Home > Uncategorized > Clueless or Just Plain Stupid?

Clueless or Just Plain Stupid?

from Peter Radford

Here we are deep into the dark forest known as the Trump administration and half my friends are still grappling with the 2016 election result. How come America elected an erstwhile tyrant? How come a boatload of voters look quite happy tossing so-called democracy overboard?

Well, as you know, I have a simple answer. Money. Or, more precisely, the lack of it. If there is one characteristic of contemporary America that stands in stark contrast to those happier times a few decades back it is the corrosion of self-confidence and belief that  is a direct consequence of the obliteration of wage growth.

For some reason that eludes me our policy elite — both parties, the big media, academics, and business leaders — all fail to understand that for them to be allowed to govern peacefully on behalf of the masses they need to deliver the goods to those masses. Else they get a rude awakening.

This particular rude awakening was the arrival of the nincompoop called Trump.

Elites gain and keep power through two methods: one is the ballot box, which has the advantage of being relatively peaceful, and the other is force. Our elite tried to invent a third way, which is corruption of democracy and its perversion into plutocracy. The ballot box stayed in place, but was rendered increasingly meaningless by a relentless campaign to subvert electoral decisions by drowning the legislative process in oceans of lobbyist distributed loot.

This effort was a huge success. 

Our elections have become irrelevant. No matter which party is elected subsequent legislation will bolster the elite at the expense of the masses. Meanwhile those masses are then told to buckle up, work harder, get better educated, and get ready for austerity. Why? Because hard times are upon us and we can’t afford any goodies for the masses. Entitlements are programs for the masses and sound greedy. The national interest is a program for the elite and sounds lofty. Nowadays the two no longer intersect. So entitlements have to go. After all the national interest sounds like a lofty goal.

[Wave the flag here. Start a war there.]

Meanwhile in the trenches, and as part of this program, corporations have adopted a strict shareholder value policy that is intended to drive down wages. Employees being a cost rather than an asset, they are homogeneous, malleable, and ultimately disposable. What were once benefits used to entice worker loyalty have become costs to be cut. The extra cash available is then funneled to shareholders who shift it abroad to avoid taxes or to invest in places with cheaper labor.

Which brings me to our new Fed chief Jerome Powell.

Is he clueless or just plain stupid?

Having been complicit in the above game, although his comments suggest he had no clue about the ideological content of the game, he spoke yesterday about his surprise that the newfound strength of the economy, its low unemployment, and the influx of cash to corporations generated by the recent tax cut wasn’t generating a surge in wages.

His antiquated and ideologically driven economic models tell him this is odd.

So he expressed surprise. He actually used the words “puzzle” and “mystery”.

What a dolt.

There is no puzzle. Nor is there a mystery.

American elitist policy has been explicitly constructed to squeeze workers to the bone in order to bolster profits. Those policies are indifferent to the state of the economy. They are an expression of power. And contemporary power resides in the hands of the corporate elite. Since the balance between wages and profits is not a function of the exquisite mathematics of neoclassical economic theory, but is determined, instead, by raw power, the fact that economic indicators suggest that wages ought to be rising is irrelevant.

The real factor to watch is the balance of power which is something economists explicitly ignore in order to maintain their ideological purity.

And the struggle for power just threw Trump into the finely tuned gears of the elite’s self-enriching engine.

Let me correct myself: I don’t think Powell is either clueless of just plain stupid. He is simply trying to ignore reality.

Because reality has become inconvenient. It contradicts what our elite prefers to believe.

So rather than waste time tearing their hair out over Trump’s manifest ignorance and disregard for democracy, perhaps my friends all ought to be pondering their own role in transferring power to the unelected elite that is currently enriching itself and starving the masses of a prosperous and secure future.

So who is clueless?

Who is just plain stupid?

Do you want democracy or not?

If you do, ponder on the state of the demos.

  1. June 19, 2018 at 12:48 am

    Very well written. Energetic. Concise. Accurate. Now we need to define democracy itself and how it fits in.

    We read in our history books how this unfolds but are cramped for time as the biosphere has become unstable for life support. We do not have the luxury of incremental advance. Economists have the tools for seeing democracy as an organic mechanism inform the market and can organize accounting foe externalized costs and public goods.

    Trump’s rural base has received a reality check lesson yet remains afraid to lose what they have. Now economists can shift the fear from illusion to science and environmental disaster.

