Petit Julien welcomes you to the first gathering at the Populist Pub. As an introduction, let me refer to this comment I made the other night. You can scroll up and down in that thread to get more context.
One of the things I like most about Naked Capitalism is the daily links that Yves provides. They are wide ranging, only sometimes graphical or analytical, but always apropros to the bigger picture.
So I was thinking if there is a way of doing something similar here at EP. Provide links to other reports, essays, analyses without paraphrasing and just invite general discussion or further original blog posts.
This Populist Pub then, is that something similar that I would like to make a weekly installment here at EP. I can envision our weekly "gatherings" taking on many formats and themes. However, since I have less than 48 hours to get the initial entry up, this particular edition will be more focused.
My intention is to highlight news items and opinions from around the world that I think are interesting, provocative, informative, and even controversial. My hope is that many will be moved to comment, argue, challenge or even condemn the point of view expressed. More importantly, I would hope that this forum would also be treated as an open thread and the many readers of EP are encouraged to submit their own meaningful blog entries or news reports for consideration in the Pub. But enough with the introductions, let's get to the substance.
The lengthening global recession and the various attempts to correct it, have brought growing attention to the increasing levels of public debt associated. Recently I have read a number of good articles relating to debt and its social consequences. I would like to share a few of them.
Several days ago, I came across this news item in the Independent. On Friday, the same item showed up in the daily links at Naked Capitalism. A reader there, named Carrick, left the following comment:
I don't know how to phrase this, or present this comparison, without causing some offense, but I'll throw it out there -- food for thought.
1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh were driven by systemic problems (debt & poverty, disastrous Govt enviro/devl plannig, usury), to commit suicide.
This was also the day that Bush's torture memos were released. Twice as many people died on sept 11, and we turned the world upside down (preemptive war, loss of international compassion/goodwill/support, abandonment of the Geneva Convention, etc -- U.S. Govt sanctioned torture of prisoners, some unintentionally unto death), responding to it.
Even if the India event wasn't an intentional protest, it is a cry for attention. It didn't get a spot of ink in any US papers, or a blip from the 24/7 cable news yapfests. Which is why its hard to know whether this was a real "mass suicide" protest, or just a popular trend there.
Either way.. two large losses of life - both born of poverty and systemic problems. One, we turned the world upside down for, the other doesn't even see a bullet point on A16. Both born out of poverty, for the most part. There is something to be drawn out from this (I don't know what), about how one group destroys itself in protest, while the other destroys the outside world -- one gets ignored, and the other sees heaven & earth moved to return its misery. Both end with dead poor people -- neither response shows a recognition of the relationship between systemic poverty and horrendous violence.
Another developing story worth watching is contained in this absolutely riveting, but disturbing article about Dubai. I have been there, twice. My two visits were spaced about 8 months apart, the last coming in February 1996. The level of luxury and phenomenal growth I saw then was quite impressive. But that was well before the really crazy, decadent development started; before the extravagant malls, the beachside hotels, the Palm Island developments, the indoor snow skiing, and all the other ludicrous and opulent diversions created for the world's most elite.
The well known Financial Economist and Historian, Michael Hudson, recently presented some commentary for the Center for Research on Globalization entitled "The Financial War Against Iceland". (If you are not up to date on the transformation of Iceland from fishing country to worldwide investment banker, this earlier article from Vanity Fair entitled "Wall Street on the Tundra" will provide useful background.) Prof. Hudson looks at Iceland's dilemma today in the context of the creditor's historical power over the debtor, from antiquity, to the post Roman period, medieval Europe, into the period of Enlightenment, the progressive era of social democracy and up to the present. As always, history teaches us many truths.
Finally, Steve Keen has some interesting commentary on debt in this speech given to the Fabian Forum in Australia. Steve Keen is an associate professor in economics and finance at the University of West Sydney. He is a post-Keynesian, contrarian, economist who did his PhD thesis on modeling Hyman Minsky's financial instability hypothesis. (For the wonkish, here is the pdf link to his thesis paper.) This thinking challenges neoclassical economic theory by factoring in debt and the requirement that it be repaid over time. The implication for current monetary policy is quite unsettling.
I hope you find some of the readings that I've mentioned worth your time. Next time we get together I'll try to have more variety. Until then, adieu from petit Julien and me.