1842. No workable culture.

There are three  major views in the world about who we are and what we are doing.

  1. First is the technocratic Western view of modernization and problem solving. This approach reduces evertyhing to mechanical instrumentality with little room for a feeling for life, grace, love,or even dignity. We are all being drawn into a roll of machine part in a whole that feels ike a giant earth moving machine, without purpose. Gobble the sea’s fish, gobble the land’s trees, squeeze the living room of the people to prison-like conditions in school, apartment, work.

2. The second is a fundamentalist drive to bring back some parts of the past that were deeply affecting in childhood – as though these could replace what was lost in #1 and add up to a workable solution.

The pain caused by #1 leads to a desperate attempt to try#2, or at least (Trump supporters, Bernie Supports)  to prevent #1.

#3. For all the desire,  #3. unformulated. Green? What about inequality and automation? Stimulus to security creating fuller employment? At what cost to climate?  The Internet of people to match and govern the Internet of things? What we see is that we have liberated alt-news and fake news and empowering everyone’s projections. Google and amazon, Maybe Facebook, are emerging as the core institutions of society – and we can’t even visit. These are Martians for most people. We do not yet have a #3. In the meanwhile people know the climate is in trouble, that the economy is in trouble, that war is too probable. But there is no leadership that yet can command the media and the political process that has a hope – in most people’s judgement – of actually coping.

The Democrats at the top are the professional elites and finance. The old core is not invited to do more than vote.  Listening to those on the Democratic side that are left out would mean a real seriousness about dealing with economy climate and society simultaneously. The top do not yet get how far from livable and believable #1 is. The majority of Democrats do not support the current Democratic party

The Republicans at the top are more non-coastal elites of farms, corporations,  smaller businesses (not real small), looking like they are prone to nostalgia, they are more drawn to anti #1 policies and would rather say no to #1. The majority of Republicans took a chance on Trump, not out of like but out of need for a wild card to shake up the system and allow something else to happen.

Needless to say, this is all very dangerous.

#3. is essential to attempt. Lots to do. Most of our progressive activites look lke they are part of #3 – local inititives, Internet for learning from each ohter, media to keep us more aware of those living far away or in ghettoes. As we think about larger inititiaves (lime evolving the culture) working on denetralized compassionate local inititives is worthwhile.

1841. The way forward for economics

Provocation # 82

Here are  two key points to be developed further.

1. causes. The US was in a special situation after WW 2.. We could sell almost anything, – all business made money – till some time in the 60’s profits started to decline. The elite moved, through Wall Street, the big corporations, he media and the Reagan Presidency, to keep the curve of profit from declining. The path chosen was to take income and wealth (pensions, welfare, infrastructure, selling public assets, outsourcing, privatization of functions) to keep the curve up (in the background neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism. ). Historical embedding could go fruitfully further,

But the country was not integrated and then split. We had never been one country. What of the perspective that the country was always split? The Europeans and the people who were here first, more indigenous by a few thousand years, were certainly split. And later the people dragged here from Africa and never allowed to integrate, Then we have the divide between the New England settlers with their religious motives and the Virginia settlers: different religion, different class, different motives. The rurals who came from europe and moved west, never settled in the established communities. . The urban/rural divide was there from the beginning (Boston, Philadelphia, New York). Only part of the rural, as it was being destroyed not by factories but by finance, moved to the factories, not integrated into the north but in new cities, again split in industrial cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh and the older cities of finance, media, trade and culture..

The embededness of our analyses could go further if we want to explore causes: from industrialization back through the rise of Napoleon and Lincoln and their impact on bureaucracy, and the tendency of western civilization since the Greeks to follow materialist values, thereby enhancing power and downplaying the human, and the split between Europe and Asia the Gordian knot of Alexander. More relevant than ever.
2. What to do?  The idea is powerful and drives a lot of “hope” that the only good future is a high paid job in the tech sector and its supporting professionals. More education when work is disappearing is only a very partial solution and that actually maintains the split, integrating a few of the children on the periphery of professional class. Tax the rich? OK, how? What politics can get us there?
Can we imagine beyond the split? A society more decentralized, more democratic, where the highway planned in Washington does not cut our town into decaying pieces?

