Were basically selfish individuals with varying and unpredictable levels of empathy? Ulterior purposes. The French “fine mouche.” The yoke of feudalism was tossed aside a half a millennium ago, and there’s no stopping those middle-class values that the politicians keep reinforcing in our psyche. The dream of the middle-class and the entire creation and maintenance of self-reinforcing, insulating, and self-defeating values all essentially based on the protection of assets from enemies known and unknown.Late capitalism is a strange exception. Bankers may be derided, but they continue to accumulate power and money, their social necessity defended by, say, Niall Ferguson, who suggests that poverty isn’t about greedy financiers exploiting the poor, but the absence of bankers for the poor. In any event, hierarchy and pecking order systems, ordinal rankings and status and distinction remain. Unchallenged.
Given bailouts for the wealthy and imposed and voluntary austerity for the poor, the 80% in bad shape, this is a tough case to make. What writers like David Graeber do, is open the door to thinking more deeply about why bankers exist in the first place. Is the solution to poverty really about making micro-loans available, usually at high rates of interest, so that new restless pockets capital can be made to work?
Andrew Potter:Cowen’s argument is that the West spent most of the 20th century living off the easy proceeds of the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to machinery powered by cheap fossil fuels, industry grabbed almost all of the low-hanging fruit available for increasing productivity, and that got widely shared out in the form of steadily growing wages for all workers. But now we’ve reached a technological plateau, and while Cowen thinks things will get better, eventually, it will be a while before we see a true dividend from biotech, or clean and cheap alternative energies. In the meantime, income growth will continue to flatline….
Given the extended slump the world is in right now, it’s no surprise, then, to find leaders looking around for other ways of showing what a great job they are doing. Back in November, British Prime Minister David Cameron sagely remarked that there was “more to life than money,” and suggested that GDP was an unsatisfactory measure of how well people were doing. He tasked the Office for National Statistics with devising some sort of happiness survey that would take into account broader indicators of well-being such as education levels, subjective feelings about personal health, education and the environment…. Read More:http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/02/14/why-happiness-suddenly-matters-2/
Cameron’s happiness index echoes an ongoing proposal from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who in 2009 said that his country might want to consider following the kingdom of Bhutan in measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH), which would downplay material wealth in favour of more Gallic notions of joie de vivre, the happy-go-lucky Canadian lumberjack, the crocodile poaching southern gentleman and so on. But what about the grinning, bomb tossing Felix Feneon and the wry poetic humor of Theodor Berkman and…..
…And now even the Coca-Cola Company is getting into the game. Celebrating its 125th anniversary as “one of the original purveyors of happiness,” last week the company threw its support behind growing calls for a Canadian GNH index, and announced that it is sponsoring a cross-country study that will ask Canadians what makes them happy, “whether it’s spending time with family, working out, volunteering or enjoying a moment of peace and quiet.”
It’s easy to see what Coke is doing—they just want to sell more soda pop. But when it comes to our political leaders, there are almost certainly cynical motives at work.
If you’re a politic
there are a couple of ways you could tackle the falling-income problem. One involves making smart policy: accepting the need for governments to live within their means while investing as heavily as possible in the drivers of innovation—education, infrastructure, and research and development. The other is to try to bamboozle people by concocting some woolly-headed alternative measure of well-being….
…But, for decades, governments in the West, especially Canada and the U.S., have relied on near-constant growth to raise living standards, integrate increasingly diverse populations and mitigate the effects of ever-greater inequality. As long as everyone is getting even a little better off, year after year, it is relatively easy to sustain social trust and solidarity.
In fact, the hefty revenues that go along with steady growth have been used to mask all sorts of dumb or even counterproductive policy decisions, and politicians of all colours have long made a point of using the treasury and the tax code to pander to special interests. Now that we might be in for a period of near-zero growth, access to tax revenues will be an increasing zero-sum game: what you give to one interest group must come at the expense of another, and yes, what we really need is smart, strategic public policy….
