Monday, August 23, 2010

Ron Paul

After I quick read through, I think Ron Paul gets this thing exactly right. I may be missing something in the fine print, and I'd still like to think socialism could be as right on this issue as libertarianism (i.e., that another set of principles could imply the same conclusion.) But, in any case,

"We now have an epidemic of 'sunshine patriots' on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there’s no controversy and nobody is offended."

That nails it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Failures to Communicate

Deference is to obedience as reference is to understanding. To defer, that is, is not exactly to obey, but it may nonetheless display an "understanding" of the power implicit in a situation. Likewise, a mere reference to something does not demonstrate any depth of understanding, but it may display a rudimentary grasp of what is known.

What is interesting here, in fact, is how an incorrect reference may demonstrate a lack of understanding quite unequivocally. Likewise, failing to defer to power (or deferring to the wrong the person) can constitute an unequivocal act of disobedience.

That famous line from Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate," nicely captures the homology of misunderstanding and disobedience.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reference and Deference

My knowledge is beholden to a system of reference, to identifications of named things. My power is beholden to a system of deference, to differentiations from named people. Indeed, only things actually have identities, i.e., only things are that which they are. People (you and I and them) are not simply who we are. Our existence is our difference from others. That is why our knowledge of things is conditioned by reference (knowledge is a capacity for accurate reference) and our power over people is conditioned by deference (power is a capacity for accurate deference).

When I "identify" a person, I am not merely saying, "This body goes by this name." I am saying, "This is not my body. I will defer to this body under such and such circumstances." No general principles define those circumstances. They are determined exactly by who the person is, and who the person quite specifically is not, namely, I. The person's name, then, does not simply refer to the person. Instead, the name stands for a particular apparatus of (set of dispositions for) deference in me. My power is implicit in that apparatus. "Accuracy of deference" means simply that I defer to the "right" people.

See also: "Notes on the Practice of Deference"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Freedom and Limits

You are limited by your understanding and misunderstanding of statements. You are free to obey and disobey commands.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Scandal

It seems to me that the scandal of the current financial system is that the closer you get the source of the money, i.e., the place where it is printed, issued, and gets leveraged into purchasing power (as credit), the more money you are in a position to make. Banking should be a much less ambitious business. Perhaps it shouldn't be a business at all. All banks have to do is ensure there is enough money to facilitate the circulation of goods. It seems obvious that if someone is in a position to make a profit simply by printing money (and keeping some of it) then "someone" will do exactly that. And this will put too much money into circulation. In effect, the "wealth" of our bankers consists in money they created out of thin air, distributing some (for show) and keeping some (for themselves). So-called "derivatives" were merely a shell game to conceal the operation.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Jefferson/Pound redux

While on vacation, I read Simon Johnson and James Kwak's 13 Bankers. The closing paragraph of this wholly convincing, if perhaps too affable, analysis of the financial system reads as follows:

Even when it goes out of fashion, Thomas Jefferson’s suspicion of concentrated power remains an essential thread in the fabric of American democracy. The financial crisis of 2007-2009 has made Jefferson a little less out of fashion. It is that tradition of skepticism that, if anything, can shift the weight of public opinion against our new financial oligarchy—the most law-abiding, hardworking, eloquent, well-dressed oligarchy in the history of politics. It is to help reinvigorate that spirit of Jefferson that we have written this book. (222)

If Jefferson is going to be "a little less out of fashion", then perhaps Pound can be hip again, too? In the late-1930s, he argued for a "revival" of what he called "American civilization", namely, America in the spirit of Henry Adams and Thomas Jefferson (ca. 1760 to 1830). In a sense, Johnson and Kwak argued that this revival actually came about (with the various banking reforms that came out of the Great Depression), though Pound was not of course satisfied. The "reinvigoration" that Johnson and Kwak are hoping for is much less radical than Pound's "revival", but, as the name of Jefferson indicates, is thought in the same "spirit". As Pound put it:

'As monument' or I should prefer to say as a still workable dynamo, left us from the real period, nothing surpasses the Jefferson correspondence. Or to reduce it to convenient bulk concentrating on the best of it, and its fullest implications, nothing surpasses the evidence that CIVILIZATION WAS in America, than the series of letters exchanged between Jefferson and John Adams, during the decade of reconciliation after their disagreements.

I'm going to spend a few posts this month thinking this through.