16, 2013
Crisis: Summers, Occupy, "Free Markets", Because Obama, Banality of Evil
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

Prev- crisis -Next

1. Lawrence Summers Will Not Chair the Federal Reserve
2. Happy Birthday Occupy
The Myth of the “Free Market”
4. President Launching Kickstarter Campaign?
The Banality of Systemic Evil
About ME/CFS


There wasn't much on the crisis today, although that still may come. After all, it isn't even fall yet. But I have five items, and they are all a bit reflective.

1. Lawrence Summers Will Not Chair the Federal Reserve

Today I start with a negative piece of news, that is, a report on an event that might have been but is not. It is by Peter Scheer on Truth Dig:

My reasons to have it - at all - are that he was a very serious candidate of president Obama, and I agreed with quite a few economists and such that he was about the worst possible candidate for the job.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Over the screaming objections of members of his own party, President Obama seemed determined to appoint Wall Street groupie Lawrence Summers to head the most important bank in the country. On Sunday, Summers “reluctantly” withdrew his name from consideration for the post.

In a letter to the president quoted by The Washington Post, Summers wrote, “I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration, or ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery.”

Etcetera, but that I leave to you. He withdrew himself, so that must be counted in his favor, although it may have all manner of reasons.

2. Happy Birthday Occupy

Next, here is the first of two columns by Robert Reich:
It starts as follows:

Two years ago the “Occupy” movement roared into view, summoning the energies and attention of large numbers of people who felt the economic system had got out of whack and were determined to do something about it.

Occupy put the issue of the nation’s savage inequality on the front pages, and focused America’s attention on what that inequality was doing to our democracy. To that extent, it was a stirring success.

But Occupy eschewed political organization, discipline, and strategy. It wanted to remain outside politics, and outside any hierarchical structure that might begin to replicate the hierarchies of American society it was opposing.

The rest of the piece is about the fact - or so it seems - that without organization, discipline and strategy, you will not get far. I think that is true, but I also would agree (which is a point Reich does not raise) that the left has to reinvent itself:

It has been very badly damaged through a succession of events: Clinton, Blair, and Kok in Holland, who redesigned "leftist" policies as if it all was and is mere propaganda (which they probably believe themselves), without any real content
; and then it has been largely swallowed up by postmodernism, that insisted that "everybody knows truth does not exist", that still has plenty of phony academics in universities, some of whom still are pundits as well.

But OK - I am here mainly dreaming out loud. It may happen, but it also may not.

3.  The Myth of the “Free Market”

Next, here is another piece by Reich, who takes on an important myth:

This starts as follows:

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong. 

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.

Yes. And if these people die, as they well may, the market has decided they must die, for they were losers. There are no rules; there are no regulations, and God is The Market, and that is it. Bury the losers, and get on with Making Money!


Actually, it is all a stunning bit of trash: A "free market" exists if and only if it is maintained to exist, and it exists only through the maintenance of rules and regulations. As I put it in my article on liberalism in the Philosophical Dictionary:
There are no free markets without state protection and legal rules, not within states, and not between states. Each and every free market either was maintained by the state or by a city, or else existed only because and in the times of a relative balance of power between states or cities.
Robert Reich's argument goes another way, which you can check out your self, and with which I do not disagree.

The point I wanted to make here is that there simply are no (free) markets without rules and regulations. And the reason for that is that a "free market" without rules and regulations is neither free nor a market: it is war or plunder.

4.  President Launching Kickstarter Campaign?

Next, I return to an item I put up on September 14, and my reason to do so is that TYT aka The Young Turks also plug it:

The point of the video is, as Cenk Uygur says: Think for yourself! And do not accept logical howlers that "it is so ... because Obama".

Then again, many people on the left (and also many people on the right) do accept logical howlers.

