The Populist Pub is Now Open


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:

Carrick said...
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.



nice start

I would suggest on some of your links to pull in specific quotes and sections from the ones towards the bottom.

Also, on this massive suicide, any way to verify if this is real? In other words, a quote from some sort of credible press. I actually found a few talking about it, but couldn't find out the actual details. Was it truly a mass suicide?

They are blaming massive debt, Monsanto GM (patented) seeds and a drought with farmers killing themselves left and right but we need to go digging it out a little bit more.

Also, there are many U.S. suicides over career destruction going on. Those never get reported.

Mass suicide

I took a look at articles.

This is for the last year, not all at once.

Still horrible, but not as dramatic.

It's Youngstown not Jonestown.

This is a state the size of Alabama

i wonder

what the suicide rate is for one state in the last year about the same population size.

the reason I mention this is I have known people, hitting "above 35" and getting labor arbitraged who killed themselves.

I never understood

that line from Mellencamp's song "Jackie Brown"

Is this your grave, jackie brown?
This little piece of limestone that says another desperate man took
Himself out.
Is this your dream, jackie brown?

But, by itself, these suicides are comparable (a little bit under) US figures. This is probably on top of "normal" suicides however.

Learning curve.

Sorry I'm late to the discussion but had some domestic items to take care of.

I could not find another story about the incident(s) and this article is ambiguous. Carrick acknowledged it in his comment. I know I read something a week or more ago about Monsanto GM80 corn that has become very controversial in India, maybe other places too. Farmers were forced to use it, probably in the course of obtaining the loans in the first place. Seems like the way disaster capitalism works in the 3rd World.

My take is that a single incidence of suicide on this scale is very significant but 30 or so per week for a year is a dreadful result of debt peonage in its own right. It is also my understanding is that this is a cultural response to saving the family honor.

BTW, contrast the situation of the farmers in India to the imported Indian and Pakistani laborers in Dubai. They are imprisoned by their debt no matter how they respond to their dire circumstances. I doubt it will ever get to that here, or in Western Europe but it will get mighty awful compared to what we have grown used to. The stories I have been told and the accounts I have read and seen about the GD are really hard to fathom. Yet, we seem to be on a direct path to revisit that scenario. Even if we do bottom out the recession, it really looks like a long, jobless recovery.