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The Performance is Over

The Performance is Over

Even if the artists don’t realise it.

Note: Last week’s comments got sidetracked into bad-tempered exchanges on climate change, which was not what the essay was about. I had several requests to delete comments that some people found offensive. I let them pass on that occasion, but as from now I will start deleting abusive comments. Discussion here has always been very civilised. Let’s keep it that way.

A reminder that Spanish versions of my essays are now available here. and some Italian versions of my essays are available here. Many thanks to the translators. Now on to the main feature.

Last week, I argued that the kind of crises that we can expect over the next few years will be beyond the ability of our enfeebled governments to tackle, and that in any case their room for manoeuvre to tackle them will be very limited. (If you think climate change is not a problem, fine, you can substitute any other of a long list of potentially ruinous events.) This week, I want to take the next logical step, of trying to begin to imagine what a society in which government could no longer deal with major problems would be like, and what the implications would be.

I want to discuss it via a consideration of the nature of Power. Now in English, “power” has generally-negative connotations, not helped by its incessant use by IdiotPol pundits, who are obsessed with it and see it everywhere. But “power” is derived from the medieval Anglo-French pouair with its roots in the Vulgar Latin potere, meaning “to be able to do something.” This is essentially the principal meaning of pouvoir in modern French: a good translation would be ‘capability.” (Foucault, who wrote about pouvoir a lot, was essentially interested in how things got done.)…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

On Psychopathy And Power

On Psychopathy And Power

Due to a very painful and disturbing revelation in my personal life I have had the unfortunate occasion to spend the last several days thinking a lot about psychopaths and what makes them tick. I don’t want to get into the hairy details at this time, but I would like to share some of the more general thoughts that have been coming up here on the matter.

It is interesting that psychopathy should have reached a dark tentacle into my life in the way that it did, given that the three years I’ve been at this gig have been spent writing more and more about the way our world is run by calculating manipulators who are devoid of empathy. I often say that we have found ourselves ruled by psychopaths because we have a system wherein (A) those who are willing to do anything to anyone are rewarded with immense wealth, and (B) immense wealth translates directly to immense political power. Add in the fact that studies have shown that wealth itself kills off empathy and compassion, and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for a plutocratic dystopia dominated by antisocial personality disorder.

I’m not really interested in getting into the specific clinical diagnoses of psychopathy and sociopathy for the purposes of this discussion. What I’m talking about here is a specific slice of humanity that is neurologically wired in such a way that they experience the world more as a series of puzzles which can be manipulated around to get them them whatever they want regardless of who it hurts, rather than experiencing a world full of fellow sentient beings with whom you can have deep, meaningful connections and interactions.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Small Laws, Great Crimes: the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act

Small Laws, Great Crimes: the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act

It’s been said that small laws breed great crimes.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act is such a law.  The crimes committed against the people in its name are legion.

But it got even more criminal last week when the Colorado Supreme Court decided the protection of public health and the environment was not the purpose of the law, that, instead, the public must share their lives and fortunes with the economic interests of the oil and gas industry.  Indeed, the public’s interests might have to be sacrificed if protecting them proves too costly for the industry.

The implication, it could be argued, is that the state constitution got it wrong, and that a court dominated by corporate lawyers is setting it right.   The first provision in the Colorado Constitution’s Bill of Rights says quite clearly:

 “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” Colo. Const. Art. II, Section 1.

In reaching out to smack down the rights of the people–the constitution’s “good of the whole” over the rights of money–the High Court also took a meat axe to Section 3, which says:

All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness. Art. II, Section 3

It’s also a fact that the constitution can only be changed by a vote of the people, but perhaps I’m becoming tedious.  Still, when the lawless are the men and women festooned in black preaching from a high bench in a marbled palace that Albert Speer would envy, a word of bemusement may be warranted.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“It’s A Reunion For People Who Broke The World”: Author Explains Why Davos Should Be Cancelled

Paris is burning, a large chunk of the US federal government is shut down and Britain is careening toward a delay of Article 50 – or possibly a second referendum – as the Brexit process descends into chaos, calls for the World Economic Forum to cancel its annual conference in Davos, a notorious rendezvous for the world’s financial and political elite, are growing louder. Particularly after Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and now Theresa May have all decided to skip the conference this year to attend to their respective crises.

While these demands from a frustrated public might seem baffling to the global elites who see Davos as an opportunity for less-fortunate emerging economies to “pitch” themselves in an effort to attract more FDI, one former New York Times columnist and the author of a new book that explores the causes of the surge in populism sweeping the Western world offered a surprisingly articulate and trenchant explanation for why people across the west are “mad as hell”, and, furthermore, what role the average Davos attendee played in bringing our society to this point.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Anand Giridharadas placed the blame on plutocrats like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for helping to “break the world” with ruthless corporate agendas that helped monopolize political power in the hands of the elite…leaving the rest of the population with deep-seated feelings of frustration as the usual avenues of social mobility have been closed, and people feel more powerless to change their future.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Industrial Agriculture and the Agrochemical Industry

Industrial Agriculture and the Agrochemical Industry

The chemical-intensive industrial model of agriculture has secured the status of ‘thick legitimacy’. This status stems from on an intricate web of processes successfully spun in the scientific, policy and political arenas. It status allows the model to persist and appear normal and necessary. This perceived legitimacy derives from the lobbying, financial clout and political power of agribusiness conglomerates which, throughout the course of the last century (and continued today), set out to capture or shape government departments, public institutions, the agricultural research paradigm, international trade and the cultural narrative concerning food and agriculture.

