We have a veritable industry these days on the center-left seeking to convince us that debt, while bad, isn’t quite as horrible as we might think. These Debt Justifiers, mostly self proclaimed Keynesians, remind me of purveyors of junk food in that they offer us nothing but a diet guaranteeing collective weakness.
We see it well illustrated today in a post by Dylan Matthews appropriately entitled “Why do people hate deficits?”. Unsurprisingly, it’s strongly recommended by that prime junk food purveyor of all, Paul Krugman.
The essential truth so very well hidden by these Debt Justifiers, however, is that we as a people are in a horribly demeaned position. As individuals, we are little more than commodities desperate to sell ourselves in a globalized “labor market” dominated by incredibly powerful oligopolistic “bosses”. We are mere “employees” and, as such, lack just about all agency.
We are as a society like we are as individuals, existing in a state of extreme weakness under the thumb of our collective boss, the financial markets. The prime question we’re prompted to ask by the Debt Justifiers is whether or not we can possibly afford to borrow ever more from this collective boss. Can we, as a society of mere employees, afford to keep borrowing in order to maintain a quasi-civilized way of life? The Debt Justifier, like a mortgage hustler, says don’t worry – yes we can. But the very question itself is completely sterile and does nothing but expose our collective dependence.
There is only one healthy way to act as a society, and that’s to firmly assert collective agency and stand up, against the power of the boss, and begin producing in a manner and level that brings about widespread prosperity. We demonstrate health when we speak of collective real productivity and technological capacity and quality of life and monetary sovereignty; we remain bedridden in sickness when we stay mired with the Debt Justifiers.
As the head of the American oligarchy, Barack Obama regally conveyed his very warmest condolences today to the British Nobility who mourns the passing of the Baroness Margaret Thatcher. While a statement of condolence on strictly humanitarian grounds is certainly appropriate, I find Obama’s flowery tone disgusting in light of the fact that the British, American, and global working majority had few enemies more powerful.
Let’s briefly recall her career before passing on to Obama’s adoring remarks. Thatcher made a name for herself early on by bravely slashing milk subsidies for young children and becoming thus known as “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. An avid follower of Hayek, she was the public face of the British movement against the Keynesian and welfare state which had advanced median incomes to their highest historical levels.
Like her compatriot Ronald Reagan, Thatcher drastically lowered taxes on income, reduced social spending, privatized public services, and deregulated the financial sector. She instituted the hated per capita poll tax which led to riots and an eventual reversal by her successor. The Baroness sought to destroy the labor unions and was quite successful in that endeavor.
Her fight for the powerful was carried on internationally as well: she opposed sanctions against apartheid South Africa, supported the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, sought the release of Pinochet, supported the British and US invasion of Iraq, and so on.
Her legacy was much like that of Reagan, aptly summed up by Baron Geoffrey Howe:
“Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.”
And what exactly is the philosophy of Thatcherism? Let’s go to the Iron Lady herself:
“…who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”
Thatherism is simply neoliberal capitalism, nothing more, nothing less. And Thatcherism lives quite strongly in the Obama White House. Taking a few moments from his efforts to slash social security, our man of Hope and Change offered these adoring words on his intellectual parent:
With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend….As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered…. As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best…. Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will. Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Thatcher family and all the British people as we carry on the work to which she dedicated her life—free peoples standing together, determined to write our own destiny.
Linking Thatcher with freedom and liberty is odious and clearly demonstrates the fundamentally hierarchical class-based ideology of Obama and the Democratic Party. It’s not just the praise of Thatcher along with the use of her aristocratic title though which is objectionable. It’s the acceptance, indeed praise, of a grossly unequal system of hierarchy. Obama trumpets the fact that a mere grocer’s daughter can rise to the top, proof he says there’s “no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered”. The world view incorporated here is one that sees a hierarchical pecking order of occupations, one in which the grocer ranks lowly. Inequality of position is perfectly acceptable as long as those with “merit” can rise to their proper station. Regardless of whether the high position is due to “merit” or birth or money, though, the hierarchy of inequality remains and the grocer and similarly low positions struggle while those at the top glory in their freedom. We’ve replaced noble birth with “merit”, but all else remains the same and the world of barons continues on.
