MOBS, MESSIAHS & MARKETS

MOBS, MESSAGES AND MARKETS

1. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF CONTRIBUTIONS TO “MOBS, MESSIAHS AND MARKETS”
2. REVISION OF MS.
3. PROMOTION AND USAGE

December 26, 2007

Acknowledgment:

All editions of the joint work, “Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets,” (Wiley, 2007) by William R. Bonner and Lila Rajiva (hereafter called “the book”), including translations, revisions and derivative works, now and in the future, in the US or abroad, will have a clear description of the separate contributions of both authors to its creation. No version or derivative work or edition of the book in any medium anywhere will be published which does not contain this description. It will appear in the acknowledgments page in front (or as appropriate to any other media), so as to be clearly visible, and will take the following general form (allowing for additions or changes as required by any future changes in the text):

Bill Bonner contributed the original idea for the book and material for Chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 as well as a part of 4.

Lila Rajiva contributed the argument of the book, the title, and the material for Chapters 4,5,10, and 11 as well as a part of 7, 12 and 15.

Chapters 3, 9, and 17 were authored by both authors. (specific parts of the chapters to be added here later).

Selection, collation and rewriting of prior columns, use of epigraphs, most of the substantive editing, as well as all research, illustration, and sourcing were contributed by Lila Rajiva.

The structure, chapter heads and subtitles were contributed by both authors.

We would appreciate citation and critiques to reflect these separate contributions.

(Since this has been written without a copy of the book to refer to, this agreement will allow corrections to be made to the description if, in good faith, there are errors discovered in it later).

Revision of Ms:

Both authors will have the right to vet the manuscript of the book for approval of changes before publication of any version, edition, translation, or derivative work in any media in the US or elsewhere. If the authors do not choose to exercise the right at any time, that will not alter their right to do so at other times.

Promotion and Usage:

No promotion of the book will exclude either author from the credits or byline. If the book is referred to several times in the course of the same promotional material, one author may be highlighted, but joint attribution of the book itself must be given clearly and visibly.

No excerpt from the book may be quoted anywhere unless attributed jointly and equally to both authors. Should the authors wish to highlight their own specific contributions in the book, they will quote or excerpt from their solo contributions published earlier on the web under their own names.

Either author may describe the manner in which they contributed to the book, focusing on their own contribution only with no reference to the other, as long as they refer to material previously published which is solely theirs. But any reference to the joint work in the book, whether in writing or in other media (such as speeches), will give full credit to the joint effort.

The stipulations given above will be interpreted not only according to the literal letter of the law, but in the spirit of it, to preserve the character of the book as a joint work and the work of the authors as a joint and equal collaboration as intended and agreed on before writing,

Signed by Bill Bonner and Lila Rajiva

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WERE WE TOO MEAN?

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Bill Bonner and I had many discussions about the levels of snarkiness people would take before throwing some of it right back in our face. We wondered if it would offend reviewers. We took out a lot of things. And we put some back. We thought about softening things. I tried numskulls and nitwits instead of idiots….just to be nice and all…..

But after all, it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. And, the herd we are talking about is not something outside any of us. The mob isn’t really “out there.” It’s something we all struggle against. The urge to conform, to follow, to do as others do, to obey senseless orders, turn on the outsider, commit judicial murder. The heroes of our book are the individuals who don’t turn their back on the defenseless.

But we aren’t about to confuse that kind of goodness with the professions of corporate journalists, policy wonks, and verbose politicians.

Except for some modest Bush-bashing, and of course the mandatory Thomas Friedman festivity (this is a cottage industry down at The Daily Reckoning as well as on many academic and left-wing sites), I really don’t know who or what it was that we poked fun at that was so sacrosanct and didn’t deserve it.

It’s fine to kill, despoil, lie, cheat and swindle, but mention that bluntly and you’re altogether too, too terrible. Mean-spirited!

“Mobs” is actually pretty hopeful. It has nothing offensive whatsoever to say about those who really do good. Mainly, we poke fun at people who deserve more scrutiny but don’t get it because they’re at the top of the heap.

As for James Surowiecki, we do criticize his work a bit, but only tangentially. Proving a thesis is not what this book is about. It’s what it’s not about.

“Mobs” is not a sociology tract. It’s simply our report on the state of affairs in what we like to call the public spectacle. Wars, manias, swindles. Don’t any of these call for a bit of mockery?

They do.

Copyright, Lila Rajiva, August, 2007, All rights reserved

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Copyright acknowledgment on Investment Report on Goldman Sachs

Lila  Rajiva retains the copyright to her investment report on Goldman Sachs, completed August 2006.

Signed: Bill Bonner

(I will put up screen shots of both documents here as well as a link)

This report was first published under the name of an Agora research assistant, without permission. It was work originally intended for my part of “Mobs,” which – at the publisher’s request –  I reluctantly cut out. My own rewrite of my investment research was published as a cover story by Agora-owned “Money Week” earlier that year (July 2006).