Critics of this system are immediately attacked for being anti-science, for forwarding unrealistic alternatives, for endangering the lives of billions who would starve to death and for being driven by ideology and emotion. Strategically placed industry mouthpieces like Jon Entine, Owen Paterson and Henry Miller perpetuate such messages in the media and influential industry-backed bodies like the Science Media Centre feed journalists with agribusiness spin.

From Canada to the UK, governments work hand-in-glove with the industry to promote its technology over the heads of the public. A network of scientific bodies and regulatory agencies that supposedly serve the public interest have been subverted by the presence of key figures with industry links, while the powerful industry lobby hold sway over bureaucrats and politicians.

Monsanto played a key part in drafting the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to create seed monopolies and the global food processing industry had a leading role in shaping the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (see this). From Codex, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture aimed at restructuring Indian agriculture to the proposed US-EU trade deal (TTIP), the powerful agribusiness lobby has secured privileged access to policymakers to ensure its preferred model of agriculture prevails.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

An Introduction to Political Economy

An Introduction to Political Economy

Last month, when I looked across the vast gray wasteland of the calendar page ahead and noted that there were five Wednesdays in November, I asked readers—in keeping with a newly minted but entertaining tradition here on Ecosophia—to suggest a theme for the fifth Wednesday post. This blog being the eccentric phenomenon that it is, it probably shouldn’t have surprised me that the result was a neck-and-neck contest between a post on nature spirits and a post on alternatives to capitalism and socialism, with a focus on democratic syndicalism. Nature spirits won by a nose, but there was enough interest in the other option that I decided to go ahead and write a post on that as well.

Nature spirits and democratic syndicalism may not seem to have much in common, but I’ve discovered one unexpected similarity: it’s very difficult to discuss either one in a single post. To make any kind of sense out of the ancient belief that the forces of nature are best understood and most truly experienced as persons rather than things, it turned out to be necessary to delve into the entire tangled mess our culture has made about the concept of personhood, and what does and doesn’t count as a person. Only when that was cleared away could we go on and talk about what it means to experience nature as composed of persons rather than things.

In the same way, if we’re going to make any kind of sense of the alternatives to capitalism and socialism, it’s going to be necessary to talk for a while about capitalism, socialism, and the third and usually unmentionable system of modern industrial economics—yes, that would be fascism.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What you “Owe to Society”

What you “Owe to Society”

The “Club Dues” Theory of Taxation

Sadly this is an ancient thesis that’s being revived now in a country that was founded on denying it. The idea is well expressed in a recent book by Professor William E. Hudson, titled, The Libertarian Illusion: Ideology, Public Policy, and the Assault on the Common Good (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2008).

Hudson states, on page 43, that “The ability that any of us have to earn income and acquire wealth depends only partly on our own individual efforts. It relies as well on the operation of political, economic, and social institutions that make it possible for any of us to ‘earn a living.’ . . .Viewed in this light, …deductions from my paycheck can be seen as reimbursements to society for that portion of my earnings derived from social goods.”


William E HudsonAuthor and confirmed etatiste William E. Hudson, a Professor of Political Science at Providence College where he teaches courses in American politics and public policy, and has also served in a variety of “administrative functions”. In the words of Hans-Hermann Hoppe: “[…] if practically all intellectuals are employed in the multiple branches of the state, then it should hardly come as a surprise that most of their ever-more voluminous output will, either by commission or omission, be statist propaganda.”

Screenshot via wn.com

The very same idea has been championed for years by one of President Obama’s favorite intellectuals, Cass Sunstein, for example in the book the latter co-authored with Stephen Holmes, The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes (W. W. Norton & Co., 1999).

Reimbursements to society! What a lie that is, given that society is nothing more than all of us together as individuals and that what we own, so long as we stole it from no one, ought to be left to each of us to allocate as we judge proper, not to the likes of the sneaky professor and his gang in centers of political power.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Deflation, Debt and Gravity

Deflation, Debt and Gravity

Far too many people have already used lines like “We Are All Greeks Now” for the words to hold on to much if any meaning by now. But it’s still a very accurate description of what awaits us all. Just not for the same reasons most who used it, did.

No, I don’t really want to talk about Greece again. I want to talk about where you live. And about how similar the two will be not too long from now. How Greece is holding up a lesson and a big red flashing warning sign for all of us.

Greece is the mold upon which all of our futures will be based. Quite literally. Greece is a test tube baby rat.

Greece will never “recover” to our North American and Western European economic levels (if ever they were there). Instead, it’s us who will descend, “uncover” so to speak, to the levels Greece is at today. That is baked into the cake, that is inevitable, and that is therefore what we need to be ready for.

If we wake up in time to this new reality, we may, and that’s still only may, be able to prevent the worst, prevent something akin to the same punitive measures the Troika has unleashed upon Greek society, fully wrecking it in the process, its healthcare system, the safety nets for its most needy.

We may find a way to make a smoother transition from here to there if we prepare in time. But that’s the best we can do. As societies, that is; individual fates will vary.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…



Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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