Friday, November 18, 2011

My Dinner with Maynard II: Keynes on Isaac Newton, Alchemy and Linear Regression

In 1936, Sotheby's auctioned off the Portsmouth Papers of Issac Newton. Keynes missed the auction but subsequently set out to acquire the Newton manuscripts from the buyers, concentrating on the papers having to do with alchemy. At his death, Keynes bequeathed his collection to King's College, Cambridge. The Newton-related papers of John Maynard Keynes are now accessible online at The Newton Project.

From "Newton, the Man," a lecture prepared by John Maynard Keynes and delivered by his brother, Geoffrey, in July 1946:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Elixir of Commerce

McCulloch, J. R. (John Ramsay). Outlines of political economy : being a republication of the article upon that subject contained in the Edinburgh Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica : together with notes explanatory and critical, and a summary of the science / by John M'Vickar. New-York, 1825. The Making Of The Modern World. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.

Rasbotham, Dorning. Thoughts on the Use of Machines in the Cotton Manufacture. Addressed to the working people in that manufacture, and to the poor in general. Manchester. 1780. The Making Of The Modern World. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.

Wennerlind, Carl. "Credit-Money as the Philosopher's Stone: Alchemy and the Coinage Problem in Seventeenth-Century England." History of Political Economy, Volume 35, Annual Supplement, 2003, pp. 234-261.

Dorning Rasbotham's pamphlet evoked the image of alchemical transmutation. That was the inspiration for the working title for this serial posting, The Moral Philosophers' Stone. That notion of alchemy has led me to two additional sources ; a footnote by the American editor of M'Culloch's Outlines of Political Economy, John M'Vickar and the article by Wennerlind. M'Vickar's footnote shares Rasbotham's unrestrained enthusiasm for commerce but makes explicit the allusion to alchemy:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Moral Philosophers' Stone: A Compleat History of 'A Certain Quantity of Labour to be Performed'

Two weeks ago a hunch about Charles Dickens and Edward Carleton Tufnell led me to the discovery of what I surmised might be the prototype of the idea that has come to be known to economists as "the lump of labor." To my surprise, it was a subtle and articulate defense by a fairly prominent early 19th century political economist of the proposition that "...there is a certain quantity of work to be done; and this quantity, generally speaking, does not admit of being much extended, merely on the temptation of labour being offered at a cheaper rate..."

The author was the Scottish church leader, Thomas Chalmers, whose neglected 1808 treatise on "the Extent and Stability of Natural Resources" has been described by A. M. C. Waterman as a "missing link" between T. R. Malthus and David Ricardo. Chalmers's later article appeared in the May 1820 issue of the Edinburgh Review, the flagship journal of Whig political economy.

Alas, my Eureka moment was destined to be short-lived, however, because one week later, while searching the Goldsmiths'-Kress archives for a quote from James Phillips Kay's The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester, I discovered an even more venerable specimen in a pamphlet signed "A Friend of the Poor" but attributed to a gentleman with the picturesque handle of Dorning Rasbotham, Esq. The 1780 pamphlet, "Thoughts on the Use of Machines in the Cotton Manufacture," was written in response to disturbances occasioned by the introduction of Richard Arkwright's spinning jenny. The following passage contains the tell-tale phrase, "a certain quantity of labour to be performed" and pronounces the alleged principle false:
There is, say they, a certain quantity of labour to be performed. This used to be performed by hands, without machines, or with very little help from them. But if now machines perform a larger share than before, suppose one fourth part, so many hands as are necessary to work that fourth part, will be thrown out of work, or suffer in their wages. The principle itself is false. There is not a precise limited quantity of labour, beyond which there is no demand. Trade is not hemmed in by great walls, beyond which it cannot go. By bringing our goods cheaper and better to market, we open new markets, we get new customers, we encrease the quantity of labour necessary to supply these, and thus we are encouraged to push on, in hope of still new advantages. A cheap market will always be full of customers.
Now, "a certain quantity of work to be done" was part of the the dictionary definition of the verb, to task, that is, to assign a person to perform a certain amount (and kind) of work within a particular time and place. It is useful to keep this definition in mind because the difference between Rasbotham's "certain quantity of labour" and Chalmers's "certain quantity of work" commences in a not-so-subtle shift from an indefinite abstract possibility to a finite empirical fact. But the latter fact is not some crude, static "assumption" -- it is a theoretically-refined empirical prediction, which takes into account both the abstract indefiniteness and the practical constraints upon realizing that theoretical potential.

In terms of both chronology and demonstrated familiarity with the "founding fathers" of classical political economy, Chalmers must be presumed to have an edge over Rasbotham. This is not to say that he is necessarily right, only that it would be presumptuous to dismiss his claim peremptorily -- to "view [it] with contempt," as Paul Krugman put it.

In modern terms, the second part of Chambers's sentence -- "...this quantity, generally speaking, does not admit of being much extended, merely on the temptation of labour being offered at a cheaper rate..." -- expresses the concept of the price elasticity of demand. In fact, Chambers uses the term, "elasticity," to describe the phenomenon. By contrast, Rasbotham's pamphlet deals optimistically in stark dichotomies of good versus bad effects, with the preponderance of expected benefits rendering "some little difficulty, in particular cases... a sacrifice we ought to make chearfully for the common good."

In an 1827 essay on the progress and prospects of the British cotton industry, John Ramsay M'Culloch judged Rasbotham's opinion as having been proven sound by the results, employment rising from less than 30,000 in 1767 to nearly a million fifty years later, concluding "There is, in fact, no idea so groundless and absurd, as that which supposes that an increased facility of production can under any circumstances be injurious to the labourers" [emphasis added]. Not under any circumstances?

continued: see The Elixir of Commerce

"Whilst the CITATION Engine Runs..."

