Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Saturday, August 25, 2018

WEARY, BUT IN A GOOD WAY

I am back from three hours of canvassing in Chatham County for Ryan Watts, the young man trying to knock off the execrable Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Walker in the NC 6th CD.  In my youth, this stint would have been no biggie, but at eighty-four, I tire rather more easily.  We were canvassing in an upscale development full of McMansions, each one set apart from its neighbors by lots of grass and space, which of course meant lots of walking between houses with long curving walks and prominent signs saying "private residence" [I guess so that no one mistakes them for public buildings.]  Our list included only registered Democrats, the idea being not to persuade them but simply to get them to come out and vote.

I would guess the houses range from $750,000 to several million each.  A development called Colvert Farms, maybe because it was built on the site of an old farm.  The organizer who mobilized us and sent us off with VoteBuilder maps [a creation of the Obama campaigns] is sixty-six years my junior, having just graduated from high school.  

American politics is strange.

12 comments:

Nice Nihilist said...

Corey Robin wrote an op-ed in the NY Times on socialism. He makes a good point about the private life of power--he uses the vocabulary of freedom to emphasize that life under corporate tyranny is not at all free. His critics divided into two camps: one criticized him for the New York Times paywall ("If free things make us free, how come we can't access your op ed?"). The other resorted to slogans: "capitalism is about choice; socialism is the opposite." These slogans are devoid of analytic content. I attempted to draw Robin's attention to your paper "The Future of Socialism." The point that large corporate bureaucracies have nothing internally like market signals to guide their decision making and that accounting practices cannot tell them which of of the firm's various inputs of any item contributed to its sale is, in my view, essential to the allocation problem Robin addresses. The absence of such market signals internally, except in the trivial cases where linear programming gives a complete answer (maximize the output given the inputs, sell off this productive capacity--meaning solve the linear program and its dual), leads ineluctably to the quasi-political decision making of the firm. [Some executives bristle at this characterization, and prefer the phrase "wild-ass guess" to "quasi-political decision making"--nevertheless, the intractability of the allocation problem remains an issue.] That accounting is not a reasonable subject bears crucially on the business preoccupation with "risk management"--and efforts to compensate for this through the so-called "private life of power"--limiting employee freedoms internally, and by limiting the "choices" available to labor legislatively. Yet I doubt that Robin will even cast a glance at your paper, despite, or perhaps because of, my referral. I give up attempting to reach intellectuals.

Nice Nihilist said...

What I meant to convey (I won't bother to delete and correct my previous post--the way of errata is endless) can't be better expressed than a direct quotation from The Future of Socialism: What this means, in plain language, is that an accountant, speaking professionally, cannot tell the management of a firm just what a unit of output costs and hence how much of the profit of the firm can be attributed to its sale."

I suppose no response to this will be a further favor to me: I will turn from Stocism, which permits and encourages political engagement, to Epicurianism, which prefers to confine itself within the walls of The Garden.

N said...

One final remark: during the 2010 congressional and senate testimony on the financial crisis, there were expressions of the quasi-political decision making [though not in those terms] in the absence of a functional relation between the cost (of a sale or purchase of some security, in this case) and the overall profit and loss of the firm. Again this is implicit, though I believe a careful perusal of the testimony will reveal more than I have at the moment. I certainly recall one trader insisting that his desk only had a limited view of the firm, and that there was no way to tell how his desk would affect the overall P&L, or something to this effect. This could be a legal defense and nothing more, or it could reflect the indeterminacy of accounting methods.

One example, from the EXHIBITS, Hearing On WALL STREET AND THE FINANCIAL CRISIS: THE ROLE OF INVESTMENT BANKS. April 27, 2010
110 "...I want
III to be very clear about this point: whether a commitment is funded or not is
112 irrelevant to its impact on our P&L. We mark all commitments and funded
113 loans to market and our marks reflect current market conditions, not a view of
114 what a credit could be worth if the market dislocation were to end. Our
115 aggregate loss is not a portfolio level reserve. Each credit is individually
116 marked based on where we believe we could exit the commitment in current
117 market conditions, using as much external information as possible, including
118 broker quotes, external pricing services, derivative indices and actual market
119 trades in these and similar positions."

s. wallerstein said...

I admire your commitment. I'm 12 years younger than you, but I'm not up to 3 hours canvassing. I don't have the energy anymore. I can donate money by internet and sign petitions online, offer to edit texts (online) or translate (online), maybe interpret in person for a few hours.

jeffrey kessen said...

I'm sorry, but what the hell is going on in your "Comments" section? Did I precipitate lunacy? I've been on-line for three months and this is what it's about?

Anonymous said...

I think you've just asked an important question, jeffrey. I mean the first one, not the one about whether you precipitated it. My guess is that the blog has been discovered by some who can't resist using it for their own egotistical ends.

MS said...

I repeat, "Much madness is divinest sense [t]o a discerning eye."

I suspect that Nice Nihilist was motivated by the references in Prof. Wolff's post to "private, keep out" signs and homes ranging in value from $750,000 to $1 million to submit a comment about socialism vs. capitalism.

RobinMcDugald said...

I must confess I'd have a hard time regarding someone who lived in an enormous, expensive house as anything other than a political enemy, no matter what their declared partisan orientation. I can't imagine what argument would change my mind and my attitude.

MS said...

RobinMcDougal,

In politically perilous times, some are persuaded to resort to the doctrine, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," no matter how wealthy and committed to conspicuous consumption the enemy-friend is.

Nice said...

For those who have forgotten the frequent references on this blog to The Future of Socialism by its author, Robert Paul Wolff, and for those who haven't noticed, I have provided a link. This will provide some context, on the off chance that the frequent and recurring mention of this paper in these blog pages isn't sufficient for someone who has bothered to read it and take it seriously to escape the charge of lunacy.

Nice Nihilist said...

The link in the previous comment apparently leads nowhere. While the charge of lunacy must stand on that account (together with the charge of egotism--a character trait that Anonymous lacks), nevertheless, here is a functioning link to The Future of Socialism.

MS said...

Nice Nihilist,

Thank you for the link. I have just printed it. That obviates the need some may feel to steal it from a library.