I retain full copyright for both and also for “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets”

[Link to original contract (between Wiley and Bonner and Rajiva, individually). No mention of Agora].

The idea that Goldman was corrupt and rigging the markets/government policy as well as the research itself and the article based on it came out of my own research from my first book on the intersection of financialization and propaganda.

I will link the report here, when I can put it into a pdf format.
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Synopsis of Mobs

Lila’s Note:

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets (Bill Bonner and Lila Rajiva, Wiley, August 31, 2007) takes for its subject the difference between the knowledge of experience (what Nietzsche called erfahrung) and the knowledge derived at second and third-hand from the opinions of others (wissen).

The difference coincides with the difference between our private worlds and what the authors call the public spectacle of the market-place and politics, where mob behavior reigns.

Using insights from socio-biology and ethology the book suggests – through a playful array of anecdotes from history and current events – that it is genetics and the mating game that make us prone to crowd behavior, whether that plays out in bubbles, in the art market, or in witchcraft hysteria. Human beings are hard-wired to spread our genes farther than our rivals, they write, and that leads us to form in-groups and out-groups that in turn make us easy prey to fashionable ideologies and the ideologues who dream them up.

It little matters what the theory is. Imperialists and communists, religious crusaders and democratic triumphalists all make a mess of things. The problem lies in the scale of things, it seems. The human brain is simply too poorly equipped to handle groups of a size larger than that of the typical tribal community or military unit. Much larger, and any organization starts needing a bureaucratic structure to function at all. Then come the apparatchiks.….and all the farce, folly, and tragedy of the public spectacle.

Mobs, Messiahs and Markets is not pop social science by any means but simply “the home inspector’s report on the wormy wreck of government policies and prescriptions that experts and ideologues are selling us. And it suggests that the answer lies in returning government to a far more limited role. We need to look toward history and experience to guide our behavior rather than to an ever-increasing body of regulations.

Mobs proposes, albeit irreverently, a nation of law, rather than a state with a surfeit of laws.

As the insightful political theorist Michael Oakeshott suggests, that distinction is the essential difference between a civil association concerned with the adverbial rules of conduct needed for free individuals to get along and an enterprise association that sets itself specific goals and is willing to pass endless laws to reach them. By doing so, the particular enterprise association called the modern state ultimately sacrifices the individual entirely to politics.

But where anyone wants to go is not something that can be decided by the mob, say the authors. Neither the mob inside us in the form of self-deceiving logic nor the mob outside in the form of popular slogans. Telling heaven from hell or blue skies from pain is something each individual must do for himself.

That is why the study of our past and our traditions might be a better avenue to reliable knowledge about human behavior, economic and political, than the study of abstract mathematical models.

The authors have no prescription as to what to do. But they do have one as to what not to do.

“As the Good Book tells us,” they write, “we ought not to put our faith in princes and powers; we ought not to be taken in by the public spectacle.”

Copyright by Lila Rajiva. August, 2007.

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Interview with D. Murali and Goutam Ghosh, editors of the Business section of The Hindu

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The Hindu exercised its editorial judgment and removed my plug for Ron Paul and my take-down of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. Klein is a great reporter but a dubious theorist. The editors also took out my slam of Rubin & Co., shockers-in-chief.

In the interview I was able to make the connection between financialization and propaganda but adding the section on torture would have made the whole argument stronger. With the The Economic Times, the Hindu Business section is the most widely-read business outlet in India.

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STEER CLEAR OF MASS MARKETING INVESTING

By D. Murali and Goutam Ghosh, Chennai:

Though there is nothing inherently antisocial about genuinely free markets, you should look at the language of politics and the markets with suspicion and examine things for yourself, cautions Lila Rajiva, co-author of ‘Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets’ (Wiley, 2007).

“If ethical and productive individuals produce ethical and productive societies, then we all have much more power than we think,” she adds, on a reassuring note, during the course of a recent e-mail interaction with Business Line.

Excerpts from the interview.

Your book seems to show a more than healthy disrespect for conventional wisdom.

I don’t think the book says anything terribly revolutionary. If it sounds as if it does, it’s only because the public debate is so restricted. Even differences between the right and left are sometimes no more than variations on the same one-note samba. Most popular experts have backgrounds and training that are very similar, and they tend to feed us the same warmed-over ideas.

So, although I support free markets and individualism, I realize that labels can be deceptive and conventional wisdom often plain wrong.

What we really have in the US, for instance, isn’t so much a capitalist as a managed economy, in which the managerial class controls the creation and dissemination of money and also the creation and dissemination of public opinion.

Money and opinion?

The financialisation of the economy and information control go hand in hand. That was actually the gist of my first book, a study of mass thinking in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

In ‘Mobs’, the new book, I look at the same issue from a different angle and in a very different vein, in collaboration with contrarian financial writer, Bill Bonner, who has behind him a lifetime of observing mob behaviour in the money business.

