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Self-Interest Rightly Understood

April 24, 2014

From Alexis de Tocqueville:

The principle of self-interest rightly understood is not a lofty one, but it is clear and sure. It does not aim at mighty objects, but it attains without excessive exertion all those at which it aims. As it lies within the reach of all capacities, everyone can without difficulty learn and retain it. By its admirable conformity to human weaknesses it easily obtains great dominion; nor is that dominion precarious, since the principle checks one personal interest by another, and uses, to direct the passions, the very same instrument that excites them.

The principle of self-interest rightly understood produces no great acts of self-sacrifice, but it suggests daily small acts of self-denial. By itself it cannot suffice to make a man virtuous; but it disciplines a number of persons in habits of regularity, temperance, moderation, foresight, self- command; and if it does not lead men straight to virtue by the will, it gradually draws them in that direction by their habits. If the principle of interest rightly understood were to sway the whole moral world, extraordinary virtues would doubtless be more rare; but I think that gross depravity would then also be less common. The principle of interest rightly understood perhaps prevents men from rising far above the level of mankind, but a great number of other men, who were falling far below it, are caught and restrained by it. Observe some few individuals, they are lowered by it; survey mankind, they are raised.

I am not afraid to say that the principle of self-interest rightly understood appears to me the best suited of all philosophical theories to the wants of the men of our time, and that I regard it as their chief remaining security against themselves. Towards it, therefore, the minds of the moralists of our age should turn; even should they judge it to be incomplete, it must nevertheless be adopted as necessary.

In our mad pursuit of more things, we have lost the way to ourselves and to each other.

The Gilded Age Has Only Just Begun

April 24, 2014

From Karl Fitzgerald and Michael Hudson on Thomas Piketty‘s new book:

[O]ne of the things Thomas Piketty goes into great detail and has earned him quite a few plaudits is looking at the difference between economic growth rates and the return on investments. And his general thesis is that when the economic growth rate falls below the long term average of 5% that the wealth gap accelerates because the wealthy, who own all this land, the mines, the privatised utilities, they can claim a greater return than what the rest of the people who actually have to rely on earning income when there’s low growth rates. And the thesis is that with an ageing demographic we have a period of low growth coming and from that we’re going to see an increased inequality in wealth. So this Gilded Age has really only just begun.

Reason has been ravaged by the Tea Party shock troops and yet the Fix the Debt Wall Street assholes fund Berger and Tillis in their Libertarian lunacy. MMT establishes the founders’ concept of enlightened self-interest as a solution. The Judeo-Christian ethic of charity has too long been ignored as a proper function of government.

Pay Everyone a Living Wage

April 24, 2014

From the previously cited Rebecca Rojer at The New Inquiry:

[P]rices can be anchored not through the misery of the unemployed but through the government offering a job to anyone unemployed who wants to work. This guaranteed job, set at a living wage with benefits, would set a floor on wages and give workers the choice to refuse exploitative or unconscionable private-­sector work. A job guarantee would counteract the booms and busts of the private sector, stabilize the economy, and ensure workers have income regardless of the whims of the capitalist class.

If the government can afford to employ everyone, it can also afford to simply pay a basic income to every citizen, regardless of whether they worked. A basic income could make the labor market more competitive if enough people chose not to work. But it does not in and of itself set a floor on wages. Even with a basic income, if there are more job seekers than available jobs, employers will not be pressured into improving working conditions and wages.

Research by Pavlina Tcherneva and Rania Antonopoulos indicates that when asked, most people want to work. Studying how job guarantees affect women in poor countries, they find the programs are popular largely because they recognize—and more fairly distribute and ­compensate—all the child- and elder care that is now often performed by women for free (out of love or duty), off the books, or not at all.

Hope and faith in each other represent the way forward.

I am officially a socialist.

From Marshall Auerback at AlterNet in 2012:

The government could serve as the “employer of last resort” under a job guarantee program modeled on the WPA (the Works Progress Administration, in existence from 1935 to 1943) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942). The program would offer a job to any American who was ready and willing to work at the federal minimum wage, plus legislated benefits. No time limits. No means testing. No minimum education or skill requirements.

Beyond fixing the mortgage industry, the lack of a government jobs program is Obama‘s biggest failure.

It is time to stop blaming the victim.

The Global E-Commerce Revolution

April 24, 2014

The Global E-Commerce Summit will be held in Barcelona in June:

Retail is going through its next revolution and it is the customers who are dictating its pace. Seeking instant satisfaction, connected shoppers switch devices, maintain presence on multiple channels simultaneously and are ready to buy in any country. Retailers need to get ready to seamlessly serve this new generation of customers, breaking down barriers and demonstrating their agility in the breathtaking dynamics of this new era.

