By Dean Baker
The case of the rigged Libor turns out to be the scandal that just keeps on giving. It reveals a great deal about the behavior of the Federal Reserve Board and central banks more generally.
Last month, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke gave testimony before Congress in which he said that he had become aware of evidence that banks in England were rigging the Libor in the fall of 2008. According to Bernanke, he called this to the attention of Mervyn King, the head of the Bank of England. Apparently Mervyn King did nothing, since the rigging continued, but Bernanke told Congress there was nothing more that he could do.
The implications of Bernanke’s claim are incredible. There are trillions of dollars of car loans, mortgages, and other debts, in the United States, tied to the Libor. There are also huge derivative contracts whose value depends on the Libor at a moment in time. People were winning or losing on these deals not based on the market, but rather on the rigged Libor rate being set by the big banks.
The idea of “collapse”, social and financial, comes with an incredible array of hypothetical consequences ranging from public dissent and martial law, to the complete disintegration of infrastructure and the devolution of mankind into a swarm of mindless arm chewing cannibals. In an age of television nirvana and cinema overload, I have found that the collective unconscious of our culture has now defined what collapse is based only on the most narrow of extremes. If they aren’t being hunted down by machete wielding looters or swastika wearing jackboots, then the average American dupe figures that the country is not in much danger. Hollywood fantasy has blinded us to the tangible crises at our doorstep.
By Thomas Naylor
The new American flag forever postage stamp series recently released by the U.S. Postal Service represents a degree of hypocrisy heretofore unimaginable. Below the American flag on each stamp is one of the following four words – freedom, equality, justice, or liberty – followed by the word “forever.” For example, “freedom forever.” The not so subtle message of American exceptionalism is that the United States is a country in which freedom, equality, justice, and liberty will surely live forever. The sheer arrogance underlying this postage stamp series is almost beyond belief.
By Stephan Kinsella
Below is the proposed list of speakers and topics for the upcoming Seventh Annual Meeting of the PFS, which will be held in Bodrum, Turkey at the Hotel Karia Princess, from Thursday September 27 through Monday October 1, 2012. Those interested in attending should contact Dr. Hoppe or Mr. Grözinger, Administrative Secretary, regarding conditions, availability, and requirements.
(Note: The list of speakers for the Sixth Annual Meeting (May 26-30, 2011) may be found in theProgram; video of the presentations are available here.)
Property and Freedom Society
7th Annual Meeting
September 27 – October 2, 2012
Karia Princess Hotel
Speakers & Topics
Philosophy and Law
Literature and Literary Criticism
- Sean Gabb: On Literature and Liberty
- Benjamin Marks: On H. L. Mencken as a Libertarian Model (and some Romantic Libertarian Delusions)
- Karl–Peter Schwarz: Between Restitution and Re-Expropriation: Desocialization in Eastern Europe
- Norman Stone: Comparative History: Turkey and Spain
- Tom DiLorenzo: The Myth of American Exceptionalism
- Hunt Tooley: Engineering Tragedy: The Meaning of the CIA Coup d’Etat in Iran, 1953
Society and Politics
From The Daily Mail
A new study conducted by Finnish researchers has confirmed what many of us have known for years: our stressful jobs are making us age faster.
The research led by Kirsi Ahola of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health measured the length of DNA sections called telomeres and how the lengths varied in association with job stress. It found that people suffering from the most job stress tended to have shorter telomeres.
Telomeres, located at the ends of chromosomes, serve as a type of protective cap to the ropy strands, helping assure that the genetic instructions carried by genes on the chromosomes are accurately translated so cells get the right messages.
Stress lines: A new study found that work-related stress causes people to age prematurely
Telomeres shorten with age, oxidation and chemical insults. Often, when telomeres reach a critically short length, the cell dies in a process called apoptosis, NBC reported.
Some cells do not die, but rather become what scientists call ‘senescent’ – they start making genetic errors and causing damage.
As part of their research, which appeared in the journal PloS One this month, Ahola and her team analyzed blood cells called leukocytes – which are critical to immune function – in 2,911 people between ages 30 and 64.