Is there an overdose of politics in ‘Mobs’?

Some people have suggested that we should have steered clear of politics. I disagree. The financial and business world actually has a pretty serious civic duty, since it has a ringside view of politics.

And while writers should consider reviewers’ sensibilities, they should consider their own integrity even more. The need for aesthetic distance doesn’t excuse them from ethical action in the real world. To be a libertarian always presupposes ethics. Otherwise, what you end up with is license and criminality.

Recommending fiscal prudence, limited government, and humility to the political class – a revolutionary proposition?

But so it is. Today, even major economics departments endorse extensive state intervention and cultural Marxism and call that the free market and liberalism. Naturally, when you bring up the real thing, people act as if they’d found a hand grenade in their lunch bag.

Look, academics can cultivate whatever school of thought they want, but the more limited the information they work with, the more out of touch with reality they become, and the more inaccurate their reading of the world. That’s the problem with the intellectual caste system that presumes that unless economic theories come out of the Ivy League, they have nothing to offer.

The book might sound outrageous, also, because our positions weren’t partisan. Of course we wrote it – with important reservations – from an Austrian perspective on economics. But we criticised Republicans as well as Democrats. We poked fun at communists and imperialists.

Government programs are styled like off-the-rack maternity dresses — big enough to cover any act of nature, with room to expand. Political debate is a Mafia hit job. Its goal is not to open conversation but to terminate opponents. You simply bludgeon them to death with whatever comes to hand.

Do you see parallels between wartime messages and market cant?

A great deal. In-group bonding requires self-deception. The obvious example is wartime propaganda, but there’s also the way we manipulate memory in our personal recollections and collective histories.

It’s the manipulation of memory that allows propaganda to work and messianic leaders to hustle their way into office, whether through democratic elections or the barrel of a gun. And it’s what blows up hot-air balloons in the market that we take for genuine booms.

We’re not, obviously, equating the president of a constitutional republic, like Bush, with a despot like Mao. We’re simply showing how delusion surrounds statesmen of all types, even those spouting the highest sounding motives. Once you strip them of the rhetoric, they’re all neck-deep in bamboozles and blunders that bring nothing but disaster for ordinary people.

The Iraq war might have been about strategic and oil interests, but the propaganda about it was all about thwarting tyranny. That was what the public believed. And it’s public opinion that makes people go to war, buy houses they can’t afford, invest in mortgage-backed securities they know nothing about, and jump into the market because a stock tout on TV tells them to.

People who sell you a war are using the same methods of manipulation as the people who urge you to buy tech stocks at the top of a market or sell them at the bottom.

And the investment advice we offer is geared to make you understand this and steer clear of what my co-author likes to call mass market investing. Our varied excursions into politics, history, economics, socio-biology and finance are all meant to reinforce that piece of common sense.

How would your suggestions and findings serve those who prefer to be active in the investment market?

We’re not suggesting that Rip Van Winkle is our ideal for a portfolio manager. In fact, we argue that relatively passive investments like mutual funds are rarely as safe as they’re advertised to be, since high fees can offset any expertise you get from the managers.

Beyond that, we differ in our approaches. Bill advises the classic strategy of pursuing assets with grossly undervalued fundamentals and holding them for the long-term. My research into market history over the last few decades convinces me otherwise.

Long-term investing now often poses risks as great as or greater then mid-term trading because the investment world has become several orders of magnitude more volatile and fragile.

Sell and buy orders that go off at pre-programmed levels in stampedes, ever more complex derivatives, risk and reward so intricately repackaged that buyers no longer know what they are playing with, a global flood of credit, massive leveraging and trans-national financial flows have made the market a kaleidoscope.

One shake, and a stable pattern breaks up, slides all over the place and reshapes itself into something stunningly unexpected, all in no time at all.

So, being able to rethink your strategy in a heartbeat is far more vital to your financial health than holding onto things until rigor mortis sets in.

Briefly, we recommend the following: study your investments close up; tune out most of the “white noise” of day-to-day market commentary; get a plan and stick with it. And know yourself – why you invest, what your goals are, and what risks you can tolerate.

Your views on some of the recent developments in Indian finance world: such as the race for mergers, the Sensex leaping, rupee appreciation, bulging forex reserves, and the participatory note issue.

The race for mergers in India seems to follow a general trend in the market. In the past few years, the major banks have been more and more involved in M& A activity – and have made quite a high proportion of their profits from it.

Rupee appreciation is only to be expected, as the dollar is relatively overvalued against Asian currencies. The next major leg down in the dollar index should be against them, since the other major currencies have already made sizable gains.

The Sensex? The general feeling is that there is less of a bubble here than in the Chinese market, although here too valuations are probably full. But since the Indian market is probably not as intertwined with US consumption as the Chinese seems to be, it might have more strength long-term. On the negative side, however, social unrest, mass migration of labour, environmental damage, infrastructure failure, and security risks could all become serious obstacles.