I couldn’t agree more with Steven Rattner, Wall Street financier, former Obama “car czar”, and self proclaimed centrist: we need to “Reclaim the Center”. There are few terms in our political discourse more abused than “the center”, having as it does the valuable connotations of being non-radical, reasonable, intelligent, and moral. It’s way past time we assign it a proper meaning.
I propose we consider political views “central” if they’re rooted in the real world and conform to the basic moral philosophies common to the major world religions and philosophical works.
Compassion, Schopenhauer tells us, is the basic center of morality and that view is widely shared in most religious and philosophical traditions. Veblen perceptively linked the brotherly love aspect of Christianity to the instinct of workmanship and its serviceability to the common good. Without getting any more philosophical, I think it’s reasonable to claim that compassion, brotherly love, and the common good are reasonable distillations of widely shared moral teachings and are therefore fundamentally centrist.
But a centrist in our definition understands the limits and potentials of the real world. When thinking about the economy, therefore, the focus must be on things that are real – like real productive capacity, the real state of technological advancement, and so on. Centrist morality tells us that the common good – widespread prosperity – must be the prime goal; and the state of the real world determines how prosperous we can all be.
This, then, is what I would call centrism and political positions that stray from it cannot credibly claim the title.
Steven Rattner is not remotely a centrist. His world view isn’t grounded in the morality of compassion, brotherly love, and the common good and neither is it rooted in the recognition of our real productive potential. Production, according to Rattner, must be subservient to the non-real, the “financial”. Despite the fact we have horrendous levels of unemployment, insecurity, and poverty in the United States and throughout the world, and despite having an incredibly vast productive capacity, he can find little to talk about other than the public debt. Production must always be contained, not by real human or environmental constraints, but by the need to conform to a rigid amoral accounting system which needlessly rations fiat currency as if it were the rarest of gems.
There’s no reason to go any further with his article as it’s the standard diatribe we read every day from the self-proclaimed, oh so reasonable centrists. The positions are well known – in place of compassion, brotherly love, and the common good, we find the self serving principles of finance, competition, oligarchy, and austerity.
Those firmly planted in human values and reality have every right to claim the title of centrist; those such as Rattner are the anti-centrists and must be branded as the “egocentric”, “eccentric”, unreal, immoral radicals they truly are.
David Stockman gives us quite a tirade today on what he sees as the “Corruption of Capitalism in America”. The article seethes with anger on this Easter Sunday at the defilement of that most holy of sacred relics – Capitalism. We have sinned, we have corrupted the purity of capitalism, and are about to pay the price!
Things are bad and end-times may be near, but as is true in most religions, this self anointed priest completely misses the underlying truth: that the very system he so relishes, defiling as it does human nature itself, is the corruption. Any reasonably unbiased view of history or understanding of the underlying logic of the system demonstrates this to be true. The unending exploitation of human beings in the name of forever expanding profit, colonialism, imperialism and war, unbridled self interest, never ending financial crises, inability to serve public welfare, gross inequality, rampant poverty and insecurity in the face of unsurpassed productivity – these are just some of the realities that tell us capitalism is incapable of being corrupted because it’s the very face of corruption itself.
One of the cleverest ideological tricks of this obscenity of a socio-economic system is to divide its unity into two artificial halves: a “political” encompassing the state and “capitalism” which runs pretty much everything to do with material well being, i.e. the economy. In reality, we have just one system but proponents such as Stockman have great success blaming its unending failures on the “political” while leaving “capitalism” blameless. The perpetuation of this duality is perhaps the most successful propaganda effort in human history!
The system is almost always sick and has been on its death bed many times – the Jacobin turn in the French Revolution, the 1848 Europe wide revolution, World War I, the Depression, World War II, the 1960’s, the 1970’s, and now today. Stockman’s right that the system is in grave danger and he tells us this in the most apocalyptic of ways: “sundown in America”, “we should be very afraid”, the current “bubble” will soon “explode”, “we are now state-wrecked”, “the future is bleak”, we will “face a day of reckoning”, we are in “an end-stage metastasis”, “the United States is broke — fiscally, morally, intellectually”, “ there will be nothing to stop the collapse”, and so on. The problem according to Stockman, again, isn’t capitalism which is by its nature pure, but the evil state and especially its “rogue” central bank, the “mad money printers”, public debt, and Keynesian policies. That the state role came into play largely to offset the abject failure of capitalism to meet even the most minimal needs is ignored.