They found that workers who experienced severe exhaustion from job stress had significantly shorter leukocyte telomeres than their relatively stress-free counterparts.
But it appears that frazzled wage earners have more to worry about than crow’s feet, wrinkles and greying locks. Telomere shortening has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
By Shawn Wilbur
Anarchists can be touchy about any sort of authority, so we are frequently at pains to say that we are not followers of any particular leader or historical figure. That’s good. Among other things, the historical figures we’re most likely to follow were almost all pretty clear about how undesirable that would be. And there’s something a little disconcerting about anarchists when they do invest perhaps a bit too much of their identity in an identification with some one of those anarchist figure, whether historical or current.
ALEXA GELLMAN, LearnVest
A new report by the Consumer Federation of America found that two in five American households live paycheck to paycheck—that means no savings, retirement account or emergency fund.
The number of families living this way has increased by 7 percent over the last 15 years, in no small part because of the recession.
Now, only 30 percent of Americans say they feel comfortable financially, and only one third think they have enough saved to retire before age 65. In addition, the survey found that 51 percent of Americans feel behind on saving for retirement, a figure that has risen over the last decade and a half.
These findings go hand-in-hand with statistics Bankrate.com uncovered last month: Roughly half of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover three months of expenses, and a quarter haven’t saved a single cent.
This is big news. We know that the earlier we build up our emergency and retirement funds, the better prepared we’ll be and the greater return we’ll see on our money. But that quarter of Americans aren’t so concerned about saving enough–they’re concerned about saving at all.
More from LearnVest:
It is a central worry of many Americans: not having enough money to live comfortably in old age. Now an innovative paper co-authored by an MIT economist shows that a large portion of America’s older population has very little savings in bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and dies “with virtually no financial assets” to their names.
Indeed, about 46 percent of senior citizens in the United States have less than $10,000 in financial assets when they die. Most of these people rely almost totally on Social Security payments as their only formal means of support, according to the newly published study, co-authored by James Poterba of MIT, Steven Venti of Dartmouth College, and David A. Wise of Harvard University.
That means many seniors have almost no independent ability to withstand financial shocks, such as expensive medical treatments that may not be covered by Medicare or Medicaid, or other unexpected, costly events.
“There are substantial groups that have basically no financial cushion as they are reaching their latest years,” says Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics at MIT.
By Anna Morgenstern
What if they built a factory and no one came?
A lot of people in the broader anarchist movement seem to focus more on goals or endpoints and ignore or underemphasize the means to achieving them. This is understandable, in that statists are constantly challenging us to identify what a stateless society will be like. (Statists are generally concerned much more with outcomes than the means to get to them, or most of them would be horribly shamed by the programs they advocate.) This creates a great deal of internecine squabbles that I think are unnecessary. Existentially, intentions are much less important in determining someone’s character than actions. Now there are many, many varieties of anarchist individuals and organizations with their own characteristics and philosophy, but I think, in terms of their program to achieve anarchism, we can divide them into 5 basic groups. I will attempt to explore these groups and their means, and see what their impact would be.
By Pat Buchanan
Since 1928, only Dwight Eisenhower and George W. Bush have won the presidency while capturing both houses of Congress for the GOP.
In his 49-state landslide, Richard Nixon failed to take either House. In his two landslides, Ronald Reagan won back only the Senate. Yet Mitt Romney is even money to pull off the hat trick.
With this hopeful prospect, why the near despair among so many Republicans about the long term?
In his New York Times report, “In California, GOP Fights Steep Decline,” Adam Nagourney delves into the reasons.
In the Golden Land, a state Nixon carried all five times he was on a national ticket and Reagan carried by landslides all four times he ran, the GOP does not hold a single statewide office. It gained not a single House seat in the 2010 landslide. Party registration has fallen to 30 percent of the California electorate and is steadily sinking.
Why? It is said that California Republicans are too out of touch, too socially conservative on issues like right-to-life and gay rights. “When you look at the population growth,” says GOP consultant Steve Schmidt, “the actual party is shrinking. It’s becoming more white. It’s becoming older.”
