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Here’s one kind of racism you can still enjoy

UPDATE 2, 4/30 4:58pm see end of post for Response to “Glen Beck” comment et al.

UPDATE 4/30 4:09PM: see end of post for a GREAT comment on this post from a very knowledgeable person

Most kinds of racism are now thankfully no longer tolerated. However, this doesn’t change the part of human nature that enjoys racism – it allows you to blame all your problems on some despised ethnic minority. So racism may have just gone underground to pop up in unexpected places. The old templates are still around — an ethnic minority that has sinister intentions to harm everyone else, complete with conspiracy theories of hidden plots to consolidate their own secret control of society.

 One example is virulent prejudice against a group I will call “the X’s”. There is a website with a game called “Shoot the X’s”.  The X’s are trying to “suck the last bits of meat from the carcass” of society, but they are “running out of things to steal.” The X’s rig everything in their own interest: they “simply cannot lose.” Their “barefaced greed” simply “beggars belief.” They commit “blasphemy” that is “worthy of the 7th circle of hell.”

“Power is concentrated in the hands of a few key” X’s, the group of which “has also proved itself brilliantly capable of enlisting the power of the state to help along the process of concentrating economic might.” At a meeting “never announced publicly,” which “included virtually everyone who was anyone” among the X’s, they achieved a further “monstrous consolidation of financial and political power.” The “burglar” X’s ethnic group “now rules the national economy.”

It is now time to strike back: “put the greedy X’s in stocks.” “If you pressed a rifle into the hand of the man in the street,” he would surely choose to shoot the X’s.

Who are the X’s? If the X’s were Jews, this would all sound like quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact these quotes seem uncannily similar in general to the virulent anti-Semitism that flourished in Europe before World War II (and still flourishes in some places around the world).  

Some of you have probably already guessed the identity of the X’s. The  X’s in the above quotes are the ”race” of  financiers/bankers.  You can feel prejudice against an occupationally-defined race just as much as against an ethnically-defined race (and the two often overlap because some ethnic minorities are overrepresented in some occupations). Let’s call this form of racism “bankism.” As the previous post pointed out, bankism has a long and not very attractive history.

(The original sources for the above quotes are articles in Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, the Telegraph (UK), and the Times (UK)  — the lastquoting others, not the author speaking . The web site is “Shoot the Banker“).

No, I am not predicting genocide against bankers any time soon (although a joke wishing for such genocide would probably get an appreciative laugh). Bankism is destructive for many other reasons. Like other forms of racism, bankism feeds hatred towards the whole group because of the misdeeds of a few of its members. We are seeing the equivalent of Willie Horton ads to feed bankism. Most financiers are honest individuals performing socially useful services; promoting hatred of them is not a good thing.

Politically, bankism creates a distorted narrative where an economic disaster is blamed on the malevolence of a few specific individuals, rather than defects in the systemic incentives in which myriads of individuals interact. This fuels political responses that are irrationally punitive, rather than a rational attempt to correct perverse incentives. So crisis prevention will be unsuccessful, the next crisis will feed bankism further, and where will it all end?

Better to face up to the latest form of racism now, and stigmatize it just as much as the old forms of racism.

UPDATE 4/30 4:09pm

Great comment from a very knowledgeable finance professional:

The “shoot the bankers” strategy is a diversionary tactic that avoids dealing with who allowed this to happen … the FED and SEC, who are being given MORE power and MORE discretion and LESS oversight, and Congress … who were bought off by bankers and the GSEs.  If I were a banker, I would say fine … have a good shout, satisfy the public, but don’t really change the rules that allow me to make lots of money while gambling with other people’s money and while enjoying a government guarantee.

UPDATE 2 4/30, 4:59pm. Wow, today I seemed to have a Gordon Brown moment in this post. Kind of bewildered and surprised to have set off so many land mines and wind up next to Glenn Beck.  

Me the cloistered intellectual reading my history of economic and political thought books can unintentionally mumble some code words that cause immediate classification into some extreme ideological box that I didn’t even know existed.

I had actually never watched Glenn Beck before being called a Glenn Beck. I went and checked out a few video clips and saw that he apparently likes to call lots of people racists and Nazis and so on. Sorry, didn’t know that.

The point of this post and in the previous post was the historical continuity over many centuries in demonizing the group of financiers as malevolent individuals, and the parallels and sometime overlap with racist speech.

