Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment

You can only consume so much, but you can hedge against risk to an unlimited degree, and the ultra-wealthy do, suggests Interfluidity, and this makes a mess of a consumption-based economy when you get too much wealth concentrated in a few actors.  It’s an interesting argument, but it does kind of hinge on a zero-sum game setting — insurance against risk going only to the highest of bidders (lifeboats on a libertarian Titanic).  WWII as a giant re-set button, leading to a temporary age of prosperity.  What’s the next re-set?  Climate change seems like a good candidate…

A Little White Lie-Bor

Turns out the world’s megabanks have engaged in a rate-fixing fraud for years.  The London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is an interest rate index that literally hundreds of trillions of dollars in financial instruments are pegged to.  And how is it set?  Well, someone phones up 18 duuudes around London every day and says “Yo, if you were gonna borrow money from some other bank right now, what rate would they charge you?”  And they can answer with whatever wild-ass-guess they want.  So they lied, in order to make themselves more money.  Shocking, I know.  Seems like the one thing you can trust banks to do is cheat when given the opportunity.

Wall Street Isn’t Winning, It’s Cheating

Matt Taibbi blows his stack at a fellow commentator who accuses the OWS protestors of simply being envious of the rich.  He gives a litany of examples of how, in fact, the Wall St. illuminati have gotten to where they are by cheating and gaming the system, or at the very best, by being lucky.  Not through hard work or supernatural skill.  Being pissed off about that isn’t being jealous of someone else’s success.  At what point do the “deviant” and “legitimate” financial sectors simply merge, with little to nothing in the way of externally imposed rules governing what’s acceptable, and what’s not?

Legalizing Crowdfunded Startups

Crowdfunding, Why the SEC Bans It, Obama Wants It, and Banks Fear It.  Kickstarter would be illegal if you were making investments in a business, instead of donations to a cause.  Even so, people have raised on occasion hundreds of thousands of dollars via the site for honor-system bound innovation.  Hopefully this will be legitimized soon.

A license to lie, backdated

Investment management firms have license to lie, backdated, courtesy of the Supreme Court decision in the Janus case.  It’s hard to believe, but the court decided that ultimately, nobody could be held accountable for misleading statements made in the mutual fund’s prospectus.  All the more reason to go with Vanguard, as it is the only mutual fund company which is wholly owned by the people whose money they manage, making it in effect a large investing cooperative.

Climate of Denial

Understanding American climate change politics by analogy with the World Wrestling Federation.  The Carbon Lobby is the “evil” wrestler, scientists the “good” one, and the media plays referee.  The kind of referee that’s always preoccupied with something outside the ring when the bad guy starts beating the good guy up with a chair.  From Rolling Stone of course.

For Richer or for Poorer: How Much is “Enough”?

I am wearing a sweater.  It was made in Italy, from some of the fuzziest sheepies on the planet.  New it cost more than $100; I know because it had the original tags on it when I bought it, never worn.  I got it for $3 at a thrift store, because it was irresistibly tasty to the ubiquitous keratin loving Tineidae moths — like some of my other woolens, it has a few holes.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t soft and warm.  Last night my friend Elana got a cute little Smartwool top for $6 that would have cost $60 across the parking lot at Neptune’s: another 90% discount courtesy of the insect world.  This is a repeatable exercise.  How do these things lose virtually all of their monetary value, while retaining so much of their sweatery goodness?  The answer I think, is that we have imbued many material things with powers beyond their physical existence.  A merino sweater is not just a way to stay warm and dry while riding your bike uphill.  It is also a way to signal to the other hairless apes that you are of a certain class, or even ideological bent.  Our things have become a means of communication, a way of transmitting information.  These are some very expensive bits and bytes.

I realize that this isn’t news.  We’ve been doing this kind of thing with shells and feathers for almost as long as we’ve been human.  I only bring it up because recently, I’ve found that the information these artifacts transmit to me has been turned on its head.  Having a thing only implies wealth if you have to pay for the thing ahead of time.  In a debt based economy, having a thing means you have promised your future labors to the Rumpelstiltskin thing-brokers far away in their tall sky scrapers.  Today, to have a thing more often implies a kind of indentured servitude.  A poverty of time and flexibility.  And what other kind of poverty is there, really?  What other kind of wealth besides the freedom to choose how you spend your few remaining days on Earth?

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