Volatility

December 15, 2010

Smugman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Russ @ 2:19 am

 

In light of Paul Krugman’s recent pro-corporate proclamation, where he sneers that we should just lie back and enjoy corporate tyranny, that to want to fight it is “so sixties” anyway, I thought I’d ask a few questions about him of those who still believe in him.
 
The contention is that he’s a reformist, and even among those who reject reformism there’s a residual affection for him. Everything he says is, on its face, reformist at best. But as I’ve traced in many posts, I think he’s actually a pro-bank, pro-austerity manipulator who only poses as a citizen. Others think his pro-bank aspects are the pose. If he’s really a citizen advocate, that’s the secret. Others think they can detect this citizen advocacy in him, but it seems to me they can never adequately explain it. My explanation for what I think is a scam is that it’s precisely because Krugman has such (fraudulent) progressive credibility that he can astroturf better by posing as a real progressive, even though he’s not really that even in his pose.
 
But here’s my questions (versions of this can apply to many others as well):
 
1. You think Krugman is secretly on our side, and that if he had the power he’d come out in open opposition to the system. But he thinks he lacks that power, so he tries to change from within, tries to nudge, tries to persuade, to convince. “I joined the Party because I hoped to be a moderating influence from within.” You think he’s an appeaser, and you support him in that even if you reject it in others.
 
2. For the sake of argument, let’s say that’s true. But we know for a fact that appeasement of a criminal aggressor doesn’t work. It’s been tried innumerable times throughout history, and has failed every time. So even if that’s Krugman’s real mindset (I doubt it, but I grant it’s possible), it’s a pointless mindset. And when he explicitly rejects class war as being the enemy’s motive, it’s an objectively harmful, malicious mindset.
 
3. Krugman may possibly be that dumb, but why should any of us? So even if that is his mindset and strategy, why would anyone support him in it?
 
4. Why oppose my criticism of him? If Krugman is who you think he is, then my criticism would fall into the “make him do it” category. Because it’s clear that if Krugman really were on our side, the best thing he could do would be to come out in open opposition.
 
5. But again, I don’t believe that’s what he really is. I think he’s on their side, playing his role, which is make some of their worst crimes look “progressively” palatable. So I’m not trying to “make him do it”. I’m trying to convince people that Krugman is not our secret friend, but our enemy.
 
But he can prove me wrong any time he pleases.
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20 Comments

  1. Good post! I’m convinced Thugman is an enemy of the people, he only pretends to be on our side (and it’s not even a good job of pretending at that). But all he really does is to serve the corporate fascist state. (I’ve been mostly avoiding the NY Times, ever since John Burns authored that despicable smear job of Julian Assange, remember, just after Wikileaks released the Iraq war logs.)

    For me, that was a new low in propaganda, even by the NY Times already low standards.

    Comment by Frank — December 15, 2010 @ 9:01 am

    • I started weaning myself from the NYT as well, first because it doesn’t provide enough value to offset how irritating it is, and second because it’s supposed to be going behind the paywall soon anyway.

      And since I dropped it from my regular itinerary about a month ago (now I usually only go there by clicking on something), I feel a sense of “good riddance”.

      Comment by Russ — December 15, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  2. Krugman is a technocrat who portrays himself as being largely above the fray. Clearly, he plays the political game at times, but he is never as over-the-top subservient to power as someone like Brad Delong or Greg Mankiew.

    I don’t think Krugman is either evil or stupid. That doesn’t mean that what he does is not evil or stupid. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all, and I think Krugman is a lot like Robert Reich, who is so bound up in being the elite protector of the rabble that he doesn’t understand how dehumanizing and patronizing he actually is.

    Krugman and Reich are true believers in the current system. It is their earnestness that makes them so dangerous to liberal followers looking for leaders within the elite class.

    The problem is that neither Krugman nor Reich want real reform (see Reich’s latest book), they just want enough “reform” to appease the masses. Instead of “let them eat cake!” their approach is “here, have same cake!”

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 15, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    • Exactly. If they’re sincere, all that means is that they’re trickle-downers who really do want some stuff to trickle down.

      Which is all liberals are at their best anyway, which is pretty rare by now; most are liars about the trickling-down, or don’t care.

      But trickle-down itself, even if it were sincere, and even if it ever worked, is unacceptable to productive human beings. Why should the produce of what is 100% our ideas and work (using the resources and land provided by nature) be taken by “elites” in the first place, even if much of it were actually to be trickled back down?