By Anna Morgenstern
The simplest way to put it is that they’re all a bunch of crooks.
The bankers are the chief con-men. They print up (so to speak) a bunch of fake money out of thin air. I can do that too, but no one is going to take “Annabucks” at the coffee shop. Where the government comes in, is that they “tax” people, forcing them to use that money to pay their “taxes”, thereby giving the fake money some sort of base value. In exchange for being the muscle behind this con, they get to use basically as much of that money as they want (up to a limit, they don’t want to spend so much they break the system) which goes largely into the hands of private contractors at the end of the cycle.
The rest of it follows from this basic cycle: the banks flow that money into the big corporations to keep them afloat and help them crush their competition, the government regulates away any opportunities to work outside the system, forcing people to compete to work inside the system. The “insiders” are outside the system in a sense of course. They can basically ignore the law. Once in a while the government has to put on a show trial, just to keep the con going, but by and large they only enforce the law against the outsiders.
You’ll often hear that cliché that only 1 out of 10 small businesses ends up successful. They say that like it’s a law of nature, but it’s not. They have to keep it that way. If 3 out of 10 small businesses were successful, or 4 out of 10, they’d be ruined. If everyone “leveled up” mentally, and became more competent, economically nothing would change for the little guy. They would just adjust the parameters of the system again. In fact, all that would do is make more money for the insiders, because they’d have more to steal. (Which is why they push education so hard, a society with 10 million engineers is a society where engineering is cheap)
Libertarians don’t do their cause any good at all when they try to defend big business on free enterprise grounds. There is no free enterprise at that level. No business is going to become big, in this economy, without approval from the gatekeepers. Free enterprise is a system which never existed, except for brief periods of time during historical social unrest. Once an elite is re-established, it’s back to the game.
By Kevin Carson
It’s gradually emerged in recent months that the Food and Drug Administration not only spied on its employees, but did so on a massive scale — collecting tens of thousands of employee emails to one another, as well as to journalists, members of Congress and congressional staff workers. The FDA also intercepted draft statements to the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates complaints of whistleblower harassment and reprisal. This monitoring, authorized by the agency’s chief counsel, was clearly a deliberate policy of the highest levels of FDA leadership.
So what problem was all the surveillance directed against? Embezzling? Sexual harassment? No. The FDA was out to punish whistleblowers for talking out of school about dangerous radiation levels in medical imaging devices approved by FDA for mammograms and colonoscopies.
That’s right. FDA leadership was out to prevent employees from talking to members of Congress — which the civics books tell us safeguards the public safety and welfare by, among other things, creating regulatory agencies like the FDA — about the very kinds of concerns the FDA was allegedly created to address.
If you think this is just a case of post-Reagan “regulatory capture,” by corporate money, of an agency originally created for idealistic purposes back in Art Schlesinger Jr’s Golden Age — well, think again. The regulatory state hasn’t been “captured” by the regulated industries; it was created by them.
According to New Left historian Gabriel Kolko, in The Triumph of Conservatism, Progressive Era regulatory measures like the FDA were created primarily to serve the corporate economy’s need for stability.
Video: Riot breaks out at police station in Anaheim
ANAHEIM, Calif. – City officials voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate recent police shootings, including one of an unarmed man over the weekend, that have sparked four days of protests and a fiery clash between residents and officers.
Police stepped up patrols and some donned riot gears as hundreds demonstrated outside City Hall while many more packed the council chamber inside to discuss the shootings that have stoked anger over a spike in police shootings in the city. On the street, protesters tossed rocks and bottles at police and ignored warnings to disperse, forcing officers to form skirmish lines and fire pepper balls at the crowd.
At least two people were arrested, police Sgt. Bob Dunn said. At one point, police shut down a gas station when protesters were seen filling cans with gas, Dunn said.
By Anna Morgenstern
Those of us who mistrust the evolution of our current politico-economic system, often look toward dystopian novels to portray a warning glimpse of where we are headed. The two most common examples are 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. While there certainly are elements of each of these systems in our recent history, for instance, the deliberate maleducation and permanent warfare systems of1984, and the technological bread and circuses mentality of Brave New World. In reality our ruling class cannot afford to go too far in either of these directions, lest they undermine our own ability as slave labor to keep them empowered.