I think there is a growing consensus that we need to face the interdependencies of automation, environment, migrations, governance failure – all at the same time. We get taught as children, solve problems by dividing them Perhaps this is wrong. To solve a problem within its definition is not strong enough because the forces that created the problem lie outside its definition. Only by expanding the scope of the problem can solutions be worked on.My own way of thinking is to take an issue and embedded it in larger issues.

We have in Trump a corporatizing while simultaneously privatizing the government. The only possible outcome of continuing Trump, who is creating a well funded dynasty, will be war. Is it possible to take this Trump regime apart? We have a rabid Republican Party, a self-serving Democratic elite and no party for the vast majority of the people. (From NYT yesterday Now, Macron is taking advantage of current circumstances to blow up the tripartite system. Macron’s great insight, which few initially recognized, was that the right-left divide was blocking progress, and that the presidential election amounted to a golden opportunity to move beyond it, without the help of an organized political movement. At a time when the French people are increasingly rejecting the traditional party system, Macron’s initial weakness quickly became his strength.)

I think the 1% or the top 10% however are more nervous than the interview suggests. If we just take today’s (last Friday) NYT editorial page with the critique of Kelley as destroyer of security and David Brooks on the end of Western Civilization, and the article about LePen. I Have to ask, does Temin/Paramour go far enough?

And what is the role of economics and hence INET, in extending Temin/Paramour in the future for 1 and 2? I say we just take it on.

A few thought on reading

Lasch, Christoper TheTrue and Only Heaven. He shows that decade by decade since the Revolution the social critics have been penetratingly correct about the state of the US, and decade by decade the critique made no difference

Handlin’s   The American Home (Oscar’s son) Shows how decade by decade since the Civil War American movements toward regeneration caught on, and then failed, as larger forces tore through the rebuilt villages.

I just read the wonderful book by Joe Earle, Econocracy. He was interviewed by Rob at
Curriculum Reform is Vital if Economics is to Serve Humanity

I am torn reading this between an approach which repairs economics from within, kind of like the goo inside a puncture proof tire, or do we need to break out and consider literature which violates economics, that makes us uncomfortable, that says economics is the wrong, or perhaps incomplete handle for imagining a better society or trying to manage one?

In that background Sheldon Wolin’s Politics and Vision shows painfully how much we have lost by shifting from political economy to economics. A forceful rereading of economic history is in Geoff Mann’s In the Long Run we Are All Dead. He shows that Keynes was not a blip in the history, but that we have all been Keynes, not just since Nixon, but since Adam Smith, and always will be.

1840. Toward a positive vision.

Provocation #81 Toward a positive vision.

What we can do next to rehumanize economics and the economy.
Here is a short essay on how the separation of economics from social science and the humanities such as history and anthropology, came to be and what we can do to reintegrate the economy with the quality of life for all.

Economics (the description of economies) began with Aristotle’s short book, economos, home rules, or better, estate management. Aristotle embraced the whole reality of land and animals, children and wife, slaves and community.
But then what happened to this broader concept? It is important to see that the idea of the economy and word economics are not in use at all from Athens until late middle ages.
A few quotes from Wikipedia to make the point.

The discipline was renamed in the late 19th century primarily due to Alfred Marshall from “political economy” to “economics” as a shorter term for “economic science” at a time when it became more open to rigorous thinking and made increased use of mathematics, which helped support efforts to have it accepted as a science and as a separate discipline outside of political science and other social sciences.

This emphasis on mathematics and science is still active and in need of understanding as to motives.

The first recorded sense of the word “economy” is in the phrase “the management of œconomic affairs”, found in a work possibly composed in a monastery in 1440. “Economy” is later recorded in more general senses, including “thrift” and “administration”.

The most frequently used current sense, denoting “the economic system of a country or an area”, seems not to have developed until the 19th or 20th century.

The idea of the economy as a system implies its independence from society and its analyzability.

The contemporary concept of “the economy” wasn’t popularly known until the American Great Depression in the 1930s.

