Posts Tagged ‘Yves Smith’
A thought-provoking presentation on the role of food in our society.
The last time I used this title for a post was back on July 20th. However, the topic then was very different to today’s theme. Then I wrote about how the genetic modification of our food represents as big a danger to the long-term survival of man as does the damage to our biosphere.
So this comes as a very pleasant contrast. I am indebted to Yves Smith’s blog Naked Capitalism for drawing this presentation to my attention. As was written in that NK post,
This is a super presentation by Ray Patel for Michael Pollan’s class at Berkeley, Edible Education 103. The presentation and the question period together come to about an hour. Ray Patel follows after Michael Pollan handles administrative stuff and then does an introduction.
There are plenty of charts, but I really enjoy the anecdote on Northern Malawi at minute 43:54 — too long for me to transcribe, so I’ll quote Patel’s closing line:
What makes it really sail is not just the democracy, but the joy which comes through people cooking together as equals and eating together as equals.
Published on Dec 7, 2012
Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist, and academic. He has degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics, and Cornell University, has worked for the World Bank and WTO, and protested against them around the world.
He’s currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies, an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a fellow at The Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First. He is currently an IATP Food and Community Fellow.
He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee and is an Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. In addition to numerous scholarly publications, he regularly writes for The Guardian, and has contributed to the LA Times, NYTimes.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Mail on Sunday, and The Observer. His first book was Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and his latest, The Value of Nothing, is a New York Times best-seller.
What I Did This Summer
By Raj on 08/11/2012
The good folk at Canada’s Globe & Mail asked me to write a piece called “What I Did This Summer.” Never having written one before, I thought I’d channel my inner 12 year old.
Cuzco, Peru: This summer I started to write a book and film a documentary with my hero. His name is Steve James. He filmed ‘Hoop Dreams’ which was about basketball and hope and disappointment and race and inequality and America. Our film is called “Generation Food”. It is about how we will eat in the future.
So I went to Japan. People used to live long lives in Okinawa because of the traditional diet. Lots of people lived until 100. Now grandparents are burying their children. They don’t eat as they used to. When the Americans came with their military base, they brought fast food for the GIs. Everybody eats it now. I visited farmers who plant crops on US bases. They did it so often that the Americans gave up and just let them do it. I ate goat sashimi because it would have been rude not to.
Won’t reproduce it in full as I haven’t sought permission. So do go here to read it. But I just can’t resist offering you Raj Patel’s closing words.
I have learned that: People are kind. Everyone has contradictions. Raw goat tastes funny, but it’s not as bad as Cuban food. The world is more beautiful than I imagined. There is more hope for the future of food than I dared to believe, against impossible odds. And it comes from unlikely places.
And after the summer, I was never the same again.
What a lovely sentiment to end on.
Starting to feel like a long way from John Masefield’s poem Sea Fever.
One of my all-time favourite poems.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
Why do I start this piece with that poem?
Well, read this,
Carbonic acid is a weak acid that is created when carbon dioxide (CO2) is dissolved in water (H2O), resulting in the chemical formula H2CO3. When the acid dissociates, or gives up a hydrogen ion, the resulting molecule is called a bicarbonate ion. Carbonic acid appears frequently in the natural world. It can be found in sodas, champagne, and blood. The acid even appears in rain.
But like so many things in nature, it’s all about balance.
Besides, it’s not all about “climate change”. Half of the CO2 is presently dissolving in the oceans, so a rise of two degrees Celsius means extremely acid oceans (CO2 turns into carbonic acid after it reacts with water). At the present rate of acidification, marine life will dissolve big time by 2100. That’s how a lot of the oxygen is produced, by photosynthesizing unicellular animals, with acid sensitive skeletons. Atmospheric poisoning deniers do not want just to warm us up.
