From the Wiki: Atticus … committed suicide when he fell ill. Deciding to accelerate the inevitable, he abstained from ingesting any nourishment, starving himself to death, after being incurably ill for some months, dying at the fifth day of such fasting. He was also buried at the Family Tomb located at the Fifth Mile of the Appian Way.
Just wondering if Taleb believes it possible to cure Washington of its ills by the same method.
But, they seem unable to figure out who sold them the bill of goods…
John Atcheson is suffering the nagging feeling that he, and progressives generally, have been had:
At the risk of being churlish, passing this health care bill was the palest of victories.
Yes, it’s better than nothing, but as the President himself has pointed out, it’s largely made up of proposals the Republicans advocated a little more than a decade ago.
So, while this is certainly a political victory, it is far from a triumph of progressive ideals. Indeed, this Legislation is a sign of how far the political center has drifted to the right in the last three decades.
He asks a question a few progressives seem willing to broach:
How did we let this happen?
As part of our series of exchanges with Michael Lebowitz, we noticed that he often writes for the magazine, Monthly Review, which touts itself as an “independent socialist magazine.” On its website, the magazine states:
Monthly Review speaks to workers, labor organizers, activists, and academics. A scholarly, accessible critique of capitalism, edited by John Bellamy Foster.
Intrigued, we investigated further, particularly interested to see their take on the current crisis, and to discover how they addressed the problem, raised by this crisis, of hours of work. We did not have to look long. The magazine highlights the crisis in an editorial note for February 2010 that delves into several aspects of the crisis, including the tepid response given by Washington to the plight of working families versus its lusty embrace of the gangsters on Wall Street.
One of the more perplexing problems that occur in an economy are the recurrent episodes of financial crises that break out unexpectedly at the end of each major period of growth. Our own Great Financial Crisis, is only the most recent example: since the end of World War II, the economy also experienced the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1968 – which led to the Nixon shock of 1971 – and Black Monday, October 19, 1987 – which led to a series of economic catastrophes, including the collapse of the savings and loan industry, the Japan Depression, and a host of subsequent national financial crises.
We received this note from Michael Lebowitz, whose work we earlier criticized for his neglect of the issue of hours of work:
I understand where you are coming from but I have problems with your claim that so much of current activity is superfluous. You write: ‘At present, in the United States, only about 15 percent of the workday is devoted to necessary work – with about 85 percent devoted to purely superfluous fictitious economic activity.’
Where do you get this information… and based upon what assumptions? If we want to talk about ‘necessary labour’, it is presumably determined by the level of needs and the level of productivity required to satisfy those needs. I’m sure we agree that the needs considered in capitalism are only those that take a commodity-form for which we require money [‘the true need’ the system produces–Marx]. Thus, the set of needs and the time required is clearly deficient because it doesn’t include the need/time to nurture and educate children, the need/time to prepare and cook food-commodities, the need/time to travel to work, the need/time to act as citizens within a community, etc. [See my ‘Beyond CAPITAL: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class’ for an exploration of Marx on needs.]
When you talk about the reduction of necessary labour and the extent of superfluous labour, then, you clearly must have in mind (a) the needs for capitalistically-produced commodities and (b) the productivity involved in producing those. Presumably you argue that (a) has become increasingly ‘fictional’ and has expanded far, far beyond (c) ‘true’ needs and that productivity in the production of (c) has grown so substantially that necessary labour has fallen now to extremely low levels.
On a personal, emotional level, I can agree with you. The problem, though, is what are ‘true needs’? And, who will decide? The state? Some philosopher-kings? The mass of people currently living in capitalist societies? To what extent does your argument about necessary labour come down to a cultural critique?
Our answer follows:
We keep a list of things happening in this recession, which have never happened before. We have already showed you how industrial capacity dropped for the first time during the dot-com bubble collapse, and again in this recession. We also showed you that the current fall in the ability of the United States to produce goods dwarfed that previously unprecedented fall.
Now we want to show you something that is altogether unprecedented in post-war history.
Below is a chart of US annual GDP since 1947, plus imports into the United States during the period. Normally, GDP is calculated on the basis of all domestic output minus the things we import from abroad. However, in the US case – and only in the US case – we think the subtraction of imports from GDP is entirely unnecessary, because, as we showed earlier, the US alone can import without driving down the value of its currency, or suffering a collapse of domestic consumption. What occurs, instead, is the relocation of industrial capacity off-shore, as previously mentioned.
As you can see from the chart, there hasn’t been a year over year fall in total US GDP plus the value of its imports since 1948. (The fall in 1948 is too small to be seen on this chart.) You will also notice that by this measure, the US economy (including both domestic output and all imports) topped out at almost $20 trillion in 2008, before falling for essentially the first time in post-war history.
Below we show a year over year change in GDP plus imports:
What this means is that there has always been a shadow GDP in the US economy that is not caught by conventional statistics. American companies can, for instance, relocate their operations offshore and import back into the United States as long as the US is owner of the world reserve currency – these imports are the unpaid labor of the trade surplus countries captured by the United States Dollar Empire. It also means that periodic recessions, as we have experienced since 1948, never resulted in a contraction of the US economy when the value of imports are added to that which is domestically produced. The recessions likely were engineered solely to keep wages stagnant.
This “recession” marks a change: the combined value of GDP plus imports has fallen for the first time in post-war history and by nearly 7 percent.