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Political Economy, Empire, Complexity

Nov 4, 2020 | Business & Enterprise, Short-form

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Over at the American Sun, which appears to publish the ever-naughty author of the Dark Enlightenment, Mencius Moldbug, there’s an intriguing analysis by Joel Davis. His survey of Nitzan and Bichler’s Capital as Power parallels some of my own thinking and experience with organizations and political economy. To wit:

For Nitzan and Bichler, this impotence of macroeconomics to fundamentally challenge and replace microeconomics completely derives from the formatively liberal presupposition of economics as a discipline in general – the arbitrary stratification of economics from politics, as though there is some non-political logic governing the economic domain.

[…]

Once you start trying to integrate every vector by which you can construct lineages in this way, it soon becomes incredibly obvious that every industrial activity is fundamentally indebted to the entire socio-historical context it is embedded within in an uncalcuably (sic) complex way.

[…]

By contrast in the depth regime, dominant capital operates more by consolidating the advantages gained from monopolization and sabotages smaller competitors and the labor market through the pursuit of stagflationary economic conditions through increasing prices and flexing regulatory influence (this of course sounds like a pretty good description of what these Covid-19 lockdowns are doing to the middle and working classes).

Put more simply: what you think of as economics, namely free market participants hunting for marginal efficiency and all that jazz, is more marketing than it is material reality. And what’s really going on is a complex game of power politics.

Read the entire article. It’s fascinating stuff.

Gentrified, Small Town Political Economy

In the same way, this mirrors some of my observations. But from small business owners during the lockdowns. For example, where I expected to hear cries of moral hazard, I heard something else entirely. And it wasn’t demands to be allowed to open their businesses.

Instead, what I got was a surprising combination of Big Finance talking points mixed with predatory, corporate sloganeering. Basically, and I quote this almost verbatim:

The banks have printed so much money that inflation will be here any second. And then we’ll be saved. And I’m just raising my prices now anyway in expectation of that fact, even if sales have fallen off a cliff. It’s okay! I’ve fired a bunch of employees I don’t need any more with all the regulatory changes. And don’t worry they’ll get unemployment. And I’m getting free government grant money too. But the biggest benefit is this will really flush out all my small business competitors in the area. It’s perfect!

Indeed, anyone who’s been part of small-town politics, at least in my neck of the woods, knows a simple fact. And that’s how it’s more important to have lunch with the commissioners sometimes than the customers. And it doesn’t hurt that the cities and even metro counties are in on the take now for bailout money.

A Few Abstract Observations

Nevertheless, it reminds me of what I was trying to capture in describing political pragmatism. And we’ll probably continue to talk about some of these in the future…

  • There is a continuum of power relationships between organizations. And at least at our stage of the game, more seamlessness between public and private entities. This suggests that organizational differences, where they exist, say between nonprofits and big businesses, exist to a smaller degree than people imagine.
  • Most people behave far more practically than most academic theories suggest. And they adapt to however the game is being played at that current moment.
  • Concepts like “small business,” for instance, are really marketing efforts. And these efforts are to leverage power through perceived moral value in contrast to more entrenched interests. It remains to be seen if small business owners can or will play along with the professional class’ Woke Capital jargon.
  • American is having a crisis of intuitions as its elites are incentivized to cause organizations to seize. Or be perceived as having been de-legitimized. And this to the point of catastrophe. Even some small businesses are playing this game now. However, it also is yet to be seen if they truly understand the game they’re playing.

And, if my friends on the right don’t start recognizing these economic realities, we’ll end up with zombie small businesses in zombie cities, alongside all the rest.

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