As for the participatory note issue, I think it is an excellent thing to keep out big speculative players like hedge funds, as they are largely unregulated. The quick in and outflow of speculative capital is what caused the series of financial collapses around the world in the nineties.

Now it looks like those might have been only preliminary shocks at the periphery and that tremors might have worked their way to the epicentre of the financial system in the US. When even institutional investors like pension funds and university endowments are tied up in risky securities that no one wants to touch, emerging markets should be extremely wary.

On the trigger for the book. Also, how you went about writing it.

When Bill got the idea for the book, he was looking for someone with a background in mass psychology and globalization, who could also write humorously. Although I was worried that we wouldn’t agree on enough for the writing to work, he was more sanguine. He was right.

We managed to write the book long-distance, without a mishap, in little under a year, while we were both mostly on opposite sides of the globe, en route to some other place. That’s entirely to his credit, I’m sure.

On the other hand, I take the blame for all our crimes. I confess to parts of chapters 3, 9, and 17, most of the material on propaganda and panics (4-5), on globalisation (10-11), as well as on Friedman’s methodology, the CIA, and the British Empire in India. And, of course, any errors in research are mine.

I point this out not only because of the controversial nature of our positions in those sections, but because putting our writing together in a viable form was a challenge, intellectually and stylistically. I had to preserve — and for long stretches imitate — the colourful style of Bill’s very popular daily column, in such a way as to reach out to a general readership without alienating his financial audience.

Would we be wrong to say that the nearly 400-page book could have been condensed to 150 pages and still retained the essence of your prescriptions?

If the book really could be cut in half and stay the same, we will have failed, since one of our central points is that humans must understood themselves through felt experience, not through theory and abstraction.

We wanted the book to read like a novel, not an investment manual. Pared down, it seemed to lose its flavour, so I left some meat on the bones. I may be biased, though, since I grew up on sprawling nineteenth century novelists like Hardy, Bennett, and Sholokhov. If it’s any consolation, the original thing was a thousand pages.

Take one cut we mulled over – the section on the abortive British raid on Kabul in 1842. For one thing, it’s hilarious and for another, how do you write about the atrocities of communism and pretend that imperialism hasn’t any? If you cared the slightest bit for the integrity of your argument, you couldn’t. Besides, the Kabul story parallels what’s happened in Iraq in some ways.

Similar parallels crop up throughout. There are several images of rivers, for instance: The bloody river of history, the River Liffey in Ireland, the rising Nile of credit under Greenspan, and many others. The images occurred spontaneously as we wrote, but they also prefigure our concluding discussion about the tides of history.

Another example. In Chapter 7, we talk about Calpurnia’s warning dream before the Ides of March in Julius Caesar. A few pages later, when a comet shoots over Bill’s castle in Ouzilly, a guest wonders what it could foreshadow. Later on, we use the crash of the space-shuttle to describe the collapse of a hedge fund, and the explosion of the Hindenburg as an omen of World War II.

What meaning you want to read into all that is entirely up to you, of course, but the images form a subtext – sometimes unconscious, sometimes deliberate – to our discussions of ‘chance’ and ‘randomness.’ So our arguments might fly off in many directions, but they’re held together by the narrative texture.

We agree with David Hume’s premise on the Black Swan. (The same idea was captured beautifully in a book by V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee “The Phantoms in the Brain”). What has that got to do with the gravitational pull (or the centripetal force) of arguments in your book?

Hume’s bird illustrates the limitations of naive empiricism. Any number of observations of white swans is itself not enough to rule out the existence of black swans. But observing just one black swan is sufficient to prove the opposite.

What that amounts to is that humans consistently overrate their rationality. We may assume we’re naive scientists dissecting the world with the finesse of brain surgeons, but there’s more butcher than brain surgeon in most of us. We’re far more beholden to biology than we think. And to language; to rusty concepts and clumsy logic that drag us along from demented premises to disastrous conclusions.

A lot of logic, in fact, is no more than bad theory, and a lot of empirical observation simply wishful thinking smothered with emotion.

I do have strong interests in mind-body research of the sort pursued by neuro-scientists like Ramachandran. But raw observation alone will tell you something similar.

Investors who are long a certain stock may think they’re impartially observing the fluctuations in its price, but they’re usually far more hopeful of its prospects than they would be if they didn’t hold it.

The existence of black swans also means we need to give more significance to risks that might seem remote statistically. In fact, I’d say that using mathematical assessments of risk to get a handle on it in the real world is probably about as smart as practicing on a rocking-horse for a rodeo.

The universe isn’t plodding along in a narrow rut waiting for you to saddle up and ride it. It’s a far more intractable thing. Its complex patterns may appear chaotic to the naive eye, but they follow laws of their own that are liable to kick you in the shin if you ignore them.

“Events that experts rate as impossible or near impossible happen as often as 15 percent of the time, and certainties or near-certainties fail to happen 27 percent of the time,” you write, citing Philip Tetlock’s ‘Expert Political Judgment’. Does that imply you are suggesting the Golden Mean?