"Whilst the engine runs the people must work men, women, and children are yoked together with iron and steam. The animal machine breakable in the best case, subject to a thousand sources of suffering is chained fast to the iron machine, which knows no suffering and no weariness." -- mistakenly attributed to James Phillips Kay, The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes in the Cotton Manufacture, "page 24"
The origin of the above error was apparently A History of Factory Legislation by B. L. Hutchins and A. Harrison, published in 1903. Subsequent authors have cited Kay as the source, often without acknowledging where they actually read the quote. The two quotes below were presented consecutively in The History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain by Edward Baines, 1835.
While the engine works, the people must work. Men, women, and children, are thus yokefellows with iron and steam; the animal machine – fragile at best, subject to a thousand sources of suffering, and doomed by nature, in its best state to a short-lived existence, changing every moment, and hastening to decay – is matched with an iron machine insensible to suffering and fatigue; all this moreover, in an atmosphere of flax-dust, for 12 or 13 hours a day, and for six days in a week. -- Charles Turner Thackrah, The effects of arts, trades and professions and of civic states and habits of living on health and longevity : with suggestions for the removal of many of the agents which produce disease and shorten the duration of life- 2d ed., 1832.
The operatives are congregated in rooms and workshops during twelve hours in the day, in an enervating, heated atmosphere, which is frequently loaded with dust or filaments of cotton, or impure from constant respiration, or from other causes. They are engaged in an employment which absorbs their attention, and unremittingly employs their physical energies. They are drudges who watch the movements, and assist the operations, of a mighty material force, which toils with an energy ever unconscious of fatigue. The persevering labour of the operative must rival the mathematical precision, in incessant motion, and the exhaustless power of the machine. -- James Phillips Kay, The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes in the Cotton Manufacture, 2d ed., 1832

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Dinner with Maynard: “On this point you are more Keynesian than I.”

Keynes to J. M. Clark, July 26, 1941:
As you will have gathered the other evening, I agree with what you say about the danger of a 'school,' even when it is one's own. There is great danger in quantitative forecasts which are based exclusively on statistics relating to conditions by no means parallel. I have tried to persuade Gilbert and Humphrey and Salant that they should be more cautious. I have also tried to persuade them that they have tended to neglect certain theoretical considerations which are important, in the interests of simplifying their statistical task.

From "Recollections of a Dinner for John Maynard Keynes," F. Taylor Ostrander, (2002) Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Volume 20-A, pages 43–50.
Leon Henderson arranged and was host of the dinner for Keynes. It was held on Tuesday June 10, 1941 in a private dining room at the National Press Club. Present were Keynes, Henderson and his two deputies Ken Galbraith and Joe Wiener and his guests: Sumner Pike, a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Isador Lubin, one of the six assistants to the President; Professor Jacob Viner, economic consultant to Secretary Morgenthau; and John Cassels.

Also present were two senior advisors to Henderson, Columbia Professor J. M. Clark and Duke Professor Calvin B. Hoover.


Everyone present knew Keynes’ famous brochure published in early 1940, How to Pay for the War, in which he advocated very strong fiscal restraint on civilian consumption including “compulsory saving.” Most were also aware of the National Income White Paper issued at the time of the Budget speech in March 1941, just three months before the dinner, in which its authors, James Meade and Richard Stone, working in collaboration with Keynes, had buttressed his view of the need for strong anti-inflationary wartime fiscal policy in Britain. Predictably, in his after-dinner talk Keynes repeated those views he had set out before and applied them to the American scene. Although the U.S. was not yet at war, Keynes urged increased fiscal restraint in the U.S. in order to be better prepared to prevent inflation resulting from our defense build-up and Allied purchases of war materials.

A general discussion followed Keynes’ long and detailed talk. Walter Salant and Don Humphrey, who sat opposite Keynes at the inside of the U-shaped table, argued strongly that increased fiscal restraint was not then needed in America as it would inhibit further progress in reducing unemployment. Challenging Keynes, they argued that Keynesian principles required that all resources be fully employed before applying fiscal restraint.

Keynes responded to their argument, gently but without giving any ground. The two young American economists continued to argue with the famous man until some of us felt it almost embarrassing to watch. Finally Keynes, obviously somewhat displeased, pushed his chair back from the table and brought the debate to an end as he said, rather sharply, “On this point you are more Keynesian than I.” It was an electrifying moment, never to be forgotten!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Martin Jay's "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe"

Dialectic of Counter Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat for the Lunatic Fringe

See also "Breivik and Lind, a Side-By-Side Comparison," which demonstrates the extensive plagiarism in his manifesto by Anders Breivik of the Free Congress Foundation pamphlet, "'Political Correctness': A Short History of an Ideology." edited by William S. Lind.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


In a late note to editors on the topic of the flaneur, Walter Benjamin discussed the customer's empathy for the commodity and the commodity's empathy for the customer. Instead of "work adorning the citizen" ("Arbeit ist des Bürgers Zierde"), in industrial society the city dweller begins to feel ashamed of work and takes pride instead in possessions.

As I understand this empathy with the commodity (characteristic of the flaneur, the sandwichman, the whore, the propagandist/agitator or "journalist-in-uniform"), it is somewhat akin to what we typically think of as a LACK of empathy, the extreme instance being the psychopath. Except Benjamin's Einfühlung is not a mere void, an absence, but the presence of a surrogate: empathy for the commodity. Instead of no empathy, we have ersatz empathy.

If that loose connection with the psychopath sounds plausible, it can be brought closer following Robert Lindner's 1944 description of the psychopath as a "Rebel Without A Cause" and consequently Norman Mailer's definition of the "hipster" in "The White Negro." (1957). Mailer's hipster, though, is a philosophical psychopath -- meaning he is simultaneously a psychopath (albeit a latent or passive one) and the negation of the psychopath. (See my previous post on the Economist as Hipster).

