who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Evoking the Wrath of Nature
Outrageous Ascent of CEO Pay
3. Jeremy Corbyn is right to
blame the banks, not Labour,
for the financial crisis
This is a Nederlog of Monday August 10, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 3 items with 3 dotted links: Item 1
is about an article
by Chris Hedges. The article is fairly philosophical/religious,
I am a philosopher, I took some trouble over it, but you can skip it if
it is too much (though I am not as pessimistic as Chris Hedges seems to
be); item 2 is
about a fine article by Robert Reich who discusses the - lately
obscenely raised - payments to CEOs, and ends with a question of mine:
Why not limit payments
to anyone to $ 250,000 a year, seeing this would only diminish the
maximally 5%?; while item 3 is about a fairly long
article in which
- the economical editor of The Guardian - explains that only Jeremy
Corbyn - of all English political leaders and want-to-be leaders -
seems to understand macroeconomics.
Finally, I should also say that I diminished the number of items,
simply because the present three items are nearly 40 Kb.
1. Evoking the Wrath of Nature
article of today
is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
I like Chris Hedges,
but one of several considerable differences between him and me is that
he is religious,
indeed currently a minister, while I am not religious at all.
(And I am a philosopher, who has seriously considered
the more fundamental issues - I am not the average know-little
with strong opinions based on ignorance, stupidity, greed and
His current column seems to be a bit more inspired by religion than
other ones, and indeed he reflects on the differences between the many
- hoi polloi, the ancient Greeks said - of our modern Western
mostly white world, and the outlook of those the Westerners "replaced",
largely by killing them, such as the American indians.
I will try to follow and comment on him, though I suppose that, since
he is religious and I am not, I may miss some of the things he said. On
hand, I also plainly disagree with him on some fairly
Also to end this brief introduction: I think my answers to many of the
points Chris Hedges raises are both fair and skeptical, but
in case you really do not like philosophy, I suppose it
wise to skip the rest of this first section.
This is from the beginning (and I quote in the order of appearance in
My problems with this
are considerable. I take them up per paragraph.
Those whose lives pay
homage to the sacred are considered by many in the modern world to be
eccentrics and cranks. On the other hand, those who live disconnected
from the sources of life, who neither fear nor honor nor understand the
power of nature, who place their faith in human technology and human
power, are celebrated and rewarded with power as they propel the planet
and the species toward extinction. The natural world, if we do not
radically reconfigure our relationships with each other and the
ecosystem, will soon teach us a severe lesson about unbridled hubris.
“The fate of our times is
characterized by rationalization and intellectualization, and, above
all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world,’ ” Max
Weber wrote. “Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have
retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of
mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human
called our malaise “world alienation.” She warned that it leads to
contempt for all forms of life.
The first paragraph draws a fairly arbitrary distinction between religious
believers in the sacred, and non-religious believers in "human technology and human power", and warns the latter that they don't
understand reality nor nature, and will soon be taught "a severe lesson about unbridled hubris".
I observe that the real distinctions are far more pluriform
than between having and lacking religion: Most of the very rich, who do
plunder the earth to enrich themselves further, are or pretend to be
religious, for example, while I'd say that those who put their faith in some
religion in fact build consciously on a system of unreason,
though again there are very many such distinct systems
of faith, and some are a whole lot worse than others.
Now you may well say that I am attacking one paragraph only, and that
Chris Hedges cannot be fairly required to make all distinctions that
are needed in a single column, all of which is more true than not - but
then again he chose to
draw only one distinction, and that distinction is religion.
And this distinction leads to a fundamental question, that also
bothered Hume (who was a religious skeptic): Why bother,
if your faith
assures you of an infinite time of happiness, at the side of
the Lord, in your very own heaven of bliss and everlasting joy (that
is: provided you qualify, but most believers seem to hold they
This seems a fair question to me, were it only because I
believe all of my life amounts to (maximally) "four
score and ten" years on this earth, after which I will be definitely
finished forever, and will neither see the Lord, nor enjoy an
infinity of heavenly bliss, nor indeed suffer an infinity of hellish
Again, there are various answers to this, but it really is a question:
Why bother about the injustices, inequities, unfairness, stupidity and
ignorance of the many, when you feel sure that your faith will give you
everlasting and infinitely long bliss, after
you have died?