    A medium solar flare puts Earth in perspective, yet we still know the conscious biosphere is equally impressive. Short flare movie, turn off the music


  2. Econoclast
    June 19, 2018 at 1:07 am

    I really like the emphasis on power here, missing completely from the orthodoxy and often missing in heterodox discussions. Predatory corporate power is at the heart of it. Serious challenges to it won’t be tolerated without major strife. Ordinary people cannot match the money that drives that power. What we can do is organize countervailing power. It is a huge challenge that involves much work (I have done this organizing), and we are running out of time. I am dismayed to see the continuing internecine ideological warfare on the left that continues to prevent an effective challenge to the predatory elites who more and more, from their lofty financial perches, run things.

    Regarding “perhaps my friends all ought to be pondering their own role in transferring power to the unelected elite”, this idea fits a concept of Political Pogonomics: “We have met the enemy and he is us” (gender intended in our continuing patriarchy).

    One further comment. I wish we wouldn’t use the predators’ language for such as the safety net. In my view, the subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear power, among other disasters, are the true entitlements.

  3. Helen Sakho
    June 19, 2018 at 1:33 am

    Thank you very much Peter for your post.

  4. Helen Sakho
    June 19, 2018 at 1:47 am

    An earlier comment of mine seems to have gone astray.
    You have provided all the clues in your detailed, thoughtful and insightful comment above. The puzzle could easily be solved by anyone with a conscience, let alone supposedly educated Economists.
    I had just emphasised that as “In God They Trust”, the rest of humanity can keep knocking on any of the seven (or eight) doors of heaven and wait for one of them to open…
    And if none opens, well, we can all safety assume that their faiths or fates dictated this outcome, and there was nothing anyone from heaven could do for them. Maybe the God of Humanity will one day have mercy upon all our souls.

    • June 19, 2018 at 2:30 am

      “Knock, knock, knock’n on heavens door.” We’re standing there together, knocking on heaven’s door. “Knock, knock, knock’n on heavens door.”

  5. June 19, 2018 at 2:45 am

    I am scheduled to run a workshop on evolution of democracy at the Green Party annual meeting in Utah. We will work to evolve there and invite your participation.

  6. June 19, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Very well done… A good analysis with an adequate emphasis on power relations… The American elite seems to have forgotten – consciously – that old french saying «noblesse oblige»…

  7. June 19, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    It seems we have come to the end of meaningful capitalism; from now on it will be profit for the financiers and their ilk and nada for everyone else. When the new world is created, I hope that profit-making will not even be considered: we could all live very reasonably and well without even one millionaire or one billionaire in existence! There is a very good chance that democracy will have to be reinvented also.

    • June 19, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Craig: “And probably the biggest/most telling signature of a paradigm change is elegance, simplicity, effectiveness and the mirthful reaction to recognition of the new paradigm of: “Why didn’t I see this before, and why did it take 10 or 5000 years to see it.”
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      • Craig
        June 22, 2018 at 3:32 am

        Yes Soddy was so labeled by the “authorities”. And some of his ideas were closer to the truth than neo-liberalism’s stupidity of money being “a veil over barter”. (However, fractional reserve banking is fallacious as well.)

        C. H. Douglas had the problematic ratio of moment to moment macro costs/prices as a flow, being greater than the simultaneous flow of available individual incomes way back in 1928 and so way before Minsky-Keen who have re-discovered Douglas’s A + B theorem. Same thing goes for UBI which has become popular lately. Nobody has any idea of the compensated retail price idea and policy that Douglas being a very astute observer and thinker derived from double entry bookkeeping….and which I have extended and innovated to raise it to paradigm changing effect.

  8. June 19, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Michael Hudson points out that we’ve seen this movie before. Rome was destroyed apparently by a build up of too much private debt and an institutional failure to forgive same. In Rome before the fall, this debt was owed to creditors who were senators or other elites allied with them. This small cohort of creditors and their stubborn refusal to take a haircut is what doomed Rome. The moral decay, the military collapse, the institutional rot, and the ultimate fall and physical disintegration of Rome all are traceable to this core failure to forgive private debt.
    And so here we go again?

    • Craig
      June 19, 2018 at 6:54 pm

      Precisely…..unless we find a way to replace the current monetary paradigm of Debt ONLY with the new one of Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting. A new paradigm that resolves austerity for enterprise, general scarcity of individual income, chronic inflation, lack of monetary sovereignty, the paradox of thrift, the “necessity” of re-distributive taxation and the endless economic theorizing/failure to begin organizing to politically significant constituencies…..because we fail to heed the two primary signatures of paradigm change, namely conceptual opposition to the old paradigm and inversion-transformation of it problematic dualities.