I want now to make a leap from the motif of the flaneur, the sandwichman, the whore and the agitator, the psychopath and the hipster, to the Oslo terrorist, Anders Breivik, and the London rioters and looters. Benjamin calls the world exhibitions of the 19th century the "school" where the masses learned empathy for the commodity. The rule was "look, but don't touch." Looting is, of course, the converse: "grab, almost without looking."

The reason I want to make this leap is not to label terrorists and looters as psychopaths or hipsters but to establish a frame within which the rhetorical reactions from right and left to the two sets of incidents can be observed. I was first struck by the certain hypocrisies in the "conservative" responses to Oslo and London but on closer examination it is clear that there is a distinct parallelism -- or mirror image -- between characteristic right-wing and left-wing or liberal responses to both events.

What is meant by "characteristic" takes on a bit of a circular selectivity here and I apologize for that. To some extent the characteristic responses across the spectrum may simply be those identified by antagonists as such. Thus the "liberal view" may not represent what most liberals think or say as much as a conservative stereotype of what liberals think -- and vice versa. What I am suggesting is only a rough analytical frame, not the conclusion of an exhaustive research project.

So within that crude framework, the conservative editorial will deplore Breivik's actions but strive to differentiate between those actions and the perceived problems of excessive immigration, multiculturalism, political correctness, etc. Similarly, the characteristic liberal rhetoric on the London riots would deplore the mindlessness of the looting but point to proximate causes in hopelessness, inequality and poverty, police brutality and government indifference and corruption. Meanwhile, the characteristic liberal or left-wing rhetoric about Oslo will explore ties between an endemic right-wing rhetoric of antagonism toward immigrants and Islam (see this blog, for example) and the characteristic right-wing response to London will indict liberal permissiveness and coddling of criminals.

See, when people motivated by grievances we acknowledge do bad things, it is important to distinguish between those legitimate grievances and the bad actions but when the other guys do it, it is equally important to emphasize the links between spurious motives and bad actions. Voila! Consensus between right and left! So, is there a way out of this house of mirrors? I think there is for the left.

That way out, in my view, involves a critical and objective attention to the problem of "character" and how that is affected by environment -- not on explaining or rationalizing anti-social behavior as caused by environment but articulating programs to counter the pathological character formation. Ironically, such a focus on character development as fundamental to policy could be seen as philosophically conservative, although I want to be quick to rule out moralistic exhortation as a viable program.

I'll leave it to good-faith conservatives to devise their own way out but it seems to me that they are today much the same position as non-Stalinist socialists were in the 1930s. The conservative "movement" is dominated by unscrupulous, totalitarian and deeply-entrenched operatives. As far as I'm aware there really is no "outside" dissenters can defect to.

Juliet Schor's Plenitude Animated

New Dream Mini-Views: Visualizing a Plenitude Economy from Center for a New American Dream on Vimeo.

Excerpt: Martin Jay's "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe"

A couple of weeks ago, Sandwichman wrote to Salmagundi suggesting that they make available on the Internet Martin Jay's essay, "The Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe,"  or alternatively grant permission for me to publish the essay. I haven't heard back from them. Because of the timeliness and importance of Jay's article in exposing the right-wing echo chamber meme that inspired Anders Breivik's murderous manifesto, I am posting an excerpt from that essay below:

False Witness

The Sandwichman has submitted a comment to the Whittaker Chambers blog, maintained by his grandson, David Chambers.


I have a question about Ralph de Toledano and his authorship of what would presumably be his last book, Cry Havoc!. Your tribute to him portrays him as an erudite intellectual with wide-ranging cultural tastes. You cite the recording of the Garcia-Lorca poem and connect it to your interest in Neruda, Brecht and Kurt Weill.

I have been investigating the proliferation of what can at best be described as a "conspiracy theory" focusing on the Institute for Social Research or Frankfurt School. It might be more accurate to describe it as a preposterous fabrication and calumny along the lines of the infamous forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The origin of this fabricated conspiracy theory would appear to be in Lyndon Larouche's paranoid cult in the early 1990s.

The confessed Oslo mass murderer, Anders Breivik plagiarized extensively from one version of the tale, published in 2004 by the Free Congress Foundation and edited by William S. Lind. Patrick J. Buchanan replicated the story in chapter four of his 2002 book The Death of the West, in which Buchanan acknowledges the editorial advice of his friend, Bill Lind. I have checked footnotes in Buchanan's book and found them to be bogus, indicating only a more sophisticated variety of intellectual dishonesty than Breivik's inept plagiarism.

I have been unable to locate a copy of Toledano's book at a nearby library but the promotional blurb from the publisher presents a lurid recapitulation of the Larouchite/Lind slander. So I am curious about what kind of documentation the book contains or if it is yet another raucous production of the vast, resonant right-wing echo chamber -- apparently even crediting the Frankfurt School with the rise of the Nazis. Here is an excerpt from the publishers' blurb:

Cry Havoc! is Ralph de Toledano's most ambitious work. Its modest length (254 pages) belies a volume jam-packed with information. One hardly knows where to begin. Anyone seriously absorbing it will end up with a heavily underlined book that connects the dots and timeline of the planned decline of Western Civilization.

Those dots lead ultimately to the Institute of Social Research planted in prestigious Frankfurt University in Germany in the Twenties. The "Frankfurt School," as it was called, was "dedicated to neo-Marxism — contributing to the corrupt miasma of Weimar Germany and the victory of Adolph Hitler's National Socialists."

Ultimately, the "school" moved to America where it was accepted by Columbia University in New York. This was accomplished by John Dewey, the educator credited (or blamed) by many with leading to the corruption of America's education system. Dewey, as Toledano notes, was in league with "a crypto-communist professorial cabal — and a conspiracy and a war so vast and so cunning that it went unnoticed."

