Attack of the Vampire Squid

by Joshua on December 11, 2010 · 6 comments

The newest video from the new economics foundation (nef), titled “The Vampire Squid” takes the title from commentary on our banking system by Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone back in 2008, referring to Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid, wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Watch the video here:

Also, check out the campaign website and briefing (pdf).

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

progressiveaudio December 16, 2010 at 03:15

Great video, though I’ve been recently re-evaluating a lot of my views on “steady state” economic ideas, mostly because some of the bigwigs of it seem a bit fruity and out there, like the Herman Daly guy teetering on creationism. It makes me think their economic views may be colored by unrealistic beliefs, or maybe they’re completely separate.

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Joshua December 16, 2010 at 11:05

Thanks for the comment! I would hate to think you’re being put off of the concepts behind a steady state economy because of some inferred “fruitiness.”

I think making assessments on the ideals and policies of the steady state economy based upon the personal viewpoints of some of it’s proponents might be a little unwarranted. Herman Daly is a very bright man who has worked hard to create a sustainable model for the economy, one that is fairly sound and delivers a much needed wake-up call to those who still triumph the belief that growth can continue ad nauseum. There are many personal views that our current economic and political leaders carry that I disagree with – creationism is rampant among the entire existing political spectrum, for instance – but that does not necessarily mean that I disagree withe every opinion carried by such people, necessarily.

There are “fruity” people in mainstream just as in alternative, but that doesn’t make the concept of a sustainable, steady state economy less valid or less needed for continued/improved human well-being.

That being said, I do not know what Herman Daly’s beliefs are from a “creationism” stand point, but I doubt that he is one to conflate his religious beliefs with cold hard facts – like ecological limits to growth. We’re talking about a guy who correctly identified the conflicts between laws of physics (thermodynamics, to be specific) and the insane idea of continued economic growth on a finite planet. If you’re referring to his article in the The Daly News about population I think you might be misconstruing his point.

There has been a lot of diligent work in this field by less-than-fruit people, working to define a better way for society. A non-growth-centered economy, one scaled sustainably within the limits of our finite ecosystems, whether called a “steady state” or a “new economy,” is the only truly worth and desirable system if we wish to maintain some semblance of civilization into the next 100, 200, or 500 years. The work being done by people like Joshua Farley, Herman Daly, Brian Czech, and others, regardless of their “fruitiness,” deserves attention and respect.

I hope any “fruitiness” of the messengers does not put you off from the message.

Cheers,
Joshua

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ProgressiveAudio December 17, 2010 at 05:33

Thanks for responding.

Well, I said teetering on creationism, I don’t mean he’s a full-blown creationist or that he denies evolution, he doesn’t, but he accepts evolution in a very non-materialist way, in fact he seems to base his viewpoints and ideas on an anti-materialist and anti rational stance, even saying things like neo-darwinism (whatever that is) and using deceptive creationist language like micro-evolution vs macro-evolution. Apparently he’s even said in a book of his that you have to be a Christian to really care about humanity, which of course is blatantly false. He also uses the term “scientism” which really just means the prevailing scientific opinion contradicts someones personal beliefs, so it must be dogmatic thinking, because said persons beliefs couldn’t possibly be incorrect. But anyway, it’s not that I stumbled on some opinions of his and got offended, it’s just I question anyone who doesn’t form their opinions on the cold hard scientific facts, and goes into mystical religious stuff, it just makes me think they may not be basing their world view on a factual basis, all the time anyway.

I fear because of such stuff, materialist standpoints on economics, whether it be Marxism or social capitalist thought or whatever, wouldn’t be compatible with a steady state economy, and really turns me off, because I think any economic standpoint not rooted in the hard facts is doomed to fail. Correct me if I’m wrong.

As for population, well I pretty much don’t agree with most “steady staters” or environmentalist on the population thing, I’ve accepted that, I’m not a Malthusian. I admit, that aspect turns me off and I automatically think of the Discovery Channel terrorist guy or the crazy people I’ve known in my life who dreamed of blowing up day care centers and forcibly sterilizing people. That and the nazi ones I’ve run into. I know that’s not 90 percent of Malthusians, but I can’t help it. This disagreement doesn’t prevent me from accepting other positions from steady staters however.

Thanks for taking the time to respond, I’m glad I was able to air my disagreements with a fellow steady stater.

