Tag Archives: financial crisis

Tied to the tipping point

“When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known.  The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.” – (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1821)

In this month’s issue of National Geographic Magazine, the cover story entitled “The Super Trees” by Joel Bourne describes the current trends in Redwood forest management.  With only approximately 5% of the old growth redwood forests remaining and under protection, the challenge is now to bring sustainable forest management back to  2nd or 3rd generation growth forests.

The tale of the redwood forests mirrors the tale of most of human resource management.  In a sad irony of human history, the story of earth’s largest trees is a microcosm of the drama still playing out across the globe.  If the current patterns continue we shall only recognize the error of our ways when, like the redwood forests, only a fraction of the world’s ecosystems remain.  Then, with the shades of night upon us, as a species, perhaps we will understand how to begin to restore in some way the planet we have destroyed.

In terms of the history of the Redwood forests Bourne tells the story of Charles Hurwitz who in 1985 with underwriting from Michael Milken, engineered a hostile takeover of Pacific Lumber.  As Bourne goes on to say:

“With Pacific Lumber, Hurwitz inherited roughly 70 percent of the remaining old redwoods in private hands. In his first meeting with the employees, the dark-suited businessman told them—in a now famous quote—that he believed in the golden rule: “He who has the gold, rules.” Hurwitz then proceeded to break up the company and sell its assets…  Most important for the redwoods, Hurwitz adopted a business model of clear-cutting, doubling—and some years even tripling—the annual amount of timber harvested from the company’s holdings, which eventually reached 210,000 acres.”

The application of this business model based on high yield and short term profit pitted loggers against those outraged by the company’s practices.  According to this model the leveraging of junk debt is used to acquire a company in order to extract every ounce of productivity at the expense of its capital resources.  This model functions to the point where the productive capacity of the company is unable to continue to service the acquiring party’s debt.  At this point the company collapses into bankruptcy, its capital siphoned off and exhausted.  The acquiring party then moves on to another “victim” repeating this process ad nauseam.  It’s not difficult to see how according to this model the incentive to sustain both the business and the resources was absent due to the inherent lack of a vested interest in the stable and long term growth of the company.

In 2008 Pacific Lumber ended up in federal bankruptcy court and is now known as the Humboldt Redwood Company, part of the Mendocino Redwood Company. Bourne’s article goes on to detail the efforts now being made on the part of responsible owners of the 2nd and 3rd generation Redwood forests to create a business model based on sustainable forest management.  This example illustrates classic issues with capitalism.  How can society foster the responsible application of capital to the profit of its owners, while at the same time regulating its use in order to maintain a secure and lasting social order?

Year after year, decade after decade we have continued along a path that the vast majority agrees is leading to systematic collapse.  The reliance on regulation of companies and industries whose products and by-products cause harm to individuals and society’s interests has proven to be counterproductive from a systematic perspective.  To maintain a system which regulates the same broken business model allows very profitable companies to pay symbolic fines and allows politicians to claim defense of the public good.  In the meantime business as usual continues, profits are made, and the capital resources of society as a whole are exhausted further and further.

We can see the same dynamic playing out in the debate on American health care, in the response to the financial crisis, and in the response global warming and mass extinction which is underway across the globe.  The question in each of these cases is do we have the collective will to choose to take preventative measures to at least slow the rate of decline, if not to solve the underlying causes in time to avoid the tipping point?  Or will we again claim ignorance and impotence in the eyes of future generations to the dialectic of history?

In each case entrenched opposition on both sides will vehemently defend their vested interests and fight any change to the current model.  The time however is almost past for us to have the ability to choose to move the old dichotomies.  Very shortly we will be faced with the ruin of both the current financial interests and remaining natural resources themselves.  We have the supposed luxury in economics to stave off systematic financial collapse through our ability to change the rules of the game in order to avoid ruin.  But unlike economic systems, ecological systems are not the products of human invention.  Once ecological degradation reaches the point of crisis we will be unable to stop it, and once that occurs the very foundation upon which our economies are based will collapse.

What is necessary is to reorganize the way we quantify natural resources in terms of economic units to better align our measures of economic value to those ecological significance.  The value or liability of a given resource must be able to be measured and quantified in the market place.  In this way standing forests, marshlands, prairie, etc.. could all have an economic value equal to their ecological value.  The current model of resources being economically null in value until such time as they are “harvested” or utilized and transformed into some derivative product builds into the system the incentive to pillage functioning ecosystems in the quest to create wealth and value.  By fundamentally reorganizing the way in which we quantify a given resource’s value in terms of its carbon impact, its ability to provide clean water and clean air, the economic incentive will be built in to not only preserve, but to restore and manage living biosystems.