Feudal estates, developed from the estates of the Greek and Roman empires, were the only producers, mostly of food, and that mostly cattle, but also their own tools, furniture, weavings and architecture.
But life was not simple.The emerging empires were complex social organizations. Athens in 450BC had a herd outside the city of 100,000 head. (See Mcinerney The Cattle of the Sun: cows and culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks).

This reference to cattle in Athens requires a little explanation with a few words about early social life.
Hunter gatherers shared the kill. As tribes became more complex hunting turned to herding. The cattle were killed in a ritualized practice of common sacrifice. The meat from the sacrifice was shared, continuing the ethos of the shared hunt. The word nomos, for the Greeks at the time of Plato, meant man-made law, comes from an earlier greek word anomia meaning equal distribution. The law of equal distribution was a balance against the tendency toward elite ownership. [Hints of equilibrium of forces where the natural is corrected by society] . The modern work capital comes from the latin cap, head as in new head of cattle. In fact breeding was the source of and measure of wealth (along with war trophies). Capital was the fruit of sexual reproduction and grounded economic activity in cattle ranching.

What we have today is a continuation of that system in the urgency for growth and control through ownership. Capital is organic and sexual. And provides some possible ideas for redirecting the economy we have.

Empires broke down into feudalism because of taxation for wars. The breakdown of feudalism under pressures of population and trade, and the breakup of christianity led to a society based more on commerce and property and less on human relationships. It ws becoming a more material society, concerned with its workings and its problems.
The word property has its origin in “what is proper to a man of rank to show his place in society.“ Property thus has its origin as a social sign, not something apart. Private comes from the latin pri-vates, to remove. This origin of “property” provides further clues as to rethinking some of the basics.

By the time of Adam Smith most of what we mean by economics, the concepts and the procedures, had already been developed, much of it in the early empires in Mesopotamia and then Greece and Rome. Society had been understood as a feudal arrangement under god and hosting craft and trade between cities in the mediterranean.
The subtle interplay of population and elites, power, land and wars, led to a social awareness that was reduced from the good of the whole to the good of the emerging commercial trade. The center of gravity so to speak of the understanding of how society worked had been a mixture of religious and commercial, with the commercial increasingly in focus and the religious moving to the background.

Smith’s two books, Moral Sentiments, and twenty years later the Wealth of Nations, can be taken as illustrative of the reduction of the concern for the success of the whole society to the development of the wealth of the leading land and office holders in society.

In reality Smith was much of a humanist and our lot has more to do with what later generations did with Smith than what he did. Smith had broad interests. He wrote his first nook on astronomy – his scientific side – and later wrote about, for example, Italian poetry, his humanistic side

Smith’s focus was explicitly on the quality of the production of the whole society for the whole society. “Wealth of Nations” has a broader scope than most economics today with its focus on the economy, not society. It can now be said, “The economy is doing well but the people are doing badly.” Of course it has always been bad for people, in empire and feudalism and ht emerging city state commerce. Smith hoped that nobody would be left behind. Pragmatic and humane, he wanted to avoid monopolization and wanted compensation through state sponsored education and health for workers hurt by working conditions, including damage to soul and mind.

Writers however like Ricardo to Mill reflected the reality of increasing population and extensive overseas trade and colonization. Slavery was much more important to the English economy – and the early United states – than we are taught. The house for example in Downton Abbey was built on he slave profits.The money side of society and its tentacles were digging down into the grass roots. A little imaginative dialog

-We want to sell English grain to France at a higher price than we can get in Markets here in England.
-But what of the people here who were going to eat that grain?
-Look. We can sell for X per lb in France but only .7X here. Its obvious what we should do. The cost of shipping is only ,1X
– But wait!!
– Too late. The boats have left already.

The real situation was worse. Taxes were sent to France to subsidize the buying. The losers were the general tax payers, the beneficiaries were the owners of the land that produced the grain. (see E.P. Thompson Customs in Common)
The human side split off ( Mary Poovey: Modern Fact and Genres of the Credit Economy) into literature from commercial writing. And we get wonderful writers like Balzc, Stendahl, George Eliot, Dickens, Tolstoy. Poovey makes clear that as ships came and went out of London, commercial houses printed single sheet lists of ships, their officers and cargo. These started to add narrative to make them more competitive, and the narrative stories becoming popular in the next generation developed out of that. Daniel Defoe was a part of the shift from social accounting to long narratives. The descriptive and felt side of the new novels was moving in parallel but not interactive with economics . Literature became a market of its own.