      No – humanity must finally, once and for all, reject and break free of this obscenity.

      Comment by Russ — December 15, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  3. Russ,

    Again, you seem to draw a very long bow to attack Krugman again.

    1. You attack the post on Hive minds and kleptocrats as saying something it does not say, that we should lay back and enjoy corporate tyranny.

    He did not say that at all, he criticized the kleptocracy, pointed out that multiple bad players were nothing more than greedy crooks.

    2. Many countries in the western block, such as Japan, Germany, and France all have systems where corporate governance deals not only in “shareholder profit”, but to a much broader “license” requiring far more from corporations in the way they treat customers and their employees.

    2. You seem to attack Krugman for these criminals behaviour, which Krugman did not commit. Again, you primarily draw from columns, and attribute things to him he does not even say. Your credibility on this matter is only proving that you would rather go the person with ad hominem attacks.

    Look, I see the system is broken, but why are you attacking Krugman, who is a commenter, rather than the actual players on Wall Street whose greed brought the whole world to it’s knees, Krugman did not do that.

    If you want to continue to attack someone, attack the greedy lawbreakers on Wall Street, and big business jerks like Peterson, and as Krugman suggests, the Koch Brothers, who have and are doing far more to hurt America than Krugman is?

    Comment by kcbill13 — December 15, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

    • @kcbill,

      I understand where you’re coming from. I didn’t have a particular problem with the Krugman piece that Russ called out (or several of the other pieces that he has called out previously).

      Still, when you take a step back and look at the man’s body of work, at how he has turned his opposition of certain Obama policies into support for those same policies (or worse ones), at how he routinely says things that can be easily taken out of context and used against the policies he assertedly supports, well, you have to conclude the guy is complicit in furthering the greedy lawbreakers on Wall Street and the big business jerks like Peterson, and the Koch Brothers.

      There’s a reason the man was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Milton Friedman and Freidrich Hayek were complete hacks as economists, too, but they received the same prize because they equally furthered the interests of Wall Street, Pete Peterson and the Koch bros.

      In the broad scheme of things, you’re right, though: Krugman is way down on the totem pole of blameworthy apparatchiks. But when you narrow your view to the liberal sphere, he is public enemy number 1 because he is the “voice of reason” that allows liberals to blind themselves to theft of their heritage and their future.

      Personally, I think Krugman is an affable guy and earnest in his stated beliefs (within reason). That doesn’t mean that I think he is right. I think Pat Buchanan is an affable guy and earnest in his state beliefs, too. The fact that I like and respect both men– who are political opposites in almost every respect– does not mean that I believe that either of them are correct. In fact, I think they’re both wrong in what they do.

      Here’s another way of thinking about it. There are a lot of people out there who say that managers should never be friends with their employees. I disagree. My view is that there is no problem with a manager being friends with his employees as long as the manager has no problem firing his friends. Well, I have no problem firing my friends, and have done so on several occasions. And all of them are still friends. Go figure.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 16, 2010 @ 1:31 am

      • Tao,

        I actually see your point and recognize that Krugman has a past. And I in no way think he is infallible. But I think his recent book, “The Conscious of a Liberal” certainly was informative on some historical perspectives on the “new deal”, the effect it had on the creation of a massive middle class, and the negative effect the “movement conservatives” have had over the last 35 years on America.

        I also have no qualms with Russ on the importance that we admit we are in a class war, and that Obama is 100% for the status quo and in a neoliberal corporatist. I see and understand that we have many transnational corporations who are more powerful players than many nation states.

        I also see where you and Russ come from with looking at Krugman from a Liberal perspective, and how he can influence many people, but I do not see the malicious intent in his writing. I think Russ and you are giving him more importance than he has. Many of us who like him and read him are not willing to pay to peek behind a paid firewall to read him, and I am far more influenced by Greenwald and Stiglitz and Naomi Klein.

        The system is broken, especially in the US, but it is far more serious than just the US. Peak oil is one thing, but the corruption is the real root of the problem, and the overlooking of the crime in the financial industry alone in the US sickens me.

        But I am learning with you guys, and I am not engaging just to bitch about Krugman. I am trying to figure out what the future holds, and don’t know if the Republic is even worth saving anymore. I live outside the USA at the moment, but care deeply about what comes next, and what, if anything, we can do about it. I am not too sure we will even be able to keep an internet.

        I am not even sure I know much about where the citizens of the US really are anymore, as it seems so many of them are willing participants in being numbed down or distracted by corporate bullshite.

