Spain would not be in this crisis if it was not part of the euro. In other words, it’s not the welfare state, but the monetary union and Germany’s control over the currency which is standing in the way of Spain’s recovery.

      November 27, 2012 at 10:52 am
    21. Brent #

      Two Decade’s worth of government intervention in the housing market almost single-handedly took down the economy. Bill Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy forced onto the banks (Bert should they have defied their Govt, who has the guns?) and his administration created entire offices and programs dedicated to forcing banks to underwrite risky mortgages under the dubious goal of universal home ownership. Concurrently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bought up the lion’s share of the subprime mortgage securities and fueled the toxic asset bubble. Bush the 2nd jumped on the bandwagon shoving billions more to the Hispanic community (his share of their vote was ± 42%, bribery does pay!) The banks jumped on to a good thing (interest rates nearly zero, Govt again, plus dodgy loans backed by Govt owned Freddie/Fannie not, ho hum Govt interference again. The bubble popped, bringing down the entire economy with it.
      Please Bert pretend you are in court, tell the whole truth, not your selected versions, it was not only Wall street greed but the US political system that also caused the financial melt down. The latter have not learned the lessons (because they have not been punished, in fact have been rewarded) thus financial meltdowns are coming in the future pushed by the politicians who are rushing for short term gains and to hell with the future. Govt forced loans to the poor who could not eventually pay is the truth of the main cause of the sub prime bubble

      Brent

      November 27, 2012 at 11:06 am
    22. The Realist #

      In addition Garg

      Germany is a welfare state and the economic powerhouse of Europe at the same time. A quarter of Germany’s population is classified as poor or is supported by the state in order to ward off the threat of poverty.

      Time to bury Milton Friedman’s economic theory once and for all.

      November 27, 2012 at 11:10 am
    23. Brent #

      PS – The Muse, like Naomi Klein, appear to be what we call Spolit Brat Fascists (SBF) i.e. are fully part of the elite 1% in terms of earnings/life style but absolve their guilt by attacking the system that gives them the means (much much more than they deserve) and the freedom to shout from the roof tops to the delite of the chattering classes who also firmly and comfortably reside in the safe 1% of the population.

      Brent

      November 27, 2012 at 11:16 am
    24. @The Realist:
      The Scandinavian model is based largely on Friedman’s Neo-Liberalism (whether flawed or not). No, really. The key difference here is that they’re not part of the EU, with the exception of Finland. Wynand can provide you with the debt to GDP ratios and show you exactly how their austerity measures during the nineties differ from that of Spain and Italy now. The latter two are part of the EU and they’re stuck.

      Bailing out corporations with tax payer money is not exactly a capitalist model. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite and it’s not in tune with Friedman’s plan either. But since you’ve read Friedman, you’d know this.

      @Maria:
      Thanks for putting my first sentence in context. Now if you care to look beyond that, you might learn something.

      November 27, 2012 at 11:36 am
    25. @Wynand:
      Exactly. You’d be happy to know that Friedman predicted as much for the Euro:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/11/10/friedman-and-roubini-on-the-euro-breakup/

      Whereas Naomi Klein has more confirmation bias.

      November 27, 2012 at 11:47 am
    26. The Realist #

      @Garg – you twist things out of context. Not worth debating with you. You obviously have nothing to offer.

      November 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm
    27. Wynand #

      @ Brent

      “Bill Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy forced onto the banks (Bert should they have defied their Govt, who has the guns?) and his administration created entire offices and programs dedicated to forcing banks to underwrite risky mortgages under the dubious goal of universal home ownership. ”

      “Please Bert pretend you are in court, tell the whole truth, not your selected versions,”

      “Govt forced loans to the poor who could not eventually pay is the truth of the main cause of the sub prime bubble”

      You’re the one telling selective truths or outright lies. Where’s your actual proof and not just claims that banks were forced to lend to people with poor credit ratings? Just because Ron Paul and Russell Roberts “said” so?

      This contradicts you:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act#Alleged_relation_to_2008_financial_crisis

      November 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm
    28. @The Realist:
      My apologies, it was Enough Said who claimed to have read Friedman.

      @Enough Said:
      Yes, but your opinion is as worthless as mine. That’s why I linked you to a debunking of Klein’s facts and logic. Her conclusion may still be right, but it’s not supported by the evidence that she presents. No matter how much stock you or Maria may put in consensus reality, it’s bunk. It’s not my opinion that it’s bunk, because the consensus at some point was that the earth is flat. This didn’t make the earth flat.

