the world is regressing to neo serfdom, pine forest first snow wallpaper, the century of arsenic

Few of us always act in our own rational self interests. Romance or the dream of romance would have died long ago if we were purely rational animals. Still I wonder at the voracity and tenaciousness at which the U.S. and much of western culture (most recently Spain and Greece) act to sabotage themselves, Surviving Progress transcript

Theme: In the name of “progress,” the world is regressing to neoserfdom.

Mainstream economics has become a body of assumptions selected to rationalize a “trickle-down” tax policy favoring the financial sector driving the rest of the economy into debt, turning the economic surplus into interest charges – to be recycled into yet more debt creation. Claiming that wealth at the top pulls up the rest (“the rich are job creators”), the policy inference is to shift taxes off financial wealth and property onto labor and industry.

What this view leaves out of account is that some ways of “getting rich” are corrosive, not productive. The wealthiest 10% have gotten rich mainly by getting the bottom 90% into debt. And labor (“consumers”) try to escape from their financial squeeze by going even deeper into debt, to buy homes and status before their access price rises even further out of reach. But what is pushing up real estate and other prices is easy bank credit – that is, debt. So the debt expansion calls for yet more debt to keep the financial system solvent.

This is not industrial capitalism as analyzed by the classical economists. It is something quite different. It is a regression to the ancient usury problem that destroyed Rome.

Yet this is not part of today’s economics curriculum. Finance and debt is neglected, and hence in society’s view of the future and where present trends are leading. The debt crisis shortens lifespans, worsens health and leads to emigration, suicide and general impoverishment. So the world economy has entered a regressive epoch whose policies are just the opposite of those of the Progressive Era a century ago.

This inverts the direction in which policy has been moving for the past eight centuries. Already in the 13th century the Churchmen sought to bring prices in line with costs of production, ultimately reducible to the cost of labor. By the 19th century, classical economics was moving toward what Keynes called “euthanasia of the rentier.” But since the 1980s, neoliberalism has promoted euthanasia of the production-and-consumption economy. This pro-financial neoliberal economics is aggressive, not peaceful, and its idea of globalization is neofeudal, not progressive.

By neoliberalism he means the way conservatism has chewed up and regurgitated classical liberal economic policy. While there might be a few millimeters of space left to push – we’re on the precipice of becoming an utterly rent seeking nation. We have billionaires complaining about being over taxed and over regulated. It is as if someone choking on a mouth full of sugar is scribbling frantically that they are not getting enough sweets. We even have people making high six figures complaining about how hard it is to get by if their taxes go up a bit or they have to pay their employees a genuine living wage.

pine forest first snow wallpaper

I still like to read a mystery once in a while and I like traditional English mysteries ( Doyle, Christie and P.D. James), but I like American hard boiled detective fiction as well (Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain). So that is why this caught my eye,  The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work and Play
by James Whorton.

Arsenic was easily and legitimately available for murder or suicide. Moreover, until the Marsh test was developed in 1836 to find arsenic residue in substances including the disinterred organs of victims, there was really no way of deciding whether someone who had been given it either in one go, or over a subtler longer period, had not died of natural causes as a result of poor food hygiene or illness. Why wouldn’t you get rid of the inconvenient or the vile by means of odourless, tasteless, undetectable arsenic – assuming that you had managed to overcome any tendency to value human life over personal convenience? As the over-apostrophised cook Mrs Pettican struggles to put it about Harriet Vane’s presumed crime in Strong Poison: ‘A dreadful wicked woman she must ’a’ been … a-torturin’ of the poor soul that long-winded way.

Another I did not know moment. Given its prevalence in detective fiction of the early to mid-20th century I thought arsenic was the most common drug used for suicide, Whorton says that most people actually chose opium.

Another good long read, The Woman Who Would Be King

In all antiquity, history records only one woman who successfully calculated a systematic rise to power during a time of peace: Hatshepsut, meaning “the Foremost of Noble Women,” an Egyptian king of the Eighteenth Dynasty who ruled during the fifteenth century BC and negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority. It is not precise to call Hatshepsut a queen, despite the English understanding of the word; once she took the throne, Hatshepsut could only be called a king. In the ancient Egyptian language, the word queen only existed in relation to a man, as the “king’s woman.” Once crowned, Hatshepsut served no man; her husband had been dead some seven years by the time she ascended the throne.