The Banality of Systemic Evil
To end with today, a piece by an academic philosopher, namely Peter Ludlow, who writes on Common Dreams:

It starts like this, under a composite picture of Snowden, Hammond, Swartz and Manning:
In recent months there has been a visible struggle in the media to come to grips with the leaking, whistle-blowing and hacktivism that has vexed the United States military and the private and government intelligence communities. This response has run the gamut. It has involved attempts to condemn, support, demonize, psychoanalyze and in some cases canonize figures like Aaron Swartz, Jeremy Hammond, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

In broad terms, commentators in the mainstream and corporate media have tended to assume that all of these actors needed to be brought to justice, while independent players on the Internet and elsewhere have been much more supportive. Tellingly, a recent Time magazine cover story has pointed out a marked generational difference in how people view these matters: 70 percent of those age 18 to 34 sampled in a poll said they believed that Snowden “did a good thing” in leaking the news of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.

So has the younger generation lost its moral compass?

No. In my view, just the opposite.

I say. I take it that Ludlow means that the younger generation has not lost its moral compass. And he may be right. On the other hand, the majority of them may believe that there is no such thing as a "moral compass" (and that they are each and all free consumers, who live their own branded lives, if they can pay it, and should disappear, as losers, if they can't pay it).

I do not know, and I am clearly older than Peter Ludlow. Also, I am not quite clear what he wants to establish, which I will leave to you, but I have two more quotations.

The first is a good one. It is by Robert Jackall, who is a sociologist who wrote a book called "Moral Mazes", that I do not know. He describes the middle management as follows - and the beginning is by Peter Ludlow:
The mid-level managers that he spoke with were not “evil” people in their everyday lives, but in the context of their jobs, they had a separate moral code altogether, what Jackall calls the “fundamental rules of corporate life”:

(1) You never go around your boss. (2) You tell your boss what he wants to hear, even when your boss claims that he wants dissenting views. (3) If your boss wants something dropped, you drop it. (4) You are sensitive to your boss’s wishes so that you anticipate what he wants; you don’t force him, in other words, to act as a boss. (5) Your job is not to report something that your boss does not want reported, but rather to cover it up. You do your job and you keep your mouth shut.

This is well put - and quite familiar to me since 45 years or so, when I learned it, if not quite in these words, from Vance Packard and C. Wright Mills, who also were radical sociologists, but in the 1950ies.

Again, I do not know what Jackall's point is, but I suggest - strongly - that it has always been like this with mid-level managers, in any organization, and indeed in any society, for thus it also worked in the Soviet Union. (See Zinoviev.)

This is also what makes Edward Snowden special: He is one of the few who did not reason like that. But most do, for which reason it may be a mostly happy thing that average persons only very rarely make policies.

But here there is part of the problem: Most people are neither very smart nor very independent, and do not even make it to the level of middle manager. Hence, they live lies, for their work.

The second quotation is a bad one, but it is intended to be, no doubt:
The former United States ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, argued that Snowden “thinks he’s smarter and has a higher morality than the rest of us … that he can see clearer than other 299, 999, 999 of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.”
This is flatly and totally mistaken in more ways than I will point out:

Clearly, a United States ambassador will rarely or never be a genius, but he or she certainly will be smarter - even if he is John Bolton - than 3 billion persons, for there are more than 3 billion persons with an IQ less than 100.

Secondly, it shifts the question from Snowden's arguments to Snowden's person, and while that is a fallacy, it also is a fallacy to believe Snowden did what he did because he thinks he is special. (Maybe he did - and may be he is special. Then again, neither is very relevant to his actual arguments.)

Thirdly, even if all of what Bolton says so far were right, his "therefore" is invalid - and indeed I have seen no evidence of any kind that Snowden thinks that "
he can do what he wants".

Fourthly, nothing John Bolton said argues in any way Snowden is a traitor, let alone "the worst".
Anyway... I quoted this mostly because I do not really know what Peter Ludlow wanted to argue, but then that is one of the difficulties I have with most academic philosophers.

But I will try to return to this "banality of evil", for while I do not wholly agree with Hannah Ahrendt, I think that is one of the few sharp thing she wrote: That most of the evil that is done, is done by everyday people, for everyday reasons.

And that certainly is a problem.
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

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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