Apparently this came across as really insensitive and unfair to two groups: (1) the victims of racism, and (2) people who have a genuine beef with a screwed up financial system (which is basically all of us). Sorry for being insensitive — I am not implying bankers are the equivalent of lynching victims or Holocaust victims, and I am not implying that all critics of finance are the equivalent of racists.

On (2), I tried already to say, but let me try again to say, that antipathy to finance is a mixture of irrational and rational anger, and I am just trying to point out the historically venerable and important irrational component.

Another part of the problem is my weakness for provocative titles and Tweets, and then people react only to those and not to the nuances in the actual post.

So, sorry, Aid Watchers, I didn’t get it quite right today, and I appreciate the feedback. Be sure to check out the Seinfeld “anti-dentite” clip in one of the comments.

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28 Comments

  1. MikeMcK wrote:

    It’s amazing how similar the rhetoric today is to that of 100 years ago. How quickly people fell back on the same “evil banker” speak. I guess it’s nice that they no longer *openly* link banking to an Judaism, but so many of these comments sound like old-school, anti-semitic, “Jew Banker” lines to me. Seeing elected officials score cheap points like this is disgraceful.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  2. Simon wrote:

    Can you really equate racism and hatred for bankers, let alone call the latter “a form of racism”? For one thing, it’s not based on race, which you think would preclude it from being called racism. Bankers aren’t an ethnic group, and people have much more agency over whether they become bankers than whether they are Jewish or black. Bankers are still making millions and I haven’t heard of any “anti-banker” violence – do we really have to worry about anti-banker rhetoric in the way we do about hate-speech directed at historically minorities? I see your argument for focusing on institutional incentives rather than the actions of individuals, but equating “bankism” with racism is silly.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  3. avam wrote:

    “Who are the X’s? If the X’s were Jews, this would all sound like quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact these quotes seem uncannily similar in general to the virulent anti-Semitism that flourished in Europe before World War II (and still flourishes in some places around the world).” You are right, it would – but the point is the X’s are Not jews. Bankers are not a race and, if anything, assigning ‘race’ to a profession undermines the gravity of real racism.

    I agree that Potentially – “Politically, bankism creates a distorted narrative where an economic disaster is blamed on the malevolence of a few specific individuals, rather than defects in the systemic incentives in which myriads of individuals interact.” – but I think it’s also important to allow people to feel anger toward the banking sector and to not oversell an idea “Like other forms of racism, bankism feeds hatred towards the whole group”.

    “Most financiers are honest individuals performing socially useful services; promoting hatred of them is not a good thing.” – I think the vast majority of people would agree with you. The quotes from Rolling Stone, Mother Jones are Bound to be inflammatory – that’s their calling card and as for the article in the Telegraph by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) he would have written it as a way of “connecting with” the British public at the height (Oct 2009) of the recession in the UK. Indeed he also mentions that “I know people who work at these banks are each individually talented, charming and generous-hearted”. While the Times piece is written by a former investment banker at the start of the recession (Oct 2008). Indeed, regarding the 2008 Telegraph Headline “the barefaced greed of bankers and their bonuses beggars belief (regarding bonuses given to bankers in the City, London) was pretty spot on. The bonuses Were ridiculous and based on short term financial gains/investments.

    Context is everything, I hardly think two UK articles from 2008 and 2009 respectively, and two articles from US magazines aiming to be edgy (Mother jones and rolling stones) shows a credible (or valid) amount of examples which point to “racism” towards banking/bankers.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  4. Tucker wrote:

    I think that it is still acceptable to show this kind of racism against lawyers as well, also drug dealers, used car salesmen and IRS agents. These things are all professional choices rather than unalterable qualities. These professions may or may not be leeches on society or innately immoral but they are popularly perceived that way.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  5. Rod wrote:

    I think this video summarizes the point brilliantly.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ythrdCsOFJU

    It seems more than a little silly to equate racism with the current disdain for banking. What’s next? Saying people were born as bankers? It’s in their DNA to get big bonuses?

    I agree with Easterly’s main point about changing the financial incentives for an effective prevention of a future crisis. However, I am not sure if he is understating racism or overstating “bankism”. Probably both.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  6. Mario wrote:

    Thanks, Rod. This argument is so wrong-headed that it’s utterly baffling. It draws from none of the extensive literature about the anthropology of race, the politics of recognition, social cognition, or social ontologies; and it is so poor from this failing that it is simply not useful or persuasive whatsoever.