On that same day of March 2nd, Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism published an item that reinforced what Patrice wrote. Yves very kindly gave me permission to republish her Post in full, as follows:
Science has published a troubling but not entirely surprising article on the fact that the oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. Actually, it could be the fastest rate over an even longer time period, but we can only go back with any degree of accuracy for 300 million years
….there are side effects to our love affair with CO2 that are not often mentioned. In fact, whether the earth cools or warms is absolutely irrelevant to these effects. I repeat: Absolutely irrelevant.
One of the most startling effects is the acidification of the oceans. Since 1750, the oceans have become increasingly acidic. In the oceans, CO2 forms carbonic acid, a serious threat to the base of the food chain, especially on shellfish of all sizes. Carbonic acid dissolves calcium carbonate, an essential component of any life form with an exoskeleton. In short, all life forms with an exoskeleton are threatened: shell fish, an important part of the food chain for many fish; coral reefs, the habitat of many species of fish….
The formation of carbonic acid does not depend upon temperature. Whether the oceans warm or cool is irrelevant. Of concern only is the amount of CO2 that enters the oceans.
Fast forward to today. Consider the scope of the paper in Science, per a very good discussion in ars technica:
A new paper in Science examines the geologic record for context relating to ocean acidification…The research group (twenty-one scientists from nearly as many different universities) reviewed the evidence from past known or suspected intervals of ocean acidification…They find that the current rate of ocean acidification puts us on a track that, if continued, would likely be unprecedented in last 300 million years.
There is an important driver of this process that this overview mentions only in passing further on, and it’s useful to have it in mind when you review the discussion of the historical record:ocean acidification depends primarily on the rate of atmospheric CO2 increases, not the absolute concentration. Look at how attenuated the rate of past CO2 changes was in the past versus the speed now:
The first period the researchers looked at was the end of the last ice age, starting around 18,000 years ago. Over a period of about 6,000 years, atmospheric CO2 levels increased by 30 percent, a change of roughly 75 ppm. (For reference, atmospheric CO2 has gone up by about the same amount over the past 50 years.) Over that 6,000 year time period, surface ocean pH dropped by approximately 0.15 units. That comes out to about 0.002 units per century. Our current rate is over 0.1 units per century—two orders of magnitude greater, which lines up well with a model estimate we covered recently.
The last deglaciation did not trigger a mass extinction, but it did cause changes in some species…
During the Pliocene warm period, about 3 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 was about the same as today, but pH was only 0.06 to 0.11 units lower than preindustrial conditions. This is because the event played out over 320,000 years or so. We see species migration in the fossil record in response to the warming planet, but not ill effects on calcifiers…
Next, the researchers turned their focus to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (or PETM), which occurred 56 million years ago. Global temperature increased about 6°C over 20,000 years due to an abrupt release of carbon to the atmosphere (though this was not as abrupt as current emissions). The PETM saw the largest extinction of deep-sea foraminifera of the last 75 million years, and was one of the four biggest coral reef disasters of the last 300 million years…
The group also examined the several mass extinctions that defined the Mesozoic—the age of dinosaurs. The boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic included a large increase in atmospheric CO2 (adding as much as 1,300 to 2,400 ppm) over a relatively short period of time, perhaps just 20,000 years. The authors write, “A calcification crisis amongst hypercalcifying taxa is inferred for this period, with reefs and scleractinian corals experiencing a near-total collapse.” Again, though, it’s unclear how much of the catastrophe can be blamed on acidification rather than warming.
Finally, we come the big one—The Great Dying. The Permian-Triassic mass extinction (about 252 million years ago) wiped out around 96 percent of marine species. Still, the rate of CO2 released to the atmosphere that drove the dangerous climate change was 10-100 times slower than current emissions…
In the end, the researchers conclude that the PETM, Triassic-Jurassic boundary, and Permian-Triassic boundary are the closest analogs to the modern day, at least as far as acidification is concerned. Due to the poor ocean chemistry data for the latter two, the PETM is the best event for us to compare current conditions. It’s still not perfect—the rate of CO2 increase was slower than today…
The authors conclude, “[T]he current rate of (mainly fossil fuel) CO2 release stands out as capable of driving a combination and magnitude of ocean geochemical changes potentially unparalleled in at least the last ~300 [million years] of Earth history, raising the possibility that we are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change.”