A few — unfortunately very few others — have written about the Frankfurt school. Toledano takes one more step toward laying the conspiracy directly on the doorstep of the Comintern. As with Soviet funding of the Communist Party USA, it takes no great leap of imagination to surmise as much. Again, the question lies in "the smoking gun." Toledano makes the case that it is there in writings or words of V.I. Lenin and other original Bolsheviks.

Cry Havoc! traces the Frankfurt school plot to 1922 and to the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow and to Karl Radek — a power in the Politburo — and to other key players in the then-new Bolshevik revolution. Among them was Muenzenberg, who openly boasted, "We will take over the intellectuals. We will make America stink."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Schema der Einfühlung

Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, I.3 p. 1178-79
Schema der Einfühlung. Es ist ein doppeltes. Es umfaßt das Erlebnis der Ware und das Erlebnis des Kunden. Das Erlebnis der Ware ist die Einfühlung in den Kunden. Die Einfühlung in den Kunden ist die Einfühlung in das Geld. Die Virtuosin diese Einfühlung ist die Dirne. Das Erlebnis des Kunden ist Einfühlung in die Ware. Einfühlung in die Ware ist Einfühlung in den Preis (den Tauschwert). Baudelaire war ein Virtuose dieser Einfühlung. Seine Liebe zur Dirne stellt ihre Vollendung dar.

Einfühlung in die Ware ist Einfühlung in den Preis (den Tauschwert). Baudelaire war ein Virtuose dieser Einfühlung. Seine Liebe zur Dirne stellt ihre Vollendung dar. Seine Liebe zur Dirne stellt ihre Vollendung dar. {Die Gottähnlichkeit des Müßiggängers zeigt an, daß das Wort »Arbeit ist des Bürgers Zierde« seine Geltung zu verlieren begonnen hat. Der Bürger beginnt sich der Arbeit zu schämen. Sein Stolz gilt mehr und mehr dem Besitz allein. Dieses Hochgefühl macht ihm der Tagedieb freilich streitig. Denn er ergibt sich dem Müßiggang ohne Rücksicht darauf, ob seine Mittel ihm das gestatten.

Klimax: flaneur - Sandwichman - uniformierter Journalist Der letztere macht für den Staat Reklame, nicht mehr für die Ware.

Die Weltausstellungen waren die Schule, in der die vom Konsum abgedrängten Massen die Einfühlung in den Tauschwert lernten. Alles ansehen, nichts anfassen. {Wenn alle Stricke reißen, wenn am verödeten Horizont kein Segel und kein Wellenkamm des Erlebens auftaucht, dann bleibt dem Vereinsamten, vom taedium vitae ergriffnen Subjekt noch ein letztes übrig. Das ist die Einfühlung.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cry Havoc!

Oh, Boy!

"Toledano uncovers continuities between the Frankfurt School's conspiracy and the rampant cultural terrorism in America." Meanwhile Sandwichman demonstrates more than "continuities" between this poisonous cocktail of plagiarized conspiracy theory and the confessed mass murderer Anders Breivik's professed motives.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Economist as Hipster

...and so if in the midst of civilization -- founded upon the Faustian urge to dominate nature by mastering time, mastering the links of social cause and effect -— in the middle of an economic civilization founded upon the confidence that time could indeed he subjected to our will, our psyche was subjected itself to the intolerable anxiety that death being causeless, life was causeless as well, and time deprived of cause and effect had come to a stop.
It is time to tell the truth. Those are the first words of an astonishing 31-page diatribe, The Fake Revolt, published in 1967 by one Gershon Legman.

Ostensibly, the pamphlet berates "the people behind" the hippies and beatniks of the 1960s counterculture. But Legman lingers just a tad too long and with too much relish on salacious anecdote and intemperate hyperbole to take his screed entirely at face value.

Almost in passing, Legman indicts a slew of no-so-innocent bystanders whose minds had long ago "been reduced to malleable pap" by the media, "all of which are totally hitched to saleable products, and are themselves for sale..." In short, the counterculture is no better (but no worse) than "the usual condescending flatulencies... the same old crap... the whole stinking old-peoples' mess" that passes for modern so-called culture.

So what does a rabidly homophobic and downright paranoid polemic against hippie merchants of perversion and hallucination have to do with macro-economic analysis? Only this: any attempt to "tell the truth" about the depravity of what passes for economics these days is bound to come across as a spittle-flecked rant rather than as a "reasoned critique."

Why? Because the economists are not serious. Legman fronts his discourse with epigrammatic quotes from Robert Lindner's 1944 Rebel Without a Cause (not to be confused with the movie of the same name) and Norman Mailer's "The White Negro" (1957). Both authors address the phenomenon of the psychopath but there is a subtle difference that becomes evident from consulting to the source texts themselves. Lindner was referring to the clinically diagnosed criminal psychopath, while Mailer was employing a metaphor of generalized psychopathology to define "the hipster" as a "philosophical psychopath" -- a psychopath "and yet not a psychopath but the negation of the psychopath for he possesses the narcissistic detachment of the philosopher."

The economist of today is a hipster... and yet not a hipster, but the negation of the hipster.

"A totalitarian society makes enormous demands on the courage of men, and a partially totalitarian society makes even greater demands for the general anxiety is greater."

If we grant a certain naïvety to the 1950s technocratic "confidence that time could indeed he subjected to our will," what could be said about the insidious restoration of that obsolete posture, long after C. Wright Mills, Robert McNamara and even the maestro himself, Alan Greenspan, have come and gone? Is it mere cynicism that compels a macro-economist to not only assume but to belligerently insist upon a hypothetical production process that encompasses no actual human relationship between the workers and the work that they perform? Is it some technocratic tic that induces a "progressive" economist to confuse the static, retrospective nature of statistics -- and models based on them -- with the dynamic process of production? These examples are not anomalies: they are canonical. To object is to reveal oneself as some kind of crank.