    There is absolutely zero parallel between serious and legitimate forms of discrimination still faced by victims of racism on one hand and financiers on the other (who, we should note, trend heavily white and male; that is: extremely privileged). I aver that it is impossible to find a group of comparable size to financiers that is comparably privileged. And I am going to be honest here: this poor-me tripe is blatantly offensive to those of us who work with the seriously disprivileged everyday.

    The claim that “most financiers are honest individuals performing socially useful services” is exactly the claim in dispute by places like the Guardian; and I would suggest that articles like this are most part of a project to protect neoliberalism (and Enlightenment-derived projects in general) from the serious and severe critiques that they clearly deserve after the financial crisis. In a US-centric context, to contend that economic power is becoming more centralized in (a) people who are already wealthy and (b) in the finance sector is empirically verifiable. It turns out both (a) and (b) are true.

    Any socially constructed group based on race or religion is so diffuse that to claim similarities between them or claim that they have a project is meaningless–and for this reason racism is a tactic to maintain certain specific power relations between groups. On the other hand, the self-selected class of financiers certainly has a neoliberal project for the world. A large part of that project involves imposing western-specific epistemes and social ontologies on places that do not possess them (such as, say, Haiti or Nepal)–and to maintain a certain vision of good for the world, almost exclusively formulated in materialist terms. In other words, the neoliberal project for the good is either the discovery and development or the imposition of fully monetized economies for the world. After the financial crisis (and after industrialization, and after colonialism, etc.) that conception of the good includes what some see as stealing. This is really no different from seeing strike-busting as stealing.

    This misplaced “call for civility” is in fact a rhetorical tactic itself, calling for the delegitimization of legitimate discourse via a false analogy (“thinking bankers steal is a form of racism”) and an implied ad hominem (“only racists think bankers steal”). Instead of disputing the philosophical underpinnings–for instance, not everyone is a utilitarian, it turns out–the argument here simply calls opponents racists. And that won’t do.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  7. avam wrote:

    Mario – spot on.

    Rod – great link! I forgot how utterly amazing Seinfeld was. Too bad they don’t show reruns of it in the UK.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  8. Y’all are missing the point. If Bill didn’t overstate things ridiculously, we wouldn’t pay attention. He’s the Glen Beck of development bloggers. Occasionally he has a solid point, but the rest of the time he just really wants you to pay attention.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  9. AB wrote:

    If it’s good enough for Jonathan Swift, it’s good enough for me: http://tiny.cc/jayou

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  10. Kelly wrote:

    What in god’s name is an “occupationally-defined race?” I think we need to find a better term to describe the social context outlined here. Crystallization of social angst around classical sociological ingroup/outgroup interaction is probably as old as humans have been…well, humans.

    The term race was originally applied to Jews because race used to have a much different connotation than it does today. Race could have been more akin to another tribe, or group of people, and had little to do with genetic phenotype. However, the Nazi’s played up this distinction because it fit well with their own brand of pseudo science. Jews spanned many ethnic and linguistic groups throughout Europe, and came in all shapes and sizes.

    However, even today I see ethnic slurs against Mexican’s or Muslims, and think “Is this really true racism? Or are these tensions coming from a more complex place?” Sure, many people may deride second or third generation Hispanic immigrants based on skin color, but the state still let’s one group (second generation) live peacefully, while rounds up the other group (illegal immigrants) like cattle in what is quite obviously the most blatant form of modern “racism.” Except Arizona, now they just round up everyone.

    Quite a few of these same angry people probably couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab Muslim, a Persian Muslim, or even an Indian Sheik, but how would they react when a blond haired, blue eyed person from Bosnia-Herzegovina says they’re Muslim?

    People are always finding ways to blame outgroups, be it the US senate blaming bankers or Iranian clerics blaming earthquakes on women. So, does that mean the persecution of prostitutes is occupationally-defined racism, or sexism??? What about rich people blaming woes on the poor of the same ethnic group? Classicism? Where does phenotypical racial distinction end (which is also getting outdated), and where does intangible differences based on international law, imagined ideological affiliation or monetary income begin?

    Why can’t we just settle on calling those who choose to leverage these differences for gain “ignorant?”

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink
  11. Word_Bandit wrote:

    You begin with an entirely false premise “Most kinds of racism are now thankfully no longer tolerated.”

    So please explain why the prisons are stuffed with black men, why black women have been hit hardest by this “recession,” and the current legislation in Arizona.

    With all due respect, you write this as a privileged white man. Your defenders will say that this is an ad hominem argument. So be it.

    Completely oblivious, Bill.

    You simply don’t get it, no matter the superfluous banking arguments.

