And it is all one to me
Where I am to begin;
for I shall return there again.
In the fifth century, in the Greek city of Elea, there lived a philosopher named Parmenides. He believed that there was no such thing as change or motion. The world, for him, was eternally ever the same. This might seem like an absurd proposition, but it actually constitutes a key theme even in contemporary philosophy. Is language, for example, constructed on a never changing grammar – as Chomsky would have it – or is it simply a bricolage of heterogenous elements that are constantly replacing and eliminating one another? Doesn’t look so dumb now – eh?
Personally, I’m reluctant to agree with old Parmenides – but today I got that distinct impression that he might have a point. I surveyed today’s economic news stories and thought to myself: “My God! What if change is, in fact, an illusion – what if humanity is indeed caught in an ever-recurring cycle?”
First off was Obama’s State of the Union address. Many publications are lauding this as a new moment for America and her economy. And at first, I’ll admit, I was taken in – wishful thinking, I guess. Obama stated that it was time to invest in America – to make her more competitive vis-a-vis her contemporaries; like China and India. As regular readers know, I believe that these global imbalances are at the very heart of our current economic woes – so, when I heard this I was more than a little enthusiastic.
As the Yanks say, it would seem that I “drank the Kool Aid” – but I was not alone; a poll taken after the speech showed that some two-thirds of Americans were similarly impressed. Seems like this sort of thing instinctively hits a nerve with the voter – hmmm…
Anyway, then I actually watched the speech. Oh dear! Here we go again – balanced budgets; deficit reduction… the whole nine yards. Obama wants a major investment program without running a budget deficit. We all dream the impossible, I guess – I, for example, want a new laptop, but I don’t want to spend any money. I suppose I could steal one – I’m not sure if that option is open to Obamster.
In future I think that I’ll heed Yves Smith’s advice, who stated on her blog today:
[Now] you can see why I avoid paying much attention to what Obama says. I’d never get anything done if I did.
It’s true – that sort of double-talk could distract you to no end. I suppose that’s Obama’s general political strategy: distract the shit out of people so that they don’t have any time to think about anything else. All change is illusory, indeed!
Next up, are the
charlatans economic commentators at the Davos Forum, which kicked off yesterday. I had some rather unkind things to say about their annual report a few days ago. I can now confirm that what’s coming out of the conference itself is even worse.
Whereas the annual report was cautious – albeit for all the wrong reasons – the conference is a nonsense-fest of crass cheerleading.
“CEOs have emerged from the bunker mentality of surviving the recession” said Dennis Nally, chairman of PwC International. “They now see renewed opportunity for growth, even in the near term, and are determined to take advantage of better global economic conditions and increased customer demands.”
Sorry, Dennis – did you say ‘increased consumer demand’? No, of course you didn’t – because that would be patent BS. Instead you used the vague term ‘increased customer demands’. That phrase means nothing – literally. It is a meaningless counter thrown into the audience to increase ‘confidence’ (in what? – as far as I can see most of this ‘confidence’, backed by easy Fed money, is flowing into a stock-market bubble – but then, who am I to question the ‘animal spirits’?).
This is the tone of the Davos conference – vague, feelgood and, above all, completely lacking in economic analysis.
The same day as the conference it was announced that the UK was facing another possible bout of stagflation – an economic disaster unseen since the 1970s. It took this – and someone who is often considered a crank – to remind the childish audience of the dangers inherent in the current global economic model.
Britain and the weaker nations of the eurozone remain vulnerable to the risk of a double dip recession, even though the rest of the world economy is recovering from the global economic crisis, leading US economist Nouriel Roubini warned today.
Oh yeah! The major European debt crisis that is currently unfolding. Must have forgotten about that one, eh guys? Derp!
Meanwhile the Davosistas have their PR companies poll the public and wonder why these people lost faith in economic and political institutions. It must be wonderful living inside the heads of these people – to be rich, insulated AND so blissfully ignorant; a greater blessing could not be asked for.
Yes, these days Parmenides is looking pretty vindicated. Sometimes the world appears so static, so resistant to anything remotely new that you could be forgiven for thinking that change is impossible and everything is eternally the same…
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