Monday, April 14, 2014

Chasing Liberal Extremists

I really first started reading liberal voices in more depth around 2009, just after Israel's invasion of Gaza, which struck me as outrageous.  At that time I learned for the first time of many things, one of which was how the finance industry uses high frequency trading to extract money from the rest of us.  What happens is when a trade is placed it takes fractions of a second to execute the trade.  Financial institutions have access to cables that can execute trades more quickly, so what they do is they run a line to sense if you've made a trade.  Knowing you are about to buy a stock they basically cut in line, jump in front of you, and purchase at a slightly reduced price, then the price you actually get is slightly higher, and they make a small amount.  It's not a lot, but do it millions of times per day and you're now pulling in some good money.

This is another example of how finance extracts money while it's quite dubious that this provides real value.  What's interesting to me though is suddenly I'm hearing all kinds of more mainstream voices talking about it.  Today it's Paul Krugman.  Here again at Naked CapitalismThe Atlantic.  It's just interesting to me to see so much of this in more "mainstream" liberal circles.

Global warming is another case.  I'm glad to see that in mainstream liberal circles it's becoming more common to take the urgency of this issue for granted, while the extremists have been saying it for years.  For those that think science was telling us global cooling was on the way back in the 70's I think it's interesting to show them Isaac Asimov explaining things in 1977 or even this scene in the movie Soylent Green in 1973.  But recently despite the well funded propaganda efforts by the fossil fuel industry and the right wing think tanks you're seeing a lot of alarm in mainstream circles, like this from the NY Times.  John Kerry recently said of dealing with the deniers that we just don't have time for a meeting with the Flat Earth Society.  For the bury the head in the sand crowd evidence is just not something that matters to them at this stage, and we really don't have time to wait for them to be convinced.  I think I'm seeing more and more of this and that's a good thing.

At the root of all this is simply the fact that Capitalism is killing us and can't go on without catastrophic consequences.  Read here about how Thomas Piketty's book is affecting even mainstream economic discourse, simply saying the kinds of things liberal "extremists" have been saying for a long time.  Capitalism Has Failed The World is one headline.  I'm not expecting the establishment to buy it any time soon.  A lot of the people involved simply benefit too much from existing paradigms.  It's like that esteemed economist interviewed in the movie "Inside Job".  He wrote papers about how in Iceland deregulated finance was working wonders and was a model for the rest of the world.  At the time of publication Iceland was beginning the collapse, and we would later learn that he's on the payroll of banks that benefit from this catastrophic system.  Glenn Hubbard similarly in the US.  There's a lot of that going on.

I think when considering predictive capacity and incentives it's easy to understand why mainstream circles, even mainstream liberal circles, are always so late to the party.

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