Or is there a more sinister explanation? Are we witnessing, once again, the "stench of fear," the "collective failure of nerve" that pervades an age when intellectuals know full well that dissent constitutes a note, "which could be called in any year of overt crisis." Not that the economist is going to be marched off to a concentration camp, insane asylum or shot. It is just that the economist's analysis -- and therefore the economist, too -- is a salable product and the market for "time-less," "labor-less" macro-economic analysis is so much more lucrative.

Afterthought: Mailer's essay was 9,000 words, Legman's pamphlet 32-pages. My blog post is 600 words. There is an economy of condensation and of transience at work in what can be said today. In other words, very little. "tl;dr."

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Productivity of Unemployment

Peter Frase:
If you believe, as I do, that it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of time people spend in paid employment, it would also be nice to increase the productivity of whatever they do in the time thus freed up.

Work Sharing is the Answer

Dean Baker:
The basic point is simple. If we encourage employers to deal with reduced demand by shortening work hours rather than laying people off, we can get back to full employment relatively quickly. Every month, firms lay off or fire roughly 2 million people. If this figure can be reduced by 10 percent through work sharing, it would be equivalent to creating 200,000 additional jobs a month.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Intellectual Progress?

Nick Rowe (2011): "because my policy increases output, because there's 1% more person-hours of *government* employment."

Lionel Robbins (1929): "The days are gone when it was necessary to combat the naïve assumption that the connection between hours and output is one of direct variation, that it is necessarily true that a lengthening of the working day increases output and a curtailment diminishes it."  

Nick Rowe (2011): "Sandwichman: This post is not about work-sharing. I am holding hours per worker constant. You are off-topic. Do not hijack this post. Stop now. Not everybody shares your interests."

Breivik and Lind, a Side-By-Side Comparison

The document below the jump compares the text of the manifesto of the Oslo mass murderer, Anders Breivik, in the first column with that of the Free Congress Foundation pamphlet, "'Political Correctness': A Short History of an Ideology" in the second column. Differences between the two texts are highlighted in red in the Breivik text and blue in the Lind text. A line by line comparison has only been completed for the first chapter. But chapter divisions have been completed for the whole document.

Rehman: "The Witch-Hunt for Liberal Traitors"

From Jalees Rehman: From Frankfurt to Utøya, Guernica, a magazine of art and politics:
One of the central themes in the texts of contemporary far right American and European writers that are compiled in Anders Breivik’s compendium “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” is the idea that cultural Marxists and multiculturalists are conspiring to destroy Western culture by promoting the immigration of Muslims. The persistent use of the expression “cultural Marxism” is a very effective tool employed by far right authors, because it evokes the deep-rooted historical fear of Marxism that still exists in the United States and in many parts of Europe. Following the collapse of communist states in Europe, far right thinkers may have found “cultural Marxism” to be a handy substitute adversary to mobilize popular support. The vagueness of the term “cultural Marxism” and by linking it to multiculturalism or feminism allows far right leaders to cast a wide net, potentially implying that all fellow citizens who support progressive-liberal values are somehow linked to a “Marxist” conspiracy. By further connecting such “cultural Marxists” to the idea of a Muslim enemy, far right thinkers tap into the historical European fear of Muslim or Ottoman invasions, and also accuse liberals of betraying their countries by colluding with the enemy.

These contemporary approaches of far right leaders in Europe and the United States remind us of two myths used by the Nazis to justify some of their horrific crimes. The Dolchstoßlegende (dagger thrust or stab-in-the-back myth) was propagated by German right wing extremists, nationalists, and the military during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich to blame the World War I defeat on left-of-center political parties in Germany, such as the social democrats or communists, who had metaphorically stabbed their country in the back. The myth of a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy was also used by the Nazis to tap into the deep-rooted European anti-semitism and accused Jews of working with Russian Bolsheviks.

Below is a collection of blog posts, including Ecological Headstand, that have discussed the Breivik/Lind/Buchanan/LaRouche political-correctness conspiracy doctrine.

Ecological Headstand:
Chip Berlet at Talk to Action:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Forensic Fun with Footnotes: Calumny, Plagiarism, Murder

Reading a book by Patrick J. Buchanan may be presumed to be anything but fun. The man is a lying thug from head to toe and his books are slick, slanderous forgeries. But some merriment can be recuperated from the experience if only one takes the time and effort to trace Buchanan's fraudulent "scholarly apparatus."

Chapter Four of Buchanan's The Death of the West, "Four Who Made a Revolution," shares with the Oslo mass murder, Anders Breivik's presumed "manifesto" the feature of being plagiarized from an unreliable source (the same source) who distorted his sources... and so on.

Listed second among the five friends who "were kind enough to read the text and to urge cuts, alterations and additions" was Bill Lind. Five of 49 footnotes are to authors subsequently included in the Free Congress Foundation pamphlet, "Political Correctness: A Short History of An Ideology," also plagiarized by Breivik -- William Lind (2), Raymond V. Raehn (2) and Gerald L. Atkinson. However, there are two additional footnotes to "Michael Löwy" that are clearly not from Löwy but again from Raehn. The true source is evident when one traces the footnote and compares Buchanan's text with Löwy's and Raehn's. The infidelities in Raehn's quotations are carried through, unmolested, into Buchanan's text.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Cultural Conservatives": Prophets of Deceit

In the late 1940s, the American Jewish Committee sponsored a series of reports titled Studies in Prejudice, under the direction of Max Horkheimer. In one of the volumes, Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator, Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman analyzed a large collection of texts written by pro-fascist, anti-Semitic "personalities", such as Gerald L.K. Smith and Father Charles Coughlin. Horkheimer described the book's theme in his foreword to the five volume series:
The agitator's technique of persuasion, the mechanism of mediation that translates inchoate feeling into specific belief and action make up the theme of that volume. As mediator between the world and the individual psyche, the agitator molds already existing prejudices and tendencies into overt doctrines and ultimately into overt action.
Lowenthal's and Guterman's analysis is book-ended by a composite, generic speech typifying what the agitator says and, at the end, what he means. This generic speech reads like an X-ray of today's right-wing rant against "Political Correctness, cultural Marxism, multiculturalism and the Frankfurt School" (henceforth PCCMMFS) recited by William S. Lind, Patrick J. Buchanan (see chapter four of his 2002 The Death of the West), Raymond V. Raehn (a contributor the the Lind pamphlet plagiarized by Breivik and bridge to the original Larouchite conspiracy theory article -- the primary source for Buchanan's "Four Who Made a Revolution" fantasy in his chapter four), the herd of independent-minded Islamophobe radio, television and blog demogogues and the confessed Oslo mass murderer, Anders Breivik.

