Tuesday 29 May 2018

An Economic Parable.

The chickens were alarmed. Every Sunday, a couple hours before lunch, a chicken would go missing, never to be seen again. Nobody knew why or what happened to them. Was there something in common in those disappearances? No one could say.

After intense debate and much speculation, the flock decided to approach the farmer with their concern.

“Do you know what’s going on?” -- they asked Old MacDonald.

Friday 25 May 2018

The Preconditions of Socialism: a Critical Review (iv)

“What’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander”. English proverb, 17th century.

After the last post, I think I am in position to offer a general -- impressionistic, if you like -- assessment of Preconditions, for those readers less than vitally interested in details. A real attempt to decipher his argument must of necessity take more time.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Mean-Spirited Ideas.

Zach Carter:
“Politicians don’t generally turn to economists for new insight into how the world works. Economists instead serve as a kind of credibility shield - experts who can be trotted out to assure the public that there are very complex and sophisticated reasons political leaders should be doing the things they do. A big part of any Washington economics job is providing a sense of scientific certainty to political judgments that are, by their very nature, uncertain. This is true for big policy changes as well as straightforward tasks like projecting growth rates and government revenue.
“The job, in other words, is to back up your team.”
John Maynard Keynes:
“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.”
Call me cynical, but I think someone was bullshitting us, and that someone isn’t Carter.

Friday 18 May 2018

The Preconditions of Socialism: a Critical Review (iii)

After a week’s pause, it’s time to go back to Preconditions. Last time we examined that book’s general content and its Cold War re-discovery.

Suppose the reader, intent on saving him/herself a time-consuming engagement with Bernstein’s “scholastic” (his own term) argument decided instead to jump straight in Chapter 3 of Preconditions (2 of Evolutionary) where he makes his empirical argument.

Although perhaps unfamiliar with details, the reader is, of course, aware of Bernstein’s general intent, and particularly of what his final goal (pun intended) is: he is there to fell Marxism, much like a logger fells an old tree [“In principle, Marxism stands or falls with this theory” (p. 12)]

In section b of that chapter (P3§b E2§b) after presenting his statement of what Marxism explains, Bernstein asked himself the following question: “Now, is all this correct?” (p. 57, "Now, is all that right?" in Evolutionary).

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Predictions and Economic Debate.

Before going into matters, I want to register my protest against the massacre perpetrated by the Israeli racist government of Benjamin Netanyahu against Palestinian demonstrators.

I also want to protest against the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who as always are ready to spin excuses for the inexcusable.

You don't speak for me. I don't condone crimes against humanity.


The Job Guarantee MMTers promote seems to be getting some public attention in the US. Not only that, recently Prof. William “Bill” Mitchell and co-author Thomas Fazi had an article in the popular Jacobin Magazine.

Personally, I can see the attraction of a JG, and I myself am not immune to it, although as a Marxist I have doubts about its political feasibility and its longer-term implications. But I am no expert.

Saturday 12 May 2018

Unfrequently Asked Questions: Marx and Marxism (i)

Prof. Peter Dorman generously posted the slides of his lectures on Marx and Marxism: one on Historical Materialism, the other on Marxist Economics. After looking at them carefully,  I’ve noticed a few things.

Of the two lectures the one that caught my attention more profoundly was the second, where Prof. Dorman repeatedly asks questions about subjects which he evidently feels are unclear. Although I am not sure Prof. Dorman expects answers (let alone from me), as time permits, I’ll try to answer them to the best of my admittedly limited ability. Where I feel unable to answer (particularly the more technical ones), I’ll ask for more details.

Thursday 10 May 2018

Noah Smith, a New Reader?

Noah Smith:
“In other words, real socialist success has been of the gradual, incrementalist kind, more in line with the visions of thinkers like Eduard Bernstein than to the dramatic, violent prophecies of Marx. …
“So although Marx was far-sighted in identifying some of the problems of capitalism, he got the solution very wrong. Remembering this is the best way to commemorate his birthday.”
Let me paraphrase Brad DeLong, self-proclaimed neoliberal freak who flies his flag high on the benefits of globalisation, bona fide genius, central planner extraordinaire and greatest of all experts on Marx, whose authority Smith invokes (I'm not kidding, he really does: check DeLong's post,  particularly the third paragraph, and compare it to Smith's article): Anybody think that Noah Smith actually read Marx or Bernstein, and set out to fairly summarize their views to his readers? Anybody? Anybody? Matt?

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Harrison: Socialism and Bernstein.

So far, most of the material I’ve employed to discuss Eduard Bernstein’s Preconditions of Socialism did not come from his supporters. Bernstein’s own memoirs of exile proved to be of little help: it only contains the most superficial account of his 1880 meeting with Engels and Marx.

Friday 4 May 2018

The Preconditions of Socialism: a Critical Review (ii)

“The importance of a work, however, cannot be judged solely on an absolute plane; one should also take into account its influence and its political function.” (Zeev Sternhell et al, The Birth of Fascist Ideology)

Below, side by side, are the tables of contents of Evolutionary Socialism (first Schocken Books paperback edition 1961, fourth printing 1967) and The Preconditions of Socialism (Cambridge University Press, 1993, reprinted 2004)

(right-click to open a larger version in a separate browser tab)

That of Evolutionary corresponds exactly to the version hosted by the Marxists Internet Archive. As reflected above, both tables show only what Bernstein wrote.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

May Day.

On November 11, 1887, in Chicago,
in the courtyard of the prison,
execution by hanging of anarchists
August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph
Fischer, and George Engel. [A]

Today workers worldwide commemorate May Day. David Fields tells the brief origins of May Day, and the gross miscarriage of justice that followed, where police, justice, media, middle-class society, and bosses confabulated to imprison and murder workers innocent of the concocted charges they had been accused of.