March 15, 2013

It's the economy, stupid - Robert Reich explains
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1. "The truth about the economy"
2.  "A turning point? If so which way?"
About ME/CFS


I am still not sleeping enough, so yet again
a brief Nederlog with links that I found interesting, this time with materials about the US economy that may help to try to make sense of that.

1. "The truth about the economy"

I mentioned Robert Reich several times before in Nederlog, who has the distinction of having been a secretary of labor in Clinton's first government, and also has the merits of being a sensible and intelligent men, and of being a good public speaker.

As I also mentioned before, I suppose I know more about economy than most people who did not study it (at least I have read Keynes, and Marx, and Sraffa, and Smith, and Mandeville, and others), but I have no illusions about understanding it, at least in a socio-political context, and indeed I also do not follow economy or its theorists on any regular basis.

Most degreed economists don't seem to understand more of it than I do - and again I am not speaking of economics in the abstract, or in a mathematical model, but of real economic developments in real societies - which I don't blame them for, since it is a really complicated subject, in which many factors are active. [1]

Then again, some degreed economists make sense, and one of these is Robert Reich. Here is a brief explanation of his of what is the problem with the economy"

He explains it, adorned with his own drawings, in "less than 2 minute 15 seconds", as he says. He connects a number of dots I will copy - and note that his subject is the US economy - the problems in Europe and elsewhere are related but not quite the same:

  • Since 1980 the US economy doubled in size, but the wages (corrected for inflation) remained the same.
  • Almost all the gains made in the US economy went to the super rich: The top 1% used to take home 10% of total incomes; now 20%, while the super rich also owe 40% of the nation's wealth.
  • The increase in income has given the super rich a lot more power, and enabled them among other things to lower their own tax rates.
  • The result - no higher wages for the middle class, less tax from the rich - were and are huge budget deficits: Less state income than in the last 60 years, so less public spending.
  • The middle class does not stand united against the rich, but stands divided.
  • Because the middle class has little money to spend, there is at best an anemic recovery of the economy.
"The only way we can have a strong economy is with a strong middle class", as Reich ends his talk and the reason should be obvious: only that comes with an effective demand that is strong enough to fire up a strong economy and to keep it going.

2. "A turning point? If so which way?"

The above video is about 2 1/2 minutes in all, and should not tax your patience or take too much of your time. If you think he makes sense, here is considerably more:
This is a public lecture, of about half an hour, with a brief introduction by Henry Brady, who is the dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, at the UC Berkeley, where Reich also teaches, followed by Reich's speech, which is well done: he is a good public speaker; followed by questions by Brady, which is a sensible choice, because he poses good questions.

It is from the end of February 2012, which has the twin advantages that it is fairly recent, and that you can find out whether Reich's predictions were right.

The lecture is more on the themes sketched in section 1 and also some others, notably on the risk of the politics resentment and blame and the rise of political demagoguery, as happened in the 1930ies in  Germany. (At 23 min 40 sec and following.)

I leave it to your interest and time, and only will say this, since Henry Brady praises Reich's teaching skills:

I have had much to suffer from very bad public lectures by many professors in the University of Amsterdam [2] (one had to visit to finish or follow the course), and Reich is clearly a much better lecturer than any I heard or saw in my alma mater meretrix.
[1] Having mentioned my communist background repeatedly, here are some of my first disagreements with communism and communist ideologues:

I did not like Stalin's cult of personality, also not when I was a young child, when 7; I did not believe a state like the German Democratic Republic, that I was almost kicked out of as "an undesirable alien" when 14, nor the Soviet-Union, were "socialist countries" (in a sense Marx and Engels would have approved); I did not believe Marx was right in his thesis that everything in society depends on economics, when 15; I did not believe in Hegelian dialectical logic, when 17; I did not believe in Marx's labor value theory as an explanation for profit, when 18; I did not believe in Lenin's democratic centralism , when 18 - and I mention these things, and could mention some more, among other reasons because at the time I did not know anybody else in the leftist circles I lived in who thought likewise, and indeed very few who thought about these at all, except when parrotting the pronouncements of leaders of the Dutch CP. Another thing no one saw in the circles I moved in was the problem that struck me when I was 14: Why do the capitalists follow Keynes rather than Marx?

The most striking thing I found then, and also later, in the University of Amsterdam, where very many of the students and staff pretended to be marxists, and indeed some may have believed their own pretensions, was that nobody really cared or was interested in these questions in any intellectual sense, that is, when one seriously asks and inquires into what is the real truth.

The only real interest people took in these and similar issues was  ideological: What is The Politically Correct party line? (This was e.g. reflected in positions about Sartre: While I was appalled with Sartre's statement that "there are no concentration camps in the Soviet Union because socialism is a humanism", which was a dishonest rhetorical fallacy in my eyes, everybody else in the communist youth I figured in thought him praiseworthy for saying so, but "after all, still a bourgeois, of course" for refusing to be a member of the French CP.)

[2] With ehh uh a very uh few ehh uh except
uh ah ions ehh ahh uhm of whom ehh ah I ehh am umh one, uh ehh the umh ehh Dutch uh are ehh very uhm uh ehh bad umh uhh speakers, uh. (This is not so in England, the US, Germany and France: The Dutch excel at atrocious public speaking and extremely lousy "conversation", and also seem to have done so for centuries. I do not know why, except that speaking well is considered to be  showing off, that in Holland is permissible to very few.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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