Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jo-burg jive

Johannesburg is going after street hawkers, as this article reports. But note the language: Who can be against 'clean up' and 'order.' Meanwhile the municipality is putting thousands of families in jeopardy and crushing the traditional life of the city.

ht wiego

Thursday, November 7, 2013

economic inspiration

What gives its special quality and character, its toughness and cohesion, to the industrial system built up in the last century and a-half, is not its exploded theory of economic harmonies. It is the doctrine that economic rights are anterior to, and independent of, economic functions.
--R.H. Tawney

The fact that two people exchange their products is by no means simply an economic fact. Such a fact -- that is, one whose content would be exhausted in the image that economics presents of it -- does not exist.
--Georg Simmel

Wealth is like muck. It is not good but it be spread.
--Francis Bacon

I do not deny that modern economic theory can make a contribution to running a household, or a village, or a region, or even the entire world -- though such a denial would at all be unrealistic. What I do deny is that modern economic theory can replace the traditional ways without any loss of information or quality of life.
--Paul Feyerabend

Nothing, however profitable, goes on forever.
--C.L.R. James

Between things there exist bonds of mutual aid hampered by man.
--Martín Adán
No man can save himself alone.
--Simone de Beauvoir

Friday, November 1, 2013

the living part of the culture

Politics always puts forward Ideas: Nation, Empire, Union, Economy, etc. But none of these forms has value in itself; it has it only insofar as it involves concrete individuals. If a nation can assert itself proudly only to the detriment of its members, if a union can be created only to the detriment of those it is trying to unite, the nation or the union must be rejected.
--Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity

And, I would add, if an economy can assert itself only to the detriment of the whole of the society it is designed to assist, that economy must be rejected.

The philosopher Paul Feyerabend identified the problem in his agreeably anarchic book Against Method (excerpt here):

People all over the world have developed ways of surviving in partly dangerous, party agreeable surroundings.The stories they told and the activities they engaged in enriched their lives, protected them and gave them meaning. The 'progress of knowledge and civilization' -- as the process of pushing Western ways and values into all corners of the globe is being called -- destroyed these wonderful products of human ingenuity and compassion without a single glance in their direction.
Indeed, it seems to me that our economic goals should be retooled along the lines of what Charles Newman identified in his posthumously published novel, In Partial Disgrace: "to extract money from the real economy and cheerfully redistribute it into the inefficient, living part of the culture."