nothing happened again

Maybe a week back I saw Barack Obama being interviewed. It was the first time I’d seen more than a soundbite or photo-op. On the whole I was Not Impressed. The lesser evil, probably. Hopefully symbolic, sure. Anywhere near good enough to lead the world through what’s coming? No.

Open to being proved wrong on this.

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Your time waster du jour is slow wave: random people submit dreams to be drawn by random dude.

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Oh, and this Douglas Rushkoff article about economics and the credit crunch is a really really good plain english version of things.

What we think of as “the economy” today isn’t real, it’s virtual. It’s a speculative marketplace that has very little to do with getting real things to the people who need them, and much more to do with providing ways for passive investors to grow their capital.

This economy of markets was created to give the rising merchant class in the late middle ages a way to invest their winnings. Instead of actually working, or even injecting capital into new enterprises, they learned to “make markets” in things that were scarce. Or, rather, in things that could be made scarce, like land.

That’s how speculation was born. Speculation in land, gold, coal, food…pretty much anything. Because the wealthy had such so much excess capital to invest, they made markets in stuff that the rest of us actually used. The problem is that when coal or corn isn’t just fuel or food but also an asset class, the laws of supply and demand cease to be the principle forces determining their price. When there’s a lot of money and few places to invest it, anything considered a speculative asset becomes overpriced. And then real people can’t afford the stuff they need.

[…]

The bigger picture, of course, is that speculation just worked too well for too long. The disparity between the market values and real values (rich people and poor people) got too large. Every asset class, even money itself, got too expensive. We became more valuable for our borrowing power than our labor—which also meant there was no way to work off our debt. Meanwhile, the people using reality as an investment vehicle have overwhelmed the real economy on which their “structured investments” are based.

Sure, this has happened before. It’s just that, traditionally, when wealth disparity got too great and there wasn’t enough money in the right places, the wealthiest bankers temporarily suspended their greed to bail out the system. Or progressive tax policies opened corporate coffers, permitting a “New Deal” that employed people while rebuilding the infrastructure required to make real things and provide real services to citizens.

Today, however, such temporary restraints on greed are systematically untenable and philosophically unthinkable. Conservatives are still so angry about New Deal reforms of the 1930s that that they have infused politics and banking with an economic ideology that sees any regulation of worker exploitation or predatory investment as anti-capitalist, anti-American, and even anti-God.

[…]

Whatever the case, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your interests is to make friends. The more we are willing to do for each other on our own terms and for compensation that doesn’t necessarily involve the until-recently-almighty dollar, the less vulnerable we are to the movements of markets that, quite frankly, have nothing to do with us.

Actually, yeah, well worth reading all of.

The Trap

The Trap: What happened to our dream of freedom? is another documentary series by the wonderful Adam Curtis (who did the fantastic Century of the Self, and Power of Nightmares).

It analyses the way that game theory – based on the model of human behaviour developed by a paranoid schizophrenic – came to dominate our idea of what human freedom meant; how the use of psychological checklists came to define normality and encourage the use of drugs to moderate behaviour within mechanical limits; and the influence of various political ideas on the allowable pursuit of freedom.

All of Adam Curtis’ docos are available here: http://www.rewtube.com/home/, plus some other cool stuff.

Well worth watching.

selling books

I am culling a largish chunk of my library. The list is here; it has been slightly cherry picked, but there is still lots of good stuff in there. Make me a better offer than a second hand seller would give me… and I guess in practice this is limited to Wellingtonians, unless someone *really* wants something…

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