      • Craig
        June 19, 2018 at 7:08 pm

        Examples: Nomadism to homesteading, terra to helio-centrism, Debt Only to Direct and reciprocal Monetary Gifting, the “necessity” of physical human input to human mental/artificial intelligence

      • Craig
        June 19, 2018 at 7:26 pm

        And probably the biggest/most telling signature of a paradigm change is elegance, simplicity, effectiveness and the mirthful reaction to recognition of the new paradigm of: “Why didn’t I see this before, and why did it take 10 or 5000 years to see it.”

  9. Helen Sakho
    June 22, 2018 at 2:14 am

    The Normads-Nomads fought their wars fairly and squarely. All their wars, disputes and disagreements be they over natural resources or matters of honour were mediated by communal existence. This was the case then and it is the case now. Now and then the stronger case won, but then again, in” love and in war all is fair”. Personally, I think that is fair enough really, if not more than fair.

  10. June 26, 2018 at 10:47 am

    The first and most durable socio-political-economic arrangements for the species Sapiens is communism. Thusly, such arrangements are ingrained in the biology and culture of Sapiens. Other arrangements have supplanted communism for periods of time, especially after 5,000 BCE. These were forced into place mostly by biologically deviant humans and kept in place by physical force and threats. Various forms of predatory economics were part of these aberrations. Including monarchy, manorialism, mercantilism, and capitalism. The current version is an extreme form of financial capitalism maintained in power by 10-12 resource and political power rich deviant humans. These deviants work to enslave humans and steal both resources and the authority to decide the future of the species. These newest versions of “elite humans” taunt and degrade the rest of humanity. Intent on shaping the species to it own ends. We can’t allow this to continue, for the sake of species survival.

    • Craig
      June 26, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      “The first and most durable socio-political-economic arrangements for the species Sapiens is communism.”

      Correct again. Of course the new monetary and economic paradigm of Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting is both reflective of communism (it’s directly monetarily distributive into the many hands of individuals and reciprocally monetarily distributive to enterprise) and yet is also an integratively evolved form of profit making systems.

      Wisdom is the process of the integration of the truths, workabilities, applicabilities and highest ethical considerations….of opposing perspectives.

      • June 27, 2018 at 1:03 pm

        Craig, omit the “profit making” and I’m with you.

    • June 26, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      Communal human is somewhere between a pack and herd animal. Even in a comfortable ocean view communal cave we probably had our own private bed. I’ll stay home and tend the garden makes excess abundance for my community. That’s what I’ll do, It fuels evolution accelerating at an accelerating rate.

      Communism today is our equal sharing of pollution in every one of our cells. This has been done. We all share equally in the poisonous exhaust of capitalism private or state. The cells of rich people are just as contaminated as the cells of the working poor. Oligarchs stricken with insatiable want have poisoned themselves and their heirs, who will bear even higher chemical burdens in every body cell.

      Equality has come to us much differently than most expected.

      Will this fuel the power Econoclast has kindly offered to help keep track of itself?

      • Craig
        June 27, 2018 at 12:03 am

        The current paradigm of economics holds power and its negative effects in place. The only way to begin to stop that is implementing the new economic paradigm….and then using the same concept behind both the new paradigm and the only thing bigger and more mentally potent than a paradigm, a zeitgeist/new ethic of the age, and that concept is grace as in benevolence.

      • June 27, 2018 at 1:07 pm

        Craig, creating a new zeitgeist requires a lot more than wishing it. It usually requires a break down of the existing ways of life as to make continuing with them impossible and dangerous. That’s not within the control of any one human, or even most human groups. It requires crisis. Same can be said for creating the new zeitgeist. Can’t be done without the crisis to force it and then a lot of interactions by angry and distrustful humans.

      • June 27, 2018 at 1:05 pm

        Garrett, communism is not perfect. Nor is it expected to be. Early Sapiens organized communistically because it gave the species an evolutionary advantage for survival. This way of life was thus passed along (survived) for hundreds of generations. But evolution and cultural adaptation even more are “average effects” processes. That is, not every member of the species follows the path laid out as superior for survival by these processes. We call these members deviants, deviating from the path established by evolution and culture. Monarchs, oligarchs, criminals, etc. are names given these deviants. They require control, up to and including death depending on how their actions effect species survival. But the perspective of humans in not so clear and accurate as to make such choices always firm and beyond debate. There are errors, mix-ups, missed opportunities, and misplaced or lack of action. Control is not flawless and often not even effective. So, yes Garrett Sapiens hurt one another and the planet, even when the intentions are the opposite. We can only work for better results. There is no assured safe path for humans.