      November 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm
    29. Brent #

      The Realist, 25 % of Germany (probably mostly ex E Germans??) are poor and supported by the state. Where do you think the State gets is funds from?. From the other 75% hard working, free market, tax paying supporters of Milton Feeman’s ideas.

      Brent

      November 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm
    30. @Brent and The Realist:
      Those stats are similar to the kind of figures that Klein thumbsucks out of thin air and keeps repeating in the hope that they become assimilated in consensus reality.

      Germany does not have a quarter of people living on welfare. Of course you wouldn’t want to debate me because I’m likely to call your bluff.

      Note that the wonderful Nordic model is not a single homogeneous entity.

      “The Swedish adaptation of the Nordic model is based on a high degree of private ownership, with 90% of firms privately-owned, 5% run by the state, and another 5% operated as consumer and producer co-operatives.In contrast, Norway features a high degree of state enterprise combined with a welfare state”.

      Because Norway has oil. They also have a handful of people there, so anyone who thinks we can easily ape their model (we are in terms of welfare expenditure as a fraction of GDP – please someone call my bluff) and achieve the same results is probably Limpopo province and thus humanities academic material.

      Here are some sustainability topics, especially energy and how we have plenty:

      http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/energy.html

      Here’s a different take, economist sangoma meets physicist:

      http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

      November 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm
    31. Brent #

      Wynand, Fannie was set up by FDR for loans to the poor (controlled/backed by Govt) and Nixon set up Freddie (to provide competition) ± 1973 and various acts thereafter were passed but it was Bill Clinton’s admin that actively went after the banks that ‘Red Lined”, buzz words for not lending to Blacks. There were organisations that actually blockaged banks premises that in their (and the admins ) view did not extend loans to the poor. One of Bill’s top housing admin officers (forget her name) had to be fired as she was so zealous against banks etc that it was counter productive for Bill C. Bush the 2nd and his goons just kept on with ‘what was working’ plus giving money away almost free to the big financial institutions and my conservative (financial) and Libertarian sites were warning back in 2002 that the bubble would burst with dire consequences. Guess who was right, the conservative financial gurus not the Washington elite (both parties) and their mates, the big banks. My whole point to Bert (made many times over the past 2/3 months but rigid ideas just cannot be let go) that it was not just Wall St greed but politicians and Govt also. Bert proves that hindsight is not an exact science in the hands of fixed minded people.

      Brent

      November 27, 2012 at 6:30 pm
    32. Maria #

      Bill Clinton did cosy up to Alan Greenspan, yes, but it is he (Greenspan), together with Larry Summers, who has to take a lot of the blame that the financial bubble burst in 2008, because they refused to regulate the investment banks, when it became clear that the banks were engaging in riskier and riskier business with clients’ money (like Goldman Sachs – remember the CongressionaL hearings in the US where Blankfein and others were grilled because of this?) But it is absolute rubbish that the US government forced this on the banks. Fact is – the unregulated banks tried to maximize their profits through the dubious practice of credit default swaps, and this caught up with them. But the best example of a country imploding financially because of neo-liberal privatization and abandoning of its bank regulation practice, is Iceland. That is well documented. It is a myth that neoliberal free market practices are beneficial for all; it enriches the few, and impoverishes the majority. Tens of millions of people lost their homes and their lives’ savings in America because of the likes of Goldman Sachs.

      November 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm
    33. Brent #

      Maria and Goldman Sachs is amongst the biggest contributers to the Dems and Obama’s campaign funds, go figure. It was not ‘unregulation’ that caused the problem (there are ± 25000 pages of regulation) it was the Govt not regulating but joining in the market, which was thus very very far from a free market. It is not rubbish that the Clinton admin pressurised the banks to lend to poor against good lending practice ie not a free market but Govt forced. In other Western countries socialism is applied to the poor for housing (ie Govt owned) but in the US this is not possible so it had to be applied ‘the market way’ via Freddie and Fannie initially. When the bubble was getting bigger and bigger ± mid 2000′s the Fed (Govt again) threw money at the market (rates for banks to lend from the Fed were at 0.5 % and lower) just making things worse, ie Govt interference was the main cause definitely not free markets which were not free.

      Brent

      November 28, 2012 at 10:56 am
    34. @Maria:
      How much of an impact did Greenspan’s low interest rates have on the subprime mortgage debt?