No. That would be too clumsy a model. The things that are rated impossible and the things that are rated certainties are specific kinds of things that can’t be directly compared, let alone averaged, most of the time.

It’s one of our central arguments in the chapter called “The Number Game” that we need to pay more attention to the specificity of different things.

The colour and texture of our world has been washed out because we rely far too much on generalising and abstracting from spurious statistical data, data that the governments in most countries, including the US, heavily massage.

It makes no sense, most of the time, to talk about an average man. He’s a statistical fiction. We have to account for the real actions of real human beings.

Type 2 error is stated to be when a guilty person is let free (Jan Kmenta, “Econometrics”). What is the import of this to markets?

In “Mobs” we suggest that inaction is often as underrated a course of action in politics as it is in connubial relations. We even offer – tongue in cheek – a Hippocratic oath for social engineers and regulators: first, do no harm.

Our argument is that for any action to be worthwhile the costs imposed by crimes and errors would have to be more than the costs of detecting, rectifying, and punishing them. How often would that be the case? And how would you guarantee that the regulators themselves wouldn’t add to the crimes and errors? History shows that regulators often end up colluding with the people they’re meant to regulate.

There’s another angle to this. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can let something bad happen (by approving a harmful product), and they can also prevent something good from happening (by not approving a helpful product). The public suffers both times, but the regulators only get attacked by the media and public in the first case, since the second is a non-event. Then the attacks lead to more defensive regulation that holds up even more useful products.

This is a shibboleth of anti-regulatory rhetoric, but our book suggests that things aren’t so simple. If there is asymmetry between public responses to Type I and Type II errors, there is also asymmetry between what it takes to prove that something might have use and what it takes to prove it might do harm.

And who is doing the testing? The same companies who profit from selling the product and who often influence the regulators. There’s simply too much complexity involved to take sweeping positions about the effects of regulation in all cases.

Take the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept apart the commercial and investment banks in the US. That probably prevented the development of some complex financial strategies that might have helped some sectors of the economy. But was repealing the Act in 1999 a good idea? Banking consolidation simply accelerated the financialising of the economy with the fallout on the credit market that is now shaking the US.

That said, a few simple, well-understood laws that are strictly enforced across the board are probably more effective than a swarm of “gotcha” rules that no one follows and that only serve to increase lawlessness. Problems of culture can’t be addressed simply by regulation.

Do you think women have enriched economic thinking sufficiently? What are some of the obstacles in their way?

Women have so far constituted less than 10 per cent of all tenured full professors in economics at PhD-granting departments in the US. In this respect, economics is more like mathematics than other social sciences.

Libertarian women economists like Sudha Shenoy are an even smaller group. And attitudes say as much as numbers. Everyone knows Jagdish Bhagwati’s name, for example, but how many know the name of his wife, the equally distinguished economist, Padma Desai?

I remember seeing Desai, who advocated a gradualist approach, debating Jeffrey Sachs about the shock therapy he proposed for Russia. I was struck even then by the excessive deference journalists showed Sachs and their dismissive attitude toward Desai, although she was proved right, ultimately.

It seems that being influential in public takes a level of combativeness (cockiness, even) that many women are uncomfortable with. I suppose that’s why opinion pages tend to be dominated by men.

There also aren’t as many networks for women in economics as there are for men. That means the field is likely to be socially uncomfortable for many of them. First, they’re patronized. Then – when their skills become threatening – they meet with denigration and overt hostility.

But is all this peculiar to women? I don’t know. With some qualifications, it’s probably what happens any time less powerful outsiders deal with powerful insiders. Anyway, looking at economics departments only gives you a part of the picture, since many women probably make a considered choice to go into business or into financial journalism rather than into academics. And many of them also make useful contributions to economics through their work in other disciplines, like history and sociology, where women are better represented.

Ultimately, as a libertarian, I don’t have expectations about how much women should be represented in any particular field. I’m more concerned that when women – or men – choose to enter a field they’re treated fairly as individuals.

What next? Your current research…

My next book deals with consumerism and its impact on the middle class in America in the last two decades. It will include my most recent investigative work on the banks’ culpability for the credit crisis. I also look at what used to be called the republican (small R) virtues – self-reliance, honesty, foresight, industry, and thrift as essential components of the free markets. I don’t like to say any more than that for now.

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Bio:

“I grew up in South India and completed my education there. Although I live primarily in the Washington, DC, area now, I still spend several months every other year visiting my family in India,” says Rajiva. “Over the last decade, I’ve had a chance to observe the huge changes there first-hand and have commented on subjects as far apart as water and waste problems in Chennai and investment in the transportation sector. From next year on, I will be based nearer, somewhere in South Asia.”

