Money and Power

Eating the Frog

Eating the Frog

David Wallace-Wells's new book is one of the few honest accounts of the costs, both tangible and metaphorical, of global warming.

David Wallace-Wells’s new book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, reads at once as an innovative look at manmade climate change and also as old news. As Wallace-Wells himself states at points, not much in his book is new. Even the scariest near-term predictions and assessments, like the possibility that “should the planet warm 3.7 degrees . . . climate change damages could total $551 trillion—nearly twice as much wealth as exists in the world today,” or that, at the upper-end of temperature predictions for the end of this century, “humans at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around without dying” have been accessible to the general public online or in academic articles and assessments. What is new is the candor of the narrative and relative impassivity with which Wallace-Wells, a career journalist, elucidates the distressing implications of the facts that he reports.

The Origins of European Neoliberalism

The Origins of European Neoliberalism

The real source of neoliberalism in Europe is neither technocracy nor hegemony but a problem specific to the continent: intergovernmentalism

The real source of neoliberalism in Europe is neither technocracy nor hegemony but a problem specific to the continent: intergovernmentalism. Accordingly, left nationalists in parties such as the British Labour Party, France Insoumise, and Germany’s Die Linke have the correct intuition about where a progressive politics can overcome neoliberalism—at the national level—but their flirtation with breaking out of the Union is the wrong strategy for achieving that goal. To address intergovernmental problems, national lefts must join forces at the European level. As voters across the Union prepare to elect a new European parliament next month, the question that confronts the European left is whether it can find the common ground needed to counter neoliberal discipline both through and beyond the nation-state.

Other People’s Blood

Other People’s Blood

On Paul Volcker

Those who praise Volcker like to say he “broke the back” of inflation. Nancy Teeters, the lone dissenter on the Fed Board of Governors, had a different metaphor: “I told them, ‘You are pulling the financial fabric of this country so tight that it’s going to rip. You should understand that once you tear a piece of fabric, it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to put it back together again.” (Teeters, also the first woman on the Fed board, told journalist William Greider that “None of these guys has ever sewn anything in his life.”) Fabric or backbone: both images convey violence. In any case, a price index doesn’t have a spine or a seam; the broken bodies and rent garments of the early 1980s belonged to people. Reagan economic adviser Michael Mussa was nearer the truth when he said that “to establish its credibility, the Federal Reserve had to demonstrate its willingness to spill blood, lots of blood, other people’s blood.”

Until the Next Crash

Until the Next Crash

The populist revolt is not against the crash, or even its immediate aftermath, but against the nature of the recovery.

This is the economic backdrop of the populist revolt. To the extent that it is driven by economics, it is a revolt not so much against the crash, or even its immediate aftermath—as Tooze seems to suggest—but against the nature of the recovery. This recovery, sustained by historically unprecedented “accommodative” monetary policies, is now nearly the longest on record. But it has proved to be yet another iteration of a now forty-year macroeconomic pattern for which centrist liberals bear much responsibility. It is the economy whose pre-crisis development they happily facilitated and which, during the 2008 crisis, they brought back to life, if moderately reformed. But since 2008, this same old asset-led global capitalism has slowly but steadily worn down the political establishment’s reserves of legitimacy.

A Trained Pigeon

A Trained Pigeon

Are these dark times, or are they unconscionably stupid times?

And most bizarre, I think—the moment I will not be able to forget, so utterly sincere and consistent and emotional did it seem, the emotional peak of his long, rambling statement—was when Kavanaugh told us the single thing he loves doing most in the world. Not the law (though this is the job he’s interviewing for). Not parenting (though he is a sentimentalist of kids and parents, or perhaps of himself-as-a-kid-and-parent). It was coaching youth athletics. “I love coaching more than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life.” Then a pause, and the explosion. “But thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again.”

George Soros on George Soros

I don’t think I have ever expressed an optimism that history is headed in the right direction

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I am less of an optimist, which is why I have spent my life actively trying to bend the arc in a positive direction. But recognizing that I am a biased evaluator of my life’s work, I will submit it to the judgment of history.

The Death of an Entire System of Political Rule

The Death of an Entire System of Political Rule

On the elections in Mexico

It became increasingly clear, in fact, that PRI rule was little more than a PR façade, behind which the orgy of elite self-enrichment went on as usual. Whatever legitimacy the party had possessed had quickly eroded. But still more crucially, the mechanisms through which the party secured and wielded power had also been hollowed out over time. Clientelism no longer worked in the old ways. An early warning came in the gubernatorial elections in Mexico state in 2017, where the PRI nominee—tightly connected to Peña Nieto’s political clan, and therefore able to use its considerable resources—only just managed to defeat MORENA’s candidate, despite extensive fraud and widespread violence and intimidation. At the time, this was seen as a major political shock; but if anything, it understated the reversal that lay in wait for the PRI.

What is Energy Dominance?

What is Energy Dominance?

The Trump Administration off the leash and unleashing

Trump’s national security strategy, published as a 68-page booklet in December of 2017, stated that one aim of “energy dominance” was to “help our allies and partners become more resilient against those that use energy to coerce,” in effect a realignment of the global energy order away from OPEC and Russia and toward the US. Though this policy rhetoric seemed to dovetail nicely with the call to consider “America First,” it was hardly isolationist. Economically, it was imperialist, encouraging dependence by smaller and developing countries, India in particular, on US fossil fuel supplies, and aiming to shore up our trade deficit with China, which has historically relied on others for their fossil fuels. When Trump recently opened the NATO conference—this even before the apparently meager breakfast of only cheese and pastries was officially served—by rebuking Angela Merkel for approving the Nord Stream 2, a proposed gas pipeline that would run from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany, he was in effect accusing her of betraying the alliance.