      • Craig
        June 29, 2018 at 4:48 am

        “creating a new zeitgeist requires a lot more than wishing it.”

        You’re right, that’s why I’m not wishing I’m assertively advocating, here and elsewhere, and I’ll be speaking about it to students, businessmen and whomever else will ask me in very short order along with at least two books I’m compiling.

        “It usually requires a break down of the existing ways of life as to make continuing with them impossible and dangerous. That’s not within the control of any one human, or even most human groups. It requires crisis. Same can be said for creating the new zeitgeist.”

        Well that’s exactly what occurred in 2008 and we’re in a deceptively slo-mo dead cat bounce that will wreak even more havoc than 2008 because we haven’t escaped old paradigm thinking.

        “Can’t be done without the crisis to force it and then a lot of interactions by angry and distrustful humans.”

        Again it’s already happened, and what is most critically needed in the chaos of crisis and collapse is people who have the clear vision with the right guiding concept to sublimate the anger and mistrust so that evolution occurs instead of the merely reactionary and non-progressive event that is revolution.

      • June 29, 2018 at 11:08 am

        Craig, how did the “Great Depression” unfold? It was not slow and deliberate but changed almost every aspect of life in America within a few months. It devastated jobs and lead to hundreds of bank closures. This crisis leads to FDR’s “New Deal” which included Social Security, unemployment insurance, etc. We’ve not seen anything like this related to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. TARP saved most the banks and financial investment houses, and thus most of the investors. But little help has been offered or provided to home owners, small businesses, hourly workers, and city and state governments. Now this “crisis” seems in limbo. The wealth share of the upper class separates from that of the middle- and working-class more with every passing day. Yet, even with no help and ever declining share of national wealth, the middle- and working class have not rebelled. The only sign of rebellion is the election of Donald Trump. And this seems about to finish the subjugation of both classes. It’s time for the professional revolutionaries to take over. That seems to be happening with the rebirth of the “Progressive” Party, not seen as active for over 75 years. Our struggle then is between two populist parties. Neither reluctant to use forces, propaganda, and blackmail. This likely will reshape the USA for next 50 years, if not longer. The last time these two fought, the Progressives claimed a clear victory.

      • Craig
        June 29, 2018 at 7:49 pm


        We agree on so much. But my perspective on the events you reference is slightly different.

        The Great Depression was indeed a terribly disruptive event but there were actions and inactions that preceded and precipitated it. History as I’m sure you would agree is a continuum. Yes, the New Deal lead to lasting reforms but did not touch the deeper reasons why modern economies are plagued by serial de-stabilizations. Hence the business cycle continued and set the stage for ever greater future idiotic de-stabilizations like the various derivative products we saw building up to 2008. Hence from an historical perspective it was still a mere reform, a mere palliation of the real problem…the rule of the economy by Finance’s monopolistic paradigm of Debt Only and also IMO the unfortunate continuance of the economically illegitimate business model of private finance. Private Finance is not only a paradigmatic problem it has also devolved into a tremendously parasitical amount of additional costs…post retail sale. Retail sale is actually the only legitimate end of the economic/productive process….not finance. Thus a publicly administered national banking system is a part of the solution to our economic problems. The last 4-500 years of private finance has so hypnotized us as to its legitimacy that economists cannot see through and past it. Ellen Brown’s Public Banking movement is a great reform. All it needs is to make the integration to national instead of state banking and then to further integrate with the new paradigm thinking and policies I’m advocating. And yes, David Graeber has shown us that the paradigm of Debt Only has been with us for 5000 years and that the government/church controlled variety of finance was just as problematic and tyrannical as private finance has become. All the more reason to end its dominance and tyranny with economic and monetary policies based on and aligned with the benevolent universal solvent concept of grace as in monetary gifting.

        As for Trump, he and Bannon espouse the fascistic, disruptive, dis-integrative and inevitably chaotic idiocy of “the fourth turning” which is actually just the historic failure to accomplish what economics and civilization has always required in order to evolve past the paradigm of Debt Only….the integrative wisdom/thirdness greater oneness of the natural philosophical concept of grace thoroughly applied to our technologically advanced economies.