Rajiva holds an MA in English (Bangalore University) and an MA in politics (Johns Hopkins University) and has contributed over a hundred articles to web magazines (such as Dissident Voice, Counterpunch and Lew Rockwell), print publications like Himal South Asian, The Hindu, Forbes and academic journals. She is the author of “The Language of Empire,” (Monthly Review Press, 2005), a groundbreaking study of public opinion in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. She has worked as a musician, college lecturer, and journalist, and blogs at www.mindbodypolitic.com.

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http://InterviewsInsights.blogspot.com

Here’s what the editors cut out:

” Political debate is a Mafia hit job. Its goal is not to open conversation but to terminate opponents. You simply bludgeon them to death with whatever comes to hand. Take Naomi Klein, in that very provocative but disingenuous new book of hers, Shock Doctrine. Klein argues that free market economics are invariably linked with terror and torture. Well, two years ago, when I pointed out how the presence of financial incentives in the intelligence services exacerbated the torture of prisoners, I diagnosed the problem more accurately as a symptom not of the free market per se, but of the pursuit of total power. You can, after all, pursue power under all sorts of regimes, capitalist or communist, authoritarian or democratic. And as Klein should know, many CIA techniques were developed in response to the Cold War techniques of the Russians and the North Koreans – neither notable for their free markets. Going back in history, Indians, too, have had torture under both Muslims and Hindus, the Moghuls as well as the Guptas. And both, I’m sure, were quite unfamiliar with the Chicago boys.

So Klein’s thesis is spurious. Especially since she omits the fact that the privatization of intelligence (and the financialization of the economy that helped it) actually began under President Clinton. And that it was his Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, along with Larry Summers and Jeffrey Sachs, not Milton Friedman, who administered economic “shock” therapy to Russia. If bias of this sort is not only accepted but applauded, it shouldn’t be a surprise if genuinely non-partisan writing makes people unsettled.”

AND

“I hope, most of all, it introduces people, especially in Asia, to the ideas behind the presidential campaign of Dr. Ron Paul. Laboring steadfastly and mostly in obscurity, Dr. Paul, a doctor in private life and a genuine free market conservative, has for many years been taking on the manipulation of the financial markets, interventionist foreign policies, and the erosion of civil liberties in the US. His public service is so honest he’s even turned down his government pension. That’s the kind of personal integrity needed for real freedom and individualism to survive. If this book draws even a little attention to his candidacy and to the ideas he stands for, it will have done something.”

16 thoughts on “MOBS, MESSIAHS & MARKETS

  1. Lila Rajiva and Bill Bonner:

    Your book is not “mean” at all.

    It is high noon that someone has the insight and courage to lay bare the institutionalized econo-political circus foisted upon the unsuspecting public!

    Mobs, Messiahs & Markets ought to be required reading in any and all schools
    populated by students laying claim to a modicum of education – together with Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness and the Black Swan.

    And yes, the truth hurts, but it shall make you free….

    Great read!

    Peter F. Amiet

  2. “Mobs” is an excellent thought provoking read that I will recommend to many. I will add a caveat thought. It is almost always indeciphorable which of the two authors wrote any particular part, but it become apparent early on that one or the other was a little bit crazy with a big axe to grind. For instance the discription of the earliest battles in ww1 when those poor Germans wandered innocently into Belgium only looking for the way to Russia and those mean misguided locals and those evil British began shooting at them.
    So I came to Lila’s web site and read a few articles….I think I found the crazy one.

    PS I read somewhere that Ghandi was pro-Nazi (considered Hitler a personal friend) and anti British. Mayby Lila these are common beliefs amongst Indias intellectual “Mobs”

  3. Hi Alan
    p>Thanks for your kind words.
    I appreciate them.

    Now to your unkind words.

    p>Most of those sections on World War I and Belgium (the part called Slimed by the Limies is mine but the next part, Waffling on Belgium is Bill’s), as well as about Remembrance Day, are actually by Bill Bonner!

    And while I don’t agree with some of his sentiments there, his views are always so honest, I figured my disapproval must reflect less an objective judgment than a knee-jerk reaction, (such as yours?).

    Since I want to do more than go through life with my knee jerking, I figured I would hold my tongue and not cut it out.
    What shocks us also makes us think.

    However, Bonner is not wrong about Belgium’s colonial history in Africa. Any scholar will tell you that.

    Now…. (pursing my mouth into a prune and in my best imitation of your style):
    “Are you a closet white racist, as some think Churchill was?” (wink)
    There – do you like ad hominem when it’s directed at you? I don’t think so…
    I don’t either.
    People who are dying to label things automatically should go live at the baggage check-in counter…
    The rest of us can do better than that.