…As this “happiness” craze continues to froth, it is clear which path our political leaders have decided upon. No major party is ready to support a plausible path to fiscal balance, or to acknowledge how little control politicians actually have over future growth.
That is why smart taxation and smart investment will have to be the rallying cry of the Great Stagnation. If it isn’t, if low growth continues to be accompanied by stupid policy, then an entire generation of political leaders will soon discover just how unhappy the people can get. Read More:http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/02/14/why-happiness-suddenly-matters-2/
Christopher Caudwell writing in 1935, went far deeper than Graeber. Writing from a Marxist perspective, he nonetheless touched on some sticky points that runs to the heart of political entreaties to the heart of the middle-class American dream, and its construction of liberty and freedom as exportable commodity and hegemonic tool:
The justification of bourgeois violence is an important part of bourgeois ethics. The coercive control of social labour by a limited class is justified as a relation to a thing. Even as late as Hegel, this justification is given quite naively and simply. Just as I go out and break off a stick of wood from the primitive jungle and convert it to my purpose, so the bourgeois is supposed to convert the thing ‘capital’ to his use. Domination over men is wicked; domination over things is legitimate.
The nature of bourgeois economy made it possible for Hegel to believe this seriously. But when the true nature of bourgeois economy had been analysed by Marx, as a dominating relation over men through ownership of the means of social labour and individual livelihood, how could this naive bourgeois attitude persist? Only by vilifying Marx, by always attacking him violently without explaining his views, and by continuing to teach, preach and practise the old bourgeois theory. It was then that the bourgeois illusion became the bourgeois lie, a conscious deception festering at the heart of bourgeois culture.
Bourgeois ethics include the more difficult task of justification of the violence of bourgeois war. The Christian-bourgeois ethic has been equal even to this. Consonant to the bourgeois illusion, all interference with the liberty of another is wicked and immoral. If one is attacked in one’s liberty, one is therefore compelled to defend outraged morality and attack in turn. All bourgeois wars are therefore justified by both parties as wars of defence. Bourgeois liberty includes the right to exercise all bourgeois occupations – alienating, trading, and acquiring for profit – and since these involve establishing dominating relations over others, it is not surprising that the bourgeois often finds himself attacked in his liberty. It is impossible for the bourgeois to exercise his full liberty without infringing the liberty of another. It is impossible therefore to be thoroughly bourgeois and not give occasion for ‘just’ wars.
Meanwhile bourgeois discomforts generate an opposition to bourgeois violence. At each stage of bourgeois development men could be found who were impregnated with the bourgeois illusion, that man is free and happy only when without social restraints, and who yet found in bourgeois economy multiplying coercions and restraints. We saw why these exist; the bourgeois economy requires coercion and restraint for its very life. The big bourgeois dominates the petit bourgeois, just as both dominate the proletariat. But these early bourgeois rebels could not see this. They demanded a return to the bourgeois dream – ‘equal rights for all’, ‘freedom from social restraints’, the ‘natural rights’ of men. They thought that this would free them from the big bourgeoisie, and give them equal competition once again.
Thus originated the cleavage between conservatives and liberals, between the big bourgeois in possession and the little bourgeois wishing to be in possession. The one sees that his position depends on maintaining things as they are; the other sees his as depending on more bourgeois freedom, more votes for all, more freedom for private property to be alienated, acquired, and owned, more free competition, less privilege….
…The liberal is the active force. But so far from being revolutionary, as he thinks, he is evolutionary. In striving for bourgeois freedom and fair competition he produces by this very action an increase in the social restraints he hates. He builds up the big bourgeoisie in trying to support the little, although he may make himself a big bourgeois in the process. He increases unfairness by trying to secure fairness. Free trade gives birth to tariffs, Imperialism and monopoly, because it is hastening the development of bourgeois economy, and these things are the necessary end of bourgeois development. He calls into being the things he loathes because, as long as he is in the grip of the bourgeois illusion that freedom consists in absence of social planning, he must put himself, by loosening social ties, more powerfully in the grip of coercive social forces. Read More:http://www.marxists.org/archive/caudwell/1935/pacifism-violence.htm