Posts Tagged John Maynard Keynes
Citing fears of inflation and the dollar’s weakness against foreign currency, Tool vocalist John Maynard Keynes has decided to part ways with his band of nearly 20 years. Keynes, whose work was strongly influenced by Bertrand Russell, King Crimson and the Melvins, has decided to drop out of the music scene for a while and focus on making claymation videos of economist David Ricardo being attacked by swarms of Marxist killer bees.
This is not the first time Tool has had to deal with the loss of a lead singer. In 1958, singer and former beatnik Maynard G. Krebs was forced to leave the band after being arrested for selling nuclear secrets to the Soviets. Krebs, who later went on to star on the television show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, is still best known for studying how the body oxidizes carbohydrates. He was 58.
Former Atlanta mayor and person who they named half of an airport after, Maynard Jackson, also briefly sang for the in the band in the 1970s. Jackson, who was the least well-known member of the Jackson 5, also played alto-sax, guitar and zither on the first Tool album Undertow. Jackson, the mercurial, but powerful rightfielder for the New York Yankees, led the team to a title in 1977 after hitting a record three homeruns in one game against the Dodgers. Later to be known as Son of Sam, Jackson was responsible for a series of homicides that rocked the New York metropolitan area later that year.
In spite of losing several singers, the band has still managed to be one of the most popular hard rock acts in the world. They gained a great deal of popularity due to their hit songs Schism and Sober along their outlandish stage performances that feature economist David Ricardo being attacked by Marxist piranhas. They have won over 17 Grammys for their 1987 cover of the Taylor Swift classic “I Knew You Were Trouble” back in 1985.
They became a major part of the American lexicon in 2006 when the members began starring with Wilmer Valderama on the popular children’s television show Handy Manny. Tool drummer and Orioles cleanup hitter Adam Jones, who plays Felipe the Screwdriver on the show, was awarded the Disney Kid’s Choice Award in 2010 for the episode “Felipe Screws The Pooch” where he deals with the accidental dismemberment of a Portuguese Water Dog by Dusty The Handsaw. I’m wearing a Belgian waffle on my forehead.
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing on April 12, 2012
In Slayer’s song Blood Red, singer Tom Araya bellows forth a challenging and powerful lyric that cuts to the core of today’s debate between a managed, centralized economy and a free market system where the “invisible hand” balances the wants and needs of the consumer against the production capabilities of the market. When he shrieks “Honest validation of unfair cheese” at the 41 second mark of the song, it is clear that he is undercutting a basic free-market premise posited by thinkers the likes of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek. The words are enlightening and deeply meaningful, particularly for an electorate on the cusp of deciding what sort of financial decisions it plans to make as it marches forward into a new millennium.
In order to understand the meaning behind Araya’s lyric, it is first critical that we understand the meaning of “unfair cheese”. Nothing is more disappointing to a lover of cheese than when, upon returning from the supermarket, a shopper finds moldy, poorly preserved cheese in their bag. Who is supposed to ensure the consumer is safe from a flood of this “unfair cheese”? If the supermarket is left to its own devices, it might well sell all the out of date cheese it could possibly get away with. After all, as Buddy Holly said in his 1981 hit song “Who is watching the detectives?” In this case, maybe we need someone to even watch the people who are watching the detectives. Or, it is possible we may need to hire detectives to watch the detectives who are watching the detectives.
Back to the cheese thing. If it weren’t for the Better Food and Cheese Act of 1938, under the esteemed and underappreciated Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, humans would be consuming pounds upon pounds of rotting, vile cheese. The Act empowered the police to arrest and jail any store clerk found selling “unfair cheese” for a period no less than five years in prison. Higher quality cheeses began to appear. Productivity flourished. It was during this period that Gorgonzola cheese was first produced in a laboratory. It was originally meant to be used as a weapon against the Soviet Union, but later it became appreciated for its velvety texture and tangy flavor. In the preceding two hundred years, America’s cheese growers had not produced as much as a single new breed of cheese.
So, when Araya asks for “honest validation of unfair cheese”, he’s really questioning whether a purely free market can produce the quality goods needed in a modern economy. Sure, it’d be nice to believe that the market is such a perfect force that can correct itself and keep the desires of its members in line, but it’s this sort of utopian thinking that caused the Great Wall of China to fall in 1990.
We cannot simply rely on market forces to purify the market. Human nature tells us that humans, in a perfect state of nature, will do some really unnatural things. In short, only a neutral arbitrator with no stake in the outcome can possibly make decisions that protect the consumer.
Only when the positions of these regulators are depoliticized and not influenced by corporations or individuals with expensive cars will we truly see an “honest validation of unfair cheese”. Only then will children of all races and all creeds, of all nationalities and all socio-economic backgrounds, of all hair styles and all blood types be able to sit down at the table of friendship together and eat the same safe and healthy cheese. Only then will we truly be free.
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing, The Politics Of Catastrophe on August 11, 2011
“It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.”
