Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Keynesian Story

I'm not sure how much of a future the Tea Party Republicans have; their approval ratings are incredibly low. It may be they will just slink back to their corners after the next election.

But the Wall Street Republican/conservative Democratic coalition will go on and on. That, I think, is the long-term enemy.

We need to make the case for Keynesian economic policies. The right has all the good stories, but they're propaganda for policies that fail, just as the communists had good stories, but couldn't actually create and run a government that delivered freedom and equality.

Keynesian policies work, but we don't have stories to tell, so we can't persuade people to vote for them.

John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, link.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Comparing Barack Obama and James Buchanan

Prof. Tim Burke of Swarthmore draws really interesting comparisons between Barack Obama and James Buchanan, the US President just before Lincoln, post:
The basic error was that Buchanan approached American politics in procedural or legal terms at a moment when the reigning political conflicts in American life were no longer in any sense shaped or resolved by procedural or legal processes. He waited passively for legal decisions to determine his course of action, and when the Dred Scott decision dropped in his lap, he regarded that as the end of the matter. Open conflict in Kansas baffled him, and again he turned to a safely procedural answer (advocating that Kansas enter the Union as a slave state).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dead Cats, Bouncing Down the Stairs

We've had an extraordinary sell-off in the global securities markets. Everyone is down. As I wrote over on Jared Bernstein's blog, I think the deal dashed all hopes for a recovery in the short term. Before, there was still some hope that matters might get better, and that at least the programs currently in place would stay in place. Now both of those are gone. I suppose one could view this as a correction. Perhaps the big investors have gone back to their models, factored in a lost decade, and are shifting their bets, going from stock to bonds. If this is so, I suppose this would become a trend, and some of the slack in interest rates would be taken up. I wonder if, ultimately, bond prices would rise.

(And, in fact, investors are buying up Treasuries like they are going out of style.)

On the other hand, it is interesting that the big fund managers are apparently now mostly Keynesians--otherwise we'd expect to see a jump in stocks, in the belief that deficit cutting would lead to growth. In another generation, this may penetrate the marble halls and marble heads of the world's capitals.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Scourging Themselves

It occurs to me that the apparently hedonistic US culture is no such thing. Most USers trust pain much more than joy. And that is why, though there is much complaining, the United States has embraced austerity as a solution to its economic problems.

Who needs slavemasters, when the citizens are willing to scourge themselves?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Greater Depression

As usual where Obama is one of the lead negotiators, the deal is worse than it need be.

Paul Krugman has been calling this the Lesser Depression. But if the austerity budget holds in Congress, it will become the Greater Depression. There will be no WPA, no new government programs to help people in bad times. The austerity budget commits the government cutting what programs there are. Education funding will be cut, as will research. There will be nothing to keep cyclical unemployment from becoming structural unemployment.

I wonder how long it will take to get there? Is there any hope that Congress or the President will see sense before 2020?

(First sentence added the following day. Two weasel words removed a month after initial publication.)

Google+, Pseudonyms, and Sexism

Google+'s "real" names policy is sexist, and an expression of privilege.

The largest group of internet users who use pseudonyms on the internet is probably women, and they do it because anyone with a woman's name on the internet is subject to harassment and stalking, and also because writing is often taken more seriously if it comes under a male name. So forbidding pseudonyms, whatever the intention, is sexist. Google's policy protects the abuses of privilege.

Google does not go to the expense of actually authenticating its users. They end up with names that their software accepts: not real names, but plausible names. Do not trust a Google+ name, regardless of Google's policies: such names are in no way trustworthy.

It is not just women who are harmed by this policy: it's everyone who is put at risk by speaking their minds under an easily-traceable name, or who is marginalized because of the use of their name. Police officers. Radio or television personalities. Closeted gay people. People with a violent exes. People who don't want their bosses snooping on them. Union organizers. Political activists at risk of their lives and freedoms.

Without pseudonyms, Salaam Pax could not have posted from Baghdad. George Eliot might not have published, and might have vanished without a trace if she had. Mark Twain would have had a different career.

The 800-pound gorillas in the room which everyone is ignoring is abuses on the part of US government security agencies, the data miners, the banking system, and the employment system. It's likely that government security agencies played a significant role in devising this policy, and the data miners that are both major Google customers and themselves sellers to the security agencies.

"Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice."