Editor's Choice

Perfect markets as coercive ideology

In the past few posts I have been trying to get at ways in which the fantasy of perfect markets can be deployed ideologically, used normatively to shape people's thinking and aspirations, how we assess how reasonable our behavior is when we attempt to be "objective". Here are some more propositions:

1. If the laws assume a particular institution, subjects will conform their thinking to accommodate the institution in that mandated form.

2. If attempts to legislate a rational market into existence occurs, to simplify governing and entrench advantages already embedded in the status quo, then people must be forced to become homo economicus, must habitually restrict self-knowledge to cost-benefit analysis.

3. Perfect markets imply an ongoing process of equilibria being found. A chief way of trying to legislate perfect markets into existence is to try to force equilibrium, mandate it as a norm.

4. Market rationality is not merely the presumption of calm, omnipotent calculation in an instant. It also incorporates the assumption that we are always arbitraging as equilibrium are coalescing -- this activity is presumed to fashion the equilibrium, but only after certain already-favored parties have already taken advantage of the imbalance in the process. This exploitation can then be popularly conceived as justice, as inevitable, as harmful to impede.

5. In an economy with alleged, presumed or mandated perfect markets, timing is what is always at stake. We exploits the discrepencies on the way to equilibrium, and who suffers the equilibrium as fait accompli. This is matter of how information and the opportunity to act on it is distributed. The advantages of timing -- the arbitrage opportunity -- tends to disappear from the macro view, hiding any exploitation or injustice.

6. All of this is an elaboration of the observation that the useful fiction of efficient markets can be used as an ideological tool to browbeat people and curtail freedoms, and also to hide actual imperfections pertaining to timing. It's an ex post facto alibi for unfair outcomes.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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