    For all your ranting against Bono and celebrity, the fact that you defend this lot of greediest white males on the face of the planet (okay, so throw in one or two white women) is Just. Plain. Silly.

    You’re a “free market economist.” I get it. Sorry you can’t see beyond that particular rubric.

    Agree with: “Bankers aren’t an ethnic group, and people have much more agency over whether they become bankers than whether they are Jewish or black.”

    Also agree with: “He’s the Glen Beck of development bloggers. Occasionally he has a solid point, but the rest of the time he just really wants you to pay attention.” Okay, “Ahnold alter ego,” you’re getting attention now.

    And much like Glen Beck, you don’t engage criticisms of substance, as Una and others have pointed out repeatedly.

    Would love to hear her thoughts on this.

    This is ridiculous and insulting to every person who has ever been discriminated against for being black, hispanic, Jewish, and every woman on the planet — which you simply don’t get for the ad hominem reasons.

    Mario — “On the other hand, the self-selected class of financiers certainly has a neoliberal project for the world. A large part of that project involves imposing western-specific epistemes and social ontologies on places that do not possess them (such as, say, Haiti or Nepal)–and to maintain a certain vision of good for the world, almost exclusively formulated in materialist terms. In other words, the neoliberal project for the good is either the discovery and development or the imposition of fully monetized economies for the world.” Thank you.

    All best. Apologies for editorial oversights.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  12. Word_Bandit wrote:

    “This misplaced “call for civility” is in fact a rhetorical tactic itself, calling for the delegitimization of legitimate discourse via a false analogy (“thinking bankers steal is a form of racism”) and an implied ad hominem (“only racists think bankers steal”). Instead of disputing the philosophical underpinnings–for instance, not everyone is a utilitarian, it turns out–the argument here simply calls opponents racists. And that won’t do.”

    Bingo.

    It’s sounds good. Sounds like the high road.

    But the analogy to racism is beyond galling for anyone who has rubbed up against either racism, classicism, sexism, or the like.

    This has to be one of the most galling false analogies presented, and I’d love to have a bevy of sociologists and their empirical evidence for racism and classicism in the U.S and elsewhere descend on it with the appropriate approbation,

    I’ll place flowers in your name on my next visit to the Holocaust Museum.

    “Politically, bankism creates a distorted narrative where an economic disaster is blamed on the malevolence of a few specific individuals, rather than defects in the systemic incentives in which myriads of individuals interact.”

    All this written, glad to see you’ve a grip on narrative. Funny how you invoke it now, with this particular argument.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  13. Rose wrote:

    Sorry, but I really disagree with this argument. You are talking about anger from the underpriveledged directed at the wealthy, priveledged class of society. There is no way this can be in any way equated with systematic and institutional racism, and to do so is to cheapen the experiences of all those affected.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  14. joe wrote:

    What a load of crap, Bill. And dangerous crap at that. People face discrimination because of their colour, race, religion or even shoe size. Stuff that they have no – or very little – control over.

    Discontent over politicians and economists and bankers is not blind prejudice because these are actually the people who most directly caused the problem. It isn’t even on the same page as racism and would never be until people who were in no way involved were implicated.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  15. Word_Bandit wrote:

    You’re off the hook, for a few minutes.

    Reconsider your rhetorical strategy, though ….. Glen Beck comparisons are not in *anyone’s* best interest, including the poor [i.e. THE VULNERABLE] you ultimately wish to serve.

    The SEC is completely incompetent and the FED is run by a bunch ****** [omitted for politically correct purposes], and Congress who are a bunch of ****** [ditto].

    RE:

    The “shoot the bankers” strategy is a diversionary tactic that avoids dealing with who allowed this to happen … the FED and SEC, who are being given MORE power and MORE discretion and LESS oversight, and Congress … who were bought off by bankers and the GSEs. If I were a banker, I would say fine … have a good shout, satisfy the public, but don’t really change the rules that allow me to make lots of money while gambling with other people’s money and while enjoying a government guarantee.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  16. John Ness wrote:

    What Mario said.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  17. DwayneAppleby wrote:

    I think perhaps the use of the term “racism” is unfortunate here, but the core message is quite valid.

    I have just a couple of points here in response to some of the replies that have been posted. I’ll note that I’m a Canadian so I might not “get” the depth of the outrage across the border, but maybe I’ve got something relevant to add from outside the fishbowl.