        I will stay tuned, and hope to learn more, but think that Russ wastes effort on attacking Krugman. As far as attacking liberals, I don’t know if that is what is needed to develop a better outcome, but i kind of think of myself as a liberal, and right now, I am not too beholden to any government.

        Comment by kcbill13 — December 19, 2010 @ 8:20 am

    • There’s certainly a fundamental difference of perspective here if you guys don’t consider corporations as such to lie at the heart of the problem. The proposition which Krugman explicitly rejects in that post, that corporations are structually malevolent, is of course one of the core tenets of this blog.

      The same goes for his explicit repudiation of class war as the fundamental reality of these times, in the other post I linked.

      Class war, corporatism; I’m actually surprised that anyone who reads this blog would be confused why I attack a liberal whose project is to deny these two things.

      My entire premise is that the issues here are structural. But Krugman’s whole project is to say the structure is fine, it’s just afflicted with some “bad apples”. Ergo, corporations aren’t the real problem, class war isn’t the real problem, and I bet concentrated wealth as such isn’t the real problem (though offhand I don’t recall a clear statement from Krugman on that). No, specific bad apples like the Koch brothers are the problem.

      Kcbill, I must call special attention to your inadmissible procedure of trying to accuse me of what your guy is actually doing. It’s Krugman of course who is “going to the man” in saying individual bad apples are the problem. I’m the one indicting the entire structure. I attack Krugman as a particularly famous and influential cadre of that structure. Contrary to your assertion, I attack what’s typical about Krugman, not what’s idiosyncratic.

      (I notice silence with regard to the original Krugman, what I would call the real Krugman, the Clinton-era aggressive globalization cadre. There too Krugman’s systematic lies helped pave the way for crimes against humanity. Are you saying if Goebbels hadn’t killed himself, he shouldn’t have been in the dock at Nuremburg? Although I’ll grant they did acquit Fritzsche.)

      Tao, you say: Krugman is an affable guy and earnest in his stated beliefs.

      His stated beliefs, like the way he stated his opposition to Bush’s war, but doesn’t state any belief with regard to Obama’s war at all. I agree – he was opposed to Bush’s war, meaning he opposed Bush himself, but not the war in itself. So he made statements. And since he doesn’t oppose Obama in himself, he doesn’t oppose Obama’s war. Thus the absence of any statement.

      But you see, I actually oppose the war, no matter whose war it is. So I have a special contempt for the kind of hypocrisy which opposes, not war or robberies or kleptocracies, but only certain bad apples within them.

      If it’s true, as some of his defenders say, that Krugman has rethought his support for globalization, then where are his stated beliefs on that? He sure was loud about stating them when he supported it.

      And then we have his very aggressive astroturfing on behalf of Obama’s health racket bailout….

      These are all system crimes. I haven’t once “gone to the man” here, kcbill. That’s what Krugman does, and it seems like that’s what you want to do in defending him, just because you like him personally or something.

      Comment by Russ — December 16, 2010 @ 4:37 am

      • Russ,

        Sorry to for a long quote by Chris Hedges (again), followed by a comment at the end, but in “Death of the Liberal Class, he expresses the problem with people like Krugman better than I could, i.e.: that the problem now has become the liberal class itself, and its defenders such as Krugman.

        from Chris Hedges’ Oct 2010 article “Death of the Liberal Class”:

        “..the assault by the corporate state on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And reducing the liberal class to courtiers or mandarins, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety valve and forces discontent to find other outlets that often end in violence. The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

        “….The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch….”

        “The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism….”

        “….human history has demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet insist on retaining the trappings and privileges of power, their subject populations will brutally discard them. Such a fate awaits the liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state. The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as corporate power pollutes and poisons the ecosystem and propels us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded. The death of the liberal class means there is no check to a corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite and plunder the nation. An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and middle classes will find expression outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy.”

        end of article

        In short, the liberal class and journalists like Krugman no longer address the needs of working people or what little remains of the middle class. They have sold out the workers for the perks and privileges of corporate money. It’s time for the poor and those of us in the working class to understand that we have been sold out, that this is about *class warfare*, and we need to return the favor by cutting ourselves off from these people, with no further illusions. To understand that from now on, we are on our own and we will have to find other ways of resisting the corporate state.