      November 28, 2012 at 11:22 am
    35. Wynand #

      @ Garg

      “Because Norway has oil. They also have a handful of people there, so anyone who thinks we can easily ape their model (we are in terms of welfare expenditure as a fraction of GDP – please someone call my bluff) and achieve the same results is probably Limpopo province and thus humanities academic material.”

      Equatorial Guinea is also a small oil rich nation ($19,300 per capita, higher than Chile’s $17,400 per capita).

      https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html?countryName=Equatorial%20Guinea&countryCode=ek&regionCode=afr&rank=64#ek

      Why isn’t it topping the UN’s human development index like Norway is? Or at least higher than Chile’s or Argentina’s? (It’s HDI score is about the same as Swaziland’s and lower than ours):

      http://hdr.undp.org/en/data/trends/

      Good governance, good institutions and good economics do matter after all, and much more so than the size and natural resources of a country. Now, all of a sudden the market fundamentalists forget about the resource curse they like to cite for Africa’s failure. Why doesn’t it apply to Norway?

      @ Brent

      The progressive gurus I read, e.g., Dean Baker, also predicted the dire consequences of the housing bubble in great detail as early as 2002:

      http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/housing_2002_08.pdf

      Now, it’s your turn to provide me with the actual NUMBERS that show how many banks were forced to lend to poor people in the US. I don’t…

      November 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm
    36. Wynand #

      @ Brent

      Please provide the actual numbers of banks forced to lend to the poor. I don’t believe hearsay.

      November 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm
    37. @Wynand:
      Equatorial New Guinea is an excellent example… of what exactly?

      “A number of aid programs sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF have been cut off since 1993 because of corruption and mismanagement. The government has been widely criticized for its lack of transparency and misuse of oil revenues”.

      https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ek.html

      By the way, education there is free and compulsory. Of course good governance is necessary. Of course the nations with great governments are the ones doing better than the ones where governments are running countries into the ground – like ours. It’s not really related to free market fundamentalism, though.

      “The Norwegian economy is an example of a mixed economy, a prosperous capitalist welfare state featuring a combination of free market activity and large state ownership in certain key sectors”.

      Can the same be said of Equatorial New Guinea, who’s had a few dictatorships and who’s relied on subsistence farming for the most part until recently?

      Why don’t we nationalise everything in Sweden?

      November 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm
    38. Wynand #

      @ Garg

      Re: Energy sustainability. I think it’s now common knowledge that we’ve not reached peak oil. The fact that we still have a hundred or maybe even more years of fossil fuels to burn does not mean that we are not stuffing the planet up while extracting and using it. But when the fossil fuels are gone in 100 years they’ll be gone for millions of years because that’s how long it took for them to form inside the earth.

      The side effect of all this fossil fuel burning is climate change and the growing damage is it wreaking on our way of life. More CO2 in the atmosphere means more infrared radiation (heat) retained in the atmosphere, and at the pace we are pumping it into the atmosphere such drastic a disturbance of a parameter with little long term variation in a chaotic and dynamic system such as the earth is seriously looking for trouble. There is also habitat, and hence biodiversity, destruction to consider when it comes to coal mining, fracking, deep sea drilling and tar sands.

      I don’t necessarily believe that higher economic growth has to come at the expense of irreversibly damaging the planet, because it can come through technological innovation and revolution, i.e., productivity growth – using less effort and fewer and maybe different resources to achieve the same amount of output. But that certainly isn’t a blank cheque to continue present destructive practices.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm
    39. Brent #

      Wynard, you threaten a few with jail (Jesse Jackson in the forefront and not openly documented by the MSM) and blockade one and the rest fall into line. There is no written numbers but the Clinton admin leaned very hard on the ‘racist’ white owned bankers and the precedent is set. How do you think so many more Americans got home ownership the ±12/14 years building up to 2008, bank generosity? Read Meltdown by Thomas Wood. A few extracts from page 15: Fannie was deeply involved in the politically instigated move to lower lending requirements in the name of helping’disadvantaged’ groups…….. the initiative the NY Times said would ‘encourage’ banks to extend home morgages to individuals whose credit rating was not good enough to qualify for loans. Fannie had been under increasing pressure from the Cllinton admin to expand morgage loans to low and moderate income people….. Even the Times understood the risk involved in moving into this new area of lending, ‘Fannie is taking on significient more risk which may not pose difficulties in flush times but will run into trouble in an economic downturn prompting a Govt rescue similar to that of the savings industry in 1980′ . All written in the lte 90′s, and prophetic not after the crash.