    First off, I really don’t think that just because this is the anger of the underpriveledged that we’re talking about that the hateful rhetoric here is any more acceptable than that of a priveledged group against the underpriveledged. (not to mention that a lot of priveledged people are righteously angry about this situation as well) Just because someone has money or power doesn’t mean that they are immune to the effects of discrimination. It also doesn’t mean that the anger is correct, or directed at the right place. Angry people have this funny way of acting irrationally.

    Second, anger at politicians, bankers, financiers, etc. is perfectly fine in a general sense, but we have to recognise that in reality every banker and financier wasn’t involved in the 2008 crisis. Unless you want to say that the bank manager, or the account manager, or the tellor, or the personal financial advisor in some small town in the mid-west is responsible for the 2008 crisis, and is deserving of our scorn, anger, and vitriol. Somehow I just don’t buy that those people, who make up the bulk of individuals employed in the banking/finance sector, had enough influence or knowledge to be held responsible.

    Third, discrimination can be carried out against any GROUP, which can of course be racial, religious, gender, or even professional. To suggest that one can ONLY face discrimination because of colour, race, religion, or some other physical, or relatively immutable factor is to condone discriminatory acts carried out against people because of their profession. Just to name a couple instances where discrimination against a profession has occurred and has been, generally, condemned by the public I’ll note Cambodia’s intillectual purge, the targetted and the killing of doctors who perform abortions. Both relatively extreme cases, but I think they are examples, but illustrative nonetheless.

    I think if there is one message to take away from this post and discussion, it is that if we paint all bankers, financiers, etc with one brush just because we’re angry with one segment of their professions and the regulatory system that failed, we’re not only doing an injustice to many people who are not responsible for what has happened, we are also shooting ourselves in the foot. This cahrged atmosphere of rage targetting those segments of a few professions could lead law makers to respond to populist outrage and enact laws that are more knee-jerk than reasoned and measured.

    In my humble opinion, a lot of people need to calm down and try to react less emotionally, and more constructively. We won’t see our way clear of this and into a more secure future without taking the time to think clearly about what we are setting ourselves up for next time.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  18. Marc wrote:

    Firstly, I’ll disregard the whole “race” side of this argument. I think it’s been covered. You obviously can’t equate racism and a growing societal hatred for a given profession.

    Do you not think that the culture in top level banking institutions has contributed to the current problem? Is this culture really only attributable to a few irresponsible individuals, or even say the top level? Say you get rid of these individuals, will the mistakes go away? Perhaps I’m only fueling your point that generalisations are dangerous.

    I really do wonder though whether regulation would do anything except force irresponsible bankers to work out other ways of doing what they have been doing. Money finds a way.

    Also,

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  19. Word_Bandit wrote:

    With all due respect to DA, the whole false analogy only fuels the emotional and reactive elements that BE’s presumably arguing against.

    Racism is wholly inappropriate in this argument, and it carries on its back a great deal of unnecessary baggage.

    Also, if one wants to say that the onus of the current crisis must be shared by the SEC and Congress, appealing to “bankism” is probably one of the most ineffective rhetorical strategies one could have employed, given this nation’s history of genocide.

    And with all due respect, the afterthoughts re; the SEC, Congress, and the Fed seem a bit like back peddling given how this entry introduces it’s concerns, i.e. “Most kinds of racism are now thankfully no longer tolerated.”

    Where this reality comes from, I’m not certain.

    But it certainly smacks of either obliviousness or complete insincerity, in which case it would undermine the argument, it seems to me.

    If you want to blame the Fed, SEC, and Congress and try to paint a rosier than thou picture of Goldman Sachs, et al, do so.

    But don’t put the bankers in amongst those who have been disenfranchised, unfairly incarcerated, enslaved, or exterminated.

    Thanks.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink
  20. Word_Bandit wrote:

    Just read your addendum.

    Thank you.

    Posted April 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  21. Robert Tulip wrote:

    Mario said the “neoliberal project” involves the “imposition of fully monetized economies for the world.” This gets to the heart of the debate over the morality of banking. Access to finance is the basis for growth of the formal monetary economy, based on free enterprise and private property. People who opt out of ‘the neoliberal project’ are opting out of private sector development based on market economics and the rule of law. “Western-specific epistemes and social ontologies … almost exclusively formulated in materialist terms” include modern science and legal systems, and are the basis for poor countries to become wealthy. Suggesting some alternative ‘episteme’ that discourages private enterprise, (socialism?), is a cruel hoax on the poor.