        Comment by Frank — December 16, 2010 @ 6:16 am

      • PS –

        In an article that appeared in the July-August issue of the New Left Review, Zizek also seems to have given up all hope of any meaningful reform coming from the “liberal class” operating within the current system.

        from the article:

        “After decades of the welfare state, when cutbacks were relatively limited and came with the promise that things would soon return to normal, we are now entering a period in which a kind of economic state of emergency is becoming permanent: turning into a constant, a way of life.

        The protesters’ story bears witness yet again to the misery of today’s left: there is no positive programmatic content to its demands, just a generalized refusal to compromise the existing welfare state. The utopia here is not a radical change of the system, but the idea that one can maintain a welfare state within the system. Here, again, one should not miss the grain of truth in the countervailing argument: if we remain within the confines of the global capitalist system, then measures to wring further sums from workers, students and pensioners are, effectively, necessary.

        The standard liberal motto—that it is sometimes necessary to resort to violence, but it is never legitimate—is not sufficient. From the radical-emancipatory perspective, one should turn it around: for the oppressed, violence is always legitimate—since their very status is the result of violence—but never necessary: it is always a matter of strategic consideration whether to use force against the enemy or not.”

        Slavoj Zizek, “A Permanent Economic Emergency”, New Left Review 64, July-August 2010

        Comment by Frank — December 16, 2010 @ 6:47 am

      • Thanks, Frank. Those critiques sum it up well.

        The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens…

        Or in Krugman’s case, to deny it outright. “That’s so sixties”, you filthy peasant.

        Here, again, one should not miss the grain of truth in the countervailing argument: if we remain within the confines of the global capitalist system, then measures to wring further sums from workers, students and pensioners are, effectively, necessary.

        Absolutely. Peak Oil and the inability to service the exponential debt mean that textbook capitalism is no longer possible, though of course practical “capitalism” certainly is. But only through intensifying feudalization. Once again we see the ideological incoherency of liberalism. They want capitalism but also less exploitation. (Here I’m talking about the “real progessives”, not the cynical corporate liberals who are happy to serve the exploiters, like all the Obama hacks.) But that’s impossible.

        Comment by Russ — December 16, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

      • I just went back and read the “Hive Mind” post again. I’m with Charlie Stross. Krugman makes the mistake of believing that you either have hive minds or you have greedy individuals. In the neoliberal world, you have both.

        The funny thing is that I believe JKG’s “The New Industrial State” may well be adopted by the neoliberal establishment as their end game (aka one world government). Those guys love embracing the work of economists they despise (e.g., Adam Smith and Gunnar Myrdal) and twisting it to their own ends.

        Going back to Krugman, the world is full of hyocrites, and most of them don’t even realize they’re being hypocritical. Krugman isn’t the worst of them by a long shot. Again, within the confines of the liberal sphere, he is the worst of them because he is so affable and seems so reasonable, if you are not paying constant attention to how his opinions shift over time. He’s like the pied piper for liberals, leading them to their doom.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 16, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

      • I’ve often used the term pied piper for him, specifically in connection with his shilling for the health racket bailout.

        You think they’ll explicitly rehabilitate JKG, but in a distorted version? “Bastard Galbraith”, as it were? It’s their pattern, like you said.

        Sometimes the MMTers wonder when the rich will discover that they can twist MMT to call for the complete end of taxation.

        Comment by Russ — December 16, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

      • What I’ve come to realize is that neoliberals are not actually against central planning, they are only against central planning by government. Central planning by private actors accountable to nobody is just hunky dory to them (never mind all that freedom and liberty rhetoric they use).

        The big banks have long realized that competition is bad for business, which is why they invented trusts back in the late 19th century. The only way they can control margins enough to simulate perpetual growth is through monopoly.

        A bastardized version of JKG’s vision would be a perfect fit should people wake up and make things hot for the banksters and the big monopolies. The government, bought and paid for by the banksters and the big monopolies, will step in and teach them a lesson by consolidating and entrenching their power and selling it as the plan of a well-known liberal.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 16, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

      • That’s the economic definition of fascism. A command economy which maintains private rents.

        The difference between classic fascism and the neoliberal variety is which of state/party and corporation was the fist and which was the glove.

        (That’s part of why the corporatists prefer “inverted totalitarianism” to straight fascism, if they can avoid it. They don’t want the hired thug taking over the operation again.)

        Comment by Russ — December 17, 2010 @ 3:10 am

      • Russ,

        I get that we are involved in a long term class war, and I see corporatism as a problem in some ways.

        Corporations buying our government off and seizing control of the reins of power only works when you have active complicity by people within government. But are you saying there is advantage in the destruction of corporations? Why can’t it work to properly regulate corporations, it certainly worked well for a long time in the US. And don’t people also have the power to not buy products from bad corporate players?

