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"What is needed is a system that can prevent the harm done to citizens by the dishonesty of business elites"
--- So do they explain what this magical system is? It sounds like a setup for even more Ayn Rand free market capitalism with less regulation, precisely what we've gotten since Reagan. This seems to be an argument that Conservatives/Libertarians/Republicans continually make: that what we have is not true free market capitalism, but too much government intervention. I guess all those corporate lobbyists aren't giving them their money's worth.

John Hemington

Dave, if I understand what it is that Talib and Blythe are saying here, and I have read Talib, it's not so much stability which is the problem, but the illusion of stability. When stability is falsely created by participants as an illusion it almost inevitably results in delusional behavior on the part of participants in the system. As you say, there were numerous astute observers who recognized years prior to the crisis that it was building and had been for a number of years.

It was, in fact, a deliberately structured delusional system of economic theology (neoclassical economics, a la Milton Freidman, et. al.) which permitted the theives and Ponzi-scamers to fuel themselves on the ready cash to be stolen while most everyone dozed on believing faked government statistics and private sector lies about the strength of the U.S. economy.

Yes, human are certainly prone to corruption and self-dealing when given the opportunity, but when the opportunity is deliberately designed into the system as a means of simulating stability and then the natural consequences of the innate instability occur (collapse of corrupt institutions) and are not permitted to be effectuated (bailouts permit the corruption to continue and increase) there is no possible outcome but final collapse of the system itself. But this is not, in my opinion, a function of stability or even the illusion of stability. It is a simple and pure function of corruption triumphing over rational organization.

You are no doubt correct in stating that this is probably an unavoidable end-point of any empire, but it is also the result of any society attempting the pretense of empire. Empire building, in and of itself, is a corrupt and corrupting activity which requires exponential acquisition of resources and wealth at the expense of the dominated. For most of its brief existence the American empire was much more subtle than most of its predecessors in this process. But, as you have repeatedly said, once the Reagan administration declared that subtlety was no longer in fashion and brute force and criminal acquisition of wealth was acceptable, the rush forward for power was on sans restraint.

While this may be inevitable it is not necessarily uncontrollable provided society is alert to the signs and signals of corruption. Unfortunately, the fruits of corruption disguised and free market capitalism in a military dominated empiric environment have proven too tempting to resist and we will now pay the price for buying into the delusion. The inevitability is housed in the nature of empires as well as the nature of humankind. Once delusional behavior dominates all is lost.

The unfortunate thing is that you are one of the very few individuals out there who understands just how this quirk of human nature plays out over time. Humans, I believe, instinctively understand this frailty in societies of contained size and can take rational actions to control deviant behavior.

But empires always foster the illusion of omnipitant and delusions of grandure in which the participants come to believe that whatever they choose to do is right and correct just because they can get away with it for the time being. It is thus the grand delusion of humanity of which you so eloquently speak.


Taleb has one tool: a wrench. He keeps looking for bolts to tighten. You look like you might have a hammer.

You both appear to be overstating your case.

For myself, I have a pry bar: it's called leverage. Leverage makes the world fall down. Doesn't matter how you get there.

John Hemington

Yes russell1200 leverage is certainly one of the key factors, but the overall problem is unrestrained private debt (some certainly keyed by excessive leverage) that ultimately brings the system to its knees. Such excessive private debt requires some form of corrupt regulatory capture to come into existence -- as does too much leverage. It is possible to control this process, but not once the regulated gain total control over the regulators, which is where we now live.

Dave's point, I believe is that this is an inevitability given the basic nature of the human animal and I am inclined to agree. However, it seems to me that the basic fight for beneficial regulatory management is worth working for -- at least until mankind gets over the falacious idea the infinite growth is somehow possible to maintain within the confines of a finite planet.

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