A case in point (and this exercise can be repeated ad nauseum)is William Lind's "Who Stole Our Culture," which appeared in The Culture-wise Family: Upholding Christian Values in a Mass Media World," By Dr. Ted Baehr and Pat Boone. In this short piece, Lind recites the catechism of the fractured cultural conservative history of the PCCMMFS conspiracy to destroy Western civilization by making America a sleazy, decadent place to live in. Note that one of the sub-headings in Lind's essay is "Studies in Prejudice." The embedded document ("Read more...") places the two texts, "The Agitator Speaks" and "Who Stole Our Culture," side-by-side. Separated in publication by 60 years, they are nevertheless mutually referential. I leave it to the reader to judge which text is more accurate and insightful in its depiction of the other.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oslo Terrorism Roundup

Chip Berlet:

The selected resources listed in the continuation section represent articles with a useful and illuminating slant or original research. Much of the mass media coverage has wrongly identified Breivik as either a neonazi or a Christian fundamentalist. He is neither. In addition, there are some samples of right-wing coverage or statements by Islamophobes. This page will be updated over the next few days as I am researching Islamophobia.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is Cultural Conservatism?

"What is Cultural Conservatism?" is the title of an article by William S. Lind published in 1986 in Essays in Our Times. That's about all I can say about the article because I can't find another trace of the magazine. In answer to the generic question, though, there is this perceptive comment from a sympathizer, William F. Campbell, in a Heritage Foundation speech reviewing a subsequent pamphlet, Cultural Conservatism: Toward A New National Agenda by Lind and William Marshner:
But as first and second generation conservatives have always known, and had to live with as an unpleasant skeleton in the family closet, there is sharp tension, if not contradiction, between the traditionalist and the libertarian wings of the conservative movement. They have been held together primarily because of their common enemies, modern egalitarianism and totalitarian collectivism, which they both abhor.

To sum up, unity on the right requires defining (or inventing) a common enemy/scapegoat. That was easy when the Soviet Union still existed. With the demise of the East Bloc and the end of the Cold War, the culture war against "political correctness" presented itself as common ground.

It would be facile to take the word "war" too metaphorically. Lind, after all, is a theorist -- perhaps the leading theorist -- of "fourth generation warfare" or 4WG, as he calls it. This "theory" has been severely criticized as faulty in both its logic and it historical assumptions by Antulio Echevarria of the U.S. Army's Institute for Strategic Studies but it evidently appealed to the Oslo "culture warrior," Anders Breivik. Breivik pasted a 1,000 word Wikipedia summary of Lind's 4GW concept into his manifesto, adding a few parenthetical references to his own pet projects.

Anyone who desires to peek under the rock of cultural conservatism and fourth generation warfare is welcome to do their own Google searches. But there is one concept that incongruously links the two strands of Lind's thought: what Lind calls the legitimacy crisis of the state.
Here we must remind ourselves that the root and origin of Fourth Generation war is a crisis of legitimacy of the state. One of the functions the state is now expected to perform, in free market as well as socialist countries, is to ensure that the economy functions as well. A world-wide financial panic followed by a world recession or depression would mean the state was failing in one of its core functions. That in turn would further diminish the legitimacy of the state.
If Lind's legitimacy crisis of the state sounds suspiciously like Jürgen Habermas's legitimation crisis, that's because it is a transparent appropriation of the term. I have not been able to find any acknowledgement or attribution by Lind of his source. Lind is clearly "a scavenger, who picks up ill-digested ideas and uses them for his own purposes." But, of course, Lind is also a staunch critic of the ideas of the Frankfurt School and cultural Marxism. Habermas was a former student of Frankfurt School critical theorists, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who in 1964 took over Horkheimer's former chair at the Institute for Social Research and eventually became director.

Perhaps "critic" is too mild a term. Lind demonized the Frankfurt School as little more than a cynical conspiracy to undermine Western Civilization. Intellectual consistency would have required Lind to view Habermas's legitimation crisis not as a diagnosis but as a diabolical scheme to de-legitimize state by undermining the culture. Instead, Lind simply replicates a disjointed morsel of Habermas's analysis. In other words, Lind is not above scavenging and plagiarizing from schools of thought that elsewhere he disparages and demonizes.

So what IS cultural conservatism? It is bottom-feeding propaganda that aims to capitalize on the persecution of scapegoats to achieve unity of the inherently contradictory right.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Martin Jay Spills Some Beans!

In his recent post, Updated: Breivik's Core Thesis is White Christian Nationalism v. Multiculturalism, Chip Berlet cited a recent Salmagundi article by Martin Jay, "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe." This is a truly astonishing, important and very timely document, which unfortunately is not yet available online. In fact, there is very little information about the article online. I have sent a request to Salmagundi to make the text available.

Of particular interest is Jay's account of getting sandbagged (Berlet's term) by a film crew for a television network called National Empowerment Television, sponsored by Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation (FCF). William S. Lind, who narrated the video and presumably produced it, was proud of his coup of including interview clips with Jay in the television program, boasting, "The video is especially valuable because we interviewed the principal American expert on the Frankfurt School, Martin Jay, who was then the chairman of the History Department at Berkeley (and obviously no conservative). He spills the beans."

