Now Playing: The Waifs "Shelter Me"
My current blog (late July until Feb 2006) is here:
These two similar examples show Howard sympathising with the people, and downplaying ANY technical/ political questions, sticking to the domestic.
BTW, I scored 21 415 on tetris.
It's weird having no obligations and waiting around until I leave on Tuesday 26th. I have been playing tetris on the internet- I was deprived of playing this as a child- so now I am addicted. My top score last night was 7609. The score totally varies according to how alert I am. (I just went and played again for a few hours and more than doubled my score to 15,722). I guess I am just imagining being on the plane and paying such games- and hence wasting my time here. Anyway will post more later.
[ps just sorted out visa dramas] anyway...
Just wrote an email to Vanessa that I will reproduce some of it here:
anyway... sorry I wrote a lot here... I think you should say 'deregulating' rather than 'opening up' markets... Question: > 1. you once said to me you don't like us using >the term 'open up' when talking about markets etc. >because that is the term corporations use - what >is a better way of putting it? (i actually kind of >think it has negative connotations so i don't mind >it, but you probably have a good explanation which >i would agree with... i'm just too lazy to think >of it myself) On 'opening up' markets...I would prob need to chat to you about it - because it depends on the situation and I am also not 100% clear on it. This is partly because of the wishy washyness of the concept (I just don't think you can categorise many different economic policies under the banner of 'freeing/opening up markets'. I don't see a definite common thread. Hence I believe 'free trade' as a concept when disconnected from the historical context of Adam Smith, Ricardo etc. is problematic.(I am open to peoples' disagreement with me here) Hey I'll take this answering process as a way of clarifying it for myself- sorry if I make it too simple I'm just trying to tease out the different aspects. I think the word 'free trade is similar to 'development' because it is a normative word assuming a universal beneficiary when more often than not it is a euphemism for 'corporate dominance'. However at the same time it is seen as a 'principle' that different geopolitical players share as a 'common value' (and hence the consensus process of the WTO- consensus often works from a starting pt of common values). I think it is a common belief in the worth of export-oriented development. 'Free trade' is always constructed as a clear ideal that exists in a binary opposition to 'protectionism'. However I don't find this binary useful to explain reality or to recommend proposals. There are too many unanswered questions. I think it is fine when applied in a particular domain of economics where the 'players' are equal, and where there will not be inefficiency created through unnecessary exports. However I don't find it so ideal in other situations. I think 'free trade' viewed as a 'principle' can only be a justifying discourse for simplistic (and hence destructive) policies. For example, viewing environmental regulations as 'barriers to free trade' when in reality environmental protection is necessary for the future of any economic activity, since human production is dependent on natural production. Re: 'Opening up': In practice, many 'free trade' policies of the WTO strategically favour particular corporations who write their 'wish lists', and their home countries often lobby for their requests- (eg US pharmaceutical giants lobbied for Aust's PBS to be dismantled). So that does not seem like changes to 'open up ' a level playing field but rather a coercive form of corporate protectionism, that will benefit pre-determined players. Such policies clearly advantage companies with massive offshore supply chains that source goods at rock-bottom prices/ wages. When trade policies are too simplistic, they only reward companies for sourcing goods cheaply and maximising profit. This is supposedly 'economic efficiency' (based on a narrow view of what is economic). However, there are other ideas of efficiency (eg an engineers view, in minimising resources used. Doug Henwood wrote about this in the book"After the New Economy"). Also there are many other reasons why a company/ coop should be rewarded in our economy, eg by being environmentally sustainable. How could such operations be rewarded in a money-based economy other than through some kinds of government intervention (eg penalties for polluting companies or subsidies for new solar businesses)?.
The reason why I don't like the phrase 'open up' to describe free trade is because it is a visual image that fits into the bigger metaphor of 'freedom' associated with neoliberal policies. (I discussed this issue of 'freedom' in a comment on Vibewire.net that I will reproduce below.)[Also if you want to read more about influential political metaphors, Lakoff's 'Don't Think of an elephant' is a good start]
It's true that 'opening up' can have neg connotations [eg 'opening up' a can of worms or a pandoras box] but the kind of 'opening' that the phrase usually refers to is an opening of restrictions that have previously restrained 'innovation', 'economic growth', 'market dynamism', etc. It also implies greater transparency and democracy (as in the metaphor 'opening up' windows). [even this is misleading since democracy as you know does not 'naturally' arise out of the market- it actually requires eternal vigilance]
Note that all these words suggest neutrality- and an abstract force without any beneficiaries or agents behind it. The implication is that EVERYONE is freed from these 'restrictions'. This is extremely misleading. We need to ask 'freedom for whom? to do what? 'Innovation of what? economic growth of GDP or local production? transparency for whom? (shareholders or employees?)
Every abstract word must be placed in a context. Without doing that it is meaningless and potentially manipulative. Metaphors (such as the level playing field) too are potentially manipulative, because they substitute a fairy tale (which may be partially accurate) for evidence. They construct the way we think about reality. Every time we use a conventional metaphor we are playing into a socially established framework that usually reflects certain unquestioned ideologies.