It is a foolish assumption on our part today that we consider the basic elements upon which our societies and economies are based as given to us from either God or from Nature.  While quantifying the natural world in terms of economic value will be opposed by both classical economics and by traditional ecology, a synthesis of two zero-sum gain problems to create a win-win solution is at the heart of the issue.  It is a question of universal significance as to whether humanity can finally learn from its past and apply those lessons to the present. Can we as a species reach a synthesis with the planet without having the harsh logic of history force change upon us, or will history’s dialectic again force humanity’s hand into reacting to catastrophe?

Redwoods Owl

Redwoods Owl

In FED we trust?

Representative Ron Paul (R- TX) has introduced a bill in congress entitled HR 1207 Federal Reserve Transparency Act.  The FED, according to it’s own website is an institution which is “Independent within the government”.  Created on December 23rd 1913 under the Federal Reserve Act, it functions as a self funding semi-autonomous entity responsibile to report periodically in front of congress.  The FED’s site states “The Federal Reserve’s ultimate accountability is to Congress, which at any time can amend the Federal Reserve Act.

Currently, the Federal Reserve is audited annually by an independent auditor and can be audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) under the Federal Banking Agency Audit Act of 1978.  The question is if the FED is created by Act of congress and is subject to independent audit then what is the purpose of the new Federal Reverse Transparency Act, and why has the Act gained such broad support in congress thus far?

The Washington Post ran a story on July 24th which stated that the Federal Reserve Transparency Act would “subject the Fed’s decisions to a full-blown audit by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.”.  Additionally Bloomberg.com reported that on July 22nd “Bernanke told Paul at a House Financial Services Committee hearing last week that GAO audits, often initiated at the request of members of Congress, could be used as a club against the Fed.”  But if, as we’ve seen, the FED’s own website states that it is already subject to audit by the GAO what is the real issue here?

 

Ron Paul questions Ben Bernanke

Ron Paul questions Ben Bernanke

The principle on which the FED’s independence rests is its mandate to regulate monetary policy free from the influence of politics.  This fact is actually quite strange when we think that the foundation of this nation was the dependence of all institutions on civil society as opposed to the dependence of the government on institutions such as the Church or the Central Banks of Europe.

Now the regulation of the monetary system is something which we seem to take for granted.  It has only been the recent expansion of the FED into areas not traditionally under it’s domain in response to the financial crisis which has cause the backlash behind the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.  The recent attempts to have the FED regulate financial markets, oversee consumer protection, purchase distressed structured assets in order to support the markets, and intervene in the support of businesses from brokerages, investment banks, manufactures, and mortgage lenders have all contributed to the general impression that the government has ceded too much power to an entity which is self described as an “independent entity within the government”.

Prior to this financial crisis it was commonly understood that the dual mandate of the FED was to balance price stability and full employment.  It did this through it’s regulation of short term interest rates and its control over monetary policy.  Basically, the FED would lower or raise interest rates or, in conjunction with the US Treasury, reduce or increase the amount of currency in circulation.  Thereby, in theory, the FED was able to add a layer of control over the economic cycles of boom and bust which all nations and economies are subject to.

It is open for debate as to the effectiveness of the FED in this regard.  A mere 16 years after its creation the FED was unable to (or even contributed to) the Great Depression.  We generally assume that the marvelous expansion of the economy in the 20th century was proof of the effectiveness of the FED.  Certainly the American Economy is many many times larger now at the beginning of the 21st century than it was at the beginning of the 20th.  But, as this financial crisis has made clear, so is the balance sheet of the government many many times larger as well.

We see today that the FED has done everything possible to achieve so called “price stability” at the expense of its other assumed mandate of “full employment”.  There are many who openly question whether it wasn’t the FED’s own policies of artificially low interest rates and artificially cheap credit which caused the current crisis.  In this regard, with years of FED supported asset price growth and a short period of asset price crash the term “price stability” seems incorrect, the more correct term would be “price control” or lack thereof.  With the official unemployment rate at almost 10% and the unofficial unemployment rate projected to be much higher, we hear that such is the necessary sacrifice in order for “the markets to heal”.  As if markets were human beings who bleed and heal and human beings are just workers whose place is analogous to red blood cells rather than individual citizens.