Stockman’s solution is essentially a return to an idyllic 19th century version of pure capitalism. No new ideas here, all we need do to solve our problem is turn the clock back and enter into a Nietzschean cycle of eternal return. How we could possibly expect anything different the next time around is left unexplained. I suppose a hundred years from now, if we’re lucky enough to survive our replay, some distant progeny of Stockman’s can prescribe yet again a renewal via return!
Stockman’s view is both dismal and sick. He tells us (rightly) we are collapsing but prescribes a quack remedy that’s nothing but a recipe for tragedy. Unsurprisingly, he brings in to his argument a populist referral to the “99%”. Right wing libertarianism played a major role in the Occupy movement, at least here in Colorado, and was a great force in neutering any true progressive agenda.
The only sane way out of our global mess is to come to grips with the true nature of our corruption and recognize we can’t have a truly prosperous, just world when virtually everything is owned by the tiniest fraction, our modern day lords, and everyone else is forced into a never ending cycle of desperate competition. (Look no further than the same opinion pages of the Times to find the typical Thomas Friedman lunacy in this regard.)
We need to see the system of capitalism as the basic fundamental problem and advance to a place where we put human values and widespread prosperity front and center.
Surveying the dire economic landscape in this country and throughout the world from his ivy tower at Princeton, Paul Krugman informs us in today’s column that “fiscal policy is, indeed, a moral issue” and that the “deficit scolds” are “the bad guys in this story”. The implication, of course, is that he’s the good guy. Let’s examine the “story” and see where goodness and badness lie.
Krugman presents the story as having but a single simple theme but it’s more complicated than that – there are in fact two themes. One is whether or not society as a collectivity should guarantee everyone a living worthy of our productive capacity or at least assure there are enough decent jobs available for all who want one. The other is whether we should expand our debt to do so. In the public mind the two are tightly intertwined and it comes down to balancing between two offsetting desirable goals – higher living standards today versus keeping debt levels low.
Krugman presents the intertwined version as the complete story and ascribes goodness to those who favor more spending now and badness to those who worry (or profess to worry) about rising debt. This is nonsense as far as moral theory goes since reasonable people can disagree on the relative merits of the two. The critical divide is far more complex than Krugman allows – it’s the gaping chasm between those who insist that collective action must somehow be accompanied with rising debt versus those who see no basis for such a link. The former view enforces strict limits on the level of acceptable public spending and always sees a necessary tradeoff between the real economy and finance, while the later recognizes we have a fiat currency and can therefore soundly create whatever finance is needed to bring idle resources online. They see the reification of finance as an artificial weight to true prosperity.
Krugman completely ignores this chasm of views and positions himself firmly with the deficit scolds, proclaiming with them that collective action must be accompanied by rising debt. Krugman and the scolds are a family and differ only on the perceived relative merits of current spending versus future debt. In the truest of senses they are both “bad”.
It’s a frustrating feature of Krugman that he always seems to want to have it both ways – he seeks to be the “conscience of a liberal” while simultaneously remaining an orthodox neo-classical professor of economics. He often states the obvious but can never draw the “good” conclusions from it. In this article, he correctly notes that “debt doesn’t directly make our nation poorer; it’s essentially money we owe to ourselves.” It’s a wash in other words, a transfer from one group to another. It all nets out. Why then, damn it, don’t we just be done with it and print the money? We have the unused resources; why not just put them to work without all the fuss of borrowing from ourselves?
He also offers us this serving of economic junk: “Deficits would indirectly be making us poorer if they were either leading to big trade deficits, increasing our overseas borrowing, or crowding out investment, reducing future productive capacity.” But trade deficits and overseas borrowing are exactly the same story we’ve been talking about, only taken to the next higher level. Trade deficits and international debt don’t hurt “us” if “us” is considered to be global society. What is needed, simply, is a global monetary system which recognizes this truth and replaces the artificial financial impediments that enforce needless restrictions on prosperity. And to claim that public investment would make us poorer if it crowded out private investment is nothing but a value judgment having little or no empirical support. One could just as easily claim the opposite.