      • June 30, 2018 at 11:48 am

        Craig, you’re correct. We agree on a great deal. Modern western economics, and modern western societies generally have experienced serial instability for the 5,000 years you mention. Sapiens lost its way about 5,000 years ago when it lost the battle to discipline and control the members of its species that for whatever reasons did not follow the paths of evolution and cultural adaptation that favored the survival of the species. Then on too many occasions the species began to follow the paths of these anti-evolution and anti-adaptation members of its species. Over that 5,000 years this meant Sapiens continually favored its own extinction. Capitalism, financial and otherwise is just one of the many extinction focused paths Sapiens has followed over the last 5,000 years. Debt, anti-communal individualism, and all manner of commodification dim Sapiens’ prospects for survival today. Much like monarchy, hierarchy, and autocracy have done in the past these new versions continue today.

  11. June 29, 2018 at 2:59 am

    Communism is an evolving idea that blossomed from human evolution. Capitalism did the same. As did socialism and every other step in social advancement from the last ice age until now. Ice age? What does that have to do with anything? It was crucial for the migrants from Asia who crossed the land bridge to Alaska only to be trapped in the far north by glaciers. A few hundred years delay in settlements and cultural evolution left the people who were already settling the Americas ill prepared to deal with the arrival of european barbarism and its lust for wealth. Capitalism had already infected european souls. That affliction trumps empathy and all appreciation for life expressed in variation to edicts that support wealth as basis for rule of law.

    Now humankind faces an existential crises more severe than any reef of sharp rock waiting patiently to puncture the hull and sink the ship of human life. A graph of 4.5 billion years from birth of Earth places the arrival of water at 4.3 billion years and the earliest life at 4 billion years. Stromatolites began making oxygen for us to breath about 3.7 billion years ago. Put this graph on letter size paper and there is no pencil sharp enough to make a line representing the brevity of human history. Yet. even so. evolution is accelerating at an accelerating rate and the biological power of human within a line to thin to see has explosively evolved with the power to destroy all life on Earth.

    Is this quantum economics? Yes. Human power that exists for less than a moment only to disappear and take all life with it presents dynamic tension for analysis of an ethereal and ephemeral power to destroy material reality on Earth for eternity. Dialectic materialism writ large. Crises stalks Human with the specter of nonexistence. Accelerating evolution and written history provides opportunity to use the distributed intelligence of a mature species to survive.

    Will humanity throws of the yoke of wage slavery serving capitalist greed heads who destroy life for personal profit? A new calendar will begin at that moment. The age of a mature specie willing to think new thoughts in order to survive. Its now or never. Do or die.

    • Craig
      June 29, 2018 at 5:14 am

      You’re quite right that both capitalism and socialism are (or should be) evolutionary….and integrative. And the trinitarian completion of the dialectic is synthesis as in something that has aspects of both parts of the dualism that precedes it and yet is a genuine thirdness greater oneness. That’s why the correct dialectic equation is:
      [ (capitalism x socialism) the profit making system of direct and reciprocal monetary distributism ] because it integrates the best aspects of the dualism within the parentheses.

    • June 29, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Garrett, humans create this quandary because of what they are rather than how many humans there are and the uniqueness of human evolution and culture. Evolution created something in Sapiens possessed by no other species, not even other human species. That something is imagination. Sapiens creates itself and its world from its own imagination. Imagination is not a measurable substance so its effects on human ways of life and the shape of the worlds humans create never really ends. Humans are always imagining new ways of life. These quickly become complex and difficult to reconcile with one another. Humans fight one another and the planet over the “best and right” way to live and be in-the-world. Since there is no “higher authority” which could settle these fights permanently, they continue perpetually, growing in number and intensity. Humans find it impossible to create cultural remedies quickly enough to settle old disputes before new ones are created. It’s been pointed out by novelists, philosophers, scientists, and many others for over 5,000 years that Sapiens is its own worst enemy. That applies also to most things with which Sapiens interacts, including the planet, and community safety and durability. This can be changed by Sapiens which now has the capability to control and direct some of it biological evolution and cultural adaptation. But with no assurance the changes will improve the situation or make it worse. The situation is, as I said complex. Evolution and even more so cultural adaptation are “average effects” processes. That is, not every member of the species follows the survival path favored by evolution and/or the dominant adaptive culture route. Some members of the species do not act or react as indicted by evolution and adaptive culture. These deviants have the potential to create disorder. Creating new and unexpected dangers for humans and all with which they interact.

  12. Craig
    June 29, 2018 at 5:20 am

    An integration I hasten to add is neither some wishy washy compromise nor the poison pill object of mere conflict that most politically implemented economic policies are, but a dynamic and truly progressive combination of the truths and only the truths in opposing perspectives. It’s actually a sanctifying process in that sense that requires the utmost of personal and mental/theoretical honesty.

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