Translation: “We’re probably fucked, but the data is so far outside of historical parameters, we can’t say anything with a high degree of certainty.”
My rather slow response to my Versatile Blogger award!
Last Friday morning, the 16th, I turned on my PC to discover that lovely Kathryn Johnston of 4amWriter had nominated Learning from Dogs for the Versatile Blogger Award. I was blown away especially as since then the connections I have made with other writers have been wonderful.
However, a more prompt acknowledgement on LfD seems to have escaped me until today. I quickly learnt that there is a proper protocol associated with the response to the award.
- Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
- Share 7 things about yourself.
- Pass this award along to 15 blogs you enjoy reading.
- Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.
So here goes!
So first, a very big thank you to Kathryn of 4amWriter for including me in her list. As she said on her post, “This title says it all! If you love dogs, this is a must-visit!” That’s generous of Kathryn. Dogs are a very powerful reminder of an uncomplicated way to live, as described on the Home Page. The Vision behind the Blog is:
- Our children require a world that understands the importance of faith, integrity and honesty
- Learning from Dogs will serve as a reminder of the values of life and the power of unconditional love – as so many, many dogs prove each and every day
- Constantly trying to get to the truth …
- The power of greater self-awareness and faith …
Seven things about me!
H’mm, what to say.
- Born in London 6 months before the end of WWII,
- Been a business-to-business salesman most of my life,
- Started my own business in 1978 and remained in ‘self-employment’ until quite recently,
- Lived on my own boat, based in Larnaca, Cyprus, for 5 years,
- A keen glider pilot for many years at Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk, later a private pilot,
- Always wanted to write,
- And, finally, happier than I have ever been being married to Jean, having met in Mexico in 2007, moving out there with Pharaoh, my GSD, in 2008 and subsequently arriving in Payson, Arizona in 2010 with 11 dogs and 6 cats!
So here are the 16 Blogs (I use that description loosely) that I wish to pass this award to:
- Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism. How Yves finds the time to produce the huge volume of articles and website links every day is beyond me.
- James Kwak and Simon Johnson of Baseline Scenario. James and Simon were, for me, an early source of openness about the key issues affecting the global economy that slammed into our collective faces in 2008.
- Patrice Ayme of the Blog of his own name. Patrice’s sub-heading on his Blog reads, “Intelligence at the core of humanism.” Again, a prolific writer with a huge intellect that he puts to wonderful use. Just pick anything that he has written to see that proved in spades.
- Patrick Smith of Patrick Smith Photography. Just breath-taking photographs. Do visit his website.
- Bill McKibben of 350.org. The headline on the website says, “We’re building a global movement to solve the climate crisis.” Say no more!
- Michelle of Dog Kisses’s blog. Wonderful blog – just go there and enjoy it.
- Sue of Sue Dreamwalker. Again, just a wonderful Blog – do please visit.
- Vlatko, the owner of Top Documentary Films. We do not subscribe to any television channels at home so Vlatko’s resource is so valuable for us. Huge selection of free documentary films to watch.
- Deanna Raeke and Andrea Rosebrock of the Blog For The Love of a Dog. Very active in fighting all corners on behalf of man’s oldest companion.
- Rob Hopkins and his team at Transition Network. Rob is one of the leading voices for changing to a sustainable relationship with this planet. He is based in Totnes, Devon, my local town for many years when I lived in the village of Harberton. His books on Transition are masterpieces.
- Victoria Brown, Daniel Honan and team at Big Think. As their headline says, “A forum where top experts explore the big ideas and core skills defining the 21st century.” Fabulous resource.