The next paragraph does not mention that Max Weber (whom I admire) died
1920, for which reason the "rationalization and intellectualization" of
culture he discerned must be at least 100 years old - and that is apart
from my own conviction that Weber was mistaken (though he would have
been a lot more right if he had diagnosed it as mechanization
The third paragraph fails to mention that "alienation" was a very
prominent concept in leftist German philosophy, and fails to mention
that it never was analyzed well according to a majority of
thinkers, and also fails to mention
that most rdinary men and women, although they might be, in some not
precisely articulated sense, "alienated" from much, they certainly did
not feel as if they are. 
Then there is
minerals, animals and mountains—as well as human beings—had no
intrinsic value to the Europeans. Nature existed only to make money.
I agree both points are
important for capitalism: That all that matters, in the end, is whether
you made a monetary profit (no matter how, nor what you wasted
or destroyed while making it: merely whether you made it), and that private
property is the firm foundation of - capitalist, but that
qualification tends to be left out - human society.
The Europeans of the era
ridiculed the beliefs of the American Indians, along with their
communal structures, in which everything was shared and all had a voice
in tribal decisions.
And I agree with Chris Hedges that both ideas are mistaken:
There are many more human ends than making a monetary profit, while
private property can (and should) be qualified in quite a few ways
(such as: a top income, progressive taxes, the norm that it is much
more important that all should have decent lives than that a
few can get incredibly rich at the cost of the majority, who live
in squalid poverty, etc.)
Then there is
Last year was the
hottest since we began scientifically tracking weather, and 2015 is
expected to top 2014. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting at an
accelerated rate, causing the oceans to rise. Even if we stop all
carbon emissions today, some scientists say, sea levels will rise by 10
feet by 2065 and as much as 70 feet over the next couple of centuries.
Major coastal cities such as Miami and New York will be underwater.
Droughts plague huge swaths of the planet. Wildfires, fueled by parched
forests, have been burning out of control in Southern California,
Canada and Alaska. Monster cyclones and hurricanes, fed by warming air
currents, are proliferating, ripping apart whole cities. Massive
species extinction is underway. And we could face a planetary societal
collapse due to catastrophic
food shortages within the next three decades (...)
Well... yes and no.
First yes: I agree we live in fearful times, and seem to be destroying
the natural habitat in which men lived for at least 100,000 years, and
seem to be doing that very quickly, in part moved by monetary
profits, in part by willful blindness, in part by a capitalist
mode of production, and in part by sheer numbers (7 billion
men and women, and still growing).
Next no: This paragraph is too vague to be considered good rational evidence, were
it only because no human being since 1900 or before has been
able to correctly predict more than a few aspects of how life would be a
mere 25 years in the future. I am certainly not going to worry now
about the height of the sea in 2265, even if the predictions of 2015
say they may be 70 feet higher, and even the fate of Amsterdam (that is
situated at over 2 yards below the current sea level)
in 2065 doesn't bother me much (and not because I do not care, but
because very many other events, most of which are imponderables
now, enter into it ).
Then there is this:
self-destructive exploitation that lies at the heart of capitalism, the
placing of monetary profit above the maintenance of life, the refusal
to understand and accept limits, have turned the victimizers into the
victims. Ignoring the warnings of native communities, we have evoked
the deadly wrath of nature. And I fear we may not be able to find our
My reply to this is: yes, but.
More precisely, while I agree mostly with Chris Hedges fairly
pessimistic attitude, I disbelieve in a "deadly wrath of nature",
and that not because nature may not destroy most or all of mankind, but
because I think nature doesn't work that way (in wrath, or joy) and
because an earth without humans and without much of nature is just as
"natural" as an earth with billions of humans and a rich nature.