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 3:28 am | Permalink
  22. avam wrote:

    “Suggesting some alternative ‘episteme’ that discourages private enterprise, (socialism?), is a cruel hoax on the poor.” – in all cases? Surely it does not (or is not) have to be so cut and dried as that. This is not my area of expertise, but surely it is fact that that some states have developed using a mix of various forms of economic development (state control of business as well as free enterprise). Surely China is a key example of one hand using state control to usher in market based reform with the other. Also, cannot different forms of development happen at different stages of growth? (the UK as with other countries in Europe, ‘became’ in some respects a welfare state (state ownership of transport, health etc) in the 1930s. It has certainly been helpful to the poor (if not everyone) in the UK to have universal health care etc. India also has a National Health Policy, surely this is not a “cruel hoax on the poor”.

    To take the case of India – it is in the processes of developing (some of India is of course on a par with the West, while many other areas/states are still some way from that) using a mix of old colonial administration systems/transport – to socialism (late 40s-80s) – to a market-based economy in 1991. But, that has not meant that India as a whole has benefited, many areas suffer from extreme deprivation; corruption and apathy at local level government (often due to caste/class issues) , and areas for improvement include energy, health, transport the vast majority of India’s transport infrastructure is that which the British put in during colonial rule). In the case of Kerala, much of its development (high education levels, relatively high standards of living, rural land reform) were encouraged via a Marxist (socialist/communist) style government in 1956. Kerala has since had a communist state government for much of the time.

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink
  23. ardyanovich wrote:

    For a second there I thought I was reading Overcoming Bias. Good post.

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 5:17 am | Permalink
  24. george wrote:

    That’s a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out there! Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

    Wish I could find an ILO speech I know exists, castigating all bankers and implicitly suggesting that more funding and power for the ILO would have prevented the whole mess and lead to wide-spread global job creation to the benefit of the poorest (god help us). The political fallout from the last two years is only just begining, who knows where it will take us, but we’ll be extremely lucky if we get what is arguabley required – a surgical intervention to correct the gross market failures that will cost so many so much in my country (the UK) alone in the coming years. We are more likely to get an imperfect overreaction one way or another. It might have been towards socialism (of the Stalin rather than…ahem… Obama variety), perhaps towards immigration, perhaps towards “elites” in our houses of parliament even though they earn less in their lifetimes than the most damaging in the financial world earn before month 1 of the financial year ends. Who knows.

    If Prof did replace Glenn Beck, this would save me huge amounts of time contingency planning for a move to New Zealand to brace for Palin 2012.

    G

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 6:22 am | Permalink
  25. In an odd sort of way, this is a product of the inflation of the notion of “racism”. (“Islamophobia” anyone?) If Bill had just used the term ‘prejudice’, or even ‘bigotry’, there would have been no problem.

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  26. improbable wrote:

    For ages I’ve been mentally replacing “speculators” with “Jews” when listening to commentary on the financial crisis, as a test. If the result sounds a bit sinister, this is my cue to ignore the speaker. Because they aren’t proposing any sensible remedies, they are just our for blood.

    Used like this it seems a sensible idea. I believe that something like this is what W.E. intended.

    I did not expect all the comments taking it more literally, since it seems pretty bloody obvious that financiers aren’t born wearing a dark suit, and nor are they in mortal danger. (That they are not underprivileged seems an unfair complaint, as anti-semitism is a much closer analogy than white-supremacism.) Now it’s clear that it is written in a more inflammatory way than it had to be… that’s why it’s a blog, right?

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  27. hey hey hey wrote:

    “Politically, bankism creates a distorted narrative where an economic disaster is blamed on the malevolence of a few specific individuals, rather than defects in the systemic incentives in which myriads of individuals interact. This fuels political responses that are irrationally punitive, rather than a rational attempt to correct perverse incentives. ”

    True! And this is what this blog does to aid workers!!!!! Can’t you see the obvious connection?? Distorted narratives and all…

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  28. As the writer of the Glenn Beck quip, I’d like to respond quickly to your addendum.

    The reason I said it is that like Beck, you’ll do anything to get attention and it overshadows your ability as a thinker/intellectual/critic, especially for those of us who read White Man’s Burden and thought “finally, someone who’s willing to think pragmatically about development.”

    The celebrity headlines, the ridiculous statements designed solely to get a response, the parody to the point of being a broken record — all of that should be beneath you and it’s overshadowing your reasoned/nuanced thought. Re-read your addendum and ask yourself how much of your original posts actually stands…. there wasn’t a lot of nuance.

    Posted May 3, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

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