- All the Directors and team at Sustainable Arizona. As is described on their site, Sustainable Arizona is about, “Our nonprofit organization is made up of volunteers and professionals committed to making sustainable development possible. We accomplish this by encouraging businesses that add true value to our communities while preserving the environment.“
- Anthony Watts of Watt’s Up With That. With over 9,000 followers and over 98 million viewers this very reasonably can be regarded as the world’s most viewed climate website. Anthony’s 3 million monthly visitors puts my 40,000 into perspective!
- The whole team at the US-based National Wildlife Federation. Their Mission: As America’s largest conservation organization, National Wildlife Federation works with more than 4 million members, partners and supporters in communities across the country to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future!
- Peter Russell of Spirit of Now. Peter writes on his Blogsite, “There are many observations I make in daily life—some profound, some mundane—mostly concerning the natural world around, or the nature of the inner world of mind. Some incline us to wonder and awe. Others make us think, and question our assumptions.” Never before have we needed so much to think about the way we think!
- Nakibul Hoq, blogging from Bangladesh in the city of Dhaka under the Blog name of Freedom to Survive.
I shall be passing on the ‘award’ to all bloggers today.
Let me close again by saying such a big thank you to Kathryn of 4amWriter and, from that, how quickly I came across Limebird Writers who, I know, will be a great source of support as I face 2012 and ‘the novel’!
Perhaps intuition is all we have to hear clearly.
John O’Donohue, in yesterday’s post, touched on the essence of today’s theme, “The greatest philosophers admit that to a large degree all knowledge comes through the senses. The senses are our bridge to the world.“
Dogs, of course, demonstrate powerfully how their senses provide a ‘bridge to the world’.
This odd collection of writings (ramblings?) that comprise Learning from Dogs is based around the ‘i’ word – Integrity. The banner on the home page proclaims Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them. Ergo, dogs offer a powerful metaphor for the pressing need for integrity among those that ‘manage’ our societies.
Thus my senses are more tuned, than otherwise, to the conversations in the world out there that support the premise that unless we, as in modern man, radically amend our attitudes and behaviours, then the species homo sapiens is going to hell in a hand-basket!
End of preamble!
Professor Bill Mitchell is one person who recently touched my senses. As his Blog outlines he is an interesting fellow,
Bill Mitchell is the Research Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia.
He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.
Professor Mitchell’s Blog is not for the faint-hearted, it can be pretty technical at times. Nevertheless, I have been a daily subscriber for a couple of months now.
On the 24th, Prof. Bill wrote a long article under the heading of ‘What if economists were personally liable for their advice‘. I want to quote a little from that article. Starting with,
Economists have a strange way of writing up briefing documents. There is an advanced capacity to dehumanise economic advice and ignore the most important economic and social problems (unemployment and poverty) in favour of promoting non-issues (like public debt ratios). It reminds me sometimes of how the Nazis who were brutal in the extreme in the execution of their ideology sat around getting portraits of themselves taken with their loving families etc. The training of economists creates an advanced state of separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.
In a sense, we all understand this, this use of language to separate us from our collective humanity. A random Google search came up with this. A statement by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to Parliament on the 24th regarding Europe, as in,
Mr Speaker, let me turn to yesterday’s European Council.
This European Council was about three things.
Sorting out the problems of the Eurozone.
Promoting growth in the EU.
And ensuring that as the Eurozone develops new arrangements for governance, the interests of those outside the Eurozone are protected.
This latter point touches directly on the debate in this House later today, and I will say a word on this later in my statement.
Resolving the problems in the Eurozone is the urgent and over-riding priority facing not only the Eurozone members, but the EU as a whole – and indeed the rest of the world economy.
Britain is playing a positive role proposing the three vital steps needed to deal with this crisis – the establishment of a financial firewall big enough to contain any contagion; the credible recapitalisation of European banks; and a decisive solution to the problems in Greece.