Another opening in the expanding commercialization came for the sons of rich men who had the leisure to travel, comparing France with England mostly, and to reflect on society. Part of the human side emerged as “Philosophy”, another re-use of a dormant greek concept, with questions: what is man? what is society? This was different from the literary movement and more based on imitating science, swayed by Newton. The high bourgeoise was hungry for ideas that could replace the failed christianity of the time. The importance of Newton and his followers (most of educated society) impacted what most everyone thought. With new faith in material, fact and truth. Thus we get Hobbes , Kant, Hume, Locke, Spinoza and a few dozen more who became famous for their ideas. The ideas were a mix of scientific hope for exactitude and interest in the good of the whole society.

A question: why does modern society depend so heavily on these few thinkers? Hobbes and Locke were limited human beings. Their popularity was based I think on their usefulness to dealings with monarchy, the emerging idea of the republic, and democracy, as well as commerce between countries. They provided the needed story for the times.
So we have three movements: writing about commerce, the economists, writing about human lives, the novelists, and writing about ideas, the philosophers.

Voyages of discovery and the realities of new colonialism forced hard thinking – the spectrum of concerns from anthropology to history. All of thinking Europe was very perplexed by these discoveries and it moved them to a more fundamentalist view of humans. “We are the best, they are barbarians”.The issue of European superiority led to stressing the material side of achievement: goods, luxuries, science as the discovery of immutable truth.

That human split now is represented by two streams, not very interactive with each other: the novels, which turned to romanticism, and philosophy which followed the success of science into post Newtonian thought about humans.

The contradictions in perspectives were unresolvable. The idea of “nothing is in the mind which is not first in the senses” is a serious materialist objective view attribution nothing to human nature. At the same time humans, especially europeans, were the best. In fact the brain in its complexity fuses with the senses to create experience. But the turn towards the “objective” in philosophy turned common thinking toward the mechanical view of society.

It is putting back together the human and the martial that can be the task of a future economics. As I see it, it is the reintegration of the human, the globe and society that is the task. To reintegrate humans into nature and society. It means being cal that the view of the economy as a natural object was based on the idea that it and the solar system were created as part of nature and hence should not be interfered with – the core of the conservative position.

Dehumanization would give us a goal: to develop the economics for an economy which can support the better development of all three: man, society and nature, in a full quality of life so that each person can become much larger in life.

1839. Trump bully to bully

Trump’s way of being is as the bully or the winner or the insultor.  This creates an atmosphere where  others (leaders of other nations, let’s say ) can either back off or bully back. Not a good way to run the world. Trump has put us all at more obvious risk. In fact at this point is there a way to undo the damage?

 

 

1838. Politics absent for most is very dangerous

it can be seen as the turndown in the post war economy, say early 60’s. Regan ran against the government and attacked the sir traffic controlers. This was to take back the generous distribution of profits because the profits were in decline.the whole process was to weaken the lower half or more of the population and build up a world of experts to do it, to manage the new arrangement.

This got  us a country run by professionals – law, medicine, education, management, media- that increased their take as they decreased it for the rest of the population. We achieved a government of the few for the few – and mostly for the very few.   Everyone else was left out of the fast economy and the narrow politics.  The one percent snd the professionals were woven together with the economy snd both parties and the rest became even more untepresented – and restless.

we now have a population with no party and parties with very little population.

This  is dangerous – high entropy low structure.

Roosevelt new deal

Truman ended the war

Eisenhower did the cold war with professionalism

Kennedy made it exciting

Reagan kept the economy going for the one percent running against government and the people

Bush 1 made it boring during consolidation

Clinton professionalised  the  democratic  Party as part of the 1%

BUsh 2 solidified the gains

Obama brought sanity without change

trump is stripping out and the remaining wealth and privatizing the country.

 

 

 

1837. Toward a better economics

Provocation #81 Toward a positive vision.

What we can do next to rehumanize economics and the economy.