    Next – I am not a fan of Gandhi, for many reasons, but I can’t let you call him a Nazi sympathizer. You’re about as credible on that as if you’d torn off his loin cloth, draped him in it and declared him a hooded Klansman.
    Gandhi considered everyone his friend….including murderers and thieves.
    As someone said, he was a saint among politicians and a politician among saints.
    His comments about Hitler come out of his broader ideas about non-resistance to evil…yes, that implies that, contrary to what you think, he regarded what the Germans were doing as evil.
    And one more thing.
    I can’t possibly be an Indian intellectual.
    I stay as far away as possible from professional “intellectuals,” and have lived in the US since my student days.
    I am much more a citizen dissenter….an American tradition that includes the Alcotts, Thoreau and Emerson….
    By the way, Gandhi got a lot of ideas from Thoreau and Emerson. Who in turn got some of theirs from the Hindu Renaissance. Should I consider Emerson an Aryan supremacist?

    I am also a student of Kabbalah, and I am sure I have more Jewish friends than you have Indian friends.
    Does that mean you hate Indians?
    Probably not, right?
    I rather think I know the Jewish heritage from Spinoza to Burt Bacharach more than most people do.
    Out of curiosity, which articles of mine did you find crazy?
    I’d like to think all…
    With good humor and best wishes.

    PS
    And Alan, it’s G (NO H) A N D H

  4. Dear Lila
    thankyou for your detailed reply. Ok I’m barking up the wrong tree; Bonner is the one who’s a little bit crazy. One can be honest and wrong.(So why does his axe need grinding?
    Lila, my comments were heavy handed. I think I assumed you would be more hard headed because you didnt get humanized during the read, but you letter humanizes you well.
    So you have the moral high ground over me,but you squandered it a little critisizing my spelling. Its not polite to do that to a dyslexic with only a high school education. Only one spelling mistake, thats great for me.(I looked up “dyslexic in the dictionary)

    It’s not such a stretch the GANDHI was pro Nazi in the 30’s. Hitler wasnt yet a genocidal monster and,with Mussolini,was much admired amongst the avante garde even in America. Joesoph Kennedy, Henry ford were admirers of the economic miracles of these dictators. Woodrow Wilsons and FDR’s presidencies had Fascist overtones. Read Liberal Fascism. Eye opening
    Gandhi and Hitler had some common philosophies. Dislike of class and privilege and were both devout vegitarians. Also I read it in a reputable source. Might of been in Mark Steyn’s book which you need to read.

    Wasnt there some ancient ancestoral connection between Germany and India. Didnt a germanic tribe wander on down to India and settle helping to explain Indians european facial features. Wasnt the swastika an ancient Hindu symbol of peace. (horrible irony)

    You’re probably right over who has more friends of which race. My only Indian friend is a wonderful child named Ashwitha who (whom?) I sponsor through Christian Childrens Fund. She lives in Mangalore. (Oops, I think I gained back a little of that moral high ground (wink)

    PS I find the Bush bashing over the Iraq war has degenerated to MOB THINK. Research the Iraq Liberation Act,1998. UN and Congress votes to take forceful action if Saddam didnt proveably disarm. Bush got left holding the baby after everbody lost their spines. Then the Left did their best to contaminate the rebuilding effort by trying to turn it into another Vietnam. Remember Abhu Grab stories run 50 times on the front page of the New York Times.
    Lila Im an immigrant too (New Zealand) and I stronging resent the extreme anti-americanism even coming from the American Left. I expect it from those European idiots. As very lucky immigrants Lila, I think we should always give our host country the benefit of the doubt.

    So Lila, loved your book. You’re very talented, and I’m going to order Language of Empire
    Best Wishes

  5. Well –

    I am with you on anti-Americanism ..

    I do give my host country (as in guest? or am I a parasite? I think I kind of slogged pretty hard here) the benefit of the doubt.

    I wrote about torture because I trained as a political scientist and I have a professional duty to speak out on matters on which my opinion might have public value.

    I’ve moved away from it now that so many (real? native?) Americans have taken up that critique themselves.

    But a lot of “anti-Americanism” so-called is from the American left and left-inspired groups rather than from immigrants per se, most of whom would rather just fade into the woodwork.

    And many people abroad are not really anti American so much as resentful about an American tendency toward self righteousness (Indians have it too!)…and insularity.
    And since America is a lot more powerful and active all over the world…more people are going to resent America than India…nothing racist there. Just a reflection of power.

    I think sensible people don’t blame ordinary Americans or American culture for what the state does…they know that states are pretty monstrous wherever you go, the American state probably much less than most….but they do resent the heavy coating of hypocritical moralism that covers a lot of what goes on here….and they also realize that whereas a head-hunting cannibal president in the jungle is easily ostracized and disposed of by the international community, a multiculti-babbling, equal-opportunity-bombing, feminist-environmentalist government that declares itself the international community is a far more insidious threat.

    I don’t particularly see governments as representing their people so it’s easy for me to criticize them quite strongly and not feel I am attacking any group of people..

    I should be mindful that others might not see it that way
    So thanks….

    I’ll keep your words in mind

    Lila

    And I am very sorry if the spelling remark came off as a personal attack. Dyslexia is quite an interesting affliction and opting out of standardized education is a very smart move

  6. Thank you Lila,

    I have enjoyed finding your blog on Amazon and following
    it here to your site.