      Brent

      November 29, 2012 at 8:19 am
    40. Brent #

      PS – more on Fannie: ‘run by prominent Dems for years and a reliable source of Dems campaign contributions, Fannie was best left alone. It was , critics alleged, a Dems Party piggy bank with former Clinton budget director Franklin Raines walking away with the grand prize of $100 million for his brief stint there’. Nothing changes, it is still the Dems piggy bank, Obama and Dems getting millions in funding. Why do you think it was a big recipient of the Obama bailout in 2009, an Inconvenient truth Bert never ever mentions as it disproves his lie that Wall St greed alone caused the bubble.

      Brent

      November 29, 2012 at 8:27 am
    41. Brent #

      PPS – page 17: The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) a Jim Carter era law was given new life by Clinton. The law opened banks up to crushing discrimination suits if they did not lend to minorities in numbers high enough to satisfy the AUTHORITIES. Note zero about maintaining good lending practices. The fact that Asians got loans at higher rates than whites meant nothing, only that whites got more loans than blacks and hispanics was the issue ie politics not economics. It was not just the CRA that was pushing lower standards it was the entire political establishment. This is news to you and Bert etc etc as it simply does not appear in the main stream media (MSM) and those same MSM, like Bert, have the platforms to rewrite history. So Billy the Liar and his political mates stuff up the economy and the free market gets blamed, So nice to have the platform 110%, ask Obama and he will wink wink tell you it helps. Bet you Bert has never read a ‘free marker’ version of the enconomic bubble meltdown and their version of what caused it This is called balance which us in the science world work with all our lives, politics is the profession of one sidedness practised by Bert and his mates.

      Brent

      November 29, 2012 at 8:46 am
    42. Wynand #

      @ Brent

      “How do you think so many more Americans got home ownership the ±12/14 years building up to 2008, bank generosity?”

      Greed, predatory lending because the banks knew the government would bail them out once things began going south. Weak/poor regulation.

      Regarding everything about Fannie Mae:

      “the entire federal government (including Fannie and Freddie)
      owned or guaranteed only 32 percent of seriously delinquent loans despite
      holding 67 percent of all mortgages”

      “This private mortgage
      financing channel, which does not involve the federal government at all and was
      policed only minimally, generated only 13 percent of outstanding loans but was
      responsible for 42 percent of serious delinquencies”

      http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/housing/report/2011/02/08/9126/faulty-conclusions-based-on-shoddy-foundations/

      As for the CRA, well:

      “Legal and financial experts have noted that CRA-regulated loans tend to be safe and profitable, and that subprime excesses came mainly from institutions not regulated by the CRA.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act#Alleged_relation_to_2008_financial_crisis

      Anyway, I’m not saying the US government and it’s bad/weak regulations were not part of the problem. However, you didn’t have bubbles in Northern Europe where interest rates were low (thus money cheap) because governments did their jobs and regulated properly. So we don’t need to go off the deep end and get rid of the State.

      November 29, 2012 at 10:43 am
    43. Brent #

      Wynard, dont get rid of the State it must just stick to its knitting – to regulate, make sure everyone plays to the rules and then let the games go on, with the fair winner getting the best prize as in sports and entertainment. When the State becomes the ref as well as a main player you get Bubbles/Meltdown in Free Markets and the most terrible supression when the state takes over eg Nazi Germany, USSR and Mao’s China. Big business worries me but big Govt (USA as well as the above mentioned) have done the most terrible deeds to humankind). Good/efficient small Govt will regulate properly big business not collude/corrupt as big US Govt has done. Let the Free Market run free to do business and Govt regulate and taxes to take care of those falling through the cracks and things like education/defence (not war) etc . The closest to this are the Scand. countries Sweden/Finland with vibrant companies (free markets/competition) big and small plus strong Govt that regulates. I exclude Norway, which is probably the best but it has a huge oil windfall that most countries do not have so is unfair to hold it up as the norm to aspire to.

      Brent

      November 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm
    44. stumpf #

      goetterdaemmerung, another commercial plug for another “band” of white drug fuelled white brains, which may be, at best, be described as being on permanent leave from reality. one (web picked_ name of them was
      The band was described as a “trashy three-piece:

      their contribution to the downgrading of aesthetics is notable

      December 1, 2012 at 6:53 pm
    45. After all that’s being said, I really enjoy the new Muse track on the radio of late. It’s not as predictable as the plodding arpeggios with the bass merely mimicking the rest of the band of before. You don’t need to buy into the shallow tripe on the church pamphlets to enjoy the hymns.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm

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