Read the last paragraph. Wonderful words that seem to make sense to the casual listener but picking up on Prof. Bill, an utter ‘separation from human issues and an absence of empathy‘. There is no humanity in those words from the British Prime Minister. We all know there are hundreds of other examples from mouthpieces all across our global society. Back to Bill Mitchell’s article,
Greece has failed. To say this is not another report of investment banks or research centers, but directly Troika officials who have just completed their review on Hellenic public finance. Linkiesta is in possession of the entire report of the troika, composed of officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission.
I have a rule of thumb that I use when considering documents such as these. The rule is to assess how strong the concern for unemployment is. How often is unemployment mentioned? The answer is zero. The document never mentions the word or concept.
So obsessed are the Troika and their bean counters about public debt stabilisation that they have completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter – the failure to generate work for all.
Read those last words again, “completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter – the failure to generate work for all“. One last extract from the article,
There is absolutely no historical evidence which shows that when all nations are contracting or stagnant and private spending is flat (or contracting) that cutting public spending will create growth.
So why did these economists think that a nation would grow when all components of spending were strongly indicated to fall or were being actually cut? The answer lies in acknowledging that they operate in an ideologically blinkered world and are never taken to account for their policy mistakes. They are unaccountable and do not suffer income losses when the nations they dispense advice to and impose policies on behave contrary to the “expectation” which results in millions being unemployed.
In my view, my profession should be liable for the advice it gives and economists should be held personally liable for damages if their advice causes harm to other individuals. If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be “playing” with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.
Very powerful words that strike at the heart of the matter, that of integrity. (If you want to read it in full, then the article is here.)
Let me move on a little. The 24th also saw a powerful essay on Yves Smith’s Blog Naked Capitalism, from Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland. Here’s a taste of what Mr. Pilkington wrote.
Every now and then a terrible thought enters my mind. It runs like this: what if the theatre of the Eurocrisis is really and truly a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns?
Yes, of course, we can engage in polemic and say that such is the case. But in doing so we are trying to stoke emotion and generally allowing our rhetorical flourish to carry the argument. At least, that is what I thought. I had heard this rhetoric; I had engaged in it to some extent myself; but I had never really believed it. Only once or twice, in my nightmares, I had thought that, maybe, just maybe, it might have some truth.
Can you see the parallels between Prof. Mitchell and Philip Pilkington? The latter wrote, “a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns“, the former wrote, “If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be “playing” with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.”
It’s clearly obvious to all those that have commented to both the Bill Mitchell and Philip Pilkington items. That is, in my words, a complete lack of integrity, truth and a commitment to serve the people, from so many in places of influence and power.
We all sense this, hear it so clearly, a separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.
We have so much to learn, so much sense to learn, from dogs!
Footnote. Had just completed the above when I came across a piece by Patrick Cockburn in last Sunday’s Independent newspaper, that starts thus,
World View: A sense of injustice is growing. Elite politicians and notorious wrongdoers appear immune as ordinary Greeks reel from wage and job cuts
Up close, the most striking feature of the reforms being forced on Greece by its international creditors is their destructiveness and futility. The pay cuts, tax rises, cuts and job losses agreed to by parliament in Athens last week will serve only to send the economy into a steeper tailspin, even if it extracted a much-needed €8bn in bailout money from the EU leaders. “Nothing but a lost war could be worse than this situation,” one left-wing ex-minister tells me. “What is worse, no party or political group in Greece is offering real solutions to our crisis.
Say no more!
Reflections on these present times.
Want a brilliant idea for tomorrow? Stay in the present!
Dogs do this wonderfully. I am told that followers of Zen Buddhism discover peace and grace from embracing the present. But is there more to this? Is there some deeper psychology involved? Does our species have an intrinsic challenge in terms of staying in the present?
My musings on this arise from a couple of recent conversations.
