When it comes to conflict, I have to drop the Socratic advice Know Thyself. I would rather Know Your Enemy. In the case of economic justice, that means I read The Economist, a London-based weekly newsmagazine which caters to the rich. This is the informed voice of Capital.
To be honest, the initial attraction of reading The Economist was not its insider view of business and investment opportunities, but simply its lack of condescension, so evident in the U.S. press, toward the Third World. Back when I was a graduate student I found the attitude of the news media in this country, that, for example, the nations of Africa were only newsworthy for their tribal leaders taking another overweight wife, or that the nations of the Pacific Rim were mentioned only as tourist destinations, insulting, both intellectually and morally. This active fostering of ignorance had just gotten us into the War in Vietnam.
In striking contrast to that condescending view of the rest of the world, The Economist regarded every part of the globe as interesting in its own right, as a possible means of returning profit on investment, and so worth the effort to understand. Each story spoke of the political opposition and the issues mobilizing it, the prospects for economic reform, and other aspects of life in some remote part of the world, seen from those living there. In the fifty years since, I’ve read that journal as regularly as possible.
It didn’t take long for me to realize, however, that the basic attitude of The Economist was the defense and extension of capitalism. It cheered the war in Vietnam, and showed little or no opposition to the many aggressive wars launched by the United States since. It was “a failure of nerve” that led the U.S. to withdraw from a disastrous invasion of Indochina. I can’t quote from memory the language used to buttress the other war crimes of American Imperialism, but they were frequent and continuous. Along with the serious inspection of foreign affairs went a prior commitment to the maintenance of American world hegemony.
So, imagine my surprise when I find a columnn in the 14 June issue of The Economist
which supports the financial wisdom of the average investor as opposed to that of the elite professional. You see those little spikes at the beginning of each recession, for the “Household surveys” line? It shows willingness to change, here called “Dispersion of forecasters’ views”. And the Professionals — do you see that they only are willing to change near the end of the recession, when everyone else has already started selling? “[T]he researchers find that the views of retail investors,” says the writer of the column,
show a sharp rise in dispersion just before recessions, whereas the views of professional forecasters do not diverge until the tail end of recessions. In other words, the amateurs are better at forecasting downturns than the experts.
In a Marxist perspective, this suggests that the average person is better at predicting important historical turns than the professionals. Their vote in elections is a better guarantee than that of the professional politicians that the safety and security of the nation will be protected. Even the mouthpiece of International Capital has to admit that Democracy works.
To spin this in another analogy, if I may mix my metaphors, when all the reviewers pan a movie or play, and yet the piece draws mobs of viewers, the usual judgement of the intelligent observer is, that the reviewers missed something important.
And to bring you up to date, folks, let’s look at the growth (or lack of it) of the real — that is, corrected for inflation — gross domestic product, the closely-watched GDP. Here is the “preliminary” measure, from a couple of months ago:
and here is the updated version, from the same source, the Federal Reserve Bank’s statisticians:
We’re only interested in the rightmost, that is, most recent, bar; the thing is, in the course of being updated it has gone from a loss of about one percent to a loss of about three percent. Kevin Drum in the progressively-oriented newsmagazine Mother Jones writes that
Everyone is brushing this off because other economic signals suggest it was a one-off event.
One more quarter of what the eternal optimists are pleased to term “negative growth” would bring us into an official “recession”. The R-word. So, who yoo gonna beleev, expurts or your own lyin’ eyes?
Update 30 July 2014 I was wrong.
Update 9 Novem 2014
You see that little bit of red as you go out to the right? — that was my proposal for a double-dip recession.