But here's the truth. I do not read Smith's Naked Capitalism because it doesn't help me write my blog. Smith writes about the crimes in the financial world and the failures of neoliberalism. Now I have considered neoliberalism an utter failure since the early 1980s and need no further convincing. I actually try to avoid the topic anymore (yeah I know, I still post about it) because it depresses the hell out of me that folks could EVER believe such absurd rubbish.
The crimes of Wall Street (and the rest of the moneychangers) pose a more complicated dilemma for me. While I will admit enjoying descriptions of the shadier characters of the world of finance (especially when written by Matt Taibbi) I find the distinction between legal and illegal in their world to be pretty meaningless. For example, during the 1980s, thousands of companies were destroyed by hostile takeovers. A bunch of Predators would show up with borrowed money to buy controlling shares of a company. Once in control, they would loot anything not nailed down such as the company nest egg set aside for future product development or the pension funds. They would then pay themselves huge "management fees" and put the firm into hopeless debt. The looted companies would barely last until the Predators got out of town with their ill-gotten gains. So companies that required a hundred years of hard work and the support of the community to be able to create a going concern were destroyed for the personal benefit of a few vandals. And this was all legal. In fact, one of those looters ran for president in 2012 and his sociopathic economic crimes were not mentioned in the overwhelming majority of the political coverage.
In fact, virtually ALL of the activities of the world of finance have been considered a sin by almost all religious groupings in history at one time or other. Outlaw everything condemned in the Bible and finance would shrink to 1/100th of its current size. The problem with writing about the crimes of finance is that it presumes there are activities in the world of finance that are legitimate. Very VERY few are.
Anyway, I want my blog to be about what can replace this love-of-money madness with something more productive. I want to write about how we adjust to the end of the age of fire and still survive—fire being a very useful and often necessary invention and all. I want to write about building a new world—and how to pay for all that construction. I want to recall the best thinking humanity has ever done on the economics of the common provision.
I don't want to write about neoliberalism or the crimes of finance unless it makes a bigger point. And this is why I don't link to Naked Capitalism.
However, I DID mention that blog and I DID call Yves Smith a bond trader last Sunday. This is the email I got:
On Aug 25, 2013, at 8:46 PM, Yves Smith wrote:A little stern but she had a point. So I correct the blog post and write:
I am not, nor have I ever been, a bond trader, nor have I ever been in the bond business.
It might behoove you to know something about a blog before you make statements about it.
On Aug 25, 2013, at 10:36 PM, Jonathan Larson wrote:I think I got ahead of myself—pulling out the Veblenian dichotomy between business and industry and all. But here's the deal—I wrote Smith was a bond trader from memory. I just wanted to know is she had ANY industrial, non-Leisure Class credentials. I was willing to admit I was wrong about her being a bond trader—I just did not want to be wrong about her lack of Producer Class cred (if she had any.)
But have you ever actually made something for sale or engaged in ANY Producer Class activity?
You write like someone who dealt in some sort of securities.
So if it wasn't bonds, what was it?
On Aug 25, 2013, at 9:39 PM, Yves Smith wrote:Notice she ducks the question of whether she has any Producer Class cred. So I try again.
I never held any securities licenses and never worked on a trading desk or floor.
Anyone who sells to customers, be they retail or institutional, has to have at least a Series 7 license.
On Aug 25, 2013, at 10:57 PM, Jonathan Larson wrote:Turns out that not only does Smith have no Producer Class cred, she attempts to borrow some from relatives. But obviously she does not think such cred is terribly important because she then dismisses the possibility that our escape from fire will need Producer Class skills. This, in spite of the fact that the Leisure Class was clearly warned about climate change by James Hansen in 1988, and have had a multitude of opportunities to do something about it since then, they have accomplished nothing because in the end, climate change is most certainly NOT something that can be solved using Leisure Class methods.
Thanks for the clarification.
I have tried to change the post—while still keeping the meaning that while I thoroughly enjoy your anger at the Wall Street crooks, I certainly do not believe you are coming at the world like say, an engineer. And since engineers and their design skills are our only hope for solving a problem such as climate change, I want to report on what they do and how they think.
I have never noticed you have ever linked to my blog and I am pretty sure I have never linked to yours. We cover different stories. I do not feel a need to cover Wall Street and the FIRE businesses because they get covered all the time.
I am sorry if I came off as casually rude and uninformed. But I most certainly do not view the world as you do and I THINK our differences come from how we got our worldviews in the first place. I have never even walked into an investment office in my life and I am pretty sure that moneychangers will NOT solve any of the important problems we face—end of the age of petroleum, death of oceans, and the climate catastrophe, etc.
On Aug 25, 2013, at 10:07 PM, Yves Smith wrote:Well folks, I tried. I seriously doubt Smith will so much as acknowledge my existence ever again. And I seriously doubt if I will make so much as a minor dent in the legitimacy or audience for her blog. After all, folks really LIKE crime stories—much more than stories on the progress of microwave-assisted pyrolysis. But if the goal is building a sustainable future, my boring stories are much more likely to advance the art than those sexy stories of crime in finance. Just a thought.
I have engineers on both sides of my family. My father started up and ran paper mills.
And I must beg to differ with your premise. "Solving" climate change" is not an engineering problem.
Climate change is first and foremost a political problem.
On August 26, 2013 7:39:41 AM Jonathan Larson wrote:
Climate change is caused by too many people burning carbon. The ONLY way we can shut off all those billions of fires that are started each day is to provide other ways for folks to warm themselves, cook their food, and transport their goods, etc. If they don't have an alternative, folks will simply ignore whatever rules that say they must stop burning things.
Now IF you believe that a bunch of lawyers sitting in a fancy room can actually find a way to replace fire, I can understand why we disagree. Conferences in Durban and Copenhagen won't help either.
As far as I can understand it, politics is about as effective at addressing the problems caused by fire as prayer or drum circles—or Bill McKibben organizing marches on the White House.
Climate change is a physics problem. The only real solutions will come from folks who stayed awake during their physics classes. I have met almost NO politicians who stayed awake.
And no, being related to engineers is NOT the same as having a sound understanding of science.