(Incidentally, here is another point of view, also by a fierce critic
of capitalism: George Carlin's
Besides, my former question pops up: Why bother, if your faith
has convinced you that you (and many of your family and
friends) will go to heaven, and enjoy not (maximally) "four
score plus ten" years of life, in most cases mostly made up of
disappointments, failures, pains, and troubles, with some brief periods
of joys, and perhaps some rare bursts of ecstasy, but an infinitude
of sheer joy and bliss?
It really beats me, though I have sketched fairly satisfactory answers
for non-believers in footnotes  and .
Finally, there is this:
The world does not
fit into the rational boxes we construct. It is beyond our control and
finally our comprehension. Human beings are not the measure of all
things. Existence is a mystery. All life is finite. All life is
fragile. The ecosystem on Earth will die. It will be slain by our
failure to protect it, or it will succumb to the vast array of natural
forces, from colliding asteroids to exploding stars —
including, one day, our sun — which turn into supernovas and throw out
high-energy radiation that have doomed countless planets in the 100
billion galaxies beyond ours. We have lost the capacity for reverence.
We slew those who tried to warn us. Now we slay ourselves.
This seems much too
apodictic to me. To illustrate, here is a correction with my
qualifications in bold:
The world does neither
fully nor properly fit into the rational boxes we construct now.
It is in good part beyond our control and [..] in part also beyond our comprehension. Human beings are not the only
measure of all things. Existence is in part a mystery. All life
is finite. All life is fragile. The ecosystem on Earth will die,
eventually. [...] We have
lost the capacity for reverence, though reverence without real
understanding is blind. We slew those who tried to warn us. Now we may
That is a much more
correct version - it seems to me - of what Chris Hedges is saying, but
indeed while it retains many of his statements, it also makes them
considerably less certain and apodictic.
Ascent of CEO Pay
The next article is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as
The Securities and
Exchange Commission just ruled
publicly held corporations must disclose the ratios of the pay of their
CEOs to the pay of their median workers.
For the last thirty years
almost all incentives operating on American
corporations have resulted in lower pay for average workers and higher
CEOs and other top executives.
Consider that in 1965,
CEOs of America’s largest corporations
were paid, on average, 20 times the pay of average workers.
Now, the ratio is
Yes, and I find that
quite obscene: to give mere CEOs 15 times as much as
in 1965 (when the economy was booming!), in a mere 50 years (of which
indeed the last 35 were given to deregulating
the legal ties that bound CEOs to practice some
Indeed, here is what
the deregulators achieved in a mere 22 years:
That is, the CEOs took ten
percent of the wage costs, and paid it to themselves.
Because - they claim, almost always falsely - to be such
The share of
corporate income devoted to compensating the five highest-paid
large corporations ballooned from an average of 5 percent in 1993 to
more than 15
percent by 2005 (the latest data available).
Corporations might otherwise
have devoted this sizable sum to research
and development, additional jobs, higher wages for average workers, or
to shareholders – who, not incidentally, are supposed to be the owners
incredibly superior people.
Indeed, as to these claims of CEOs (and their lawyers):
apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts
corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that
CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.
Baloney. Most CEOs
haven’t done anything special. The entire stock market surged
over this time.
Precisely. And in
fact (and this has been researched: check out the article)
It turns out the
higher the CEO pay, the worse the firm does.
Here is one illustration:
Larry Ellison, the
CEO of Oracle, received a pay package in 2013
valued at $78.4
million, a sum so stunning that Oracle shareholders rejected
it. That made no difference because Ellison controlled the board.
This means Larry
Ellison believes he is worth $ 214,794.52 each day.
That is also considerably more money - each day! - than I
received the first 50
years of my life...
You can find the
calculations in note , for which reasons I say that I might seem to
be an incredible radical, but I think very much would be gained
one had the right to earn more than $ 250,000 a
year, which also is a measure that could be reached by a
parliamentary decision... 
3. Jeremy Corbyn is right to blame the banks,
not Labour, for the financial crisis
article of today is
by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
This starts as
Here’s a question for
you. Consider the following statement: “We must live within our means,
so cutting the deficit is the top priority.” Do you agree?