The progressive managerial class revolution and the banking mafia consolidation of the early 1900s conspired to create something that looks, more than anything else, like a warped version of Marxism. Taking Marx’s revolutionary mechanics and applying them against their own original objective in a sense, creating a dictatorship of the super-proletariat, and thus, forming a much more stable class system than before. In fact one might say that Marx’s greatest error was in thinking that the proletarian revolution would be some sort of endpoint in history, when in fact it was just one more cyclical change of hands. Therefore, I submit that the dystopian novel that was the most prescient was the lesser known of Orwell’s: Animal Farm.
Animal Farm was Orwell’s warning to the left about what he saw becoming a greater and greater danger. This danger can be summed up in his quote, “All animals are equal, But some animals are more equal than others”. The book was essentially damned with faint praise. Brilliantly written, yet more subtly than 1984, it could not be roundly thrashed by either right or left critics; but it could be put aside as an afterthought.
Looking at the history of what broadly constituted the labor movement arising in the aftermath of the abolition of chattel slavery, one sees a definite progression in the direction of Animal Farm, in the countries that did not fall completely under the spell of Totalitarianism. At first, the goals were often simple and quite egalitarian, and yet also surprisingly libertarian as well. Freedom for the working man from the oppression of the capital oligarchy (which was itself the result of the British/Hamiltonian system of neo-mercantilism) and the wage slavery which resulted from it.
Interesting description of the current sexual marketplace as an artificial market. All those guys you know who screw a lot of women are Omega’s exploiting a niche produced by feminism and urban anonymity. In a tribal society these sort of guys would be killed or expelled by an alliance of alphas and betas; if they could manage to get laid in the first place…. More…
By Paul Buchheit
Wealthy individuals and corporations want us to believe they’ve made it on their own, without the help of government or the American people. Billionaire financier Sanford Weill blustered, “We didn’t rely on somebody else to build what we built.” He was echoing the words of his famous predecessor, the formidable financier J. P. Morgan, who spouted, “I owe the public nothing.”
That’s the bull of Wall Street. There are at least five good reasons why the wealthiest Americans need government as much as the rest of us, and probably more.
In his “People’s History,” Howard Zinn described colonial opposition to inequality in 1765: “A shoemaker named Ebenezer Macintosh led a mob in destroying the house of a rich Boston merchant named Andrew Oliver. Two weeks later, the crowd turned to the home of Thomas Hutchinson, symbol of the rich elite who ruled the colonies in the name of England. They smashed up his house with axes, drank the wine in his wine cellar, and looted the house of its furniture and other objects. A report by colony officials to England said that this was part of a larger scheme in which the houses of fifteen rich people were to be destroyed, as part of ‘a war of plunder, of general levelling and taking away the distinction of rich and poor.’”
That doesn’t happen much anymore. Of course, the super-rich aren’t taking any chances, with panic shelters and James Bond cars and personal surveillance drones. But the U.S. government will be helping them by spending $55 billion on Homeland Security next year, in addition to $673 billion for the military. The police, emergency services, and National Guard are trained to focus on crimes against wealth.
In the cities, business interests keep the police focused on the homeless and unemployed. And on drug users. A “Broken Windows” mentality, which promotes quick fixes of minor damage to discourage large-scale destruction, is being applied to human beings. Wealthy Americans can rest better at night knowing that the police are “stopping and frisking” in the streets of the poor neighborhoods.
By Kevin Carson
In last month’s Rio +20 (UN Conference for Sustainable Development) declaration, “The Economy We Need,”RIPESS (French acronym for Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social and Solidarity Economy) dismisses the “so-called green economy” model promulgated “by governments and corporations” with the contempt it deserves.
There are at least two problems with the green economy movement. The first is highlighted in the RIPESS declaration: It is really a greenwashed attempt to create a new, greenwashed model of capital accumulation for global corporate capitalism, based on “the commodification of the commons.”
