I can really start to hyperventilate about this sort of thing, predictions of Russian hacking in November. It's a funny twist that I can hyperventilate about an article and also not have the patience to read the whole thing.Comments (190)
Elon Musk can go fuck himself, always and forever.
Is this the moment when his fanboys face a crossroads, and Silicon Valley develops an overt Republican arm?Comments (86)
Nick S. writes: Two very good articles looking back at the financial crisis from the perspective of contemporary politics. First, John Lanchester in the London Review Of Books :
Some of the more pessimistic commentators at the time of the credit crunch, myself included, said that the aftermath of the crash would dominate our economic and political lives for at least ten years. What I wasn't expecting - what I don't think anyone was expecting - was that ten years would go by quite so fast. ...
By now we're eight years into that public anger. Remember that remark made by Robert Lucas, the macroeconomist, that the central problem of depression prevention had been solved? How's that been working out? How it's been working out here in the UK is the longest period of declining real incomes in recorded economic history. 'Recorded economic history' means as far back as current techniques can reach, which is back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Worse than the decades that followed the Napoleonic Wars, worse than the crises that followed them, worse than the financial crises that inspired Marx, worse than the Depression, worse than both world wars. That is a truly stupendous statistic and if you knew nothing about the economy, sociology or politics of a country, and were told that single fact about it - that real incomes had been falling for the longest period ever - you would expect serious convulsions in its national life.
Just as grim, life expectancy has stagnated too, which is all the more shocking because it is entirely unexpected. According to the Continuous Mortality Investigation, life expectancy for a 45-year-old man has declined from an anticipated 43 years of extra life to 42, for a 45-year-old woman from 45.1 more years to 44. There's a decline for pensioners too. We had gained ten years of extra life since 1960, and we've just given one year back. These data are new and are not fully understood yet, but it seems pretty clear that the decline is linked to austerity, perhaps not so much to the squeeze on NHS spending - though the longest spending squeeze, adjusted for inflation and demographics, since the foundation of the NHS has obviously had some effect - but to the impacts of austerity on social services, which in the case of such services as Meals on Wheels and house visits function as an early warning system for illness among the elderly. As a result, mortality rates are up, an increase that began in 2011 after decades in which they had fallen under both parties, and it's this that is causing the decline in life expectancy.
Sociology would have been a better social science than economics for understanding the last ten years. Three dominos fell. The initial event was economic. The meaning of it was experienced in ways best interpreted by sociology. The consequences were acted out through politics. From a sociological point of view, the crisis exacerbated faultlines running through contemporary societies, faultlines of city and country, old and young, cosmopolitan and nationalist, insider and outsider. As a direct result we have seen a sharp rise in populism across the developed world and a marked collapse in support for established parties, in particular those of the centre-left.
And DSquared in the Guardian about the LIBOR scandal.
It is not a pleasant thing to see your industry subjected to criticism that is at once overheated, ill-informed and entirely justified. In 2012, the financial sector finally got the kind of enemies it deserved. The popular version of events might have been oversimplified and wrong in lots of technical detail, but in the broad sweep, it was right. The nuanced and technical version of events which the specialists obsessed over might have been right on the detail, but it missed one utterly crucial point: a massive crime of dishonesty had taken place. There was a word for what had happened, and that word was fraud. For a period of months, it seemed to me as if the more you knew about the Libor scandal, the less you understood it.
That's how we got it so wrong. We were looking for incidental breaches of technical regulations, not systematic crime. And the thing is, that's normal. The nature of fraud is that it works outside your field of vision, subverting the normal checks and balances so that the world changes while the picture stays the same. People in financial markets have been missing the wood for the trees for as long as there have been markets.
Libor teaches us a valuable lesson about commercial fraud - that unlike other crimes, it has a problem of denial as well as one of detection. There are very few other criminal acts where the victim not only consents to the criminal act, but voluntarily transfers the money or valuable goods to the criminal. And the hierarchies, status distinctions and networks that make up a modern economy also create powerful psychological barriers against seeing fraud when it is happening. White-collar crime is partly defined by the kind of person who commits it: a person of high status in the community, the kind of person who is always given the benefit of the doubt.
They are an interesting pair. I think Lanchester is right to take the opportunity to look back over the last decade and observe that, collectively, we're still processing the fallout from the financial crisis, and DSquared is, unsurprisingly, quite good on why it's difficult to know who to punish or what to fix.
Finally, I'd throw in Kevin Drum's post in which he speculates that the explanation for the current degree of political crisis involves some big events and also just bad luck and bad timing, and that the systemic problems might not be as bad as the current outcomes suggest for a bit of a devil's advocate position.