Do you believe in big government? Then you must be a communist who looks to manipulate lazy poor people into voting for you by offering them the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives as indolent pikers. Dumb. Do you believe in small government? Then you must be an evil spirited misanthrope who doesn’t care one bit about anyone but yourself. Dumb. Are you pro-choice? Then you must be a maniacal baby killer who seeks to undermine basic human values. Dumb. Are you pro-life? Then you must be one of those religious psychopaths who want to force women back into the June Cleaver model of complete helplessness and social inferiority. Dumb. Do you like Obama? Then you are clearly in favor of the destruction of the American Way of Life. Dumb. Do you hate Obama? Then you are clearly a closeted racist unable to cope with the forces of progress. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
It’s all so insanely dumb. CNN had a question on their Facebook site last night asking all of their likers the question of what should be done about the economy. Everybody responded with some inane pet theory running the gamut from the flat tax to value added taxes to the repeal of all taxes to forcing the Chinese to send their entire work force to Africa to the Fair Tax to more sin taxes, etc. 2,658 comments in 15 hours. People inevitably started arguing and quoting dumb things they heard other people say. People called each other names. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Everybody’s an expert. Each man a king, each woman a queen. Dumb.
I am not exempt from this sort of asinine posturing. I have moments where I forget that I am part of the mob. Wishful thinking does occasionally overtake my brain. The wicked, awful truth is by contributing to the blogosphere, I have merely exchanged my pitchfork and torch for a MacBook. I get worked up over the horrors of military spending or the Ponzi scheme-like quality of modern finance or the disgusting, venal nature of American politics from time to time and write about it. Dumb.
The truth of the whole thing is far worse than a person can contemplate without a complete psychic meltdown. It’s not just that we are dumb, that idea by itself is tolerable, even somewhat amusing. It’s that the product of all modern discourse seems to be dumb. Let’s assume for a moment that some of us want to use reason as an antidote to the basic dumbness of our world. Fine. Good luck. The non-dumb folks among us are welcome to use subtle, intelligent arguments to understand the world. It’s a free country, as they say.
Now, let’s say one of the non-dumb want to step outside of the perimeters of their mental world and, say, lessen the suffering of others or effect social change on any level. Well, those folks will present their ideas to a population that, for the most part, is uncomfortable and even threatened by anything that resembles reason. Let’s say you are making a reasoned argument for the truth of global warming. How on earth could you possibly explain the nuances of a concept like that to a person who believes that science is completely untrustworthy and dinosaurs weren’t real? Every time it snows they will thumb their nose at you and scream out “SEE!” Let’s say you are a bright and articulate religious person and you want to make a reasoned argument for what you believe? You will be met with every anti-religious cliché in the book and lumped together with sycophants from Jimmy Swaggart to Ayman Al-Zawahiri. You can’t win.
Eventually, the pure force of dumbness will overpower any even moderately intelligent argument. Seeing this, a person making reasonable arguments might well begin to lose trust in their audience. In order to enact any sort of change in our world, one must not just have a great idea, one must have an idea that the mob can be talked into. When the realities of the situation begin to occur to someone with an idea, they naturally begin to tailor their ideas to the wild eccentricities of the mob.
Most people might not understand the nuances of the idea of a welfare state, but they can certainly be convinced that its not right that someone who has a private jet pay the same taxes as they do. Now, the argument has moved out of the realm of thought and into the realm of pure, visceral dumbness. Pretty soon, an intelligent point about general inequity has become a shouting match between “the defenders of those with private jets” and “those who hate America.”
The upshot of all this weirdness is that extremely intelligent people are forced into becoming absurd polemicists. The merits of the idea take a backseat to the constant push and pull of public opinion. This idea is perfectly captured in the earlier quote by Keynes. The whole thing becomes a Faustian Beauty Contest fought not on the merits of what is beautiful, but rather, on the merits of what the mob might find the most beautiful.
Finding a point of view that makes sense becomes a lot like defensive driving. You are not driving based solely on the rules of the road, rather you drive based on what the idiot in the Camaro doing 100 miles per hour with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in his lap might think the rules of the road are. Even if you drive well, the moron next to you can still kill you. So, you adjust to the stupidity of the whole venture. In that adjustment, ideas that are logical are often jettisoned for more acceptable generalizations that can be absorbed by a mass of angry people. And those generalizations are met with counter generalizations, which are met with counter generalizations. The whole thing gets pushed out to the n-th degree. Suddenly, we are excitedly screaming at each other over what Joe The Plumber thinks. After a few hundred rounds of this everyone’s an idiot and no one can tell the difference. Over and over and back and forth. Dumb.
I offer no solution to this problem. This may well be how democracy works when you get it out of the textbooks; I’m not sure. I do wonder what the outcome of this insanity will be. I feel like I’m chained to 300 million lunatics going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Everyone is paddling in different directions. Everyone thinks that they know how to escape and are just as convinced that the morons next to them are messing things up. We argue over how we got in the barrel, we argue over how to best get out of the barrel, we argue over whether The Falls are even real, we argue over how big the barrel is, we argue over who should get out of the barrel first, we argue over whether we should work together or separately. The result of all this strain and turmoil is no different then if we did nothing at all. We move towards The Falls with no clear explanation of what is happening and no possibility of ever getting out of our predicament. Dumb.