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Showing posts from November 28, 2010

Busting the joint out

LI hopes, someday, to hammer with his little hammer and nails one little dictum into the American mind (that mountain of quivering balony, that Etna of bullshit): you can not indefinitely support an income spread a la 1900 and a social welfare network a la 1965. Yes, the neo-liberals will claim that the lion and the lamb can lie down together, and that a paradise of growth will infuse us all with the milk of human kindness and good medical coverage. But besides the fact that growth, when one begins to examine the constituents out of which it is measured, seems to be a funny way of looking at human well being – and besides the fact that growth, inconveniently enough, was much better under the non neo-liberal bad times from 1945 to 1980 – there is, of course, a sort of blindness in this belief. It is as if the neo-libs want to defend the wealthy without ever asking themselves – why be wealthy? After all, how many lunches can one highly overpaid CEO gobble in a day? Wealth is power, and

The book is rejected, and LI is bummed

Well, the agent to whom I sent my proposal letter had one his factotums respond that it wasn’t the type of project for the agent’s “list”. No explanation, but I imagine that the factotum was the one assigned to the task of delicately warding off the cranks. And, admittedly, I am a crank. Well, fuck it. I was bummed for a bit. But I still think that this small book works – it would be an excellent intro to my larger, more flou happiness book. If – I told myself, awake in the hollows of 3 a.m. as the snow began to really accumulate on the streets of Paris – if I just made a first chapter, some 10,000 word consideration of how, a, we moderns have come to at least accept the myth of homo economicus, and b., how economics, in its policy designs, has tried to impress the character of homo economicus upon capitalist societies. Unfortunately, the story I want to tell has more than just one linear narrative – because in telling this story of the moderns, I am concerned to show that the moder

Ireland and Pareto

Ireland and Pareto It is a tale often told by the economist, this one of Pareto optimization. The tale goes that, in the Pareto optimal state, we reach a sort of distributional heaven, in which no person can gain any utility without that gain being made at the expense of somebody else in heaven. But the tale contains a paradox, of the kind associated with Zeno. To advance to this state, we must move through Pareto superior arrangements. These arrangements subtly reverse the terms of the optimum. A Pareto superior arrangement is one in which one party – or shall we say the owners? – may gain utility, but without any other party in our heaven losing it. This, we are assured, improves the entire set – all of heaven rejoices when one sinner is forgiven – or when one of the archangels receives a nice golden parachute and stock options amounting to 400 million dollars. This, of course, is the neo-liberal heaven on earth, and the dispensation by which our rulers rule us. It is, however, a cu

Harpagon 1

The miser is a figure, a character, who exists, in the ancient world and the early modern world, in terms of comedy and vice. He is usually old. He is usually miserable. In terms of Simmel’s schema of money, he is perverted in a key way: he has forgotten the function of money as a means, and in this way, he has forgotten the ends of life. “When one wants to grasp human fate in the schema of the relationships between the wish and its object, one must say that money, in relation to the stopping point in the series of ends, is really the most inadequate, as well as the most adequate object of our desire.” Moliere’s miser, Harpagon, can certainly be seen from this side of things. If we look at the sexual objects of desire in play, here, from the beginning we have two secret love matches - of Harpagon’s daughter and son – that contrast with Harpagon’s own overt desire for his son’s choice, Mariane, a space that has been opened by a fact mentioned in the very first scenes – the mother in