Here is a short essay on how  the separation of economics from social science and the humanities such as history and anthropology, came to be and what we can do to reintegrate the economy with the quality of life for all.

Economics (the description of economies) began with Aristotle’s short book,  economos, home  rules, or better, estate management. Aristotle embraced the whole reality of land and animals,  children and wife, slaves and community.

But then what happened  to this  broader concept? It is important to see that the idea of the economy and word economics are not in use at all from Athens until late middle ages.

A few quotes from Wikipedia to make the point.

The discipline was renamed in the late 19th century primarily due to Alfred Marshall from “political economy” to “economics” as a shorter term for “economic science” at a time when it became more open to rigorous thinking and made increased use of mathematics, which helped support efforts to have it accepted as a science and as a separate discipline outside of political science and other social sciences.

This emphasis on mathematics and science is still active and in need of understanding as to motives.

The first recorded sense of the word “economy” is in the phrase “the management of œconomic affairs”, found in a work possibly composed in a monastery in 1440. “Economy” is later recorded in more general senses, including “thrift” and “administration”.

The most frequently used current sense, denoting “the economic system of a country or an area”, seems not to have developed until the 19th or 20th century.

The idea of the economy as a system implies its independence from society and its analyzability.

The contemporary concept of “the economy” wasn’t popularly known until the American Great Depression in the 1930s.

Feudal estates, developed from the estates of the Greek and Roman empires, were the only producers, mostly of food, and that mostly cattle, but also their own tools, furniture, weavings and architecture.

But life was not simple.The emerging empires were complex social organizations. Athens in 450BC had a herd of cattle outside the city of 100,000 head. (See Mcinerney The Cattle of the Sun: cows and culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks).

This reference to cattle in Athens  requires a little explanation with  a few  words about early social life.

Hunter gatherers shared the kill.  As tribes became more complex hunting turned to herding. The cattle were killed in a ritualized practice of common sacrifice. The meat from the sacrifice was shared,  continuing the ethos of the shared hunt.  The word nomos,  for the Greeks at the time of Plato,  meant man-made law,  comes from an earlier greek word anomia meaning equal distribution. The law of equal distribution was a balance against the tendency toward elite ownership. [Hints of equilibrium of forces where the natural is corrected by society] . The modern work capital comes from the latin cap, head  as in new head of cattle. In fact breeding was the source of and measure of wealth (along with   war trophies). Capital was the fruit of sexual reproduction and grounded economic activity in cattle ranching.

What we have today is a continuation of that system in the urgency for growth and control through ownership. Capital is organic and sexual. And provides some possible ideas for redirecting the economy we have.

Empires broke down into feudalism because of taxation for wars.  The breakdown of feudalism under pressures of population and trade, and the breakup of christianity led to a society based more on commerce and property and  less on human relationships.  It ws becoming  a more material society, concerned with its workings and its problems.

The word property has its origin in “what is proper to a man of rank to show his place in society.“ Property thus has its origin as a social sign, not something apart. Private comes from the latin pri-vates, to remove. This origin of “property” provides further  clues as to rethinking some of the basics.

By the time of Adam Smith most of what we mean by economics, the concepts and the procedures, had already been developed, much of it in the early empires in Mesopotamia and then Greece and Rome. Society had been  understood as a feudal arrangement under god and hosting craft and trade between cities in the mediterranean.

The subtle interplay of population and elites, power,  land and wars, led to a social awareness  that was reduced from the good of the whole to the good of the emerging commercial trade. The center of gravity so to speak of the understanding of how society worked had been  a mixture of religious and commercial, with the commercial increasingly in focus and the religious moving to the background.

Smith’s  two books, Moral Sentiments, and twenty years later the Wealth of Nations, can be taken as illustrative of the reduction of the  concern for the success of the whole society to the development of the wealth of the leading land and office holders in society.