    You are enormously talented, both written and verbal.

    It has been said that if we really own something, we can
    explain it in one or two sentences and that is how I feel when
    I read your work. You nail point after pithy point. I love it!

    I am buying ‘Mobs’ because YOU wrote it, with Bill Bonner as a
    bonus. 😉

    The clarity of your insights is truly powerful. Thanks again.

    Bill

  7. Thanks very much.
    And by the way, I am very partial to my coauthor’s writing.
    We are both libertarians but obviously have different perspectives. Some people might find that schizophrenic. I find the difference interesting.

    Much appreciate the feedback.
    Lila

  8. Lila,
    I think “Mob” is very clear headed writing except may be for few instances of Greenspan bashing. I have reached only Ch. 13 by now. I believe for the times the bashing of a Central Banker may not look wrong, but I feel a Central Banker unlike a Corporate CEO works with few variables, like money supply, interest rate, asset prices, exchange rate and taxes.

    I think the last few years of Greenspan, he was facing a situation no other Central Bankers faced in US like not giving into the whims of the Terrorists to threaten the “American way” to slow it down to raising funds for the Warchest. So whatever he did boils down to cracking the peculiar situation political and economic that was threatening the American way.

    Things went sour and finding a Scapegoat is easy but was it necessary, it looks like it was like spoting a Meteor where you cannot see the Star.

    I ttahink your conclusion is what even Adam Smith adviced all of us, never believe….Spectacles.

    Thanks for the good book

  9. Lila,

    I wrote a feedback to comment that on the topic in the book about Leaders stealing up from underlings for honors, there was a good one on what Gen. McArthur did during WW2, in Wall Street Journal last week, where he got an Honor Medal for the work done by his subordinates during the purge towards Germany.

    Why do we read books, may be to get that information that will lead you to the next breakthrough or get gateways to new thinking, may be passing time for someone etc;. Though the book is a good read with lot of History you probably is pursuing the Libertarian agenda, but I should warn you that the Austrian school of Economics is not very comprehensive and has a lot of holes in it to be realy pracitcal in the general sense. Then it is much more simpler but erroneors not comprehensive enough for any practical purposes. Neocons do have a good philosophy though their agenda is Libertarianism.

    Hopefuly in future some breakthroughs can be achieved beyond Adam Smith else it is still the same old grind.

  10. Hi Matt –

    Thanks for the feedback. I have addressed the issue of over emphasizing the role of Alan Greenspan. My co-author is a big critic of AG and so am I, but I do feel that any one human being cannot have that much influence without a lot of other factors contributing – including an expanded money supply from Asian savings, global flows that move toward the US and tend to keeping money cheap here, ignorance in Congress and the media about economics and so, a tendency to be uncritical..

    I don’t understand your last points. I am not a neoconservative and most neocons are NOT Austrians. They are usually some variant of neoliberal – which means they support state management. Friedman and the Chicago school are not really free marketers like Austrians. There are differences within the Austrian camp, of course.
    And I do accept some criticisms of Austrian economics. My positions are not doctrinaire. I think government regulation is the lesser evil in some instances, as is state intervention. But I accept those interventions in the same way I might accept cancer therapy for a sick man. I don’t think a healthy man needs radiation.

  11. Hi Lila,
    Things have changed much after what you wrote. Govt. is interfereing and NeoCons played supportive role in the present govt. Somewhere in your statement I read you have NeoCon slant. If you deny it now may be it is that you are very well versed in linguistics and don’t care about the consequences. I too like the idea of Neocons directing us to run present observing the past. Then the present version of it is that we might repeat the same mistakes History teaches us. Only difference may be they quote the Bible which is an excellent Historical document though let me go agianst my will it might look Mystical in many places.

    Now coming to the first point you made flooding with money I belive is not true. They were hoarding up these curencies for later use as is seen now not flooding the envioronment. Now ofcourse it has come handy to support over prolifigecy of taking risk on Finances of course Govt. supported even NeoCons were partners to it, may be I am pointing up some hypocracy.. .

    I believe the whole point is just to accomodate everyone and reduce the poverty where which only the future can t ell us whether worked OK.

    The Mobs enlightened us of lot of History which probably is the highlight of the Book, may be it will be preserve for some time.
    __________________
    Mathew Cherian

  12. Lila,
    Lila,
    Lila,
    One thing I forgot to to tell you is one cannot expand money supply randomly even based on borrowed savings. It is based on certain fundamental scales of growth and Stockadjustments. You can hoard it like they did and use it later on an emergency like now. Probably they have close to a trillion of such hoarded savings from Asia which they are using now and afterwards they might borrow more and might print new currency which may not be required.

    My intention is not to argue on the Economic theories but
    to state the facts based on Political will of the Power to be.

    One cannot raise money supply randomly or invest where there is no need to be but probably support some sort of mystical effects or scientific which need to be analyzed a “material ” for a later Book.

    ______________________
    Mathew Cherian

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