The first was with Peter McCarthy from the Bristol area of West England. Peter and I go back a few years (at my age, everything goes back a few years!) and at one stage I did some work for Peter’s company, Telecom Potential. Just a quick aside, Peter’s company was based in the magnificent Clevedon Hall, a mansion built in 1853 as a family home for Conrad William Finzel, a German-born businessman. Here’s a picture of one of the rooms,
Peter, like me, is sure that the period in which the world now appears to be, is not some cyclical downturn, not some temporary departure from the national growth and employment ambitions promoted by so many countries. No! This one is different.
Peter is sure that a major transition is under way, as big as any of the great societal upheavals of the past. And, for me, a fascinating comment from Peter was his belief that the key attitude required for the next years would be innovation. Peter reminded me that we tend to think of innovation as applying to things physical, scientific and technical. But Peter sensed that it would be in the area of social innovation where key changes would arise and, from which, these large societal changes would flow.
Then a day later I was chatting with one of the founders of a brilliant new authentication process, Pin Plus. It is a very smart solution to a major global problem, the weaknesses of traditional password user-authentication systems.
On the face of it, Pin Plus is obviously a better and more secure way of authenticating users, and a number of key test customers have borne this out. Jonathan C was speaking of the challenges of convincing companies to have faith in this new process. This is what he said,
More than once, indeed many times, I am told by prospects something along the lines that the IT world has been looking so hard and so long for a password solution that a solution can’t possibly exist.
Let’s ponder that for a moment. Are we saying that a far-sighted approach to the potential for change is not an easy place for some, probably many, human brains?
Indeed, Jonathan and I mused that here we were, both speaking via Skype, an internet telephony service, both of us looking at different web sites in support of many of the points that we were discussing and totally dependent, in terms of our mentoring relationship, on the technology of the internet, a multi-node packet-switched communications system that was a direct result of the American shock of seeing the Russians launch the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into low earth orbit on the 4th October, 1957.
At that time, it would have seemed impossible for anyone on the planet to see that the American response to Sputnik 1 would eventually lead to the vast packet-switched network that is now the modern Internet.
But why do we regard the ability to look into the future so utterly out of reach of the common man? Look at this, the Internet Timeline here. Look how quickly the response to Sputnik1 gathered pace. See how Leonard Kleinrock of MIT way back in May, 1961, presented a paper on the theory of packet-switching in large communications networks.
So maybe there’s a blindness with humans. A blindess that creates the following bizarre characteristics,
- Whatever is going on in our lives at present we assume will go on forever. I.e. the boom times will never end, or the period of doom and gloom is endless.
- Our obsession with how things are now prevents us from reflecting on those signs that indicate changes are under way, even when the likely conclusions are unmistakeable. The ecological and climatic changes being the most obvious example of this strange blindness that mankind possesses.
- Yet, unlike animals and some spiritual groups of humans, truly living in the present appears incredibly difficult for man.
- However, the history of mankind shows that our species is capable of huge change, practically living in constant change for the last few millennia, and that a very small proportion of a society, see yesterday’s article, is all that is required to create a ‘tipping point’.
I want to continue with this theme but conscious that there is still much to be written. So, dear reader, I shall pause and pick this up tomorrow.
Just stay in the present for twenty-four hours!
Yet another beauty from Naked Capitalism
Regular readers will have run out of counting the number of times that I applaud Yves Smith and her amazing blog, Naked Capitalism. Not only is it a fantastic source of many stories of real public concern, her daily antidote du jour is often delightful. Here’s the one that came from her Blog posting of the 19th September.
Cattle dog Clarence plays with an alpaca named Cindy in “Alpaca Land” in Goeming, Austria. The two have lived together on the farm since they were 3 months old. Eighty-seven alpacas, the largest flock in Austria, live on the farm.
By Paul Handover
Another Yves Smith special!
Many will know that Naked Capitalism is a wonderful Blog and what Yves does is truly amazing. (And a big ‘thank you’
to Richard Smith who so ably stood in for Yves on her recent European trip.)