In reality Smith was much of a humanist and our lot has more to do with what later generations did with Smith than what he did. Smith had broad interests. He wrote his first nook on astronomy – his scientific side – and later wrote about, for example, Italian poetry,  his humanistic side

Smith’s focus was explicitly on the quality of the production of the whole society for the whole society. “Wealth of Nations” has a broader scope than most economics today with its  focus on the economy, not society.  It can now be said, “The economy is doing well but the people are doing badly.” Of course it has always been bad for people, in empire and feudalism and ht emerging city state commerce. Smith hoped that  nobody would be left behind. Pragmatic and humane, he wanted to avoid monopolization and wanted compensation through state sponsored education and health for workers hurt by working conditions, including damage to soul and mind.

Writers however like Ricardo to Mill reflected the reality of increasing population and extensive overseas trade and colonization. Slavery was much more important to the English economy – and the early United states – than we are taught. The house for example in Downton Abbey was built on he slave profits.The money side of society and its tentacles were digging down into the grass roots. A little imaginative dialog

-We want to sell English grain to France at a higher price than we can get in Markets here in England.

-But what of the people here who were going to eat that grain?

-Look. We can sell for X per lb   in France but only .7X here. Its obvious what we should do. The cost of shipping is only ,1X

– But wait!!

–  Too late. The boats have left already.

The real situation was worse. Taxes were sent to France to subsidize the buying. The losers  were the general tax payers, the beneficiaries were the owners of the land that produced the grain. (see E.P. Thompson Customs in Common)

The human side split off ( Mary Poovey: Modern Fact and Genres of the Credit Economy) into literature from commercial writing. And we get wonderful writers like Balzac, Stendahl, George Eliot, Dickens, Tolstoy. Poovey makes clear that as ships came and went out of London, commercial houses printed single sheet lists of ships, their officers and cargo. These started to add narrative to make them more competitive, and the narrative stories becoming popular in the next generation developed out of that. Daniel Defoe was a part of the shift from social accounting to long narratives. The descriptive and felt side of the new novels  was moving in parallel but not interactive with economics . Literature became a market of its own.

Another opening in the expanding commercialization came for the sons of rich men who had the leisure to travel, comparing France with England mostly, and to reflect on society. Part of the human side emerged as “Philosophy”, another re-use of a dormant greek concept,  with questions: what is man? what is society? This was different from the literary movement and more based on imitating  science,  swayed by Newton. The high bourgeoise was hungry for ideas that could replace the failed christianity of the time. The importance of Newton and his followers (most of educated society) impacted what most everyone thought. With new faith in material,  fact and truth. Thus we get Hobbes , Kant, Hume, Locke, Spinoza and a few dozen more who became famous for their ideas. The ideas were a mix of scientific hope for exactitude and interest in the good of the whole society.

A question: why does modern society depend so heavily on these few thinkers? Hobbes and Locke were limited human beings. Their popularity was based I think on their usefulness to dealings with monarchy, the emerging idea of the republic, and democracy, as well as commerce between countries.  They provided the needed story for the times.

So we have three movements: writing about commerce, the economists, writing about human lives, the novelists, and writing about ideas, the philosophers.

Voyages of discovery and the realities of new colonialism forced hard thinking – the spectrum of concerns from anthropology to history. All of thinking Europe was very perplexed by these discoveries and it moved them to a more fundamentalist view of humans. “We are the best, they are barbarians”.The issue of European superiority led to stressing the material side of achievement: goods, luxuries, science as the discovery of immutable truth.

That human split now is represented by two streams, not very interactive with each other:  the novels, which turned to romanticism, and philosophy which followed the success of science into post Newtonian thought about humans.

The contradictions in perspectives were unresolvable. The idea of “nothing is in the mind which is not first in the senses”  is a serious materialist objective view attribution nothing to human nature. At the same time humans, especially Europeans, were the best.  In fact the brain in its complexity fuses with the senses to create experience. But the  turn towards the “objective” in philosophy turned common thinking toward the mechanical view of society.

It is putting back together the  human and the martial that can be the task of a future economics. As I see it, it is the reintegration of the human, the globe and society that is the task. To reintegrate humans into nature and society. It means being cal that the view of the economy as a natural object was based on the idea that it and the solar system were created as part of nature and hence should not be interfered with – the core of the conservative position.

Rehumanization would give us a goal: to develop the economics for an economy which can support the better development of all three: man, society and nature, in a full quality of life so that each person can become much larger in life.