        Why cant we change corporate governance to a wider base than shareholder profit? I think we need someway make money.

        I look forward to your posts Russ, and so far, I don’t agree with everything you write here, but I see well thought out arguments at times, and many that make me think, which I see as a good thing. I see so much potential in some of the things you say that I am interested in where you take this blog.

        But I am for the “rule of law”, and basically think we should hold corporates and government employees to following the ‘rule of law” again if we want to save America. And the Democratic party does not =seem to represent “we the people” anymore.

        So where do we go from here, that is what I want to understand. To just say you are anti corporatist does not seem to be an answer, nor does just admitting we are in a class war, although admitting the class war thing would seem to help.

        You have yet to win me with the corporate thing. It seems small to medium businesses who hire people and operate in a generally fair fashion are not bad things.

        Soulless big corporate transnationals who screw employees and customers, well that seems to me to be a different kettle of fish.

        Always enjoy talking to you folks here, and I hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season. I am going to have a bourbon now, here is to you all.

        Comment by kcbill13 — December 19, 2010 @ 8:40 am

      • But are you saying there is advantage in the destruction of corporations? Why can’t it work to properly regulate corporations, it certainly worked well for a long time in the US. And don’t people also have the power to not buy products from bad corporate players?

        In a nutshell, all economic sectors are mature. Under textbook capitalism, all sectors should be selling undifferentiated commodities, so the rate of profit should have fallen to near-nothing.

        The way real capitalism worked, on the other hand, was for the biggest corporations to form oligopolies in each sector, and use that oligopoly position to capture the government and use it to rig the markets in their favor. Today no large corporation generates “capitalist profits” in the strict textbook sense. It extracts parasitic rents.

        So there’s the answers to your questions: No, we have no alternative to bad corporate players, because they don’t compete with one another, but collude in every way – price, poor quality, imposing contracts of adhesion. That last one’s the subject of the current SCOTUS case AT&T vs. Concepcion, the subject of this recent post:

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/corporatism-hoarding-profiteering-att-scotus/

        And since it’s an oligopoly, the barriers to new entrants who would like to compete are severe.

        That’s also why it’s no longer possible to regulate these rackets. They corrupt the government and rig the law in the first place. And even if some unusually conscientious regulators did exist, they’d be bound to lose the endless war of attrition against corporate lobbying.

        So yes, we have no option but to eradicate the corporations.

        I look forward to your posts Russ, and so far, I don’t agree with everything you write here, but I see well thought out arguments at times, and many that make me think, which I see as a good thing. I see so much potential in some of the things you say that I am interested in where you take this blog.

        Thanks. I have some pretty big plans for 2011. Hopefully execution will live up to my aspiration.

        So where do we go from here, that is what I want to understand. To just say you are anti corporatist does not seem to be an answer, nor does just admitting we are in a class war, although admitting the class war thing would seem to help.

        I advocate a truly federalized movement of direct democracy and worker self-management. I’ve discussed that at considerable length in many posts, and in 2011 I’ll have an even greater emphasis on this affirmative movement, and what we can actually do to get it rolling.

        I know that’s a radical change from the status quo and from the conventional way of thinking, but I don’t see any other option if we want our freedom, prosperity, and country back.

        Democracy in all things is the great imperative of the century. It must triumph completely, or freedom and prosperity must perish completely in a recrudescent feudalism.

        You have yet to win me with the corporate thing. It seems small to medium businesses who hire people and operate in a generally fair fashion are not bad things.

        I didn’t say anything against small to medium businesses. But there’s no reason why anything needs to have the corporate form.

        Thanks for the holiday wishes, and the same to you and yours.

        Comment by Russ — December 19, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  4. OK, I’m sick of the liberals. Kcbill, you’ll be glad to hear that I vow, as a pre-New Year’s resolution, that this was my last specifically anti-liberal post. (I only address that to you because you so dislike my Krugman posts.) Going forward in 2011 I’ll have a more important writing project for this blog.

    Comment by Russ — December 16, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    • Look forward to it, Russ. You can drop by my bar and have a whiskey anytime, (that goes for you too, Tao).

      You just have to come to Melbourne for the drink.

      Comment by kcbill13 — December 19, 2010 @ 8:44 am

      • Thanks, kcbill. I might have to take you up on that, if things get much more dangerous here!

        Comment by Russ — December 19, 2010 @ 3:41 pm


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