The "beans" Jay spilled were innocuous. "They had," Jay explained, "already been on the plate for a very long time and it would have taken no effort at all to confirm that, yes, they were Marxists, and yes, they thought cultural problems were important, and yes, they -- or at least Marcus -- worried about the effects of 'repressive tolerance.'"

Of course, it wasn't the beans that Lind was interested in but in editing and packaging those beans in such a way as to insinuate that Jay was "confirming" the rest of the video's narrative, which of course he wasn't. Jay regrets having fallen for Lind's ruse and having assumed that his opinions would be presented with some fidelity. But having viewed Lind's video and now having read Martin Jay's account, I have to wonder if maybe Lind didn't step into a trap of his own making. Given the context, it is the film makers, not the Frankfurt School, who come across as the devious schemers with a secret agenda. As Martin Jay explained,
There is a transparent subtext in the original FCF program, which is not hard to discern and has become more explicit with each telling of the narrative. Although there is scarcely any direct reference to the ethnic origins of the School’s members, subtle hints allow the listener to draw his own conclusions about the provenance of foreigners who tried to combine Marx and Freud, those giants of critical Jewish intelligence. At one point, William Lind asserts that “once in America they shifted the focus of their work from destroying German society to attacking the society and culture of its new place of refuge,” as if the very people who had to flee the Nazis had been responsible for what they were fleeing! Airtime is also given to another of Weyrich’s colleagues at the FCF, Lazlo Pasztor, who is innocently identified as a “leader of the Hungarian resistance against Communism,” but had already been discredited a decade earlier as a former member of the pro-Nazi “Arrow Cross,” who had to leave the Bush campaign in l988 when he was outed.

And now, without further ado, Ecological Headstand presents The History of Political Correctness:

A double bill! The British National Party's Nick Griffin recites the script with a twist, greedy Big Business and the Frankfurt School are in cahoots!:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chip Berlet: Author Cited by Anders Behring Breivik Regrets Original Essay

Chip Berlet:

An article titled "The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and `Political Correctness'" ended up being mentioned once by Anders Behring Breivik in his 1,500 page manifesto.
After dozens of hours of research and thousands of pages of reading I am confident that William S. Lind pamphlet from the Free Congress Foundation is a major conceptual influence on the core thesis of the Breivik Manifesto.

How major? Below are the first three paragraphs of Breivik's manifesto and Lind' pamphlet:

Breivik: One of conservatism’s most important insights is that all ideologies are wrong. Ideology takes an intellectual system, a product of one or more philosophers, and says, “This system must be true.” Inevitably, reality ends up contradicting the system, usually on a growing number of points. But the ideology, by its nature, cannot adjust to reality; to do so would be to abandon the system.

Lind: As Russell Kirk wrote, one of conservatism’s most important insights is that all ideologies are wrong. Ideology takes an intellectual system, a product of one or more philosophers, and says, “This system must be true.” Inevitably, reality ends up contradicting the system, usually on a growing number of points. But the ideology, by its nature, cannot adjust to reality; to do so would be to abandon the system.

Breivik: Therefore, reality must be suppressed. If the ideology has power, it uses its power to undertake this suppression. It forbids writing or speaking certain facts. Its goal is to prevent not only expression of thoughts that contradict what “must be true,” but thinking such thoughts. In the end, the result is inevitably the concentration camp, the gulag and the grave.

Lind: Therefore, reality must be suppressed. If the ideology has power, it uses its power to undertake this suppression. It forbids writing or speaking certain facts. Its goal is to prevent not only expression of thoughts that contradict what “must be true,” but thinking such thoughts. In the end, the result is inevitably the concentration camp, the gulag and the grave.

Breivik: But what happens today to Europeans who suggest that there are differences among ethnic groups, or that the traditional social roles of men and women reflect their different natures, or that homosexuality is morally wrong? If they are public figures, they must grovel in the dirt in endless, canting apologies. If they are university students, they face star chamber courts and possible expulsion. If they are employees of private corporations, they may face loss of their jobs. What was their crime? Contradicting the new EUSSR ideology of “Political Correctness.”

Lind: While some Americans have believed in ideologies, America itself never had an official, state ideology – up until now. But what happens today to Americans who suggest that there are differences among ethnic groups, or that the traditional social roles of men and women reflect their different natures, or that homosexuality is morally wrong? If they are public figures, they must grovel in the dirt in endless, canting apologies. If they are university students, they face star chamber courts and possible expulsion. If they are employees of private corporations, they may face loss of their jobs. What was their crime? Contradicting America’s new state ideology of “Political Correctness.”

See also Chip Berlet Updated: Breivik's Core Thesis is White Christian Nationalism v. Multiculturalism

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Confessions of a Cultural Marxist

UPDATE: Plagiarism alert Breivik's text on "Political Correctness" appears to be lifted almost entirely from a screed called "Political Correctness: a Short History of an Ideology?" by William Lind, "Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation."

In the introduction to his "compendium" manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, Anders Breivik asks "What is Political Correctness?" and "How did it all begin?" His answer dwells on the Frankfurt School, and singles out Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization as especially important (I have condensed Breivik's text here):
One work, however, is of such importance that it must be recommended despite its difficulty: Eros and Civilisation by Herbert Marcuse...

