There has always been unease about modernity, both on the left and the right. The sickness, the rebels have always said, is mistaking artifice for authenticity, and the solution, the have always said, is to get back to what is stoically essential. Marcus Aurelius would have recognized the ills outlined in Patel’s The Value of Nothing, because the alienation from the land was eroding the character of his empire, so too would Emerson and Muir, the transcendentalist ideal being rooted in very earthy realities. This unease, is not new.
Some books are written for their moment. When John Maynard Keynes published his General Theory the world was, in fact, more than ready. Key ideas had already been put forward in papers and letters, and political figures were already looking for a means to implement truths the felt to be correct. Keynes advised, prophesized, synthesized, and proselytized. But to some extent he was a victim of the breath of his ideas and the range of his converts. As with many other epoch making ideas, it was in redaction and reduction that Keynes came to the world.
What’s a vaporjob? Well, read this from a job seeker: offered a job, the company rescinded it. While there are remedies, they depend a great deal on the state. However, in the end, there really isn’t one, except publicizing the company. But people don’t want to do that, because it is more likely to be a black mark on the job seeker, than on the company.
Keynes saw what happened in the early 20th century what could happen if a small inbred circle of people consistently were allowed to choose short term expediency over long term efficacy. We are going down the same road, and it ends in the same place. This is why it is essential to return to the ideas of Keynes, in a more profound way than has yet happened in the public debate.
There is no precise definition in economics of a recession. The rule-of-thumb definition is “two consecutive quarters of negative GDP” sounds good until you realize that GDP is measured in quarters, not months. This is why the NBER uses the term “downturn” because in economic reality, the period of falling economic activity is likely surrounded by difficult times, either before, or more generally, after.
The US military is designed to decapitate, not occupy. US strategic doctrine focuses on social and systematic roots of conflict, but the firepower-based military does not create the conditions for development to take root. The US escalation in Afghanistan is foolish on current economic grounds, on military grounds, and in light of the disintegrating conditions on the ground.
If you need to know where we are, it is not 1930, despite what the establishment thinks, but the mid-1920’s. That decade of surges and downturns, last minute deals, and the desperate attempts to hold on to a world order that is slipping through the fingers of those who had inherited it.
A stopped clock is right twice a day, runs the old joke, you just have to keep looking at it. Fox News is running with a story about how the states hardest hit by the stimulus bill get the least money. They are right, but, as you would expect, they don’t tell you why, really, and they don’t exactly make sense in many of their measurements.
The death of Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson, architect of not only the Vietnam War, but of the Defense Department’s role in the nuclear age, offers a useful lens to the present. McNamara is, in a phrase, one of the demons against which American politics has reacted since.
Read it and weep optimists. A month ago the “green shoots” narrative was all over. Those “green shoots” have been eaten by the panda, and squashed flat by speculators in resources. It is time for Congress to wake up, and smell the depression.