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View Diary: The failure of Austerity (144 comments)

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  •  He sez he likes Lincoln, he should emulate the man (1+ / 0-)
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    Matt Z

    I'm a James McPherson junkie, just finished his Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief.  One thing McPherson stresses is Lincoln's intense interest in self-education.  Lincoln went on a self-study crash course on the art of war, strategy, and military history in the first months of his presidency.  He came to understand on an intuitive level what was needed to defeat the South.  Lincoln's advice to his generals was often ignored in the first years of the war, despite that he was right.  His ideas, when applied by Grant and others later in the war, brought victory.  Not only that, but Lincoln cultivated an intense interest in military technology, encouraging and even pushing forward new types of rifles and naval technology.

    Obama's a smart guy, and studying economics isn't like trying to get up to speed on Clausewitz in the middle of war.  He's got no excuse for cracking a book in the privacy of his office for an hour or two each day.  So, Mr. President, you've got no excuses.  Grab some books by Krugman and Galbraith, and gun up your brain.

    "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

    by rbird on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 12:47:51 PM PST

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    •  But there are NO economics books worth reading (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z

      I've quoted and re-quoted this comment of mine three or four times the past two years:

      Stop and think: on economics, who could Obama possibly call that would give him an alternative view to mainstream economics? Try a little test, if you have one or more college economics textbooks on your bookshelf. Look at the index, and see if the word "usury" appears.

      I used Amazon’s look inside function to check some of the most popular economics textbooks.


      "Usury" in not in the index of N. Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics, reportedly the most used economics textbook today.  I could not check the newest Nordhause edition of Paul Samuelson’s Economics, which used to be the most assigned economics textbook, but the word "Usury" does not appear in the recent reprinting of Samuelson’s original 1948 Edition. How about International Economics: Theory and Policy, by Paul R. Krugman and Maurice Obstfeld. Nope, not there either. Macroeconomics: Principles and Policy, by



      William J. Baumol and Alan S. Blinder? Nope. Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, by Robert B. Reich? Not there, either. How about Joseph E. Stiglitz?  No, I could not find "usury" in the index of two of his books, Making Globalization Work (2007), and Globalization and Its Discontents (2003). I have a copy of James K. Galbraith’s The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, and "usury" is not in that book. Neither is it in Simon Johnson’s and James Kwak’s 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown.

      What’s the point I’m trying to make? Simple: the field and profession of economics today has been thoroughly purged of anyone who would dare to insist on making moral judgments about economic outcomes. This is the complete triumph of Milton Friedman’s radical "free market" "free trade" economic "neo-liberalism." The fact is that the issue of usury was one of the most contentious and persistent in Western history. The practice of usury has destroyed kingdoms and nations through all of recorded human history, yet American economics today has excised the issue entirely from its academic corpus of work. One of the few economists willing to openly discuss the problem of usury is Michael Hudson. I very highly recommend that everyone spend the rest of the evening reading his excellent 1993 study, The Lost Tradition of Biblical Debt Cancellations, in which you can learn that


      In 1516 Martin Luther preached a sermon on the Eighth Commandment, classifying usury as a form of theft and warning that it was destroying cities much as a worm destroys an apple from within its core. Jews were forbidden from taking interest from one another (permitted to charge it only to outsiders), but Christians charged it to their own brethren. The papacy itself sponsored the Italian bankers to drain money to Rome. In a similar vein, John Calvin, in the final year of his life, wrote a commentary on Ezekiel (published in 1565), defining fraud and usury as theft. He held that wealthy lenders were as guilty as robbers and highwaymen in breaking the Eighth Commandment (Hyma 1951:283ff., 443ff.).




      So, what panel of economic experts can the President convene that will tell him about the problem of usury, and how it is destroying our republic? Except for Hudson, there are no such experts. As Hudson writes near the beginning of his study:


      what was radically disturbing in archaic times was the idea of unrestrained wealth-seeking. It took thousands of years for the idea of progress to become inverted, to connote freedom for the wealthy to deprive the peasantry of their lands and personal liberty.




      Can any single individual, even if they hold the office of President of the United States, be expected to learn an economics concept that the entire effing economics profession refuses to even discuss or even acknowledge? This is a problem not just with conservatives, but, as the list of economics textbooks above shows, with liberals and progressives, including some of the very best we have in economics.


      I think the only book worth reading on political economy at this point in Jonathon Larson's 1992 Elegant Technology: Economic Prosperity from an Environmental Blueprint, which is available free as a pdf online. At the very least, read Larson's Chapter 6 "Money!" which explicitly defines when interest rates become usury.

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 01:56:54 PM PST

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      •  I disagree. nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pHunbalanced

        "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

        by rbird on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 03:17:03 PM PST

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        •  I hope there are more economics books worth (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Matt Z

          reading out there. I hope you have a title and author to suggest. That's text books, though, not books on the topics of economics, such as Galbraith's The Predator State, or his father's Economics in Perspective (which I also recommend as a good overview of economics, though it is not a textbook, now was intended to be I think) or Johnson and Kwak's Thirteen Bankers.

          A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

          by NBBooks on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 03:43:37 PM PST

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          •  You ought to have specified textbooks. (0+ / 0-)

            There are many econ books worth reading, but you are correct about econ textbooks. Obviously, the Samuelson is worthwhile as a point of reference, but it is really not good for truly understanding the economy.

            Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or

            by pHunbalanced on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 06:20:27 PM PST

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          •  It ruins the joke if I have to explain the joke... (0+ / 0-)

            ....Initial post about Lincoln and Obama emulating Lincoln's devotion to self-improvement by studying economics.  You respond with an insanely long post about economics textbooks - or something.

            My response:  one line.

            Get it?  Get it?  Never mind......

            "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

            by rbird on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 07:16:38 PM PST

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