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Joshua December 17, 2010 at 08:02

Yea, no worries, I am always happy to have debates! Thanks for commenting. Interesting information about Daly that I was unaware of, regarding the depth of his Christianity. I agree that religion can be a distraction in the context of scientific conversation. I would fall into the John Lennon camp, I think – I have no real use for organized religion and believe the world would be much better without it, however in no sense do I begrudge anyone from practicing or believing in a religion in general.

I have not seen any steady staters that are Malthusians in the context that you are describing. At least, those of us working towards a realistic sustainable economy are not – I’m sure you can find some people who attach themselves to SSE that are dreaming of “blowing up day care centers and forcibly sterilizing people,” but this is definitely not the norm nor is it a policy view held by anyone I know. Malthus gets written off entirely for his radical ideas, but he is not off base in his conclusion that the Earth can only hold so many people – this is something basic to biology and natural science: carrying capacity. No creature on this Earth grows it’s population continually – they all find a balance with their ecosystem or the have a massive die-off until they reach equilibrium again.

The population issue is a serious one, just like the limits to economic growth – we can only support so many people at any given level of consumption. If we all want to live like Americans, then the world can probably only sustainably hold something in the 1-3 billion range. If we all want to live at consumption levels of, say, India, then it is probably in the 6-8 billion range. I don’t have any actual estimates in front of me, so these numbers are purely ballpark guesses from my memory, but they show the stark difference in population levels related to consumption. Once you add to the mix climate change, degrading ecosystems and peak oil, the population issue becomes even more precarious because we rely heavily on a stable climate and cheap fossil fuels to sustain our population.

Policy-wise, handling this issue needs to be done in a socially just manner, no different than how we would approach the rest of our economic policies in a steady state economy. Policies I would see us instituting would be removing tax breaks for people who have more than 2 kids, maybe even taxing those who have more than 3. I would see policies like increasing access to birth control methods, more sex education, empowering women’s right to choose, et cetera. Those simply things alone will go a long way to creating a population that is stable. Besides being completely reprehensible, there is no need to forcibly sterilize people. Of course, such options should be readily available for those interested (for instance, many men get vasectomies after they have had children – I’ll be doing that myself).

To hit your note about materialism, you’re correct in thinking that a materialistic-driven society is not conducive to a steady state economy. That is not to say that we won’t still have cell phones that constantly improve or the need/desire to buy things, simply that this will no longer be the sole purpose of our existence as they are today. I personally think this will be a great move towards a happier way of life – I loath being called a consumer and told that I must buy in order to fulfill some sort of purpose – that’s poppycock and we all know it.

Thanks again for commenting, it’s great to discuss these things!

Cheers,
Joshua

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ProgressiveAudio December 17, 2010 at 22:40

Thanks again for responding. I first feel the need to respond to your bit on materialism.

You misunderstand me, you think I’m talking about materialistic lifestyles, not the world view of materialism. Two very different things not even remotely related. Ironically most of the economic viewpoints that are materialist are against materialistic lifestyles and consumerism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism This is what I mean. I mean an economic standpoint that roots itself in science and understanding of the world, not in mumbo jumbo nonsense, whatever it may be, religious or otherwise. I’m not a Marxist myself, but Marxism is a good example. And the opposite of that is Objectivism, which is also materalist but I certainly don’t subscribe to that. I think you get my point :p I’m very much against this consumer culture we have, but I think some take it too far, too often I see anti-technology stuff among critics of consumerism which is just silly.

I don’t mind if someones religious, or even draws influences from their religion in their world views, this isn’t about my personal preference in beliefs, it’s about using facts and not personal beliefs in shaping your framework for the world. From what I’ve read, while it doesn’t come up a lot, it seems Herman Daly is rooted in an anti-materialist, i.e. anti just cold hard facts and seems to think his economic model is derived from Providence, so it won’t fail. I’m not trying to bash his economic ideas, I don’t know much of them yet, but that trend worries me is all. It makes me skeptical.

I don’t disagree with what you say on the population, though plenty of environmentalist (such as George Monbiot, a person I read up on a lot) disagree that population is the biggest concern, I’m among them, especially since the trends now is lower population, especially in the most developed countries, which are ironically the biggest polluters. What I mean is I’ve run into people, some identifying with steady state stuff, who are eugenicist, who are for coercive and punitive measures, some even being racist, who call for the poor and minorities to be made into basically sterile cattle, and this very much worries me as I’m poor and I do plan to have children one day, (hopefully won’t be poor when I do it) and it seems to be a trend with some hardcore environmentalist and alternative economic advocates. And then reading some stuff from Daly and others, I couldn’t help connect the dots.

Look forward to your response.

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