If you said yes, you are with the majority. If you said no and
are a member of the Labour party, you are almost certainly planning to vote for Jeremy Corbyn to be its next
To answer the
question: (1) it is - unnecessarily - vague (who are "we" for example),
but (2) clearly all large projects of anyone need financing,
that is: borrowing, from buying a house or a car to starting a new
business or implementing a large project with an old busines, while
also (3) banks exist
(or so it seemed) to supply loans to individuals and firms that qualify
being likely to pay back the loan + interest), so clearly the
answer is No:
We do not
need to live within our means, we need merely to be able to pay
back what we must loan to enable our large projects.
Anybody who argues differently (that is, most politicians in Great
either doesn't know economics or believes in false propaganda.
I thought I explain this first, because Larry Elliott does the same,
but with more words and more graphics. He does this because he wants to
Corbyn is the only
candidate sticking to the line that the banks were to blame and he is
reaping the benefit. Not least because he is absolutely right.
And that he is
absolutely right can be seen from the graphics that Elliott provides,
for which you have to click the last dotted link.
Here is the last paragraph of Larry Elliott's article:
There are plenty of
legitimate reasons for Corbyn’s rivals to attack him, for which there
is not room in this column, but his approach to austerity is not one of
them. Instead, he has come up with a version of the old political maxim
– never apologise, never explain – that makes macroeconomic sense and
is resonating with Labour supporters. He has explained what he would do – borrow to
invest and have no set timetable for deficit reduction – while
apologising for the right thing: Labour’s over-lax financial
regulation. It is proving a better strategy than apologising for the
wrong thing and not explaining.
Quite so - which is
also to say: Jeremy Corbyn is the only one of Labour's
candidates for leadership who has credible macro-economic
ideas: The others
are merely parrotting the falsehoods they learned from the Tories.
am not one of those who disbelieve in atheists (I am
one), and also not one who disbelieves in people of religious faith,
but I do want to suggest that this suggests - at least
- that the faiths
of the true believers in their God and in the blessings He - in His
infinite wisdom - would shower on those who believed in Him (and
behaved well, by His criterions), in fact seems to be a lot
less than in the faith that they are alive in a real world.
 "Alienation" also provides a tie to psychiatry -
around 1900 quite a few of those who are now called "psychiatrists"
called themselves "alienists" - and also to psychology. (But it remains
a rather vague concept.)
 The dictionary definition of
"imponderable" is something like this (I give one): "an imponderable"
is something that "cannot
be weighed or measured; that cannot be conclusively determined or
I think there are far more imponderables than most men believe
there are, and indeed future history is one of them (even though I
agree some of it can also be fairly safely predicted).
Put otherwise, I think that - from a rational point of view - far
more is fundamentally uncertain (here and now) than most people
- and especially those of a political
or religious faith - believe.
Because I was and am ill since I was 28, I have never earned a minimal
income, and indeed did not earn as a student as much as the sub-minimal
income provided by "the social services" (the dole), and therefore I
earned less than 10,000 guilders a year, which comes out, when
rounded off to 10,000 guilders (which is too much, for most years), for
1967-2000 to 330,000 guilders, which must be divided by around 2 to get
my income in dollars: 165,000 dollars in 33 years.
(After the introduction of the euro it is less clear, in part because
this is supposed to be worth 2 guilders 20, but is
worth in buying power less than 1 guilder).
Even so, I did live, ate well, made 2 academic degrees, have at least
one computer since 1987, and was not unhappy, except for being
discriminated for my opinions, and for not getting my legal rights, and
for being ill since 1.1.1979 (which got a lot worse after 1990,
because I had been discriminated for my opinions and because I could
not get my legal rights against drugsdealers protected by Amsterdam's
Will this ever happen? No, not with the ordinary men and ordinary CEOs
there are. But it is technically, financially, and economically quite
feasible, and it would not set back more than 2-5% of
the total adult population...
Where are you, all you supposedly egalitarian democrats?!