Paul Krugman in this “story” plays the part of a hypocrite, a charlatan. He does great harm by hiding the real storyline from a public who trusts him as having their interest at heart. He’s studied the economy all his adult life. He’s an expert, a Nobel Laureate. There can be no excuses here, he should be held to account.
What are we to make of the recent increases in housing prices in the United States? Is it a harbinger of a renewed surge in the real estate market and a possible, albeit as always short lived, revival of the overall economy?
I don’t claim to have the answer here, but I do think a reasonable case can be made that housing may be at the beginnings of a fairly strong upswing in prices. I start by observing that the world in which we live continues operating in the neoliberal mode. I take this to mean, among other things, that the laws of finance, capital, and property rule. If true, we can make a few fundamental assumptions: 1) inflation will be low due to a lack of worker power; 2) real median income will not increase for the same reason; and 3) asset prices will tend toward a value determined by its capitalization at some “market” determined interest rate.
When it comes to housing, the third assumption assures that real income will not increase due to declines in interest rates. The opposite is also true. Any benefit to lower rates should be completely offset by higher home prices. The cost of higher home prices isn’t borne by existing home owners, of course, but by those not in an ownership position.
Let’s observe the following graph (click on it for full size):
We start in 1985, a year solidly within the neoliberal era and comfortably after the decimation of the 1979 Volcker shock. The graph presents data points at five year intervals. The blue line shows us the Case-Shiller Home Price Index and we can easily observe the bubble around 2005 which is now showing a slight recovery. How should we evaluate today’s level? Is it reasonable?
At a first pass, it would seem logical to expect housing prices to remain at some constant multiple to nominal median household income. This would assure no change in real income as the percent allocated to housing remains constant. The red line illustrates this level, showing what housing prices would be if they increased from 1985 step by step with nominal median household income. Comparing this income index to actual prices, we find that housing is overvalued by about 24%.
But in a neoliberal world of finance, this shouldn’t be the end of the story. Mortgage interest rates, as reported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have dropped from a whopping 12.43% in 1985 to 3.49% today. Since an average of about 75% of the price of a house is financed, we should expect housing prices to rise considerably given this drop in rate. If they didn’t, then real income would increase considerably as new homeowners would be able to afford either a nicer house or would have more available for basic living. The basic fundamentals of neoliberalism should prevent this.
The green line shows calculated housing prices since 1985 based on both the change in nominal median family income AND the decline in interest rates. We start with the financed portion of the price (75%) in 1985 at the then existing 12.43% rate and then capitalize that interest outlay at the future lower mortgage yields. What we find through 2005 is what should be expected – a narrowing of the spread between actual prices and the expected capitalized price. The capitalized price, in fact, slightly exceeded the actual price before it collapsed in the current crisis. But the spread between the two has widened significantly and the capitalized price is now well over twice the actual price.
I don’t think housing prices will double anytime soon since the Fed would certainly raise interest rates out of fear of a new “housing bubble”. But even if mortgage rates increased to the level they were back in 2005, 6.07%, the capitalized value would still be 388, well above the actual 269.
This is a simplistic analysis but I think it does lead to an interesting conclusion. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if our exit out of this crisis, like so many in the past, comes about through a new housing surge. It will be temporary of course and the losers as always will be those who don’t own property. Such is the way capitalism survives for another day.
Hugo Chávez was certainly far from perfect and he didn’t ultimately succeed in bringing about “21st century socialism”, but he was a mighty force against the many evils of 21st century oligarchy and will be sorely missed.
He was, of course, hated by the forces of status quo, from the fat oligarchs in Caracas to the corrupt media centered around the New York Times to the financiers on Wall Street to the halls of formal power in Washington. To them, Chávez was a Latin American populist playing a dangerous role in the rise of leftist anti-American governments throughout the region, especially in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. His influence was felt everywhere, from Mexico and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America, and the fear was that if some realistic version of 21st century socialism actually gained a true foothold in just one of these countries, the ramifications would be severe and global. He represented a clear and present danger to oligarchy and especially so sitting atop possibly the largest oil reserves in the world. He was a man with very powerful enemies.