I think this really is at the heart of the debate over the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.  On one side there are those who believe that the economic system is paramount and from it comes the health of the nation, while the other side believes that individual citizens in representative democracy are the ultimate source of the State’s continued existence.

This philosophical debate goes to the core of our ideas of government and the individual and its history is as old as human civilization.  Where does our individual responsibility lie? Is it to us, or our family, or our friends? Is it to our city, or our state, or our nation?  Where does the FED’s ultimate responsibility lie? Is it to itself and its member banks, or the United States government, or to the other central banks of the world?

It remains to be seen whose best interests are being served here; but I can only trust in the knowledge that anytime attempts at transparency are resisted it can only mean one thing… fraud.  Can we afford to trust the same individuals, the same organizations, and the same system to fix the societal ills which they have caused?  Transparency will never be tolerated when it comes to the FED, regardless of what their website claims.  If it were, the American people would know that they are only cogs in the machine, and the owners of capital mean to continue to impose the silent tax upon them… inflation.  Just as the revolutions of representative democracies were wagged on the basis of “no taxation without representation”, so the public knowledge of the silent tax of inflation would demand a response in kind and in measure.

 

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke

It CAN happen here

The following is an article from NPR about research published 10/2/08 in the journal Science by Jennifer Whitson.  Whitson set out to test whether people see patterns that aren’t there in response to a feeling of a lack-of-control.

 

<http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95296627>

 

 

It is with this in mind that I present the following:

 

 
 
 

 

 

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” — Sinclair Lewis, 1935

 

On November 20th 1942 the US ordered seizure of Nazi German banking operations in New York that were being run by… Prescott Bush, (grandfather of George W. Bush)(http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar)

 

There has been a quiet transfer of power from President George W. Bush to Vice President Cheney.  The attempt now is to install a president who will die in office and who’s vice president is nothing if not the perfect public face of the puppet government. 

 

Already, terrorist attacks and financial crisis have been used to transfer legislative/judicial power to the executive branch.  The idea is to move real control and therefore real accountability away from the president to unaccountable levels where no checks exist and where decisions have no consequences on the decision makers.  This shadow government is at the behest of the interests who have used their financial power to create wars and terror in order to manipulate democracy.  Now this shadow government seeks to create economic crisis and panic in order to redistribute wealth and concentrate power even further into the hands of the real sources of the currencies of nations.

 

America is founded on common ground, public space; on the idea of consensus, of debate, of freedom of life and work and belief.  The shadow government subverts this and weakens democracy from within like a hollow dead tree which will fall with the slightest breeze.   The declaration of independence itself makes clear that the experiment of democracy is to internalize the spirit of revolution within the government so that external and violent revolution is unnecessary. But the declaration also acknowledges that the people must be stewards of their own freedom and never allow the kind of shadow government which now controls us.  It is the right and duty of Americans, when the mechanisms of democracy have been subverted, to stand up and change the government. 

 

Make no mistake about it, fundamentalists within both Christianity and Islam seek the great conflagration, both seek rapture in destruction.  It is in the interests of the controllers of the currencies to maintain a constant battle between these two groups in order to keep them both ignorant of and weak enough to not be able to challenge the status quo; their goal is actually to polarize the world. Divided, all can be controlled.  Our shadow government has the same addenda and the same owners as Al Qaeda. Confuse with lies, create fear with violence, and divide the population through sexism, racism, and prejudice.

 

Just as Jesus’ philosophy was co-opted and institutionalized to become the very thing which Jesus fought against; so the founding fathers’ philosophy of freedom was institutionalized and turned into the exact opposite of its intended spirit.  Throughout history each thesis or movement is counterpoised by its antithesis or opposite.  It is in the interests of the owners of the currencies to keep this antithesis balanced and profit from it.  The real question of any forward movement of history is whether the living spirit will continue to grow, evolve and create a greater synthesis or combination of the two opposites; or whether the point and counterpoint will remain locked in an un-winnable and mutually self-destructive struggle in which both sides fight to a draw.

 

Will Osama Bin Laden deliver another “October surprise” in the form of a video just before the presidential election to help Senator McCain get elected, just like what happened in 2004 in order to help drum up fear in order to re-elect George W. Bush? 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Osama_bin_Laden_video

 

Why were the Bin Laden family members in the United States cleared to fly out of the country in a private chartered jet after 9-11 when all other air traffic had been grounded?

 

http://dir.salon.com/story/books/feature/2004/03/11/unger_1/

 

bush salute

bush salute