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The tendency of the rate of profit to fall

David Graeber in The Baffler has written a truly extraordinary article:

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit
End of work arguments were popular in the late seventies and early eighties as social thinkers pondered what would happen to the traditional working-class-led popular struggle once the working class no longer existed. (The answer: it would turn into identity politics.) Jameson thought of himself as exploring the forms of consciousness and historical sensibilities likely to emerge from this new age.

What happened, instead, is that the spread of information technologies and new ways of organizing transport—the containerization of shipping, for example—allowed those same industrial jobs to be outsourced to East Asia, Latin America, and other countries where the availability of cheap labor allowed manufacturers to employ much less technologically sophisticated production-line techniques than they would have been obliged to employ at home.

From the perspective of those living in Europe, North America, and Japan, the results did seem to be much as predicted. Smokestack industries did disappear; jobs came to be divided between a lower stratum of service workers and an upper stratum sitting in antiseptic bubbles playing with computers. But below it all lay an uneasy awareness that the postwork civilization was a giant fraud. Our carefully engineered high-tech sneakers were not being produced by intelligent cyborgs or self-replicating molecular nanotechnology; they were being made on the equivalent of old-fashioned Singer sewing machines, by the daughters of Mexican and Indonesian farmers who, as the result of WTO or NAFTA–sponsored trade deals, had been ousted from their ancestral lands. It was a guilty awareness that lay beneath the postmodern sensibility and its celebration of the endless play of images and surfaces.

That is very acute. Read below the fold...

Tweet of the day (2)

Tweet of the day

In the garden: Tapestries and decay

The same idea, but different:

I wanted to try for the poppies in the front yard again, but they're all gone, now. (I did see a bee working, so that was heartening.) So I went to the wildflowers in the back: Read below the fold...

Tweet of the day (2)

Tweet of the day

letsgetitdone's picture

A Bottom-Up Solution to the Global Democracy Crisis

Before the “no” vote on Scotland's independence, The New York Times, carried a post by Neil Irwin in the Upshot making the point that the then upcoming vote “shows a global crisis of the elites.” He argues that the independence drive reflects “. . . a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades.” He also thinks that this applies to the Eurozone and the United States to varying degrees, and is “. . . a defining feature of our time.”

Irwin then updated his first post last night, expanding it and recognizing the victory of the “no” votes in the referendum. His new post did not add anything essential to his “global crisis of the elites” diagnosis, so the references and quotations below come solely from his pre-vote post. But the points made apply equally well to his update.

To summarize his argument, for decades now, the elites in major modern, industrial nations have committed leadership blunders and created great discontent among the citizens of their nations, to the point where their polices have contributed to damaging their economies seriously, and the rise of popular resistance embodied in extremist parties and independence movements. Elites have had vast power, but have not lived up to their responsibilities to serve the people of their nations. Discontent with their actions and results is so high that many are questioning the legitimacy of the very governing institutions that claim to serve them, and are exhibiting a greater and greater willingness to do something about these institutions and the policies that they and the elites are generating. Scotland is but one example of that, and his implication is that more examples are in the offing.

It's significant, some might say even remarkable, that Irwin's article appeared in The New York Times, since it is a flat out criticism of elite leadership over a number of decades and a warning to elites to improve their performance or deal with the consequences. But I think it still misses the most important question. That question is whether there is a global crisis of elites or a global crisis of democracies? I'm afraid I think that the crisis of elite leadership is only a symptom of the underlying cause of a broader global crisis of democracy. Read below the fold...

Shumlin must do well in his governor's race to have the clout for single payer

(Details of the plan aside). VT Digger:

In 2012, Shumlin received 57 percent of the ballots cast.

[Eric Davis, a retired professor of political science from Middlebury College] speculates that [Republican Scott Milne] will get 38 percent to 42 percent of the vote, and Shumlin will land between 48 percent and 52 percent. Milne will have to fight off Shumlin and Dan Feliciano, the libertarian candidate, who will likely get 8 percent to 10 percent of ballots cast, depending on how much media coverage he gets in the next several months.

"I expect Shumlin to come in first," Davis said. "But Shumlin needs to work hard to get above 50. If he wants a mandate for single payer he needs half of the votes cast." He suggested that the Democratic field organizers are going to need to work hard to get independents who lean Democratic to turn out and get Shumlin's percentage above 50.

Dunno the VT scene well enough to know whether a retired Middlebury prof gets to set the rules of the expectations game. But it sounds plausible. Read below the fold...

Well, so much for Kansas

Thomas Frank has a good write-up in Salon:

The wrecking crew is in full swing in Kansas, and for once the people there seem to be ticked off about it. Once the hero of the state’s sin-hating millions, Sam Brownback is unpopular today. Indeed, his situation is so bad that the only sure way he can be rescued is by a mass disregard for economic reality—by cognitive blinders strapped on simultaneously by millions of individuals.

Either that, or by the culture wars.

So here we go. Politico: Read below the fold...

A friend needs your help

Car Destroyed By Fire:

The current problem Is the last in a series of things that happened over the last few years. I'm not very good at asking for help for myself. This is in the third person because most of it was written by two friends of my wife and myself: ===> Read below the fold...

The question of the next crisis

The question of what's going to happen in the next crisis seems to be going up on the zeitgeit charts; Graeber had one such piece; so (naturallly) does the Archdruid; here's another one from Project Syndicate; and here's an interesting one from Golem XIV, a UK finance blogger. The high points:

If you line up the S&L, the Junk Bond and the Dot Com bubble, America has had a major home-brewed financial crisis every ten years. If you consider that none of these events happened in isolation nor limited their effects to the country of origin then we have to conclude that the global financial system is prone to crises. You can, if you see the world through resolutely libertarian glasses, blame everything on interfering governments – it matters little. The fact remains that the system as is, is unstable and run by the myopic, the greedy and the corrupt. Where they draw their salary, which side of the revolving door they happen to be on, on any day seems to me irrelevant. The worst of them don’t understand and are easily bought. The best have no concern for anyone or anything beyond their next bonus.

And here we are being led by them.

Of course saying another crisis is coming is like saying we are due a large earthquake in Southern California. True, but it doesn’t mean one is going to happen tomorrow. What I think it does mean is that we should be thinking what our leaders, what the people they work for – the global overclass – might already have in mind or have already put in place, for what they want done next time. I think it would be foolish to imagine they have not thought about it and are not putting in place the things which will close off some futures and force us into others that they prefer. They have so very much to lose and so very much more they want to gain.

Ding ding ding ding ding! Read below the fold...

In the garden: Fall tapestries

Schnedier Tele 2x. First rose leaves turning yellow, but borage still blue and green. And petals and ground litter everywhere ("birds like a mess"). In color terms, it really is a tapestry. Almost literally, since all this colorful organic matter is gradually collecting and intermingling on a flat surface, the earth (there to rot and make the soil better next year, instead of hanging on a wall, I suppose).

And I tried again with that white poppy that shows the mark of a brush with frost: Read below the fold...

Tweet of the day

I think I've posted this before -- it's got a ton of retweets -- but if so, I like it so much I'm doing it again!

Jan Hunt’s '10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids'

“All people have the right to protection of their physical integrity, and children are people too." Dr. Peter Newell (coordinator of an organization called “End Punishment of Children”)
Read below the fold...

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