Venezuelan Vice President and likely successor to Chávez, Nicolás Maduro claimed yesterday this was not a natural death – that Chávez was in fact murdered by agents of the United States. The charge will be ridiculed by most in the US as we find with this bit of sarcasm from the Washington Post, “Yes, the U.S. caused Chavez’s cancer, the Russian meteor, the bird flu, and the sinking of the Titanic”. But it shouldn’t be so readily dismissed. The poisoning of kings and leaders has an awful long history, after all, and the United States Government (USG) certainly had the motive. I’m not going to attempt to make a case here but we need to consider that we’re dealing with an overwhelmingly powerful actor with few historically demonstrated sensitivities to the niceties of fair play. Among other horrors, it dropped two nuclear bombs on two cities within a week murdering hundreds of thousands of people, ruthlessly attacked the poor peasant country of Vietnam, helped overthrow democracies in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, and elsewhere, supported right wing dictatorships throughout Latin America, developed courses on how to assassinate opponents, created a “technology” decades ago capable of causing death by heart attack without evidence of foul play, tried on numerous occasions to assassinate Fidel Castro, supported the failed coup against Chávez, operates torture chambers throughout the world, and openly murders today those it deems its enemies via drone attacks and who knows what other means. It’s surely the case that Chávez was seen by those in power within the USG as a far greater threat than the “terrorists” it so routinely kills in the Middle East who carry little more than a rifle. The USG or individuals within it clearly warrant a high level of suspicion.
But that’s it for speculation, the fact is we simply don’t know and probably never will. What we do know, however, is that the poor for whom Chávez spoke have almost no power and those who seek to keep them in bondage are powerful indeed. The upcoming election in Venezuela and the future development of its politics have an extremely high level of global importance.
The New York Times offers us today an interesting article on corporate profits and employment, telling us that profits continue their stratospheric rise while the number of workers needed to produce those profits along with their pay continues on its sorry downward path. I think it’s worthwhile to briefly sift through this piece as it gives us a pretty good picture of 21st century servitude.
The article notes that “With millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to raise salaries, while productivity gains allow them to increase sales without adding workers.” I might add that, with oligopolistic conditions existing in all industries, there is also no pressure to reduce prices. What a gravy train! The co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch is brought in to tell us, with a great deal of understatement, that “The U.S. corporate sector is in a lot better health than the overall economy. And until we get a full recovery in the labor market, this will persist.” Of course, except for a minor blip in the late 90’s, the labor market hasn’t “recovered” since its demolishing back in the late 70’s! Quite a downturn! And, without systemic change, it’s impossible to even visualize how it could ever recover given the combination of oligopoly pricing power, fierce global labor competition, ever rising productivity, capital mobility, and so on. The “corporate sector” holds all the cards. And, wait a minute, how Orwellian to call it a “sector”; it’s not a sector, it’s simply ownership. We lose nothing re-phrasing the above quote with: “Those who own the planet are in a lot better health than the overall human population”. No shit!
The article notes that corporate profits stand at 14.2% of national income, its highest share since 1950, while the portion of income that went to employees was just 61.7%, near its lowest point since 1966. The share to employees, though, includes CEO and other high wage salaries and it’s therefore certain that the vast majority reap well less than half their output. Even using the reported figures, almost 40% of distribution in the economy (100-61.7) is funneled to the very top tier, in the form of either profit, interest, or rent.
Is there any sense of guilt on the part of the ownership “sector”? Any indication of humanity? No way! “The market wants more austerity” says the head of United States equity and quantitative strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. They want more austerity and they want to squeeze ever harder as productivity continues its inevitable upward rise. “Right now, C.E.O.’s are saying, ‘I don’t really need to hire because of the productivity gains of the last few years,’ ” the chairman of the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers tells us nonchalantly, as if he were talking about copper demand rather than human beings. And, we’re told, “The relentless focus on maintaining margins continues, even though profit and revenue have never been higher; four days after the company’s shares soared past $90 to a record high last month, United Technologies confirmed it would eliminate an additional 3,000 workers this year, on top of 4,000 let go in 2012 as part a broader restructuring effort.”
I think the lowest part of this whole immorality tale is that the corporate titans sitting on top of planet Earth demand everything. They must have the right to price as they see fit, fire as they see fit, set production levels as they see fit, personally reap all rewards from productivity gains as they see fit, flee any country as they see fit, hide their wealth as they see fit, and, most importantly of all, democratically elected governments must do absolutely nothing to interfere. Such is the nature of their freedom. Has there ever been a king as ruthless as these rulers? They behave like an alien species; but what should you expect of a system which puts humans on the same moral plain as commodities?
