More than a feeling

Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir
With the Lost Photographs of David Attie
by Truman Capote
Let this be the last election in which Republicans are allowed to vote against people voting. To win office, you must be required to win more votes, rather than suppress or decrease the number of voters. The only way to be prepared to govern – not reinforce your advantages, not reward your nests or feather your friends, however the saying goes. Unfettered capitalism has done more to undermine capitalist systems than an army of Engelses and a brigade of Marxes. Speaking of whom, To the Finland Station:

“To the Finland Station” is different. The structure is simple: the decline of the bourgeois revolutionary tradition after the French Revolution, as Wilson sees it reflected in the writings of Jules Michelet, Ernest Renan, Hippolyte Taine, and Anatole France; the emergence of revolutionary socialism, seen through the writings of Saint-Simon, the communitarians Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, and Marx and Engels; the triumph of Communism, illustrated by the careers of Lenin and Trotsky. There are things Wilson minimized that would have complicated this narrative: the persistence of a non-Communist socialist ideal in Western Europe; the liberal tradition in Russian politics (to which Nabokov’s father belonged); the success and failure of the Mensheviks, of whom Wilson did not make much. And, of course, if the book were being written now, the vicious side of Marxist and Leninist thought, mostly a subtext in Wilson’s account, would guide the narrative, and the story would touch down in Siberia or Berlin rather than at the Finland Station.

But we don’t read “To the Finland Station” as a book about the Russian Revolution anymore. What draws us now is the subtitle: “A Study in the Writing and Acting of History.” History is the true subject of Wilson’s book, and what he evokes is what it felt like to believe—as Vico and Michelet, Fourier and Saint-Simon, Hegel and Marx, Lenin and Trotsky all believed—that history holds the key to the meaning of life. The evocation is successful because when Wilson began writing “To the Finland Station” he believed in history, too. He thought that history had a design, and that the Depression was an event fully comprehensible within the context of that design: it was the long-predicted collapse of the capitalist order. “To the Finland Station” is valuable as a window on the nineteenth century, but it is also a poignant artifact of the nineteen-thirties, a time when many people thought that history was something you could get on the right side or the wrong side of. It was an idea indistinguishable from faith, and Marx was one of its prophets.

It’s a dirty foul that American school kids don’t learn about Jules Michelet. We must get beyond this aversion to learning about certain histories, be it socialism or the 1619 project, whatever. The less you know, well, the less you know and suddenly another Trump falls off the turnip truck yesterday and the corporate types get summoned to the cut of his jib, obscuring the more accurate assessments, ‘something just ain’t right with that boy.’

Image by David Attie, 1959, from the NYRB

Sunday fractal convolution and wooden money

It’s hard not see this article about the American Dream in reverse as a blown-up close up of the coastline of our general, if hearty, methods of D/B/A, physically, morally, socially, practically in every respect. Just look at the pictures, or read the article, or chance it and do both. In the blighted-at-birth and now abandoned settlements somehow referred to perhaps without irony (is that still possible?) as ‘once-middle-class-exurbs’, it’s hard not to have your head pinned back by the force of the pan-out to the wider angle on our culture of ambitious slackening. It’s the art of being left bag-holding on which legends have been forged. Is there any doubt this is what these myths (dreams, American and otherwise) stand for?

Lehigh Acres, like much of Florida and many suburbs nationwide, was born with speculation in its DNA.

The area got its start in the 1950s when a Chicago pest control baron, Lee Ratner, and several partners bought thousands of acres of farmland and plotted about 100,000 lots. With Fort Myers, 15 miles to the west, developers left little room for schools, parks or even businesses.

What they sold was sun and quiet living.

The engine we are running on is powered by the engine we’re running on. It produces what it was designed to produce.

Key players in the Obama economic team beyond Geithner are also tied to Rubin or Citigroup or both, from Larry Summers, the administration’s top economic adviser, to Gary Gensler, the newly named nominee to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a Treasury undersecretary in the Clinton administration. Back then, Summers and Gensler joined hands with Phil Gramm to ward off regulation of the derivative markets that have since brought the banking system to ruin. We must take it on faith that they have subsequently had judgment transplants.

Mr. Rich is being a serious joker here, yanking on our chains, such as they have not yet been repo’d. The faith in judgment transplants is as near perfect as the belief that such a local market as cited above can/will bounce back in some resemblance to its former self. It’s part of the defense mechanism to believe in the right to self-exploitation that informs the notion that such manifestations are or were a part of some dream that itself was in a some way righteous or desirable. I’ll demure to this digression on Gresham’s Law from Miller’s essay Money and How It Gets That Way from Stand Still Like a Hummingbird. Gresham’s Law roughly states that “bad money drives out good.” Miller’s context was our country’s departure from the gold standard.

For the sake of creating work, on the other hand, no such hard and fast rules were stipulated by the early nineteenth-century economists. Work and trade were kept apart in watertight compartments, although it was obvious even then, to those who made the subject a profound study, that twist it how you will, the inevitable liaison is always there, namely debt. That is one of the reasons why, under the sway of Marxian diuretic, debt is no longer regarded as a permanent element in the economic disorder, but rather as a solvent, so to speak, in the conversion of capital to labor. Countries like Germany and Italy, in as much as they refuse to adopt the Marxian diuretic, tend to increase the circuit velocity of money, in order that, as an eminent Dutch economist points out, “their currencies may drag themselves by the hair out of the quicksands of worthlessness.” However salutary these tactics may be with regard to the evaporation of the national debt in the countries just mentioned, the fact is nevertheless incontestable that the gold mentality of the world remains unaffected. With money becoming ever cheaper the price of bullion naturally rises to implement the costive condition of the call market. This the real explanation of the fact that, in Pomerania, shortly after Hilter’s advent to power, the turnip and swede crop fell off so markedly. For though it is undeniable that dry years have always had a definite adverse influence upon the price level, yet during the year in question the average rainfall was higher than that of the five years preceding Hitler’s advent. Had this not been so we should be at a loss to account or the fact that during those five preceding years brewery shares were a feature of remarkable strength and integrity.