Trump’s victory: Why it may be much worse than you think

Why did Trump win?

This is the question a number of writers from all points on the political spectrum have been trying to answer since the presidential election. Some have sought the answer in demographics. Others in issues peculiar to the rust belt regions of the United States. Still others in the language of identity politics; a triumph of racism, misogyny homophobia, etc. There are those who have even broached the long ignored problem of the criminal behavior of the Clinton Cartel and the tin-ear of corporate Democrats to the party’s base.

Each of these explanations has a certain ring of truth. All who hold to one or another of these explanations can point to valid empirical evidence (especially polling) to support their claims.

However, to really answer the question in any meaningful fashion requires something more than a list of real or imagined defects of the usual suspects involved. It requires a comprehensive hypothesis of the present moment: a task that is no easy undertaking.

A hypothesis is useful because it attempts to account for what we are observing and link our observations to forces we cannot observe. The best hypotheses reveal hidden connections between things we previously believed to be unrelated or demonstrate that things we previously believed were related are not related after all — although on the surface they appear to be the same.

Continue reading “Trump’s victory: Why it may be much worse than you think”

A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (3)

NOTE THREE: “A vast machine for the provisioning of soldiers”

If you follow my blog you know I have been reading David Graeber’s “DEBT: The first 5000 years”. As I tried to show in the two previous posts, Graeber provides evidence, drawn on the findings of anthropologists, for several conclusions. The written record indicate that by the time of the emergence of Mesopotamian civilization a commodity, silver, had already emerged as money. For the most part, this money did not circulate as the currency but was held in hoards by the temple and palace complexes of it time.

What made it money is not that it functioned as currency, but that, even at that time, it functioned as the material in which the value of other commodities were denominated by the population of Mesopotamia.

In actual transactions, Graeber argues, the population employed what he calls a ‘running tab’; a form of virtual or symbolic currency. In actual day to day transaction, it appears the problem of coincidence of wants was resolved by an early form of pre-capitalist credit money. To use Graeber parable, if Henry wanted shoes from Joshua, Joshua extended his shoes ‘on credit’. The transaction was recorded with Henry’s IOU, which he later had to make good by providing another commodity of his own at a later time. Payment did not commonly take place in a money commodity, but was in-kind. Henry might later satisfy his debt to Joshua by ‘paying’ in barley, goats, or another use value.

This sort of in-kind payment is today commonly referred to as “barter”, more accurately, in Marx’s labor theory of value, commodity production and exchange.

Continue reading “A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (3)”

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson must be removed by their parties’ memberships

a55a99ce-5500-11e6-aa48-03c7558ca05e-1020x785Here is the (admittedly uninvited) opinion of someone on the outside looking in, someone who thinks all electoral politics are illusory.

Ignore it if you already realize capitalism cannot be reformed.

If the Greens don’t remove Jill Stein from a leadership role in the Green Party and the Libertarians don’t remove Gary Johnson, they have learned nothing from this election. The Greens and Libertarians need to renounce their 2016 disastrous campaigns and take a comprehensive look at their respective approaches to winning political power.


Continue reading “Jill Stein and Gary Johnson must be removed by their parties’ memberships”

Trump, Neoliberalism and the humiliating demise of the Radical Left

With Trump taking a massive section of the working class in his run up to office, what possible reason to exist does the radical Left have?

I have been reading this short Foreign Affairs article: “Trump and American Political Decay”. Excuse me while I quote an extensive portion of it below, because it reflects the standard boilerplate currently being repeated to American voters:

Continue reading “Trump, Neoliberalism and the humiliating demise of the Radical Left”

A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (2)

NOTE TWO: Our Own Coin?

In my last post I showed why I think David Graeber’s book has been generally misread. Contrary to the predominant view Graeber clearly provides evidence that, even 5 millennia ago, silver, a commodity, was already firmly established as money. This money, according to Graeber’s own evidence, was mostly held in large hoards by temples and palace authorities. Despite sitting mostly idle in hoards, silver was nevertheless employed to express the values of other commodities.

The function of silver as the universal expression of the values of commodities, however, is not the same as its function as means of exchange, for the circulation of commodities, as currency. While there was indeed some limited circulation of silver as means of exchange, the role of currency was mostly filled, as Graeber explains, by an early form of pre-capitalist credit money — what Graeber refers to as a running tab. This running tab seems to have been largely settled in kind by a wide variety of other commodities, i.e., according to its common definition, by what is generally referred to as barter.

In ancient Sumer, in other words, we see a fairly complex ‘money’ system has already emerged based on a commodity money, silver, which is already being used to express the values of other commodities. An early form of credit has emerged based on this commodity money; debts are calculated in this commodity money, but settlement still largely takes the form of in kind payments or barter. Currency, Graeber explains, comes only much later.

I am not sure I have stated all of this in a manner that is consistent with the evidence Graeber provides us. However, absent his objection or that of another expert in the field, I will proceed on the basis of the above assumptions.

Continue reading “A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (2)”

A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (1)

I have been avoiding David Graeber’s book, DEBT: The first 5000 years, on the assumption I was not qualified to address an issue so steeped in concrete historical evidence. Only now do I feel I have a credible basis for examining the book.

bill_of_sale_louvre_ao3765After reading chapter 2 of the book (which is as far as I have gotten so far) I am surprised to find out it is not quite what I expected. It turns out, contrary to much of the hype with which this book has been greeted, Graeber has already acknowledged money and commodity exchange already existed as far back as ancient Sumer — some 5500 years ago. What Graeber is instead trying to show in his book is that a form of credit money emerged into general use long before the coining of currencies — which is an altogether different argument.

The argument, although convincing, leaves as many questions as it answer, as I will show in the next few posts.

Continue reading “A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (1)”