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Macho posturing and a scepticism built on nothing… yeah, that’s a facet of contemporary politics. June 6, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I’m no great fan of Kathy Sheridan in the Irish Times, but in the course of this column recently she makes a good point, or at least a half-good point, that perhaps requires further consideration.

Writing about contemporary politics – in particular the Brexit debate and the rise of Trump she laments a ‘hyper-masculine’ and macho posturing that seems to have become all too common in political discourse, and not just in terms of online engagements but in relation to actual political activity. How else to explain the (for most of us) all too resistable rise of Boris Johnson or that of Trump? There is a parading of ignorance as a functional virtue.

But it goes deeper. She notes a depressing exchange on Radio 4 where:

… [a] school-leaver … who said he would take “no lecturing” from the treasury, then confidently admitted he had not acquainted himself with the facts and figures.

The point isn’t the school-leavers scepticism. It is that it is a scepticism built on nothing. It’s a good thing to question the Treasury, or the IMF or whoever. But it has to be a questioning based on engagement, not an abdication of or celebration of an abdication of engagement.

Let’s put it another way. There’s no getting around the fact that economic activity in this state is strengthening. And while there’s a strong element of truth in the contention that there’s a disparity between urban and rural areas, east coast and west, there are solid signs that it is picking up all over. But one has to have an acquaintance with the facts to also note that unemployment rates are lower in part due to emigration. That those figures are lower too due to numbers in ‘training’ etc. That there are many factors that feed into the picture. So yes, improving, strengthening, but far from the utopian situation some present it as. And all this has to be contextualised in the whittling away of state provision and services across the last decade or so.

Only engagement with that allows one to construct useful or telling counter-arguments to governing narratives. And more importantly, there’s no inevitability about this aspect of contemporary politics lasting indefinitely. Anything but. Putting Brexit aside, due in part to its unique characteristics, it will be educative to see how Trump fares in the national contest in the US. There was already a hint of a push-back last week from the US media. At the least he should expect more. Perhaps the toxic blend of know nothingness will falter in the face of some genuine critique.


1. dublinstreams - June 6, 2016

a broader sense of whats happening in the world and how Treasury, or the IMF or whoever has acted, I don’t think it comes from nowhere.

Liked by 1 person

2. Gewerkschaftler - June 6, 2016

Talking of having a clue…

One of Steve Keen’s big ideas is that private (non-state) debt and changes in private indebtedness matters in macroeconomic modeling. To the point that financial crises can’t be modeled without it. This is something even the majority of Modern Monetary Theorists dispute, and is certainly beyond the ken of neo-classical economists and pseudo-Keynsians like Krugman.

I’ve yet to encounter a convincing Marxist model for the role of private debt in capitalist crises.

Anyhow Keen has looked at new data from the Bank of International Settlements to develop a predictor for which economies are likely become economic zombies due to a private debt crisis like the one that Ireland experienced between arguably 2006 and 2012.

He mentions Ireland’s recent slight recovery en passant and this is where this comment becomes relevant. Keen puts it all down to a small increase in private lending. Nothing else.

What is called ‘austerity’ (i.e. transfer of resources from the poor and public to the rich and private) if anything hindered any kind of an uptick, in his opinion.


Gewerkschaftler - June 6, 2016

Watch the video. It’s worth it and the maths really isn’t difficult.


gendjinn - June 6, 2016

Private debt supports all business and so a reduction in availability and/or deterioration of terms which would seem to have an obvious knock on effect upon business activity and therefore GDP.

The model is using new credit issued. Makes me reflect on the institutions that get to decide whether to issue credit or not.


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