In brief, Eros and Civilisation urges total rebellion against traditional Western culture –the “Great Refusal” – and promises a Candyland utopia of free sex and no work to those who join the revolution.
The very achievements of this civilisation seemed to make the performance principle obsolete, to make the repressive utilisation of the instincts archaic. But the idea of a non-repressive civilisation on the basis of the achievements of the performance principle encountered the argument that instinctual liberation (and consequently total liberation) would explode civilisation itself, since the latter is sustained only through renunciation and work (labour) – in other words, through the repressive utilisation of instinctual energy. Freed from these constraints, man would exist without work and without order; he would fall back into nature, which would destroy culture. To meet this argument, we recalled certain archetypes of imagination which, in contrast to the culture-heroes of repressive productivity, symbolised creative receptivity.
Marcuse understood what most of the rest of his Frankfurt School colleagues did not: the way to destroy Western civilisation –the objective set forth by George Lukacs in 1919 – was not through abstruse theory, but through sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Breivik's account of Marcuse is a very strange and convoluted rendition, which, in essence, mistakes critique for advocacy and thus inadvertently comprehends a mirror image of what Marcuse was saying. Whether or not one subscribes to Marcuse's version of Freud or likes his terminology, it is crucial to distinguish between three concepts here: repressive sublimation, non-repressive sublimation and repressive de-sublimation. What Marcuse was advocating in Eros and Civilization was non-repressive sublimation. He criticized repressive de-sublimation. The two terms are opposites.

The "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" strategy for destroying Western civilization that Breivik lamented was actually something Marcuse opposed -- a sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll strategy for defending the hierarchical status quo: "The promotion of thoughtless leisure activities, the triumph of anti-intellectual ideologies, exemplify the trend. This extension of controls to formerly free regions of consciousness and leisure permit a relaxation of sexual taboos (previously more important because the over-all controls were less effective)."

Breivik's grisly "mistake" is not an innocent one. He has brought the technique of mass murder as a self-promoting publicity stunt to a new low. Perhaps the best punishment for that crime would be exposure of the gut-wrenchingly backward credulity and stupidity of his interpretation of "cultural Marxism."

The lying sack of shit that fabricated this modern-day Protocols of the Elders of Political Correctness is William S. Lind:

"William Sturgiss Lind, Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation, is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, born July 9, 1947. He graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1969 and received a Master's Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 through 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 through 1986. He joined Free Congress Foundation in 1987."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Paul Krugman

UPDATE (June 13, 2013): the earliest prototype of the "lump-of-labor fallacy" that I have now been able to document occurs in Dorning Rasbotham's 1780 pamphlet, Thoughts on the Use of Machines in the Cotton Manufacture.

Dear Professor Krugman,

I am writing to you because three times over the last 14 months your authority has been invoked to me on behalf of the assertion that people who advocate shorter working time as a remedy for unemployment are guilty of a "lump-of-labor fallacy" assumption that there is only a fixed quantity of work in the world. As did John Maynard Keynes, I believe that working less is one of "three ingredients of a cure" for unemployment. I find it odd to learn that I (and presumably Keynes) am thereby assuming a palpable absurdity: that the amount of work to be done is invariant.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Full Employment and the Future of Industry (W.H. Hutt, 1945)

Perhaps it is still not too late to attempt to put things right. Full employment and a prosperous industry might yet be achieved if what I propose to call the three "basic principles of employment" determine our planning.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mr. Tufnell's Pamphlet Versus Mr. Ewart's Testimony

"What do you suppose to be the chief motive for the operatives here advocating the Ten-Hour Bill?"

The question posed by Edward Carleton Tufnell, examiner for the 1833 Royal Commission on Employment of Children in Factories; the reply to that question from Peter Ewart, master cotton-spinner and weaver of Manchester; and Tufnell's appropriation, revision and condensation of Ewart's reply constitute the fountainhead for the lump-of-labor fallacy claim. Tufnell's appropriation conveniently left out details that would enable the reader to critically assess the argument's validity, reliability and robustness. He also shifted the form of the proposition in question from supposition ("what do you suppose to be the chief motive...") to assertion ("The Union calculated...").

Saturday, February 5, 2011

April Fools

"...a prize competition to identify new and innovative thinking about policies to create jobs..."

The Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution has announced a "Policy Innovation Prize" of "$25,000 Awarded For The Best Proposals to Create Jobs and Enhance Productivity." The deadline for submitting proposals is 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday, April 1, 2011.

Sandwichman wryly observes that the April Fools deadline may be appropriate.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is the Economic System Self-Adjusting?

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, from a 1934 BBC radio address
I was asked recently to take part in a discussion among English economists on the problem of poverty in the midst of potential plenty, which none of us can deny is the outstanding conundrum of today. We all agreed that, whatever the best remedy may be, we must reject all those alleged remedies that consist, in effect, in getting rid of the plenty. It may be true, for various reasons, that as the potential plenty increases, the problem of getting the fruits of it distributed to the great body of consumers will present increasing difficulties. But it is to the analysis and solution of these difficulties that we must direct our minds. To seek an escape by making the productive machine less productive must be wrong. I often find myself in favor of measures to restrict output as a temporary palliative or to meet an emergency. But the temper of mind that turns too easily to restriction is dangerous, for it has nothing useful to contribute to the permanent solution. But this is another way of saying that we must not regard the conditions of supply -— that is to say, our facilities to produce -— as being the fundamental source of our troubles. And, if this is agreed, it seems to follow that it is the conditions of demand that our diagnosis must search and probe for the explanation.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Facts or Fallacies Part III: Combinations, Murder and the Primordial Lump

In Part I, I compared the statistical fact that non-farm employment was lower in September 2010 than it had been in December 1999 with the assertions that those who believed any such thing could occur were guilty of a lump-of-labor fallacy. In Part II, I rehearsed debating points regarding Paul Krugman's columns citing the alleged fallacy.

My intention in Part III is not to refute the fallacy claim. I believe I did that sufficiently in "Why Economists Dislike a Lump of Labor" and "The Lump-of-Labor Case Against Work-Sharing." To date, no one has brought forward a substantive rebuttal to those articles. Instead, I will explore further the evolution of the fallacy claim.