On the 29th July this year, Yves reran an article that she posted on May 11th, 2007. It’s spot on, in my opinion.
Here’s how Yves starts the Post:
I am beginning to suspect that many are reacting to the over-stimulation of the modern world – the accelerating pace of change, data overload, time pressure, work and relationship instability – by turning off their brains. The rise of fundamentalism and the “family values” push, both efforts to turn back the clock, is one set of responses.
Another is the rise of sound-biting, of using pithy communications to cut through the clutter of the daily information assault. But sound biting is inherently reductionist. It doesn’t permit nuanced argument, or pointing out fuzziness in data, or shades of grey. Sound bites are great for simple, emotional appeals, lousy for policy development (which is one reason why this country seems incapable of having an intelligent discussion on important topics like health care. The public has been trained out of having a long enough attention span to listen to alternatives).
That is so true. Just re-read the sentences, “But sound biting is inherently reductionist. It doesn’t permit nuanced argument, or pointing out fuzziness in data, or shades of grey.” (My italics.)
We live in such a complex world that reducing any important idea or concept to a headline or to an executive summary is, in its own way, significantly short on integrity.
That article from Yves concludes thus:
Most businesses operated in competitive environments far too complex for a terse phrase to be a useful guide to action. Yet a magic incantation, a talisman, a battle cry is terribly appealing. But those who can resist the temptation of relying on a simple playbook and face the complexity and uncertainty of their environment are likely to steer a better path. But understanding risk and adapting also demands far more courage that trusting simple ideas.
Ironically, if one reflects for a moment, that closing sentence is a pretty good executive summary! “…… understanding risk and adapting also demands far more courage that trusting simple ideas.“
By Paul Handover
Learning from Dogs muses the new book from Yves Smith
In Econned, Yves Smith, founder of Naked Capitalism, argues that the economy was doing just fine in the regulated environment up to the 1970s. Then began the work of the Chicago economists who challenged Keynesian economics and touted the benefits of deregulation which eventually led to the financial crisis we have today.
Yves argument is internally consistent and well researched, but ignores some factors that I think would change the conclusions drawn from her work.
First, Yves notes that the primary reason that economists are not useful to the real world is that economic research presumes equilibrium. Smith misses the point here, but it is understandable. It took me years of study and contemplation to fully appreciate that an equilibrium simply gives economists a point of reference, a common base, from which to study shocks and movements. In and of itself, equilibrium is not interesting or important. But movements to and from equilibrium are of real interest because they enable us to study and try to predict how individuals will react to incentives and changes in market conditions.
Second, we have to put the contributions of the Chicago economists of the 1970s into context. Up until that time, the only real school of thought in macroeconomics was based on Keynes, who presumed that markets fail and that the government must play an active and large role – primarily through government spending and taxes — for the economy to perform well. Keynes’ work was a reaction to the Great Depression.
Friedman’s monetarism also sought to explain the Great Depression, but focused on the role of monetary policy on the economy. This work showed that the missteps of the Federal Reserve was the primary cause of the depth and length of the Great Depression, and that long-term accommodative monetary policy causes inflation. This body of work did not stress deregulation, although it did lean more heavily on enabling private market solutions than on replacing them with government solutions. Neither theory is complete; Keynes focused on the short run (“In the long run, we are all dead” is a rather famous Keynes quip) and Monetarism focused on the long run.
There was a second large body of work that came out of the University of Chicago during the late 1960s and 1970s. This research documented the tremendous costs of regulation. I know this literature personally and believe that its conclusions are very sound: it shows that any effective regulation limits either the quantity or price of a good or service away from what it would have been without the regulation. In fact, in my view, it was the passage of regulations requiring certain lending behavior that set off the series of events that led to the crisis, which is the exact opposite argument from what Ms. Smith makes.
By Sherry Jarrell