(I have got this from philosophy- in phenomenology they say that you cannot just 'have consciousness' full stop. That wouldn't make sense. It has to be consciousness OF something- of an object, - if you didnt want to specify I guess you could say consciousness in general......In the same way I was thinking about this the other night when I was having a beer with Matt S and some others and he commented that I am "self-motivated". However what does that mean? I thought afterwards "self motivated about what?" that this does not make sense- I am only self-motivated in relation to a certain domain of activities. I am only motivated to do those activities that i see as important. I am not very motivated to go and get boring jobs although I have needed to. I am not motivated to go swimming every day with my sister).
Anyway thats enough for now... speak to you later
Comment on Vibewire (maybe I shouldn't have bothered cos this guy is really one of the economic rationalist faithful)
I'm wondering what you mean when you call yourself a libertarian-
because I am also a libertarian yet I am clearly of the left rather than the right.
I think the political compass is useful in this respect: http://www.politicalcompass.org/
historically, the word 'libertarian' was associated with the Left- with those who favoured liberty (as well as equality and fraternity). I see freedom as the capacity to fulfil ones' potential, so I also believe that the 'sink or swim' mentality of many of the free market policies imposed on African countries (eg through World Bank structural adjustment programs etc) are antithetical to freedom for most people for whom the 'invisible hand' of the market becomes a coercive force in their lives.
Also, in response to your definition of a worker, yes that is a similar definition that most socialists/left libertarians have of the working class. The "ruling" class is only in reality very small- those people whose livelihoods do not depend on their own labour but on the performance of their assets. But even then, some of their actions do 'add value' to a company/ product. It is very hard to not do any creative labour at all.
I like to see class in terms of how much autonomy people have at their workplace. Employers have power-over to the extent that their employees are afraid of losing their jobs. So if you don't really care if you are fired, you probably have some other income stream or you have enough social capital/ education/ skills to make you employable. Those who are at the bottom end of the sloped bargaining table are those people who are in some way incapacitated in their ability to assert their rights. These are the people who are affected most dramatically by individual contracts. (such as those being imposed on universities as a condition of their extra funding by governments).
Finally, I am wondering how African nations can develop through free trade alone, if many African nations have specialised in commodities as their 'comparative advantages'. Commodity prices have gone into freefall over the last 30 years, esp the last 5 years (the commodity price of coffee has halved over 5 years). Export oriented agriculture has displaced local economies, leading to bizarre situations where countries are in famine whilst exporting mangoes to Europe (one year, The Ivory Coast producers dumped their mangoes in the sea, because the commodity price was too low, whilst their local people starved).
Surely all this calls for some way of ensuring fair wages for the people who produce such products, so that their lives aren't controlled by such uncertainty. This is what 'Fair trade' is about.
Anyway I could write much more but that's enough for now...
Just came back from a great housewarming in Leura (now is that where my weekend went?)
just wrote a response to a melbourne indymedia post about ecology: (probably pointless, but wanted an opp to explain ecology) see here
Also, there was just a lovely letter by a painter on Sydney Indymedia: see here.
Today, I had a real feeling of being overwhelmed by my obligations such as essays- its nearing the end of semester. I also was trying to work out how to convert high memory .wav sound files into manageable bits that I can email- for an urgent group assignment. I wasted HOURS on this and still didn't find an answer. By the end, I was really stressed out and upset, wishing these essays would disappear.
Then later in the day, we had our last Kant tutorial, talking about how Kant stayed in his town of birth all his life. We discussed how the insular lifestyle of academic contemplation for Kant may have helped with clarity- since he did not have much stimulus from the outside world, hence could focus on the relationship between the mind and the world. (perhaps with all the variables constant)
Our lives today, if anything, are overstimulated, without the space or the conceptual tools to process the stimulus into insight.
The further we understand things, the more there is a need for nuance- But nuance is more data if it is learnt in a data-oriented way. How do we accomodate nuance if our brains keep wanting to see patterns?
Well maybe nuance can become an ordinary part of perception if it is integrated into a VALUE SYSTEM. So instead of remembering patterns such as "Politicians behave according to a certain ideology EXCEPT when...",
We take on a value of believing in the basic human good intentions of people, and imagine the barriers to that becoming realised in real life.
Hence statements that say "Except when..." actually need further rethinking and further theorising; an adjustment of expectations, that is not necessarily academic, but possibly a decision to judge in a different way.
After my philosophy class, I was thinking a lot about the philosophy of teaching. I talked as we walked with my lecturer Jane, and my classmates Matt and Johnathan, talking about Rhetoric and Clarity.
There are two definitions of Rhetoric that are absolutely opposed in terms of their outcome:
1. Sophistry: e.g. Bertrand Russell's Rhetoric in delegitimising Kant was very successful in turning generations of Analytic Philosophers away from Kant. I believe that sophistry (skillful persuasive discourse, that isn't necessarily of any merit in terms of truth value) is EVERYWHERE in our society. How does one WADE through all this CRAP? Sophistry does not contribute anything to either the understanding OR the moral worth of a society.
2. Clarified communication: e.g. Habermas (actually perhaps it was Paul Ricoeur) believes that Rhetoric should be the discipline of clarification, in order that people are on the same wavelength, and hence genuine dialogue and understanding can become possible. [here] is one article I found on google on this. I think a good ref is Habermas, "Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action", p. 195. Habermas attempts "to reformulate Kant’s ethics by grounding moral norms in communication"
The chickens stayed in the undergrowth looking for grubs.
And here some are:
And heres a kookaburra- not facing me-
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