The Global E-Commerce Summit is the leading international event focusing on the most important trends and developments in global e-commerce, cross- border trade and omnichannel retail.

Having conquered the US and Canada with Shopify, we are eager to ship to other countries. Sadly, insurance is not yet available through the USPS and UPS, FedEx and other carriers remain prohibitively expensive.

I contend it is no accident that Jeff Bezos of Amazon purchased the WaPo, a bastion of neocon media. Indeed, US State Dept. and CIA neocons are destabilizing Ukraine as we speak on behalf of US corporate interests. We hope to begin shipping to Kiev and Odessa sometime next week.

At present, the big prize is accommodating the burgeoning Mexican middle class. At some point soon, I would not be surprised to find that the USPS, UPS or Fed Ex militarize their delivery services to make it happen. DHL has long been delivering to Mexico, but only for large quantities. What we require is an insured Priority Mail package going reliably to all points on the globe.

Shopify recently announced 100,000 vendors and Ebay already has a global shipping program which uses secure third parties to ship internationally. It is merely a matter of time before Amazon arranges a similar service.

The neocons have had many reasons for their imperialism, among them the safety of Israel and the pursuit and defense of cheap oil. As e-commerce continues to leverage the internet, the Americanization of the planet by way of retail goods will become yet another important motive.

Unfortunately, our globalization of industry has primarily benefited owners at the expense of workers. It is preferable that a way be found, rather than exporting neoliberalism, to dramatically increase world markets by proselytizing the tenants of Modern Monetary Theory. Alas, I have no hope of such an outcome, desirable as it may be.

There are five million oligarchs in Bangladesh, some of whom are just dying to order from our website. I contend that in a few years, the USPS will murder innocent citizens delivering our package. We will be projecting suffering and death in the pursuit of global consumerism.

Nazis Calling Russians Terrorists

April 23, 2014

From Robert Parry at Consortium News:

The protesters who have seized government buildings in ten towns in eastern Ukraine are being casually dubbed “terrorists” by both the Kiev regime and some American journalists. Meanwhile, it’s become conventional wisdom in Official Washington to assume that the protesters are led by Russian special forces because of some dubious photographs of armed men, accepted as “proof” with few questions asked by the mainstream U.S. news media…

[W]hen the “pro-democracy” protesters seized government buildings in Kiev, including the City Hall, they decked them out in Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag as the international expression of white supremacy. But the U.S. news media never described those acts as “terrorism.”…

For their part, those eastern protesters have said they are resisting the imposition of power from Kiev, which has included the appointment of billionaire “oligarchs” as regional administrators, and are rejecting a harsh austerity plan from the International Monetary Fund that will make their hard lives even harder.

From Donn Marten at Carrying a Flag:

According to a Reuters story entitled “Ukraine’s leaders say have U.S. backing to take on ‘aggressors’” from which I excerpt:

Ukraine’s government said on Wednesday the United States had promised to stand by it in the face of aggression, and announced that it would press ahead with a security operation to crack down on pro-Russian armed groups.

After a lull for the Easter religious holiday, officials in Kiev decided to renew what they call an “anti-terrorist operation” against separatist militias who have seized control of about a dozen public buildings in eastern Ukraine.

There it is again, the use of “terrorist” to describe political dissenters as if those whose violence in Maidan, who hurled firebombs at police and conducted a violent (US sanctioned) rampage were not “terrorists”. Once again, it is the same old hypocrisy wrapped in a flag being used to sell yet more carnage abroad.

Greg Brannon: Turnip Farmer

April 23, 2014

From Andrew Kaczynski at Buzzfeed:

Brannon doesn’t believe in public schools…

Brannon believes the Second Amendment extends to owning a nuclear weapon, citing the needs of local militias…

Brannon says the current political system is comparable to Nazism…

Brannon thinks abortion is comparable to slavery or the Holocaust.

From Nerdio Rage in the comments:

I am really dumbfounded that someone in the year 2014 could be so way beyond fucking stupid, and actually have a chance at holding office.

This is why we can’t have nice things ‘Merica.

NC? What gives man? Your state used to be so cool. I lived there as a kid, and really liked it. But now, it’s like Glenn Beck has you by the balls.

Whackjob doesn’t really describe the derangement exhibited by Brannon.

Chomsky on the FOX Effect

April 23, 2014

From Noam Chomsky at The Raw Story:


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