Green (or Progressive, or Cognitive) Capitalism, like the first Industrial Revolution, is based on a large-scale process of primitive accumulation (a technical term Marxists use that means “massive robbery”).
The primitive accumulation preceding the rise of the factory system in industrial Britain involved the enclosure of common lands: First of a major portion of the Open Fields for sheep pasturage over several centuries in late medieval and early modern times, then the Parliamentary Enclosures of common pasture, woodland and waste in the 18th century.
The new greenwashed model of corporate-state capitalism, as the RIPESS declaration suggests, achieves primitive accumulation through the enclosure of the information commons. Economist Paul Romer calls it the “new growth theory.” It’s based on enclosing digital information and innovation — things which are naturally free — as a source of rents. This “progressive” model of capitalism, promoted by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Bono, is even more heavily reliant on patents and copyrights than the existing version of corporate capitalism.
By Stuart Bramhall
In a shelter for homeless runaway teens in New Delhi, the residents have created an unlikely society where everything from healthcare to banking has been initiated, implemented and executed by the kids themselves.
The Question of Teen Age Rights
Makes you wonder whether know India will join Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and the Isle of Man, in letting teenagers vote at 16. Surely if adolescents are old enough to work and pay taxes, they are old enough to vote – taxation without representation was a driving issue in America’s rebellion against Britain.
I blog about this at Lowering the Voting Age. Teenage rights and the tendency of US and other western countries to infantalize adolescents is a major premise of my young adult novel The Battle for Tomorrow – about a 16 year old who leaves home to participate in the blockade and occupation of the US capitol.
I’m working on a sequel about a group of teens who occupy a vacant commercial building in Brooklyn and transform it into a teen homeless shelter. As the New Delhi example shows, adolescents are capable of incredible initiative. They just need to be allowed the opportunity to exercise it.
From Mad for Monaco
Once upon a time money problems were the rule rather than the exception in the Principality of Monaco. The Grimaldis seemed to be constantly cash-strapped and one of the things that had to be considered when marriage discussions were going on was usually how big a dowry the lady in question could provide. However, all of that began to change during the reign of HSH Prince Charles III, though it was not the events of his time which would bring really lasting success. Financial problems mostly became a thing of the past under Charles III because of the gaming industry, done in grand style in Monte Carlo at a time when gambling was illegal almost everywhere else. That, obviously, gave Monaco a considerable advantage when it came to attracting big-spending tourists. The gaming industry put Monaco on solid financial ground but it could not depend on such an industry forever. During the reign of HSH Prince Albert I more countries legalized gambling which cut into Monegasque profits and there was World War One which caused tourism to dry up and also cut down on the traditional customer base of Monte Carlo (royals and aristocrats). However, from that time on, particularly under Albert’s successors Louis II and Rainier III, Monaco adopted the policies that would lead to lasting economic success. Could other countries learn from her example?
From Kyle’s Corner.
It’s official, the commies are winning. Recent Pew polls have shown a slow but consistent increase in socialism’s popularity, despite a 50 year Cold War fought ostensibly against the concept. Youth 18-29 years of age (AKA the future) now prefer socialism over capitalism, and one in three Americans at large now has a positive view of socialist ideology. On the other hand the term “capitalism” is falling from favor. Pollsters and tacticians are warning GOP mouthpieces against using the term and requesting instead that they use the phrase “free market” or “free enterprise”. The phrase “free market” is certainly more palatable to the public, but the growing hordes of commies have great animosity towards even this terminology. Why?
According to the commies and their sympathizers (which likely includes a significant portion of your family, friends, and neighbors) the free market is evil. If laissez faire economics is instituted in America workers will be “exploited”. Children will work in mines or perhaps as chimney sweeps a la Charles Dickens. They clamor for putting “people above profits!” and they constantly complain about the heartlessness of the market. They mock the invisible hand that Adam Smith spoke of, referring to it as superstitious nonsense. How little they know.
The Lockean concepts of private property and free markets have lifted large portions of the world out of destitution. What’s cruel, cold, and inhumane is opposing this great instrument of wealth creation.