Typically, given the ideological power of business, the Times didn’t think to quote any representative of “the people” or “the worker” in this article. Who in the world would you quote? Is there anyone out there?
I haven’t read Monica Prasad’s book “The Land of Too Much: American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty” but I’m sure not impressed with her promotional article today in the New York Times. Her basic question itself, first of all, seems a bit outdated given current events on the continent: Why are European poverty and inequality rates less than those in the United States? But regardless, her conclusion is something down the lines that the European elites decided on a political economy based on export promotion coupled with a welfare state tied to regressive taxation, while the Americans opted for a consumption state based on progressive taxation and a high utilization of credit. She calls it mortgage Keynesianism. Both sides were interventionist, she argues, Americans even more so.
OK. This could be a somewhat reasonable starting point but she ends up developing it in a completely regressive manner perfectly inside today’s “balanced” “bipartisan” “centrist” paradigm.
She poses the question of the cause of inequality but then explicitly rejects the most obvious and straightforward answer – that ownership is concentrated in the hands of a tiny few. Is it not that simple? We have inequality because capitalism is a system of inequality. Huey P. Long, she notes, made the obvious question: “This is a land of super-abundance and super-plenty. Then why is it also a land of starvation and nakedness and homelessness?” Here’s her pathetic answer to this most important question:
The true answer to Long’s question — at least as far as we understand it today — is that a restricted money supply was constraining the economy. But observers at the time thought that the problem was that wealth was concentrated in so few hands that consumers did not have purchasing power to buy the goods that lay rotting in the fields..
We don’t have poverty and inequality because of an extreme concentration of ownership, according to Prasad, we have it because interest rates are sometimes too high! What absolute nonsense; but nonsense fitting perfectly within orthodox economics.
One can of course increase consumption without pursuing either “mortgage Keynesiansim” or export promotion tied to a regressively financed welfare state. But to her, these seem to be the only two options. You either expand consumption via credit or do it via welfare while promoting exports. Here’s an example of how she so effortlessly conflates consumption with credit. Notice how slyly she makes the change.
A consumption bias also focuses the efforts of the left on increasing private consumption. It was activists on the left who pushed for greater credit access for African-Americans and women in the 1960s and 1970s, and rightly so, because if credit is how Americans make ends meet, then those without access to credit are economically sidelined. But credit access does nothing for the truly poor, those who are not deemed creditworthy. Someone has to do the consuming, but if one country ends up as the world’s consumer for a long time, as America has, a political tradition can take root that works against the interests of the poor.
She finally concludes her confused argument with this blurb of politically correct centrism:
Pointing out all the ways in which the American government has actually been more interventionist than European governments seems to alarm partisans on both the left and the right. Activists on the right can no longer pretend that American history is about small government. Those on the left are equally alarmed, because pointing out the ways in which the government has been hostile to business can undermine their calls to be even more hostile to business. But poverty reduction is not about hostility to business. It’s about strategies like promoting saving over borrowing. We don’t need regulations as loose as postwar Europe’s, but if reducing poverty and inequality is the goal, we do need to rethink our love affair with consumption.
This type of nonsense is sadly typical of the crap American universities so often produce. Politically acceptable centrism is what gets published in the New York Times and is what promotes academic careers. It does nothing, of course, to promote the general well being of those in the US, in Europe, or anywhere else.
So much of what we post on political economy has such a logical air about it that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the heart of the matter isn’t accounting or finance or trade balances; it’s about life itself, freedom, passion, humanity, and all that we feel from the inside. I think that only music comes close to really capturing it. Here’s Mahler’s 3rd Symphony performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and conducted by Leonard Bernstein back in 1973.
It’s a theme piece of six movements that deals with knowledge from different levels: 1st: life or nature awakening; 2nd: what plants tell me; 3rd: what animals tell me; 4th: what man tells me; 5th: what angels tell me; 6th: what love tells me. The 2nd through 5th movements come from outside at progressively higher levels, the last from inside.
The whole symphony is tremendous but I especially recommend listening to the finale which begins at about 1:17.